Long distance trains back on track seven days a week in Colorado

Stina Sieg/CPR News
Passengers at the Amtrak station in downtown Glenwood Springs, one of the most popular Colorado destinations for the California Zephyr.

Amtrak’s Southwest Chief and California Zephyr are on a daily schedule again following pandemic-related service reductions earlier this year, although space may still be tight on the two trains that run through Colorado.

Nationwide ridership on Amtrak’s long-distance routes is back up to 70 percent of pre-pandemic numbers. But the trains are running with fewer cars because of staffing shortages. Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said that means passengers may have to be flexible.

“There might not be the roomette or there might not be the coach seat,” Magiliari said. “Or there might not be the bedroom that you're looking for on the day you’re traveling.”

The Southwest Chief, which runs through southern Colorado on its route between Los Angeles and Chicago, carried some 108,000 passengers from October of last year through April of this year. During the same time period, the California Zephyr had more than 165,000 people on board. It’s routed through northern Colorado.

Magliari said while the western trains are back up to a seven-day-a-week service, some east coast routes aren’t.

“We'd like very much to be fully redeployed with all the rail equipment, but to do that, we have to hire more people,” he said. “More than 1000 people nationally are needed across the system to redeploy the full fleet.”

He said that while they’ve already hired a number of new employees for train crew positions and to staff stations, Amtrak still doesn’t expect to get back up to full capacity until next year.

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