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Tirnipgreen

Seating Protocol

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Will someone explain to me why I cannot board the Amtrak Crescent and find a seat that appeals to me...rather than have a power hungry conductor tell me to sit two-abreast in a packed area of those who's phones and computers are constantly buzzing...when there are plenty of empty seats in other areas of the same car or in other cars...? Why not make the long-distance ride ENJOYABLE instead of turning it into an exercise in patience...? I don't want to hear "there are large numbers of people ahead" ...if that is true(which I have found not to be the case most of the time), deal with it when it happens. It is my belief that they bunch people up to make their job a little easier...and the customer's journey rotten. Then they can go sit in the back of the Cafe Car and shoot the bull never checking on whether or not anyone on the train is playing their "device" without headphones, never announcing stops, smoking breaks, etc. I love riding the train, but when is the passenger ever given the respect that they deserve...? Some folks say that assigned seating reservations through the website would be a welcomed option...I think self-seating would be a great (and easy) place to start to address the issue.

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Wow, just wow. Let’s say they have a group of eight people boarding in a few minutes. Do you really think it makes sense to wait until they board, AND THEN have to shuffle around all the people who were sitting there? That is a total time consuming pain for everyone involved. And why would the crew go out of their way to bunch people together if there’s space? That’s just extra work for everyone. You don’t see everything that is going on or what the manifest says, so I don’t see how you can make a general statement that they are forcing you to sit in a place you don’t want, for absolutely no reason.

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OK...I have been riding Amtrak for 30+ years...it just seems to happen more time than not. I am not writing for my health. A group of eight is not the norm and they will have to roll with the punches like everyone else. I specifically cited instances where cars have many double seats empty from Atlanta to, let's say Philly and I am forced to sit among the non-headphone wearing YouTubers, Gamers and other electronic media blasters at all was hours of the night. I requested a change of seat to one that was ten rows back, and was denied. Again, PLENTY of empty two seaters available. I just don't get the reasoning behind the refusal. And what about reserved seating through the website...? It can't be all that difficult to set up from an IT perspective...challenging, but not insurmountable. You guys (and gals) are the experts, shed some light on the subject to help me understand this phenomenon of negative customer service.

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4 minutes ago, cpotisch said:

Wow, just wow. Let’s say they have a group of eight people boarding in a few minutes. Do you really think it makes sense to wait until they board, AND THEN have to shuffle around all the people who were sitting there? That is a total time consuming pain for everyone involved. And why would the crew go out of their way to bunch people together if there’s space? That’s just extra work for everyone. You don’t see everything that is going on or what the manifest says, so I don’t see how you can make a general statement that they are forcing you to sit in a place you don’t want, for absolutely no reason.

I think what the OP means is that seat blocking should only happen when there is actual group already booked and ticketed later in the trip and not just because a large group *might* show up just before the train arrives.  I don't think last minute bookings should reasonably expect to have a contiguous block of seats all to themselves.  Amtrak is well known for micromanaging coach seats, even on trips with light passenger loads, and deflecting requests with explanations that are eventually discovered to be erroneous or fabricated.  I can understand needing some buffer space for parents with kids or whatever but it's not uncommon for OBS to block off entire coach cars and simply shove everyone into the smallest possible service area.  This policy probably makes it easier on the staff but it also seriously undermines what should be a major benefit of train travel. 

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And to answer your question about how I can make a blanket statement that I am being forced to sit in a seat I don't want...

I am not given the choice when I buy my ticket and when I show up on the platform, I am given a little scrap of paper with a number on it. When I sit somewhere else or indicate I would LIKE to sit somewhere else I am given an excuse as to why I can't. Why not just say..."Go Ahead...!"

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I think this happens to single passengers, like me. Long experience shows groups of 2 or more are treated preferentially. It's the general rule in the travel "industry".

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Thanks Devil for nailing my point on the head. I am not an unreasonable person and would gladly accommodate any couple or group that needed my seat in order that their trip might be more comfortable. But when I see no staff enforcing the rules of courtesy that are clearly stated in the written literature by mentioning via the PA system that these rules are expected behavior or by walking through the cars every so often...I get irritated like most would. I still think it would be easier to just let folks sit where they want and move about as they please. Announce the stations that are approaching and allow people the freedom to enjoy the ride.

