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Thruway Bus layover timing?

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Howdy!

 

If one of the leg options Amtrak gives you in a multi-city itinerary includes a short trip on a Thruway Bus, how much of a layover does one need in order to NOT miss that connection? Here's the leg as presented by Amtrak as one of my options:

 

 

11 Coast Starlight (SEA to EMY)

 

Depart: 9:35 AM, 5/8

Arrive: 8:10 AM, 5/9

 

5011 THRUWAY BUS (EMY to SFC)

 

Depart: 8:25 AM, 5/9

Arrive: 8:55 AM, 5/9 ...

 

As you can see, there is only a 15-minute gap there between arriving on the train and needing to catch the Thruway Bus. Can I assume this is just waaaay too risky, or are those buses specifically waiting for the CS folks to arrive and only THEN departing?

 

 

 

 

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That is a guaranteed connection. The bus will not depart until the train arrives and transferrees are transferred. Relax and enjoy.

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Even if your train is an hour late there will be a bus waiting for it.

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Good, so it sounds as if I need to make sure that the next leg itself has a big enough gap after the Thruway Bus arrives then.... THAT I can do. :)

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It's possible to force a different bus via a "multi-city" booking. In that case the bus may be waiting for a different train. However, many of those buses are considered "unreserved" and you have the option of taking a later bus on the same ticket.

 

The Coast Starlight arrives in the morning at Emeryville. I suppose it's possible for a passenger to want to get breakfast there and take a later bus that might be connected to Capitol Corridor or the San Joaquin. Another option is to go to OKJ and take an OKJ-SFC bus. Maybe even book a bus that doesn't necessarily connect directly.

 

However, the 5011 is a guaranteed connection where the bus waits for 11 to arrive. I haven't taken it myself, but I have stood in front of it while baggage was being transferred. I was there to pick up my baggage.

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Are you sure about the bus won't leave? What if it is owned by Greyhound or another carrier as part of their regular route? They're going to wait possibly 2-3 hours for a delayed train? That would be bad for whoever is on the bus. Many other Amtrak connections to other trains are guaranteed but my experience has been they don't always hold their own trains for late connections (CL passengers connecting in PGH the day I was on it were bused to HAR and the train I was supposed to get on at WAS left without me) although I have heard Amtrak does hold trains at times too (Chicago trains were held back according to this group). I can't imagine other bus companies will disrupt their regular routes for the sake of Amtrak passengers if Amtrak won't always hold their own trains for the sake of transfers. Now if the bus is exclusively Amtrak transfers then it makes all the sense the bus waits.

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Are you sure about the bus won't leave? What if it is owned by Greyhound or another carrier as part of their regular route? They're going to wait possibly 2-3 hours for a delayed train? That would be bad for whoever is on the bus. Many other Amtrak connections to other trains are guaranteed but my experience has been they don't always hold their own trains for late connections (CL passengers connecting in PGH the day I was on it were bused to HAR and the train I was supposed to get on at WAS left without me) although I have heard Amtrak does hold trains at times too (Chicago trains were held back according to this group). I can't imagine other bus companies will disrupt their regular routes for the sake of Amtrak passengers if Amtrak won't always hold their own trains for the sake of transfers. Now if the bus is exclusively Amtrak transfers then it makes all the sense the bus waits.

This situation is an Amtrak exclusive bus, paid for by the state of California, complete with Amtrak markings.

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Are you sure about the bus won't leave? What if it is owned by Greyhound or another carrier as part of their regular route? They're going to wait possibly 2-3 hours for a delayed train? That would be bad for whoever is on the bus. Many other Amtrak connections to other trains are guaranteed but my experience has been they don't always hold their own trains for late connections (CL passengers connecting in PGH the day I was on it were bused to HAR and the train I was supposed to get on at WAS left without me) although I have heard Amtrak does hold trains at times too (Chicago trains were held back according to this group). I can't imagine other bus companies will disrupt their regular routes for the sake of Amtrak passengers if Amtrak won't always hold their own trains for the sake of transfers. Now if the bus is exclusively Amtrak transfers then it makes all the sense the bus waits.

This situation is an Amtrak exclusive bus, paid for by the state of California, complete with Amtrak markings.

I haven't seen Amtrak markings in a while. I thought they removed them and were planning using a new logo, but now they're blank. It's still a distinctive color scheme, mostly. Sometime they might use a plain, white bus.

