Acela ride: Disappointment and bribing

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Texan Eagle

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This could be filed under travelogue but I want to raise two issues here so posting in General Discussions

I got on an Acela Express for the first time yesterday, for a short joyride from Boston to Providence to see what 150 mph feels like. Some observations from the journey-

- I saw in person what I had read some of the AU members mention here- passengers were lining up for the Acela at the end of the platform and one lady with no luggage at all went to the front of the line, handed over a few dollar bills to a Redcap, he moved the barrier and let her in into the train first before the line. Isn't this sheer bribery and cheating? I agree people with luggage and physical problem with general boarding should be allowed to pre-board if they avail Redcap services, but allowing a person to jump the queue and board first fits the definition of "bribe" in my opinion. Just because you have extra money to shell out, that should not give you privilege to abuse the system. I wouldn't mind if Amtrak had an official pre-boarding policy with extra charge like the airlines do, but here the money isn't going to Amtrak through official channels, you are just bribing a redcap to get things done your way. Does no one feel this is unethical?

- My hopes of seeing 150 mph run were dashed. Waste of money. We never touched 150 mph between Boston and Providence. The stretch where it was supposed to hit 150 was crawled at 30 to 50 mph thanks to a MBTA commuter train that was sent just ahead of the Acela and kept slowing us behind it. This is a prime example why high speed rail should run on dedicated infrastructure and not mixed with slow traffic.

- The positives- I was blown away by the acceleration capability of the Acela. The way we started off from Back Bay and hit 80 mph from 0 in no time was amazing. Also the tilt on curves feels, well, for lack of a better word, fascinating to a first time rider. Cool stuff.

- Even on a Sunday afternoon the Acela had very nice occupancy, almost 80% full. I can imagine on weekdays it runs 100% full?

PS: To be fair, we did hit a top speed of 148 mph (236 km/hr for me comfortable with metric system) for a few seconds in one brief sprint before slowing down to 100 mph again. Recorded the event on photo for posterity.

 

NE933

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Yes, you are correct that that weasel who bribed the Redcap should, along with her new Amtrak employee boyfriend, have a bucket of ice water poured down their shirts/blouses. This breeds ill will amongst the public, and while legitamite for those with medical needs, should not purchase priviege. Maybe there was something in her background that justifies this, like she lost a son or a daughter and wants an isolated seat to get some silence and insulation. But your gut feeling is not telling that. So the icewater it is.
 

MattW

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Be glad you weren't boarding from an intermediate station, like Back Bay or Route 128. No redcaps to "jump" the line, and all the seats are filled up :angry: . The three of us were strung out across two train cars and paid $300 over the price of a Regional, for no time savings, to stare at the aisle, someone else's seatback, or...the armrests? Amtrak is offering a "premium" service, but particularly between New York and Boston, isn't very premium. Amtrak should have kept the pre-booked seat policy. I just don't buy that "it didn't work." After a few business travelers get delayed because some of Amtrak's police are removing someone who can't sit where they assigned themselves, word will get around not to try it.
 

AlanB

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I got on an Acela Express for the first time yesterday, for a short joyride from Boston to Providence to see what 150 mph feels like. Some observations from the journey-
Which Acela were you on?

I was on 2255 out at 1:10 PM yesterday.

- I saw in person what I had read some of the AU members mention here- passengers were lining up for the Acela at the end of the platform and one lady with no luggage at all went to the front of the line, handed over a few dollar bills to a Redcap, he moved the barrier and let her in into the train first before the line. Isn't this sheer bribery and cheating? I agree people with luggage and physical problem with general boarding should be allowed to pre-board if they avail Redcap services, but allowing a person to jump the queue and board first fits the definition of "bribe" in my opinion. Just because you have extra money to shell out, that should not give you privilege to abuse the system. I wouldn't mind if Amtrak had an official pre-boarding policy with extra charge like the airlines do, but here the money isn't going to Amtrak through official channels, you are just bribing a redcap to get things done your way. Does no one feel this is unethical?
Are you sure it was a Redcap? Redcaps don't generally stand at the barrier. Usually that's a gate agent that stands there. And did you happen to notice where she went? As in, what car did she go to. If she had a First class ticket then she is allowed to cut the line in Boston. I've done that, showed my FC ticket and skipped the line.

