Missed Connection

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denmarks

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Chico, CA
How often have you missed a connection and what did Amtrak do about it?

I missed the CZ out of Chicago when the train from Washington was late. They flew me to Omaha to catch it there which did not work out due to other problems. Long story cut short, put up in a hotel in Omaha overnight.
 

Mr.Technician

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Jul 30, 2021
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Minnesota
I missed my connection for the CL in CHI when the EB was 8 hours late. Because they were on the same ticket they bussed us out to a hotel and brought us back the next day. It was actually a fun adventure and we had an extra day in our schedule just in case.
 

oregon pioneer

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I have missed connections in both CHI (EB to Lincoln Service) and LAX (SL to CS). In LAX, they put us up overnight at that hotel a block from the station. At CHI, I only took the food voucher, and turned down the hotel (somewhere out near the airport) because I have relatives nearby who came and got me for the night.

One other time our Empire Builder was so late all they had to do in CHI was open the first-class lounge a couple hours early, so we could wait in comfort for the first train out. They had automatically rebooked us for an evening train, assuming we'd want to sleep in a (paid for by Amtrak) hotel all day and take an evening train, but we had been in our roomette beds till 5am, and gotten plenty of sleep. We preferred to get to our destination (Springfield IL) in time for a noon conference opener, only missed it by half an hour! Changing the re-booking was pretty painless.
 

bratkinson

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It seems like eons ago...winter 1977. I was booked in roomettes CHI-NYP on the Broadway Ltd then the Silver Meteor to West Palm Beach for the holidays. The Broadway got cancelled due to unusually heavy snow. So they booked a slumber coach room for me on the Lakeshore Ltd to NYP as that's all they had left. The plan was I'd be able to catch the Meteor from there, but we arrived NYP about 10PM! They put me up in a nearby Ramada Inn and gave me cash for the cab ride each way. Fortunately, they had another roomette available the next day on the SM. So I arrived in WPB on Christmas day rather than Christmas eve.

Another time, about 9-10 years ago, I was on a late running Empire Builder from SEA to CHI and had a connection to the Capitol Ltd. and then on the NEC to Springfield MA. We were running late enough at La Crosse WI that I knew I'd never make the Cap. Amtrak had an 'agent' board there to help with making connections. By the time I got to him (it was by connecting train number), all he said was I'd have to deal with Amtrak Services in Chicago. We arrived Chicago at 9:20...10 minutes before the Lakeshore Ltd would leave. I've been through CHI hundreds of times, so I ran all the way to the ticket counter, got my ticket changed to the LSL (no rooms left), RAN to the LSL Boston section up front (I just made it) and rode coach to Springfield. My original routing on the Cap via WAS saved over $100, and I never got any refunded money. I was happy to get home the same day as planned, but 4-5 hours earlier than expected.

5-6 years ago, connecting at CHI from the California Zephyr to the Cardinal was in seriously behind due to a rock slide in Colorado that delayed us 4-5 hours. I was surprised the next afternoon when they told us (over the PA) that passengers connecting to the Cardinal should get off at Galesburg and buses would take us to meet the Cardinal in Indianapolis. I got gypped out of a free dinner on the Cardinal as we stopped about 2/3 the way there at an exit with 3-4 adjacent fast food places...out of our pockets. I remember that bus ride specifically as I left my one of my 'earned' CSX Intermodal hats on that bus at 11PM when we got off. Fortunately, we got a free 'peak season' UPS/CSX hat before every holiday season, so it was no big loss.

Then, 2-3 years ago, I was on the southbound Coast Starlight to LAX to catch the Texas Eagle through sleeper (#421) to CHI. We were running late at Chico, so they told everyone with connections to get off at Sacramento. When I got to the ticket counter, the agent said I was supposed to get off at Martinez and changed my ticket for Martinez-Bakersfield and bus to LAX. As the Starlight gets fueled and watered at SAC, I had time to reboard and get back in my roomette until MTZ. As I had never ridden the San Joaquin route, I welcomed the chance to do so. The 2 hour bus to LAX wasn't bad at all, though full. I got gypped out a free lunch on that trip. Such is life.

