An Indictment of American Rail Travel??

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Re: An Indictment of American Rail Travel??

Postby Nasadowsk » Mon Mar 12, 2012 4:40 pm

tgolanos wrote: I'm not too sure about how it works in der Schweiz, but in Germany the S-Bahn is run by Deutsche Bahn. Maybe that makes selling tickets easier?


*shrug* last time I was there, in Hamburg, I used an operation called NOB to get to Itzhoe. Got the ticket from a DB ticket machine. They didn't seem to care.

Germany's model of ticket machines is particularly nice - you can buy pretty much any ticket, anywhere. Nice economy of scale, there.

A great deal of S-Bahn passengers in Berlin would like a different operator to run the service.


*shrug* It ran a hell of a lot better than anything stateside when I was there.
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Re: An Indictment of American Rail Travel?

Postby amtrakowitz » Mon Mar 12, 2012 4:46 pm

I haven't heard of anything like this happening stateside.
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Re: An Indictment of American Rail Travel??

Postby Clearfield » Mon Mar 12, 2012 6:33 pm

Unification of agencies prevents the level of patronage available. For instance, the Delaware Valley is served by SEPTA, DRPA, NJ Transit (the River Line and to a lesser extent, the AC line), and Amtrak. Unification would allow seamless fare payment, schedule coordination, more efficient resource allocation, and so on.

Another major barrier is the embedded investment in the highway system. Most states and the Federal government have no firm consistent policy on protection of this strategic resource.

If Ike had favored rail as opposed to highways, Europe would be looking at the USA as the world model.

Just my 2 cents.
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Re: An Indictment of American Rail Travel??

Postby SouthernRailway » Mon Mar 12, 2012 7:32 pm

Go to any airport and each carrier typically has a separate check-in area, lounges, gates, kiosks. etc.

Why is Amtrak being "indicted" when airlines do the same thing? Heck, at LaGuardia, US Airways and Delta even have their own separate buildings, even.
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Re: An Indictment of American Rail Travel??

Postby Nasadowsk » Mon Mar 12, 2012 8:42 pm

SouthernRailway wrote:Go to any airport and each carrier typically has a separate check-in area, lounges, gates, kiosks. etc.

Why is Amtrak being "indicted" when airlines do the same thing? Heck, at LaGuardia, US Airways and Delta even have their own separate buildings, even.


Because in the rail world, they're fairly unique. When you go overseas, you buy a ticket from a ticket machine. Heck, when I was in Europe, I traveled the Dutch rail network with tickets purchased via DB's online service. The crews didn't care, I wasn't kicked off the train, World War III wasn't declared - everything went fine.

At Itzhoe, I purchased ICE tickets from Hamburg to Berlin. At 2am. Along with S Bahn tickets. For a city a few hundred Km away.

The best practice in .eu is Switzerland. Zurich to Oerlikon? Buy a ticket. Take any mode you want. It's one ticket, for EVERYTHING. Zurich to Winterthur was the same way.

In the US, fare payment methods aren't consistent between operators and in the case of some systems, aren't even consistent WITHIN an operator. Why the heck should Jamacia to 34th street be a different ticket / ticketing method for each mode of transit? Why does NJT have 3 different payment methods, plus add PATH, there's a 4th method. Neverminda SEPTA. Buy your ticket on board for some lines, pay as you leave on others, pay as you enter on others, tokens on others?

It makes zero sense. Most of the world isn't like this.

And let's cut the 'but there are many operators!" crap - go look at how many operators in Japan take Pasmo or Suica (among the other cards, which themselves all interoperate to an extent anyway).
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Re: An Indictment of American Rail Travel??

Postby 25Hz » Mon Mar 12, 2012 8:51 pm

I dunno. Lot of things would have to change for this to work.
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Re: An Indictment of American Rail Travel??

Postby Mcoov » Mon Mar 12, 2012 10:15 pm

At the Providence, RI station, Amtrak tickets are bought at the ticket window, while MBTA tickets are bought at a café across the waiting area. This is one instance where they should be consolidated.
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Re: An Indictment of American Rail Travel??

Postby amtrakowitz » Mon Mar 12, 2012 10:52 pm

Mcoov wrote:At the Providence, RI station, Amtrak tickets are bought at the ticket window, while MBTA tickets are bought at a café across the waiting area. This is one instance where they should be consolidated.