Most times however that I'm in Boston I do have luggage with me, so I always get a Redcap prior to going into the lounge simply because it's easier than carrying all my stuff up the stairs.

Now, all of that said. The Redcaps want to make money, so if indeed she just handed the Redcap some money, he's going to take it.

The positives- I was blown away by the acceleration capability of the Acela. The way we started off from Back Bay and hit 80 mph from 0 in no time was amazing. Also the tilt on curves feels, well, for lack of a better word, fascinating to a first time rider. Cool stuff.
Yup, they can kick up fast.

Even on a Sunday afternoon the Acela had very nice occupancy, almost 80% full. I can imagine on weekdays it runs 100% full?
They do a good business on these trains. I've seen sell outs even on Sunday.
 

AlanB

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Be glad you weren't boarding from an intermediate station, like Back Bay or Route 128. No redcaps to "jump" the line, and all the seats are filled up :angry: . The three of us were strung out across two train cars and paid $300 over the price of a Regional, for no time savings, to stare at the aisle, someone else's seatback, or...the armrests? Amtrak is offering a "premium" service, but particularly between New York and Boston, isn't very premium. Amtrak should have kept the pre-booked seat policy. I just don't buy that "it didn't work." After a few business travelers get delayed because some of Amtrak's police are removing someone who can't sit where they assigned themselves, word will get around not to try it.
Amtrak only offered pre-booked seats in FC. It never got to BC on Acela.

And resistance to those not knowing about assigned seats in FC was only one of several reasons that the idea went away.
 

Texan Eagle

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Which Acela were you on?

I was on 2255 out at 1:10 PM yesterday.
I was on 2257, the 3.10pm departure from Boston.

Are you sure it was a Redcap? Redcaps don't generally stand at the barrier. Usually that's a gate agent that stands there. And did you happen to notice where she went? As in, what car did she go to. If she had a First class ticket then she is allowed to cut the line in Boston. I've done that, showed my FC ticket and skipped the line.
Yes it was a redcap. He was wearing literally a red cap too. Yes they don't stand at the barrier, the agent lady was there at the barrier but she went behind checking everyone's tickets as they waited in line. The Redcap emerged from the platform after dropping off someone's bags into the train and asked "Anyone with bags need help?" Nobody came forward but then suddenly this lady shows up, with a (what looked to me like) a 5 dollar bill folded and ready in her hand, no bags, discreetly handed over that bill to the Redcap, the Redcap guy moved the barrier aside, she walked ahed to one of the BC coaches (FC was the last coach, Boston end) and boarded. It seemed like she was one of the regular "offenders" from the ease with which she got it done.

Now, all of that said. The Redcaps want to make money, so if indeed she just handed the Redcap some money, he's going to take it.
Yes, but that does not change the fact that this is bribing. Would you like it if gate agents at the airport started accepting $5 in cash to let people in before regular boarding starts?
 

Texan Eagle

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Be glad you weren't boarding from an intermediate station, like Back Bay or Route 128. No redcaps to "jump" the line, and all the seats are filled up :angry: . The three of us were strung out across two train cars and paid $300 over the price of a Regional, for no time savings, to stare at the aisle, someone else's seatback, or...the armrests?
Sucks to be you. Don't even get me started on Amtrak's insistence on the retarded "reserved seats with no reserved seat numbers" policy. I have always been against it and will continue to be.
 

MattW

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Be glad you weren't boarding from an intermediate station, like Back Bay or Route 128. No redcaps to "jump" the line, and all the seats are filled up :angry: . The three of us were strung out across two train cars and paid $300 over the price of a Regional, for no time savings, to stare at the aisle, someone else's seatback, or...the armrests? Amtrak is offering a "premium" service, but particularly between New York and Boston, isn't very premium. Amtrak should have kept the pre-booked seat policy. I just don't buy that "it didn't work." After a few business travelers get delayed because some of Amtrak's police are removing someone who can't sit where they assigned themselves, word will get around not to try it.
Amtrak only offered pre-booked seats in FC. It never got to BC on Acela.

