Amtrak Thruway

Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by PaTrainFan, Feb 24, 2019.

Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

  1. Feb 24, 2019 #1

    PaTrainFan

    P

    PaTrainFan

    Service Attendant

    Joined:
    May 1, 2017
    Messages:
    123
    Location:
    Pittsburgh, Pa.
    I have little knowledge and no experience with Amtrak's "Thruway" Connection buses (outside of Emeryville to San Francisco) and have always wondered how much value it adds to the network. Do these connections create significant additional rail ridership? Are there any political sensitivities connected to the service? I haven't heard of anything. Nor have I heard of any talk of significant cuts other than a tweak or two over the years. Are these services contracted through Greyhound or other charter companies? Just curious if this is something that can be on the block if Amtrak is looking to make major cuts, and if so, how much would it be missed?
     
  2. Feb 24, 2019 #2

    cpotisch

    cpotisch

    cpotisch

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2017
    Messages:
    7,509
    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    Thruway buses play a pretty crucial role in providing service to countless cities around the nation and bridging gaps in the network. The buses are mostly contracted out to various third party bus companies such as Greyhound.

    As to whether they may be on the chopping block if/when Amtrak starts slashing routes, I would actually expect quite the opposite. If they start breaking up long distance trains into corridors, buses would likely bridge at least some of the gaps created. Remember that Anderson's whole proposal to chop up the Chief was centered around having a bus bridge in the middle.
     
  3. Feb 24, 2019 #3

    jebr

    jebr

    jebr

    Conductor Staff Member Administator Moderator

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2012
    Messages:
    3,542
    Location:
    "The Last Great City of the East," St. Paul, MN
    It's also worth noting that, outside of California, many of the Thruway routes are actually regular bus routes that Amtrak just sells tickets on. In those cases, it wouldn't be up to Amtrak on whether to cut them or not. As long as the operating bus line finds the route profitable, they'll keep running it. Typically those connections are the ones where the schedules don't neatly line up with the train schedule. They're still important, and they add easy connectivity to the network, but Amtrak typically has relatively little control over those routes.
     
  4. Feb 24, 2019 #4

    PaulM

    PaulM

    PaulM

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2008
    Messages:
    2,245
    Location:
    Quincy, IL
    I've found the buses connecting Lakeland and St. Petersburg/Clearwater with the Silver Meteor in Orlando and STP to the Silver Star in Tampa to be very useful.  They aren't a train by any means; but still a nice ride.
     
  5. Feb 24, 2019 #5

    Tony in Ann Arbor

    T

    Tony in Ann Arbor

    Train Attendant

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2013
    Messages:
    27
    The dedicated bus connection (Trinity Transportation) between Ann Arbor, Michigan and Toledo, Ohio (originating in East Lansing, Michigan) is quite useful in making connections with the Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited to cities in the east.  It's a bit frustrating as it goes twice as far and takes twice as long as a direct route from Ann Arbor but I'm glad it's available.  Ridership has varied from sparse to almost completely full the various time we have used the service.
     
  6. Feb 24, 2019 #6

    cpotisch

    cpotisch

    cpotisch

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2017
    Messages:
    7,509
    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    Huh, didn't realize that. So does Amtrak generally make it clear to passengers whether a bus is specifically for passengers connecting from a train,and will wait for it, and which are on a schedule and won't wait?
     
  7. Feb 24, 2019 #7

    BCL

    BCL

    BCL

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2012
    Messages:
    3,787
    Location:
    San Francisco Bay Area
    There is one Thruway connection in California that I know that isn't an Amtrak dedicated service.  Any ride from the Merced station to various stops in and around Yosemite are through the Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System (YARTS).  A lot of visitors use YARTS, but it's also used by NPS and concession employees.  Tickets can be purchased separately, and I think can even be bought from the driver.  The driver will have an Amtrak scanner, and I've heard since it's reserved that there's actually a preference for Amtrak reservations when a bus is full.

    [​IMG]

    I've only taken standard Amtrak Thruway connections.  Most of these were in the Amtrak California color scheme, but at least one was in a plain white bus of the same type used in the color scheme.  One time we picked up some friends in Emeryville who came from Southern California via Amtrak to LAUS and then a bus the rest of the way.  It was a specific charter bus company, but chartered to Amtrak.
     
  8. Feb 24, 2019 #8

    Palmland

    Palmland

    Palmland

    OBS Chief

    Joined:
    May 26, 2006
    Messages:
    626
    Location:
    Carolinas
    In the east, there are several Amtrak Thruway non Greyhound connections. James River bus lines operates modern buses between RVR and Charlottesville connecting to the Cardinal. In addition to originating passengers at RVR it provides a logical bus bridge with Silver Service and regional tidewater trains.

    in addition, two popular Thruway bus routes to eastern N.C. connect with Palmetto at Wilson. Again, these are large modern busses, not vans.

