New Canada-US Customs Pre-Clearance

Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by DSS&A, Aug 20, 2019.

Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

  1. Aug 21, 2019 #26

    jiml

    jiml

    jiml

    Lead Service Attendant

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2019
    Messages:
    270
    Location:
    Toronto area
    There's been considerable speculation on this subject in this and other forums over the past year or so. In fact jis and I have a different perspective on what's actually going to happen. It is just speculation, but based on some facts:
    1. GO Transit (Toronto regional commuter rail) has been eyeing the Toronto - Niagara Falls, ON route for some time and are slowly ramping up their service. They recently announced the seasonal service going to year-round. Once they reach their objective of 4 frequencies daily, one of which is very close to the Maple Leaf times and serves the same stations between Hamilton and Niagara Falls, what is VIA's reason for participating? Who will buy a local VIA ticket for twice as much?
    2. The never-ending Toronto Union Station reconstruction did at one time include an "office" for US CBP, leading to speculation that either the Maple Leaf would be pre-cleared or some other international service would be started or restored. Like the current Montreal stalemate there were money issues and the lack of nearby US agents to staff whatever. The original proposal was that they would come from nearby Billy Bishop Airport, who at the time were seeking to add pre-clearance for US-bound flights. This did not happen, however the advent of the Union-Pearson express train created a new window where it would be practical for US CBP to attend for an hour or so twice a day.
    3. Until a few years ago VIA used to have two daily frequencies in the Niagara Falls market, one run solely as a VIA train. The "beginning of the end" for that train can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2012_Burlington_VIA_derailment. It was cancelled and they focused on the combined train with Amtrak. If there was money to be made or service to be provided why is this the case? There is frequent bus service on the route, provided by GO Transit and others, and once GO is fully active in the train market, why continue with the Maple Leaf?
    4. The final "nail in the coffin" for VIA on this route may be the upcoming bustitution between Toronto and the US side, with no intervening stops in Canada. I have no numbers to back up ridership, but seriously doubt there is much demand for tickets from Grimsby or St. Catherines to anywhere in New York state anyway. This should be a true test of that.

    Therefore, if GO replaces the local service on the Canadian side of the border - which will happen, and VIA exits the picture, is it not reasonable to expect that Amtrak will either permanently truncate the Maple Leaf at Niagara Falls or try for pre-clearance in Toronto and a non-stop run to the border? I outlined in another thread where either option makes sense and with proper co-ordination of new GO Transit frequencies with existing Amtrak Empire services, it opens the possibility of selling 3 trains a day between Toronto and New York. Painting that picture is a good way to disguise changes to or cancellation of the existing service.
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2019
  2. Aug 21, 2019 #27

    jiml

    jiml

    jiml

    Lead Service Attendant

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2019
    Messages:
    270
    Location:
    Toronto area
    Absolutely, and we were joined by passengers from the Aruba flight, which also supposedly had pre-clearance. We (and they) thought everyone had completed the formalities before boarding the plane, but should have realized when customs forms were handed out shortly before arrival in ORD. The subject was covered on the Flyertalk website frequently back then, but pre-dates the AA merger with US Air which makes references difficult to find. This was also during a rough period in the relationship between AA and Aer Lingus, which meant no lounge access in DUB.:(
     
    dogbert617 likes this.
  3. Aug 21, 2019 #28

    jis

    jis

    jis

    Conductor AU Lifetime Supporter Gathering Team Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2003
    Messages:
    24,606
    Location:
    Space Coast, Florida, Area code 3-2-1
  4. Aug 21, 2019 #29

    jis

    jis

    jis

    Conductor AU Lifetime Supporter Gathering Team Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2003
    Messages:
    24,606
    Location:
    Space Coast, Florida, Area code 3-2-1
    My take is that it is not reasonable to expect Amtrak to pick up the cost of a train that is currently funded by NY State and VIA, and it is a stretch to believe that NY State will pick up the cost of operating a train in Canada when the money could be used for adding one more West of Albany train, if it was available. As a matter of fact unless the Amtrak funding law is changed Amtrak cannot legally fund such a thing itself. It has to find the funding from the states that are beneficiary of such service.

    Of course, anything can happen and there could be some new way of finding the funds for this sort of thing. But it is unlikely to happen without some very drastic changes at Amtrak and existing CFR, and within what appears to be coming down the pike in the next Authorization.

