Resumption of Amtrak service to Canada (2022)

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Amtrak25

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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.

Not true about the bathrooms. Been there done that. They generally take 90 minutes. I have a time log for every trip since 2013.

Offboard inspections is about security theatre and lazy bureaucrats trying to force a train-off like they did with the International. They were getting obnoxious even before 9/11/01. Been there, done that too.
 
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Hey, the border controls at Niagara Falls are just like the border controls on the Turkish-Bulgarian border when riding the Bosfor Express.

Except that here in "advanced" North America, Both the Canadians and the Americans make the passengers get off the train. At least in the Balkans, only the Turks make you get off the train. (But you have to do the passport control/customs thing both leaving and entering each country, so one border crossing involves two passport control experiences. Better not let CBP and CBSA find out about that, or it might give them ideas.)
 

zephyr17

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Not true about the bathrooms. Been there done that. They generally take 90 minutes. I have a time log for every trip since 2013.

Offboard inspections is about security theatre and lazy bureaucrats trying to force a train-off like they did with the International. They were getting obnoxious even before 9/11/01. Been there, done that too.
Yeah, 90 minutes sounds about right on the Adirondack as I recall it. That's quick?

I was pretty sternly told to return to my seat when I got up to use the restroom during the process the first time I rode it. They ultimately allowed me after some extensive pleading. So yes, I was able to use the restroom onboard, but just being able to walk over to the restroom in NFL was much less fraught.

The second time I rode I made sure and took a preventative pee shortly before the border, so I hadn't tested it since and I'll allow they may have relaxed their stance since that first time. Or maybe I was just unlucky and encountered a particularly officious CBP agent, there is no shortage of them. In any case, that stuck in my mind.
 
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Amtrak25

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They are done with 95% of the train in 40 minutes, but procrastinate with the few remaining to 90 minutes. It's a power trip. Sit on the right when on the southbound Adirondack and view the platform around the curve. When the platform lights go out, they are done, the HEP goes off while the engine cuts off idle and off you go 5 minutes later.

Once they are done with most people in the car, they don't care about the bathroom or the water cooler for the duration. If they refuse you that, report them when you get home to the State Department. That probably violates the Geneva Accords.

The station agent at Essex Jct once told me they transferred an obnoxious US Customs official (at a highway) to the Mexican border after several complaints. They really don't want to be written up.
 

zephyr17

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As I recall it, it was between "passes" the Immigration pass was done and I hadn't realized there would be a second pass for Customs. I waited until Immigration agents were out of the car, then got up and the Customs guys came in while I was in the aisle.

Since my recollection is agents went back and forth through the car a couple of other times during the stop, not checking anyone but apparently going from point A to point B for whatever reason, the best course of action seemed to be just to stay put

There's another thing, since they are all CBP now, why can't they just do both at once? Or at least do it together?
 
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crescent-zephyr

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I remember a passenger being scolded by US (is it customs that boards at the border on the Cascades?) for walking back from the restroom during the stop at the border when riding from Vancouver to Seattle.
 
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Here's a post about a 2019 trip on the Bosfor Express (it's actually one couchette car running between Bucharest and Istanbul that gets attached to different trains), including a pretty good account of the border control processes involved. I think going from Bucharest, you get checked leaving Romania, checked again entering Bulgaria (seems line about a 1 hour delay at each border control), checked when leaving Bulgaria (about 2 AM or so), then they roust you out to the platform a little while later when entering Turkey. No food service on the train, you need to stock up on groceries before you leave Bucharest, though there's a rather long layover in Dimitrovgrad, Bulgaria where one can possibly get dinner.

It's a 21 hour ride, but it doesn't seem like anything that an experienced Amtrak rider couldn't deal with (except maybe the Turkish border controls). Maybe we need to set up an Amtrak Unlimited field trip to check it out and see how it compares to an Amtrak ride.

I posted this here mainly because of the account of the border control processes involved, as compared to those of the USA and Canada. I would suppose than any additional discussion of the Bosfor Express should take place in a different thread.
 

Willbridge

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Not true about the bathrooms. Been there done that. They generally take 90 minutes. I have a time log for every trip since 2013.

Offboard inspections is about security theatre and lazy bureaucrats trying to force a train-off like they did with the International. They were getting obnoxious even before 9/11/01. Been there, done that too.
The former Pacific International suffered from several issues but the worst was having everyone walk on gravel with their luggage in the rain to be checked in a border office. My mother-in-law experienced that when visiting us.
 

Tom Booth

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Not true about the bathrooms. Been there done that. They generally take 90 minutes. I have a time log for every trip since 2013.

Offboard inspections is about security theatre and lazy bureaucrats trying to force a train-off like they did with the International. They were getting obnoxious even before 9/11/01. Been there, done that too.
I've taken the train to Montreal yearly until the suspension. The Canadian Border police were extremely polite and professional all the times I was on the train right past Rouses Pt. Perhaps 10 times in all. Hardly seemed like security theatre to me at least.
 
