Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak timetables’

Amtrak Website Tweaked to Help With Booking Long-Distance Train Travel

October 30, 2020

Amtrak has tweaked its website to better help passengers plan travel on long-distance trains now that all of them except the Auto Train are operating tri-weekly or quad-weekly.

The “next travel day” feature will advise passengers seeking to make a reservation on the Amtrak website or via the Amtrak app that the train they wish to ride does not operate on the they have selected.

A popup screen will direct them to the next available day of operation.

However, passengers will still receive the message that “at least one portion of your trip is unavailable. Please try a different date and time.”

Updated timetables for long-distance trains that show days of operation also are available on the Amtrak website although finding them is a somewhat cumbersome task.

They will not come up when clicking on the “schedules” tab as was the case until last spring.

Instead, site users must click the “Destinations” tab. That brings up a U.S. map and clicking on the region of the country in you wish to travel will bring a list of rains operating in that region.

Clicking on a specific train brings up a box offering route “map” and “schedule” buttons.

Schedules that show long-distance and corridor trains are still unavailable.

Some corridor schedules are available on route specific websites although some of those still show timetables that are out of date.

Greyhound is Back in Akron, But Finding Where it Goes From There Wasn’t Easy or Convenient

July 12, 2020

Back in early April I wrote a post about how Greyhound Bus Lines had suspended service to Akron during the COVID-19 pandemic.

I decided last week to check if Greyhound had reinstated its Akron service.

It has but I was unable to determine when that occurred. A Google search for news stories about Greyhound reinstating suspended routes came up largely empty.

Unlike Amtrak and the airlines, the intercity bus industry gets little news attention in the United States.

I went to Greyhound’s website where my experience in finding out information about service to Akron was mixed.

The site, unlike Amtrak and the major airlines, lacks a page containing news releases or service advisories. In fact there is virtually little information about the company at all.

I found no route map or route timetables. If you are curious as to what cities Greyhound directly links from Akron you have to literally plug in various city pairs.

It took some digging to piece together a general idea of where Greyhound can take you from Akron without having having to make a transfer.

I started by checking the obvious cities of Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Cincinnati and Chicago.

Greyhound has direct bus service to all of those places plus Youngstown; Canton; Erie, Pennsylvania; Buffalo, New York; Washington; Baltimore and a handful of other cities and towns in Ohio and surrounding states.

But there are no direct buses to Detroit, New York or Indianapolis. You can get to those cities but must transfer en route.

Taking Greyhound service out of Akron is not quite as inconvenient as taking Amtrak from Cleveland. Buses leave Akron throughout the day, but some destinations require boarding or disembarking in Akron in the middle of the night.

For example, there is just one bus each way per day between Akron and Pittsburgh. It arrives in Akron from Pittsburgh at 2:55 a.m. and departs for the burgh at 11:15 p.m.

Traveling from Akron to Chicago makes for a long day. One bus leaves at 3:05 a.m. and reaches Chicago at 12:10 p.m. traveling via Cleveland, Toledo and South Bend, Indiana.

Another bus leaves at a more reasonable 12:10 p.m. but takes a roundabout path through Columbus, Marysville, Lima, Van Wert, Fort Wayne and South Bend before reaching Chicago at 9:25 p.m.

There are two buses a day to Columbus, one of which continues to Cincinnati. The route to Columbus goes west from Akron on Interstate 76 and picks up I-71 near Lodi.

I never determined where the three buses that leave Akron for Canton wind up. One bus goes as far as Charleston, West Virginia; while another goes at least as far as Athens, Ohio.

Both routes might extend beyond those cities but it would take a lot of trial and error to find out where they go.

The Akron-Pittsburgh service is part of a Chicago-Washington route. Just like Amtrak’s Capitol Limited, Northeast Ohio is served in the wee hours.

I could have more easily learned that if there had been an online timetable easily found on the Greyhound website.

There was a time when transportation companies printed and regularly distributed timetables for their routes.

The airline industry gave up on timetables more than two decades ago although Southwest Airlines was holdout for awhile.

Amtrak published its last system timetable in 2016, a copy of which I keep handy on my desk for reference because the carrier’s schedules haven’t changed much since then.

