Washington Post on Boarding Amtrak, Particularly at Washington Union Station

Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by DivMiler, Dec 2, 2018.

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  1. Dec 2, 2018 #1

    DivMiler

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    DivMiler

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    The Washington Post has an article on boarding concerns on Amtrak -- why is it so hodgepodge and at Washington Union Station (WAS) and New York Pennsylvania Station (NYP) non-sensical?  I haven't been on many other railroads around the world, but I've wondered about the boarding policies on Amtrak -- why take up room in the station instead of down on the platform?
     
  2. Dec 2, 2018 #2

    neroden

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    More "convenience of the employees, to hell with the customers" attitude.  This is the sort of thing which you'd think Mr. Anderson would change, but probably not; he doesn't seem to understand what sort of organization he's running.
     
  3. Dec 2, 2018 #3

    John Bobinyec

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    At New York and Washington, many of the platforms are not all that wide and are shared by a track on both sides.  Imagine letting people congregate on the platform waiting for their departure when another trainload of people arrives on the other track.  Now you have baggage carts trying to address the arriving train while the platform is doubly full of people.  Oh, and don't say simply route the incoming train to another track - it's not that easy, especially in New York.

    Suppose you had a platform full of people waiting for a departure, and the track changes.  Why, you say, would that happen?  Oh, let's see, equipment failures, switch failures, ..., any number of snafus.

    You definitely do not want to move people to the platform/train until it's ready.  Now you might try to improve making that happen earlier.

    At other places, such as in Norfolk Southern territory, the railroad does not want anybody up on the platforms until it's time for their train.  In that case I would guess that it's partly for their concern of being sued in case somebody gets hurt.

    jb
     
  4. Dec 2, 2018 #4

    greatcats

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    Create another bureaucratic management job for what could be a fairly simple solution.   Go Anderson! Duh!
     
  5. Dec 2, 2018 #5

    caravanman

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    Talking of WAS station...   Playing around on Amtrak .com I looked at travel from WAS to NOL in January next. Crescent "sold out" which I guess means cancelled.

    No alternative routing via Chicago offered.

    NYP to NOL, no problem via Chicago.

    Dumb or what?

    Ed.
     
  6. Dec 2, 2018 #6

    AmtrakBlue

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    Annual track work - Crescent does not run between NOL and ATL during this time period.  Sold Out instead of Cancelled is due to not knowing the exact dates (the host railroad determines that).
     
  7. Dec 2, 2018 #7

    caravanman

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    Indeed, it was more the fact that the system does not offer any train options from Washington to NOL via Chicago as an alternative on the website that is dumb...

    Ed
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 2, 2018
  8. Dec 2, 2018 #8

    AmtrakBlue

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    Ah, misread your post.  Yeah, that is strange.
     
  9. Dec 2, 2018 #9

    jis

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    So how come LIRR and NJT which together carry 80% or more of the passengers at NY Penn Station do not go through the Amtrak charade. Do the platforms grow extra narrow only for Amtrak trains? Departures are generally announced ten minutes before the designated departure time, with a track number, and people find their way to the platform through multiple staircases available - thus dispersing the crowd, instead of being corralled together by a single staircase thus creating a safety hazard for all. There is absolutely no logic to what Amtrak does at Penn Station in New York. Just IMHO of course. Many rail "experts" have tried to come up with logical sounding reasons but none has so far been convincing. :lol:
     
  10. Dec 2, 2018 #10

    John Bobinyec

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    So what you're saying is that the platform/train is ready 10 minutes before departure time.  I'm fine with that.  I think what you're saying is that Amtrak waits too long to get things ready.

    jb
     
  11. Dec 2, 2018 #11

    jis

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    Amtrak usually announces their departures ten mins or so ahead too. I think Amtrak's insistence that all their passengers wait in a single file line at a single staircase instead of making use of all available staircases to get to the platform creates an unnecessary overcrowding and confusing situation in its concourse. If LIRR and NJT insisted on such nonsense, the whole station would collapse in a heap of confusion.
     
  12. Dec 2, 2018 #12

    John Bobinyec

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    I'm a host on our NC Piedmont and Carolinian trains.  As part of that I also work Raleigh and Charlotte stations.  I'm struck by the innate urge people have to get in lines.  I think it's because folks want to get that golden window seat (in the case of our Piedmonts, a forward-facing window seat).  I try to tell them there's no need to get into a line - there's room enough for everyone, but it doesn't work.

    jb
     
  13. Dec 2, 2018 #13

    jis

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    Getting in line on their own is one thing. But forcing everyone to go through exactly on entry point when there is half a dozen available is another thing altogether. It is the latter that Amtrak tries to orchestrate. I think it is mostly a job preservation plan. Maybe they should preserve more jobs by hiring more gate dragons so that they can put one at each stairwell leading to the platform, if that is so important.
     
  14. Dec 2, 2018 #14

    William W.

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    The VRE and MARC seem to manage just fine without gate guards. Sometimes I can sneak by if the tracks are connected to the VRE entrance, but I think they’ve mostly sealed that one up. 
     
  15. Dec 2, 2018 #15

    cpotisch

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    Well when I catch #97 in two weeks, my plan is to just head down to the tracks from the middle level and board early. I’ve been checking the NYP “Find Your Way” app every day and have been keeping record of the tracks the Meteor has usually been using (usually 12W). Now I imagine that the vast majority of people don’t know that they can bypass all the lines and head down from there, and I agree that things would move a lot faster for everyone if they made it clear that that’s an option, but then again, this way, I do have the quite nice (and selfish) benefit of being able to skip all the lines while everyone is bunched up upstairs. ^_^
     
  16. Dec 2, 2018 #16

    Triley

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    Does LIRR or NJT discharge passengers at the same time as loading them? Nope...not at terminals.
    Image 400 people trying to get off the train, with 400 people trying to get ON the train, so you've got 800 people on the platform. Say NJT rolls in and dumps off 300 people in to the mix.

