Q: Assigned seats on Amtrak?

by Lauren Braden

in Trip Ideas

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Dear TripFinder,

Photo by WSDOT via Flickr Creative Commons

Can you get assigned seats in advance on Amtrak Cascades? Nope.

We’re taking Amtrak from Seattle to Portland. My friend will be boarding the train up in Bellingham, and I’ll be getting on the same one in Seattle.

Is there any way we can sit together on our trip down to Portland? I’m uncertain about whether specific seats are allotted.

Thank you, Marion

Dear Marion,

Let me start by saying I can’t speak with any authority on Amtrak and your most reliable answer is  going to come from a representative at Amtrak. You can call them at 1-800-872-7245 or email them. Here’s what I do know about assigned seating, and my advice for your situation.

Amtrak Cascades doesn’t do assigned seats in advance. Your reservation means only that you have a ticket to get on that train. When you get to the station and check in, a ticket agent will assign you a car and usually assign you a seat on that car. Some of the smaller stations (for example, Edmonds and Olympia) don’t have ticket agents and at those stops, they open a few cars for ticket-holders to board and sit where they like. Both Bellingham and Seattle have station ticket agents present, though, so you should get assigned a car and a seat when you check in at the station.

Your friend should try to arrive at the Fairhaven Station in Bellingham on the early side (30 minutes before departure). There should be a ticket agent booth at this station. I suggest your friend check in with this ticket agent and explain the situation of wanting to get assigned a seat in one of the cars that will be boarded by Seattle passengers so that you can sit together.  Then, when your friend boards, he or she can call you by cell phone to let you know which car and even which seat to reserve for yourself when you check in at the Seattle station. You, too, should try to arrive 30-45 minutes prior to departure so that you can get reserved in your desired car number.

I hope this works out for you!

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