Lesson learned from experience: Connecting in CHI from the west, take the LSL back home to almost 100% guarantee making the connection.
 
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JayPea

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5-6 years ago, connecting at CHI from the California Zephyr to the Cardinal was in seriously behind due to a rock slide in Colorado that delayed us 4-5 hours. I was surprised the next afternoon when they told us (over the PA) that passengers connecting to the Cardinal should get off at Galesburg and buses would take us to meet the Cardinal in Indianapolis. I got gypped out of a free dinner on the Cardinal as we stopped about 2/3 the way there at an exit with 3-4 adjacent fast food places...out of our pockets. I remember that bus ride specifically as I left my one of my 'earned' CSX Intermodal hats on that bus at 11PM when we got off. Fortunately, we got a free 'peak season' UPS/CSX hat before every holiday season, so it was no big loss.
I and my uncle were also on the CZ that was delayed by a rock slide, and we were to connect to the Cardinal as well. Perhaps it was the same train. At any rate, we decided against the bus from Galesburg to Indianapolis and instead got rebooked the next day on the Capital Limited. We were bused from Union Station to a motel and got meal vouchers for the restaurant next door, a Denny's. Even though it cut our trip short by a day it worked out better for the friend who was picking us up. We were going to Washington DC on the Cardinal, but instead got off at Martinsburg, WV, which was much closer to where he lived.
 

neroden

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I missed my connection from the Empire Service to the Silver Star because an Amtrak trackworker decided to commit suicide (as far as the NTSB can tell), and Amtrak did worse than nothing: they told me someone would talk to me at Penn Station to make future arrangements, and then left me waiting for hours with nobody showing up. I walked out, got my own hotel, and called in the morning. To their credit, Customer Relations refunded my entire ticket costs, paid my hotel, and gave me free tickets back home. However, the employees at Penn Station behaved inexcusably.

I now call and reschedule as soon as I recognize that there's going to be a missed connection, because Amtrak generally does jack for you if you aren't proactive.
 

jebr

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I missed a connection once between the Capitol Limited and the Empire Builder - weather along the CL route caused a significant delay, and while the train was in the station around 2:10 PM a mix of a poor SCA who insisted that all passenger bags must be unloaded onto the platform before any passengers could get off, mixed with Amtrak not holding the train for five additional minutes for missed connections, resulted in us missing the once-a-day train back to St. Paul. Amtrak staff at the station offered the standard rebooking on the next day's train, hotel, two cab vouchers, and $10 each for food at Union Station, but when asked about switching to the overnight Greyhound Thruway they sell Amtrak just pointed me to the Greyhound counter. Luckily, the Greyhound agent at Union Station was quite friendly and helpful, and was able to take the liberty of booking us on the bus that left just an hour and a half later at the Greyhound station a few blocks away. We used our food vouchers (where we met an Amtrak manager who at least offered a bit of a listening ear) and then made our way to the Greyhound station - which got us home in the middle of the night but at least we were back in our own beds. Afterwards Amtrak refunded the points used for the Chicago - St. Paul leg along with a $200 travel voucher.

Frankly, I think Amtrak could be a bit more proactive and flexible with their rebooking options - while the option given is fine if time isn't a concern and you have some money for extra food, there seems to be no flexibility in terms of what's offered. At minimum, Amtrak should offer rebooking in the app and online when a connection is missed - a default option could already be approved but allowing that flexibility is useful if someone's okay with alternate routes. It would also be helpful to offer air connections when available, and proactively offer bus connections instead of shunting a customer over without any assistance.
 

oregon pioneer

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If you originally booked with points, and you aren't satisfied with the automatic rebooking, you should be talking to Guest Rewards agents about it (at least, that's what I was told). When I missed my Lincoln Service, and was automatically rebooked for a late afternoon train, I called Guest Rewards immediately (before they closed for the night), and explained that I wanted to be in Springfield earlier. They said Business Class was full on the morning train, and I said we'd take coach, just get us on that first train out. I was friendly and polite, but insistent. That was accomplished, and before morning I got another offer to upgrade back to Business Class (must have been a cancellation), which I gratefully accepted.
 

pennyk

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In all my years and miles on Amtrak, I have only missed 2 connections.

