Amtrak's Coast Starlight and California Zephyr, favorites for generations of railfans and others traveling up and down the West Coast and across the country, will be cut to three days a week from its current daily schedule starting Oct. 1.
Those service reductions — among many the national passenger rail service will impose in response to the loss of ridership during the coronavirus pandemic — were announced earlier this week in a memo to Amtrak employees from one of the agency's senior executives. The memo said the cuts are likely to result in layoffs or furloughs for workers on the long-distance trains.
Like other transportation services large and small, from airlines to ride-hailing services to rental car companies to public transit, Amtrak has suffered a devastating loss of ridership and revenue as Americans have curtailed travel during the pandemic.
In a letter to congressional leaders last month, Amtrak CEO William Flynn said overall ridership had fallen 95% across the agency's rail network, resulting in a $1.7 billion decline in revenue compared to fiscal 2019 — the last full budget year without a pandemic. Flynn said the agency forecasts a 50% ridership decline nationwide, from 32 million to 16 million, during the 12 months starting Oct. 1.
Besides the California Zephyr, which runs from Emeryville to Chicago, and Coast Starlight, which runs from Los Angeles to Seattle and has several Bay Area stops, the cuts will affect the Capitol Limited (Washington, D.C.-Chicago); the City of New Orleans (Chicago-New Orleans); Crescent (New York-Atlanta-New Orleans); Empire Builder (Chicago-Twin Cities-Seattle); Lake Shore Limited (New York-Chicago); Palmetto (New York-Savannah); Southwest Chief (Chicago-Los Angeles); and Texas Eagle (Chicago-San Antonio).