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Amtrak’s power trip seat management by Coach Attendants and Conductors on LD Coach only occasionally have a rationale. Anyway it has caused me to shun travel by Coach on Amtrak LD trains. I’d rather drive or fly if possible if I cannot get a Sleeper for reasonable price. Even when On rare occasions I have been downgraded from Sleeper to Coach due to misconnect, I have managed to get the portion refunded and flown instead.

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21 minutes ago, Tirnipgreen said:

Thanks Devil for nailing my point on the head. I am not an unreasonable person and would gladly accommodate any couple or group that needed my seat in order that their trip might be more comfortable. But when I see no staff enforcing the rules of courtesy that are clearly stated in the written literature by mentioning via the PA system that these rules are expected behavior or by walking through the cars every so often...I get irritated like most would. I still think it would be easier to just let folks sit where they want and move about as they please. Announce the stations that are approaching and allow people the freedom to enjoy the ride.

I pretty much empathize. One matter does trump (sorry!) the common sense you and some others here have written on this topic.

 

Coach attendants and conductors depend on those seat checks they place above where they tell you to sit. If you are allowed to move around at will, those seat checks become useless. You might sleep through your stop, because you won't be awakened by staff to get off the train. Others may not be able to use the seat which has your original seat check above it (now empty). Confusion will rein supreme.

 

Much better to let pax choose their seats upon boarding, before the conductor makes his or her rounds. But you should not move from that seat after the seat check is placed above you. And, if extenuating circumstances require, you should expect to be told to vacate the seat you've chosen -- such as if the conductor's manifest shows a group travelling together may need it. But other than that, I see no (good) reason why pax should not be able to choose their own seats upon boarding. 

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Tirnipgreen, most people on this forum will agree with you about this seating situation.  I have experienced the same situation. But, complaining on this forum doesn't help fix the problem. Please contact Amtrak with a strong but polite letter of complaint about this . I think your  post #1 should be prime reading for the head of the passenger operations department and the Amtrak  CEO. Thank you.

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I don’t think Amtrak really cares enough about such things to do anything about it. I have written and complained for over a decade about this to no avail. I have hence ceased to bother. They can fill those seats without me anyway and I can get better accommodation elsewhere, so all is good for all parties concerned - in a manner of speaking. When even Claytor couldn’t fix it I very much doubt Anderson will even bother. Just my limited observations based conclusions mind you.

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39 minutes ago, Skyline said:

Coach attendants and conductors depend on those seat checks they place above where they tell you to sit. If you are allowed to move around at will, those seat checks become useless. You might sleep through your stop, because you won't be awakened by staff to get off the train. Others may not be able to use the seat which has your original seat check above it (now empty). Confusion will rein supreme.

As long as you move the seat check (provided they don't write one for both seats) there should be no problem moving. I've done it a number of times.

I'm not going to comment about moving seats within a single car... not sure on my opinion about it, historically I've had no problems doing so & so have not seen the other side of the arguments.

I do understand restricting you to a car. Usually OBS will assign a car to a number of destinations, so that when the train stops at one of those destinations they only have a few doors to open. This is mainly because of the limited staff on board.

peter

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31 minutes ago, Skyline said:

ICoach attendants and conductors depend on those seat checks they place above where they tell you to sit. If you are allowed to move around at will, those seat checks become useless. You might sleep through your stop, because you won't be awakened by staff to get off the train. Others may not be able to use the seat which has your original seat check above it (now empty). Confusion will rein supreme.

Seat checks can pretty easily be moved. On the Builder, I've had conductors state over the PA something to the tune of if you move, make sure to move your seat check with you. That said, I've generally been able to at least choose my own seat within a section and not forced to a single seat.

Of course, some of this could also be solved by having the option to pick a seat in certain cars for an additional fee. It's one of the things that I like about Megabus; I can pay an extra buck and get a specific regular seat, or pay a bit more and get a preferred seat. I can also buy two tickets, reserve two seats next to each other, and know that I'll have both seats available for me. (I've done it without reserved seating as well and had good luck with bus drivers honoring both reservations so I can have a row to myself.) Amtrak, on the other hand, explicitly disallows this practice even though it could bring in more revenue with relatively little issue (if a train isn't sold out, just treat it as two people sitting there. On the off chance the train is oversold and having people sit in the lounge car isn't an option, simply put a clause in there that in such an instance the seat may be used and the extra seat fee will be refunded.)

