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Greenville, SC (GRV) to be Unstaffed Effective June 15, 2017


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#41 Lonestar648

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Posted 11 June 2017 - 04:09 PM

Without checked baggage, passengers will be forced, like they are on the airlines by cost, to travel with less. There are some options for longer platforms, like a permanent baggage rack about where the baggage door would stop that passengers could place their pre-tagged bags. Issue is that people have to be responsible for themselves, like reading signs, reading instructions, that 90% will not do then complain its not their fault.  Yes, there could be a solution, but the non-reading, too pre-occupied, non-listening, I am not responsible public, I seriously doubt any solution not run with employees will work.  I have worked with the public, it is infuriating, frustrating, enough to make you take up heavy drinking just to get them to so one extremely simple thing.



#42 jpfrmks

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Posted 11 June 2017 - 09:22 PM

Caretaker will open/close around train time. The trend continues.

KnightRail, where did you get this information? There is nothing on the Amtrak website about stopping baggage service in Greenville.

#43 A Voice

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Posted 12 June 2017 - 08:04 AM

 

 

... train-side baggage checking is not a new concept.  Our neighbors to the north do it on a daily basis, without too much trouble.  And it used to be a very common practice with the railroads pre-Amtrak. 

 

 

 

 

 

Still waiting for the geniuses on here to realistically solve these problems.

 

 

As Blackwolf pointed out, further up this thread, "the geniuses on here" haven't invented the idea of checked baggage on trains. There's a wide and deep body of railroad experience with this. Amtrak needs to apply that experience to its current situation, and choose a workable way to check baggage at all or nearly all of its stations. Failure to do so risks losing passengers. 

 

 

 

As I mentioned to you in the SEB thread, you can make a lot of things occur if you have enough money to throw at it.  There are 100s of stations that Amtrak services. Each has a different characteristic.  The vast majority of stations didn't have luggage service for years.  At what point do you get a grip on reality and say "cleary we can't afford to do everything. What is the path of least resistance?"

 

Should bringing checked  luggage to  Prince, WV and Jessup, GA become a higher priority than bringing back dining car service on the Star and City of New Orleans? Should checked baggage in Aldershot, VA and Burlingon, NC become a higher priority than ADA compliance at Westerly, Rhode Island? SHould anything listed above be a higher priority than using the funds to restore a wrecked engine and/or car to service? That is basically where a lot of transportation providers have to ask themselves. Now that we've robbed Peter to pay Paul, should we pay Paul or split the money between Paul and Mary?

 

For every project that is undertaken, there is something that lacks funds. With a "skinny budget" being eyed, Amtrak will have to carry on with less.  This is at a time when things are stretched thin to begin with.  It costs money to maintain this service and it costs money to modify stations and operating procedures to make this work at a lot of the stations.  Money is at a premium, which is why they are unstaffing stattions and cutting services.

 

I'll ask it again: How many letters have you written to Amtrak or your representatives about this?

 

 

As usual, you are of course completely correct; I don't disagree with anything you've said.  My issue with this is that money has been tight at Amtrak since basically day one - 46 years ago.  Yet, up until relatively recent times Amtrak has managed to maintain staffing - and thus checked baggage service - at a larger number of stations.  Clearly there are higher priorities, but that question begs another; At what point are you shooting yourself in the foot by cutting a basic transportation amenity?  Food service is yet another (and I'd argue, higher priority) example.

 

I'm not saying I have the answer, but even a 'bare-bones' budget level needs to be adequate to properly maintain a certain standard of service.  Only The Lord himself has unlimited resources; Even rich companies have to make choices in what they do.  A family which has to pick between a new television or paying the utility bill is one thing, but I fear Amtrak is at the point where the choice is between paying the electric bill to keep the lights on or buying food to feed the kids.  Neither is a tenable option.  