 

amtrakbus.jpg

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Are you sure about the bus won't leave? What if it is owned by Greyhound or another carrier as part of their regular route? They're going to wait possibly 2-3 hours for a delayed train? That would be bad for whoever is on the bus. Many other Amtrak connections to other trains are guaranteed but my experience has been they don't always hold their own trains for late connections (CL passengers connecting in PGH the day I was on it were bused to HAR and the train I was supposed to get on at WAS left without me) although I have heard Amtrak does hold trains at times too (Chicago trains were held back according to this group). I can't imagine other bus companies will disrupt their regular routes for the sake of Amtrak passengers if Amtrak won't always hold their own trains for the sake of transfers. Now if the bus is exclusively Amtrak transfers then it makes all the sense the bus waits.

 

These are dedicated buses that only run between Emeryville and San Francisco. They only reason they exist is to ferry passengers between the Emeryville train station and downtown San Francisco. The only schedule they have to meet is tied in with the trains. Their only passengers are Amtrak customers. They don;t have any other place to be.

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Are you sure about the bus won't leave? What if it is owned by Greyhound or another carrier as part of their regular route? They're going to wait possibly 2-3 hours for a delayed train? That would be bad for whoever is on the bus. Many other Amtrak connections to other trains are guaranteed but my experience has been they don't always hold their own trains for late connections (CL passengers connecting in PGH the day I was on it were bused to HAR and the train I was supposed to get on at WAS left without me) although I have heard Amtrak does hold trains at times too (Chicago trains were held back according to this group). I can't imagine other bus companies will disrupt their regular routes for the sake of Amtrak passengers if Amtrak won't always hold their own trains for the sake of transfers. Now if the bus is exclusively Amtrak transfers then it makes all the sense the bus waits.

 

These are dedicated buses that only run between Emeryville and San Francisco. They only reason they exist is to ferry passengers between the Emeryville train station and downtown San Francisco. The only schedule they have to meet is tied in with the trains. Their only passengers are Amtrak customers. They don;t have any other place to be.

It is possible to combine different combinations of buses. The only legal restriction from the state (which subsidizes these buses) is that an Amtrak bus segment must be booked with a rail segment, save a couple of routes specified in the law.

 

I've tried some really odd combinations, just with my commute. It made some sense when there was a 100 point AGR minimum per segment. One of the weird ones I did was a commute ride EMY-GAC, with a SFC-EMY bus segment. I got to San Francisco via VTA and Caltrain.

 

The connection from bus to train may not be guaranteed. It's easy enough for a bus waiting for up a few dozen passengers to wait for the train, but holding up a train when a bus is late is another matter. We had friends going on a connecting bus segment where the bus delayed by traffic in bad weather and the train didn't wait for them. It wasn't an LD train though, so they were accomodated on the next train. I thought the CS or CZ might wait a little bit for a bus, but past a point don't they typically just go, then maybe get a bus to catch up to the train?

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Are you sure about the bus won't leave? What if it is owned by Greyhound or another carrier as part of their regular route? They're going to wait possibly 2-3 hours for a delayed train? That would be bad for whoever is on the bus. Many other Amtrak connections to other trains are guaranteed but my experience has been they don't always hold their own trains for late connections (CL passengers connecting in PGH the day I was on it were bused to HAR and the train I was supposed to get on at WAS left without me) although I have heard Amtrak does hold trains at times too (Chicago trains were held back according to this group). I can't imagine other bus companies will disrupt their regular routes for the sake of Amtrak passengers if Amtrak won't always hold their own trains for the sake of transfers. Now if the bus is exclusively Amtrak transfers then it makes all the sense the bus waits.

This situation is an Amtrak exclusive bus, paid for by the state of California, complete with Amtrak markings.
I haven't seen Amtrak markings in a while. I thought they removed them and were planning using a new logo, but now they're blank. It's still a distinctive color scheme, mostly. Sometime they might use a plain, white bus.

 

amtrakbus.jpg

I have noticed that the ORL/TPA-Ft. Myers, FL thruway buses now have Amtrak paint on them. These buses are operated by Martz but carry only Amtrak passengers and in the past just had red Martz letters on the side. The only indication they were Amtrak busses was the digital destination board. Now they have large blue Amtrak letters as well as the Amtrak logo on the side of the bus with only small Martz letters.

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ARGH... another question as I am trying to finally book this trip!

 

If Amtrak offers two "pieces" as one leg/option as you're booking online (meaning you can't fiddle with the specifics inside that leg/poption but must choose it as a whole), and it consists of two TRAINS with a two-hour layover, is THAT a guaranteed connection? No buses in this option -- just two trains. Specifically, this:

SWC - arrives in LAX from KCY at 8:15 AM

CS - departs LAX to SEA at 10:10 AM, same day

 

This combo is presented as one segment option among many (the only one with no buses, and most definitely my preference).

