Amtrak Plans to End Daily Service on Almost All Long-Distance Train Routes

Amtrak has announced its plan end daily train service of almost all its long-distance trains. The service cut is scheduled to begin on October 1, 2020 and continue at least through until summer 2021. 

Amtrak Long Distance Train California Zephyr
Amtrak California Zephyr snakes along the Colorado River. I ran to the last car to get this photo.

Amtrak trains affected by service cut

The excuse given by Amtrak is that the cuts are necessary due to low ridership because of the coronavirus pandemic. From what I’ve gathered from various sources, these long-distance trains have not been running empty. But that’s another story.

Amtrak long-distance trains effected by the service cuts include California Zephyr, Capitol Limited, City of New Orleans, Coast Starlight, Crescent, Empire Builder, Lake Shore Limited, Palmetto, Southwest Chief, and Texas Eagle. These trains will now run only three days a week instead of daily departures. 

Not effected, the Sunset Limited and Cardinal trains. They already run only three times a week. 

Why daily long-distance Amtrak train service will be reduced to three days a week

For reasons about which I’m not totally clear, the date for service cut on October 1 coincides with the government’s fiscal year calendar. However, along with cutting service, Amtrak is also laying off employees much sooner than October 1. Again, I’m clueless about the financial side of Amtrak, other than this was the year the train would turn a profit for the first time in its 49-year history. 

All I know is that with Amtrak President Richard Anderson gone and a new Amtrak president in place, I had hoped that Anderson’s ridiculous airline-based cuts that affected dining options, quality of food, sleeping car amenities and more, would improve.

According to their press release, Amtrak spokeswoman Kimberly Woods said that the cuts will take effect Oct. 1. The new schedules will remain in place until at least the summer of 2021. She went on to add that daily service could be restored sooner if ridership increases along its long-distance routes. 

Amtrak Zephyr in Ruby Canyon Colorado
Sunset in Colorado’s Ruby Canyon. Need I say more? It was spectacular.

Amtrak removes schedules from their website

At this time, if you are trying to figure out how to get from say, Orlando, Florida to Pittsburgh, PA, you won’t find answers on Amtrak’s website. The schedules are gone, probably so that they can come up with new ones as soon as possible. You’ll have to call Amtrak at 1-800-USA-RAIL.

The way that Amtrak is cutting service to three days a week, isn’t an every-other-day process. It appears that the trains will run four days on and three days off. The changes will also make it impossible to make timely connections to continue north or west if you ride Amtrak’s Silver Star from Florida to New York. 

Only the Auto Train, with passengers and their cars or vans, will continue to run daily in both directions from Sanford, Florida (near Orlando) to Lorton, Virginia. 

Let’s hope someone can figure out how to save our trains before its too late. 

More Amtrak long distance train articles:  

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  1. Hi Margie,
    Service animals are permitted on Amtrak trains. I would suggest that you call Amtrak (1-800-USA-RAIL) and get the rules and details. The Auto Train is not affected by the service cuts. I hope this is helpful. Thank you for writing.

  2. I have a service dog so I can’t take your auto train from Lorton,Va to Sanford ,Fl

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