What's it like nowadays? Coach & Sleeper?

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David Newton

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Howdy all:

How is traveling nowadays for an old guy (73) who's a bit scared of covid, and who is recovering nicely from fairly recent open heart surgery?

I've made a few coast to coast trips over the years, mostly to visit family in California (I'm in Maine). But not in 3 or 4 years.

Missed connections? The only real concern to me is Chicago - outbound there's usually a good long layover from LSL to CZ or SWC - where I would connect to CS. How is that for reliability these days? How about the LSL getting into Boston in time for the last bus to Portland: 11:30 pm I think?

Any other advice or facts I ought to know before trying to plan a trip a few months from now?

Is AGR still as confusing as ever? Amsnag?

Thanks for any info, advice, encouragement, or otherwise!

Peace to you all
 
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The last concord Coach lines bus to Portland leaves the South Station bus terminal at 11:15 P.M.

The on time performance of the Lake Shore into Boston lately has not been bad. Looking at the information over the past Month you would have made the bus connection each day although one train arrival at 10:59 p.m. would have been close.

However when things go wrong with the Lake Shore, they really go wrong. I have spent two nights in South Station when the train has arrived too late for any bus connection (and came very close to spending a third night). I tend to avoid the eastbound Lake Shore into Boston and fly back but I hope your luck is better.
 
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Amsnag is gone. Amtrak saw to that. People have different opinions as to why but I think it was intentional on Amtrak's part.

As to safety, nothing beats a private room for any kind of commercial transportation (trains/planes, etc). Unlike planes where the pilots have to make a tough decision as to returning, unscheduled stop or continuing and dealing with lunatics later, Amtrak conductors will and have (I've been aboard one) removed passengers who absolutely refuse to comply with federal mask mandates. It only takes a few minutes if they voluntarily leave and not much longer if the police do it.

You can get your meals in your room much more easily than pre-Covid and sometimes the crew makes it a requirement. Coach seating is not anywhere near as safe as a room. Too many people too close but better than planes.

Missed connections seem to be no better and the service reductions make connections more difficult. Consider overnight stays in hotels. On our October trip and for the one in March, we are doing hotels overnight in Chicago in both directions both because of Amtrak days of operation and because you may end up in coach on your second train if you miss it and they put you on the next day's train even if you had a room reserved. Sure, they will refund your room money but they won't refund your life if you get Covid.

AGR is the same as before.

Making reservations is much worse if there is any reason you have to call because you can wait many hours. This year I can use the Select line which said 30 minutes but waited 2 hours. You do have the option (up front) to get a callback but Amtrak really screws that one up because unlike other places, you don't "keep your place in line" so it could be the next day that they call you and you will have no idea it is Amtrak because they don't use caller-ID. Worse, if you do not select callback but after waiting an hour and change your mind, it's too late. The only saving grace is that every time I have had to call (and that was multiple times on both my LD trips), the agents were excellent and gave me all the time I needed.
 

Maglev

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For the best sleeper fares, I recommend to buy early and shop over a range of dates around when you want to travel to find the lowest fare. Then, check the fares daily (it takes only a couple minutes) to see if a lower fare or a reasonable upgrade becomes available. Here is an excerpt from a recent trip report:

When I first got the idea of this early November trip in June, Roomettes for one person from Seattle to St. Paul and back were $437 each way. Bedrooms were over $1,500. When I bought my tickets at the end of July, Roomettes had gone up to $602, Bedrooms were nearly $1,900, but the Family Bedroom was only $817. I booked the Family Bedroom both ways, but continued to watch the fares. For the return, Bedrooms at one point were over $2,200, then sold out. For the outbound leg, I about three weeks out saw a Bedroom available for $860 so I immediately called and snagged it.
 

coalman

Train Attendant
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Happy Valley, Oregon
I've been planning some trips and saw the price go up if I repeated the search for that specific trip. Looks like they adopted the old airplane reservation scam to get you to buy the first time you see a posted price. I don't know if that higher price stays for you or not. Only companies like cookies that track you.
 

daybeers

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NHV
I've been planning some trips and saw the price go up if I repeated the search for that specific trip. Looks like they adopted the old airplane reservation scam to get you to buy the first time you see a posted price. I don't know if that higher price stays for you or not. Only companies like cookies that track you.
I have not seen this for Amtrak in my experience. Anyone else?
 
