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

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 !

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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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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.

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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

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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.

 

As I previously indicated, there are existing stations that would likely benefit from baggage lite. The existing A/C that normally assists the station baggage personnel would merely hand the luggage off to the passengers. Does that mean a system wide implementation of baggage lite(as others have suggested) is in the works? Most likely not. However, most of the stations in the system never had baggage or ticket agents and passengers managed to bring what they could carry.

 

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.

 

I can't remember the last time SPB had a staff. If you exclude the corridor stops, only 10 of the 25 stops have any type of services and that includes ALX. Again, a lot of these cuts may be driven by things that are tracked, such as express and bike services. As an example, I'd have a hard time imagining them closing ATL, which receives internal shipments and express.

 

However, if MEI (which is a crew change) has an agent that sells an average of 2 tickets and rarely sees any parcel or express services, I can see them saying "why are we paying someone X amount of dollars when we can have a volunteer open and close the doors and a contractor clean up?"

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Well, the problem still remains that Amtrak LD is not a commuter service. Folks taking a LONG DISTANCE trip usually bring luggage along, and the Viewliner passenger cars aren't set up to accommodate much baggage.

 

Why are the Viewliners getting new baggage cars, if passengers at fewer and fewer stations are going to be able to use them? And how can the baggage those passengers bring best be accommodated?

 

I'm assuming here that Amtrak doesn't actually intend to tell increasing numbers of long-distance passengers: If you want to bring a suitcase or two, don't take the train.

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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.

 

As an example, I'd have a hard time imagining them closing ATL, which receives internal shipments and express.

I would guess NOL, (possibly) BHM, ATL, RAL then WAS up to NYP would retain baggage service on the Crescent. The rest of the stations would be SOL.

NOL has sufficient trains (Crescent, Sunset, CONO)

BHM - iffy

ATL - lots of passengers

RAL - Crescent and Star

WAS -> NYP - many trains

 

With RAL just 30 minutes away, my guess is that Cary is the next station to lose Baggage service.

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