• Amtrak: Connects US // American Jobs Plan Infrastructure Legislation

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

Moderators: GirlOnTheTrain, mtuandrew, Tadman

  by lordsigma12345
electricron wrote: Thu Aug 12, 2021 12:37 am
lordsigma12345 wrote: Wed Aug 11, 2021 10:12 pm I personally don't see empty stations with no one available to ask any questions or to keep an eye on things progress. Does this mean we need a body at every platform/shelter station? Nope but medium/large sized stations should have at least one person.
Who replaces that one person manning the station when they take the day off? The boss!
What boss? You're going to need two people at every station just to have one available when one takes the day off.
How much do you think both get paid? Minimum wage? Ha!
$40,000 /year
https://www.indeed.com/cmp/Amtrak/salar ... ntative/US
What is the average Amtrak fare? $69 per coach seat.
https://www.bts.gov/content/average-amt ... rip-length

How many $69 fares will it take to pay the sales representative base salary?
Math follows, $40,000 / $69 = 579.7

Then you have to add the costs maintaining the station, powering the station, associated costs of providing equipment for the employee, etc. Do not know where you could find data for that.
Amtrak has begun hiring part-time station agents to deal with this scenario of remote stations that only see a train once a day and not as much traffic - the union that represents the agents has griped about it but so far I believe management has been successful in this approach. All of these stations that they've been required to re-man from previous laws they have re-manned with part time employees which I think is totally reasonable especially in tri-weekly instances. I'm also not 100% sure these restored stations with part-time agents have a full Arrow setup in the station -but someone with more knowledge may be able to verify that. They may have to call over the phone to assist passengers with reservations at some of these part-time locations but I don't know for sure. I think the prime purpose is to assist passengers with checked baggage, assist passengers with carrying baggage, assist handicapped passengers, and be available to answer questions for passengers during the train times and in some cases lock/unlock the station and clean. Caretakers only did the latter so the part-time customer service rep can do that plus passenger interaction and assistance. It sounds like it's basically a caretaker-plus.
rcthompson04 wrote: Thu Aug 12, 2021 8:10 am I went through the list of Pennsylvania stations and I was surprised by the pattern I saw. Most of the stations west of Harrisburg are manned while most of the stations east of Harrisburg aren’t so you have several low volume stations manned while others with several times higher volume aren’t. Keystones are really a commuter train so I get it not having agents at even fairly busy stations (Exton and Downingtown in particular), but this proposal seems to be an absurd metric on its face. I suspect an agent will eventually be added at Exton as the rebuilt station has an office. What value do we get from having agents at most spots west of Harrisburg?
That's between Amtrak and the Pennsylvania department of transportation. For stations that only see state-supported service station staffing is the state's decision - and stations that only see state supported service are excluded from this provision in the bill. This only pertains to long distance and NEC stations.
bostontrainguy wrote: Thu Aug 12, 2021 10:55 am
eolesen wrote: Thu Aug 12, 2021 2:08 am In many cases you only need an agent for an hour a day per train. Problem is finding someone willing to stick around when the trains are several hours late.
Who's maintaining the station? Someone must be cleaning it and throwing out the trash every day. There must also be two trains a day so schedule around that somehow. Clean the station between trains? Maybe a retired person in the area who is flexible with their time would like to pick up a little extra cash? Plenty of old folks who like trains and would probably like to do it. Could even spread it between a small group of reliable people.

Could they be paid by the town and not be Amtrak employees?
They went with part-time caretakers at the stations that were cut where Amtrak has responsibility - the main local gripe is that Caretakers do not have any expectation of passenger interaction (though some do go above and beyond.) It sounds like the compromise is to replace the caretaker with a part-time agent that also deals with the passengers. I suspect Amtrak's approach going forward at smaller stations as folks retire is to switch them to part time instead of trying to de-staff.
Last edited by lordsigma12345 on Thu Aug 12, 2021 1:38 pm, edited 8 times in total.
  by ExCon90
As to vacations, illness, etc., a long-standing practice on many railroads was to have a relief man who would work various stations as needed to fill in when the regular man was unavailable; the same practice was followed with block operators -- many of them were qualified at various towers, having worked them in the past. It shouldn't be necessary to have a "standby" agent for each station. As to possible union objections, precedent carries a lot of weight, sometimes favoring one side, sometimes the other.
  by Greg Moore
I'm ambivalent about this particular requirement, but I will say as others have, it's about more than "selling tickets".

As others have said, it's about reassuring passengers who haven't ridden before.
It can be about ensuring a sense of safety, knowing there's someone there who is somehow "official" as opposed to the stations where it might be a local caretaker not in a uniform. (note here it may be more perception than reality, but perception often is reality for many).

I think it can also be about increased efficiency. "Ok, you're in coach, on this train they'll be opening the doors by that post, stand there so you can board quickly. Oh and you're in sleeper, that's at this end, so stand here." People here often complain about how long station stops can take, I think this is an area where an actual Amtrak employee can help. It can also be in another direction. "Oh, you're in crutches, let me radio ahead so they can make sure they have a seat ready for you near an open vestibule" etc.

