Amtrak no longer allowing standing passengers on unreserved trains?

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rspenmoll

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Despite repeated assurances that it would no longer occur, Amtrak's practice of denying boarding to passengers holding Hartford Line tickets, while allowing Amtrak ticket holders to board, has continued. Amtrak has stated it is unsafe to allow these passengers to ride as standees when no seats are available. I find this highly suspect. I know from trip reports I have heard that standing passengers are a common occurrence on other unreserved train. Is this an actual new policy, or is this another case of Amtrak personal not being familiar with policy and making things up as they go along? (which if the latter is true, it is  extremely troubling that not even the PR department is cognizant of what actual policies are. An operating crew being unfamiliar with how to handle partially unreserved trains that used to be all reserved seating is somewhat understandable, but I would expect the PR department, which has a single systemwide operation and thus should be familiar with unreserved trains to be informed of the correct policy on standing passengers.)  https://www.courant.com/business/hc-biz-amtrak-new-haven-springfield-20181228-xpycq4yn6vfzvkvhsorileu2ri-story.html
 

Thirdrail7

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It was always a rule but it was always ignored. The enforcement is the result of having a CEO that says safety first.  The crew is the eyes and ears and if they determine that the amount of standees will jeopardize safety, they are not only within their right to deny boarding, they are now obligated.

Gone are the days where you could pack the trains and stuff the vestibules. I guess planes never had SRO.
 

rspenmoll

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It was always a rule but it was always ignored. The enforcement is the result of having a CEO that says safety first.  The crew is the eyes and ears and if they determine that the amount of standees will jeopardize safety, they are not only within their right to deny boarding, they are now obligated.

Gone are the days where you could pack the trains and stuff the vestibules. I guess planes never had SRO.
I see. Thanks for the information. I assume this is partially to do with the fact that the cars used by Amtrak don’t have grab handles like transit busses and commuter rail and rail transit cars do? On a less serious note, as for no SRO on airplanes, I take it you have never seen Ryanair’s proposal for “vertical seats”? https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/news/skyrider-standing-plane-seats-future-of-budget-flying/
 

Thirdrail7

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I see. Thanks for the information. I assume this is partially to do with the fact that the cars used by Amtrak don’t have grab handles like transit busses and commuter rail and rail transit cars do?
Partially. It also has to do with blocking emergency egress and in the case of the vestibules, well, those are crumple zones. They were never the best place to stand, particularly if the train happens to pull apart.

Personally, I think some leeway will eventually occur and I can tell when it will happen. It will occur when something happens to a train (like an Acela) and they need to transfer passengers to another train....that is sold out...and the crew denies the transfer because of overcrowding.  That may cause a policy revision but then again, he may remain steadfast.

We may find out one day.
 

Anderson

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I agree with your hunch...the first time a couple of someones on paid Acela First tickets they paid $400/head get told they can't be offloaded in a breakdown for a reason like that, the policy is going to get a "look-over".
 
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rspenmoll

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Considering this newly enforced policy then, assuming it is true that the agreement between Amtrak and ConnDot stipulates that Amtrak is to honor Hartford Line tickets on an equal basis with its own tickets, then Amtrak needs to switch to having its tickets be unreserved seating between New Haven and Springfield. It's already halfway there, as ticket pricing on the New Haven-Springfield Line is flat rate now and not bucket based pricing.

Edit: It just occurred to me that this practice of enforcing the "no standing passengers" policy must be new within the last year seeing as how the Surfliners were SRO after the only road between Santa Barbara and Ventura was closed due to mudflows this past January. I'd be curious to know when exactly the practice was implemented.
 
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Thirdrail7

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Considering this newly enforced policy then, assuming it is true that the agreement between Amtrak and ConnDot stipulates that Amtrak is to honor Hartford Line tickets on an equal basis with its own tickets, then Amtrak needs to switch to having its tickets be unreserved seating between New Haven and Springfield. It's already halfway there, as ticket pricing on the New Haven-Springfield Line is flat rate now and not bucket based pricing.
Or the state needs to pony up for more equipment on the SPG shuttles, just like VA, MA, NC, NY and PA for example.  They could manipulate the equipment turns to operate one of THEIR trains to add more frequency. All of this would mean there is success on the this new line and it should capitalized, while people are interested. At any rate, I suspect  the preference probably has to do with shuttles connecting to another train at NHV.