It subsequently did away with printed route timetables and route guides and during the pandemic stopped making route timetables available online.

It remains to be seen if this is temporary or permanent. The official reason given for dropping the online timetables is because services changed and continue to change during the pandemic as trains are suspended, reinstated and, who knows, suspended again or see their frequency of operation reduced.

The transportation industry appears to think that all most people care about is whether it is possible to go from point A to point B on the plane, train or bus.

You can find that out by typing into a box your point of origin and typing into another box your destination. If the carrier can get you there then the pertinent information is shown.

Carriers seem increasingly less interested in giving the public a comprehensive view of where they go and how they get there.

I noticed that on the Greyhound site if you want more detailed information about your route, including all of the intermediate stops, you need to click on a link to find it.

Transportation is in and will continue to be in a state of flux so long as the pandemic continues to depress demand and planes, trains and buses operate at lower levels than was the case in early March before the pandemic took hold.

Yet I can’t help but wonder if the pastime of some transportation enthusiasts of perusing timetables and taking “mind trips” is becoming yet another thing of the past.

I might have to be content to practice this with old timetables that show where you used to be able to fly or take a train.

Few Changes in New Amtrak Timetable

January 22, 2018

Amtrak has a new national timetable posted online and only a few changes have been made to the schedules of its trains that serve the nation’s heartland, many of them minor.

Most  of the changes affect the six Wolverine Service trains between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac). The running times on the route are being shortened

Effective Jan. 22, No. 350 will depart Pontiac 5 minutes earlier and arrive in Chicago 15 minutes earlier than the current schedule. No. 353 will leave Pontiac 10 minutes earlier and arrive in Chicago eight minutes earlier. No. 355 will depart Pontiac 20 minutes earlier and arrive in Chicago 32 minutes earlier. Times at stations en route have been adjusted.

No. 350 will leave Chicago at its current scheduled time, but arrive in Pontiac 24 minutes earlier. No. 353 will depart Chicago 10 minutes earlier and arrive in Pontiac 27 minutes earlier. No. 354 will leave Chicago 10 minutes earlier and arrive in Pontiac 14 minutes earlier.

The eastbound Blue Water will depart Chicago at its current time, but will be scheduled to arrive in Port Huron, Michigan, seven minutes earlier. There are corresponding changes at intermediate stations.

There are no changes in the schedules of the westbound Blue Water or the Pere Marquette in both directions.

Effective Jan. 8, the Pennsylvanian began arriving in Pittsburgh from New York six minutes earlier.

There are no changes in the schedules of the Capitol Limited, Lake Shore Limited or eastbound Cardinal. The westbound Cardinal is now scheduled to arrive in Chicago five minutes earlier, but there are no changes in time at intermediate stations.

No changes were made in any schedules of trains operating in the Chicago-Carbondale-New Orleans corridor. Likewise, all Lincoln Service schedules between Chicago and St. Louis and Missouri River Runner trains between St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri, remain the same.

Hiawatha Service between Chicago and Milwaukee has not changed.

The Illinois Zephyr and Carl Sandburg are scheduled to arrive one minute earlier in Quincy, Illinois, but the rest of the schedules on the route are unchanged.

The counterparts of the same trains will arrive in Chicago two minutes earlier without any changes in times at intermediate stations.

The westbound Southwest Chief is departing Los Angeles five minutes earlier but its Chicago arrival time is unchanged. Some times have changed at intermediate stations. This change became effective last November.

There are no changes in the schedules of the westbound Southwest Chief, or the California Zephyr, Empire Builder or Texas Eagle.

The Heartland Flyer arrives in Oklahoma City from Fort Worth, Texas, four minutes earlier, a change that took effect last October. The southbound Heartland Flyer schedule is unchanged.

Amtrak has not printed a national timetable since January 2016, but has posted one at its website since then.

The latest timetable features an image of the Maple Leaf traveling through snowstorm.

Missing from this timetable is a letter from Amtrak’s president, which had been a standard feature of previous timetables.