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Does anyone know what a typical rail fare is on Amtrak from VAN to SEA? Got hoodwinked by Amtrak when scheduling in early May.....we thought we were on a train and now it's a bus. We'd like to make sure we're not paying a rail fare for a bus trip.
 

zephyr17

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Does anyone know what a typical rail fare is on Amtrak from VAN to SEA? Got hoodwinked by Amtrak when scheduling in early May.....we thought we were on a train and now it's a bus. We'd like to make sure we're not paying a rail fare for a bus trip.
The station code for Vancouver, BC is VAC, not VAN. VAN is Vancouver, WA, across the Columbia from Portland, OR. There is plenty of rail service to VAN from SEA, 3 Cascades, plus the Coast Starlight.

The Saver fare SEA-VAC was in the neighborhood of $25-30, IIRC, but there are much more reliable ways to tell a bus from a train than trying to infer it from the fare.

A train will have a train icon, a bus a bus icon on the reservation page.

A Cascades train will have a 3 digit 5xx number, likely 516 for the northbound train and 519 for the southbound train that have the best chance of resuming first. A bus will have a 4 digit 8xxx number.

Finally there is no rail service to Vancouver loaded into the reservation system currently for any dates at all, right through the end of released inventory 11 months out. Everything to Vancouver, BC on Amtrak.com right now will be a bus.

Per Amtrak's May 6th letter to WSDOT and ODOT, the sponsors and funding source for the services, service to Vancouver is not expected to resume until December 2022. I would not expected trains to be loaded into the reservation system until operating plans for service resumption are firm.
 
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williamn

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I see from tweets that they are still persisting with the check-in desk nonsense at New York. Always seems bizarre that if you get on in New York and care Canada bound you have to check in and be given a luggage tag no one looks at, while this doesn't happen at any other stops enroute.
 

Amtrak25

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Did they have the huge Maple Leaf national flag in front of the huge desk ?

If this was in Moynihan, what if you get on in Penn Station concourse ?

New York Gate Dragons love to impersonate Customs, look important, and make work for themselves with passport checks, bar-coded luggage tags to afix to your e-ticket (what if that is your phone ?) and hand out seat checks only to be lifted at the top of the stairs. If CBSA knew of that, they'd bend off laughing, and they do not laugh easily. Albany station staff simply does not regard that as part of their job description.

To avoid, take Metro North if you are nearer to that area from GCT to Yonkers or Harmon.

There will be no more international train routes between the US and Canada. Both countries are too stupid to set them up and run border checks efficiently.
 
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williamn

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Just saw it here:

Given they've made new signage it seems like an official Amtrak initiative, with what seems like zero purpose.

I'll see for myself in a few weeks, though as I'm doing NYP-Utica and next day Utica- Toronto I'll presumably avoid these checks.
 

jis

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I'll see for myself in a few weeks, though as I'm doing NYP-Utica and next day Utica- Toronto I'll presumably avoid these checks.
I have done Utica to Toronto on that train in the past. Your documents will be chacked by the Conductor on board when your ticket is scanned. They will not let you cross the bridge on board at Niagara Falls unless you have the necessary documentation. They get fined if they bring undocumented riders across the border.
 

williamn

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I have done Utica to Toronto on that train in the past. Your documents will be chacked by the Conductor on board when your ticket is scanned. They will not let you cross the bridge on board at Niagara Falls unless you have the necessary documentation. They get fined if they bring undocumented riders across the border.
Ah! That makes sense. Maybe I never noticed before as it seems like less bother than lining up at NYP and receiving your vital luggage tags!
 
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The station code for Vancouver, BC is VAC, not VAN. VAN is Vancouver, WA, across the Columbia from Portland, OR. There is plenty of rail service to VAN from SEA, 3 Cascades, plus the Coast Starlight.

The Saver fare SEA-VAC was in the neighborhood of $25-30, IIRC, but there are much more reliable ways to tell a bus from a train than trying to infer it from the fare.

A train will have a train icon, a bus a bus icon on the reservation page.

A Cascades train will have a 3 digit 5xx number, likely 516 for the northbound train and 519 for the southbound train that have the best chance of resuming first. A bus will have a 4 digit 8xxx number.

Finally there is no rail service to Vancouver loaded into the reservation system currently for any dates at all, right through the end of released inventory 11 months out. Everything to Vancouver, BC on Amtrak.com right now will be a bus.