And resistance to those not knowing about assigned seats in FC was only one of several reasons that the idea went away.
I stand corrected on both counts :) However, I still believe that at least the Acela should have pre-assigned seating, for both classes.
 

Anderson

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You know, I could complain about the Redcap situation, but it's not like more than a few of us haven't done the same thing for an LD train out of NYP, WAS, or CHI (or the Adirondack).
 

AlanB

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Which Acela were you on?

I was on 2255 out at 1:10 PM yesterday.
I was on 2257, the 3.10pm departure from Boston.
Oh well, missed you by just that much! :)

Yes it was a redcap. He was wearing literally a red cap too. Yes they don't stand at the barrier, the agent lady was there at the barrier but she went behind checking everyone's tickets as they waited in line.
Ok, just double checking since there wasn't enough info in your first post to be sure what had happened. :)

The Redcap emerged from the platform after dropping off someone's bags into the train and asked "Anyone with bags need help?" Nobody came forward but then suddenly this lady shows up, with a (what looked to me like) a 5 dollar bill folded and ready in her hand, no bags, discreetly handed over that bill to the Redcap, the Redcap guy moved the barrier aside, she walked ahed to one of the BC coaches (FC was the last coach, Boston end) and boarded. It seemed like she was one of the regular "offenders" from the ease with which she got it done.
I'd hardly say that she's an "offender". No one else asked for help after the Redcap made his pronouncement, so it's not like she deprived some needy person of help.

Yes, but that does not change the fact that this is bribing. Would you like it if gate agents at the airport started accepting $5 in cash to let people in before regular boarding starts?
Actually she could have asked him for help with no bags, and no tip and he'd have still be obligated to take her out to the train. That's his job! The tip just makes it nicer for him. Yes, I've no doubt that it made him even happier to help her. But still I think bribe is a bit strong. Just my humble opinion.

And agents at airport gates aren't allowed to accept tips and they're not at all like an Amtrak Redcap, or even an airport Redcap who would expect a tip.
 

AlanB

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Be glad you weren't boarding from an intermediate station, like Back Bay or Route 128. No redcaps to "jump" the line, and all the seats are filled up :angry: . The three of us were strung out across two train cars and paid $300 over the price of a Regional, for no time savings, to stare at the aisle, someone else's seatback, or...the armrests? Amtrak is offering a "premium" service, but particularly between New York and Boston, isn't very premium. Amtrak should have kept the pre-booked seat policy. I just don't buy that "it didn't work." After a few business travelers get delayed because some of Amtrak's police are removing someone who can't sit where they assigned themselves, word will get around not to try it.
Amtrak only offered pre-booked seats in FC. It never got to BC on Acela.

And resistance to those not knowing about assigned seats in FC was only one of several reasons that the idea went away.
I stand corrected on both counts :) However, I still believe that at least the Acela should have pre-assigned seating, for both classes.
Who knows, it may well come back now that eTickets are here. That was part of the seat assignment program too.
 

OBS

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The assigned seats will never return in the corridor. It was such a logistical nightmare in F/C, that to try and apply it to the whole train would create a meltdown.
 

PRR 60

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The defenders of not having assigned seats on Acela always comes from people who board at BOS, NYP or WAS. If they try boarding regularly at BAL, PHL or PVD their opinion will quickly change.
 
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PRR 60

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The assigned seats will never return in the corridor. It was such a logistical nightmare in F/C, that to try and apply it to the whole train would create a meltdown.
Who said the whole train? How about two Business Class cars and half the First Class car with assigned seats, and the rest of the train open seating? Charge $5 for assigned seats. I'd gladly pay.
 

OlympianHiawatha

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I see absolutely nothing wrong with using the Red Cap system to get a leg up on boarding; that's why it is there in the first place! For me it is well worth a Fiver to get ahead of the masses.
 

Trogdor

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I see absolutely nothing wrong with using the Red Cap system to get a leg up on boarding; that's why it is there in the first place! For me it is well worth a Fiver to get ahead of the masses.
That's not why red caps are there. They are there to provide assistance to those who need help in boarding (due to trouble walking, too much luggage, kids, etc.). It's not there to be simply a pay-for-priority-boarding service.
 
