AMTRAK throws 15 year old from the train

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EMDF9A

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The NBC affilliate in Seattle, KINGTV, is reporting that an Olympia family is taking AMTRAK to court because their 15 year old daughter was put off a southbound AMTRAK Cascades train in Centralia, 80 miles short of her Portland destination because the AMTRAK conductor determined that she was too young to travel unaccompanied. The girl was part of a group of three teenage girls travelling to Portland. The other two girls were 16, and were not asked to leave the train, but chose to, so as not to leave the 15 year old alone.

Inaddition, the conductor did not turn the 15 yrea old over to the agent in Centralia. When the girls approached th agent they were told that he was going off duty in less than thirty minutes and didnt have time to deal with them.

The girls walked to a restaurant in Centralia where they phoned the 15 year old's parents and waited three hours until the parents could drive down and pick them up.
 
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G

guest

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You just gotta hope that there is another side to this story that isn't being told, as if often the case with sensational media stories like that, especially electronic media.

However, if the substance of the story is true, the conductor and even more the station agent should lose their jobs, or at least lose a big chunk of pay through a lengthy suspension!

But let's hope there are more facts to come out that get Amtrak out of a BIG public relations hole at the moment!!
 

Texan Eagle

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Every such story reported in the media has three sides- the passenger's side, the Amtrak's side and the truth.

That being said, I don't find it completely implausible that such a thing could have happened. The behavior described is not unheard of from Amtrak staff.

Edit: Just saw the video. Obviously they have over-dramatized and over-sensationalized the story, again, not something unheard of from the great media these days.
 
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sechs

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If it bleeds, it leads. That's why the title of this thread is "AMTRAK throws 15 year old from the train," even though nobody was thrown from anywhere.
 

EB_OBS

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If it bleeds, it leads. That's why the title of this thread is "AMTRAK throws 15 year old from the train," even though nobody was thrown from anywhere.
As opposed to "PARENTS put minor child on Amtrak train, without following the rules and/or Amtrak Unaccompanied Minor policy."
 

Texan Eagle

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As opposed to "PARENTS put minor child on Amtrak train, without following the rules and/or Amtrak Unaccompanied Minor policy."
To be frank, if I am a parent booking ticket for a 15-16 year old teenager for a short intercity train ride, it wouldn't even hit me to check the Unaccompanied Minors policy. I mean, come on, is traveling on Amtrak such a big deal that teenagers can't do it on their own? I wouldn't have thought they actually forbid anyone under 16 from traveling alone. I have traveled by trains alone (not on Amtrak though) from when I was as young as 12.

So yeah, in Amtrak;s books they defied a rule, but it isn't a rule that would be obvious to a customer. Easy to miss.
 
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manchacrr

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Here's a direct link to the story:

KING Seattle
The video in the news story clearly stated that Olympia-Lacey is not a manned station. According to the Unaccompanied Minors page on Amtrak's Website, this is the policy for a 15-year-old to travel without an adult:

Children 13, 14 and 15 years old may travel unaccompanied in accordance with the Amtrak Unaccompanied Minor Policy, which includes the following conditions:

Both boarding and arrival stations must be staffed.

For each unaccompanied minor traveling alone, the adult bringing the child to the departure station must complete and sign a release form.

The child must wear an Amtrak issued wristband for the duration of travel.

The adult must remain at the station until the train has departed.

Upon arrival, an adult (at least 18 years old) must be present to pick up the child. The adult must display valid current identification meeting the Amtrak ID policies.

The child must be interviewed by station personnel to determine if the child is capable of traveling alone.
Also on Amtrak's site:

If a group of children are traveling, and some are 16-17, some are 13-15, and some are under 13:

The 16-17 year olds may travel without restriction.