Edit: It just occurred to me that this practice of enforcing the "no standing passengers" policy must be new within the last year seeing as how the Surfliners were SRO after the only road between Santa Barbara and Ventura was closed due to mudflows this past January. I'd be curious to know when exactly the practice was implemented.
It just occurred to me that you should probably go back, read the article and read my response because you are the only person that mentioned a "no standee" policy. Who said standees are not allowed?
 
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rspenmoll

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Or the state needs to pony up for more equipment, just like VA, MA, NC, NY and PA for example. At any rate, I suspect  the preference probably has to do with shuttles connecting to another train at NHV.

It just occurred to me that you should probably go back, read the article and read my response because you are the only person that mentioned a "no standee" policy. Who said standees are not allowed?
I should clarify, while the article doesn't make it explicit, a local rail and transit advocacy group is saying on its Twitter page that no standees are being allowed at all. I did not link to this in my initial post out of consideration that people who don't have a twitter account might not be able to see it, and as i made my initial post late in the evening when I was tired, I didn't realize that the article I linked to didn't make that completely clear. I apologize for the confusion. Here is a link to the Tweet, and I have also included a screenshot of the tweet in case anyone is not able to view it due to not having a twitter account.

Screen Shot 2018-12-29 at 11.24.52 AM.png
 
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Thirdrail7

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And that tweet by the rail advocacy group couldn't possibly be an overreaction and it couldn't possibly be used to grab headlines in order to attempt to further their point so they can have an edge in getting their way, right??
 
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AutoTrDvr

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Despite repeated assurances that it would no longer occur, Amtrak's practice of denying boarding to passengers holding Hartford Line tickets, while allowing Amtrak ticket holders to board, has continued. Amtrak has stated it is unsafe to allow these passengers to ride as standees when no seats are available. I find this highly suspect. I know from trip reports I have heard that standing passengers are a common occurrence on other unreserved train. Is this an actual new policy, or is this another case of Amtrak personal not being familiar with policy and making things up as they go along? (which if the latter is true, it is  extremely troubling that not even the PR department is cognizant of what actual policies are. An operating crew being unfamiliar with how to handle partially unreserved trains that used to be all reserved seating is somewhat understandable, but I would expect the PR department, which has a single systemwide operation and thus should be familiar with unreserved trains to be informed of the correct policy on standing passengers.)  https://www.courant.com/business/hc-biz-amtrak-new-haven-springfield-20181228-xpycq4yn6vfzvkvhsorileu2ri-story.html
Back when I was traveling on NJT,  this practice of denying standees would never work out of NYP - they had to allow standees, simply to move as many people as possible. The more they'd deny, the more people left back at NYP turning in to a raging boil.  They totally underestimated the demand for the "Midtown Direct" train service to/from Dover, NJ to/from NYP.  It was so bad, in fact, the train crews would turn a blind eye to the restriction of letting passengers ride in the outside vestibules, as long as they weren't standing directly over the link between two cars.  

Hopefully, now with the double decker  cars and the ALP-46's, that pressure is relieved. 
 

Thirdrail7

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  They totally underestimated the demand for the "Midtown Direct" train service to/from Dover, NJ to/from NYP.  It was so bad, in fact, the train crews would turn a blind eye to the restriction of letting passengers ride in the outside vestibules, as long as they weren't standing directly over the link between two cars. 
That is what is happening on this line. They completely underestimated the potential ridership, and as you said, crews USED to turn a blind eye to people in the vestibules, being cheek to cheek and even placing children in the luggage rack!! :p

Now that they have a better idea of what is out there...and when, they should work on making a realistic schedule and/or look for more equipment to capitalize on what is shaping up to be a successful service.
 

