bording process at Washington Union Station

Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.

Moderators: GirlOnTheTrain, gprimr1, Amtrak67 of America, Tadman

bording process at Washington Union Station

Postby TomNelligan » Sun Dec 02, 2018 10:44 am

This morning's Washington Post has an interesting article on the general chaos that often characterizes the boarding process at Washington Union Station. His observations certainly apply to a number of other busy stations as well.

Head to Union Station any time during the busy holiday season, and you’re likely to encounter a familiar ritual: scores of train passengers shuffling into long, snaking lines that extend past the shops and cafes, perhaps beginning at one gate but stretching two or three others past it. Inevitably, a passenger will ask whether they’re in the correct line. It seems suspect, after all, to be lining up at Gate F for a departure from Gate J. Meanwhile, long train platforms that could accommodate the crowds are ghost towns until the boarding process begins — and the sudden stampede of luggage wheels against the pavement signals the coming departure.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/tr ... story.html
TomNelligan
 
Posts: 3282
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2004 5:43 pm
Location: Massachusetts

Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Postby Nasadowsk » Sun Dec 02, 2018 3:19 pm

And Amtrak trots out the standard excuses as to why it has to be this way.

News to Amtrak: In Europe, they service the trains in terminals, too. Hell, they even change power in terminals. Yet, you can walk right up to the platform and wait there for your train to be ready. At Stuttgart, I sat out at the end of the platform for 45 min watching traffic go in and out.

Nobody cared.

When my train was ready to board, the doors opened, and I walked on.

This whole thing of treating customers like cattle is pretty much unique to Amtrak and north America. You don't see it elsewhere.
Nasadowsk
 
Posts: 3898
Joined: Thu Mar 11, 2004 10:45 pm

Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Postby PC1100 » Sun Dec 02, 2018 5:44 pm

This is an issue of inadequate concourse space, not the boarding process. Restricting boarding until the determined time (by station/operations forces) has been around in the U.S. for well over a century. It started in none other than Commodore Vanderbilt's Grand Central Depot with the "Doormen" (known as "Gatemen" on the rest of the NYC and other roads, or "Usher" on others such as the PRR) controlling platform access (typically under authority of a stationmaster) for none other than the aforementioned reason of safety. In fact, the original purpose of the main concourse of GCT was for crowds to wait at the gates and the process was still used for Amtrak trains there until the end in 1991. When was the last time you saw wide open gates at an airport? Comparing a long distance/intercity railroad to a subway is comparing apples to oranges. I highly doubt this was an issue 60-70 years ago when traveling by train was much more common in this country, and concourse space was set up to properly handle the crowds. A similar problem exists at Chicago Union Station. Open up that concourse space (make it a true train "concourse") between the North and South gates and you'd see the difference. Scroll halfway down the page on this link for a historic reference, Michigan Central Station in the 1950s: https://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/2 ... -look-back

Delays tend to exasperate the situation, but even then, with adequate concourse space the traffic flow would be a lot smoother. Unfortunately, long ago the economics of passenger railroading and terminal operation have made it seem much more worthwhile to the operators to cut the space up into retail and other uses.

I should mention that the situation seems worse in more crowded stations. Having followed the same boarding process in Seattle and New Orleans, I can tell you the experience is much better than in crowded, cluttered spaces like the Washington Union Station and Chicago Union Station boarding areas.
PC1100
 
Posts: 126
Joined: Fri Apr 14, 2006 1:58 pm
Location: Westchester County, NY

Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Postby Nasadowsk » Sun Dec 02, 2018 6:33 pm

PC1100 wrote:Comparing a long distance/intercity railroad to a subway is comparing apples to oranges.


The TGV is a subway. Today I learned...
Nasadowsk
 
Posts: 3898
Joined: Thu Mar 11, 2004 10:45 pm

Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Postby SouthernRailway » Sun Dec 02, 2018 7:38 pm

At Grand Central Terminal, you just walk into any platform at any time. Metro-North passengers often wait on the platform before their train arrives.

When Amtrak runs trains from Grand Central, ONLY Amtrak makes people line up away from the platform before boarding.

I also discovered that Amtrak makes people line up at only one end of the platform (as there are north and south entrances to most platform). I have crept onto the platform from the other end. The Amtrak staff will yell, but there’s no harm done.

So clearly Amtrak’s “line up and wait” boarding is just make-work and an unnecessary hassle for passengers.
SouthernRailway
 
Posts: 1379
Joined: Fri May 27, 2011 8:27 pm

Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Postby PC1100 » Sun Dec 02, 2018 8:01 pm

Nasadowsk wrote:
PC1100 wrote:Comparing a long distance/intercity railroad to a subway is comparing apples to oranges.


