Upcoming Amtrak LD Schedule Changes (2021)

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tricia

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Just received an "updated" ticket by email from Amtrak for my upcoming trip between TCA (Toccoa, GA) and Alexandria/DC, July 2 and July 5.

Coming back, it's an improvement AFAIC: Leave DC same time, arrive Toccoa half an hour later than usual, at 6:45AM.

Going there, it's possibly a deal killer: Instead of leaving at 9:40PM, it's now leaving at 1:05AM (!), and arriving half a day late, at 1:22PM instead of 9:32AM.

Amtrak's provided no explanation for this. Does anyone here know what's going on? And for how long?
 

TheVig

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I got a revised ticket a few moments ago for a trip I have scheduled in October on the Crescent.

Instead of leaving CLT at 130am, the train now departs at 531am. Instead of arriving in PHL at noon, I now arrive at 440pm.

PHL is our final destination and the change luckily doesn't impact us. I can see this being a cluster $#$% for others though.
 

zephyr17

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I was originally going say possible NS trackwork, but given the duration, and a phantom booking I just tried for November, it appears to be a permanent change with the Crescent departing NOL at 9:15 am instead of 7:00 am.

The following is conjecture based on one fact. Under the new FRA/STB passenger delay rules, finalized last December, Amtrak and the railroads are to negotiate revised schedules based on the recently issued passenger delay metrics, before the STB begins enforcement of the rules based on those metrics (also with a 6 month probationary period where STB will monitor metrics under the revised schedules but not take enforcement action).

The new schedule could be a result of that and could be the first of many.
 

TheVig

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What does this mean for connections?
Doing some dummy bookings departing CLT, and going to say CHI, Crescent 20 shows the old departure time of 146am. Looks Amtrak has got some tweaking to do. Lot of folks could miss connections or their originating departure altogether. Not good.
 

tricia

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I dunno about connections, but it might mean I'm no longer an Amtrak customer. When I need to drive more than 2 hours to get to an Amtrak station (either Toccoa or Greenville, SC), and they make the times for the one train a day each way even more awful than they were ... at some point, it's just too much. If this change is permanent, I'm afraid that point might be now.

It's not just me. What are they thinking of? Most of the ridership on this train is between Atlanta and the northeast, and they've now arranged that all the stops past Atlanta are at O-dark thirty. And you reach DC and points north well into the afternoon instead of the morning.
 

TheVig

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My return trips back to CLT from the northeast, are always on the Carolinian. Looks like they haven't messed with that schedule yet.

Under the new Crescent schedule, Crescent 20 will depart at 531am, the Carolinian will depart at 645am. Also we have state supported services. Heavy NS and CSX territory. One bad delay from either side, could cause things to get screwy fast. Crescent 19 still shows getting into Charlotte around 230am.
 

jis

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Looks like its end to end running time has been increased considerably, possibly in preparation for STB mediated OTP initiative (something that was to be expected) and the rest probably followed in order to keep it away from the Commission Hours in New York Penn Station, possibly among other things.
 
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zephyr17

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It's not just me. What are they thinking of?
If my conjecture is correct, that this is the schedule that Amtrak and NS negotiated in response to newly enforceable passenger delay metrics, it is likely best they could do with NS while keeping reasonable call times at major points like New Orleans, Atlanta, and Washington.

Amtrak can't dictate schedules alone and NS knows they're going to be held responsible to reasonably keep to whatever schedule they agree to now by the STB. They know they can't just consistently blow Amtrak timekeeping off like they have in the past, so my guess is that was a pretty fraught negotiation.
 

tricia

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If my conjecture is correct, that this is the schedule that Amtrak and NS negotiated in response to newly enforceable passenger delay metrics, it is likely best they could do with NS while keeping reasonable call times at major points like New Orleans, Atlanta, and Washington.