rspenmoll

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And that tweet by the rail advocacy group couldn't possibly be an overreaction and it couldn't possibly be used to grab headlines in order to attempt to further their point so they can have an edge in getting their way, right??
I do concede that this is a possibility, but it is also true that when this issue first came up in October, when this issue first arose, that staffers for Connecticut Public Radio who were on a particularly problematic train to cover the story heard a crew member stating  that lack of available seating was the reason Hartford Line ticket holders were being removed en route, as is explained in this article. Granted, it appears that passengers are now just being denied boarding and no longer being removed en route, but, in my opinion at least, this seems to me to indicate that standees are not being carried. But you are correct, I have no way of knowing for sure that standees are being permitted now and that loads are now exceeding even standee capacity, and I do concede that possibility, but the available evidence suggests that that situation is not what is occurring.
 

lordsigma

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In reality this is affecting three specific afternoon train times which unfortunately are both popular times for Amtrak connections in NHV, and are prime commuting times. Otherwise things are working fine. I am hoping a solution is reached and am concerned CDOT could overreact and throw Amtrak off the corridor and replace the Shuttles with commuter trains. That would be a mistake as the Amtrak intercity ridership has grown in addition to commuter use and forms a decent chunk of their ridership - Connecticut counts both Amtrak ticket and CTrail ticketed in their ridership numbers for the Hartford Line. I am hoping that Connecticut will either purchase equipment for Amtrak to use or run an additional CTrail train during the problematic time period to reduce the pressure on those particular shuttles rather than overreacting and punishing Amtrak riders.

While it is true we could still ride ctrail trains to connect in NHV, you lose the amenities that the ctrail coaches don’t have as well as the through ticketing and guaranteed connection.

In Amtrak’s defense I can see why they prioritize in a capacity conflict, a large majority of Amtrak ticketed riders on the Shuttles are connecting from the NEC and are paying normal Amtrak bucket fares (as the flat fare only applies for travel within the corridor if an end point is south of New Haven you pay Normal Amtrak fares.)
 

rspenmoll

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In reality this is affecting three specific afternoon train times which unfortunately are both popular times for Amtrak connections in NHV, and are prime commuting times. Otherwise things are working fine. I am hoping a solution is reached and am concerned CDOT could overreact and throw Amtrak off the corridor and replace the Shuttles with commuter trains. That would be a mistake as the Amtrak intercity ridership has grown in addition to commuter use and forms a decent chunk of their ridership - Connecticut counts both Amtrak ticket and CTrail ticketed in their ridership numbers for the Hartford Line. I am hoping that Connecticut will either purchase equipment for Amtrak to use or run an additional CTrail train during the problematic time period to reduce the pressure on those particular shuttles rather than overreacting and punishing Amtrak riders.

While it is true we could still ride ctrail trains to connect in NHV, you lose the amenities that the ctrail coaches don’t have as well as the through ticketing and guaranteed connection.

In Amtrak’s defense I can see why they prioritize in a capacity conflict, a large majority of Amtrak ticketed riders on the Shuttles are connecting from the NEC and are paying normal Amtrak bucket fares (as the flat fare only applies for travel within the corridor if an end point is south of New Haven you pay Normal Amtrak fares.)
I agree with most of what you say, but I don’t think there is a legitimate danger of not being allowed to operate the line, seeing as it still owns it. In any case, ConnDot doesn’t have anywhere near enough equipment to take over the Amtrak trains on the line. It barely has enough to operate its current service as it is.
 

Thirdrail7

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Granted, it appears that passengers are now just being denied boarding and no longer being removed en route, but, in my opinion at least, this seems to me to indicate that standees are not being carried. But you are correct, I have no way of knowing for sure that standees are being permitted now and that loads are now exceeding even standee capacity, and I do concede that possibility, but the available evidence suggests that that situation is not what is occurring. 








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So, you've never been on these trains or been up to the platforms or seen it first hand? You're just going by the headlines?

