Resumption of Amtrak service to Canada (2022)

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Not really sure I get that. The capital costs have largely been spent, the Niagara Falls, NY station is already there with Port of Entry facilities designed for both sides from the outset.
My comment was specific to the GO proposal to cross the border into NY. Running the GO trains into Niagara Falls, NY, requires rehabilitation of the southernmost track, a switch at the west end and second platform to allow two trains to occupy the station simultaneously and ideally a pedestrian overpass to connect the two. GO Transit's operating crew (Bombardier/Alstom contractors) are not qualified to cross the bridge either. None of this can't be fixed with money, as can CBSA staffing their office on the US side.
 

zephyr17

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My comment was specific to the GO proposal to cross the border into NY. Running the GO trains into Niagara Falls, NY, requires rehabilitation of the southernmost track, a switch at the west end and second platform to allow two trains to occupy the station simultaneously and ideally a pedestrian overpass to connect the two. GO Transit's operating crew (Bombardier/Alstom contractors) are not qualified to cross the bridge either. None of this can't be fixed with money, as can CBSA staffing their office on the US side.
Okay, I see I misinterpreted your answer and now see your point. Although I would like to understand the why GO would want to run into Niagara Falls, NY. It seems more than sufficient to just run increased service into Niagara Falls, ON. It needs more and better GO rail service and why hold that up for the complications of an international crossing? Not to be rude, but Niagara Falls, NY is kind of a pit. The majority of the tourist stuff and better views are on the Canadian side anyway. I can't conceive of Niagara Falls, NY being much of a destination for those in Greater Toronto, and it is easy enough to walk across the Rainbow Bridge for those for whom it is one. I just pass through there, though, I don't know the local conditions and driving forces. But I really am having a hard time getting my head around why GO would need or want to cross the border.
 
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My understanding is that is a requirement by CBP and CBSA for ever allowing the Vermonter to be re-extended back to Montreal. They won't support another train requiring onboard inspection.
I'm surprised they're able to dictate the terms of something like this. Seems like they need a change in management along with Amtrak. 🙄
 

zephyr17

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I'm surprised they're able to dictate the terms of something like this. Seems like they need a change in management along with Amtrak. 🙄
CBSA and CBP pretty much have the power to dictate whatever they want in terms of border requirements. CBSA was able to hold up the "second train" to Vancouver for months, finally bowed to it under the condition it was temporary for the Olympics only, then seriously threatened to withdraw the border inspections for it after thr Olympics were over. It took very serious pressure for months by the BC
Provincial government and the city of Vancouver on the Canadian Feds to get them to agree. They didn't want to staff it.

Like most security, border security appears to be a one way ratchet. Politicians are loathe to second guess them, on the remote chance something may happen and CBP/CBSA would be able to say "well, we wanted to do it this way, which would have prevented/mitigated it, but we couldn't because XYZ stopped us". Especially for something that is small time chicken feed like train inspection.

Think TSA, but more so.
 
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I really am having a hard time getting my head around why GO would need or want to cross the border.
I agree with you, however this was proposed in 2018/19 and I prefaced the thought it might resurface with "if". At that time Metrolinx was trying to acquire the entire line, including the bridge, from CN - the current owner/operator. The bottom line is that someone has to cross the bridge, whether it is Amtrak, VIA or GO. There was considerable speculation that GO would assume the entire route, including operation of the Maple Leaf or a connecting GO train. Schedules were issued showing 4 daily trains with one in each direction on almost exactly the Maple Leaf's schedule. Then Covid happened and who knows where everything landed. People at GO, CN and other sources have retired or been laid off and the first inkling of something happening is the Maple Leaf reappearing in Amtrak's schedule.
 

Amtrak25

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Just as it will take appropriation bill language to order Amtrak management to overcome their arrogance and laziness to format public timetables, the same will have to be done to US Customs and CBSA to get back on board. Unless that happens, the Maple Leaf into Canada will, from a ridership and farebox recovery standpoint, remain a joke and a political train. There will no additional train service between the US and Canada, save a facility in Montreal, which the Quebec Provincial and Canadian governments show little interest in ever getting done. The Michigan folks and US Connect fans can draw maps to their hearts content; they evidently forgot the Sarnia/Port Huron fiasco.

Getting off and on with luggage does not constitute a "thru" train. On buses I've taken from Montreal to Vermont, while the passengers get off, and the driver opens the luggage loaders, the luggage stays put unless an individual is told to go get it. On US-bound Amtrak, they also have to negotiate vestibule steps to the low level platform with everything in hand in all whether. Business class customers can't even occupy that car in Canada, and the Adirondack doesn't/didn't have any since Customs wants the entire car for "interviews".
 

zephyr17

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Some weirdness in Amtrak.com for Maple Leaf, now that it is reservable. In all the following, note that CBN is a placeholder station representing the border (Canadian Border Niagara).

