Thanksgiving crunch causes many Amtrak sellouts on Sunday

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An extra Wolverine service train to Ann Arbor leaves Chicago on Thanksgiving weekend 2012.
Two photos, Bob Johnston
CHICAGO – A Trains News Wire survey through noon Wednesday of U.S. passenger routes for the Thanksgiving weekend reveals typically heavy traffic bolstered by additional frequencies on the Northeast Corridor, in the Midwest, and between Seattle, Wash., and Portland, Ore. But lack of enough departures and equipment still precludes Amtrak from accommodating all passengers who wish to travel on the peak travel days, especially on Sunday.

Although almost all corridors showed some availability at the highest fare “buckets,” the only seats in coach available from New York to Boston on Nov. 29, were at 2:40 a.m. out of New York’s Penn Station on overnight Northeast Regional train 66. Amtrak has added six more departures, making a total of 20 Sunday trips to Boston, but only business or first class seats on four Acela Express trains could be booked the rest of the day.

To New York from Boston on Sunday, 18 of 21 trains are sold-out, with the first available seats on two Acela Express departures at 7:35 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. with coach seats on train No. 67 that follows at 9:30 p.m. On Wednesday, seats popped up sporadically as travelers changed plans, but they were quickly “gobbled up.”
A Harrisburg-bound 'Keystone' highballs through Metropark station in New Jersey.
Of course, numbers will change as the weekend progresses, but as of late Tuesday between New York and Washington, 12 of 41 schedules southbound and 11 of 35 trains northbound were sold out on Sunday, a day that Amtrak leases commuter equipment to provide more capacity. Five Harrisburg, Pa., departures out of 7 direct Keystone and Pennsylvanian trains to New York on Sunday are also full on a line that normally offers unreserved Harrisburg-Philadelphia service.

Bookings are also brisk south of Washington, where about half of the trains to and from Richmond each day were sold-out, including the southbound Silver Star. The Crescent is completely booked between Atlanta and Washington in both directions on Sunday (and southbound on Wednesday).

In the Pacific Northwest, the usual – almost total – Amtrak Cascades Thanksgiving weekend sell-outs between Seattle and Portland are occurring on both Wednesday and Sunday despite additional trips each day, which again are utilizing Oregon’s two Talgo Series 8 train sets instead of leased Horizon cars. In California, the normally unreserved Pacific Surfliners have scattered sell-outs both north and south of Los Angeles.

Corridors in and out of Chicago to Quincy and Carbondale, Ill.; Detroit; and St. Louis, Mo., are all experiencing fully-booked trains on both days, with Chicago-St. Louis Lincoln Service experiencing almost complete sell-outs even though service was disrupted in October and early November by more than two weeks of track, bridge, and signal work on the future 110-mph corridor. And Wednesday’s Indianapolis-Chicago round-trip of the Indiana-sponsored Hoosier State was sold-out in all but business class in both directions.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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