Unaccompanied minor policy flexibility

Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by souvik234, May 27, 2017.

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  1. May 28, 2017 #26

    Devil's Advocate

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    The only horror story I've read about involving UM's on Amtrak was the result of Amtrak's own staff putting the rules above common sense. If I got it wrong then please link to whatever story involves whatever incidents you really meant.
     
  2. May 28, 2017 #27

    PRR 60

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    The incident on the Cascades started with the young girl telling the truth and giving her age as 15. It ended with the Amtrak violating their own rules and turning a minor issue into national news. Who came out smelling worse after that episode? Ironically, if the girl had been knowingly riding underage and simply lied about her age, there is a good chance nothing happens. No good deed goes unpunished.

    That begs the question: a person is on board, has a valid ticket, but looks underage to the crew. If a crew member asks their age and they say 16, asks for proof of age and they don't have any (they don't have to), then asks for their birthdate including the year (to try to trip them up) and they answer correctly, would that person still be tossed off the train just because they look too young? The crew would be betting that the kid is lying, and if they were wrong and the kid is 16, in this day of instant social media outrage, Amtrak would take a major hit. If I were the parent of a kid removed from a train without cause just because he or she does not look their age, I would be very, very unhappy. My guess is that the crew does what it can do to determine the age of someone who looks too young to be traveling alone, and if there is no proof the person is underage, they did their due diligence and move on.
     
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  3. May 28, 2017 #28

    Hal

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    They usually do tell the truth. But also you can have police come and question. Usually they won't lie to the police. Also can get the parents phone number from them and call them. Yes, if after doing due diligence and no proof the person is underage the crew would move on. In my experience that has never happened. It was always underage child.
     
  4. May 28, 2017 #29

    BCL

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    I don't think it really matters who, provided an adult brings you to the Amtrak station and can provide the name of the person picking you up. I would think it could even be an adult student there who would be willing to do it as a public service. The main issue is that often someone sent to pick someone up might be changed on short notice, but that's unacceptable for the unaccompanied minor policy. You'll probably need to find if they can do it at Springfield. Newark or NY Penn Station should be able to handle it.

    The really odd thing is that once you get there, you can probably take all the public transit buses you want or ride a taxi without any kind of restrictions. Springfield to Northampton doesn't look easy though.
     
  5. May 29, 2017 #30

    RSG

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    This very topic was discussed on another thread recently and your point-of-view seemed to be the dominant one. However, as a non-parent who did many things under the age of 18 which I wouldn't allow any kids of my own to do today, there are times when I feel we don't go far enough to protect minors (realizing that the magical ticking of a clock doesn't automatically transition someone into adulthood despite what laws may enable).

    Having had many friends throughout the years who are in such professions as teaching, social work, and public service, I've heard of a number of horror stories (and to be honest, many more which are not even horrific, just eyebrow-raising) about incidents which put young and/or vulnerable people in potential harm. I notice that most of the commenters here have referred to the OP's "parents", but I know from my friends that having under-18s from homes with two parents is almost not the norm, and often the "parent" isn't a biological one but perhaps a grandparent or other legal guardian.

    Which is to say that times have changed and the fact that third graders may have taken trains to school unaccompanied or to visit grandparents, etc once upon a time doesn't mean the same practice is wise or safe today. That is not to say that Amtrak's UA policy couldn't be tweaked a bit to make it more passenger-friendly, but I'm actually a bit surprised there aren't more untoward incidents which happen on a train. There are far more places for someone to have something happen on a train and for a longer duration of time than on an aircraft, which is probably the mindset with which Amtrak's policy was written. Yes, it makes it inconvenient for otherwise responsible parents or guardians to do the right thing and get their charges from Point A to Point B without a lot of hassle, but it provides for a greater amount of control and presumably safety.
     
  6. May 29, 2017 #31

    BCL

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    As far as I know, I haven't been on a public transit system that has a minimum age required to ride alone. At the age of 6 I lived about 2.5 miles from my school and I would regularly take a public transit bus by myself. My parents or uncle would drop me off at a bus stop and I'd get off at a stop a half block from school. At age 9 I was taking public transit by myself for musical training in San Francisco. I had red (90%) discount BART tickets and back then San Francisco MUNI's under 12 youth fare was 5 cents. As far as I can tell there's no particular minimum age for taking such buses or even commuter trains around here.

    I do get that air travel is a little bit more hectic, but certain at age 12 I'd hope that a kid would be able to figure things out. And these days everyone has a cell phone and GPS software in it, so that should make things easier.

    I guess that a popular perception is that a kid can just buy a bus ticket and go anywhere. Part of the plot of the Pixar movie Inside Out was of the protaganist buying a bus ticket from San Francisco to Minnesota. It must have been fictional since they let a 12 year old ride board a long-distance bus that will take days to get to her destination.
     