The TGV is a subway. Today I learned...


My mistake, I should have been more specific. I was referring to the U.S. Particularly the reference to the Amtrak vs, the Washington Metro.

SouthernRailway wrote:At Grand Central Terminal, you just walk into any platform at any time. Metro-North passengers often wait on the platform before their train arrives.

When Amtrak runs trains from Grand Central, ONLY Amtrak makes people line up away from the platform before boarding.

I also discovered that Amtrak makes people line up at only one end of the platform (as there are north and south entrances to most platform). I have crept onto the platform from the other end. The Amtrak staff will yell, but there’s no harm done.

So clearly Amtrak’s “line up and wait” boarding is just make-work and an unnecessary hassle for passengers.


Until the mid 1980s all trains at GCT were "gated." When the train was ready to board the brakeman or conductor would give the gateman ("usher" from the Penn Central era onward) a wave to open the gate, and that's when the train would start boarding. After the massive reduction in Ushers in the mid-1980s this ended for all but Amtrak trains. If you go back to the New York Central/New Haven RR era, you had to go to the Station Master's Office to get a special pass to go beyond the gates if you did not have a ticket (ie. if you were there to help an elderly person get on the train). What you see is only what it has become after years of the old system breaking down, not as it what was designed and as it was done for decades. See image #10 on this link: http://trn.trains.com/railroads/railroa ... to-gallery

Several years back I spoke with a long time Amtrak customer service rep in Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal who explained to me how frustrated the station staff was over the removal of all but one of the boarding gates. This was due to the addition of stores and the LA subway entrance in the 1990s, all within what had formerly been the "controlled" area behind the gates. The frustration was the difficultly of now dealing with uncontrolled masses of people while trying to get baggage trucks through.

Let's also consider the fact that the subway lines have controlled fare areas in terms of turnstiles, so the platforms are not just "open" to the public - passengers only.
Last edited by PC1100 on Sun Dec 02, 2018 9:22 pm, edited 2 times in total.
PC1100
 
Posts: 126
Joined: Fri Apr 14, 2006 1:58 pm
Location: Westchester County, NY

Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Postby PC1100 » Sun Dec 02, 2018 8:27 pm

PC1100 wrote:
Nasadowsk wrote:
PC1100 wrote:Comparing a long distance/intercity railroad to a subway is comparing apples to oranges.


The TGV is a subway. Today I learned...


My mistake, I should have been more specific. I was referring to the U.S. Particularly the reference to the Amtrak vs, the Washington Metro.

SouthernRailway wrote:At Grand Central Terminal, you just walk into any platform at any time. Metro-North passengers often wait on the platform before their train arrives.

When Amtrak runs trains from Grand Central, ONLY Amtrak makes people line up away from the platform before boarding.

I also discovered that Amtrak makes people line up at only one end of the platform (as there are north and south entrances to most platform). I have crept onto the platform from the other end. The Amtrak staff will yell, but there’s no harm done.

So clearly Amtrak’s “line up and wait” boarding is just make-work and an unnecessary hassle for passengers.


Until the mid 1980s all trains at GCT were "gated." When the train was ready to board the brakeman or conductor would give the gateman ("usher" from the Penn Central era onward) a wave to open the gate, and that's when the train would start boarding. After the massive reduction in Ushers in the mid-1980s this ended for all but Amtrak trains. If you go back to the New York Central/New Haven RR era, you had to go to the Station Master's Office to get a special pass to go beyond the gates if you did not have a ticket (ie. if you were there to help an elderly person get on the train). What you see is only what it has become after years of the old system breaking down, not as it what was designed and as it was done for decades. See image #10 on this link: http://trn.trains.com/railroads/railroa ... to-gallery

Several years back I spoke with a long time Amtrak customer service rep in Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal who explained to me how frustrated the station staff was over the removal of all but one of the boarding gates. This was due to the addition of stores and the LA subway entrance in the 1990s, all within what had formerly been the "controlled" area behind the gates. The frustration was the difficultly of now dealing with uncontrolled masses of people while trying to get baggage trucks through.

Let's also consider the fact that the subway lines have controlled fare areas in terms of turnstiles, so the platforms are not just "open" to the public - passengers only.
PC1100
 
Posts: 126
Joined: Fri Apr 14, 2006 1:58 pm
Location: Westchester County, NY

Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Postby Greg Moore » Sun Dec 02, 2018 9:11 pm

What I find particularly frustrating is that at the Albany, NY train station, for years you could stand on the bridge over the tracks and wait for your train. This gave a nice few of the tracks and provided additional waiting area.

