bording process at Washington Union Station

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Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Postby SouthernRailway » Mon Dec 03, 2018 9:36 am

The real problem is the operations decisionmakers at Amtrak who require the "line up and wait before boarding" procedure ("LIUW").

LIUW is used in Boston, where there is plenty of space on the platforms, and Charlotte, where there is even more space on the platforms and even less of a confusing station layout, so if Amtrak claims that LIUW is used because of station congestion, Amtrak is telling a tall tale. In Charlotte there are 2 tracks and often just one train in the station, so even a blithering idiot can figure out which train to get on--the only one there!

My guess is that LIUW is used so that Amtrak onboard staff can have easier jobs by having passengers already seated more or less based on where they're getting off; Amtrak staff yells at customers in NYC and tries to force them to board particular cars and sit in particular areas. So LIUW is really for the convenience of Amtrak onboard staff. Never mind that plenty of people are capable of getting off a train at a stop without being micromanaged or yelled at.
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Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Postby Suburban Station » Mon Dec 03, 2018 11:02 am

PC1100 wrote: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.

sounds like the old way with the gates was more like an airline experience where a much larger portion is relegated to ticketed passengers only?
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Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Postby electricron » Mon Dec 03, 2018 11:07 am

SouthernRailway wrote:The real problem is the operations decisionmakers at Amtrak who require the "line up and wait before boarding" procedure ("LIUW").

LIUW is used in Boston, where there is plenty of space on the platforms, and Charlotte, where there is even more space on the platforms and even less of a confusing station layout, so if Amtrak claims that LIUW is used because of station congestion, Amtrak is telling a tall tale. In Charlotte there are 2 tracks and often just one train in the station, so even a blithering idiot can figure out which train to get on--the only one there!

My guess is that LIUW is used so that Amtrak onboard staff can have easier jobs by having passengers already seated more or less based on where they're getting off; Amtrak staff yells at customers in NYC and tries to force them to board particular cars and sit in particular areas. So LIUW is really for the convenience of Amtrak onboard staff. Never mind that plenty of people are capable of getting off a train at a stop without being micromanaged or yelled at.


On the northeast corridor with Amtrak trains running every half hour or so, if passengers miss their station they could always get off at the next station and ride another train back to their desired station within hours. Not much of a big deal for Amtrak. But on long distance trains, that other train may be the next day or a second day away. Who would be responsible to pay for the over night lodging? It is vitally important that the conductor or car attendant know where everyone should disembark, and since Amtrak changes conductors every 8 hours or so, and long distance trains can stretch over three days, grouping passengers by destinations make perfect sense. Will you be awake at 2 am by yourself, or will you trust Amtrak to make that wake up nudge?
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Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Postby SouthernRailway » Mon Dec 03, 2018 11:30 am

electricron wrote:
SouthernRailway wrote:The real problem is the operations decisionmakers at Amtrak who require the "line up and wait before boarding" procedure ("LIUW").

LIUW is used in Boston, where there is plenty of space on the platforms, and Charlotte, where there is even more space on the platforms and even less of a confusing station layout, so if Amtrak claims that LIUW is used because of station congestion, Amtrak is telling a tall tale. In Charlotte there are 2 tracks and often just one train in the station, so even a blithering idiot can figure out which train to get on--the only one there!

My guess is that LIUW is used so that Amtrak onboard staff can have easier jobs by having passengers already seated more or less based on where they're getting off; Amtrak staff yells at customers in NYC and tries to force them to board particular cars and sit in particular areas. So LIUW is really for the convenience of Amtrak onboard staff. Never mind that plenty of people are capable of getting off a train at a stop without being micromanaged or yelled at.


On the northeast corridor with Amtrak trains running every half hour or so, if passengers miss their station they could always get off at the next station and ride another train back to their desired station within hours. Not much of a big deal for Amtrak. But on long distance trains, that other train may be the next day or a second day away. Who would be responsible to pay for the over night lodging? It is vitally important that the conductor or car attendant know where everyone should disembark, and since Amtrak changes conductors every 8 hours or so, and long distance trains can stretch over three days, grouping passengers by destinations make perfect sense. Will you be awake at 2 am by yourself, or will you trust Amtrak to make that wake up nudge?


Fair point, but when I board a long-distance train, there is always an Amtrak staff member waiting by the door of the car to check my ticket. This is in addition to the LIUW procedure that I've already gone through. Isn't one ticket check at the door sufficient? And why not treat people like responsible adults?
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Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Postby mohawkrailfan » Mon Dec 03, 2018 12:13 pm

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 Vermonter changes locomotives at New Haven, where the general public is allowed unfettered access to the platform.