#44 Thirdrail7

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Posted 13 June 2017 - 12:30 AM

 

 

As usual, you are of course completely correct; I don't disagree with anything you've said.  My issue with this is that money has been tight at Amtrak since basically day one - 46 years ago.  Yet, up until relatively recent times Amtrak has managed to maintain staffing - and thus checked baggage service - at a larger number of stations.  Clearly there are higher priorities, but that question begs another; At what point are you shooting yourself in the foot by cutting a basic transportation amenity?  Food service is yet another (and I'd argue, higher priority) example.

 

I'm not saying I have the answer, but even a 'bare-bones' budget level needs to be adequate to properly maintain a certain standard of service.  Only The Lord himself has unlimited resources; Even rich companies have to make choices in what they do.  A family which has to pick between a new television or paying the utility bill is one thing, but I fear Amtrak is at the point where the choice is between paying the electric bill to keep the lights on or buying food to feed the kids.  Neither is a tenable option.  

 

 

I noticed one thing about the previous regime. While they lobbied Congress for support, you rarely saw them approach them for additional funds between appropriations.  You rarely saw them saying 'if we don't cash now, we'll have to shut down this or that."   As such, something has to give.  Even though Amtrak has managed to find funds for certain things, each year is costs more and more to accomplish the same things.  Each day, the cars grow older and require more (specialized) maintenance. Each year, the ties grow older and more costly to maintain. Each year, the P-32AC/DMs get older and since GE stopped making parts for them, they become more expensive to maintain and repair.  Each year, the tunnels and infrastructure  surrounding NYP grow older with more trains operating on them ever.  Yet, funds are flat.

 

What to do?

 

One of the easiest targets is labor. How much are you getting for the labor that you are providing? While I agree that some of these cuts will definitely impact ridership, the people making these decisions are looking at it from a cost center point of view. Period. It is easy for them since they are not actually passengers. Additionally,  you'll find that most rail providers aren't top heavy with actual railroaders. They are top heavy with employees with financial backgrounds, focused on the bottom line. That doesn't necessarily make them bad railroaders but it does mean they may not understand "the product."  During the last years of the Boardman tenure, you saw an influx of airline employees moving into key positions.  They still think like airline employees and it shows. They were also fixated on the short to medium distance passengers and a lot of the policies show it. However, they were given a mandate:" this is the money you have...work with it and see how we can survive. "  As such, they may not even be interested in what the product "was" or "could be" and may go with "this is all it is going to be or we'll run out of money."

 

The vision lurches from year to year based upon the funds granted.  That is no way to run a railroad.


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#45 JoeBas

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Posted 13 June 2017 - 09:08 AM


Why not offer what cruise ships do - print-at-home luggage tags and a central bag drop on a cart at unstaffed stations? Roll the cart over, load the bags, unload the bags, move the cart back, 2 to go?

 
Many platforms are not long enough to stop, collect the bags and roll them to the baggage car. Jesup, GA is a scant 40ft long. Can't even get two coach vestibules on at the same time.You'd be double stopping every day. Even if the platform were long enough, you'd still be wasting tons of time walking the cart back and forth. What happens when passengers don't have their baggage tagged and ready at the cart when the train arrives? Even better, after taking all the time to load and unload baggage, what happens when you have a bag left no one is claiming? Now you'll be making a second round trip to/from the baggage car with the cart as I suspect no one wants an unclaimed bag left on the platform.
 
Still waiting for the geniuses on here to realistically solve these problems.

I'm surprised that this weak excuse is the best you could do - there are far more serious holes in my own suggestion that "could" gun up the works.

But on a train that makes 10 st i ps and takes 36 hours to do it, double spotting at even EVERY platform is a negligible amount of time.

But fine, why try anything, because something "could" go wrong. Heck, why even take the train? They "could" hit a log truck...

I'm sure your job would be much easier without those pesky passengers and there meddlesome things... ;)

#46 VentureForth

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Posted 13 June 2017 - 09:41 AM

Still waiting for the geniuses on here to realistically solve these problems.

Eliminate baggage cars all together. Add a coach, perhaps with a little more large baggage space near the vestibules.

Only time I've ever had large checkable luggage was on a Superliner and I just simply placed them in the hold on the first level.

