Empire Builder schedule changed effective Monday, July 11th

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zephyr17

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For 7:
Chicago Departure moved back from 2:15 pm to 3:05 pm

Seattle Arrival moved back from 10:25 am to 11:29 am

Trip length goes from 46:10 to 46:24

For 8:
Seattle Departure moved back from 4:40 pm to 4:55 pm

Chicago Arrival moved back from 3:55 pm to 4:45 pm

Trip length goes from 45:15 to 45:50

I discovered it today because I just made an Empire Builder reservation from Chicago to Everett earlier this afternoon. When I made it, 7's departure was 2:15. I went in to check my booking a few minutes ago and it was weird. It showed the EB as cancelled with another EB entry on the app. On the website it showed two EB's with a -43 hour transfer in Everett (Amtrak IT strikes again! This time apparently with the cooperation of Doc Brown and a DeLorean) Didn't look at the times (the EB schedule had been the same for like forever), but freaked out a little due to all the mess with the sleeping cars on the EB this summer. So called AGR and they pointed out the schedule change and all is well.

So looked in Schedules and tracked down the change as being effective for the departures of both 7 & 8 from Chicago and Seattle on Monday, July 11th.

For those making eastbound connections in Chicago from the Builder, I'd worry a little bit more.

Also, as always, expect some connections to be temporarily broken due to the schedule change before Amtrak can re-enter the city pairs.
 
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I wondered about that. I have a trip planned in late July, with three segments: Spokane-Seattle, Seattle-Edmonds, and Edmonds-Spokane. I first got an email from Amtrak informing me of a schedule change and new e-ticket earlier this afternoon. Coming from a long, proud line of worrywarts, Nervous Nellies, and pessimists 🤣 I immediately assumed the worst, thinking another trip I'm taking in August on the EB was being downgraded to coach (never mind I'm coming from Portland in the Portland sleeper) or my return on the CZ was being downgraded to coach (never mind the CZ hasn't experienced any downgrades). But it just said the first leg of the trip was now going to depart Spokane at 3:29 AM instead of 2:15 AM. Then later on got emails with e-tickets for the other legs. And, just now as I'm typing this, got emails with new e-tickets for the August trip as well. (I'm going coach to Portland from Spokane, then sleeper to Chicago from Portland. Then the next day taking the CZ to Sacramento, connecting to the CS to Seattle. Then back to Spokane). I'd be a bit concerned too about the latter arrival time in Chicago if I were making a connection to an Eastern train. Fortunately the only connection I'm making in Chicago is my head to the pillow in my hotel room.😁
 

zephyr17

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Nah, the ticket had me arriving in Everett on the old schedule and a -43 hour transfer at Everett to the new schedule. It also apparently involved teleportation back to Chicago as well as time travel, but, unlike the expressly displayed -43 hour transfer there was no specific mention of teleportation.

So apparently Amtrak IT got the services of both Scotty and Doc Brown.

On the more serious side, aside from my temporarily scifi-infused ticket (the AGR agent "cleaned it up" for me), the actual train schedules did get pushed back and lengthened a bit.
 

thully

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Saw this myself when looking at EB trips. Wonder why this is? Initially thought this was a temporary change due to track work, but it’s showing the new schedule into 2023. The change to 8/28 is bad for connections, as it will reduce the window for them by nearly an hour. Wonder if they are going to cut some connections - particularly the Michigan trains , Cardinal, and/or Capitol Limited.

That wouldn’t be great - for the Wolverine I’d probably just chance it, but you probably wouldn’t want to do that with a sleeper if you don’t want to ride coach. As of now connections to those are still showing in Arrow (Wolverine and Cardinal from 28 only - that’s been a long-standing glitch), but it shows the old EB schedule (new one shows up for non-connecting trips).
 

zephyr17

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Saw this myself when looking at EB trips. Wonder why this is? Initially thought this was a temporary change due to track work, but it’s showing the new schedule into 2023. The change to 8/28 is bad for connections, as it will reduce the window for them by nearly an hour. Wonder if they are going to cut some connections - particularly the Michigan trains , Cardinal, and/or Capitol Limited.

