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Amtrak to cut back on its longer routes because of virus

UPDATED: Wed., June 17, 2020

Amtrak's Empire Builder arrives from Portland at the Pasco Intermodal Train Station on Thursday, April 27, 2017. The Empire Builder, which serves Spokane, is among the long-distance routes Amtrak has said will be reduced to three days a week.  (COLIN MULVANY)
Amtrak's Empire Builder arrives from Portland at the Pasco Intermodal Train Station on Thursday, April 27, 2017. The Empire Builder, which serves Spokane, is among the long-distance routes Amtrak has said will be reduced to three days a week. (COLIN MULVANY)
Associated Press

OMAHA, Neb. — Amtrak will cut service later this year on most of its long-distance routes nationwide to three times a week instead of the current daily service because ridership has fallen significantly during the coronavirus pandemic.

Amtrak spokeswoman Kimberly Woods said Wednesday the cuts will take effect Oct. 1 and remain in place until at least the summer of 2021, but daily service could be restored if demand improves along its long-distance routes.

Jim Mathews, president and chief executive of the Rail Passengers Association advocacy group, said he thinks the cuts are short-sighted and will hurt long-term demand for these routes.

“The long-distance services declined the least among Amtrak’s three business lines during the coronavirus-induced slowdown, and its services remain essential to the hundreds of small communities across the United States with fewer options than Philadelphia or Boston or New York City,” Mathews said.

The train routes being cut to three days a week include the California Zephyr, Capitol Limited, City of New Orleans, Coast Starlight, Crescent, Empire Builder (which serves Sandpoint and Spokane), Lake Shore Limited, Palmetto, Southwest Chief, and Texas Eagle. The Sunset Limited and Cardinal trains already operate three times a week.

Amtrak said its Auto Train, which runs from the Washington, D.C., suburbs to the Orlando, Florida, area, is the only long-distance route that will continue to operate daily.

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