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#47 jis

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Posted 13 June 2017 - 10:47 AM

The key phrase in AmtrakLKL's statements was "realistically solve"" :P



#48 AmtrakLKL

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Posted 15 June 2017 - 09:49 AM

GRV, despite awful calling times and only one train, is actually a pretty busy station. And when I've been there, I've seen quite a few folks checking baggage. Any word on whether baggage will be checked trainside at GRV?

 

I rarely check baggage, but when I do it's really needed--so little space for bags on Viewliners. And why the heck do they run baggage cars, if Amtrak's "trend" is to elminate checked baggage at more and more stations? 

 

GRV saw fewer passengers than Sebring, FL which just recently closed, as well. 2016 ridership was 11,935 in GRV and 16,414 in SBG. Interestingly, the next lowest ridership station still staffed in Florida is now Lakeland. My handle could become unstaffed! Eeks!    :help:

 

 

The key phrase in AmtrakLKL's statements was "realistically solve"" :P

 

I am absolutely open to realistic solutions to this issue, but I'm not sure any exist that would allow for a one-size-fits-most policy for unstaffed stations. At stations with a caretaker, is that caretaker actually there all day or just responsible or opening/closing the doors? Maybe full-time caretakers could be enlisted to help with checked baggage, ensuring it is tagged and ready in the appropriate position. I wouldn't expect them to start toting the luggage around and actually put it on the train, though. 



#49 ehbowen

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Posted 15 June 2017 - 01:38 PM

Maybe full-time caretakers could be enlisted to help with checked baggage, ensuring it is tagged and ready in the appropriate position. I wouldn't expect them to start toting the luggage around and actually put it on the train, though. 


The problem with that solution is that the station agents (whom I believe are all union represented employees) would (correctly) see that as a threat to their positions.

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#50 Lonestar648

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Posted 15 June 2017 - 03:20 PM

Are the caretakers paid or volunteers? If volunteers, then there are additional insurance issues. Who provides the caretakers?, the towns or cities? Now, the caretaker could roll out a cart when the station is unlocked and put it back when they lock up.

#51 A Voice

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Posted 15 June 2017 - 03:56 PM

Little more than thinking out loud (because I haven't thought the idea through very far), but Amtrak doesn't actually own many of the actual stations.  I am not sure that the local communities would have sufficient incentive to do so, but they should certainly be free to provide (pay for) personnel for checked baggage service at their local station.  This could entail the city paying a portion of the agent(s) salary, or even a city employee (in cooperation with Amtrak, obviously) performing the task.  



#52 Lonestar648

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Posted 15 June 2017 - 04:40 PM

Doing some research, I found some care takers open the station an hour before the train arrives until it departs. They sweep up and answer questions. It is a volunteer position. In NC, all the caretakers are part-time working for NCDOT. I found that some are hired part-time, usually a retired person, to open and close the station, by a non-profit station preservation group. Also, I found that Amtrak contracts out for part-time caretakers in some sites. Others are part-time with a city, county, or state or are full time with caretaking as part of their duties. In all instances, baggage handling is strictly off the job description because of the Union Agreement with the Amtrak Station attendants. Based on this, I don't see caretakers handling baggage. Also, there are so many entities that would have to agree to participate, there could never be any continuity.

#53 A Voice

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Posted 16 June 2017 - 09:31 AM

Doing some research, I found some care takers open the station an hour before the train arrives until it departs. They sweep up and answer questions. It is a volunteer position. In NC, all the caretakers are part-time working for NCDOT. I found that some are hired part-time, usually a retired person, to open and close the station, by a non-profit station preservation group. Also, I found that Amtrak contracts out for part-time caretakers in some sites. Others are part-time with a city, county, or state or are full time with caretaking as part of their duties. In all instances, baggage handling is strictly off the job description because of the Union Agreement with the Amtrak Station attendants. Based on this, I don't see caretakers handling baggage. Also, there are so many entities that would have to agree to participate, there could never be any continuity.