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I have noticed that the ORL/TPA-Ft. Myers, FL thruway buses now have Amtrak paint on them. These buses are operated by Martz but carry only Amtrak passengers and in the past just had red Martz letters on the side. The only indication they were Amtrak busses was the digital destination board. Now they have large blue Amtrak letters as well as the Amtrak logo on the side of the bus with only small Martz letters.

Depends on the route. Around here, all the short haul connecting buses between Emeryville/Oakland and San Francisco are operated by a company called SFO Airporter. You can probably guess what their primary business is by their name. There are probably different contractors used in different areas of California, but they're all subsidized by the state. We had a friend take Amtrak for a visit from Southern California, and they boarded the bus in Santa Barbara. It went on a long route through (among many other stops) King City (stopped at McDonalds), Salinas, San Jose, San Francisco, with the final stop in Emeryville where I picked them up. The bus had the operators' markings - I think Silverado Stages. However, their website hints that they also operate buses with Amtrak California markings.

 

http://silveradostages.com/sample-page/fixed-route/amtrak/

 

This one has the clearest view of the bus operator. This was back when they used the old Amtrak California logo. It looks like the old San Francisco Shopping Center stop, which I think has been discontinued.

 

Amtrak_California_bus_no._349.JPG

 

There a a few bus companies that take Amtrak passengers as part of their regular route. I think if it's booked through Amtrak, the fare may be subsidized by the state. I know about YARTS to Yosemite. They accept cash fares, but I understand that they give highest priority to Amtrak customers with reservations. Capitol Corridor had connections through public bus services like Highway 17 Express and Monterey-Salinas Transit.

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If you enter on the website "From ___ To ___" and get a result, those connections are guaranteed connections.

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If you enter on the website "From ___ To ___" and get a result, those connections are guaranteed connections.

Thanks. That was my concern. And yes, it was one of the choices/results when entering "From KCY to SEA" on that day. A one-package segment option not to be trifled with by mere mortals. :D

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I have noticed that the ORL/TPA-Ft. Myers, FL thruway buses now have Amtrak paint on them. These buses are operated by Martz but carry only Amtrak passengers and in the past just had red Martz letters on the side. The only indication they were Amtrak busses was the digital destination board. Now they have large blue Amtrak letters as well as the Amtrak logo on the side of the bus with only small Martz letters.

Just to clarify, I was just addressing the OP's case of the short-haul Emeryville to San Francisco bus. It's been over two years since the Amtrak California markings went off, and there hasn't been any replacement. Still, the color scheme is pretty easy to spot.

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If you enter on the website "From ___ To ___" and get a result, those connections are guaranteed connections.

 

Thanks. That was my concern. And yes, it was one of the choices/results when entering "From KCY to SEA" on that day. A one-package segment option not to be trifled with by mere mortals. :D

Guaranteed connection has a couple of meanings. For the bus you're thinking of taking, it means the bus typically won't leave unless the train arrives. I guess there could be outlying cases where the driver leaves if the train is extremely late. I could understand drivers limited to a maximum standby or total work time by law or union rules. I'm sure there are backup plans too for stuff like equipment issues. I had the station agent at the old Ferry Building station call my cell phone because the bus had broken down. I had been in the station talking to him, and he looked up my phone number through my reservation. I then to,d everyone else waiting.

 

Another meaning for guaranteed connection means that they may not actually guarantee that the connection will be made, but that they'll do what they can to make things right. Read on AU, and all sorts of things are done if a connection is close to being missed or does get missed. They might hire a driver/bus/taxi to catch up to a train. If they can't do that, they might put someone on the next train and even pay for a hotel room and meals if that train is the next day.

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I'm on this trip for the adventure, for the trip itself -- to write about it. So, it's not like I'm going to miss a family wedding or something if there is a missed connection or something goes awry. In fact, a small misadventure or two would probably serve me well.

 

(Oh sure, I say that now...) :D

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I'm on this trip for the adventure, for the trip itself -- to write about it. So, it's not like I'm going to miss a family wedding or something if there is a missed connection or something goes awry. In fact, a small misadventure or two would probably serve me well.

 

(Oh sure, I say that now...) :D

Oh, you've done it now. Be careful what you wish for, because you might just get it.