The typography is largely the same as in the previous timetables, but the schedule headings have been tweaked. The schedules were compiled before Amtrak said it was discontinuing the Pacific Parlour Car on the Seattle-Los Angeles Coast Starlight.

No Changes in Latest Amtrak TT

September 17, 2016

amtrak-tt

Amtrak issued a new system timetable on Sept. 9 and for the first time in the company’s history it is available only online.

The timetable shows no changes in scheduled times for the three trains that serve Ohio, the Chicago-New York Lake Shore Limited, the Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited and the tri-weekly Chicago-New York Cardinal.

Although the timetable shows through cars between Chicago and Boston for the Lake Shore Limited, a check of Amtrak’s website found that passengers still must change trains at Albany-Rensselaer, New York.

Through cars between Chicago and Boston are shown in the system as becoming effective Oct. 24.

There are no changes in schedules for other Amtrak corridor or long-distance trains serving the Midwest.

The typography of the timetable is slightly different from the last system timetable, which was issued on Jan. 11, 2016.

Also missing from the latest timetable is the letter from Amtrak’s president. It has been replaced with a letter from D.J. Stadler, Amtrak’s executive vice president and chief operations officer.

Previous Amtrak President Joseph Boardman retired on Sept. 1 and was replaced by Charles “Wick” Moorman, whose appointment had apparently not been finalized when the timetable production work was completed.

The cover features an image of the westbound California Zephyr passing colorful fall foliage near Grandby, Colorado. The image was made by Amtrak trainmaster Steve Ostrowski.

Happy 45th Anniversary, Amtrak

May 1, 2016

45 year Amtrak TT

Amtrak 1st day loco

Today (May 1) marks the 45th anniversary since the startup of Amtrak. Shown at top is a comparison of the passenger carrier’s first timetable and, as turns out, what will be the last system timetable that it plans to print.

A lot of changed in 45 years and not just the front covers of the system timetables. In 1971, Amtrak was mostly just a name. It had a handful of employees and relied on its contract railroads to perform nearly every task involved in getting the trains over the road as well as serviced and re-stocked.

For a first day ceremony, Amtrak had Penn Central E8A No. 4316 painted in a one-of-a-kind livery. The Pennsylvania Railroad locomotive continued to work in Amtrak service in this livery for several months and sometimes passed through Northeast Ohio on the Broadway Limited.

In the bottom photograph above, it is shown in Chicago. It would later become Amtrak No. 322 and, in 1977, Amtrak No. 461, the second locomotive to wear that number. It was retired from the Amtrak roster in July 1981.

Another Railroad Tradition Bites the Dust

April 25, 2016

Perhaps it was inevitable. Airlines haven’t issued timetables for years so it was a matter of time before Amtrak followed suit because there was money to be saved.

Last week Amtrak said it would no longer print its system timetable. It will continue to create a system timetable as a PDF file that you can download from the rail passenger carrier’s website.

It also will continue to print route-specific folders that will be available at some stations and aboard trains.

You could summarize the reason for ending printing of the national timetable in two words: changing times.

But what, exactly, changed?

On TransportationIn a statement Amtrak said it was its patrons. “Surveys have revealed that few customers want or use the printed System Timetable and expressed a preference to access information on-line,” Amtrak said in a statement.

It also said that “schedules, policies, and programs are ever-changing, and it’s impossible to keep the printed document up-to-date.”

The latter assertion is blowing smoke. Routes rarely change and the vast majority of schedule changes are temporary adjustments made when a host railroad is undergoing major track work.

Amtrak also cited being “environmentally friendly,” which has become a catch-all excuse used by every company in America when it is trying to cut and/or shift the costs of printing to its customers.

Saving itself some money is, I suspect, a primary reason for ending the printed system timetable. Amtrak of late has seen its patronage drop and has been looking for ways to cut expenses.

Ending the printing of the system timetable will save some money, although it probably won’t be a substantial amount.

But it will be one more thing that Amtrak can put on a list when it goes before Congress to show that it has been fiscally responsible.

If the surveys – the results of which we will likely never see – really do reveal that few passengers want or use the national timetable, it is not difficult to understand why.