There used to be only rush-hour MBTA trains serving Providence during the week until about '06 when the state of Rhode Island started funding MBTA service; before that, the vast majority of trains terminated at South Attleborough. The arrangement probably dates back to that time. Amtrak operated MBTA commuter trains until 2003.
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Re: An Indictment of American Rail Travel??

Postby jstolberg » Mon Mar 12, 2012 11:35 pm

I was at one lonely port once where 3 car rental agencies had counters. Each rental agency had an agent that was supposedly "on duty" but the reality was that they would take turns with one at a counter and the other two off the premises on break. When I showed up and there was no agent at the counter for the rental agency I had a reservation with. Her competitor showed me to a phone where I could call her cell and my agent showed up about 10 minutes later.

The situation was one where one person could handle the job for all three car rental agencies, but each company had someone on their payroll. The agents, of course figured it out, and each worked 1/3 of a shift being on call for the other 2/3rds.
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Re: An Indictment of American Rail Travel??

Postby orangeline » Tue Mar 13, 2012 7:15 am

With reference to NY Penn Station and the area around Philly, at one time those services WERE unified -- it was called the Pennsylvania Railroad. But trains were considered old-fashioned and highways and airplanes were the transportation modes of the future so that's where the money went. Passenger rail services were divided up among local operating agencies and Amtrak was created to handle longer-distance services.

Also, let's keep in mind that agencies such as NJT, SEPTA, MARC, and MBTA provide other services beyond commuter rail, e.g. buses, light rail and heavy rail subways and within each agency there is the ability to move from one form of transport to the other.

Look at Chicago -- you have CTA, Metra, South Shore, and Pace -- four agencies that provide the same services that, say, MBTA offers in metro Boston. Perhaps there should be a single unified operation that can efficiently provide seamless service in its area? In my opinion RTA is a lousy example.
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Re: An Indictment of American Rail Travel??

Postby Noel Weaver » Tue Mar 13, 2012 7:59 am

It would be wonderful if Amtrak, Via and all of the commuter rail systems in North America could sell transportation for each other. It would simplify trips especially for those who are not even aware in some cases of the existance of services that might be available in some places. Having said that, unfortunately it is not really practical today. What could happen and help in a big way is for a unified timetable showing at least an outline of services that are available and available at a small cost nationwide. I am sure that many LD or semi LD travelers would like to go somewhere in Illinois, New York, New England and yes even Florida where there is connecting commuter service available but they have no easy way of finding out what is available, when it is available, how much does it cost, restrictions if any and a host of other information. For the most part it is guess, guess and guess some more. The internet helps in a big way but many folks still do not have internet and some others do not have internet when they are traveling. A nationwide guide to train services like they have most other places would solve this part of the problem. I do not think a publication like the Official Guide of bygone years would do the job, the "Guide" often did not carry schedules for commuter trains as the commuter agencies had to pay to list them and while a detailed listing of all trains on Metro-North or the Long Island would not be necessary a detail schedule would be necessary in the case of a line that has only maybe five round trips a day running over it. A list of the stations served, how often the trains operate and running times would be enough in most cases. I have seen many Amtrak passengers here in Fort Lauderdale wonder in amazement when they see a commuter train here, they were not aware of such service. Tri-Rail passengers often are not aware either that they can board a train in Fort Lauderdale twice a day and ride through to New York or Washington or some other destination north.
As for through ticketing, as much as I would like to see it available again like it was years ago, I do not think it would be possible today. Every carrier has different rules, different forms of tickets, different ways of collecting revenue and different about everything else regarding fares and tickets. Amtrak is mostly all reserved these days and IL can't see an Amtrak ticket agent trying to figure out how to handle a ticket sale for Metro-North or the Long Island when that same agent has a number of Amtrak passengers waiting to handle arrangements for a train that will be coming in to the station shortly. Even the tickets are not the same anymore, some have magnetic strips or other information on them, others do not, some outfits do not even have ticket offices anymore. I think the presence of Amtrak TVM's or commuter rail TVM's in stations that are served nearby or in the area would help; an example of this could be Amtrak TVM's in some Long Island or Metro-North stations that handle a considerable volume of traffic but do not host any Amtrak service. In South Florida for example we have Tri-Rail and Amtrak running over the same tracks and for the most part they use the same stations except in Miami where they are separate, not really close by and in a bad neighborhood as well. Still they use the same stations at Hollywood, Fort Lauderdale, Deerfield Beach, Delray Beach and West Palm Beach. The only station of all of them that has both Amtrak and Tri-Rail ticket agents is West Palm Beach. Amtrak has ticket agents at all of the ones I mentioned except Delray Beach while Tri-Rail has agents at West Palm Beach, Pompano Beach, Metro-Rail Transfer and Miami Airport although the airport station is closed temporarily. Today vending machines do the job, they do the job in New York and a lot of other places as well and they help keep the costs down so they are not going to go away. Do I have the answer, not really although as a start I think a nationwide travel guide such as I mention earlier would be a good start. It could be put out by a private orginazation and sold at maybe three or four dollars a copy at ticket offices, newstands or other outlets. I'll reserve my first copy.
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Re: An Indictment of American Rail Travel??

