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Uncle Floyd Fan

AMTRAK Philadelphia <-> Lancaster PA (a question about crowding and ticketing)

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Hi - I hope someone can answer my question below based on either recent personal experience, or as an Amtrak employee. The Amtrak website gives general info, but I'd appreciate an "IRL" (in real life) perspective.

I'm looking to take an unreserved train from PHL 30th St to Lancaster on a Friday morning, and then return from Lancaster back to PHL Friday evening. Although it appears that reservations are NOT needed:

1- Could Amtrak stop selling tickets at some point before the train arrives (ie - a 30 or 45 min cutoff)?

2- How crowded do the trains get, especially the Friday evening trip from Lancaster to PHL? Would Amtrak staff actually not allow people down to the platform in Lancaster?

3- If it gets crowded, are standees allowed (I'd be doing this as a day trip and I won't have any luggage)?

4-For that matter, has anyone had any experience doing this journey with Lyft, in particular (what I basically mean is......are there any strange surge prices that occur on a Friday evening during the summer)?

 

Thanks in advance,   UFF

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Posted (edited)
6 hours ago, Uncle Floyd Fan said:

Hi - I hope someone can answer my question below based on either recent personal experience, or as an Amtrak employee. The Amtrak website gives general info, but I'd appreciate an "IRL" (in real life) perspective.

I'm looking to take an unreserved train from PHL 30th St to Lancaster on a Friday morning, and then return from Lancaster back to PHL Friday evening. Although it appears that reservations are NOT needed:

1- Could Amtrak stop selling tickets at some point before the train arrives (ie - a 30 or 45 min cutoff)?

2- How crowded do the trains get, especially the Friday evening trip from Lancaster to PHL? Would Amtrak staff actually not allow people down to the platform in Lancaster?

3- If it gets crowded, are standees allowed (I'd be doing this as a day trip and I won't have any luggage)?

4-For that matter, has anyone had any experience doing this journey with Lyft, in particular (what I basically mean is......are there any strange surge prices that occur on a Friday evening during the summer)?

 

Thanks in advance,   UFF

1) Unreserved train means just that, not reserved. You can buy any ticket for any train and it’ll be valid, just like LIRR. Except during peak period where there is a peak hour fare on the Keystone Corrider. (Peak Time is not commuter peak time, it’s Amtrak peak time I believe it was Friday/Sunday from 10AM-7PM, not sure, but you could  ask Station personal for more info)

2) Never had a problem getting a seat on the Keystone at least for me

3) On unreserved trains standees are allowed, because they do not cap amount of ticket sold

4) Not sure about Lyft but usually surge pricing is in effect is where there are more passengers than drivers available and depending on the shortage is the “x” amount of surge.

Edited by Mtatransit
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@Mtatransit - Thanks! Much appreciated. My biggest concern was about crowding and being barred from a given train either by stopping the sales of tickets, or keeping people from the platform.

As for Lyft, I like to know that I can use it as a back-up. What amazes me is the loss of bus service into Lancaster, and for that matter the region. Since Bieber went under, and Greyhound doesn't serve Lancaster, Amtrak is really the only game in town (OurBus wouldn't work for me for a same day trip).

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17 minutes ago, Uncle Floyd Fan said:

@Mtatransit - Thanks! Much appreciated. My biggest concern was about crowding and being barred from a given train either by stopping the sales of tickets, or keeping people from the platform.

As for Lyft, I like to know that I can use it as a back-up. What amazes me is the loss of bus service into Lancaster, and for that matter the region. Since Bieber went under, and Greyhound doesn't serve Lancaster, Amtrak is really the only game in town (OurBus wouldn't work for me for a same day trip).

Yeah Lancaster is pretty hard to get to with OurBus schedule.

