Skip navigation! There's something inherently enjoyable about train travel: You get an up-close perspective of the scenery, and not having to go through the misery of airports lining up to go through security check, for example is a huge plus. With leaf-peeping season in full force, we've never wanted to hop on a train more. As the national rail network for the U. It's not exactly known as an affordable means to travel:
- Amtrak’s Long-Haul Sleeper Train Tickets Are Two for One This Week
- Alstom to Ink Amtrak Deal, Build High Speed Trains in New York
- Amtrak advance tickets - when to book? - New York City Forum
- Rail 2 Rail®
- 10 Things Amtrak Won't Tell You
- How to Master the Art of Amtrak Travel
- Save up to 25%
- Disneyland and Amtrak are offering a discount on tickets, but is it worth it?
Amtrak’s Long-Haul Sleeper Train Tickets Are Two for One This Week
First, the good news: Amtrak ridership has never been higher, up 6 percent to nearly 29 million rail passengers last year, and on track to hit 30 million in But when it comes to financials, the numbers aren't so sunny, and Amtrak's budget has become a political football. Amtrak, which hasn't had a profitable year since it began operations in , was created by Congress as a public-private partnership tasked with continuing American passenger-rail service, which was foundering at the time.
The company blames this mission for its financial woes, saying its federally mandated long-distance routes eat into returns it sees from other services, like its speedy Acela trains. After dropping in recent years, a couple of key safety metrics for Amtrak ticked upward in , such as the number of highway-rail incidents, which the Federal Railroad Administration says rose by 7 percent per million train miles. This number refers mostly to collisions -- usually with vehicles or pedestrians -- at railroad crossings, the most common type of accident.
James McCommons, author of Waiting on a Train: And as the collision between an Amtrak train and a tractor-trailer outside Reno, Nev. Amtrak says it has a "very good safety record" and that such accidents are typically not its fault; it also says it has cut the number of traffic crossings on tracks it controls by more than 75 percent. But Amtrak owns only about 3 percent of the tracks it operates on, and the FRA says there are roughly , public crossings nationwide.
The average Amtrak passenger coach in operation is 26 years old; the oldest is The company's last major equipment update was in the s, and it has "been running the wheels off ever since," says McCommons. Experts say some equipment goes so long without updates that features from intercoms to air conditioning function sporadically. What's more, some critics say aging trains hamper the transition to current technology. Last year Amtrak approved the acquisition of cars to replace the oldest ones, or about 9 percent of its fleet, but the company says those won't be on the rails until After combing Osama bin Laden's hideout following his death, authorities discovered al Qaeda had been planning a train attack in the U.
In June, Amtrak Police Chief John O'Connor told a Senate committee such threats against rail travel are "very real," and "catastrophic losses could occur. Recent events seem to support her view: Train bombings have occurred in Madrid, Mumbai and London since , and many speculate the U. Hefty airport-style security is still absent from train stations -- no metal detectors, routine baggage screenings or pat downs.
These measures would be too expensive and impractical, without providing "any real assurance," Pickerall says. After all, while it's possible to secure a plane from takeoff to landing, trains run through numerous stations, and tracks are generally accessible on foot. Plus, with roughly 30 million passengers a year, screening them quickly enough to keep trains on time would be "physically impossible," says Hayward. Amtrak touts its stepped-up security efforts, including canine bomb-detection and SWAT-trained police, but their range is limited -- bag searches, for example, are done only randomly.
It "makes it harder for a terrorist to predict the level of security," Amtrak told Congress in June. One pillar of Amtrak's "robust counterterrorism" effort is the Partners for Amtrak Safety and Security initiative, which it describes in promotional material as a "neighborhood watch-style program" that asks passengers to stay alert. Kulm says Amtrak uses a multilayer approach: We're just not doing everything all the time.
These days, folks can go online anywhere from coffee shops to airplanes. But Amtrak still lacks Wi-Fi on most trains fewer than of its 1, passenger cars now have it, though Amtrak says that number should rise to more than by the end of , and the majority are part of Amtrak's fastest and priciest service, Acela Express. And while Amtrak says it would like to offer it on all trains, currently, "we're in a capital-constrained environment," says Matt Hardison, Amtrak's chief of customer service.
A complicating factor: The company is still working out the kinks, saying that since its network mostly uses cell phone signals, the connection can be spotty and slow. In the past few months, Amtrak says demand has doubled and the volume of people logging on diminishes the quality of Wi-Fi service; a few folks streaming video on Netflix or YouTube can shut down access.