Postby Jeff Smith » Tue Mar 13, 2012 10:39 am

SouthernRailway wrote:Go to any airport and each carrier typically has a separate check-in area, lounges, gates, kiosks. etc.

Why is Amtrak being "indicted" when airlines do the same thing? Heck, at LaGuardia, US Airways and Delta even have their own separate buildings, even.


Airlines do cross-ticket, though. If you're embarking from an airport served by a different carrier than the airport you're going to, you still only get one e-ticket and pay one inclusive fare (sans all the add-on fees they have now like baggage, which can either be pre-paid or paid at departure). Even in the days of manual ticketing (where the tickets actually had a cash value/were negotiable) they were all standard format. Tickets were very fungible, if I'm using the term correctly. Even today, most of the paper transactions by airlines is standardized format, e.g. boarding passes, etc.

MNRR and I think LIRR did at one point provide through ticketing onto NJT for Meadowlands sporting events. It can be done.

As we get further along in fare collection technology, it becomes very easy to do this. Whether it's smart phones, e-ticketing, etc., the tech is out there. Bar code readers in IPhones, etc.
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Re: An Indictment of American Rail Travel??

Postby jbvb » Tue Mar 13, 2012 12:13 pm

Some of this is money. When Amtrak ran the Boston commuter services for the MBTA, they sold Amtrak and MBTA tickets at the same windows. This stopped because the MBTA wouldn't give them a cut after the ceremonial "we hate Amtrak" and the switch to MBCR.

Some of this is complexity: Of the European railway operators I've done business with, Deutsche Bundesbahn invests the most in handling ticketing throughout the country and into other countries - their system is usually aware of through schedules, fares etc. But SNCF doesn't know details of Belgium - they just sell you an "Anywhere in Belgium" ticket if you ask, and you get to discover the scheduling once you get off the international train. This also applies to the Dutch; I suppose it's natural for the smaller countries. But the Swedes know details of Denmark and Germany. The UK is in between, you can book a trip that uses Virgin Trains from a ScotRail or East Coast employee, but their knowledge of discounts and validity is not always current. If you want something the web site can't do, you go to the Reiseburo (or equivalent) whose specialists have access to multiple systems.

I would use it if we had it, but at the bottom, I'd say we don't care enough. Kind of like how we can't run either trains or buses on time, at least compared to several other countries I've visited.
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Re: An Indictment of American Rail Travel??

Postby num1hendrickfan » Tue Mar 13, 2012 12:20 pm

Jeff Smith wrote:
SouthernRailway wrote:Go to any airport and each carrier typically has a separate check-in area, lounges, gates, kiosks. etc.

Why is Amtrak being "indicted" when airlines do the same thing? Heck, at LaGuardia, US Airways and Delta even have their own separate buildings, even.


Airlines do cross-ticket, though.
That's usually because those airlines are part of an alliance comprised of other airlines and are honoring various code-sharing agreements with those airlines. Essentially they are operating as one, but they are really two airlines. It's pretty much unheard of to see airlines of two different alliances cross-ticketing. The only way Amtrak could pull off a system like that would be if they were to enter into an agreement with VIA in Canada, whereby you could get anywhere in North America by purchasing through a unified system. That in my opinion would be in the best interests of all rail travelers.
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Re: An Indictment of American Rail Travel??

Postby Jeff Smith » Tue Mar 13, 2012 12:41 pm

I guess what I mean is single itinerary flying. If Delta is your only choice on one end, and United on the other, and you got to one or the other's sites, you get a ticket all the way through, don't you? Ditto on any of the travel sites like Travelocity.
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