The 13-15 year olds must travel as unaccompanied minors because no one is 18 or over. The Unaccompanied Minor Policy applies.
 

jebr

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As opposed to "PARENTS put minor child on Amtrak train, without following the rules and/or Amtrak Unaccompanied Minor policy."
To be frank, if I am a parent booking ticket for a 15-16 year old teenager for a short intercity train ride, it wouldn't even hit me to check the Unaccompanied Minors policy. I mean, come on, is traveling on Amtrak such a big deal that teenagers can't do it on their own? I wouldn't have thought they actually forbid anyone under 16 from traveling alone. I have traveled by trains alone (not on Amtrak though) from when I was as young as 12.

So yeah, in Amtrak;s books they defied a rule, but it isn't a rule that would be obvious to a customer. Easy to miss.
Frankly, if I was traveling on any intercity transit as a minor, I would check to make sure that the policy would allow me.

Heck, they ask for the name on the ticket. You would think that someone would also look at ID requirements, and may think to check the unaccompanied minor rule.

As an aside, maybe Amtrak needs to create two sets of policies: one for LD trains (is the Cascades considered LD?) and one for NER/corridor trains, which would be less restrictive.
 

EB_OBS

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As opposed to "PARENTS put minor child on Amtrak train, without following the rules and/or Amtrak Unaccompanied Minor policy."
To be frank, if I am a parent booking ticket for a 15-16 year old teenager for a short intercity train ride, it wouldn't even hit me to check the Unaccompanied Minors policy. I mean, come on, is traveling on Amtrak such a big deal that teenagers can't do it on their own? I wouldn't have thought they actually forbid anyone under 16 from traveling alone. I have traveled by trains alone (not on Amtrak though) from when I was as young as 12.

So yeah, in Amtrak;s books they defied a rule, but it isn't a rule that would be obvious to a customer. Easy to miss.
I'm sorry, but in today's overly PC, litigation happy times, and with all the psychopaths and perverts everywhere I can't believe any parent would put their 15 year old girl on a train full of strangers without making any effort to contact Amtrak or at the very minimum the conductor on the platform when boarding the train.

You can't leave a dog locked in a car nowadays without someone likely to call the Humane Society and PETA on you, let alone a child. At what point are people responsible for their own actions?

The parents are outraged that Amtrak put their precious daughter off in the middle of nowhere, which isn't the case, yet it seems they had very little problem putting her on the train unaccompanied but for two also minor girls.
 

AlanB

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When one goes to the Amtrak website to book, as soon as you select "child" to add the quantity of children traveling, a note directly under the drop down pops up and says "Children and infants must travel with an adult who is at least 18 years or older."

One does not have to go looking for Amtrak's official policies buried elsewhere on the site. One only needs to open one's eyes and read!
 

jebr

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When one goes to the Amtrak website to book, as soon as you select "child" to add the quantity of children traveling, a note directly under the drop down pops up and says "Children and infants must travel with an adult who is at least 18 years or older."

One does not have to go looking for Amtrak's official policies buried elsewhere on the site. One only needs to open one's eyes and read!
Playing devil's advocate: what if her parents simply booked her as an "adult" fare? There's numerous places that cut the definition for "child", especially for discounted fares, at age 12. Heck, even Amtrak's children's menu is only available to those 12 and under!

Still doesn't excuse the parents, but it may not be quite that simple.
 

AlanB

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When one goes to the Amtrak website to book, as soon as you select "child" to add the quantity of children traveling, a note directly under the drop down pops up and says "Children and infants must travel with an adult who is at least 18 years or older."

One does not have to go looking for Amtrak's official policies buried elsewhere on the site. One only needs to open one's eyes and read!
Playing devil's advocate: what if her parents simply booked her as an "adult" fare? There's numerous places that cut the definition for "child", especially for discounted fares, at age 12. Heck, even Amtrak's children's menu is only available to those 12 and under!

Still doesn't excuse the parents, but it may not be quite that simple.
Amtrak provides the age range right under the words Adult & Child. So again, one need only read what's right there on the page right at the very spot where one is selecting how many people of what type age group are traveling.

There are many things that Amtrak doesn't properly warn people about, like for example special sale tickets that aren't refundable. But IMHO this is one case where there is plenty of warning & guidance. The parents were simply not paying attention or hoped that she wouldn't get caught.
 

