Amtrak

Some electric transportation news

When you buy an Amtrak ticket, you sometimes end up riding a diesel-powered bus instead of a train pulled by an diesel-fueled, dual-powered (electric and diesel) or electric (in the Northeast) locomotive.

Now at least one of the diesel-powered buses in the Amtrak network is being replaced by an electric-powered bus.

Passengers traveling mid-day on the Amtrak Cascades route in the Pacific Northwest through Oregon and Washington to Vancouver, B.C. will now get to ride on an electric-powered bus between between Seattle and Bellingham, WA instead of on the diesel-powered bus that has been serving this trip segment.

The bus is the first electric vehicle (EV) in the Amtrak National Network and can make the nearly 200-mile roundtrip on one single charge

A ride in the right direction.

SFO Airport will help save energy in an emergency

It’s another very hot summer. And airports around the country are doing their part to reduce their draw on the elecricity grid during times when air conditioners and other appliances are in heavy use.

Denver International Airport, Chattanooga Airport , Indianapolis International Airport (IND) and many others have large solar farms that provide much, and in some cases, all of the electricity needed to power airport operations. And Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) is completely powered by natural gas and solar via its own microgrid.

San Francisco International Airport (SFO), which earned an award in 2019 for being the world’s first Zero Net Energy (ZNE) facility at an airport, has a large rooftop solar farm. But SFO still gets some of its electricty from the city’s hydroelectric grid.

So to do its part for added energy conservation during the city’s Flex Alerts, which the cities issues when extremely hot weather drives up electricity use, the airport is committing to a variety of measures which may have a slight impact on passengers. The airport expects it will get 24-hour notice on these Flex Alerts which usually run from 4 pm to 9pm. So if anything on the list below alarms you, be sure to check the SFO website before you travel.

  • The AirTrain people mover may reduce the frequency of service from every 4 minutes to every 8 minutes.
  • Electric Vehicle (EV) chargers in all SFO Parking Garages may be temporary deactivated.
  • Airport cooling may be adjusted to reduce electricity usage, allowing terminals to be just a bit warmer than usual.
  • Airport lighting may be reduced throughout terminals.

How Airports & Airlines Marked April Fools Day

We were pleased to see so many airports and airlines – and the National Railroad Passenger Corporation – Amtrak – having so much fun on April Fools Day.

Aviation museums also got in on the fun.

Here are some of the April Fools Day “news items” we encountered. Let us know if we missed some your faves.

UFO Displayed at Seattle’s Museum of Flight

In an April 1 release, the Museum of Flight in Seattle announced it would put on display an unidentified flying object (UFO) recently recovered from a crash site in a remote area in Washington state.

Here’s what it looks like:

Clearly, it’s an April Fools Day joke. But we love that the museum created a full backstory for this UFO:

Following a rash of inexplicable UFO sightings worldwide, the wreckage and debris field from a small disc-shaped object were discovered at a remote desert location near the decommissioned Hanford Nuclear Site in Washington state. The UFO was initially detected by NORAD as it raced through the restricted airspace of Hill Air Force Base in Utah. The phenomena continued erratically on a northern flightpath and fiery descent to an impact zone in the remote desert hills of Benton County, Wash.

Military officials quickly removed tons of topsoil from the crash site to preserve any toxic fluids or alien biological matter that may have exited the disc. The object has displayed no signs of hostile intent, but extra security measures will be in place while it is on display at the Museum.

Plenty of airports and airlines got in on the fun. And many ‘announcements,’ such as Charlotte Douglas International Airport’s notice that it was removing the rocking chairs to make more room, no doubt made readers look twice.

But others, like KLM’s recline alert system and Geneva Airports’ ski-through-the-terminal updates aren’t totally silly ideas.

Not flying? Try Amtrak’s $299 Rail Pass

It’s like the Eurail Pass, but for the U.S.

If you’re not quite ready to get on a plane, perhaps you’re up for an adventure by train.

Amtrak’s USA Rail Pass, which allows 10 ride segments in 30 days, is on sale through June 22 for $299. That’s $200 off the regular price of $499 and just a smidge under $30 per ride.

Where does Amtrak go? Pretty much everywhere. The rail service says it serves more than 500 destinations.

Sound tempting? Here’s a bit of how it works.

