As the threat of COVID-19 continues to recede and the country re-opens, Amtrak is following suit with its long-distance routes. And the changes mean easier travel planning for your next trip!
COVID-19 Forces Amtrak Long Distance Changes
Like every other form of travel, Amtrak saw ridership plummet following the nationwide COVID-19 lockdowns. By their own estimates, 80% fewer passengers took the train in the first half of 2020. This forced the rail service to reduce trains on some of its less-traveled routes, including long-distance favorites like the California Zephyr, Empire Builder, Crescent, and City of New Orleans. All of these and a half-dozen others were reduced from daily service to tri-weekly in October 2020.
COVID Relief Funding Helps Restore Service
Amtrak’s long-distance routes received a boon in March 2021. As part of President Biden’s $1.9-trillion COVID relief package, Amtrak received money to recall 1,200 furloughed workers and restore long-distance service in time for the summer travel season. The restoration came in three stages. On May 24th, the California Zephyr, Coast Starlight, Empire Builder, and Texas Eagle resumed daily service. A week later, on May 31st, the Capitol Limited, City of New Orleans, Lake Shore Limited, and Southwest Chief did the same. The final group will return to daily service on June 7th, including the Crescent, Palmetto, and Silver Service.
What It Means For Your Train Trip
Planning multi-stop or round-trip travel just got a lot easier again. On the tri-weekly system, it was impossible to hop-on and hop-off at intermediate stops along the way without committing several days to the detour. With daily service, you can once again get off at a stop, see the area for 24 hours, and resume your trip the next day. This is one of the best ways to check out smaller cities or towns of interest along your route. Keep in mind that until Amtrak launches a new rail pass, you’ll need separate tickets for each segment. Additionally, you’ll have an easier job booking round-trips. With daily service, you’ll no longer need to potentially cut your trip short or extend it an extra day.
Planning To Take Amtrak Long Distance?
There’s no better time than now to get out and see the country after a year spent close to home. There are a ton of different options for taking Amtrak cross-country, so make sure to check out our Ultimate Guide to Amtrak Cross-Country Travel!