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Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by rickycourtney, Dec 8, 2019.
Full story: https://wwmt.com/news/local/kalamazoos-amtrak-ticket-window-to-close-in-2020
I'm not altogether surprised. The ticket window is mostly used for announcements at this point.
The status board (which updates in real-time) makes the announcements moot, and there are arrows on the building that point in the direction of Chicago and Detroit.
For those who don't have a smartphone, there is a Quik-Trak machine near the entrance.
State of Michigan must be looking to reduce costs of the blue water and wolverines as that station has quite a big ridership to destaff and I believe they’d have to agree to this change and they’ve made a number of these cuts in Michigan the past couple years. My biggest problem with these cuts is the loss of baggage and passenger assistance which makes the stations less accessible. Amtrak should just reduce the staffing levels rather than eliminate altogether - but state of Michigan has challenges and is likely looking to reduce costs of the service.
Well, and Amtrak has made a hash of costs on this end as well...and IIRC there are practical issues with simply replacing Amtrak staffing with a state/local employee.
At least in this case, it doesn't affect passengers' ability to check bags, since none of the Michigan trains offer it in the first place.
Looking closer at the staffing hours, I am not surprised at this change now. Kalamazoo was only staffed Tuesday-Saturday (no staffing Sunday and Monday) and not for every departure - only staffed 8:30 - 4. This probably means they had a single agent and if I had to guess they are retiring. The state likely doesn't care if they weren't even staffing this every day. Michigan is probably letting all its stations go as the agents retire. Unfortunate as in my opinion staffing is more than about selling tickets.
I think you are absolutely right. A staffed station can be very helpful to those who may need assistance and those who do not often travel by train including first-time train riders. An unstaffed station is not particularly welcoming.
Has Michigan considered a volunteer "station host" program like California's? (Info: https://www.stationhost.org/)
They can welcome passengers, provide assistance using the Quik-Trak kiosk/Amtrak app, and answer basic questions and probably some complex ones too.
North Carolina and Kansas have station host volunteer programs, at certain stations as well. I.e. for Kansas, at least the Dodge City station has one. For North Carolina, Greensboro, Raleigh, Charlotte, and a few others have them.
Considering how much Amtrak ridership there is in Michigan, I'm surprised that state hasn't created such a program. It'd also be nice if Illinois and other states with state supported trains(i.e. Missouri, Oklahoma) looked into creating such a program for their trains at least at busier station stops, as well.
The State of Michigan already runs a volunteer/semi-paid keeper program for several of its over 100 lighthouses (in conjunction with a NPO). A similar program for its (fewer than 100) train stations would not be hard to do.
Norman, OK, has had two volunteer caretakers for over five years, and the OKC Santa Fe Depot, which contains a restroom, is at least opened by a caretaker each day. Norman (12,500) and OKC (44,400) were the only Oklahoma stations with double-digit ridership numbers last year.
A Station Agent is not necessary. A station host, imho is.
we shoud start buying Amtrak tickets from stations instead of online to boost patronage.
I almost always buy from the station except when I can't (AGR redemption travel as Amtrak still doesn't allow stations access to that system.) There were originally plans for that to be added but it hasn't happened under Anderson. One of the really annoying things is that even in the premium Metropolitan lounge as soon as you have an issue related to points the lounge agent can't help you and you have to use the call center.
Recently I was in DFW airport. My incoming flight from DCA was so late that no more flights remained to PDX, my destination, at least on AA. I had an appointmenet in Portland at 11AM. So I tried United, only to learn that at DFW, one of the larger airports in the US, you cannot buy a ticket, at least on United! Must be done on-line! How does someone without a bank account and credit card travel by air these days?!
(I stayed the night at DFW (Motel 6 ... sigh) and left on the first AA flight in the AM, arriving at 11:30AM or so. Not too bad.)
Yeah not a fan of the unstaffing trend.
I’m not going to drive 40 minutes round-trip when there’s an option to purchase online.
Drive sixty miles to just buy a ticket? Really?
To be fair, Kalamazoo isn't exactly a desolate station with zero services that leaves everyone to their own devices. It is an intermodal station that also hosts the city's bus system (Metro Transit) and Greyhound/Indian Trails.
There are at least 3-4 non-Amtrak staff members around at all times, from early morning to late evening, and the police maintain a presence after dark. The station also has a cafe, vending machines, nice bathroom facilities, and plenty of benches. I have personally witnessed the Greyhound/Indian Trails and Metro Transit staff answer questions about Amtrak once the Amtrak window has closed. I have no doubt they can answer basic questions posed by a first-time traveler.
This page has a decent collection of exterior and interior photos: http://michaelminn.net/railroads/stations/kalamazoo/index.html
And once again, Amtrak window isn’t open every day and not for every departure.
I buy from my station because I live 10 minutes away and it can be on my way home from work. 40 minutes would certainly be a stretch!
It's more than 3 hours for me, alas. SInce they've eliminated staffing at stations between Charlotte and Atlanta....
I don’t think we should be replacing paid employees with volunteers in any craft. That’s basically what Rail museums are volunteer station agents. And our national railroad shouldn’t share things with volunteer railroads in the middle of nowhere.
I think station services staff are the most under appreciated employees under the current administration when Anderson talks about how for just about everyone their customer service experience begins on the train. I think that’s a slap in the face to red caps, station agents and the Acela lounge agents. Sure there are some not great station employees out there but there are also a lot of great ones. Ticket agents importance should not be based on ticket sales. Many people who buy their tickets online go up to the ticket window to ask questions about the train and the like and in my opinion that is just as important as actually selling a ticket. It’s basic customer service at Amtraks medium and large stations to have someone available to help you. And also staffed stations are more accessible and usable for people with special needs. Those are important things that just seem to be under appreciated.
I can't disagree with either of you. Unfortunately, things are headed in the opposite direction.
At some supermarkets and Walmarts, past a certain point in time on a daily basis, self-service checkouts are the only option available, even with a full cart of groceries. (I imagine they have an ADA-compliant backup plan in place if necessary, but I've not seen it used.)
When Virgin Hotels opened their property in Chicago a few years ago, what really created buzz at the opening was the lack of a staffed front desk for most of the operating day. Check-ins were processed online and any interaction with staff seemed to occur only after guests were already checked into their room. (Locals can update us with any changes to that policy in the intervening time.)
Banks, such as the institution which issues AGR's credit products, are opening brand spanking new branches---but many are simply enclosed kiosks with ATMs and booths with video displays where customers can connect to a remote agent who will assist with account questions or help you with a mortgage or another complex product.
For better or for worse, I only see this trend expanding in the near future. To that end, Amtrak is just catching up--and keeping up--with the Joneses and their companies.
No front desk appears to be the norm at many Ibis properties.
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