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Amtrak Cuts Would Reduce Service On Two Oregon Trains

Chris Lehman

Train passengers in Oregon and Washington will have fewer options this fall under a service reduction plan announced by Amtrak this week.

With rail ridership across the country plummeting due to the coronavirus, Amtrak says it’s forced to cut service. It says that starting October 1st, most of its long-distance trains will run just three days a week.

In the Pacific Northwest, that includes the Coast Starlight, which runs from Seattle to Los Angeles, and includes 12 stations in Oregon and Washington. Most of those stations will continue to receive daily service from Amtrak's Cascades trains, which are state funded.

While service on the Cascades trains has been significantly reduced, and eliminated entirely north of Seattle, the section between Seattle and Eugene has so far retained daily rail service.

However, two southern Oregon stations on the Coast Starlight route are served by no other trains. It means that this fall, Klamath Falls and Chemult will no longer have daily passenger rail service.

The same fate awaits most of Amtrak’s other long-distance trains, including the Empire Builder. The train currently leaves Chicago daily and splits in Spokane, with one leg continuing to Seattle and the other Portland. The service cuts will leave seven Amtrak stations in Washington without a daily train.

A rail advocacy group based in Washington criticized the cuts.

"In spite of the severe drop in ridership, these are essential services that are lifelines for many people," said All Aboard Washington in a newsletter. "Passenger rail service should be expanded NOW as an important component of the post-COVID economic recovery plan."

Chris Lehman has been reporting on Oregon issues since 2006. He joined the KLCC news department in December 2018 and became News Director in March 2023. Chris was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and graduated from Temple University with a degree in journalism. His public broadcasting career includes stops in Louisiana and Illinois. Chris has filed for national programs including “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”
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