The Commissioner

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The girl was already on the train and according to the article behaving herself. What was the harm in letting her continue to the destination? I can see the conductor booting someone with out a ticket, but come on. Wasn't the girl in more danger by being kicked off at a strange station far from home than letting her off at her destination? Where is the common sense?

BTW, my first unaccompanied train trip was from Paoli to Harrisburg and back on the PRR. When I was in the third grade. And there were several more unaccompanied trips even into NYP before I ever entered high school. As you can see, I lived to tell about it.
 

EB_OBS

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The parents were simply not paying attention or hoped that she wouldn't get caught.
My thoughts exactly. In all likelihood the parents knew full well she wasn't old enough to travel unaccompanied and decided to skirt the rule by purchasing the adult fare.

This is just my personal opinion and thoughts by the way. I know nothing about this occurrence or it's outcome. The first I learned about it was reading the forum tonight.
 

Dan O

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My thoughts exactly. In all likelihood the parents knew full well she wasn't old enough to travel unaccompanied and decided to skirt the rule by purchasing the adult fare.
Oh, I was thinking the opposite. They wanted the half fare so bought her the kid's ticket. If she said she's 16, she underpaid for the ticket. If she's under 16, she wasn't supposed to be traveling w/o someone over 18.

It is obvious if you try to buy a kid's ticket that the kid can't travel alone.

Looks like she was thrown off at the first station she could be. It's only a 20-30 min trip on Amtrak so I guess trying to gather sympathy by saying it took 3 hrs to go get her.
 

NorthCoastHiawatha

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The video in the news story clearly stated that Olympia-Lacey is not a manned station. According to the Unaccompanied Minors page on Amtrak's Website, this is the policy for a 15-year-old to travel without an adult:
A little off topic but here in en lies the major problem I have with the Olympia-Lacey station (my home station) its manned by volunteers, in that there are always 2 or 3 volunteers at the station to meet each train. So technically speaking its manned or at least attended but Amtrak was never really very supportive of the program. With OLW seeing nearly 58,000 passengers a year, its the 5th busiest station in the state I don't see why it couldn't be manned. The other station mentioned in the article is the 12th in the state in terms of ridership. What really is the deciding factor on whether a station is manned or not?

http://crosscut.com/2012/02/22/transportation/21985/Amtrak-finds-it-hard-to-take-citizens--help%2C-even-when-they-build-a-station/
 
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Blue Marble Travel

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If you (as a company) make the mistake of selling her the ticket and letting her on the train, despite a policy that you put in place allegedly out of a concern for the safety of minors, then let her get where she is going. To do otherwise is to threaten the safety of precisely the population you say you are trying to protect.

The Conductor could have stopped her on the platform if he was worried: instead, he let her settle into her seat, the train started rolling, and then he decided to ask her her age. Bit late (yeah, I know, maybe he didn't see her amongst the throngs boarding in Olympia). At that point, any real concern for safety dictates you get her to Portland (where she was being met at the train by adults, the parents of one of the other girls). With apologies to Letterman, this is another "stupid OBS trick." Put the wrong guy in a uniform, and he not only thinks he's God, but wants to prove it.

Further (and very much on a different-but-related topic), Amtrak's rule on this is unnecessarily restrictive. Most 15-year olds (and certainly as many 15 year old females as 20 year old males) are perfectly capable of traveling on their own on a train. Children take trains to school around the world (and in many places in the US). My first overnight solo trip on a train was when I was 10 (NY to Chicago), and by the time I was 14 I had made twenty or more, some in foreign countries: Canada and England). No, my parents were not irresponsible (or at least, they did not see themselves that way, and neither did / do I). They were very present, caring, and safety conscious, throughout my youth, to the point of actually moving to a statistically safe zip code before they had children.

Having a parent sign a release for a non-routine (intercity) trip seems reasonable enough, especially in a litigious society. But a silly rule will never be respected (think of pedestrian traffic lights on empty streets). Amtrak is asking for trouble on this one, and they are going to get it, as here. But defending court suits that should not have to happen, spurrious or not, is not a good use of her tax dollars, even if you win every one.

