Assigned seats on the train?

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To my knowledge, I believe assigned seats only happen on certain trains, or is it completely random? I’ve only been assigned seats twice, and I’m pretty sure they were both trains from Chicago to Pittsburgh, I believe. The other times, I was not assigned a seat. I’ve looked around and it seems to be only happen on certain trains, but I’m here to clarify. My next trip, I’m taking 29 and 421.

By assigned seats, I mean where they give you a number and you sit down on said seat, most likely next to someone.
Thank you.
 
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caravanman

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As train popularity has increased over the last 15 years, I have noticed the assignment of seats more often. It can be annoying to be crammed into a crowded coach, and see the next coach half empty...
Mainly happens so that passengers for a particular destination are grouped together, and only one train door is opened, especially at night.
This does not answer your question as such, I think actual seat assignment and whether to enforce it is at the discretion of the Amtrak staff at boarding.
 

amtrakpass

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I understand the preferences of both crew and passengers might be assigning seating but for me I prefer general boarding and letting everyone find their own seat which seems to be the quickest mode of boarding by far. Then after the train is on the move and the conductors are collecting tickets they can move individuals around if there is an issue or need to adjust the seating for different reasons. Most of the time I think it works better in the end that way. There is actually a long time between Amtrak stops compared to commuter trains for example and it should be no problem as far as having enough time to do it that way. Except maybe overnight when it would be preferable to assign a seat on a crowded train if there are only so many open so everyone isn't disturbed.
I realize the trend has been for more assigned seating but even on the Acela's that have assigned seating now it never fails that several people are in the wrong car/wrong seat and need to be told to move when the conductor comes by anyway.
of course there is a need for the conductors to assign passengers to a specific car sometimes, nothing wrong with that. It's just the assigning of specific seats in the car I feel is unnecessary most of the time
 

Train3414

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Seats or at least specific cars are generally assigned in Coach on Long Distance trains but not on Corridor trains (although there are some exceptions.) I think they will sometimes take requests for specific seats (or at least specific types of seats, like preferences on side of the train) or will sometimes let you switch your seat once onboard. They try to assign seats to ensure people can sit together and also to keep people traveling to the same destinations close by to ease the process of getting everyone off and (especially at night) limit noise.
 

VentureForth

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I've experienced this and not experienced this, sometimes on the same train. You can certainly request with the attendant, but they primarily do this for loading based on destination. Usually, I get "You're going where? Ok - go to your right..." or something like that.
 
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I would like to see Amtrak go to a seat reservation system where you could pick your seat at the time of ticket purchase as is the case for most airlines and for a long time on many European trains. It would save the stress of having to get to the front of the line to grab a good seat especially on the NEC. If Amtrak wanted to allocate specific coaches for certain destinations that could be built into the system.
 

crescent-zephyr

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Seat assignment can also vary from station to station. So at the major stops it's more of a select your own seat but then at all smaller stops, they assign you seats.

It's definitely nice for families to be assigned seats together and not have to search for seats and potentially have to spread out over multiple areas of the car. As a solo passenger if I get assigned an aisle seat I just spend most of my time in the lounge.
 

Sidney

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I was on the Capitol Limited between Pittsburgh and Chicago and back last week. Both overnight trips. The last few times I did this I was assigned a seat with a seatmate. Thankfully,there was open seating on both trains last week and I ended up having both seats to myself.

I really wish if the train isn't full ,solo travelers can get both seats. What is frustrating is when passengers going to a specific destination are put in one car,regardless of how full the train is. I believe I am capable of knowing when to get off.
 

joelkfla

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I really wish if the train isn't full ,solo travelers can get both seats. What is frustrating is when passengers going to a specific destination are put in one car,regardless of how full the train is. I believe I am capable of knowing when to get off.
But you can't get off if nobody opens the door. And they might not wait for you to find the car with the open door.
 

amtrakpass

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As far as doors opening, if all doors will not open, the crew can also make an announcement saying which car doors(first 3, last 2 etc..) will or will not open as is common practice on many commuter or corridor trains. If the PA doesn't work or is hard to hear the conductor can always walk through the train making the announcement.
 

crescent-zephyr

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As far as doors opening, if all doors will not open, the crew can also make an announcement saying which car doors(first 3, last 2 etc..) will or will not open as is common practice on many commuter or corridor trains. If the PA doesn't work or is hard to hear the conductor can always walk through the train making the announcement.

Or... on a Long Distance train, they can assign you a specific car where they know the doors will open. There are many differences between a Long Distance train and a commuter train that would make assigning specific cars and seats a very smart idea for both the crew and the majority of long-distance rail passengers.