Amtrak can't dictate schedules alone and NS knows they're going to be held responsible to reasonably keep to whatever schedule they agree to now by the STB. They know they can't just consistently blow Amtrak timekeeping off like they have in the past, so my guess is that was a pretty fraught negotiation.
Atlanta's become pretty grim northbound for anyone wanting to keep appointments on day of arrival: Depart 11:29PM (IF it's on time, and who the heck wants to be hanging out in the ATL station at that hour), and arrive DC 2:12PM, with Philly and NY obviously later. Lose most or all of a workday to travel, whereas before this change you'd arrive DC 10AMish.

Southbound, it's not such a big change, and arguably arriving a bit later is better.
 

zephyr17

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Well, it's likely the best they can do with NS and NS knowing a stick now exists with the regulatory delay metrics. Hopefully, with the new STB enforcement authority in place, the Crescent ought to become reasonably consistent in being within 15 minutes of 11:29 at Atlanta as this takes effect.

Again, if my conjecture is true, this change is likely the first of many. I would expect any trains operating over NS, CSX, and UP to see schedule shifts. BNSF seems generally able to handle existing schedules so I think those schedules will have less significant changes.

Amtrak is going to have its hands full making sure connections stay intact or get alternatives through this.
 

Cal

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Again, if my conjecture is true, this change is likely the first of many. I would expect any trains operating over NS, CSX, and UP to see schedule shifts. BNSF seems generally able to handle existing schedules so I think those schedules will have less significant changes.

Amtrak is going to have its hands full making sure connections stay intact or get alternatives through this.
This will be interesting.
 

jebr

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BNSF seems generally able to handle existing schedules so I think those schedules will have less significant changes.
I wouldn't be so sure about this. The delays on the Builder coming into MSP from the west (which is roughly where BNSF hands off control to CP) have been noticeable the past few months. With a median delay of 54 minutes and an average delay of an hour and 17 minutes, it seems likely that BNSF will try and lengthen the schedule somewhat. I'm not sure which side they'll do it on - add a couple hours on the Seattle/Portland end and you've now broken the connection to the Coast Starlight. Throw it on the eastbound side and now CP has to agree to the change, plus you'll likely lose the connection to the Cardinal and possibly the Capitol Limited, and perhaps a regional train or two. No good answers there if BNSF doesn't believe they can run the trains on the current schedule.

1620077559619.png
 
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acelafan

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Zephyr17 beat me to it, but "ASMAD" can give you some historical info on connecting trains. You just need the arriving train #, departing train # and station code. Here is the link:


I am also disappointed with the Crescent schedule change...I used it for DC-ATL work travel as well.
 

bms

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Atlanta is the most important city on this route. The top city pairs by revenue are Atlanta–New York and Atlanta–Washington. I think it is a big mistake to have #20 arrive into Atlanta at 11:00 p.m. and depart at 11:29. That's about the most inconvenient possible time for travelers from the Northeast staying in an Atlanta hotel.
 

PaTrainFan

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Looking down the road for a possible trip this fall, I see no changes forthcoming on the Capitol, so at least as of now the NS isn't messing with that one. Selfishly, I do like the current schedule for the overnight to Chicago and have no issue with the 11:45 p.m. call time in Pittsburgh. And it is not unheard of to be early. The return at 5:05 a.m. is a tad early for me but I get why Amtrak wants it in DC just after noon.
 

Steve4031

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The arrival time into New Orleans is 9:15 p.m. Departure northbound is at 9:15 a.m.
 
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railiner

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The market I see hurting the most from this is the Atlanta-Washington market. As that was a hot overnight market. It worked really well. ...
Agreed....this will surely hurt that market. If they had to add some padding to the schedule, they should have at least kept its NOL departure time intact...
 

zephyr17

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I wouldn't be so sure about this. The delays on the Builder coming into MSP from the east (which is roughly where BNSF hands off control to CP) have been noticeable the past few months. With a median delay of 54 minutes and an average delay of an hour and 17 minutes, it seems likely that BNSF will try and lengthen the schedule somewhat. I'm not sure which side they'll do it on - add a couple hours on the Seattle/Portland end and you've now broken the connection to the Coast Starlight. Throw it on the eastbound side and now CP has to agree to the change, plus you'll likely lose the connection to the Cardinal and possibly the Capitol Limited, and perhaps a regional train or two. No good answers there if BNSF doesn't believe they can run the trains on the current schedule.