Now... you have to line up. I've been told it's for "security" reasons.
Check out QuiCR, Quick, Crowdsourced Responses for businesses.
Greg Moore
 
Posts: 5175
Joined: Sat Mar 13, 2004 12:15 am
Location: IT Consultant

Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Postby east point » Sun Dec 02, 2018 9:57 pm

Actually at GCT you could access any platform by walking between the gates and the track endings. Just had to find one open gate for commuter train(s)
east point
 
Posts: 1079
Joined: Tue Feb 16, 2016 1:50 pm

Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Postby STrRedWolf » Sun Dec 02, 2018 10:55 pm

Consider the following:

Short of a nuke, both Grand Central and NY Penn Station are far away from Wall Street (a high value target). Washington DC is fairly short to the White House, Congress, and the Supreme Court (all high value targets). Yet Amtrak has a unified-for-uber-traffic-stations policy to force you to line up. Washington Union Station has it, Philadelphia 30th Street has it, New York Penn has it. I bet Boston South Station has it too.

So it's not security. What could it be?

The only time it makes sense is when an equipment change or restock occurs. I can see a restock at WAS and NYP. I've seen the engine change at 30th Street PHL for the Pennsylvanian, and I think they do a crew change and restock as well. You got carts going left right and center, and having people in the way slows things down because safety first and running over people delays trains and costs more money. Besides, on certain tracks in WAS, the platform is never wide nor high enough. Thus, it's a safety issue... and I think MARC presented it as that when the change was announced years back.

Grand Central can get away with it because it's trains are just hauling humans. Nothing that needs refreshing -- that was removed decades ago. The only carts needed are for helping elders and emergency crew, which flashing lights and sirens. People know about those. Amtrak is doing a lot more at those stations, and thus it can't.

The other way of arguing it is "Why doesn't BWI, Baltimore, New Carrolton, Wilmington, or Newark Airport do this?" Simple: The trains aren't getting refreshed/reloaded/reconfigured. They're just passing through. Stop, unload humans, load humans, go. That's it.
"The last and final stop is BALTIMORE PENN STATION." I can has MARC V?
User avatar
STrRedWolf
 
Posts: 1082
Joined: Sat Oct 24, 2015 5:18 pm
Location: Baltimore, MD

Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Postby JimBoylan » Sun Dec 02, 2018 10:58 pm

east point wrote:Actually at GCT you could access any platform by walking between the gates and the track endings. Just had to find one open gate for commuter train(s)
Or, like at Reading Terminal, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, run the wrong way through one of the exit gates.
JimBoylan
 
Posts: 3265
Joined: Mon Apr 12, 2004 2:33 pm

Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Postby mackdave » Sun Dec 02, 2018 11:26 pm

Heaven forbid we service the train BEFORE it arrives at the platform! That might cost a few bucks to have a service facility for Passenger trains. The United States will go bankrupt if it spends anything to make the lives of the owners (citizens) acceptable. Where is the logic?

mackdave
mackdave
 
Posts: 71
Joined: Fri Jul 29, 2011 6:48 pm

Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Postby x-press » Mon Dec 03, 2018 12:49 am

Exacerbating the problem: Still no assigned seats except in first class Acela.

Forces everyone who gives a hoot about where they sit to line up an inordinate amount of time ahead to make a mad dash to the train.

And it doesn’t have to be universal. In the UK, at least as of 2010, one could opt for assigned or un-assigned seating. No additional charge. Find your coach, find your seat, seat check with your name on it. Beautiful.

Lines get shorter, people who opt for unnassigned can trample all over each other while the assigned folks finish their beer.

I do agree that the concourse issue is a massive problem. The union station was done in an era where Authorities still couldn’t accept that passenger rail wasn’t just going to fade into a novelty. When built, that area was one of, if not the, largest rooms in the world, presumably to handle crowds. It’s bad enough to let a station die from neglect, but to spend massive amounts of capital to prettify the station and all but destroy its functionality? Wow.
Long-Distance trains are the root of all evil in the known universe.
x-press
 
Posts: 294
Joined: Mon Aug 16, 2004 11:32 am
Location: Baltimore, MD

Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Postby SouthernRailway » Mon Dec 03, 2018 5:27 am

PC1100 wrote:
Nasadowsk wrote:
PC1100 wrote:Comparing a long distance/intercity railroad to a subway is comparing apples to oranges.


The TGV is a subway. Today I learned...


My mistake, I should have been more specific. I was referring to the U.S. Particularly the reference to the Amtrak vs, the Washington Metro.