    One possibility is private funding, something along the lines of this proposal for a Montreal to New York overnight service:

    https://montrealgazette.com/news/lo...ight-train-service-between-montreal-and-n-y-c

    Though getting all stakeholders on board is going to be an interesting exercise.
     
    jiml likes this.
  5. Aug 21, 2019 #30

    Seaboard92

    Seaboard92

    Seaboard92

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2014
    Messages:
    3,062
    Location:
    South Carolina
    I’ve thought an overnight TRTO-NYP service would be a real winner. Especially if you make it a section of a Revived Ohio State Limited from Cincinnati. I think there would be serious support for such a service.
     
    jiml and jis like this.
  6. Aug 21, 2019 #31

    jiml

    jiml

    jiml

    Lead Service Attendant

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2019
    Messages:
    270
    Location:
    Toronto area
    With apologies in advance for using a double negative, I don't disagree with you. What you are saying makes total sense. That is why while my heart hopes for a non-stop-to-the-border Maple Leaf, my head tells me Amtrak will truncate it on the US side and it will just become one of the Niagara Falls, NY - NYP daily trains. Even if the bridge repairs are completed on-time (unlikely - especially if the contractor is the same one currently working on the Peace Bridge downstream), the period with no stops in Canada is going to factor into the final decision. I would love to know what the ridership is for VIA local service on this route, i.e. those not crossing the border. Looking at the follow-up on the wreck of 2012, there were 75 people on that train. What's that - 1 1/2 buses? What is VIA's incentive for continuing to participate with the Maple Leaf? They work under similar objectives to Amtrak - not profitability, but not going out of the way to lose money either. Therefore, isn't an ideal resolution to have 3 GO Trains meet 3 Amtrak trains across the river a good result for everyone? Heck, even an enclosed walkway on the lower level of the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge would work.
     
    jis likes this.
  7. Aug 21, 2019 #32

    jiml

    jiml

    jiml

    Lead Service Attendant

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2019
    Messages:
    270
    Location:
    Toronto area
    Interesting. Two thoughts: Why not just negotiate with Amtrak to reinstate the Montrealer? The money available could be used to subsidize the project, not unlike state funding. Secondly, why even talk to CP? Much more effective to reinstate old CN route. (Of course, CN is already holding that up in Montrealer discussions.) I'm just not seeing Amtrak wanting to hook additional cars to an existing Empire Service train at Albany. Extra locomotive? Delays? Platform length on Empire tracks at NYP? The list of roadblocks might be pretty long...
     
    jis likes this.
  8. Aug 22, 2019 #33

    jiml

    jiml

    jiml

    Lead Service Attendant

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2019
    Messages:
    270
    Location:
    Toronto area
    The NYC-bound version works pretty well with the old timetable, assuming the two sections would be connected at Depew. Not sure about the Toronto-bound section unless there was a later departure out of New York or sleeper could be occupied until early morning in Toronto Union. Having worked overnight for many years in the vicinity, it's not the most hospitable area at 3 am. Not unsafe, just not "welcoming" and lacking services.
     
  9. Aug 22, 2019 #34

    velotrain

    velotrain

    velotrain

    Service Attendant

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2019
    Messages:
    143
    Location:
    Boston
    VTDigger: "Once the facility is built in Montreal, passengers heading north can board the train at any stop until St. Albans and will be processed by Canadian customs upon arrival."

    Who is responsible for returning any passengers rejected in Montreal to the U.S.? Or, will Canada hold them temporarily if there is a possibility of resolving the situation within a short period?
    Or, will the need to enter travel document data when buying an online ticket be regarded as sufficient?
    Are people buying tickets in person at a station required to show "right of passage" before making the purchase?

    What is the reason for thinking that the process would be any shorter than it is now for everyone, while those at the front of the train/exiting first could likely get through more quickly?
    Is there data from similar transitions, not necessarily train related?
    The difference would seem to be that once cleared there's no need to wait for everyone else and the train to start moving again.

    Wouldn't this actually be post-clearance vs. pre-clearance for those heading north?
     
  10. Aug 22, 2019 #35

    velotrain

    velotrain

    velotrain

    Service Attendant

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2019
    Messages:
    143
    Location:
    Boston
    Sounds much like Depew at any hour!

    While in Toronto two weeks ago I was told the Tim Hortons on York (a few blocks away) is open 24 hours.
     
  11. Aug 22, 2019 #36

    NS VIA Fan

    NS VIA Fan

    NS VIA Fan

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2011
    Messages:
    1,336
    Sounds similar to the ‘Niagara Rainbow’ that ran on weekends overnight between New York and Toronto for a couple of years in the mid ‘90s. It was combined with a VIA train from the border to Toronto.

    http://www.timetables.org/full.php?group=19950611n&item=0010
     
    jiml likes this.
  12. Aug 22, 2019 #37

    NS VIA Fan

    NS VIA Fan

    NS VIA Fan

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2011
    Messages:
    1,336
    Once all-day GO Train service is established at Niagara Falls, Ontario VIA should exit that market…..and really no need for Amtrak to then run a ‘sealed’ Maple Leaf to Toronto.

