NEW YORK - For the first time in months, travelers crowd around Amtrak's departure board at Penn Station.
Like Nina Hoey, heading to Massachusetts.
“Past few times I’ve traveled, I have rented a car as opposed to taking Amtrak but this time, I opted for Amtrak," she said.
The cheap fare helped, but so did Amtrak's cleaning and social distancing policies.
“I’m sure the facility will appear clean, so hopefully it’s clean, and kind of maintaining my distance from the other passengers," Hoey said.
Caroline Decker, the Amtrak executive in charge of the northeast corridor, says riders are returning, even after service in the Northeast Corridor was reduced, and Acela service was temporarily suspended.
“The travelers right now, our customers, they are more leisure or purpose driven kinds of travel for instance people visiting family, friends attending to loved ones," said Decker. "We are seeing a higher uptick in terms of weekend travel”
Amtrak is trying to show it’s safe to ride the rails, by cleaning cars in the stations and along routes, requiring face coverings, and limiting ticket sales to give passengers more room.
"Most people are participating in social distancing and everything I feel safe," said rider Chris Cook, traveling to Rochester. "I got the private room, so, I do that so I'd feel better."
Riders this summer can expect changes to how they board.
Amtrak will roll out an app so riders know before hand which track they can catch their train without having to gather around the big board, and allow passengers to board earlier than usual.
“We are taking a number of steps that really will change the experience, what people know of Penn Station from the past and how we’re adapting to address all of the demands of this new environment,” Decker said.
But Amtrak's finances are wrecked and delays because of aging equipment are more frequent.
Amtrak already got a $1 billion bailout from the federal government and says it needs a $1.5 billion more.
In the meantime, the railroad is preparing to slash $500 million, through service cuts and layoffs.
Still, repair work continues.
“We certainly anticipate that when we get through this, and we know we’re not alone, there is a very bright future for train travel, for Amtrak," Decker said. "We don’t want to lose sight of that.”