That wouldn’t be great - for the Wolverine I’d probably just chance it, but you probably wouldn’t want to do that with a sleeper if you don’t want to ride coach. As of now connections to those are still showing in Arrow (Wolverine and Cardinal from 28 only - that’s been a long-standing glitch), but it shows the old EB schedule (new one shows up for non-connecting trips).
Yeah, I think they've not caught up on connections. I noticed that for 8-28 "multiple train" routing SEA-CHI still displays the old schedule. It'll probably take a couple weeks to get the connections straightened out in the system, which is pretty usual after a schedule change like this.

As to why? My guess it is the schedule renegotiations with the hosts that are required as part of the implementation of STB passenger delay metrics rule. I know the Starlight and SW Chief have already have that done, but they weren't as impactful. Of course, the biggest hit under that was the Cresecent's schedule. This one is somewhere between the minimal changes on the Starlight and SW Chief and the huge one for the Crescent.
 

Sidney

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I am on the EB in late August from SEA to CHI. Being I arrive on one of the three days the Cardinal was running I booked it. Now with the EB arriving an hour later that leaves me with an hour to make the connection. Too close for comfort,so I booked the Capitol Limited. If I miss that,there's the Lake Shore. Coach back East. Can't justify the roomette prices for a one night trip and flex food.
 

amtrakpass

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Does anyone know the last time the Empire Builder schedule changed significantly? I seem to remember it had been pretty much the same for the better part of 20 years anyway but I may be mistaken.
 

zephyr17

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With this schedule change, what are the odds of Seattle to Chicago to Sacramento being a seamless ride?
No impact, it never connected with the CZ anyway, arriving an hour and 55 minutes after the CZ's departure on the old schedule. Missing it by two hours and 45 minutes under the new one should make no difference. You have to lay over in Chicago under either one.
 

Amtrak25

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I would not reserve train 8 to train 30 anymore as it will be more likely to result in a stay at Chicago's Misconnect Lodge, or put on a train 48 coach, and your sleeper room pulled out from under you in any case. Even more tenuous is a connection to the 354-Wolverine. You'd likely be put on a late night Dog if GL still runs it. Glacier Park shuttles and Red cars at West Glacier to Apgar will be out later in the night.
 

thully

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I would not reserve train 8 to train 30 anymore as it will be more likely to result in a stay at Chicago's Misconnect Lodge, or put on a train 48 coach, and your sleeper room pulled out from under you in any case. Even more tenuous is a connection to the 354-Wolverine. You'd likely be put on a late night Dog if GL still runs it. Glacier Park shuttles and Red cars at West Glacier to Apgar will be out later in the night.
Though I’d say the calculus is significantly different between 30 and 354. In the former case you risk losing a sleeper and taking coach the next day - in the latter case you risk having to either take an overnight Greyhound (or 48 with the connecting bus), or overnighting at your own expense and take a train the next day. Given that you’d be doing the latter if you planned not to make the connection, it seems worth the gamble unless it’s a day that hotels/trains seem likely to book up.
 

thully

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It does look like connecting itineraries are now showing the new schedule in Arrow. It seems 30 is still offered as a connection, though 354 is not (even for 28 where it still shows as a connection pre-schedule change). It won’t let you book it multi-city either, so they obviously are withdrawing the connection.

This really stinks for those who want to connect from the EB to the Wolverine - as it stands, the only alternative offered (aside from perhaps the Zephyr or other routes) is a connection to 48 to Toledo, a 3 hr layover from 3:20am-6:20am, and then a Thruway bus to Michigan.

I wonder what they’ll do for people already booked with a withdrawn connection - guessing they may be rebooked to that ugly connection if they don’t just let it slide and handle misconnects if necessary.
 

