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Amtrak train - right time, wrong train number

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George

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What happens on the NEC if all trains are backed up by the same amount of time due to, say, an unauthorized person coming into contact with a train near Aberdeen?

Say you bought a NER ticket from EWR to STM for 2V-178 that is supposed to depart EWR 1856. The previous NER between these two city pairs is 2V-148 that departs EWR 1802.

However, all trains are delayed 54 minutes due to the mishap in Aberdeen. You arrive at the EWR platform on time to catch your train, and 2V-148 arrives at EWR at 1856.

I suppose I should know that the answer to this depends on the friendliness (or lack thereof) of the 2V staff involved, but will a conductor typically give a passenger a hard time for boarding 2V-148 with a 2V-178 ticket when 2V-148 arrives at the time 2V-178 should have arrived?
 

VentureForth

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If the trains are near capacity, it's the passengers obligation to abide by the rules governing their ticket. A ticket for train 178 is for train 178, not 148. Otherwise you are displacing another paying customer.
 
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Anderson

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Alright, extending the hypothetical slightly, let's assume that the "stand in" train is actually less crowded (i.e. you can do a quick check on your laptop/smartphone and the train you would be boarding is neither full nor in top bucket for the slot in question). What then?

(And of course, there's a possible answer to this: If your initial train is over an hour late on the NEC (or any other corridor) and you're at a staffed station, you might be able to get a sympathetic agent to switch your ticket quickly.)

Two other wrinkles to ask about here:

1) What happens if a train comes in at the "right" time and someone just walks on and boards it? Assume garbled announcements or that folks are out on a platform rather than in a quiet station.

2) Right train, right time, but the train is on the wrong day. We've all heard of the rather infamous Builder/Zephyr "episodes" where the train is hilariously behind schedule. What happens if someone boards the proper train at (or after) their stated departure time, but it was actually the previous day's departure? I'm wondering just because of the trouble actually explaining that to the customer (no, this isn't your train...yes, it really is a day behind schedule, your train won't be here for at least 12 hours). Assuming a burned-out crew and an unstaffed station somewhere in "flyover country", what would be the status of a passenger who boarded the wrong frequency of a given train?
 
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Michael061282

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I had that happen one time, I was supposed to catch The Palmetto from DC to Richmond one time, it was very very late, so late in fact that another Carolinian actually got to DC before it did. Amtrak told the Palmetto passengers in no uncertain terms to sit! stay! <I've always had issues with the DC employees rudeness> We weren't allowed to board. A few people went to the ticket counter to try an exchange their tickets and were told there were plenty of seats but you can't change trains this late.
 
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AlanB

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Alright, extending the hypothetical slightly, let's assume that the "stand in" train is actually less crowded (i.e. you can do a quick check on your laptop/smartphone and the train you would be boarding is neither full nor in top bucket for the slot in question). What then?
Well most people would not know if the train was in the top bucket or not. About the best that the average Joe might know would be that there were 8 seats left if they had a smart phone to check things.

Regardless of full or not, assuming that a decision wasn't made by someone in CNOC to carry the other train's passengers, then it would be conductor's discreation on whether or not to allow you to board if you ask. If you just board, again it would be up to the conductor to decide whether to accept your ticket or put you off at the very next stop. The conductor could also accept your ticket, but order you to sit in the cafe car because the train is sold out and no seats are available.

(And of course, there's a possible answer to this: If your initial train is over an hour late on the NEC (or any other corridor) and you're at a staffed station, you might be able to get a sympathetic agent to switch your ticket quickly.)
Again, the agent might decide to be nice & helpful, or if CNOC ordered the other train to pick up the pax then the agent would just tell you that.

1) What happens if a train comes in at the "right" time and someone just walks on and boards it? Assume garbled announcements or that folks are out on a platform rather than in a quiet station.
Again, conductor's discretion on what to do with you.

2) Right train, right time, but the train is on the wrong day. We've all heard of the rather infamous Builder/Zephyr "episodes" where the train is hilariously behind schedule. What happens if someone boards the proper train at (or after) their stated departure time, but it was actually the previous day's departure? I'm wondering just because of the trouble actually explaining that to the customer (no, this isn't your train...yes, it really is a day behind schedule, your train won't be here for at least 12 hours). Assuming a burned-out crew and an unstaffed station somewhere in "flyover country", what would be the status of a passenger who boarded the wrong frequency of a given train?
First, at a very small stop there would probably be little chance of someone not being told in advance that this was the train from the day before

Then it would come down to is that train sold out or not. If not, then they'd probably allow pax to board, at least in coach. It would be far more difficult to accept sleeping car passengers, as those cars are often sold out.

Finally, if you did manage to get on despite warnings from the crew that they were NOT accepting tickets for the other train date, then the crew could decide to put you off at the next stop or maybe even drop you off at a RR crossing. They could also once again order you to sit in the cafe car only.

NOTE: All of the above is how things would have been handled pre-eTicketing. But I would assume that eTicketing doesn't change things that much such that things have changed massively.
 