Aside from the trend toward using smart phones as a primary way of accessing the Internet, the system timetable is bulky and inconvenient to use on the go.

It won’t easily fit in a pocket and the typical traveler probably doesn’t care about schedules for any route other than the one he or she is traveling.

Much of the time if you wanted a system timetable you had to ask for it because they seldom were placed in a rack for distribution.

The system timetable hasn’t always been as large or even as attractive as it has been in recent years.

Although Amtrak timetables have always had a color cover, the interiors were often bare bones offerings of page after page of schedules printed on newsprint paper.

Today’s Amtrak system timetable features color printing and photographs along with numerous display advertisements.

I had always presumed that the revenue from those advertisements paid for the expense of printing the timetable. If so, they didn’t pay for it enough, apparently.

I’ve always been a fan of timetables and I have a near complete collection of Amtrak system timetables dating to the first one issued on May 1, 1971.

I enjoy leafing through the timetable as a way of vicariously traveling by train to countless places in America.

I could still do that, but it won’t be as convenient. I would have to collect all of the route folders and that won’t be easy to do.

In my experience, Amtrak tends to distribute route folders by region, so the Cleveland Amtrak station is not likely to have folders for routes on the West Coast.

Ending the printed system timetable might draw a few letters or emails of protest, but that isn’t likely to have any effect. In the end, Amtrak is probably correct that few passengers care or use the system timetable.

And so another railroad tradition falls by the wayside and I’m going to miss it.

Amtrak to Stop Printing National Timetables

April 24, 2016

Amtrak said last week that it will no longer print a national timetable although it will continue to assemble one and make it available as a downloadable PDF file at its website.

“Surveys have revealed that few customers want or use the printed System Timetable and expressed a preference to access information on-line,” Amtrak said in a statement.

Amtrak logoIndividual route folders will continue to be printed and made available. The passenger carrier also conceded that dropping the printing of the national timetable was also done as a cost-cutting move.

Amtrak is among the last transportation providers to publish a system timetable. Most airlines ceased doing it years ago.

The most recent Amtrak national timetable was released on Jan. 11 and had a press run of 300,000 copies.

At one time, the press run for the national timetable was 500,000 copies.

No Changes in New Amtrak System Timetable

January 12, 2016

Amtrak issued a new timetable on Jan. 11, 2016, and there are no significant changes in schedules for trains serving the Midwest or Northeast Ohio.

The only change was more of a cosmetic one, showing the schedules of the Chicago-Grand Rapids, Michigan, Pere Marquette in the same timetable as the other Michigan trains.

Amtrak TT coverPreviously, the schedules of Nos. 370 and 371 had been listed separately on another page.

The Michigan schedules also show new Thruway service between Detroit and Toronto.

The Thruway bus schedules are timed to connect with Wolverine Service trains 352 eastbound and 353 and 355 westbound.

A Chicago-Detroit Thruway bus schedule that had terminated in Detroit now operates to Toronto and has added an intermediate Michigan stop at Dearborn.

Previously, the Chicago-Detroit Thruway schedule stopped only in Kalamazoo. The new schedule has retained that stop.

The timetable cover features an Acela Express train approaching the BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport Rail Station near Baltimore.

The photo was made by Amtrak employee Matt Donnelly and carries a herald observing the 15th anniversary of Acela Express service.

Amtrak Establishing Grand Rapids Crew Base

April 12, 2015

The May 4 schedule change that will have the Chicago-Grand Rapids Pere Marqutte operating on a new schedule is being done to give passengers more time in Chicago.

Amtrak also plans to open a crew base in Grand Rapids, Mich., which it expects will help to resolve the problem of the train departing late for Chicago due to the crew that brought in the train the night before needing more rest because of a late arrival.

At the present time, the Pere Marquette is assigned operating employees who are based in Chicago.

The new schedule of No. 371 will have it departing Grand Rapids more than an hour and a half earlier at 6 a.m. The departure time of No. 370 from Chicago has been moved back to 6:30 p.m. from 4:55 p.m.

Michigan residents will be able to spend more than nine hours in Chicago on business or pleasure. Current schedules allot about six hours of layover time.