Per Amtrak's May 6th letter to WSDOT and ODOT, the sponsors and funding source for the services, service to Vancouver is not expected to resume until December 2022. I would not expected trains to be loaded into the reservation system until operating plans for service resumption are firm.
Yes, I've read all the documentation regarding the suspension of the rail line. I've actually had issues with Amtrak here in the states 2x over the years. Mistakes that were 100% of their doing, so I am always leery with them. Their online booking system is fraught with issues - the route we purchased (in early May) never mentioned a bus. When looking now, the page has an icon of a train - with "Connecting Bus" listed....so we thought - ok - we may have to shuttle from one place to the next - not unheard of here in Chicago when dealing with the CTA, etc. Clicking that icon gives the site visitor the availability left in each "TRAIN".

There's really nothing we can do, there's no train available, it's just frustrating.
 

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zephyr17

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Yes, I've read all the documentation regarding the suspension of the rail line. I've actually had issues with Amtrak here in the states 2x over the years. Mistakes that were 100% of their doing, so I am always leery with them. Their online booking system is fraught with issues - the route we purchased (in early May) never mentioned a bus. When looking now, the page has an icon of a train - with "Connecting Bus" listed....so we thought - ok - we may have to shuttle from one place to the next - not unheard of here in Chicago when dealing with the CTA, etc. Clicking that icon gives the site visitor the availability left in each "TRAIN".

There's really nothing we can do, there's no train available, it's just frustrating.
I am no fan of Amtrak.com and their UI is both unfriendly and buggy.

I had a similar issue, for a trip in March this year that I booked in late 2021. At the time I booked it, the trains actually did show in inventory starting in January 2022, and they were trains (they had 5xx train numbers and I booked in Business Class which is not offered on the buses). While I had not received any email or other notification from Amtrak, the QR code disappeared from the reservation in the app and it said service cancelled. I had to call to get rebooked on the bus, it wasn't done automatically

The site again had shown train availability starting in early June in the system. They pulled that inventory in May, IIRC. It is likely if you didn't have to call they just automatically rebooked you, which is more than they did for me. They probably didn't do mine because my reservation was actually Everett-Vancouver and the bus doesn't stop in Everett, there were only two buses a day then so there was no Amtrak connection from Everett to Vancouver at the time (now there are 4 buses and Amtrak routes an Empire Builder to Seattle, then a later bus to Vancouver EVR-VAC). I took a commuter bus into Seattle to catch their bus, adding a hours to the trip, since I had to go south to Seattle, then ride back the exit the commuter bus got on I 5 on its way to Seattle 3 hours later.

Right now there is no phantom, placeholder inventory (which is what the January and June inventory were) at all in the system at all which is a good thing. I doubt they are going to put inventory back in the system now until there are actually firm operational plans to restart.

I rode the Cascades to Vancouver pre-COVID frequently and am very familiar with the service. Your best indication is the number, as I said an 8xxx indicates a bus (technically an 8xxx number is a bus as an Amtrak Thruway codeshare on a scheduled non-Amtrak carrier, in this case Cantrail), a 5xx number is an Amtrak train.
 

zephyr17

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the page has an icon of a train - with "Connecting Bus" listed....so we thought - ok - we may have to shuttle from one place to the next - not unheard of here in Chicago when dealing with the CTA, etc. Clicking that icon gives the site visitor the availability left in each "TRAIN".

There's really nothing we can do, there's no train available, it's just frustrating.
Just to clarify, that really is a bus icon.

The train icon looks like this:
AmtrakTrainIcon.png

The bus icon looks like this:
AmtrakBusIcon.png

And mixed service where there is a train and a bus looks like this, with a "bus" in front of a "train".
AmtrakMixed.png
 
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WICT106

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Still working on resuming service to Montreal and Vancouver, which had service pre-COVID and have the necessary state support, since the runs are under 750 miles.

Somehow, I do not think it likely North Dakota will pony up the required subsidy any time soon..
The service has been part of Minnesota's State Rail Plan for several years. No known input from ND.
 

zephyr17

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The service has been part of Minnesota's State Rail Plan for several years. No known input from ND.
As long as Minnesota pays for it, since somebody's got to if they want it to happen. I said North Dakota since it is the closest state and the last state any service to Winnipeg would pass through. Adjacent Washington provides the subsidy for the Cascades to Vancouver, and New York for the Maple Leaf and the Adirondack, so the border state paying for service made the most logical sense.

Nice of Minnesota to let North Dakota have a free train, though. Since I am wholly ignorant of Minnesota's position and had not even heard of a serious effort to start a Winnipeg train, how hard are they pushing for it and how committed are they to funding it?
 
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zephyr17

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Just saw it here:

Given they've made new signage it seems like an official Amtrak initiative, with what seems like zero purpose.

I'll see for myself in a few weeks, though as I'm doing NYP-Utica and next day Utica- Toronto I'll presumably avoid these checks.

Couldn't quite figure out its placement in Moynihan from the pics. Where did they set up? I recall the Canada check-in desk at Penn was usually set up on the 31st St side not far from Baggage.

And is it still do the Canada check in first, separately from the boarding line-up?
 
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