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Anderson

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Alright, extending the hypothetical slightly, let's assume that the "stand in" train is actually less crowded (i.e. you can do a quick check on your laptop/smartphone and the train you would be boarding is neither full nor in top bucket for the slot in question). What then?
Well most people would not know if the train was in the top bucket or not. About the best that the average Joe might know would be that there were 8 seats left if they had a smart phone to check things.

Regardless of full or not, assuming that a decision wasn't made by someone in CNOC to carry the other train's passengers, then it would be conductor's discreation on whether or not to allow you to board if you ask. If you just board, again it would be up to the conductor to decide whether to accept your ticket or put you off at the very next stop. The conductor could also accept your ticket, but order you to sit in the cafe car because the train is sold out and no seats are available.

(And of course, there's a possible answer to this: If your initial train is over an hour late on the NEC (or any other corridor) and you're at a staffed station, you might be able to get a sympathetic agent to switch your ticket quickly.)
Again, the agent might decide to be nice & helpful, or if CNOC ordered the other train to pick up the pax then the agent would just tell you that.

1) What happens if a train comes in at the "right" time and someone just walks on and boards it? Assume garbled announcements or that folks are out on a platform rather than in a quiet station.
Again, conductor's discretion on what to do with you.

2) Right train, right time, but the train is on the wrong day. We've all heard of the rather infamous Builder/Zephyr "episodes" where the train is hilariously behind schedule. What happens if someone boards the proper train at (or after) their stated departure time, but it was actually the previous day's departure? I'm wondering just because of the trouble actually explaining that to the customer (no, this isn't your train...yes, it really is a day behind schedule, your train won't be here for at least 12 hours). Assuming a burned-out crew and an unstaffed station somewhere in "flyover country", what would be the status of a passenger who boarded the wrong frequency of a given train?
First, at a very small stop there would probably be little chance of someone not being told in advance that this was the train from the day before

Then it would come down to is that train sold out or not. If not, then they'd probably allow pax to board, at least in coach. It would be far more difficult to accept sleeping car passengers, as those cars are often sold out.

Finally, if you did manage to get on despite warnings from the crew that they were NOT accepting tickets for the other train date, then the crew could decide to put you off at the next stop or maybe even drop you off at a RR crossing. They could also once again order you to sit in the cafe car only.

NOTE: All of the above is how things would have been handled pre-eTicketing. But I would assume that eTicketing doesn't change things that much such that things have changed massively.
Well, with a small stop, I'm assuming that it's unstaffed at the time.
 

Tracktwentynine

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This happened to me once. I had an afternoon flight on a Saturday from BWI. I would normally take the B30 express bus, but I think Amtrak was running a double or triple points promotion or something, so I thought, what the heck, I'll take Amtrak.

I generally avoid (like the plague) the trains that start in Richmond, but there were 2 consecutive trains from Virginia. I could either arrive at the airport 3 hours early, or 15 minutes before my flight, so I chose to take the first of the Virginia trains. I showed up at New Carrollton with about 40 minutes before my train was due to arrive. And discovered then that it was a few minutes late. This became continuously worse. Something was going on near Alexandria, best I could figure.

Long story short, my train is now 1H45 late, and we're told the second Virginia train (now 45 minutes late) will arrive first, followed in 10 minutes by the first train.

At this point, I'm dangerously close to not having enough time to catch my flight, and I was going to get on the first train, no matter what anybody said (BWI is the next stop, after all). But shortly before the "later" train arrived (first), an announcement was made that we could all get on the first train if we wanted, but that Amtrak preferred that we wait for the train we were ticketed for.

I did make the flight, but there was no time to spare.
 

cirdan

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2) Right train, right time, but the train is on the wrong day. We've all heard of the rather infamous Builder/Zephyr "episodes" where the train is hilariously behind schedule. What happens if someone boards the proper train at (or after) their stated departure time, but it was actually the previous day's departure? I'm wondering just because of the trouble actually explaining that to the customer (no, this isn't your train...yes, it really is a day behind schedule, your train won't be here for at least 12 hours). Assuming a burned-out crew and an unstaffed station somewhere in "flyover country", what would be the status of a passenger who boarded the wrong frequency of a given train?
I'm pretty sure Amtrak staff would seek to resolve such issues in the most amicable way possible. So if maybe you have a sleeper reservation and there is an available empty sleeper, I cannot imagine them not letting you have it. But if there isn't an available sleeper than there's nothing they can do so maybe you can downgrade to coach or maybe you can get off at the next stop and wait for the next train (which may actually just be an hour or so behind), whichever is the lesser of the two evils. I can't image them kicking you off the train without trying to help you in some appropriate way.
 

cirdan

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I was once on an LD train where a fellow passenger was having some trouble because they'r boarded the wrong train, not because it was running late but because they'd confused the date (which is easy to do if the departure is something like 12:03AM when you can easily forget that the date should move forwards, even if it's still late evening of the previous day for you). I'm not totally sure how they finally resolved the issue but the conductor was very kind and polite and the passenger was apologetic and was allowed to stay on the train, though I don't know if he made any payment or anything.
 