Amtrak said the new schedule will also improve the reliability of eastbound connections from late long-distance trains.

The new schedule will place the Pere Marquette in close proximity to the schedule of Amtrak’s Chicago-Washington, D.C., Capitol Limited in both directions.

Officials with Amtrak and the Michigan Department of Transportation, which helps to fund the Pere Marquette, hope that this will enable NS dispatcher to have an easier time creating routes for both trains on a freight-heavy line in and out of Chicago.

Al Johnson, MDOT’s Office of Rail passenger and operations manager, told Trains magazine that the state is studying additional frequencies for the Pere Marquette, Blue Water (Chicago-Port Huron, Mich.) and Wolverine Service (Chicago-Detroit) routes, but new trains cannot be implemented until NS completes the $71 million Indiana Gateway project between Chicago and Porter, Ind.

Amtrak issued its Spring-Fall 2015 system timetable on April 6 and most schedules have received only minor changes. The new timetable replaced the Summer-Fall 2014 schedule issued on June 9, 2014.

Few Major Changes Offered in in New Amtrak TT

April 3, 2015

Amtrak’s next timetable will take effect on Monday and although there are some changes to the Cardinal and two Michigan trains, the schedules in Northeast Ohio remained unchanged.

The Capitol Limited (Chicago-Washington, D.C.) and Lake Shore Limited (Chicago-New York/Boston) will continue to depart and arrive at all stations on the same schedules as they do now.

The cover of the Spring-Fall 2015 Amtrak system timetable features an image of the Ethan Allen Express.

The cover of the Spring-Fall 2015 Amtrak system timetable features an image of the Ethan Allen Express.

The Chicago-New York Cardinal will see minor adjustments at many intermediate stations even as the departure and arrival times as its endpoints remain the same.

Westbound No. 51 will now arrive and depart from Cincinnati at 1:36 a.m. and 1:46 a.m. respectively. Those times had been 1:13 a.m. and 1:23 a.m.

Between Charlottesville, Va., and Indianapolis, No. 51 will be running slightly later at all stations. The dwell time in Indianapolis has been cut by 23 minutes so times west of there remain unchanged.

Eastbound No. 50 will have some changes between Indianapolis and Newark, N.J., but not all stations will be affected.

The Cardinal will continue to leave Indy at 11:59 p.m. and its arrival and departure times in Cincinnati remain unchanged.

But some intermediate times will be earlier, e.g. Connersvlle, Ind., 1:21 a.m. versus 1:26 a.m. now at Connersville, Ind., while others are later. For example, No. 50 will arrive and depart at Huntington, W.Va., at 7:09 a.m. and 7:16 a.m.  versus the current 7:03 a.m. and 7:10 a.m.

There are no changes in the operation of the New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian, the Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) Wolverine Service or the Chicago-Port Huron, Mich. Blue Water

However, Amtrak has added a Chicago-Detroit Thruway bus (No. 8356) that will depart Chicago at 10:55 p.m. and arrive in Detroit at 5:55 a.m. with an intermediate stop at Kalamazoo, Mich., at 3:05 a.m. that will only receive passengers. There is no corresponding westbound Thruway bus service.

Amtrak also plans major changes to the schedule of the Chicago-Grand Rapids, Mich., Pere Marquette.

Effective May 4, the train will begin departing Chicago at 6:30 p.m. and arriving in Grand Rapids at 11:39 p.m. The westbound train will leave Grand Rapids at 6 a.m. and arrive in Chicago at 9:11 a.m.

Currently, No. 370 departs Chicago at 4:55 p.m. and is scheduled to arrive in Grand Rapids at 9:55 p.m. No. 371 departs Grand Rapids at 7:40 a.m. and arrives at 10:38.

The changes will mean that the Pere Marquette will become the earliest arriving Midwest corridor train in Chicago outside of the Chicago-Milwaukee Hiawatha Service route.

The cover of the timetable, which will be effective through the end of the year, features a photograph of the Ethan Allen Express crossing the Hudson River just after departing from the station at Fort Edward-Glens Falls, N.Y. The photograph was made by Steven K. Ostrowski.