August 13, 2020 - TRA Newswire -

Amtrak finally released their reduced 3-times-a-week schedule for the long haul trains. The schedule takes effect in less than 60 days on October 1. The Texas Eagle will be one of the biggest casualties of the change.

While some trains will maintain connections at the main Chicago hub, the red-headed stepchild called the Texas Eagle will get the short end of the stick. The Texas Eagle has been running daily from San Antonio to Chicago but that will change to 3X weekly service in October. It also means that many connections to East Coast trains will be only twice a week, or in one case only once a week.  The Cardinal, which runs from Chicago to New York via Washington and the California Zephyr from Chicago to the SanFran bay area will also suffer from fewer connections.

"This is a slap in the face to a grass-roots organization that for about 20 years built up ridership and revenue on the Texas Eagle", according to Texas Rail Advocates President Peter LeCody. "TEMPO (Texas Eagle Marketing and Performance Organization) is a volunteer group composed of mayors, council members, travel and tourism groups as well as rail advocates and local citizens that worked to save the train in the 90's and turned it into a daily service that showed steady growth. That is, until former CEO Richard Anderson yanked local revenue management away from the dedicated volunteer team and the train started to falter several years ago."

"Three day a week service is nothing new, except that there is little institutional knowledge with the current crop of Amtrak's executive elites at their Washington DC headquarters,"  according to LeCody. "This was tried in the mid-90's. Revenue and ridership fell throughout the system and the alleged 'cost savings' of running fewer trains a week never materialized.  It's hocus-pocus from people who have come to Amtrak from running airlines and think that a passenger railroad isn't any different. Do you really think you could run a part-time airline three days a week and save money? The new slogan of the corporation should be changed to 'America's Part-Time Railroad'."

How will the The Texas Eagle be affected with fewer connections at the Chicago Hub?

The train will be scheduled to arrive in Chicago on Wednesdays but will have no connections possible to anything other than a state-supported regional service. Zero national network connections to anywhere East of Chicago.

Example: If you wanted to travel from Mineola to Toledo, Ohio you better leave on a Friday or a Sunday as those are you only choices.  Austin to South Bend, Indiana is the same. From San Marcos to Indianapolis your only choice is leave on a Friday, the only day of the week with a connection.

Ditto on Wednesday departures from Chicago to Texas points. It's the only long haul train at Chicago Union Station that day. Watch connection revenue disappear like vaporware.

Example: you won't be able to travel from Pittsburgh to Little Rock or Dallas on the Eagle any day except on a Thursday. That's a 1-time a week connection.

"Watch for those same Amtrak airline executives to announce some time in the future the disappointing statistics on the Texas Eagle and wring their hands and cry that the train just isn't performing and must be on the chopping block, like they tried in the 90's before the locals showed the Washington elites how to run a train service," said LeCody. "Three-times weekly service will be a disaster, just like it was in the 90's."