Amtrak now blocks such sites. In the first five months of , roughly one in five Amtrak trains ran late, with a few routes making a particularly dismal showing. The California Zephyr had an on-time record of just 48 percent for the 12 months ended May "We're getting creamed on that one this year," says Hardison , and the Michigan Services route, 29 percent. When Hilary Verson, a Salt Lake City nurse-practitioner, took her year-old daughter and a friend on a trip to California, the train was four hours behind schedule -- showing up at roughly 3: But Verson says she wasn't surprised; she'd tracked the train's performance online: Amtrak says it posted advance notices of delays for Verson's train on its website.
Amtrak says most delays are due to "train interference. Still, according to the company's most recent report, Amtrak itself was responsible for 22 percent of delays. It does its best to keep passengers informed, Amtrak says. But given the economy, critics say that's unlikely. In fact, Rep. John Mica R-Fla. Amtrak says it's already reaching out to private industry and is in the process of taking bids from companies to help it revise its plan and look for nongovernmental sources of funding.
As for Mica's proposal, Amtrak's Kulm says it lacks specifics and doesn't identify exactly who would take Amtrak's place. The company says the plan is to raise fares about once a year, but having "a couple changes in a year isn't unusual," Hardison says. Amtrak also uses so-called dynamic pricing to fill trains at the highest possible ticket price. Tickets usually start low, then go up as a train starts to book up.
But unlike the airlines, Amtrak doesn't offer last-minute deals to fill seats. Critics say it's often cheaper and faster to take a bus. Hardison says Amtrak is "watching closely," but that buses are going after a different customer segment. The company says that because the bulk of the funding is earmarked for long-distance trains, most of the subsidies go toward high-end services, like sleeper and dining cars, which most passengers never use. According to a Rasmussen Reports survey of likely voters in the U.
Experts say the competition that keeps many businesses on their toes is absent from passenger rail service. Amtrak says it does face competition from other transportation companies and cites improvements like expanded Wi-Fi service that attract riders. Economic Calendar Tax Withholding Calculator. Sign Up Log In. You can enjoy full access to Barron's coverage on MarketWatch with a Barron's subscription. Already a Barron's subscriber? Sign in. Already a subscriber?
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Alstom to Ink Amtrak Deal, Build High Speed Trains in New York
Offers on this page are now expired and are no longer available. My friends and I have enjoyed traveling on Amtrak trains. I missed out, however, on the opportunity to transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points at a very good rate and score sleeping cabins on several Amtrak routes — Chase no longer partners with Amtrak. I had friends who took some great cross-country and coastline adventures with their families.
How far in advance do I need to book to get this price?
Looking for a smart way to save on Amtrak fares? You can reach cities both big and small across the country, with picturesque views and comfortable train amenities along the way. Then travel starting the following week, every day except Fridays and Sundays. It's the smart way to save so start planning and see all the routes on sale this week. By signing in to your account you acknowledge you have read and agree to the current travel and Amtrak Guest Rewards program terms and conditions, including the binding arbitration agreement.
Amtrak advance tickets - when to book? - New York City Forum
The train has once again become a viable travel option. With fluctuating airfare prices, steep baggage fees, delay-prone airlines, and other airport hassles, using Amtrak can seem like an attractive alternative to flying. Train travel is often cheaper than taking to the air, but perhaps not as much as people think. Luckily, there are plenty of strategies for finding the cheapest possible Amtrak tickets. Amtrak has ongoing discounts for people who fall into a certain demographic categories or are members of certain groups.WATCH THE VIDEO ON THEME: Some of the Amtrak deals
Rail 2 Rail®
Here are my other observations and experiences: Acela is a fast train that can travel at speeds of up to mph only in certain locations. Did you know that it only takes 2: No wonder so many people commute or take day trips. See screenshot above. On the departure leg, the 9 am train, I was in business class and it was great as I had an open seat next to me and in front of me. And we were on time. The first 10 minutes were great since I was in a comfortable seat with an open seat across from me.
10 Things Amtrak Won't Tell You
Amtrak operates intercity passenger trains including long-distance routes plus regional corridors in the Northeast, Illinois, Michigan, California, and Pacific Northwest. This page lists the latest Amtrak promo codes and provides tips for saving on all train travel. Although most Amtrak discounts are available to all passengers booking online at Amtrak. Standard Amtrak Discounts Students, Seniors, etc. Amtrak tickets are priced using fare "buckets" based on a train's availability.
