Reserved seating to be tested on NEC

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Reserved seating to be tested on NEC

Postby Rockingham Racer » Wed Jan 31, 2018 6:30 am

According to a report over on Trainorders, a pilot project will be rolled out to test reserved seating on Acela First Class, then followed by select regionals in business class. It's about time. This has been going on for decades in Europe. Hopefully, it will reduce the angst while boarding of trying to find a "good" seat.

Maybe SeatGuru.com could help us out here.
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Re: Reserved seating to be tested on NEC

Postby Patrick Boylan » Wed Jan 31, 2018 7:23 am

But has it worked in Europe? Who has experience, or knows of legitimate reports? I've heard stories from a couple of friends who say it works only at the trains' original stations, at any intermediate stops everyone sits in whatever seats they want depending on who boards 1st.
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Re: Reserved seating to be tested on NEC

Postby Bob Roberts » Wed Jan 31, 2018 8:16 am

Patrick Boylan wrote:But has it worked in Europe? Who has experience, or knows of legitimate reports? I've heard stories from a couple of friends who say it works only at the trains' original stations, at any intermediate stops everyone sits in whatever seats they want depending on who boards 1st.


It works very well in Europe. Aside from a couple of issues where D Bhan had to switch train sets due to a failure, every time I had reserved a seat the seat was available to me, intermediate station or not. This was over a year of moderately intensive rail travel througout Western Europe. It did help that just about every rail company provided you with a seat map and allowed you to choose your seat when online booking. And there was usually extensive signage telling you what part of the platform to stand for the appropriate car. Keep in mind that not every train is reserved and reserved trains (or classes) often required a premium.

Having said that, I think American's are a bit less inclined to follow the 'rules' so it would certainly be a bit messier here. Business and first should work fine and the reserved seating would allow Amtrak to ditch the 'reserved for parties of two or more' signs which make it awfully tough to find a 'good' seat when traveling solo.
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Re: Reserved seating to be tested on NEC

Postby mohawkrailfan » Wed Jan 31, 2018 10:56 am

Imagine, a married couple sitting together on a train from Philadelphia to DC. Could such a thing be real?
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Re: Reserved seating to be tested on NEC

Postby EuroStar » Wed Jan 31, 2018 11:42 am

The one drawback of reserved seating is that boarding takes longer as now everyone needs to board the correct car. It can also be a great aggravation at stations where only a door or two are opened and your seat is in the car at the other end of the train. For those reasons, I doubt that it is a viable option for all NEC trains, but it could probably work well enough for the Acelas with their fixed consists and limited stops.

I have seen two ways in which reserved seating works. The first one is for a central computer to keep track of the reserved segments, so that once a seat is empty after an intermediate station it can be resold to another customer. This is efficient, but during off-peak time periods could lead to cramming passengers into a few cars while the other cars ride empty if the computer algorithm focuses too much on the efficiency during the early sale periods. This assumes that everyone needs a reserved seat even if they board at an intermediate station. In all cases I have seen in Europe, the whole train is reserved seating, so any extra charge for the reserved seating is basically a price increase for every seat on that train. Certainly the extra cost is worth for some passengers in terms of peace of mind which seat they will get when boarding, but that is about it as it is current practice for Amtrak to not sell more tickets than there are seats on the train anyway, reserved or not. At least on some trains in Europe, they will sell as many tickets as there is demand for even if there are not enough seats on the train -- it is my understanding that this is what unreserved seating in Europe is. It is basically what you get in the US on a commuter train -- if you are lucky, you have a seat, if not you are standing. In Europe I have stood on a train for 4 hour trips regularly. The second way I have seen reserved seating done in Europe is on those unreserved trains. They will actually sell each seat once and only once to anyone willing to pay extra regardless of their boarding station. That way I have gotten on a train without paying the extra for a specific seat, found an empty seat, but three stops later someone shows up with a paper ticket paid for that exact seat and I have ended up standing the rest of the way (because of course all seats are full at that time). This scheme raises extra revenue, but is aggravating to the passenger who needs to free the seat at the intermediate stop. I do not see this latter scheme being a workable option on the NEC or elsewhere in the US.
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Re: Reserved seating to be tested on NEC

Postby Hawaiitiki » Wed Jan 31, 2018 11:48 am

Patrick Boylan wrote:But has it worked in Europe? Who has experience, or knows of legitimate reports? I've heard stories from a couple of friends who say it works only at the trains' original stations, at any intermediate stops everyone sits in whatever seats they want depending on who boards 1st.


I have direct experience using it Germany. It works very well, no doubt in part because people are used to it. And yes it really takes the stress out of it. Usually for a small fee, you can pay for a reserved seat, otherwise you have to look around for a seat ala Amtrak. So I feel like if done correctly, Amtrak could charge the same prices and throw in a $15-20 upsell to not have to fight for a seat.

HOWEVER ONE BIG DIFFERENCE, ICE trains in Germany have LED displays above every seat that display whether the seat is reserved or not AND for how long (e.g. Reserved from Hamburg to Bremen, then free). Amfleets do not have this important capability which takes the human-error component and argument potential out of the equation.
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Re: Reserved seating to be tested on NEC

Postby mkirsch » Wed Jan 31, 2018 2:25 pm

Isn't most of the hangup with finding a seat because you are trying to not have to sit next to a stranger?