This can help Amtrak gain feedback (if management is willing to listen). "Hey, boss, you know, the parking lot here is a complete mess when it trains. That deters folks and makes the station and trains a muddy mess. Can we somehow work with the local authorities to improve it?" Or "Hey, you know there's the big local town holiday coming up. I suspect we can sell a few extra tickets if we try this promotion idea I have."

The point is, it's not simply "a person in a uniform sitting around trying to sell or collect tickets in the era of etickets". It's a living, breathing human being with a Mark I brain that ideally should be encouraged to be creative and be able to take the initiative. Properly done, I can see this helping to increase ridership at a number of stations.

As for the "what about holidays". As others have pointed out, this is a solved problem. You can solve it a number of ways. Specific employees who are trained and willing to spend much of the time on the road and filling in. A group of 4-5 stations hiring 5-6 people so they can rotate a bit. (Now both of these solutions do require some form of transportation between stations. I wonder how that might be provided.)

Is this a perfect idea? Probably not. Is it a horrible idea, probably not. I think time will tell though and so far, I'm probably in favor of it.
  by eolesen
Sorry but when government dollars are needed, it stops being "nice to have" and becomes "bare minimums" where staffing is concerned.

If it's such an essential function, where are all the "comfort reassurers" at bus, subway and light rail stops?....

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  by Jeff Smith
If y'all don't mind, let's move this back to expansion plans, not ticket agents. Might be a worthwhile thread though, if there isn't already one.
  by rcthompson04
Back to expansion plans and the new equipment being purchased... I was thinking what kind of line pairings we might see in the northeast with expanded service and dual mode power. Some obvious ones are like Harrisburg to Philadelphia to Reading for Keystones that don't go to NYP and Albany to NYP to Long Island for the Empire Service.
  by Anthony
With Amtrak not likely to get all the funding they need to fully build out their ConnectUS plan, they should focus on corridors where there isn't competition in place or planned. Such corridors include connecting Florida's major cities, Los Angeles-Las Vegas (both served or planned to be served by Brightline), Dallas-Houston (planned to be served by Texas Central), as well as Long Island service (already served by the LIRR). In addition, some routes, (like Boston-Concord, Philly-Reading, and Philly-Allentown), would better be served by commuter rail than by Amtrak.
  by lordsigma12345
Ultimately these are federal-state partnership grants. Any state can go after these for a rail project - it doesn't necessarily have to include Amtrak a state could go with an operator like TASI or Keolis for a regional service - but some Class Is may only want to work with Amtrak depending on the situation and only with Amtrak can you propel the roads to at least come to the table. A lot of this money is going to be gobbled up by NEC projects and existing corridor projects. You'll probably also see Amtrak put some of the money aside for new rolling stock - they can certainly get the ball rolling on the Siemens Intercity trainsets - there's probably also sufficient money in the NN grant to start the process of addressing the Amfleet IIs - possibly as an option to the Siemens order.
  by Greg Moore
Another link on the Pioneer:
https://www.boisestatepublicradio.org/n ... neer-route

I personally wouldn't hold my breath for a couple of reasons.
For one, I think the money is best spent elsewhere.
For another, when it, with the Desert Wind ran, it would cause scheduling problems in Denver. This impacted our honeymoon trip in 1996 as I recall.

That said, if I were to try something like resurrecting either of these trains, I would recommend a different path:
1) Bring back something like the Denver Zephyr. Perhaps coach only for now, leaving early in the morning.
2) Don't try to turn the Desert Wind/Pioneer/California Zephyr into some sort of "super train" but rather guarantee passengers "we'll put you on the next train."

If they show up in time to make the CZ, great, if not, put them up overnight, and put them on the DZ, so they aren't over a day late into Chicago.

I mean I'd love to see the Pioneer come back, if only for a chance to enjoy the route, but I can't support bringing it back at the expense of timekeeping.
  by gokeefe
I doubt very much this will happen. Some kind of corridor service on the other hand does not seem far fetched at all. Idaho would get a comparative bargain in almost any situation because of minimal or less mileage inside Idaho.

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  by Greg Moore
https://www.amtrakconnectsus.com/maps/n ... cleveland/ - Buffalo extension to Cleveland.

To me, this is a no-brainer, especially when Amtrak gets more equipment so can they don't have to worry about forcing a turn in Buffalo to get the equipment back in NYC.
  by RRspatch
Greg Moore wrote: Wed Aug 18, 2021 9:55 pm https://www.amtrakconnectsus.com/maps/n ... cleveland/ - Buffalo extension to Cleveland.

To me, this is a no-brainer, especially when Amtrak gets more equipment so can they don't have to worry about forcing a turn in Buffalo to get the equipment back in NYC.
Looking at the distance involved it looks like the two trains will be an re-incarnated "Empire State Express" for the day train and the overnight Lake Shore Limited. Amtrak will need a bigger station in Cleveland as well as a servicing yard if this and the proposed Ohio services come to pass.
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