    When the new station in NF NY was constructed there were provisions made for Canada’s CBSA to work there also preclearing those bound for Toronto.

    My thoughts…..GO would cross the bridge to NF NY. GO passengers would clear US CBP then board an Empire Service train to continue on. In reverse: Amtrak passengers pre-clear CBSA on the US side then board a GO train for Toronto.

    Rejig the timetable and you could probably offer a couple of services a day each way connecting at the NF NY station.

    One problem I do see with GO operating to NF NY: A short section of low-level platform would be required due to the type of car GO uses.
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2019
  13. Aug 22, 2019 #38

    jiml

    jiml

    jiml

    Lead Service Attendant

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2019
    Messages:
    270
    Location:
    Toronto area
    Makes perfect sense to me. The platform issue could be worked around in the shorter term by simply using the new handicapped cars, which have the ramp to the raised platforms at the same height. All US-bound passengers would exit only from those cars, with another benefit being crowd flow control to the checkpoint. GO is already looking at café options too, for this and other long routes (Barrie, Hamilton and the Bowmanville extension). It's seen as a potential revenue source. Once resolved it would position them to bid for VIA's routes in Southwestern Ontario, as proposed by the current provincial government some time ago. Who knows? Perhaps if everything came together at Niagara Falls as you suggest, they get some food service and cross-border experience, they might be well-positioned to do the same with Detroit - the subject of other threads here and on Railroad.net.
     
  14. Aug 22, 2019 #39

    jiml

    jiml

    jiml

    Lead Service Attendant

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2019
    Messages:
    270
    Location:
    Toronto area
    I wasn't aware the slumbercoach actually went all the way to Toronto. I had thought there was a bus or cross-platform connection involved.

    What's even better on the portion of the timetable you've posted, is the reminder how the Adirondack went all the way to Washington, reversing direction in Penn Station. While this was cold comfort for the cancellation of the Montrealer, it did retain that market that is still being discussed today. Was that train the last stand of the Amtrak Rohr turbos? I know they served that route and would have been ideal for the reverse move, but can't remember if they lasted that long.
     
  15. Aug 22, 2019 #40

    railiner

    railiner

    railiner

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2009
    Messages:
    7,207
    Location:
    South Florida
    Or...it could just continue as before, with GO Transit as the Canadian operato
     
    jis likes this.
  16. Aug 22, 2019 #41

    MikefromCrete

    M

    MikefromCrete

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Mar 24, 2009
    Messages:
    2,517
    Location:
    Crete, IL
    I don't think a transit agency would want to get into the intercity business.
     
  17. Aug 22, 2019 #42

    railiner

    railiner

    railiner

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2009
    Messages:
    7,207
    Location:
    South Florida
    If passengers are required to change trains at the border, I’m afraid they will lose some more business to buses providing a “one-seat ride”...especially on overnight trips...
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2019
  18. Aug 22, 2019 #43

    jiml

    jiml

    jiml

    Lead Service Attendant

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2019
    Messages:
    270
    Location:
    Toronto area
    GO is already in the intercity business.
     
    Devil's Advocate and jis like this.
  19. Aug 22, 2019 #44

    MARC Rider

    M

    MARC Rider

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2011
    Messages:
    1,248
    Location:
    Baltimore. MD
    The current service isn't exactly a "one-seat ride." You and all your luggage have to get off at the border anyway for your little chat with CBSA or CBP. Not much difference between reboarding the original train or boarding a different connecting train. I imagine that bus passengers have to get off at the border, too, and deal with the formalities.
     
    railiner, jis and jiml like this.
  20. Aug 24, 2019 #45

    JP1822

    J

    JP1822

    Train Attendant

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2019
    Messages:
    42
    The Niagara Rainbow and Montrealer are two overnight trains I wish were still around. With a little tweaking in their schedule, they really could have been a nice "hotel on wheels" type of train, and perhaps more tolerable with the "new and contemporary" meal program. Leaving NYC to arrive in upstate Vermont or Montreal early morning for the weekend was great. I don't ever remember a "full diner" on the Montrealer, but I do remember breakfast being substantial enough. Only did the Niagara Rainbow a couple of times, but now this train could be a nice overnight train from upstate to downstate in NYC even. Again, I'd tweak the schedule that is provided in the link above to try and hit some stops late evening or just after midnight, with arrival into NYC still at 7 am so if transfer was needed to DC it would be possible to make it to DC before 12 noon.