    I think there is a lot of potential to add more, such as to Asheville from the Carolinian or to SW Virginia from Roanoke. It’s a great low cost way to expand Amtrak’s system. 
     
  9. Feb 24, 2019 #9

    PaulDobbs

    P

    PaulDobbs

    Train Attendant

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2014
    Messages:
    63
    Location:
    Fort Worth
    I have used the connection between Springfield and Galesburg several times. It enables a connection between the California Zephyr or the Southwest Chief and the Texas Eagle that otherwise could not exist. Usually, it has been a van, but one time, it was a car (a Lincoln, if I’m remembering right) driven by the president of the company. On that trip, I was the only passenger. Most of the time, there are three to five people. The president told me that they also have a 53 passenger bus with a trailer for baggage for times when there are a lot of passengers. It’s pleasant enough, and it beats having to spend a night in Chicago.
     
  10. Feb 25, 2019 #10

    thully

    t

    thully

    OBS Chief

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2011
    Messages:
    554
    Location:
    Ann Arbor, MI
    In Michigan, we have a mix of dedicated and non-dedicated Thruway connections, and I’d imagine this is probably the case in many other states/regions as well. The previously mentioned bus to Toledo is an example of a dedicated Thruway connection - it isn’t an Amtrak-branded bus (like the Amtrak California buses), but it exclusively serves Amtrak passengers connecting to the Capitol/Lake Shore Limited from Michigan. The return trip to Michigan will wait for both trains before heading back - I’m not sure what happens if one is severely delayed, but I think they may send a second bus, as it would be awful to have to wait multiple hours in TOL. Eastbound LSL passengers already have to wait hours in TOL due to use of a single bus for both trains, though they’re warned of this by the schedule in advance (hence why I avoid the eastbound LSL at all costs...)

    In addition to this (and perhaps other dedicated services I’m unaware of), Michigan also offers some Greyhound service as Thruway connections. One that was fairly-recently added was Greyhound’s overnight Chicago-Detroit run. I’d almost rather they didn’t add that one - assume it was probably added to serve all the missed connections from western LD trains, and they’re probably using this to avoid putting Michigan passengers up in Chicago hotels. Personally, I’d rather stay in a Chicago hotel and take the Wolverine the next day than take overnight Greyhound arriving at 5am, but I get the cost reasons for doing that. Though sticking people on overnight Greyhound could also backfire by creating more Amtrak “never again” horror stories...

    Most of the Indian Trails bus network in Michigan/Illinois/Wisconsin is also available. Many (though not all) of their stops not at train stations have Amtrak station codes. Their buses aren’t necessarily timed with Amtrak or even Greyhound (in fact, I know some buses that are scheduled to just barely miss connecting), something that is incredibly annoying since Ann Arbor has no regular Indian Trails buses (they do operate the AirRide/Detroit Connector, but that doesn’t connect with mainline service). However, their buses are offered as connections for one-way/round-trip Amtrak itineraries when timing would allow for an Amtrak-legal connection. Which raises the question - how does Amtrak accommodate a missed connection  booked one-way/round-trip to/from a bus, particularly when the next trip is the next day? I suspect they don’t have hotel arrangements in places like Kalamazoo (where you can connect to Indian Trails), though leaving people on their own with no accommodations in Kalamazoo for a day would probably result in outraged customers.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 25, 2019
  11. Feb 25, 2019 #11

    fairviewroad

    fairviewroad

    fairviewroad

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2011
    Messages:
    3,306
    In Oregon, Amtrak Thruway buses supplement Cascades rail service between Portland and Eugene. These are operated by a local charter outfit, but are "dedicated" in the sense that tickets are only sold through Amtrak, and the buses will wait in PDX for southbound trains from SEA.

    That said, the service is subsidized by the Oregon DOT, and cutting them would not save Amtrak a single penny, and would likely hurt in the long run since some of the Thruway buses are used to connect to the Empire Builder in Portland, for instance.
     
  12. Feb 25, 2019 #12

    Chey

    Chey

    Chey

    Lead Service Attendant AU Supporter

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2014
    Messages:
    398
    Location:
    NW TX
    Every time I have taken the Eagle from FTW to CHI, there is at least one almost full bus from Houston boarding at Longview. On the trip back I usually see two of them waiting at Longview to take passengers to Houston.

    How I wish there were a throughway from the TX panhandle to FTW! Alas, it's 90 miles farther than the HOS-LVW throughway route. 
     
  13. Feb 25, 2019 #13

    Bob Dylan

    Bob Dylan

    Bob Dylan

    Conductor

    Joined:
    May 31, 2009
    Messages:
    18,084
    Location:
    Austin Texas
    Greyhound used to run from Amarillo to Ft Worth but their Schedules have been so cut back I'm wondering if they even run anywhere up there except on I-40 between Oklahoma and Albuqurque??

    Perhaps you could ride to ABQ for the SWC or to OKC and get the Heartland Flyer to FTW to catch the Eagle?????
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 25, 2019

Share This Page

arrow_white