  7. May 29, 2017 #32

    Devil's Advocate

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    You're surprised more children aren't being attacked on trains more often? What a bizarre (and uniquely American) outlook. Statistically speaking, the primary threats to children come from family members, family friends, close neighbors, and other minors already known to the child. These are the sorts of people with easier opportunities for abuse than waiting to attack in public on a moving train. Actual strangers are far less likely to attack a child in the first place and yet far more likely to be suspected of foul play. Even in the case of the rare stranger that is both motivated to attack and willing to risk discovery, it's going to be a crime of opportunity rather than a crime of passion. That means probability of success and suitability of escape are going to be valued highly and are likely to delay or dissuade an attack on a train relative to other easier opportunities. If anything riding a train as a child is probably safer today than when most of us were children. Potentially safer than any other time in the history of train travel even.
     
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  8. May 29, 2017 #33

    souvik234

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    BTW, out of pure curiosity, I would like to ask,

    Does rail travel in Europe, or even anywhere else in the world have similar rules regarding minors ?

    Thank You,
     
  9. May 29, 2017 #34

    BCL

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    At least some do. I found Eurostar (via the Chunnel between England and France) has a similar policy as Amtrak. Under 12 requires an adult and 12-15 requires an unaccompanied minor form be signed. It doesn't sound like they require any payment, and they even say they don't really do anything other than watch the form be signed. Amtrak says 13-15, while Eurostar says 12-15. Amtrak requires a wristband and makes it seem as if they'll actually check the ID.

    http://www.eurostar.com/us-en/unaccompanied-minors

    http://www.eurostar.com/us-en/contact-us/frequently-asked-questions/your-booking/can-my-child-travel-alone-if-so-what-travel-documents-are-required

    http://www.eurostar.com/sites/default/files/pdf/unaccompanied_minors.pdf
     
  10. May 29, 2017 #35

    BCL

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    I looked up the policies for the UK, and couldn't find anything definite. It really depends on the rail operator, and there are several in the UK. Suffice to say, it sounds as if all of them would be OK with a 15 year old riding alone without provided there's enough maturity to do it.

    https://tickets.chilternrailways.co.uk/ch/en/faqs/ViewFaq?id=119

    Question:
    At what age can children travel on your trains unaccompanied by an adult?

    Answer:

    Chiltern Railways cannot take any responsibility for children travelling alone and we will not allow any child under the age of 12 to travel without an adult aged 16 or over. If our staff do believe that a child under that age is travelling alone, the British Transport Police will be called for assistance.

    https://www.virgintrainseastcoast.com/faq/on-board/babies-and-children/minimum-age-for-unaccompanied-children/

    At what age can children travel on your trains unaccompanied by an adult?
    There's no simple answer to that particular question. What we say is that children shouldn't travel on their own with Virgin Trains East Coast until they are mature enough to understand the unique risks involved with rail travel. Because responsibility for a child remains with the parent, or someone acting on behalf of the parent, only they can decide at what age their child is mature enough to travel alone. If we notice children travelling on their own and are worried about the child’s safety, we'll contact the British Transport Police for assistance.
     
  11. May 29, 2017 #36

    PeeweeTM

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    Tot add a datapoint from the Netherlands: my son at age eleven took a street car in Rotterdam to the train station. He took an Intercity to Amersfoort (runs every fifteen minutes), changed trains there and in Enschede took the bus to my parents.

    But we did that trip a couple of times every year, so he was well prepared.
     
  12. May 29, 2017 #37

    PeeweeTM

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    Oh, and to add another datapoint, the Dutch Railways (NS) have a ticket 'Jongerentoer' with which youths age 12-18 can travel during the holidays at a reduced price.
     
  13. May 29, 2017 #38

    souvik234

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    So, are American trains just more unsafe than the British ones, or is Amtrak being overprotective?
     
  14. May 29, 2017 #39

    Ryan

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    Americans are more likely to sue over something dumb.
     
  15. May 29, 2017 #40

    AmtrakBlue

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    I was thinking the same thing. We have a litigation happy society on this side of the pond. Don't know if it's some over on the other side.
     
  16. May 29, 2017 #41

    ehbowen

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    On the other side of the pond, if you sue over something dumb and lose then you have to pay the winning side's legal fees. It helps discourage people from suing over something dumb....
     
  17. May 29, 2017 #42

    BCL

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    Too small of a sample size. The issue is that Amtrak has been more or less been given a monopoly on intercity rail in the United States, and they have a single published unaccompanied minor policy. In the UK there's a variety of different operators, and I found three policies (unaccompanied check-in, no unaccompanied under 12, we know it when we see it) that are different.

