Some Empire Builder Connections Restored

Amtrak has restored connections to the Empire Builder that were severed last year when the train’s on-time performance became erratic.

This includes same connections between the Empire Builder and the Los Angeles-Seattle Coast Starlight in both directions in Portland, Ore.

Also restored was a connection in Chicago to Lincoln Service train No. 307 for St. Louis.

Improved timekeeping and a shorter schedule that became effective on Jan. 12 enabled Amtrak to restore the connections to Nos. 7 and 8, which operated between Chicago and Portland/Seattle.

Amtrak’s policies for connections are that there must be at least one hour of dwell time between the scheduled arrival of a train and the scheduled departure of the connecting train.

However, Amtrak blocks connections in its reservation system if a particular train has proven to be unreliable in arriving at a terminal in time to make a connection.

In doing this, Amtrak avoids the responsibility of getting travelers to their destinations by chartering buses or housing passengers overnight in hotel rooms.

After the Empire Builder’s arrival reliability in Chicago became suspect, the only connections in Chicago that Amtrak continued to ticket from the Empire Builder were to trains leaving more than four hours after the arrival of No. 8. Only the New York/Boston-bound Lake Shore Limited and the New Orleans-bound City of New Orleans met that criterion.

Empire Builder ridership and ticket revenue fell last year by 16 and 19 percent, respectively. The completion of BNSF track expansion projects in Montana and North Dakota has resulted in the Empire Builder seeing a greatly improved on time record.

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