 

Thanks for your efforts at research.  Again, I haven't really explored the idea, but the fact that some states and/or communities already pay for a caretaker position would seem to open at least the possibility of their also contributing to staffing for other station services, specifically baggage handling (presumably an agent position, but given the varied circumstances and needs across the system, this could vary).  



#54 AmtrakLKL

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Posted 16 June 2017 - 09:57 AM

 

Maybe full-time caretakers could be enlisted to help with checked baggage, ensuring it is tagged and ready in the appropriate position. I wouldn't expect them to start toting the luggage around and actually put it on the train, though. 


The problem with that solution is that the station agents (whom I believe are all union represented employees) would (correctly) see that as a threat to their positions.

 

 

Station agents, called Customer Service Representatives now, are represented by TCU. I agree the union would take exception to their jobs being eliminated with similar functions replaced by a caretaker. That's among many reasons why I wouldn't expect nor want caretakers to handle the luggage. I'm looking for a middle ground that makes unstaffed checked baggage a little more feasible. If someone can answer questions and direct people in the proper direction that would help. It's not that much different than the caretaker directing someone to the restroom or where to stand on the platform for boarding coaches vs. business class, which I have seen in North Carolina.



#55 Lonestar648

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Posted 16 June 2017 - 03:33 PM

Would the caretaker rolling a cart out on the platform for passengers to place their checked bags be an issue.  A conductor would have to roll the cart to the Baggage car, but if the cart was located close to where the baggage care would stop it wouldn't take long.  The caretaker wouldn't handle any bags, just roll the cart in and out, and maybe answer some questions on how to tag the bags. five minutes to roll the cart out and five minutes to roll cart back in when they lock up.  With a small station with only a couple people getting on/off maybe the checked bags could be placed up into the car until a longer stop, then moved to the Baggage car.  At these small stops, the arriving bags would just be placed on the platform.  Not perfect, but maybe a start.



#56 me_little_me

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Posted 16 June 2017 - 05:40 PM

Today is the 16th. I checked the web site and it still shows there is checked baggage service in GRV. So I called Amtrak. The agent said there was no longer any baggage service or ticket machine.



#57 west point

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Posted 17 June 2017 - 10:05 AM

In our opinion the only way to say agents / restore furloughed is to get more passengers at these stations. More passengers ? Have more capacity of each train(s). More capacity ? add more revenue cars. More cars ? Get the appropriations for cars. It all comes down to get the horse before the cart. Everyone needs to write, call etc for more equipment. Then the US can have more trains and passengers !

#58 Thirdrail7

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Posted 17 June 2017 - 03:04 PM

I'm not sure that is the issue. What good is more cars and more passengers if they still use e-ticketing, don't use the self service ticketing machines and travel light?

 

From a business standpoint, why pay an employee if you can have a "volunteer" open and close the shelter and let the passengers take care of themselves? It is the current model. If you go to a large of retail stores, you'll find more self serve checkouts. People are accustomed to doing things themselves. Airports are using self serve check in kiosks.  This is because labor is expensive.


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#59 Lonestar648

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Posted 17 June 2017 - 03:18 PM

So how could baggage service be automated so little or no labor is involved? All I can think of is some sort of bin that passengers set their bags into and the baggage car grabs and lifts into the car, maybe setting an empty out first? Still takes time and has too many opportunities for errors. Until someone can invent a way to do baggage service without adding labor and costs, plus minimize the opportunities for Miss labeled bags, I see baggage service decreasing year by year.

#60 me_little_me

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Posted 17 June 2017 - 05:27 PM

A friend of mine had stopped by the Greenville station two days before they closed up shop as he needed to pick up his tickets for upcoming trip using pass. The agent told him Spartanburg had baggage removed, his station would be gone in two days and Amtrak intended to pretty much get rid of all stations having baggage service on the Crescent but do it one at a time to avoid getting it noticed in the media. Guess they'll use the new baggage cars in lieu of buying the new sleepers or canceling the remainder of the diners and serving hot dogs out of the baggage cars.


Edited by me_little_me, 17 June 2017 - 05:28 PM.





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