The day before Thanksgiving is Amtrak’s busiest day every year, and 127,000 people nationwide are expected to take an Amtrak train Wednesday. It could be an even busier day than usual in Missouri.
“If you look at the trends, it should be more busy because we’ve had pretty much a pretty steady increase in Amtrak ridership in Missouri over the last year,” said Rod Massman, the Administrator of Railroads for the Missouri Department of Transportation.
Massman says Amtrak ridership was up 7% in the last fiscal year. Marc Magliari with Amtrak says they are prepared for the influx of travelers. He says there will be ebbs and flows at train stations in Missouri throughout the weekend, and travelers may have to plan accordingly.
“The Sunday after Thanksgiving is also extremely busy. I’m seeing sold out conditions where perhaps you can go one way on your first choice of trains on the day before Thanksgiving, but not on the Sunday after. So if you’ve not bought your ticket now, it’s kind of like trying to go Christmas shopping at about 4:00pm Christmas Eve. You might not get your first choice,” Magliari said.
He also says Missourians should make sure to give themselves extra time to board since there will be larger crowds than usual.
“If you’re going to our Kansas City or St. Louis stations and boarding one of our overnight trains that have checked baggage, you should be there about an hour before departure. If you’re going to ride one of the other trains like the Missouri River Runners that don’t have checked baggage, you can be there about 45 minutes beforehand. We ask the people to try to observe the limits on carry-on bags, which is two bags of 50 pounds or less,” Magliari said.
Some Americans are calling for a boycott of air travel this Thanksgiving in response to more invasive security searches by the Transportation Security Administration. Magliari says it’s unclear if that may shift the travelers to the rails instead. He says the security at train stations is not as invasive as it is at airports.
“We take our direction from the TSA on the kinds of things we do and certainly if you’re riding our trains now or going to our stations now, they look very different than they did a few years ago. There’s a much more visible police presence and a much more visible K-9 protection patrol effort than there was a few years ago. But those ordinarily don’t delay you boarding or de-boarding the trains,” Magliari said.