The first was in January 2013 on my way to my first OTOL Railfest. I missed the connection between the Silver Meteor in NYP and the Acela to Boston on which I, Alan, Grace and Dick were booked. The four of us were staying at the same hotel and I was unfamiliar with Boston, so I was in a panic mode. I had used a coupon to upgrade to Acela First Class. Amtrak rebooked me on the next Acela and was able to transfer my coupon so I was able to relax in first class. Alan knew how anxious I was and they told me to detrain in Back Bay, where they met me around dinner time. We ate at a restaurant in Back Bay then took a cab to the hotel (since it was very cold out and I had my luggage with me).

My second missed connection was returning home from the 2019 Dallas Gathering. Our Texas Eagle was very late and it was obvious that 3 of us on the train would miss our connection to the Capitol Limited. A conductor met with passenger groups explaining options and what could be done. One in our group was going to Ohio, so he was booked on the Lakeshore Limited (and barely made that connection). Dick and I were going to Florida and we were booked on the next day's Capitol Limited and I was booked the day after's Silver Meteor. We were told that Amtrak would provide a hotel/cab vouchers which we could pick up at customer service in Chicago Union Station. (I had heard horror stories about long lines at customer service in Chicago, so after detraining, I "ran" from the Texas Eagle to Customer Service and was first in line.) (Dick waited for a redcap). I was able to get my and Dick's vouchers by the time Dick arrived. We were given cab vouchers for a specific cab company, which we found quickly. We arrived at the Swissotel shortly thereafter (and we were the first from our train to check in according to the front desk). The hotel was lovely. I enjoyed the bar downstairs and ran into several people who had been on the Texas Eagle. I do not recall the amount of the food voucher, but it was only valid at certain locations in Union Station. I believe I gave it away to someone who eats McDonalds. I think overall Amtrak did a good job. However, I was very disappointed in the staff at Dallas Union Station because they assured us that we would get dinner on the train regardless of the time it arrived. We did not. If we had known that, we would have gone somewhere for dinner or had something delivered while we were waiting hours and hours and hours for a late train that kept getting later. The next month when reserving a cross country trip, I allowed for an overnight in Chicago (after the Empire Builder - just in case).
 

tim49424

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I have missed more times than I can count. I've either been transported to my destination or in Chicago have been overnighted in a hotel (on Amtrak's dime) and caught the next day's train. If the latter happened (which it did three times), I'd receive a voucher for the food court and transportation to and from the hotel.
 

Willbridge

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Reading through this thread I'm reminded that:
  • infrequent service turns minor connection failures into major ones.
  • the gradual curtailment of the national network turns connection failures that would have affected small markets that have few or no alternatives into major market failures where customers do have alternatives.
It wasn't up to Lucius Beebe standards but trains like the Three Rivers cleared out some misconnects without a Chicago hotel stay, as did the former Pennsy Admiral and Pennsylvania Limited. (The latter was timed for a nice overnight trip Chicago to Pittsburgh, then continued on a daylight run to NYP similar to the Pennsylvanian.)

When the larger network was in place Amtrak had alternatives such as Seattle and Portland to Chicago and East via three routes or Los Angeles to Chicago and East via three routes. In fact Denver to Los Angeles offered two alternatives when the Raton Throughway was available. Instead, "no alternative service" was offered in the recent mudslides.

So, the first time I tried the CZ to the CL we missed the connection but by rushing into Union Station I was able to get my coach reservation switched to the LS and a Northeast Regional train. I sat down in a NYP bound coach five minutes before we departed. So, the next time I tried it the CZ was seven hours late and we were sent to various Chicago hotels and provided with a Union Station food voucher and cab fares.
 
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