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adam_aussie

Maple Leaf and Coast Starlight - seating allocation?

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Hello,

I am considering travelling on the Maple Leaf service between New York and Toronto later this year, as well as the Coast Starlight between Los Angeles and San Jose.

These will be my first trips on 'long distance' Amtrak services and as such I would like to find out about the seating allocation process for both of these services.

For both trips I would like to have a window-seat, on the left side of the car as both trains run North and have the Hudson River and Pacific Coastline (respectively) on the 'left' side of the train during their journeys.

1) For these long distance services, are the specific seats allocated at the time of booking, or can you pick your specific seat at the time of boarding the train given it will be at the origin-station for both trips?

2) Am I correct in thinking all seats face in the direction of travel on these long distance trains?

3) At this stage I am to travel in coach class, however may consider purchasing a business class ticket if that may increase my chances of securing my desired seat?

4) For the Coast Starlight service, are the roomette/sleeper compartments located on both sides of the train or are they all positioned on the same side throughout the train?
If so, is it known which side they are on for the northbound trip?

 

5) What is the etiquette for the lounge car on the Coast Starlight? Can one sit there for 7+ continuous hours, or is it expected that passengers alternate between their allocated seat and the lounge car in shorter intervals?

 

Thank you,
Adam

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I do not know the CS well enough to answer, but as to the ML, if it is back at NYP when you are traveling, it originates there, and the best way to get seat of choice is to have a red cap pre board you.

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Hello,

 

I am considering travelling on the Maple Leaf service between New York and Toronto later this year, as well as the Coast Starlight between Los Angeles and San Jose.

 

These will be my first trips on 'long distance' Amtrak services and as such I would like to find out about the seating allocation process for both of these services.

 

For both trips I would like to have a window-seat, on the left side of the car as both trains run North and have the Hudson River and Pacific Coastline (respectively) on the 'left' side of the train during their journeys.

 

1) For these long distance services, are the specific seats allocated at the time of booking, or can you pick your specific seat at the time of boarding the train given it will be at the origin-station for both trips?

 

2) Am I correct in thinking all seats face in the direction of travel on these long distance trains?

 

3) At this stage I am to travel in coach class, however may consider purchasing a business class ticket if that may increase my chances of securing my desired seat?

 

4) For the Coast Starlight service, are the roomette/sleeper compartments located on both sides of the train or are they all positioned on the same side throughout the train?

If so, is it known which side they are on for the northbound trip?

 

5) What is the etiquette for the lounge car on the Coast Starlight? Can one sit there for 7+ continuous hours, or is it expected that passengers alternate between their allocated seat and the lounge car in shorter intervals?

 

Thank you,

Adam

1) No. When you board, it's usually free pickings, but sometimes the car attendant will direct you to a particular seat.

2) Yes.

3) It varies. Usually Business Class is less busy than coach, but that's no guarantee. I wouldn't bother paying the extra for BC, just for better odds at a good seat.

4) Roomettes are on both sides of the train. Bedrooms are on one side, but there's no way of knowing what direction the car will be pointed, and therefore what side that will be.

5) I would say that you should feel free to sit there as long as you want. Passengers are not allowed to use more seats than they're using, so if someone isn't letting you sit in an open seat, notify an employee. Likewise, if you have a seat in the SSL and you plan on leaving you're seat for more than a few minutes before coming back, to not try to hold onto that seat for when you come back. If you're taking a quick run to the bathroom and back, I would say that it's fine to try and hold onto your seat, but for much longer than that you've basically forfeited it.

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On the Coast Starlight, depending on where you're getting on and off, if you're in coach you will probably be directed to a specific car, but allowed to pick your own seat. In business class, since it's just one car, you can sit anywhere you want (with the caveat that Amtrak employees sometimes make up their own rules – no guarantees). The window seats on the side facing the ocean fill up first. Generally, business class is less crowded on the Starlight, and you have a better chance of getting a seat pair to yourself, if not a seat on the coast-side. There's also WiFi, which works sporadically – there's an inverse relationship between broadband availability and scenic value on the California coast :-).

 

Some crews will block off two full rows (8 seats) in business class and use it as their break area. If that's the case and the car is crowded, don't be shy about asking if you can sit there. The cafe attendant will sometimes block off the downstairs cafe/lounge seats, by spreading stuff over the tables and/or strategically placing a trash bin in the aisle. You can still sit there, though. Don't be shy.

 

Enjoy the trip!

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On the ML, I would seriously consider BC. It uses a BC with 2x1 seating!

 

Being that both NYP and LAX are the origination points of those trains, the seating will most likely be “chose your own seat”. There is no pre-choosing your seats like on planes.

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On the ML, I would seriously consider BC. It uses a BC with 2x1 seating!

Smaller windows, though.

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I do not know the CS well enough to answer, but as to the ML, if it is back at NYP when you are traveling, it originates there, and the best way to get seat of choice is to have a red cap pre board you.

Thank you for the suggestion. I hear that the Red Cap service is often a useful way to secure a preferred seat by boarding earlier than the masses.

 

 

Hello,

 

I am considering travelling on the Maple Leaf service between New York and Toronto later this year, as well as the Coast Starlight between Los Angeles and San Jose.

 

These will be my first trips on 'long distance' Amtrak services and as such I would like to find out about the seating allocation process for both of these services.

 

For both trips I would like to have a window-seat, on the left side of the car as both trains run North and have the Hudson River and Pacific Coastline (respectively) on the 'left' side of the train during their journeys.

 

1) For these long distance services, are the specific seats allocated at the time of booking, or can you pick your specific seat at the time of boarding the train given it will be at the origin-station for both trips?