    Does anyone remember what was used for a dining car on the Montrealer? It was the Le Pub for a while, but I forget what it was towards the end of the Montrealer's life - just an Amfleet cafe car with some sort of breakfast included with sleeper fare?
     
  21. Aug 24, 2019 #46

    JP1822

    J

    JP1822

    Train Attendant

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2019
    Messages:
    42
    The Niagara Rainbow ONLY operated with a slumbercoach when re-launched in the 1990s?

    I say re-launched as if memory serves me correct, the Niagara Rainbow was a daily train and on a variation of overnight/day train operating through upstate NY and through to Detroit, Ohio, and Michigan.
     
  22. Aug 24, 2019 #47

    railiner

    railiner

    railiner

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2009
    Messages:
    7,207
    Location:
    South Florida
    The Niagara Rainbow, when it was a New York/Detroit train, did not serve Ohio... it ran through Ontario.
     
  23. Aug 24, 2019 #48

    jiml

    jiml

    jiml

    Lead Service Attendant

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2019
    Messages:
    270
    Location:
    Toronto area
    There were several iterations of the Niagara Rainbow name on various trains. In addition to the one mentioned serving Toronto, there were also two versions of the NY to Detroit train above - one that ran sealed through Ontario and one that made stops. There was also at least one Empire Service train bearing the name that never crossed the border.

    As for the Montrealer, I only rode it a total of 4 times. All of those trips had a standard Amtrak Heritage dining car with full service - no unique variations, pub or otherwise. On two occasions we were continuing on or coming from Silver services to Florida, making the comparison easy. If reinstated today however, it would certainly be a logical candidate for reduced or contemporary dining service.
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2019
    dogbert617 likes this.
  24. Aug 24, 2019 #49

    jloewen

    j

    jloewen

    Train Attendant

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2009
    Messages:
    25
    The Montrealer had a unique "piano bar." Probably it was the snack car, and it had a small upright piano. Altho I once rode to Essex Junction with a member of Phish, I don't recall anyone ever PLAYING the piano.
    Also, on one occasion I got on hungry, c. 9:15PM, in EJ en route to DC, and asked the SCA what I could eat, and he brought me a splendid fruit plate.
     
  25. Aug 24, 2019 #50

    jis

    jis

    jis

    Conductor AU Lifetime Supporter Gathering Team Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2003
    Messages:
    24,606
    Location:
    Space Coast, Florida, Area code 3-2-1
    The Detroit service started as the Empire State Express in 1974. It was renamed the Niagara Rainbow in 1976. The Lake Shore Limited in a more permanent form was instituted in the same year. Oddly, the train named Niagara Rainbow at this point did not serve Niagara Falls.

    In October 1978 the Niagara Rainbow finally started calling at Niagara Falls on its way to Detroit. The trackage on which this train ran from Niagara Falls NY to Canada is apparently gone now.

    Incidentally, at this time in 1978, both the Lake Shore and the Niagara Rainbow still called at Buffalo Central Terminal. In addition, the Niagara Rainbow called at Buffalo Exchange Street. Buffalo Exchange Street was shown as the main Buffalo Station.

    The Niagara Falls - Detroit segment of the Niagara Rainbow was discontinued in January 1979 as both Michigan and New York withdrew financial support for it. Then US SecDOT Brock Adams who presided over the first major carnage of the Amtrak LD route system wanted to run the Lake Shore through Canada at that time, but I suppose Congress had had enough of him by then and barred him from doing so.

    Amtrak did run a weekly overnight train named the Niagara Rainbow between New York and Toronto for about a year starting 1994, departing New York on Friday and departing Toronto on Sunday. Oddly enough, it was set up to enhance tourism in Toronto and not the other way round! The only sleeping accommodation on this train was a Slumbercoach.

    To provide some further context around the subject of Toronto Canada service from the US, The Maple Leaf started operating in 1981 and was considered to be an immediate success. It was made possible by Canada (VIA) operating it as their train in Canada thus not requiring any support from US tax payers for the run through Canada.

    The Chicago - Toronto International Limited was started in October 1982, and renamed the International sometime in 1983. Due to a series of issues starting with US CBP intransigence after 9/11 and ending with SARs outbreak in Toronto, ridership plummeted and it was finally discontinued, or rather split up into two trains, one in the US (Blue Water) and the other in Canada (VIA Corridor Service), and a planned connecting bus between the two was never implemented.
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2019
    railiner likes this.

Share This Page

arrow_white