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SmokingCar

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United Air lines if I recall was the last Airline to have Red Caps or Skycaps as they called them so they are preety rare at airports, Red Caps have always been a tipped profession and have been dominated by blacks AKA Phlip Randdolf since the days of the Pullman Car. I only know of 3 stations that have redcaps
 

Ryan

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I see absolutely nothing wrong with using the Red Cap system to get a leg up on boarding; that's why it is there in the first place! For me it is well worth a Fiver to get ahead of the masses.
That's not why red caps are there. They are there to provide assistance to those who need help in boarding (due to trouble walking, too much luggage, kids, etc.). It's not there to be simply a pay-for-priority-boarding service.
The last time this debate raged, I don't think that anyone was able to point to anything in writing to support that point.
 

OBS

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The assigned seats will never return in the corridor. It was such a logistical nightmare in F/C, that to try and apply it to the whole train would create a meltdown.
Who said the whole train? How about two Business Class cars and half the First Class car with assigned seats, and the rest of the train open seating? Charge $5 for assigned seats. I'd gladly pay.
Even this idea creates an increased potential for conflict. In just the F/C car, the attendants spent (wasted) alot of time policeing/arguing with people who did not want/would not sit in their "assigned seat" because there was a "better" seat elsewhere in the car. They would refuse to sit in their assigned seat, the next stop the person boards to find "someone" in "their" assigned seat, etc. It was a constant "no win" situation. The attendants/conductors were constantly in battle with Pax.
 

the_traveler

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Whatever siding I'm sitting on!
Be glad you weren't boarding from an intermediate station, like Back Bay or Route 128. No redcaps to "jump" the line, and all the seats are filled up :angry: . The three of us were strung out across two train cars and paid $300 over the price of a Regional, for no time savings, to stare at the aisle, someone else's seatback, or...the armrests?
Sucks to be you. Don't even get me started on Amtrak's insistence on the retarded "reserved seats with no reserved seat numbers" policy. I have always been against it and will continue to be.
[moderators note]
Retarded is a harsh word!

How would you feel if you were assigned (I'm not sure if it is the right seat number) seat 32 on a Superliner on a 2-3 day trip, and find it is directly across from the stairway with the light on full power all night long? I'm almost sure you would want to move from your assigned seat!
 
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Texan Eagle

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Olympian could you please point to any kind of official Amtrak documentation that says that Redcap service is meant for people to pay arbitrary amount of tip and skip general boarding lines?
 

Texan Eagle

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If i was assigned seat 32 at the time of reservation I would know beforehand what i am getting into and if i don't like it i would have got it changed by talking to Customer service or booking a new ticket and canceling an old one. I do the former for flight tickets and did the latter for train tickets all the time when I have been on trains in India and not got a seat of my choice at first attempt. It gives me the control rather than the uncertainty of Amtrak. I don't get it why done people find it so hard to believe that trains can have fixed seat numbers and it actually works.
 

MattW

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The assigned seats will never return in the corridor. It was such a logistical nightmare in F/C, that to try and apply it to the whole train would create a meltdown.
Who said the whole train? How about two Business Class cars and half the First Class car with assigned seats, and the rest of the train open seating? Charge $5 for assigned seats. I'd gladly pay.
Even this idea creates an increased potential for conflict. In just the F/C car, the attendants spent (wasted) alot of time policeing/arguing with people who did not want/would not sit in their "assigned seat" because there was a "better" seat elsewhere in the car. They would refuse to sit in their assigned seat, the next stop the person boards to find "someone" in "their" assigned seat, etc. It was a constant "no win" situation. The attendants/conductors were constantly in battle with Pax.
Well then the attendants should have gotten the conductor, and if that failed, the Amtrak Police to lead the offender off in a pair of silver bracelets. Airlines have had pre-assigned seats long before Amtrak even existed and they don't seem to have problems with people wanting "better" seats. Don't forget, that on most LD trains, the seats are assigned at boarding. In fact, on my last Crescent trip to New York, if we had been just 6 people further back in line, we would have been assigned to windowless seats. Why isn't it such an issue on the LD trains then when you get no choice in the matter?
 
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