With reserved seating, isn't the chance that you're going to get stuck sitting next to some "icky" stranger greatly increased? You have no idea who reserved the seat next to yours, and no control over it either.
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Re: Reserved seating to be tested on NEC

Postby Morning Zephyr » Wed Jan 31, 2018 4:09 pm

Long overdue. I have ridden Acela first class several times, most of the time using upgrade coupons, and the main reason to not waste the more than $100 in fare difference is that the passenger has no assurance that the seating arrangement is going to be much better than simply riding coach. (The inclusion of the meal is a positive difference.) Yes, if you get on at an endpoint, or get lucky somewhere along the way, you have a chance of getting a single seat, but otherwise you are likely to end up sitting next to someone or riding backwards or worse yet sitting at a four top table staring at two strangers. Being in coach is preferable to that option, especially since the quiet car option is available - I would rather sit next to a stranger, facing forward, in the quiet car of coach than sit facing a stranger in so-called first class. (The pitch in Acela First and the pitch in Acela Coach doesn't seem appreciably different, at least not so much so as to justify the higher fare.) I was recently on an Acela first class car when a group of four business people boarded at Baltimore, intending to dine and work together on their way to New York. Collectively, they probably paid around $500 extra to travel in first class, rather than coach. That's exactly the lucrative market Amtrak should be trying to attract and keep - hard to beat the benefits of a party of four being able to sit together, have a relaxed meal, talk their business. But, instead, the four of them had to scatter into different rows, all of them sitting with strangers, rather than with each other. That's not a first class experience. I am sure all of them were sitting there wondering what they had paid all that money for, when we all know that the technology exists to enable reservations. As usual, it is not the technology that is lacking, it's Amtrak's habitual indifference to customer needs.
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Re: Reserved seating to be tested on NEC

Postby JimBoylan » Wed Jan 31, 2018 6:01 pm

Somehow, Amtrak can alread handle specifically reserved seating in Sleeping cars for day use.
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Re: Reserved seating to be tested on NEC

Postby Greg Moore » Wed Jan 31, 2018 6:55 pm

Keep in mind, the Acelas were built with this in mind. I can't recall if the LEDs are still there above the seats, but I believe this was rolled out when the Acelas were initially brought online, but stopped shortly afterwards.

As for Amfleets, yeah, might work limited in business class, but I can't see it working on steerage.
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Re: Reserved seating to be tested on NEC

Postby Tadman » Wed Jan 31, 2018 7:37 pm

I think it's great for steerage and once implemented on long distance trains, will seriously cut dwell time. Right now, you have 30 people get on in a midsize city and they they roam endlessly trying to find the perfect seat, I.E. one with no seat mate. Then the conductor has to get on the intercom and tell people to sit down and quit hoping for a two-fer.

It gets old, and it is not safe to have 30 people roaming around with suitcases at 79mph.
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Re: Reserved seating to be tested on NEC

Postby dumpster.penguin » Wed Jan 31, 2018 8:20 pm

Choice of "window" (heat and electricity) or "aisle" (neither of those) should be in the hands of the traveler. So I hope this experiment is not like the no-choice-in-the-matter track-side seat assignment on the Capitol Ltd and Crescent, where the car attendant gives you a number before you board.
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Re: Reserved seating to be tested on NEC

Postby east point » Wed Jan 31, 2018 8:47 pm

EuroStar wrote:The one drawback of reserved seating is that boarding takes longer as now everyone needs to board the correct car. It can also be a great aggravation at stations where only a door or two are opened and your seat is in the car at the other end of the train. For those reasons, I doubt that it is a viable option for all NEC trains, but it could probably work well enough for the Acelas with their fixed consists and limited stops.
.


IMO this will only work if stations have boarding stations listed on the platforms. Suspect that Arrow does not have the computing capacity to do this at present. That will also require trains stopping at the proper point so boarding queues line up with train doors which will require stop signals for the engineer to stop within 5 feet of proper location. Actually doors should line up outside of queues to allow passengers getting off space..

Also Amtrak will have to make very big efforts to have the car number displayed near each door.
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Re: Reserved seating to be tested on NEC

Postby mtuandrew » Wed Jan 31, 2018 9:10 pm

If Megabus can handle reserved seating, so can Amtrak. As for car number, why not have the ticket printed “car 1, seat 1A” through “car 8, seat 15d”? The number only needs to be based on the position from the locomotive, not the actual car number as assigned by Amtrak.
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Re: Reserved seating to be tested on NEC

Postby JimBoylan » Wed Jan 31, 2018 9:58 pm

Institutional Memory is needed here.
Amtrak still does this today with Sleeping Cars. Locations in the train are not known for sure until the train is made up in the yards, and then this information (the consist) is put into Amtrak's computer, so that station personnel down the line can make proper announcements about the platform location for various cars. For some stations, there are timetable or other instructions about where the engineer must stop his train, and how he must vary that stopping place based on the number of locomotives and head end (non passenger) cars. If you are boarding at an unstaffed station, you might call Amttrak, ask Jullie for an Agent, and ask that the consist for that train be pulled up so that you can be told where your car is in the train, and wait on the proper end of the platform.
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