1. Coach is fine, no big issues booking TWO-NYP
2. On the simplified "one-way" interface, Business only shows available TWO-CBN on 7097 for an additional dollar, but it is unavailable CBN-NYP on 64.
3. Using a single segment on Multi-City, it shows Business available on 7097 TWO-CBN, and as "sold out" on 64 CBN-NYP.
4. On all through TWO-NYP single segment, both simplified one-way and Multi-City, Senior fares are available.
5. Business class is available on the same 64 departure NFL-NYP on an independent booking.
6. Using Muti-City to book a same day, two segment TWO-NFL and NFL-NYP on 7097 and 64 is bookable. TWO-NFL shows as multiple trains, 7097 TWO-CBN and 64 CBN-NFL and then the second segment NFL-NYP. Note CBN-NFL actually consists of walking out of the Customs area into the public area of the station.
6. Using two segment Multi-City, Business Class is available TWO-CBN on 7097, but sold out on "64" CBN-NFL (walking out of Customs). It shows available on 64 NFL-NYP.
7. Senior fares are unavailable on any two segment Multi-City.

When setting up the cross border operation of the Maple Leaf in Arrow, it appears they did not set up Business Class on phantom 64 CBN-NFL. That appears to be blocking any booking of Business Class past the border from Canadian points. Note that booking Business Class TWO-NYP had never been an issue prior to the COVID suspension, even if you weren't seated there TWO-NFL (I always was).
 
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zephyr17

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Just as it will take appropriation bill language to order Amtrak management to overcome their arrogance and laziness to format public timetables, the same will have to be done to US Customs and CBSA to get back on board. Unless that happens, the Maple Leaf into Canada will, from a ridership and farebox recovery standpoint, remain a joke and a political train. There will no additional train service between the US and Canada, save a facility in Montreal, which the Quebec Provincial and Canadian governments show little interest in ever getting done. The Michigan folks and US Connect fans can draw maps to their hearts content; they evidently forgot the Sarnia/Port Huron fiasco.

Getting off and on with luggage does not constitute a "thru" train. On buses I've taken from Montreal to Vermont, while the passengers get off, and the driver opens the luggage loaders, the luggage stays put unless an individual is told to go get it. On US-bound Amtrak, they also have to negotiate vestibule steps to the low level platform with everything in hand in all whether. Business class customers can't even occupy that car in Canada, and the Adirondack doesn't/didn't have any since Customs wants the entire car for "interviews".
Politicians won't touch that with a 10 ft poll. The upside is non-existent for them and the downsides to second guessing security oriented border services is potentially enormous, paranoid though those agencies may be. There isn't the faintest chance of seeing Congress or Parliament step in here.

On the BC- Washington border at the Pacific Highway border crossing all luggage must removed from the bus and taken with you through customs in both directions. The same process was followed at Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls on my Maple Leaf bustitution in 2019, all luggage off and accompanying you, also in both directions. Montreal-Vermont may have different procedures, but completely clearing the bus and taking all luggage through inspection with you certainly appears to me to be a standard procedure for buses now since it is practiced by both agencies at different Ports of Entry thousands of miles apart. When did you last cross on a bus?

Finally, the "new" Niagara Falls, NY station has a high level platform. It is level with Amfleet vestibules and no steps need be negotiated there by US bound travelers. There is also a biggish platform canopy there so there is some protection from precipitation, if not wind and cold. Unfortunately that is not case at Niagara Falls, ON.

Every time I have been on the Maple Leaf in Business Class I have occupied the car in Canada. I realize from some other reports here, that is not always the case, but it certainly has been my experience
 
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This must be quite a shock to Europeans that come here after experiencing the freedom of movement they have in the Schengen region even between countries that were formerly hostile to each other only a few decades ago, then to come here and find border formalities between 2 countries that have been friendly for 2 centuries resembling something from the old Iron Curtain.

Perhaps someday we will have a Schengen here between the US and Canada but probably not in my lifetime :(
 

Amtrak25

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Passing through the Iron Curtain was far more efficient.
I last went from Montreal to Vermont on a bus in 2018.
On the Adirondack, I have noticed one is more apt for an inquisition if sitting in one of the bulkhead seats near the end of the car. They pull about 1/10 passengers for interviews. CBSA generally throw 1 - 3 people off the train at the border.
 
