Amtrak Fares and Availability of Mixed Bag for Summer Travel

A Virginia-bound Northeast Regional train runs through Princeton Junction, NJ, in June 2014. Corridor trains offer the best opportunity for price savings. (Bob Johnston)

Chicago – Depending on the route, Amtrak trains can either offer a welcome alternative to log high gas prices or no discomfort at all. That’s because if there’s enough capacity, pricing remains flexible, but if Amtrak management fails to mobilize resources to get side gear back into action, the mobile public suffers.

Arcade offers the best deals

From Maine to California, many trains operating in Northeast Amtrak and state-subsidized trails generally have enough seats to allow for discounted “thrift” advance purchases. However, this only happens on a train by train basis. If departure sponsorship reaches a high sale rate compared to seats typically sold in advance of that date – the so-called “reservation curve” – ​​the lower fare may not be offered.

For stops between Boston and Virginia, Amtrak touts discounts of 50% Northeast region Trains if tickets are purchased at least three weeks in advance, 30% discounts on who – which Business Class when purchased 14 days in advance.

A surprisingly complex set of discounts is offered over other methods, as shown in this table. (article continues below)

A table comparing the various discount rates available by route

Advance purchase discounts may not always be reflected in the “savings” bus fares listed for each departure on the Amtrak website, after the original cities, destination and date are entered.

Passenger cars on each side of the station platform
A Carolinian (left) and a Late Silver Star pause at Richmond Staples Mill Station on February 25, 2022 (Bob Johnston)

What is not readily apparent is that discounts can be obtained from the displayed fare by classifying passengers according to their age, disability, and military status in the “Passenger” and “Discounts” boxes. These discounts are calculated automatically because percentages may vary by service or state. Best Deal for Families: Kids from 2 to 12 years old always get 50% off when accompanied by an adult.

The pricing range can be amazing. For example, traveling from Philadelphia to Richmond, Virginia, on June 25, bus fares quoted a month ago for the seven direct trains were $82 and $22 (Carolinian), $114 (silver star), $58. $44. $82, $44 (one seat at this price). Same flight options, booked May 25 for the next day, May 26: All sold out, $146 (both Caroline And silver star), $114, $82 (1 seater), $98 (3 seater), $130.

Overnight practice a different story

Passenger cars on store tracks
A stowed superliner sits idle at Amtrak’s heavy maintenance Beech Grove facility on April 30, 2022 (Dave Korkhouse)

There is little gouging of fare for long-distance coaches or accommodations in sleeper cars. This is the result of management’s short-sighted decision to save costs by sidelining the equipment and refraining from hiring enough staff to maintain and operate these trains. Since early 2022, when Amtrak reduced daily frequencies to five times a week on most non-lane routes and canceled New York and Miami silver meteorite Absolutely anyone trying to book a reservation usually encounters sales of coaches, sleepers or just high “flexible” bus fares that are offered in the days just before departure.

How tall is it? Decreasing passenger night capacity resulted in a 35% increase in revenue per passenger in January-April 2022, compared to the same months in 2019. The figure for state-supported routes is flat and average Northeast Passage pricing per rider is down 12%.

Since last Monday, May 23, all interregional trains have returned to daily work except for trains meteor (still paused), crescent moon, And The city of New Orleans (Both stay five days a week.) However, the capacity situation remains unchanged and has even been exacerbated by increased demand.

On May 24, there were no seats heading west from Chicago in Texas Eagle, California Zephyr, or Empire builder. Some bus spots on those trains have opened in Bloomington Normal, Illinois, and Omaha, NE. , Portage, and Wisconsin, respectively, but there were no places to sleep overnight in eagle, zephyr, or the Southwest Head. On the empire builder, The only small room available in Minneapolis, Portland, Oregon, costs $989 and the bedroom sells for $2,145.

Bring a cushion for your coach’s seat

What can you do to at least partially meet the high costs? One option is to play the clip game, either by splitting a long journey with stops on the way or checking where the train isn’t sold out between the intermediate stations.

People taking pictures of a train arriving at the station
Passengers greet the Westbound Southwest President in Las Vegas, New Mexico, on October 13, 2019. Savings on long-distance fares can include splitting trips between buses and accommodations in sleeper cars. (Bob Johnston)

Chicago and Los Angeles southwest head The sleeping car space was shown as sold out on May 26th. A closer look revealed a small room available between Chicago and Topeka, KS, but a different room opening in Kansas City. Buying a small room to Los Angeles on the same train costs $1,142 from Kansas City, $846 from La Junta, Colorado, $683 from Las Vegas, New Mexico and $565 from Albuquerque. In-car meals are included for sleeping passengers, but bus passengers are still required to purchase from the café car on all trains.

There was a time when Amtrak was handing out small pillows to every night passenger, but the practice has long since been discontinued. One thing to keep in mind is that crowds often subside in the middle parts of the road, often overnight, so this makes sleeping in the coach seat less difficult than it might seem. The main exception is automatic train, which does not stop.

The bottom line of summer travel: Try to book early enough to avoid sales and price hikes. For longer trips, consider splitting the trip by either accommodation or an intermediate destination. More equipment and staff may ease the company’s capacity crunch, but don’t count on it for the foreseeable future.

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