NW cannonball

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I was once on an LD train where a fellow passenger was having some trouble because they'r boarded the wrong train, not because it was running late but because they'd confused the date (which is easy to do if the departure is something like 12:03AM when you can easily forget that the date should move forwards, even if it's still late evening of the previous day for you). I'm not totally sure how they finally resolved the issue but the conductor was very kind and polite and the passenger was apologetic and was allowed to stay on the train, though I don't know if he made any payment or anything.
I've never made the "wrong date" mistake on Amtrak but I did once on an airline - arrived a day late at 00:30 for a flight that left the previous day - there was an empty seat on the "redeye" and they charged me fifty dollars for the late change. No problem for me.

I expect, based on long experience with Amtrak, that if there are seats (or roomettes - whatever) available, they will sell you one

BUT - there may well be reserved seats empty at your boarding station that have already been committed to reserved passengers boarding at the next few stops -- that's something the conductor knows (or should) and the pax don't.

SO - that's why boarding in this type of situation is at the Conductor's discretion. If a non-reserved train - sure, take the next one out. I
 

Tracktwentynine

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What if EVERYONE with tickets on the 2nd train boarded the first train?
In my case, since we were promised over the PA that the "first train" (which was actually going to arrive second) was leaving Washington, and it would be only 10 minutes behind, I think most people were willing to wait. Especially since I think the PA indicated that there would be more seats on that train.

I elected not to wait, though. I was only going one stop, and I was perfectly willing to stand (I did not have to).

At any rate, I don't take Amtrak to the airport anymore. Period.
 

NW cannonball

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What if EVERYONE with tickets on the 2nd train boarded the first train?
In my case, since we were promised over the PA that the "first train" (which was actually going to arrive second) was leaving Washington, and it would be only 10 minutes behind, I think most people were willing to wait. Especially since I think the PA indicated that there would be more seats on that train.

I elected not to wait, though. I was only going one stop, and I was perfectly willing to stand (I did not have to).

At any rate, I don't take Amtrak to the airport anymore. Period.
And I don't take the weekly stagecoach from Topeka any more. After what happened on grandad's trip.

Transport is inherently unreliable. Play the odds, expect adversities. If there's a most reliable way to the airport, use it. Here, I uses local transit - never let me down - yet.

Even Shank's mare fails me at times - and they don't let pedestrians in to my local airport anyhow. Gotta pay - gotta lose sometimes.
 

Tracktwentynine

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What if EVERYONE with tickets on the 2nd train boarded the first train?
In my case, since we were promised over the PA that the "first train" (which was actually going to arrive second) was leaving Washington, and it would be only 10 minutes behind, I think most people were willing to wait. Especially since I think the PA indicated that there would be more seats on that train.

I elected not to wait, though. I was only going one stop, and I was perfectly willing to stand (I did not have to).

At any rate, I don't take Amtrak to the airport anymore. Period.
And I don't take the weekly stagecoach from Topeka any more. After what happened on grandad's trip.

Transport is inherently unreliable. Play the odds, expect adversities. If there's a most reliable way to the airport, use it. Here, I uses local transit - never let me down - yet.

Even Shank's mare fails me at times - and they don't let pedestrians in to my local airport anyhow. Gotta pay - gotta lose sometimes.
Yes, I appreciate the fact that too many people rely on one anecdote to form their impression of something.

I still take Amtrak, and [fingers crossed], I've never been more than 2 hours late to a destination on Amtrak.

But I live between Greenbelt and New Carrollton. My apartment is served by a bus that runs between the two stations. In about the same amount of time, I can get to either station. At Greenbelt, the bus to BWI runs every 40 minutes and costs $6. It starts at Greenbelt, so it's generally not subject to interference from CSX, though it does sometimes hit traffic on the Parkway.

On the other hand, I can take the train from New Carrollton. Instead of dropping me off at the airport, it drops me off 2 miles away, and I have to take a shuttle bus. The price of the train is about $6 for MARC, but I think it's about $20 for Amtrak. And Amtrak runs hourly. And some of those trains start in Richmond, where everybody knows they're going to be held up.

So, instead of building in 2 extra hours to get to the airport, I just take the BWI Airport express bus. Because it's consistently more reliable than Amtrak and delivers me directly to the terminal.

Now, if I lived in Washington, the calculus might be different, because those riders have to take the Green Line all the way out to Greenbelt to catch the B30 bus, but I don't live Downtown, so for me, the B30 just makes sense.
 
N

Nathanael

Guest
When trains are late, Amtrak will *usually* start rescheduling passengers into the earliest available train. As far as Amtrak is concerned, empty seats should be filled, and if the waiting passengers are put on the earlier train, that opens up seats on a later train. If a train is already sold out, though, that's another matter.

With e-ticketing, they can consistently *tell* whether there are empty seats -- every conductor has full access to the manifest as of the last time they had cellphone service -- which *should* help a lot.

I don't know how much discretion the station agents and conductors have at avoiding fare changes when doing this, but I would hope that they would have substantial discretion when trains with empty seats are about to leave.
 
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