    Do you really think it's safe to have 1100 people on those platforms at once? Do you really think that's going to speed up the process? No...It's going to slow it down. Some of the Amtrak platforms certainly do get narrow, and I feel like some of the LIRR platforms are wider, but I've honestly never been down to their platforms, so I can't say for certain.
     
  17. Dec 2, 2018 #17

    Manny T

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    It's a great article, insofar as it recognizes a real problem customers at WUS and NYP experience every day.

    The solution they propose--letting PAX access the platforms and spread out well before departure -- may not necessarily be the best or only solution, but it doesn't detract from the value of the article.

    I think this passage deserves highlighting: "“According to operations management research, engaging passengers in service-related activities — for example, moving to the platform or boarding the train — gives them the impression that their service has begun, which can reduce anxiety and make waiting more tolerable.”

    Apart from letting PAX access the platforms, which I don't necessarily endorse for the reasons stated (narrow platforms and need to service the trains via the platforms before PAX arrive), the following has always concerned me about the boarding mess at Penn and WUS: 

    1. Why are the gates posted so late in the departure process, like 10 minutes? Of course people are going to rush. Why can't gates be posted earlier?

    2. Do seniors board first and are they supposed to congregate at the front? Not consistent across Amtrak, at any given station, or any particular train (in my experience).

    3. Will I have to take out and show my ticket at the top of the escalator? Again, not consistent. Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

    4. Why do many/most European trains leave from the same track every day (in my experience) but not Amtrak? They even post the consist and the location of cars along the track in many stations.

    Amazing that no-one at Amtrak has responsibility for the boarding process.
     
  18. Dec 2, 2018 #18

    the_traveler

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    I have been at NYP many times when on 1 side of the platform is an Amtrak train arriving (with checked baggage) and on the other side of the platform is a loading NJT train.

    But I agree, the single file and 1 stairway/entry makes no sense. Especially for originating trains, why not use say 9E and 9W instead of just 9E? :huh:
     
  19. Dec 2, 2018 #19

    jis

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    You do realize that you are arguing against a strawman that covers everything other than the one point I made. I did nor say anything about when you tell people to go to the platform. You could do so after the disembarkation is done. I have no problem with that and that addresses what appears to be your primary concern.

    And BTW both LIRR and NJT board a train that has just arrived and is disembarking passengers in some cases. They just announce the platform later than usual in those cases to let the platform clear of disembarking passengers.
     
  20. Dec 2, 2018 #20

    Dakota 400

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    As a sleeping car passenger on #97 later this month, boarding at Washington, would engaging the services of a Red Cap help to keep me from the long lines (which I saw for myself during my Summer visit to Union Station)?  If so, I assume that I could ask the Club Acela attendant to request a Red Cap for me.  Correct?
     
  21. Dec 2, 2018 #21

    cpotisch

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    Correct. My grandparents have used Red Caps at NYP many times to board early and skip the lines. Just make sure you tip appropriately!
     
  22. Dec 2, 2018 #22

    daybeers

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    Everyone knows NYP is bad and nobody understands why they only open up one escalator instead of two. At least on the Regionals, they already let everyone off and then there is usually a couple minutes of waiting until the new passengers start boarding. However, as this article shows, there is absolutely no reason for the lines at WAS. It's been made even worse recently with the removal of much of the seating around the gate areas, presumably to deter homeless people from sleeping there. Amtrak Police already has a large presence at WAS so if they wanted to keep the homeless away why can't they just enforce it? It shouldn't come at the expense of paying passengers not being able to sit down while waiting for their train.

    Whenever I take a train from WAS, I just show up about ten minutes before departure time and walk right through the gate because by then most people have boarded. Sure I may not get a window seat, but one will open up at some point, be it WIL, PHL, or NYP. Besides, I'll probably have someone sitting next to me anyway so really what's the point of standing in line for upwards of half an hour?

    I think the issue is people just follow the crowd and the lines just get worse. Once people see others lining up, they think "oh that must mean the gate is going to open soon, I'll get in line then!"
     
  23. Dec 2, 2018 #23

    PaulM

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    The long lines you saw must have been coach passenger, especially those heading for a NER train.  Boarding 97 from Club Acela will just be a small group leisurely doing the kindergarten walk.  Besides, if you have a sleeper, what's the hurry?

    Of course a redcap would be useful if you want a ride or help with baggage.
     
  24. Dec 3, 2018 #24

    John Bobinyec

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    I've experienced the mad rush for a NJT train once the track is posted.  I've never felt completely safe being washed down the stairs by the human tsunami.  On the other hand, a single line to a single gate seems to be something that people respect and they literally "fall in line" with no mad dash, pushing or shoving.

    The single line may be slower, but in my opinion, it's safer.

    jb
     
  25. Dec 3, 2018 #25

    Dakota 400

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    At this stage of my life, a "ride" is preferable than a "walk".  (Still am able to walk and am thankful for being able to do so!)

    Yes, I witnessed long lines for several times during my visit to Washington's Union Station.  NEC trains, as well as the southbound Silver Star, all had long lines.  It would help if Amtrak, in my opinion, would provide a "snake-like" pattern within the Gate area rather than allowing these lines overflow outside of that area.  What I saw was much wasted space within the Gate area that could accommodate a "snake-like" pattern with proper stanchions/cords being established.  Doing so might be too labor intensive to set up such a pattern for the number of trains that depart Union Station.  Even providing such a situation within the Gate area, given the number of passengers I saw ready to board their train, the line might well extend beyond the Gate area.
     

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