On Saturday I was bicycling in Monroe early in the morning and heard a train horn sound and the crossing gates come down. I thought surely it was freight, as the Empire Builder had developed such a reputation for notorious lateness that I wouldn’t have expected it through there until noon. But alas, there it was, on time and humming along adjacent to Hwy 2. Remembering the unexpected dip in gas prices we’ve experienced this year, I thought I’d check in on the train’s on-time performance. Has the Bakken’s bust been the Builder’s boon?
Indeed, it has. For now at least, it appears that Amtrak has seen a welcome reprieve from the 12-hour delays and terrible headlines of the recent past. In February, the train arrived early into Seattle 17 times, and was late more than 30 minutes only 4 times. Day to day variability is still unacceptably high, of course, but the word ‘success’ when it comes to Amtrak often means ‘doing the best you can within your myriad constraints’, and by that score things are definitely looking up on the Hi-Line.