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zephyr17

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I last went from Montreal to Vermont on a bus in 2018.
Well, I would not count on no longer schlepping all my bags off the bus there any longer based on my experiences on buses at the Rainbow Bridge US and Canadian Ports of Entry in 2019 and both Pacific Highway Ports of Entry in 2022.

You may get lucky, but I would not bet on it.
 

zephyr17

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Perhaps someday we will have a Schengen here between the US and Canada but probably not in my lifetime :(
I agree we appear to be going towards increasing border controls, not lowering them. While flashing a driver's license and answering where you born and being waved on wasn't Schengen, it was certainly easier than today's strict controls. But those days have been gone for decades now.
Still don't have to navigate steps with heavier luggage in hand off and on a bus. If Customs wants to be difficult on the Ontario side, they could put up a mini high level platform.
Guessing you'll be choosing the bus then, since Amtrak is unlikely to be installing under car luggage holds.

Don't get your comment about the Ontario side at Niagara Falls. Mini-high level platforms would be an improvement over the low level platforms they have there, and not "being difficult" in my book.
 

Amtrak25

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Vestibule steps are steep, slower to navigate, can be treacherous with heavy luggage in hand, can be slippery, and no canopy once off. With everyone getting off and on there, it prolongs the stop. A high level platform can have wider, gentler steps and a ramp.

Yes, I would choose the bus, transfer at intermodal Rochester or Syracuse. The train is a non-starter, and its paltry loads prove it. It will never amount to anything, basically New York's version of the Shenandoah or Hilltopper, political trains and few ride them.
 

jis

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Vestibule steps are steep, slower to navigate, can be treacherous with heavy luggage in hand, can be slippery, and no canopy once off. With everyone getting off and on there, it prolongs the stop. A high level platform can have wider, gentler steps and a ramp.

Yes, I would choose the bus, transfer at intermodal Rochester or Syracuse. The train is a non-starter, and its paltry loads prove it. It will never amount to anything, basically New York's version of the Shenandoah or Hilltopper, political trains and few ride them.
Is it true that the Maple Leaf has significantly lower ridership in NY State upto Niagara Falls NY than the other West of Albany Empire Service? If not then it is not anything like Shenandoah or Hilltopper.

My impression is that it has low ridership beyond the border, and at that point it is mostly not New York's train. Indeed it has been running all this time as a New York west of Albany train and has been doing quite fine. New York really needs one or two more west of Albany trains, not less.
 

zephyr17

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Vestibule steps are steep, slower to navigate, can be treacherous with heavy luggage in hand, can be slippery, and no canopy once off. With everyone getting off and on there, it prolongs the stop. A high level platform can have wider, gentler steps and a ramp.
Well, Niagara Falls, NY does have high level platforms and a canopy now and has for quite a few years. The old station in the former Lehigh Valley freight house was a different matter, but the new station has been in service since at least November 2017 that I recall as the first trip I can say for sure used the new station. I roll my bag on and off just like at Penn.

BTW, the extremely long dwell, 5 minutes short of 2 hours, on an already long ride at CBN/NFL for border inspection is the main disincentive for me. Most times I've ridden it all passengers cleared Customs within about 30 minutes and then got to hang out in NFL for the best part of an hour and a half.

Then once onboard the Amtrak attendant didn't usually open for service until around BFX 😡
 
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zephyr17

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Some weirdness in Amtrak.com for Maple Leaf, now that it is reservable. In all the following, note that CBN is a placeholder station representing the border (Canadian Border Niagara).

1. Coach is fine, no big issues booking TWO-NYP
2. On the simplified "one-way" interface, Business only shows available TWO-CBN on 7097 for an additional dollar, but it is unavailable CBN-NYP on 64.
3. Using a single segment on Multi-City, it shows Business available on 7097 TWO-CBN, and as "sold out" on 64 CBN-NYP.
4. On all through TWO-NYP single segment, both simplified one-way and Multi-City, Senior fares are available.
5. Business class is available on the same 64 departure NFL-NYP on an independent booking.
6. Using Muti-City to book a same day, two segment TWO-NFL and NFL-NYP on 7097 and 64 is bookable. TWO-NFL shows as multiple trains, 7097 TWO-CBN and 64 CBN-NFL and then the second segment NFL-NYP. Note CBN-NFL actually consists of walking out of the Customs area into the public area of the station.
6. Using two segment Multi-City, Business Class is available TWO-CBN on 7097, but sold out on "64" CBN-NFL (walking out of Customs). It shows available on 64 NFL-NYP.
7. Senior fares are unavailable on any two segment Multi-City.