SouthernRailway wrote:At Grand Central Terminal, you just walk into any platform at any time. Metro-North passengers often wait on the platform before their train arrives.

When Amtrak runs trains from Grand Central, ONLY Amtrak makes people line up away from the platform before boarding.

I also discovered that Amtrak makes people line up at only one end of the platform (as there are north and south entrances to most platform). I have crept onto the platform from the other end. The Amtrak staff will yell, but there’s no harm done.

So clearly Amtrak’s “line up and wait” boarding is just make-work and an unnecessary hassle for passengers.


Until the mid 1980s all trains at GCT were "gated." When the train was ready to board the brakeman or conductor would give the gateman ("usher" from the Penn Central era onward) a wave to open the gate, and that's when the train would start boarding. After the massive reduction in Ushers in the mid-1980s this ended for all but Amtrak trains. If you go back to the New York Central/New Haven RR era, you had to go to the Station Master's Office to get a special pass to go beyond the gates if you did not have a ticket (ie. if you were there to help an elderly person get on the train). What you see is only what it has become after years of the old system breaking down, not as it what was designed and as it was done for decades. See image #10 on this link: http://trn.trains.com/railroads/railroa ... to-gallery

Several years back I spoke with a long time Amtrak customer service rep in Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal who explained to me how frustrated the station staff was over the removal of all but one of the boarding gates. This was due to the addition of stores and the LA subway entrance in the 1990s, all within what had formerly been the "controlled" area behind the gates. The frustration was the difficultly of now dealing with uncontrolled masses of people while trying to get baggage trucks through.

Let's also consider the fact that the subway lines have controlled fare areas in terms of turnstiles, so the platforms are not just "open" to the public - passengers only.


We are no longer in the 1980s.

This is about Amtrak, not subways.
SouthernRailway
 
Posts: 1379
Joined: Fri May 27, 2011 8:27 pm

Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Postby PC1100 » Mon Dec 03, 2018 9:02 am

SouthernRailway wrote:
PC1100 wrote:
Nasadowsk wrote:
PC1100 wrote:Comparing a long distance/intercity railroad to a subway is comparing apples to oranges.


The TGV is a subway. Today I learned...


My mistake, I should have been more specific. I was referring to the U.S. Particularly the reference to the Amtrak vs, the Washington Metro.

SouthernRailway wrote:At Grand Central Terminal, you just walk into any platform at any time. Metro-North passengers often wait on the platform before their train arrives.

When Amtrak runs trains from Grand Central, ONLY Amtrak makes people line up away from the platform before boarding.

I also discovered that Amtrak makes people line up at only one end of the platform (as there are north and south entrances to most platform). I have crept onto the platform from the other end. The Amtrak staff will yell, but there’s no harm done.

So clearly Amtrak’s “line up and wait” boarding is just make-work and an unnecessary hassle for passengers.


Until the mid 1980s all trains at GCT were "gated." When the train was ready to board the brakeman or conductor would give the gateman ("usher" from the Penn Central era onward) a wave to open the gate, and that's when the train would start boarding. After the massive reduction in Ushers in the mid-1980s this ended for all but Amtrak trains. If you go back to the New York Central/New Haven RR era, you had to go to the Station Master's Office to get a special pass to go beyond the gates if you did not have a ticket (ie. if you were there to help an elderly person get on the train). What you see is only what it has become after years of the old system breaking down, not as it what was designed and as it was done for decades. See image #10 on this link: http://trn.trains.com/railroads/railroa ... to-gallery

Several years back I spoke with a long time Amtrak customer service rep in Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal who explained to me how frustrated the station staff was over the removal of all but one of the boarding gates. This was due to the addition of stores and the LA subway entrance in the 1990s, all within what had formerly been the "controlled" area behind the gates. The frustration was the difficultly of now dealing with uncontrolled masses of people while trying to get baggage trucks through.

Let's also consider the fact that the subway lines have controlled fare areas in terms of turnstiles, so the platforms are not just "open" to the public - passengers only.


We are no longer in the 1980s.

This is about Amtrak, not subways.


Well I'm not the one who brought up subways, the guy that wrote the article did. And I never said we're in the '80s...heck we also aren't in Europe, but everyone loves referencing how it's done there. I brought up the whole thing as a point of reference to how this evolved (or devolved perhaps) and what the real problem is (a concourse/space issue).
PC1100
 
Posts: 126
Joined: Fri Apr 14, 2006 1:58 pm
Location: Westchester County, NY

Next

Return to Amtrak

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 8 guests