 

2) Am I correct in thinking all seats face in the direction of travel on these long distance trains?

 

3) At this stage I am to travel in coach class, however may consider purchasing a business class ticket if that may increase my chances of securing my desired seat?

 

4) For the Coast Starlight service, are the roomette/sleeper compartments located on both sides of the train or are they all positioned on the same side throughout the train?

If so, is it known which side they are on for the northbound trip?

 

5) What is the etiquette for the lounge car on the Coast Starlight? Can one sit there for 7+ continuous hours, or is it expected that passengers alternate between their allocated seat and the lounge car in shorter intervals?

 

Thank you,

Adam

1) No. When you board, it's usually free pickings, but sometimes the car attendant will direct you to a particular seat.

2) Yes.

3) It varies. Usually Business Class is less busy than coach, but that's no guarantee. I wouldn't bother paying the extra for BC, just for better odds at a good seat.

4) Roomettes are on both sides of the train. Bedrooms are on one side, but there's no way of knowing what direction the car will be pointed, and therefore what side that will be.

5) I would say that you should feel free to sit there as long as you want. Passengers are not allowed to use more seats than they're using, so if someone isn't letting you sit in an open seat, notify an employee. Likewise, if you have a seat in the SSL and you plan on leaving you're seat for more than a few minutes before coming back, to not try to hold onto that seat for when you come back. If you're taking a quick run to the bathroom and back, I would say that it's fine to try and hold onto your seat, but for much longer than that you've basically forfeited it.

 

Thank you @cpotish.

 

With regards to answer #5 - Is the sightseer lounge car on the CS available prior to departure from Los Angeles or does it only 'open' after the journey has commenced?

To confirm; in theory would it be possible to sit in the lounge car for the entire 10+hour trip between Los Angeles and San Jose or would the car attendant be expected to politely ask some passengers to 'move on' from the SSL if they had been there for a significant amount of time and there were other passengers waiting for an available seat to sit in the lounge car?

 

Lastly, after viewing photos of the SSL car, are the single seats in a 'fixed' position or can they swivel to some extent?

 

 

On the ML, I would seriously consider BC. It uses a BC with 2x1 seating!

Smaller windows, though.

 

Thank you. I see the Maple Leaf uses Amfleet 1 business class cars.

Is the 2x1 seating always on the same 'side' of the train (ie. is the train turned before each journey) or does it vary depending on various factors?

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Thank you @cpotish.

With regards to answer #5 - Is the sightseer lounge car on the CS available prior to departure from Los Angeles or does it only 'open' after the journey has commenced?

To confirm; in theory would it be possible to sit in the lounge car for the entire 10+hour trip between Los Angeles and San Jose or would the car attendant be expected to politely ask some passengers to 'move on' from the SSL if they had been there for a significant amount of time and there were other passengers waiting for an available seat to sit in the lounge car?

 

Lastly, after viewing photos of the SSL car, are the single seats in a 'fixed' position or can they swivel to some extent?

When you board, you'll usually have to stay at your seat (or room) until your ticket is checked by the conductor. After that, feel free to move about the train and head over to the SSL.

 

The seats in the SSL don't really swivel anymore - if memory serves there was some safety issue a while back and they had to lock 'em in place. As to spending long periods of time in the SSL, I would say they usually won't care so long as you're not reserving seats or anything like that. However, different crews make up different rules, so I would say that it is possible that they make an issue of it, but that's not likely. And of course if there's plenty of available space in the car, there's really nothing wrong with staying there for a while.

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^
Thanks cpotisch. Lastly, how does one go about checking to see if there are available seats in the SSL car while the train is in motion between stations, in terms of not wanting to loose your 'standard seat' while going to check on the SSL?
Do you need to leave an item of clothing on your 'standard' seat, then get to the SSL car and if there is an available seat there temporarily 'reserve' it by putting a personal item on that seat while you return back to your standard seat to retrieve the item of clothing you previously left there?
(if that makes sense!)

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^

Thanks cpotisch. Lastly, how does one go about checking to see if there are available seats in the SSL car while the train is in motion between stations, in terms of not wanting to loose your 'standard seat' while going to check on the SSL?

Do you need to leave an item of clothing on your 'standard' seat, then get to the SSL car and if there is an available seat there temporarily 'reserve' it by putting a personal item on that seat while you return back to your standard seat to retrieve the item of clothing you previously left there?

(if that makes sense!)

Your seat is reserved. If you go into another car, you are at no risk of losing your seat, so don't worry about that.

Edited by cpotisch

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You don't lose your regular seat, your seat check (should) be indication that it is an occupied seat.

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Interesting answers above...

 

When I rode No. 14 from Los Angeles to Oakland on 28 April, to experience the Tehachapi detour, we were directed to "check in" at a certain ticket window, prior to boarding, to receive our car and seat assignment.

I got in line early, and was granted my request for a mid-car window seat. When I boarded my assigned car, I dropped my bag and jacket in my seat, and proceeded directly to the Sightseer Lounge, and selected a table window seat, with a working outlet for my smartphone. The train crew came thru later and scanned my ticket.

 

I was needlessly concerned about getting a seat in the SSL, because on that date, the train only had 88 total revenue passenger's aboard. I remained in that seat the entire trip, and the car was never more than about 2/3 full, the entire trip, and usually a lot less than that.

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cpotisch, PVD - Thank you for your replies. Now I understand the scenario.

railiner - Thanks for your reply, an interesting story. Although not great for business, low passenger numbers is certainly what one hopes for when travelling on a long distance train (even more for a long distance flight!) for little extra comfort.

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