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I am a volunteer host on NC's Piedmont trains.  When passengers board, they are told which car to go to but within that car they can sit where they want - with one exception.  There are blue signs which reserve certain seats.  These are placed above  2 groups of 4 seats where the seats face each other, so that families of three or more can be together.  There are also blue signs reserving seats for passengers with disabilities.  These are placed near the end of the car near the door and the restrooms.

It works pretty well except people tend to "miss" or ignore the blue signs.  After a station stop, the conductor will come by, scan tickets, place seat checks and generally move people out of those reserved seats if they don't belong there.  Once seat checked, it's okay to move to another seat - just take your seat check with you and avoid the blue signs.

jb

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1 hour ago, Tirnipgreen said:

...rather than have a power hungry conductor tell me to sit...

On board the train, he is Captain.  He is in command.   He is the dictator.   

Just as one would never question where Kirk tells them to sit (even those wearing a red shirt), one should never question the Conductor.

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3 minutes ago, Cho Cho Charlie said:

On board the train, he is Captain.  He is in command.   He is the dictator.   

Just as one would never question where Kirk tells them to sit (even those wearing a red shirt), one should never question the Conductor.

It is possible for a conductor to both have control over the train and also not exercise it in a way that makes passengers unhappy.  Given reasonable explanation, most people are willing to follow instructions if they understand why they are being asked to do something.  While I think it has improved somewhat in recent years, many Amtrak personnel act as though the passenger is not worthy of an explanation, and really should just be grateful that the crew is granting them the small mercy of a seat on the train.  It seems that many on board crewmembers seem to view the passengers as an impediment to their true career of occupying tables in the lounge and drinking coffee.

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I see multiple views on this. For one, it usually only happens on LD trains, not on shorter regional trains like on the Piedmont Trains. To some extent, I do believe that this is to help with boarding additional passengers at overnight stops.  It's not just staffing for multiple doors, it's platform length as well. There's lots of logistics the average passenger is not aware of. Think about this, if you are an attendant on the train, which is better customer service to ALL passengers. To assign seats so that you use all available seats so that it is easier and faster for passengers boarding down the line to find a seat?  Or is it better to just let everyone sit where they want and tell people "your loss" when they can't find seats together later on?  If they let every solo passenger take up 2 seats, now the solo passengers have to get moved if there is a couple that can't find a seat together... or does that couple not get to have seats together because you got there first? 

 Another point... on most airplanes you are assigned a seat and your seat mate (and those in front of and behind you) can be loud, annoying people. I get that it's a shorter flight, but still... not much you can do about it. So I'm not sure how having assigned seating would help you, you would still be assigned seats, just by a computer instead of the Conductor. I'm sure the Computer would be set up to fill solo seats first, and not assign you 2 seats by default. But at least you will know if you get the aisle or window if that's a preference.

Now let me also say this... I get it. Amtrak's attendants are not always friendly about this, and sometimes simple requests like "can I please have a window seat" are denied. I get it. I actually got very sick years ago when riding the Silver Meteor because I was assigned a seat close to the vestibule door and it got propped open with cold wind blowing on me as I slept overnight. After that I said "it's not worth it" and will only go business class or sleeper if those options exist. 

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12 minutes ago, crescent-zephyr said:

Think about this, if you are an attendant on the train, which is better customer service to ALL passengers. To assign seats so that you use all available seats so that it is easier and faster for passengers boarding down the line to find a seat?  Or is it better to just let everyone sit where they want and tell people "your loss" when they can't find seats together later on?  If they let every solo passenger take up 2 seats, now the solo passengers have to get moved if there is a couple that can't find a seat together... or does that couple not get to have seats together because you got there first? 