Purchase a pass by June 22 and start your travel adventure within 120 days. The pass allows you to ride 10 Coach class segments within a 30 day period, starting with the first trip you take. Upgrades to Business Class and private rooms are not permitted.

Passholders book their own itineraries and receive an electronic ticket for each segment to show to the conductor. Modifications to your itinerary are permitted as long as they are made before the scheduled departure of a segment.

What’s a segment? If you board and disembark a scheduled train, Amtrak counts that as a segment. Need to make a connection? That’s another segment.

Some other USA Rail Pass rules to keep in mind

Southwest Chief near Fishers Peak, Colorado.

The USA Rail Pass isn’t good on those speedy northeast Acela trains, nor on the popular Auto Train that transports people and their cars 900 miles from Washington D.C. to just outside of Orlando, FL. You can use it on the Maple Leaf Route, but not for the Canadian stations.

The pass is good for Saver and Value Fares, not for Flexible Fare tickets. And you can only take two roundtrips (four one-way segments) between the same two stations.

If you’ve got time and the desire to see a lot of the country this summer, then $299 for 10 rides can get you pretty darn far.

Travel Tidbits for trains, planes and cars

Oktoberfest at Pittsburgh International Airport

Oktoberfest kicks off at Pittsburgh International Airport this Friday with live oompah tunes, classic German brews and dishes, complimentary pretzel bites and more.

Starting at 4 p.m. on Friday Grammy-nominated accordionist Kevin Solecki will be playing oompah tunes in the Center Core.

And throughout the month, the classic German brews at the airport’s Penn Brewery will include Great American Beer Festival medalists, Penn Oktoberfest and Penn Gold. On the menu will be classic dishes like Bavarian Pretzels with German Obatzda dip, Wurst Baguette on a Pretzel Roll and the German Reuben Sandwich.

More Oktoberfest parties are planned at PIT during the weekends of Sept. 20-22 and 27-29.

Amtrak’s BOGO sale

Amtrak has extended its Buy One Get One (BOGO) Saturday companion fare sale for destinations in the Northeast.

The sale applies to tickets booked on Saturday trips on either the Acela service in business class or Northeast Regional service in coach. (Three day advance purchase required).

These trains have stops in cities such as New York, Philadelphia, Providence, Rhode Island and Richmond, Virginia. Use the discount code “C222.”

Rather drive?

The premium rental car brand Silvercar by Audi has partnered up with activewear brand Outdoor Voices in Austin to offer renters a cool deal.

Now through October, all Silvercar by Audi rentals at the Austin location come with Outdoor Voices apparel, a “Doing Things” local guide and a discount good for $100 off a purchase of $250 or more at Outdoor Voices.

Travel Tidbits: Hawaii, Amtrak, Comic Book Art

Travel Tidbits from airports and airlines near you

Southwest expands Hawaii flights from California

Southwest Airlines announced new nonstop flights from Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC) to both Kona (KOA), on the island of Hawaii, and Lihue, Kauai (LIH) will begin flying in January 2020.

Once these flights begin, you’ll be able to fly to all four main Hawaiian Islands nonstop from SJC.

Southwest will start flights between SJC and Lihue four days per week (Mon/Wed/Fri/Sun) starting January 19, 2020. Flights to Kona will be three times a week (Tue/Thu/Sat) beginning January 21.

These new flights will be in addition to Southwest’s existing daily, nonstop flights between SJC and both Honolulu and Kahului (Maui), which began in May.

Take the Train – half off

You can’t take the train to Hawaii, but you can take it lots of other places – for half price.

Amtrak just kicked off its September Sale, offering 50% off tickets nationwide. The sale runs Friday, August 16 through Saturday, August 17, 2019 and covers travel anywhere between September 1 and September 30, 2019. Even better: no blackout dates.

Comic art at John Wayne Airport

Like comic books? Then you’ll love this comic book art.

Mixed Media Collage artist Fernando Del Rosario brings his “Real Heroes” collection of inspiring quotes and original composed art – made from comic books – to John Wayne Airport (JWA).

“My Real Heroes collection is meant to grab you, lose yourself within each piece and come out inspired, motivated, and creatively recharged,” said Del Rosario. “Every one of these comic book pages is from my collection as a kid. And this is my way of sharing my story and my inspiration with the public.”

Del Rosario’s artwork is on display in the JWA Community Focus Space from August 15 – September 17, 2019.