What you're leaving out is the difference between the SPG shuttles and unreserved trains as an example. If my understanding of them is correct, the Surfliners are unreserved. As such, that train will just load and load until there is no more room. At that point, they may say "No mas."

The SPG shuttles are reserved on the Amtrak side. As such, you can SEE how many passengers you're expecting. If you're on a 2 car train and you see 82 SCHEDULED passengers boarding at Hartford (as an example) and you're already close to capacity as you approach the station, it is easy to see how many people you can safely stand, while leaving room making sure there is room for people to stand, load and unload at the next stops.

As such, it would be easy to say to anyone else "hey there isn't room for all of you to board safely."

Crews have ALWAYS had the right (and some have exercised it while others have not) to stop taking on passengers if the overflow is creating an unsafe condition. This did happen with a disabled regional around some holiday (it all blurs together at this point but TWROPR has the details.)

Long story short, the Amtrak to somewhere south of DC broke down. They transferred passengers to another regional. The initial preference was for people going south of DC since the new regional would now go south. However, it was packed which created standing conditions. Not a problem but eventually the crew stated they had no more room to handle more standee safely. So, the train left without taking on more passengers. Years ago, they would have stuffed the bathrooms, the vestibules and put 6 people to work behind the cafe counter! ^_^

This is no longer the case. They rest of the passengers waited to transfer to the next train...which had the same problem. Eventually, they hijacked a commuter train,  put the rest of the passengers  and just held the other train in WAS for connecting passengers arriving on the commuter set.
 

rspenmoll

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So, you've never been on these trains or been up to the platforms or seen it first hand? You're just going by the headlines?

What you're leaving out is the difference between the SPG shuttles and unreserved trains as an example. If my understanding of them is correct, the Surfliners are unreserved. As such, that train will just load and load until there is no more room. At that point, they may say "No mas."

The SPG shuttles are reserved on the Amtrak side. As such, you can SEE how many passengers you're expecting. If you're on a 2 car train and you see 82 SCHEDULED passengers boarding at Hartford (as an example) and you're already close to capacity as you approach the station, it is easy to see how many people you can safely stand, while leaving room making sure there is room for people to stand, load and unload at the next stops.

As such, it would be easy to say to anyone else "hey there isn't room for all of you to board safely."

Crews have ALWAYS had the right (and some have exercised it while others have not) to stop taking on passengers if the overflow is creating an unsafe condition. This did happen with a disabled regional around some holiday (it all blurs together at this point but TWROPR has the details.)

Long story short, the Amtrak to somewhere south of DC broke down. They transferred passengers to another regional. The initial preference was for people going south of DC since the new regional would now go south. However, it was packed which created standing conditions. Not a problem but eventually the crew stated they had no more room to handle more standee safely. So, the train left without taking on more passengers. Years ago, they would have stuffed the bathrooms, the vestibules and put 6 people to work behind the cafe counter! ^_^

This is no longer the case. They rest of the passengers waited to transfer to the next train...which had the same problem. Eventually, they hijacked a commuter train,  put the rest of the passengers  and just held the other train in WAS for connecting passengers arriving on the commuter set.
You are right, I did not take into consideration the fact that the shuttles are only partially unreserved. I understand what you are saying. Thank you. I was trying to figure out what exactly was happening, and I realize that I could have worded my initial post better to more accuratly reflect my intentions. I think I need to stay off social media late at night.
 

Anderson

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On the CT end of things, the problem is that as far as I can tell, CT doesn't want more Amtrak equipment.  I get the feeling that after the back-and-forth over CTRail, they'd rather kill off the shuttles and run everything as part of their program.
 

Thirdrail7

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On the CT end of things, the problem is that as far as I can tell, CT doesn't want more Amtrak equipment.  I get the feeling that after the back-and-forth over CTRail, they'd rather kill off the shuttles and run everything as part of their program.
Then, they'd lose even more capacity on the line since this comes into play:

I In any case, ConnDot doesn’t have anywhere near enough equipment to take over the Amtrak trains on the line. It barely has enough to operate its current service as it is.
To me, a quick solution is needed and there is only one viable solution...if CT wants to pay for it: Grab some of those cars that MARC always seems to pimp out and assign them to the problem trains. They hold 122 (or is it 142) seats per car.

