With the American Rescue Plan on its way to President Joe Biden, agencies and companies that are due to get sorely needed relief funds have begun announcing their plans for reversing service cuts and bringing back furloughed workers. Among them is Amtrak, America’s passenger railroad system, which significantly scaled back its long distance service last during when the pandemic hit.
In a few weeks, Amtrak intends to resume daily departures on most of its long distance routes, thanks to funding from the American Rescue Plan. Service had been scaled back to three days a week due to sharply lower demand.
“Offering daily long distance service represents a vital step in our road to recovery,” said Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn in a statement. “Recognizing the immense value of our employees, we’d like to thank Congress for enabling service restoration and helping us recall furloughed employees.”
The number of furloughed workers who will be brought back beginning in April to help get Amtrak back to regular order numbers over 1,200.
The timetable calls for daily service to be resumed on the following routes:
|May 24th||May 31st||June 7th|
|California Zephyr||Capitol Limited||Crescent|
|Coast Starlight||City of New Orleans||Palmetto|
|Empire Builder||Lake Shore Limited||Silver Meteor|
|Texas Eagle||Southwest Chief||Silver Star|
The two long distance routes that serve Seattle are the Coast Starlight and the Empire Builder. They’re both set to go back to a normal timetable on May 24th, just in time for summer. The Coast Starlight connects Seattle to Los Angeles, while the Empire Builder connects the Emerald City to Chicago.
“All destinations and scheduled departure/arrival times served by the long distance network will be maintained,” Amtrak says.
Unlike airlines, Amtrak offers private rooms on its long distance trains. It is thus possible to practice physical distancing while taking a train across the country.
While it does cost more than simply riding in a coach seat, meals are included, and Amtrak’s dining cars have a reputation for modest excellence.
“This is a real win for America’s passengers and for the hundreds of communities served by Amtrak’s long-distance trains, communities which suffered economic pain when they lost their service last summer,” said Jim Mathews, President & CEO of Rail Passengers Association, in a statement.
“We extend our thanks to the many champions of passenger rail in Congress who helped make this happen. We worked tirelessly with executive agencies, congressional leaders and, yes, Amtrak itself, to create urgency around the need to restore daily service just as soon as possible. Whether in testimony before House lawmakers or in private meetings with congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle, this Association worked overtime to create the preconditions Amtrak needed to restore services and recall its workforce.”
Amtrak is an American treasure, and it would have been a shame for its long distance routes to have become victims of the pandemic.
Amtrak will need additional funding in the future to continue modernizing trains and working with local partners to save and upgrade historic stations.
For now, this jolt in the arm will get the railroad back on track to recovery.