If the couple/group purchased their tickets before the initial manifest was printed at the route origin then it's reasonable to expect matching seats to be held for them.  On the other hand if the couple/group booked after the train has already begun its journey then they get whatever is left when the attendant receives the next manifest update.  It's silly for boarded passengers to be highly condensed for the entire route on the off chance that a large group of last minute tickets shows up out of nowhere toward the end of the run.

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It's not an off chance... Amtrak knows more people are going to be boarding the train. I would think the majority of times enough people are going to be boarding down the line that it's not practical to let solo passengers take up 2 seats for themselves. 

To be fair.. I don't ride coach that much (partially because of the OP's complaint) so maybe it's common for 3/4th's of the coach to be empty the entire journey and Conductors continue seating passengers in one tiny clump in the back 1/4th of the car. That's not an accurate picture of any train that I've seen. It's usually pretty full.

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2 hours ago, crescent-zephyr said:

It's not an off chance... Amtrak knows more people are going to be boarding the train. I would think the majority of times enough people are going to be boarding down the line that it's not practical to let solo passengers take up 2 seats for themselves. To be fair.. I don't ride coach that much (partially because of the OP's complaint) so maybe it's common for 3/4th's of the coach to be empty the entire journey and Conductors continue seating passengers in one tiny clump in the back 1/4th of the car. That's not an accurate picture of any train that I've seen. It's usually pretty full.

You keep harping on this idea of solo travelers blocking a second seat on a packed train.  Where are you getting that from?  I've seen nobody suggest or defend that.  So far your posts have basically boiled down to a Hobson's choice (arbitrary micromanagement vs operational indifference) and this solo barricade straw man argument.  If you choose to believe that when a train attendant denies someone the opportunity to move it's because they know someone else is going to need every available seat before reaching the asking passenger's destination that is your right.  All I know is that I've never once seen a train attendant check a manifest before launching into the "gotta big group boarding" deflection rant that never seems to materialize.

Edited by Devil's Advocate

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Attendants and Conductors will use the "group boarding down the line" excuse no matter what, we agree on that. 

I see the logic of trying to use up all available solo seats to allow for easier boarding down the line. If that's a straw man to you I can live with it. ha. 

I never said solo passengers will take up 2 seats, but what happens when down the line you need  2 seats together? You have 2 options, you can move the solo passenger back to where you had originally assigned him and say "I told you so" or you can let the couples and groups split up into solo seats (which is exactly how it works on short distance trains. I remember being excited to take my Mom on the Acela, and yet when we boarded at the origination in DC we couldn't find seats together because all the solo passengers had done exactly what they do if permitted.)

 

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1 hour ago, John Bobinyec said:

Doesn't Amtrak have an internal manual that tells the employees how to load the trains?  What does it say?

jb

I've not specifically looked, but I don't recall seeing anything about loading instructions: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BwoszLS0nWxPOGRfeXUtcllyak0/view?usp=sharing

peter

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C-Z...Again, I would never deny a pair the opportunity to travel together by clinching the seat with my fangs. I am gaining much insight into the process and protocol used in boarding passengers on LD trains. I have read of instances where conductors have allowed passengers to find their own seats and then take inventory after the train has departed the station. It seems to have worked well, being in line with standard operating procedures or not. I am by no means trying to create ill will here...just trying to understand where conductors acquire their demeanor for such lame passenger relations. The passengers are the reason they have a job. I rarely see them doing the things that I expect to see conductors doing...Making announcements through the cars, asking noisy passengers to please refrain, etc. I am sure they are taking care of the paperwork involved with the accounting of any type of passenger omnibus, which, I am sure,  is a huge responsibility. What I suggesting is to allow the paying customer some say in the selection of the one seat that THEY paid for. I am by no means suggesting that any passenger be allowed to occupy 2 seats unless there isn't another passenger that wants it. I think most of those reading this thread know good and well what I am asking for help understanding...and hence improving in the name of passenger satisfaction, and in turn keeping - the last inkling of American train travel alive.

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My wife and I don’t often ride coach but when we go to Tampa we do. The last time we went, we were told we had to sit in seats 29 & 30. When we got to our sears we noted that there was no window in that row and no one in any of the other lower numbered seats in the car. We complained moderately about having to sit in a row without a window when the rest of the car was empty and the attendant relented and let us sit one row further back where there was a window! All’s well that ends well!

 

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