The Lake Shore Limited and Maple Leaf change locomotives at Albany-Rensselaer, where through passengers are allowed to take a "smoke break" on the platform.
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Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Postby Arborwayfan » Mon Dec 03, 2018 12:33 pm

I spent last year in Norway and rode trains from above the Arctic Circle to almost the Dutch-Belgian border: Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands. In the Netherlands turnstiles restrict access to the platforms to ticketholders, but not ticketholders for any particular train -- just someone with a ticket to somewhere. Nowhere else did I encounter any restriction on accessing the platforms; most of the platforms had benches, vendors, etc., and were clearly meant for people to wait there. Some of those trains had reserved seating, some didn't, some were mixed. Most had automatic doors, some didn't. Some were long distance, some short. Some shared tracks and platforms with commuter trains. Some of the stations were terminals, some intermediates.

I think Amtrak is being silly. Well, maybe the platforms at CUS are so narrow and so obstructed by posts that it's actually better to line people up and walk them out. But BOS? WAS? Champaign-Urbana, for Pete's sake?
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Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Postby NaugyRR » Mon Dec 03, 2018 3:04 pm

I sort of wish Amtrak had assigned seating on Empire Trains. It royally sucks standing in line for 20-30 minutes at the rope for Track 16 to get a decent seat (river side), especially after walking around the city all day. I'd pay a little extra for an assigned seat on one of them.
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Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Postby SouthernRailway » Mon Dec 03, 2018 4:39 pm

Arborwayfan wrote:I think Amtrak is being silly. Well, maybe the platforms at CUS are so narrow and so obstructed by posts that it's actually better to line people up and walk them out. But BOS? WAS? Champaign-Urbana, for Pete's sake?


Agreed, although my experiences on so many trains indicate that Amtrak staff members think that customers are there for the convenience of Amtrak staff.

Amtrak's painful boarding procedures and lack of the ability to go standby on another train on the same day are huge disincentives to taking Amtrak in the Northeast.
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Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Postby Suburban Station » Mon Dec 03, 2018 4:54 pm

Today's keystone line (well one of them since there was a second line that ran from the gate to the west entrance) stretched from gate 7 through the north waiting room, down the back hallway, and in front of the baggage claim. Insane process.
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Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Postby bdawe » Mon Dec 03, 2018 5:17 pm

electricron wrote:On the northeast corridor with Amtrak trains running every half hour or so, if passengers miss their station they could always get off at the next station and ride another train back to their desired station within hours. Not much of a big deal for Amtrak. But on long distance trains, that other train may be the next day or a second day away. Who would be responsible to pay for the over night lodging? It is vitally important that the conductor or car attendant know where everyone should disembark, and since Amtrak changes conductors every 8 hours or so, and long distance trains can stretch over three days, grouping passengers by destinations make perfect sense. Will you be awake at 2 am by yourself, or will you trust Amtrak to make that wake up nudge?


Ok, but why would LD trains be 'wagging the dog' for regional boarding procedures
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Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Postby jcpatten » Mon Dec 03, 2018 6:05 pm

At Boston South Station, they don't announce what track the train boards from until the train is ready to board. Then there's a "gatekeeper" partway down the platform to make sure you have the right ticket. This is because access to the platform is pretty open, between the outside, the bus terminal above it, and the many doors to the platforms inside the concourse. I suspect that all trains that have made it to Boston get serviced at Southhampton before going out on the road again, and I suspect that anything terminating in Boston doesn't go out again until next day.
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Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Postby hs3730 » Tue Dec 04, 2018 12:18 am

One solution is assigned seats, oddly enough. Mark the platforms with digital signs showing where "car 1", "car 2", etc will line up (needs to be digital signs because consists vary too much). Ticket shows "car 3, seat 21 A" - line up at one of the two doors for car 3. For LD trains people can also be sorted based on destination at booking time rather than by conductor.
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Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Postby Arborwayfan » Tue Dec 04, 2018 9:02 am

I was thinking the same thing, hs3730. Assigned seats and prominent car numbers make the whole process smoother, as well as reducing the incentive to line up early and waste time and space.
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Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Postby Tom M » Tue Dec 04, 2018 10:08 am

This reminds me of 4th grade. I lined up for Miss Savage's room and went in to my assigned seat. It's all about control.
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Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Postby Backshophoss » Tue Dec 04, 2018 8:16 pm

All, of this"line up and wait" is Homeland Security theater shoved down Amtrak's throat, like what's done at all major airports
Homeland Security would be happier if Amtrak had fenced in every platform in the system as well. :(
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