When the UM policy was updated a year or two ago (and age restrictions significantly raised), several of my friends groaned loudly and went back to putting their children on planes and buses, or to driving them. If we look at highway accident statistics, exactly how do we think that that has worked out for the safety of the children in question?

Finally, yet a third different-but-related topic, regarding the 3-hours-to-pick-up: the mother who had put the children on the train was at work, in a meeting with her cell phone off (understandable: my cell phone is off when I am in meetings, too). By the time she organized with the father to have the children picked up, 3 hours had elapsed. I don't find that surprising: once my kids are on the train, I figure they are safe. Silly me. Sigh.
 

VentureForth

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Though I haven't ridden a train overnight until well into adulthood, as a child I rode solo on the train countless times when I was as young as 12.

At my school, there were kindergartners riding the train solo back and forth to school. Though statistically a much safer country, it isn't without problems.

As for this story, I saw no intent of anyone wanting to sue Amtrak. Conductor was wrong to put a kid off the train, even if they were in violation of the rules. At least it wasn't at a grade crossing into the hands of local police! The only sensationalism I saw in the story was that they were put off 80 miles from their destination rather than 15 miles or so from home. Parents should have initiated the ride from the closest staffed station. Amtrak should allow UM to be initiated at volunteer-staffed stations. Again, as far as the parents go, ignorance of the rule isn't a defense to break it.
 

jmbgeg

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The NBC affilliate in Seattle, KINGTV, is reporting that an Olympia family is taking AMTRAK to court because their 15 year old daughter was put off a southbound AMTRAK Cascades train in Centralia, 80 miles short of her Portland destination because the AMTRAK conductor determined that she was too young to travel unaccompanied. The girl was part of a group of three teenage girls travelling to Portland. The other two girls were 16, and were not asked to leave the train, but chose to, so as not to leave the 15 year old alone.

Inaddition, the conductor did not turn the 15 yrea old over to the agent in Centralia. When the girls approached th agent they were told that he was going off duty in less than thirty minutes and didnt have time to deal with them.

The girls walked to a restaurant in Centralia where they phoned the 15 year old's parents and waited three hours until the parents could drive down and pick them up.
I am not sure that I read where the girls boarded the train and how long she had been on the train before they put her off. This leads to the question about what caused the conductor to determine that she was an unaccompanied minor mid-trip, as opposed to at ticket collection? The UM policy is aimed at the child's welfare. If the policy is to put an unauthorzied UM off the train, perhaps it should be at the next manned station, to be met by a station agent; and if not, to alert police in advance of arrival at an unmanned station so they can meet the train and call the parents. A few thoughts.
 

jis

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IMHO the Conductor exhibited poor judgement as a human being, but then again it is entirely possible that Amtrak rules put him between a rock and a hard place. But s/he certainly failed a simple "common sense" test in not properly transferring custody to a responsible adult at the point where the child was removed from the train.

OTOH, the parents were also not exactly right in arranging to place their child on a train contrary to the carrier's policies.

Unfortunately, on the whole, Amtrak comes out looking worse than any airline in this case, partly because of their operating circumstances and partly due to apparent lack of common sense of their employee.

I find it hard to see any logic in dropping off a minor short of the destination and seems to to go against the whole purpose of the UM rule. Specially on the Cascade Corridor where tickets are collected before boarding is allowed, it is kind of lame for the conductor to claim that s/he didn't know when the boarding took place. Yes I know they could have been tricked, but when processes are supposedly enforced to ensure that all tickets are collected prior to boarding, then the responsibility after that rests with the official supposedly running said process.

No matter how it came to pass, on the whole it was a public relations fiasco that is best avoided if possible.

Lets just say that Amtrak did not cover itself with glory on this one and note that they have offered to make reasonable restitution. Thank the stars that nothing bad happened to the kid, and let's leave it at that, hoping that Amtrak does not repeat this performance.
 
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