Why do a road trip? Amtrak boosts discounts for Valley families at holidays and beyond

Joan Barnett Lee/Modesto Bee file

Amtrak has refined its discounts to get more families on board its San Joaquins line.

The pilot program rolled out Nov. 1, trimming fares on most days through June 30, 2024.

Amtrak already had 50% discounts for riders ages 2 through 12 and 10% breaks for those 65 and older. The pilot provides a family up to five half-off tickets for youths and seniors if another member age 13 to 64 pays the full fare. Kids under 2 always ride free.

Two caveats: The deal requires that tickets be bought at least a day ahead. And it is not available during peak demand, generally around holidays. For example, Christmas travelers will get no break from Dec. 22 to 24, when the trains will be especially busy, but the following four days will have discounts.

Amtrak has five round trips daily between Bakersfield and Oakland and another that branches to Sacramento. The stops along the way include Fresno, Merced, Modesto, Stockton and several other cities.

”Passenger feedback and data-driven insights are pivotal in shaping our services so that we are serving our passengers in the best way possible,” said David Lipari, deputy director of passenger experience and communications, in a news release.

Train riders save also because they are not paying to fuel their cars for a family trip. And it’s more relaxing than sitting in a highway traffic jam.

The San Joaquins route shares a Richmond station with BART, which has frequent trains to much of the Bay Area. It also links up in the East Bay with a few other Amtrak lines serving California and beyond.

The discount pilot also includes Thruway buses, connecting some of the Amtrak stations to dozens of cities around the state.