 

I know there are odd things that can happen. Of course a dozen or so passengers stuck on their bus when an active shooting incident (this has happened before) closes the Bay Bridge isn't going to hold up a train with hundreds of passengers. You're thinking of taking the Coast Starlight, which used to be known as the Coast Starlate for constant delays usually attributed to Union Pacific, sometimes up to 12-15 hours. I never took it in those days, but some people told me they thought it could be intentional. The thought was that were giving their own freight traffic higher priority even though the laws that freed the railroads from having to provide passenger service said that Amtrak traffic was supposed to be given highest priority. I've heard some people seeing freight train after freight train going by (while the Amtrak train stayed for hours on a siding) assumed freight had priority.

 

 

 

http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/COAST-STARLIGHT-LOSING-ITS-LUSTER-The-train-2491613.php

 

But Alan Miller, also with the Train Riders Association of California, said Union Pacific is failing to uphold an agreement with Amtrak and the federal government to give Amtrak trains priority on the track. This agreement, part of the 1970s negotiations that allowed Union Pacific to discontinue its passenger rail service, requires Union Pacific to give Amtrak trains the right of way.

 

Because right of way is determined by Union Pacific dispatchers in Omaha, Neb., advocacy groups say there is no way to be sure that Union Pacific actually is giving Amtrak priority over freight.

 

Passengers who rode the train late last week reported seeing so many freight trains pass them by, they thought the freights had the automatic right of way.

If you want to know what adventure is, ask an Amtrak employee what "trespasser incident" means. I've only experienced it once.

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Well, I'm going to be writing a book about this trip, partly while ON this trip, so a few small mishaps are almost hoped for. Almost. This trip is my biggest bucket list item, and the book project is a more recent add-on in order to justify the trip in my own mind.

 

As long as I don't end up in jail or the hospital, I'll call the trip a success. :)

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For the connection from the SWC to the CS in LAX, if the SWC is extremely late, Amtrak will not hold the CS, but put you on alternate train/bus combinations, depending on your original destination on the CS. If that destination is north of Sacramento, they will likely put you on the Amtrak bus/train combo via Bakersfield to Sacramento, where you would catch up to your CS to continue your journey north of Sacramento.

Edited by chakk

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Back when the Sunset Limited ran a couple of hours later than it now does (2006), I was on a 4-hour late Sunset where they took passengers for the Coast Starlight (and their baggage) off at Palm Springs and put them on a direct bus to Bakersfield (for the San Joaquin) to bypass congestion in Los Angeles itself.

 

Some Thruway services are regular Greyhound or other carrier scheduled services, and they usually won't wait long for a very late train. In that case you will look to Amtrak to take care of the missed connection and get you on your way, possibly the next day. However, in many other if not most cases, while the service may be operated by Greyhound or another bus/van company it is operated directly for Amtrak as a contract arrangement. Those Thruway services will generally wait as long as it takes for a missed connection. I'm thinking specifically of the van transfer between Galesburg and Springfield to connect between the Southwest Chief/California Zephyr and the Texas Eagle, and the Texas Eagle's direct bus connection between Longview, Nacogdoches, Houston, and Galveston. A missed connection might still be possible...say if the California Zephyr is six hours late, the Texas Eagle is on time, and Amtrak elects not to hold the southbound Eagle for the half-dozen passengers connecting from the Zephyr. In that case you would look to Amtrak to take care of you or arrange alternate transportation as otherwise.

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In the case of the Galesburg to Springfield Thruway,(Van) I've missed this connection several times due to Late Zephyrs and Chiefs, and we were taken to Chicago on the Train,given Taxi and Meal Money and put up for the night on Amtrak's Dime!

 

Once we were re-booked on the next days Texas Eagle in a Bedroom, even though we had a Roomette Rez, since the Roomettes were Sold Out. 😎 YMMV

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I sense the makings of a possible adventure if things should go awry with the timing of my trains and/or that bus then. As a humor writer, I'm totally up for an adventure like that. Just once, though. I'll take notes so I don't forget it and won't need to have it happen twice. :D

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Good attitude. If you travel Amtrak LD service regularly, it will probably happen more than twice. I've missed connections in Chicago more times than I can count.

 

Nothing like standing with a bunch of people on Canal trying to get a cab to the vouchered hotel at 4am when it is 8 degrees (and windy). That time, a Chicago cop saw us, asked what was going on, radioed for cabs and then hung out until the cabs started showing up. Just one of many fun times at zero dark thirty at CUS.

 

If you keep at it, you'll probably get lots of material.

Edited by zephyr17

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