 

Bear in mind though, I’m the past Amtrak was more lenient with platform access to rail fan, but at many stations that is no longer the case. Amtrak will keep the platforms locked until boarding time. I know they don’t allow you in Philly and Harrisburg unsure about Lancaster

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@Mtatransit - -

Appreciate the heads up. I wasn't looking to do any fanning per se (I'm not much of a photographer / video producer), but it's good to know. My biggest concern is getting to/from PHL / Lancaster. The last thing I want is to be stranded in Lancaster (not the worst thing in the world, but it's not part of the plan, if I can avoid it).

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Posted (edited)
On 7/22/2019 at 3:59 PM, Uncle Floyd Fan said:

@Mtatransit - -

Appreciate the heads up. I wasn't looking to do any fanning per se (I'm not much of a photographer / video producer), but it's good to know. My biggest concern is getting to/from PHL / Lancaster. The last thing I want is to be stranded in Lancaster (not the worst thing in the world, but it's not part of the plan, if I can avoid it).

Hope this is helpful if you don't like your Lyft driver.

An all day pass will set you back $5.25 for all four zones.

http://www.redrosetransit.com/

Edited by MassTransitHonchkrow
wanted to provide fare information for Red Rose Transit
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@MassTransitHonchkrow - Thanks! I didn't even think of Red Rose. I'll keep it mind, just in case. It's always good to have options. One big way to save funds is to take Peter Pan from PABT into Phila (w/o advanced planning, its an expensive ticket on Amtrak). I might even do a trip report on the whole experience.

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On 7/25/2019 at 10:43 AM, Uncle Floyd Fan said:

@MassTransitHonchkrow - Thanks! I didn't even think of Red Rose. I'll keep it mind, just in case. It's always good to have options. One big way to save funds is to take Peter Pan from PABT into Phila (w/o advanced planning, its an expensive ticket on Amtrak). I might even do a trip report on the whole experience.

I'm heading into NYC next month and will do so without relying on any NYCT assets. I will report on that when I return.

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On 7/26/2019 at 7:18 PM, MassTransitHonchkrow said:

I'm heading into NYC next month and will do so without relying on any NYCT assets. I will report on that when I return.

That's an impressive feat, unless you intend to use MTAB or the commuter railroads and PATH. Enjoy the trip!

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22 minutes ago, Uncle Floyd Fan said:

That's an impressive feat, unless you intend to use MTAB or the commuter railroads and PATH. Enjoy the trip!

I will use the Bee-Line 7 and 55 only, both ways and complete the journey on foot.

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Trip Report - NYC to Lancaster PA and back

Thanks again to @Mtatransit and @MassTransitHonchkrow for your advice on traveling to/from, and within Lancaster PA.

I started the day by taking the first QM5 of the morning. On-time to a tee. USB ports worked and so did the WiFi. YouTube was blocked, and I forgot to try TuneIn over the WiFi.

I then walked over to the PABT for the 7:30 am Peter Pan Bus to Philadelphia. The ticket cost $8.00 plus the $2.50 surcharge. Not bad at all. The bus wasn't crowded. This bus was also on time to a tee, even with some rush hour traffic in Philadelphia on I-95. The bus parked all the way to the right of the bus terminal, so I got to hit the street as soon as the bus parked.

Then I walked along Market Street to the Amtrak station at 30th Street as I had some time to kill before the 11am train to Lancaster.

(I should add that I bought my Peter Pan and W/B Amtrak tickets the night before).

I then queued up for the Keystone Train to Harrisburg. It was right on time as it originated in Newark, NJ, not NYP. Once we were cleared to descend to the platform and board the train, I then met my friend outside one of the cars as he boarded earlier in Newark. His ticket from NWK to Lancaster PA was $61.00; my ticket from PHL to Lancaster was $21.00. This Keystone was not too crowded. My friend said that it was less crowded between Newark and PHL (w/ Trenton NJ as the only other stop enroute to Philly and Harrisburg). We left the terminal on-time (I think..), but we arrived in Lancaster about 10 minutes late (but still not too bad).

Once in Lancaster, we decided to check out a comic book shop / newsstand across the street from the train station. I should add that the train station is well maintained and looked like it was refurbished recently. After checking out the comic book shop, we proceeded to request a Lyft ride. Our ride showed up quickly. We were off and running to the Green Dragon. The Lyft cost was reasonable. The driver was pleasant and drove safely. We split the cost of $25 + tip.