Joined
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I've been planning some trips and saw the price go up if I repeated the search for that specific trip. Looks like they adopted the old airplane reservation scam to get you to buy the first time you see a posted price. I don't know if that higher price stays for you or not. Only companies like cookies that track you.
There are numerous ways to clear cookies as you go, particularly with Firefox add-ons. And remember, you don't have to logon to Amtrak to see prices.
 

neroden

Engineer
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Feb 23, 2014
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Ithaca, NY
Don't travel until the Omicron wave is over. (Which will probably be early February.) But you knew that.

Amtrak is running trains less-than-daily due to staff being out sick with Omicron, and that's scheduled to end mid-March.

So you want to travel in April or later.

Anyway, if the Covid numbers look not-outrageous after that... you can't beat a private room.
 

Rambling Robert

Service Attendant
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May 30, 2021
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153
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Boston
FYI - Try Amtrak now - the DownEaster is running a $20 roundtrip special January/February through February 25 (book 3 days ahead). Seems they’re offering the new cafe menu now too.they may give waitstaff service.

I park right at the Wells Station literally on I-95 and I call the town and they tell me where to Park. The sign for Amtrak is tiny so look for the Transportation Center sign directly ahead of the I-95 exit. Just keep going straight.

I take back bay station and not south station. On the LSL we rolled into BBY at EXACTLY 8PM. We had been late but made time by cutting down the Albany layover. So from BBY it’s 20 minutes to north station and the last daily DownEaster is 10:30PM.

====================

The ramps at LA Union Station are killers. Without a doubt my two cardiologist are convinced I started atrial fibrillation on those ramps!!! My redcap abandoned me. Now I have AT forever. I’m 72.

ps - I’m booked February 1st on the DownEaster and staying at the One Sixty Five in Brunswick.
 
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Rhode Island and Philadelphia
We sixty-somethings took the Cardinal and NE Regional in December, and felt fairly safe. We ate in our roomette most of the time, but did sit in the cafe car for better views, from time to time. The restaurant in Maysville KY was the one place that made us nervous, where an unmasked group of 20 came in after us, but we didn't catch anything. We're planning for the Vermonter in April and they don't have sleepers, so that will be a bit more risky. Enjoy!
 
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I second Maglev's fare advice. With the free cancellation policy due to covid you can drop and swap fares when they favor you. I agree with all who said "SLEEPER". I am 78 and my wife is of an unnamed age and we traveled sleeper through CHI after TG.

3 observations: Union Station, Chicago, is big enough to stay well distanced from others.
Food east of Chicago is flex dining/bad.
We saw some lax mask enforcement. No one would tell a traveling group of Amish to get with the program. Religious exception? IDK.
 
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David Newton

Guest
Thanks for all the replies - some encouraging, some discouraging.

I'm sorry Amsnag is gone.

I guess I will maintain my "wait and see attitude"

Peace,
D
 

George

GAT
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Jul 11, 2008
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449
Location
San Francisco
@me little_me - I’m sorry you have not had good luck with AGR. My experience has been the opposite. I have contacted them four or five times in the last month in connection with my upcoming April circle tour on five different trains.

I wonder if AGR has several different call centers located throughout the country. I’m on the west coast and have had short waits (no more than 30 minutes) with the call-back feature, having called both mid-morning and mid-afternoon west coast time. East coasters may find it more busy.

Perhaps, also, Covid has lessened the call load.

I do agree with you that the customer service reps are excellent.

And you have also convinced me that I probably should overnight in Chicago on my eastbound trip, CZ-Cardinal-Crescent. If the CZ is more than three hours late, I miss the Cardinal and then the “fun” begins, because I have another connection in Charlottesville to get me to Atlanta, where I can’t afford to be late by a day.

There are potential alternatives at possibly Amtrak’s expense, but I don’t want to be biting my nails during my CZ trip if it is delayed somewhere en route.

So, I think I’ll move my San Francisco departure up a day and pay for a Chicago hotel for one night. It will be worth it for my peace of mind.

I hope I can rebook my starting leg at no additional cost. I am using AGR points. Time to call the nice AGR lady again. :)
 
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