How to Master the Art of Amtrak Travel
First, the good news: Amtrak ridership has never been higher, up 6 percent to nearly 29 million rail passengers last year, and on track to hit 30 million in But when it comes to financials, the numbers aren't so sunny, and Amtrak's budget has become a political football. Amtrak, which hasn't had a profitable year since it began operations in , was created by Congress as a public-private partnership tasked with continuing American passenger-rail service, which was foundering at the time. The company blames this mission for its financial woes, saying its federally mandated long-distance routes eat into returns it sees from other services, like its speedy Acela trains. After dropping in recent years, a couple of key safety metrics for Amtrak ticked upward in , such as the number of highway-rail incidents, which the Federal Railroad Administration says rose by 7 percent per million train miles. This number refers mostly to collisions -- usually with vehicles or pedestrians -- at railroad crossings, the most common type of accident.
Save up to 25%
In that post I mentioned the option of buying Amtrak upgrade coupons. Business and First. First Class gets you the following over Business:. But it was nice to get a heads up on which track the train was departing from. These assigned, more spacious seats are the most valuable benefits of Acela First Class to me. But the meal service and complimentary drinks were appreciated as well. The quality of the beer and spirits they pour is better than I expected. Have a look at their First Class menu to get a feel for what they serve.
If you can plan ahead, there's no reason to pay full price for most Amtrak tickets. Previously, you could enter promotion codes during the payment process on Amtrak.
Disneyland and Amtrak are offering a discount on tickets, but is it worth it?
Only on CheapAir. When you search for certain locations, say a trip between Boston and Washington D. On CheapAir. What routes are you searching for? Amtrak trains are only available on limited routes at this time. I am trying to book a flight from where I live Dallas-Fort Worth to Jackson Hole-Yellowstone National Park area and finding that the flights there are actually cheaper now than in September when I will be going. My question is why are the flights more expensive in September than in May, June, and July at the height of summer travel? Which would be a better flight deal to get-booking a flight for the week before Labor Day August August 31 or the week that I had initially intended to go Sept of this year? What are the best ways to book a flight for savings-on a weekend, early in the week? What days are best to fly to a destination and back for savings? Since I am flexible as to where to go, would a flight into Los Angeles where I would rent a car to drive the Big Sur highway 1 up to San Francisco and fly home from San Francisco be a better option as far as air fare costs go? I know I am asking a lot of questions but I need to know so I can arrange my destination plans as soon as possible. Thank you so much. Prices can vary depending on the exact dates. Some dates in May, June, and July are cheaper than some in September, and vise versa.
There are no security lines and no traffic, plus the benefit of wider seats and more legroom. We can dispel some of these myths. Read on for our tips on mastering Amtrak, then get ready to sit back and enjoy the ride. Many people think of train travel as a last-minute getaway option and they should, last-minute fare deals are out there—more on that below , but planning ahead will always work to your advantage. There, you may find offers for 25 percent off a trip on Acela, the high-speed business class train on the Northeast corridor, discounts on travel to see Oakland Raiders or San Diego Chargers games, and reduced fares for getaways to New Orleans or Miami. Amtrak has standing discounts for children, who get half-prize fares from age two to age 12 infants under two ride for free , senior travelers, travelers with AAA memberships, active military personnel as well as veterans, students, and more. Magliari also notes that this is an area Amtrak is investing in—there are new options for buying day passes to lounges, and guests in lounges now get priority boarding. Carrying bags? Several lines on Amtrak reserve one Quiet Car per train—an entire car where all passengers adhere to a blissful library-like atmosphere, eschewing cell phone use, keeping conversation to a minimum, and politely donning headphones for their devices. You earn two points for every dollar you spend on Amtrak or with partners like Hertz, Hilton Hotels, and more.
You will get lower fares by purchasing tickets well in advance of your trip. Fares gradually rise as trains fill and as the departure date nears, so make reservations as soon as you're confident of your travel schedule. Lower fares are more available on train schedules that are less popular. On most Amtrak Cascades routes, Friday evenings, Sunday evenings, and holidays are most popular. If you can adjust your travel schedule, explore midweek travel or morning trains for lower fares. Explore everyday discounts available to seniors, children, AAA members, military personnel, and more. An Amtrak Guest Rewards membership gets you more for your travel. Members earn a minimum of points whenever they ride on Amtrak Cascades, and other Amtrak trains, no matter the price. Points can be redeemed for free Amtrak travel, hotel and car rental awards, and retail certificates from a wide variety of participating companies. Amtrak Cascades and Sound Transit have teamed up to offer more rail travel options between Everett, Edmonds and Seattle. Visit Sound Transit for more information and schedules.