    There are some tourist railroads in the US that don't seem to have any specific policy. I can't find anything for the Grand Canyon Railway. There are also some pretty long commuter rail lines, especially if you consider linking them together. None seem to have any official age policy that I can find, although I'm sure they would probably not allow a 4 year old to ride alone. Many seem to require a child alone to buy a full-priced ticket, as child fares usually require being accompanied by an adult.

    You could go a long way on commuter rail. I think it's possible to link a series of trips on SEPTA, NJT, and LIRR that totals 250 miles, which is longer than your particular trip.
     
  18. May 29, 2017 #43

    brianpmcdonnell17

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    The longest I could find is approximately 244.7 miles from Montauk, NY to Newark, DE. It would require at least 4 transfers (Babylon/Jamaica, New York Penn, Trenton, Philadelphia Center City) and 3 railroads (LIRR, NJT, SEPTA). If MARC and SEPTA are linked up, it will one day be possible to go from Springfield, MA to Spotsylvania, VA entirely by rail without using Amtrak.
     
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  19. May 29, 2017 #44

    neroden

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    Yeah, Amtrak has a completely BS unaccompanied minor policy, probably due to lawsuit fears. Good luck figuring out how to deal with it.
     
  20. May 29, 2017 #45

    Hal

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    I don't know but I am aware of times men tried to make "friends" with minors. Both male and female minors. The minors in a majority of those times were responding positively to the attention from those men. Perverts have their act down pat and can be persuasive to younger people. One minor tried to leave the train early but the minor was intercepted at the door. Have also had men touch, assault, young, but not minor men and women on the train.
     
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  21. May 29, 2017 #46

    Hal

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    Lawyers write the policy.
     
  22. May 29, 2017 #47

    Devil's Advocate

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    I've personally witnessed conductors, car attendants, and dining staff try to make "friends" with male and female minors. The minors seemed to respond positively to this attention. Were those employees "perverts" as well? If perverts are as common and as cleaver as you claim then they surely they've already infiltrated Amtrak's labor force by now. Good thing for Amtrak that being a friendly stranger isn't a crime, yet? Otherwise half the OBS might be charged with aggravated grooming by now.

    Finally we get to an actual crime on the train and we still don't have even a single example involving an actual minor. Not from you, not from Triley, and not from RSG. Big talk but no proof, let alone an actual conviction. Perhaps if you were to lower your standards even further and cast an even wider net you might eventually find an example somewhere, but if it takes that much effort then perhaps this endless sea of criminal perversion you're trying to sell us doesn't actually exist? Or at least doesn't exist in the manner described outside of your hyper suspicious imagination?
     
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  23. May 30, 2017 #48

    Lonestar648

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    Mid-teen minors ride METRA into and back out of Chicago for various classes like ballet. These kids either walk or take a taxi or the CTA in Chicago. There are no parents along, but these kids are young adults, mature enough to be throughly coached on being street smart. The Conductors know they are minors, but they also know these young adults know what to do if in a threat situation. The parents purchased the monthly pass for these young adults, so in doing so are giving permission. The teens are not buying and traveling without Adults knowing. That should be the key, did the parents buy the ticket thus giving permission.
     
  24. May 30, 2017 #49

    Steve4031

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    During my high school years between 1980 and 1985 I traveled by myself every summer using the all aboard America fares. You could have three stop overs and travel for a set amount of money. Iirc it was 279 in coach.

    During 1 such trip after my sophomore year, I had on incident. My route was chi-pdx-sac-chi. No overnight stop overs. On the CS a drunk male sat next to me at Eugene. He engaged in conversation with me and was initially annoying because he was interfering with my enjoyment of the cascades. Then he suggested I might want something to drink from the lounge car. I told him no and explained I was under aged and not interested in drinking. He insisted and got up to go to the lounge. I found the car attendant and explained my situation. As a teenager my primary concern was to stay out of trouble and not annoy any adult. So I was apprehensive about approaching the car attendant.

    I wanted to move to another car, but I also knew that moving myself and the seat check without permission would likely result in a scolding. I explained my situation and the car attendant was very helpful, even carrying one of my bags up to the next car. There was no window seats and I was seated in an aisle next to a girl who was my age. We flirted and acted silly but did nothing obnoxious. I saw the drunk guy walk through once, and I assumed he was looking for me. He didn't say or do anything.

    At the time he was just an annoyance. I was not thinking about pedophiles I was concerned with enjoying the train ride.

    My fathers goal in sending me on these trips was to encourage me to wait to get my drivers license and this keep insurance costs down. As a young railfan this was great. My classmates could laugh all they want. But those train rides were awesome.
     
  25. May 30, 2017 #50

    souvik234

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    OK guys,

    I finally got the University to provide someone at Springfield!.

    Thanks a lot for all the suggestions! :) :)
     

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