When setting up the cross border operation of the Maple Leaf in Arrow, it appears they did not set up Business Class on phantom 64 CBN-NFL. That appears to be blocking any booking of Business Class past the border from Canadian points. Note that booking Business Class TWO-NYP had never been an issue prior to the COVID suspension, even if you weren't seated there TWO-NFL (I always was).
Looks like they got Business Class booking largely straightened out today. Available on a single segment if you pick the multiple trains option on both the simplified and Multi-City option. Breaking it up TWO-NFL and NFL-NYP now shows Business Class on the phantom 64 CBN-NFL.

Today's weirdness is they added an 64 through option in addition to "multiple trains"(7097 and 64), but is unbookable, showing "sold out" 🙄. Amtrak.com always has surprises in store for the uninitiated.
 

fdaley

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Is it true that the Maple Leaf has significantly lower ridership in NY State upto Niagara Falls NY than the other West of Albany Empire Service? If not then it is not anything like Shenandoah or Hilltopper.

My impression is that it has low ridership beyond the border, and at that point it is mostly not New York's train. Indeed it has been running all this time as a New York west of Albany train and has been doing quite fine. New York really needs one or two more west of Albany trains, not less.

It's the cross-border ridership that has really plummeted over time. The long stop at the border has been a deterrent for at least the past two decades. After it was extended from 30 or 45 minutes to nearly two hours, lots of Canadian travelers began just driving across to NFL or BUF, which of course allows for many more schedule choices to points east. But the mandatory train evacuation with luggage has been gradually driving away the remaining ridership. East of NFL, it's heavily used.
 

zephyr17

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It's the cross-border ridership that has really plummeted over time. The long stop at the border has been a deterrent for at least the past two decades. After it was extended from 30 or 45 minutes to nearly two hours, lots of Canadian travelers began just driving across to NFL or BUF, which of course allows for many more schedule choices to points east. But the mandatory train evacuation with luggage has been gradually driving away the remaining ridership. East of NFL, it's heavily used.
The on train inspection on the Adirondack isn't exactly quick. Plus everyone onboard is denied restroom access during the entire time CBP/CBSA is on the train. At least in the Niagara Falls station you can answer nature's call once you are cleared, you don't have to wait for the whole train, including those pulled into secondary inspection in the cafe, to "go". Not a small consideration for seniors. I'd look at the dwell itself for the issue, not the inspection method. The dwell is wayyyyy too conservative, they need to get CN, CBSA, CBP, CSX to find ways to bring it down below worst possible case of severe delays (on the other guy's railroad, of course) plus terrorist passengers that it appears to be now. Much easier said than done, I know. But I am also quite convinced that CBSA and CBP are adamant about off train inspection, so other ways to improve things have to be found and shortening that dwell is an obvious one.

From NFL east, it is just another Empire Service train.
 
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fdaley

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Well, now that they've driven away most of the passengers, the two-hour stop that was needed to process 175 people seems really absurd if they only have 30 or 40 people on board, which was a more typical number before the pandemic. When we took the Maple Leaf eastbound in the winter of 2017, the train was cleared to go, and we carted all our stuff back on -- and then sat for nearly a full hour at NFL waiting for the schedule.

But a shorter dwell time wouldn't convince me to use it for a family trip; it's the schlepping that's the deterrent. And then there's the contrast with driving across, where we're typically waved through after a couple of questions without ever having to move ourselves or our luggage.
 
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neroden

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CBSA and CBP pretty much have the power to dictate whatever they want in terms of border requirements. CBSA was able to hold up the "second train" to Vancouver for months, finally bowed to it under the condition it was temporary for the Olympics only, then seriously threatened to withdraw the border inspections for it after thr Olympics were over. It took very serious pressure for months by the BC
Provincial government and the city of Vancouver on the Canadian Feds to get them to agree. They didn't want to staff it.

Like most security, border security appears to be a one way ratchet. Politicians are loathe to second guess them, on the remote chance something may happen and CBP/CBSA would be able to say "well, we wanted to do it this way, which would have prevented/mitigated it, but we couldn't because XYZ stopped us". Especially for something that is small time chicken feed like train inspection.

Think TSA, but more so.
It's a bit different on the US side where the Border Patrol and ICE have gotten an astoundingly bad reputation for a long list of crimes and atrocities, and Congress probably would be willing to override them on practically anything given enough attention -- but that hasn't happened to Canada's border services, which are still respected. Parliament is not going to override them anytime soon.
 
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