View attachment 22148
Well, it is going to be interesting.

Amtrak has to renegotiate schedules with all host railroads that the host railroads agree will meet the new passenger delay metrics. Certainly many, if not most, schedules will be lengthened.

Every schedule on every host railroad in the country will ultimately have to be reviewed and renegotiated with the hosts. I would not be surprised if Amtrak is in the process of reviewing and ranking almost all their published connections, so they can open up some wiggle room by dropping some less used connections. If they are not approaching this is a comprehensive fashion they are foolish. Although that is a well established behavior by Amtrak management.

Be careful what you wish for. You might get it. Amtrak is about to gain a tool they have long needed to enforce their statutory priority and timekeeping. The trade off may well be worth lengthening schedules and even sacrificing some connections. That it may be used as an opportunity for current management to further damage the viability of the long distance network through ineptitude or malice may sound paranoid, but I cannot discount the possibility. However, the damage the timekeeping issue by itself inflicts on the long distance services is already severe.

The payoff in a few years should be more reliable timekeeping, hopefully with most connections intact.
 
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jebr

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Be careful what you wish for. You might get it. Amtrak is about to gain a tool they have long needed to enforce their statutory priority and timekeeping. The trade off may well be worth lengthening schedules and even sacrificing some connections. That it may be used as an opportunity for current management to further damage the viability of the long distance network through ineptitude or malice may sound paranoid, but I cannot discount the possibility. However, the damage the timekeeping issue by itself inflicts on the long distance services is already severe.

The payoff in a few years should be more reliable timekeeping, hopefully with most connections intact.
Yeah, that's definitely the tradeoff. On the plus side, if the timekeeping is held to a high enough standard, Amtrak could tighten their standards for the timetabled connections while keeping similar or better numbers in terms of connections actually made. There's definitely a balancing act, though, and I'm not sure Amtrak got it right with the new Crescent timetable - even keeping the current departure from NOL at 7 AM, we could have a 9:15 PM departure from ATL and a just-before-noon arrival into WAS - which I think would be quite a bit better while keeping NS' desired padding.
 

NEPATrainTraveler

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Wow, not sure I would want to ride the Crescent on this new schedule. Well, I guess I will have to keep an eye on the schedules of the other LD trains I want to ride in case they have any changes.
 

Seaboard92

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Wow, not sure I would want to ride the Crescent on this new schedule. Well, I guess I will have to keep an eye on the schedules of the other LD trains I want to ride in case they have any changes.
Going northbound you actually should get some decent scenery especially on the left side of the train. I used to work a contract that was a scenic excursion one weekend of the year every year. So you'll pick up some good scenery. On the southbound in the summer you should pick up a bit of the upstate of South Carolina and the mountainous part of Georgia in daylight. The scenery actually improved with this trade off. It's only the business market that lost out.
 

Palmetto

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I wouldn't be so sure about this. The delays on the Builder coming into MSP from the east (which is roughly where BNSF hands off control to CP) have been noticeable the past few months. With a median delay of 54 minutes and an average delay of an hour and 17 minutes, it seems likely that BNSF will try and lengthen the schedule somewhat. I'm not sure which side they'll do it on - add a couple hours on the Seattle/Portland end and you've now broken the connection to the Coast Starlight. Throw it on the eastbound side and now CP has to agree to the change, plus you'll likely lose the connection to the Cardinal and possibly the Capitol Limited, and perhaps a regional train or two. No good answers there if BNSF doesn't believe they can run the trains on the current schedule.

View attachment 22148
You have it backwards. It's CP that runs the train between Chicago and Hastings, MN, where it gets onto the BNSF for the rest of the way to the West coast.
 
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