- Apparently, the bluff at San Clemente is not cooperating with engineers, with slides still troubling the rail line. Check before you plan to ride.
- Amtrak proudly announced the start of 110-mph operation on part of the Chicago-St. Louis line June 26. But there isn’t much to see for it yet—it will cut travel time by mere 5-20 minutes. Obviously, this is still a work in progress.
Reopenings, New Services and Sales
- Ends June 20: Book an adult fare and children aged 2-12 travel free, travel June 20, 2023-Sept. 30. Deal is limited to coach on regular trains or business class. Book an adult fare and children aged 2-12 travel free. Buy by June 20, travel June 20-Sept. 30. Deal is limited to coach on regular trains or business on
- SMART has launched a “microtransit” service linking its airport station with Charles Schultz Sonoma County Airport—despite the station name, a mile from the airport terminal and too much of a schlep on foot for travelers with baggage. Check sonomamarintrain.org for details.
- Los Angeles has opened the “regional connector” on its light rail system. It permits through running between Azusa on the northern branch of the Gold line to Santa Monica on the Blue line and between East Los Angeles on the eastern branch of the Gold line to Santa Monica on the Expo line, with new stops in the downtown area. Even though it doesn’t help travelers to/from LAX yet, it’s a big improvement for the city.
- Honolulu will open the first stage of its light rail system June 30. The initial link will be of little or no use to visitors: It doesn’t yet reach either the airport or the Waikiki area. In fact, current plans do not call for expansion to Ala Moana near Waikiki until sometime after 2035—if ever. Still, after years of delay, it’s nice to see something actually operating.
- Virginia Railway Express will offer free rides all day Fridays on both routes connecting suburban Virginia with Washington through Sept. 1.
- Amtrak will add another daily round-trip Piedmont train between Charlotte and Raleigh July 10. The route will then operate five daily round trips.
- Amtrak has added a through Northeast Regional train linking Hartford with New York Penn Station. The train times are early morning to New York and evening back to Hartford. The new trains are expected to be year-round.
- According to sources, Amtrak will probably not add a dome car to the Adirondack at all this summer—and maybe not next year, either.
- Washington’s Metro Yellow line has reopened. It’s very important to visitors—one of two lines serving National Airport.
- Amtrak still isn’t publishing full timetables online. If you enjoy using a traditional full-route timetable, the independent Rail Passengers Association shows its own unofficial timetables for most Amtrak trains at railpassengers.org/resources/Amtrak-timetables/.
- Portland will completely close the Red Line light rail between Gateway station and the airport through Oct. 21 for major reconstruction. This will eliminate direct rail access to PDX for the duration.
- South Shore (Chicago-South Bend) trains are still not operating between Dune Park and Carroll Avenue to permit double-track and off-street construction. The reopening date has slipped from “spring” to “mid summer.” Bus replacement is filling in the gaps.
- Look for continued disruptions—including a few outright suspensions—as many Amtrak host lines, regional rail systems, and metro systems make up for deferred maintenance and repairs. Be sure to check before you head for the station.
Ongoing 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. The senior discount is also not valid for travel on certain Amtrak Thruway connecting services, including 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
- 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 the Canadian portion of transborder trains.
- NARP: 10% discount for National Association of Railroad Passengers members with a three-day advance purchase.
- “Share Fares:” Average 35% discount for groups of up to six traveling together with a three-day advance purchase. Works best for groups of 3 or more; ends soon.
- Veterans: 10% discounts for veterans are no longer tagged as “ending soon,” presumably, it’s on indefinitely again. The deal applies to all coach seats and business class on Acela. Also, 15% discounts for Veterans on Capitol Corridor, Pacific Surfliner and San Joaquins. Check “Military Veteran” in the booking window. Proof of veteran status can be required.
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.
- Unless noted, Amtrak promotions are limited to coach class, with blackouts, no upgrades and limited availability.
- Promotional fares: Buy 14 days in advance, with no cutoff date specified; not available for travel on Fridays and Sundays. Sample one-way fares include $79 Boston-Washington, $69 New York-Washington, and $59 Boston-New York
- Capitol Corridor. Buy one ticket, take up to five companions on the entire schedule for $5 each. Buy tickets at least one day in advance; travel Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday through Sept. 4.
- Downeaster Buy one, get a companion ticket for 50% off on trains 681, 683, 688, 691, 693 and 698. Buy tickets at least three days in advance; travel through Dec. 31, 2024.
- Empire Service, Ethan Allan, Adirondack and Maple Leaf.Weekday BoGo in New York state: Buy one, get two for travel on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays in February on Reserve at least one day in advance.
- Keystone and Pennsylvanian. Discounts up to 50% on travel in the Northeast, with a 14-day advance purchase on trips and 21-day on Northeast Regional. Does not apply Friday and Sunday. Amtrak posts no expiration date.
- Northeast Corridor including Saturday BoGo: Buy one full fare ticket at least three days before travel, get two for Saturday travel on almost all trains. Couple must travel together. No cutoff date specified. Also, low “night Owl” fares on some Northeast Regional trains between Washington and New York and intermediate points for trains departing between 7 p.m. and 5 a.m.
Short-Term “low fare” promotions: Amtrak regularly selects individual routes and areas to cut normal fares by as much as 50%. Discounts require 7- 14-day advance purchase.
Other US Rail
- Brightline still hasn’t announced an official start date other than “late summer” for service on its extension to Orlando, but it is already selling tickets for travel starting Sept. 1.
— Ed Perkins, editor
See our report on rail news outside the U.S.
For more travel tips from Ed Perkins, see our companion site Ed on Travel