If they're good enough for NJT, SEPTA,MARC and LIRR to use ,they should be good enough for CTTrails!

Otherwise, this issue has the potential to drag down the line and affected ridership and growth. Someone needs to strike fast.
 
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Anderson

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You know, I hear there are a bunch of Horizons for sale right now...

Edit: To be clear, that's a hotfix, not a long-term fix...but it seems to be what's needed.  I think those might also solve the ADA toilet problem (if that hasn't been fixed already).
 
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west point

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MARC three to four times a week has to limit passengers boarding for various reasons.  They will even bypass some stations inbound to WASH and also limit boarding at WASH outbound.  MARC even posts and alerts passengers the trains that are in such a problem.
 
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Ryan

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Grab some of those cars that MARC always seems to pimp out and assign them to the problem trains. They hold 122 (or is it 142) seats per car.
122 is the number that sticks in my head for some reason. 
 

lordsigma

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On the CT end of things, the problem is that as far as I can tell, CT doesn't want more Amtrak equipment.  I get the feeling that after the back-and-forth over CTRail, they'd rather kill off the shuttles and run everything as part of their program.
Which would be a mistake. Amtrak has received complaints from their own passengers when commuter equipment has been substituted in place of the Shuttle amfleets as was done during Thanksgiving and I have heard it myself a couple times once in an equipment substitution on a Shuttle and once when my regional was so late into NHV that the Shuttle left to keep CTrail passengers happy and we were reassigned to the next CTrail train. Had people saying they were going to call Amtrak to ask for their money back. I explained that the cost was the same on that corridor but your average traveler doesn't understand that, people that book Amtrak dont want commuter rail. You are going to lose Amtrak ridership if you reduce the only Amtrak options to the Vermonter and the through Regionals both because of the inferior ride experience on commuter equipment and the lack of through Amtrak ticketing with the guaranteed connection at NHV. Now maybe down the road as Mass decides what they want to do for SPG-BOS rail, part of the solution will be bringing back some inland route regionals as a replacement for the shuttles and maybe at that point it makes sense for CTDOT to take over all the local service, but the current through trains operate either extremely early AM southbound or very late PM northbound, and the Vermonter is frequently expensive and sold out as it is the only train north of SPG. I will be writing to Connecticut officials as the new administration comes in urging them to consider Amtrak customers in any decisions and to try to find a solution that doesn't punish us.

Hopefully the local congressional folks can convince Amtrak leadership to be more cooperative and a solution can be found. 

Speaking as an Amtrak rider I am happy with the service. In my opinion CDOT deserves part of the blame for this situation rather than exclusively bashing Amtrak when the schedule was planned. They could have scheduled more CTrail trains at these busier times for commuters and ultimately they decided on the schedule.
 
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lordsigma

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To me, a quick solution is needed and there is only one viable solution...if CT wants to pay for it: Grab some of those cars that MARC always seems to pimp out and assign the
Is the Amfleet equipment used on the Shuttle trains compatible with any commuter equipment (like could you stick a commuter car between the Amfleets and locomotive or is that not possible?) If there are no Amfleets to spare, could they stick an extra commuter car from somewhere on one or two of the Shuttle sets to handle commuter passengers?
 

lordsigma

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And by the way some of these same inconvenienced riders can get a reserved spot by simply going to the Amtrak counter instead of the CTrail machine if boarding at New Haven, Hartford, or Springfield for the same ticket price. now obviously that doesn't help folks with passes but...
 

Thirdrail7

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Is the Amfleet equipment used on the Shuttle trains compatible with any commuter equipment (like could you stick a commuter car between the Amfleets and locomotive or is that not possible?) If there are no Amfleets to spare, could they stick an extra commuter car from somewhere on one or two of the Shuttle sets to handle commuter passengers?
The Amfleets will work with the MARC cars, which is why I suggested them.
 
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