The Green Dragon is a flea market with a few food stalls which specialize in fresh meats and baked goods commonly found in Central Pennsylvania (large pretzel wraps, apple fritters, homemade whoppy pies - the sort of thing that could make a cardiologist cringe). The flea market also sells odds and ends that one may seek in the area (ie - hand tools to use on the farm). For lunch, we found a place that had a ham patty loaf as the special of the day. It was basically like a hamburger (I don't think it was spam). It was pretty good, but not something I would get every day. After lunch and walking around the Dragon (it's open on Fridays only), we proceeded to walk toward the center of Ephrata (I think it was a 2 mile walk -  a good way to burn calories). The town itself was quaint.  It's one of those places where one can tell it has been built up over the years, but young Mennonites still ride around in a horse and buggy. There is even covered parking to accommodate ones horse.

After looking at the town of Ephrata, we proceeded to walk to the town of Akron (PA, of course...not Ohio) on an old rail-line which was converted to a rail-trail. I estimate that we walked about 3 or 4 miles before winding up in Akron. Again, the outskirts of Lancaster seem to have been built up quite a bit. The area was nice, but it was hardly what I would call 'rural'. At this point, we stopped at a local grocery store for a drink as well as to have a place to request a Lyft ride.

(I should add, we did get to see the Route 11 Red Rose Bus, but the timing did not work. Also, it seemed to be running late as their schedules did not seem to show an abundance of recovery time at the end of a given route).

Our Lyft ride back into Lancaster was also uneventful. The driver was pleasant and drove safely. We split the cost of $15 + tip (cheaper as we were now closer to the train station in Lancaster). We even purchased the Lancaster to NWK/NYP tickets while riding in the Lyft car. Technology can have its advantages.

We arrived with about 10 minutes to spare. We then boarded the 6:10 pm train (give or take a minute) back to NWK/NYP. The fare for this journey for either city was $61.00.

(FWIW, PHL to NYP on the Keystone service is $60.00....so shouldn't PHL to Lancaster only be a dollar?.....I know that's not how the real world operates, but I find the pricing interesting nonetheless.)

The Keystone entered PHL on-time, and left on-time too (it left PHL at 7:40 pm). We got back to NYC at 9pm on the nose. I then bought a ticket for the return trip to Bayside on the LIRR Port Washington Branch. This train left on-time, too. Once I arrived at the Bayside train station, I walked home. A good day for sure.

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Looks like you had a great trip! Glad to be of help!

Regarding Amtrak pricing, if booked earlier (14 days) you can get the fare from NYC to Lancaster for $46. The section between PHL and NYC is a big rip off in my opinion.

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18 minutes ago, Mtatransit said:

Regarding Amtrak pricing, if booked earlier (14 days) you can get the fare from NYC to Lancaster for $46. The section between PHL and NYC is a big rip off in my opinion.

Very true...If anything, I thought it would be even cheaper than that. Maybe Peter Pan spoiled me with their cheap fares, but I know Amtrak has more overhead (or so it seems). As for not planning too far in advance, I'll leave some planning until the last minute due to concerns about the weather (a lot of time is spent outdoors).

 

1 hour ago, MassTransitHonchkrow said:

I will use the Bee-Line 7 and 55 only, both ways and complete the journey on foot.

Sounds like a good amount of walking!

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On 7/28/2019 at 10:45 PM, Uncle Floyd Fan said:

Very true...If anything, I thought it would be even cheaper than that. Maybe Peter Pan spoiled me with their cheap fares, but I know Amtrak has more overhead (or so it seems). As for not planning too far in advance, I'll leave some planning until the last minute due to concerns about the weather (a lot of time is spent outdoors).

 

Sounds like a good amount of walking!

Just a seventeen minute walk there and back.

 

My endeavor was successful. No NYCT assets were used.

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