Jack Davis

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This schedule change probably eliminates any connections from an early-running Empire Builder to the Coast Starlight in Seattle.
If the changes DO "eliminate any connections from an early-running Empire Builder" ....... who's in charge of scheduling? Where does AMTRAK get the idiots who screw up everything? And why?
 

zephyr17

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If the changes DO "eliminate any connections from an early-running Empire Builder" ....... who's in charge of scheduling? Where does AMTRAK get the idiots who screw up everything? And why?
🙄
There are no connections to early running trains. There are only connections to scheduled trains.

One should not build connections to trains that depart before the one you are arriving on is scheduled to arrive. The Empire Builder is scheduled to arrive Seattle at 10:25 am on the current schedule. The Coast Starlight leaves 45 minutes before, at 9:50 am.

I have many, many issues with Amtrak. A schedule change that makes a train miss a another train that it is already scheduled to miss is not one of them.

Breaking existing actual connections is another matter.
 

TheTuck

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I have been riding it since the early 1990s and it was always pretty much the same.
Only briefly in 2014, the schedules were lengthened by about 3 hours on the western end. I believe arrivals in SEA/PDX were pushed later and departures were earlier. This also required a sixth trainset since same-day turns were no longer possible.

As for this upcoming change, I don't see any new issues with connections that don't already exist. Yes some connections in Chicago are tighter but all are still possible. Same on the west coast.

Any schedule change is done to solve known operational problems and recurring delays, and if done properly OTP should improve and missed connections should decrease. Its very likely these new slots will avoid known train congestion somewhere along the route. Could be in the CHI-MKE segment, or the SEA-SPK segment, or both. I am not familiar enough with traffic levels along the EB route to know for sure.
 

thully

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As for this upcoming change, I don't see any new issues with connections that don't already exist. Yes some connections in Chicago are tighter but all are still possible. Same on the west coast.
354 may have been a tight connection before, but it was at least offered. It is not offered anymore, forcing anyone going to Michigan to either overnight in Chicago or take the offered connection to 48 with a middle-of-the-night layover in Toledo. I’d say this is a new issue.
 

trimetbusfan

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Yes, although why anyone would book a scheduled miss is beyond me🙄
This connection is almost always missed. Although the builder could arrive as early as 9:35 on some days, usually you won’t get off the train until 9:40. Boarding for the coast starlight ends at around 9:45.
 

jebr

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As for this upcoming change, I don't see any new issues with connections that don't already exist. Yes some connections in Chicago are tighter but all are still possible. Same on the west coast.

Currently the guaranteed connections to both the Michigan trains and the Cardinal eastbound have been severed. Without the guaranteed connection the connection simply doesn't exist for most people. That's a pretty big loss - though if the Empire Builder could run reliably on-schedule I would hope that Amtrak would restore those connections at some point.
 

TheTuck

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354 may have been a tight connection before, but it was at least offered. It is not offered anymore, forcing anyone going to Michigan to either overnight in Chicago or take the offered connection to 48 with a middle-of-the-night layover in Toledo. I’d say this is a new issue.
The Toledo option is lousy I agree, but Amtrak might feel this would satisfy the needs of these customers.
Currently the guaranteed connections to both the Michigan trains and the Cardinal eastbound have been severed. Without the guaranteed connection the connection simply doesn't exist for most people. That's a pretty big loss - though if the Empire Builder could run reliably on-schedule I would hope that Amtrak would restore those connections at some point.
I don't see why either of these connections should be severed. The most recent Coast Starlight schedule change led to a shorter connection between Train 11 and Train 2 in LAX and many here presumed Amtrak would permanently drop the connection (they didn't). I'd hope Amtrak would do the same here and trust their new EB schedule and allow these shorter connections in CHI.
 

trimetbusfan

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Currently the guaranteed connections to both the Michigan trains and the Cardinal eastbound have been severed. Without the guaranteed connection the connection simply doesn't exist for most people. That's a pretty big loss - though if the Empire Builder could run reliably on-schedule I would hope that Amtrak would restore those connections at some point.
It might take a few days for them to restore the garunteed connection into the system. I woudln’t worry for now.
 
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