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U.S. Rail Travel News, Bargains and Best Buys – Sept. 14

A northbound Vermonter at Brattleboro, Vt. by Jared C. Benedict A northbound Vermonter at Brattleboro, Vt. by Jared C. Benedict

Headline News

  • As of yesterday afternoon, Amtrak had not announced resumption of the City of New Orleans between Memphis and New Orleans, but the website showed normal operation as of Sept. 14. All other major Amtrak train schedules have recovered from hurricane and other track damage.
  • Cleveland’s light rail Waterfront line will remain suspended north of Tower City indefinitely due to a failing bridge.
  • Seattle’s light rail system will open the new Northgate extension on Oct. 2, with three stations north of the current terminal at University of Washington.
  • In Santa Clara Valley (Silicon Valley area), Valley Transit has resumed limited light rail operations, with free travel now extended through Sept. 30.
  • Otherwise, last week’s headlines haven’t changed much: Systemwide summer Amtrak, commuter rail, and metro schedules remain subject to delay and temporary cancellation due to extreme heat, severe weather events, fires and mudslides. Check the status of any train you plan to take.

Conventional Amtrak Deals: General Conditions

Except where noted, all Amtrak promotions apply to coach travel only; discounts apply to full-fare tickets and can’t be combined with other discounts; most deals entail blackout dates; seats are limited; some promotions do not apply to all trains; most promotions make provisions for one or two children accompanying each adult traveler. Companion and most children’s deals require all travelers to travel together. Amtrak also offers other minor deals and promotions. In most cases, the Amtrak website automatically computes and displays eligible discounts for any trip you enter. Check amtrak.com/deals for details and booking.

Standard Ongoing Discounts

Amtrak routinely offers modest discounts to certain travelers. For the most part, these discounts apply only to coach travel and are generally not combinable. Most routine discounts do not apply to weekday Acela Express trains, and many do not apply to some Thruway bus travel. When you enter itineraries and personal details, the Amtrak website automatically computes discounted fares. Discounts are subject to capacity control.

  • Senior: 10% discount for travelers aged 65 or over except on cross-border travel with VIA Rail, where the minimum age is 60. Senior discount is not valid on business class (except limited Acela options), Auto Train, Saver fares or sleeper accommodations. 50% senior discount on Downeaster trains. 15% discount for seniors aged 62 or over on Capitol Corridor, Pacific Sunliner and San Joaquins; any-age advance purchase fares may be lower.
  • Disability: 10% discount for travelers with disabilities and traveling companions, with appropriate ID. 50% discount on Downeaster trains.
  • Children: One child aged 2-12 travels for 50% off with an adult age 18 or over.
  • Military: 10% discount for travelers on active duty and their spouses/dependents, including travel on Auto Train, excluding Canadian portion of transborder trains.
  • NARP: 10% discount for members of National Association of Railroad Passengers with three-day advance purchase.
  • “Share Fares:” Average 35% discount for groups of up to six traveling together with three-day advance purchase. Works best for groups of 3 or more; ends soon.
  • Veterans: 10% discounts for veterans; applies to all coach seats and business class on Acela. Check “Military Veteran” in the booking window. Proof of veteran status can be required. Also, 15% discounts in California on Capitol Corridor, Pacific Surfliner, and San Joaquins for veterans and family members, ending on Dec. 31, 2021.

Advance-Purchase Discounts

Amtrak routinely offers Saver Fares discounts of 15% to 25% on most trains with 14-day advance purchase. These discounts are limited to coach class and to Saturday and select off-peak Acela business class trips.

Time-Limited Promotions

  • Capitol Corridor: Up to 5 companions: 50% discounts on most dates, now through Jan. 31, 2021. Also $5 per companion on weekends and holiday Mondays; through Sept. 19.
  • Short-Term “low fare” promotions: Amtrak regularly selects individual routes to cut normal fares by as much as 50%. Discounts require 7- 14-day advance purchase.

Other U.S. Rail

  • Everywhere: communities around the country are using the low pandemic traffic levels as opportunities to maintain and upgrade their light rail, metro and heavy suburban rail systems. This means temporary shutdowns of various lines at various times, typically with substitute bus service. I will try to highlight major changes, but I can’t keep up with every local transit system. Check any city you plan to visit. Ditto major tourist lines, many of which are reopening this summer.
  • Brightline continues to post that it will resume operations on its South Florida system in “mid-November,” still without a specific date.
  • Caltrain offers 50 Percent discounts on most fares for the month of September.

See our report on rail news outside the U.S.

Ed Perkins, editor

For more travel tips from Ed Perkins, see our companion site Ed on Travel

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