All Aboard! Amtrak Now Allows Pets on Some Trains in Northeast

by James Eng /

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You can now bring Rover or Whiskers with you next time you board selected Amtrak trains in the Northeast.

Under a pilot program that started Monday and is scheduled to run through Feb. 15, the train operator is allowing passengers to travel with small dogs or cats from Boston to Lynchburg, Newport News and Norfolk, Virginia, on Northeast Regional service, and between Boston and Brunswick, Maine, on the Downeaster route.

The new policy is actually an extension of a pets-can-ride-too program that Amtrak launched in Illinois in 2014. During that program's first year, more than 200 animals accompanied passengers without a single complaint or incident, Amtrak said. The successful experience prompted Amtrak to bring the pilot program to the busy Northeast Corridor and New England.

"We have listened to our passengers looking for other transportation options while traveling with their pets," Amtrak President and CEO Joe Boardman said in a statement.

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Under the new policy, passengers pay a $25 fee for the privilege of bringing their pet — either one cat or one small dog — with them. The pet must be in an enclosed carrier placed under the owner's seat, and both pet and carrier must weigh no more than 20 pounds. (The new policy and fee don't apply to passengers traveling with service animals.)

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Amtrak, whose trains carry about 85,000 passengers a day, says the pilot program could be extended and expanded to additional routes if successful.

Amtrak says the trial pet policy grew out of customer requests, though it's also another way for the financially strapped, partially government-funded passenger railroad system to boost revenue. Carrying pets on the Northeast Corridor is expected to generate between $5 million and $7 million annually in pet fees and incremental passenger trip revenue, an Amtrak spokesperson told NBC News.

In September, Amtrak introduced a $20 baggage fee for passengers who exceed limits for carry-on and personal items.

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