It's a bit of a catch-22 for us railfans. We want the trains to be full so they keep running, but we also want the trains to be empty so we can pick our favorite seats!
 

Train3414

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As far as doors opening, if all doors will not open, the crew can also make an announcement saying which car doors(first 3, last 2 etc..) will or will not open as is common practice on many commuter or corridor trains. If the PA doesn't work or is hard to hear the conductor can always walk through the train making the announcement.
They try to not make announcements late at night as people are sleeping or at least generally don't want to hear announcements that late. Usually the crew comes through and individually wakes people up, so they find keeping people for a specific stop in the same area makes the process easier. They also often try to keep people with stops in the middle of the night in separate cars from people with stops during the day (especially those going to further away points) to minimize noise throughout the night for those who are going to be onboard until later in the day and will be wanting to sleep.
 

Trollopian

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I travel between DC and Pittsburgh on the Capitol Limited and in DC am always, always assigned a seat. As others note, the cars are more or less divided by destination. Not only am I assigned to sit next to a stranger, but the conductor won't even accommodate a polite request for a window (or, I suppose, aisle) seat. This is why I head to the observation car at first opportunity. If there is one. Obviously trains are less crowded since the pandemic, but the boarding drill is unchanged.

I've long thought that putting a uniform on people brings out any latent petty authoritarianism. Not on everybody, it depends on the underlying personality; but often.
 

jis

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As far as doors opening, if all doors will not open, the crew can also make an announcement saying which car doors(first 3, last 2 etc..) will or will not open as is common practice on many commuter or corridor trains. If the PA doesn't work or is hard to hear the conductor can always walk through the train making the announcement.
The one caveat is that you would not want to be making announcement on the PA system every so often in the middle of the night. So the night stops have to be handled without requiring public announcements.
 

Train3414

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At some stations, I've also seen them pre-assign seats prior to boarding. For example, at Los Angeles Union Station, you can go to the Amtrak Information Booth (in the Great Hall, closer to the concourse) and they'll assign you a seat. I have personally experienced them assigning seats upon arrival at the platform though once they start boarding.
 

joelkfla

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As far as doors opening, if all doors will not open, the crew can also make an announcement saying which car doors(first 3, last 2 etc..) will or will not open as is common practice on many commuter or corridor trains. If the PA doesn't work or is hard to hear the conductor can always walk through the train making the announcement.
Let's say you were on a Superliner and getting off at a station that doesn't do checked baggage. So you would like to go downstairs, drag your luggage up the stairs, maneuver it between cars, and then drag it back downstairs?
 

WWW

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Aside from Bedroom - Roomettes - and sleeping accommodations selecting seats for the rest of train at the time of reservation would be nice
with the cavet of consistency in the consist of train equipment.
When boarding an airplane you are dealing with only one unit - and - not like multiple coaches on a train where confusion could be possible - - -
I.E. Seat 32B but in which of two three or more coaches ?
Assigned seating is reassuring of having a spot reserved and especially so if one is familiar with seating layout - near a door - or place with more
useable space be it under seat or overhead compartment.
Of more concern is if traveling other than solo having seating in the same area as the rest of your party - adjacent - across aisle - front/behind - etc.

And then there is the issue of freeloaders using an empty seat as a place for luggage and worse yet a foot rest !
 

amtrakpass

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The main point I was trying to make is not that assigned cars or seats never make sense, but that there is a time and place when they do and times they do not. For instance I took the crescent last year when it was not very busy and although I was in the sleeper I could see they were checking every ticket on the platform before boarding and assigning specific seats in one coach car even though another car was closed off and empty. Boarding at intermediate stops takes much longer if you do it this way when it is not always needed. There are some cases where it is a good idea such as night stops or destinations but to check tickets on the platform and assign seats should be the exception not the rule in my opinion in order to make the station stops relatively quick and the crew can concentrate on people who really do need assistance such as the disabled and elderly.
 

rs9

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Sectioning coach cars to ensure overnight arrivals and limiting noise is a sensible policy. There's probably just a better way of doing it. On the Wolverine out of Chicago, you are sent from the boarding line to a particular car or cars based on your destination. If that's still not enough, signage could be posted within cars - this half of the car is for travelers to XXX city. In that manner, people can still choose their seats within their defined sections. Since tickets are checked on board, conductors can move folks around who didn't seat themselves in the right place.
 

jis

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In many large rail systems there is a mix of "Reserved" and "Unreserved" cars, where Reserved usually means assigned seat, and Unreserved means truly unreserved, i.e. as many as are able to pile in can do so. Amtrak might want to restrict the number of people to be equal to the number of seats even in the "Unassigned Seat" rather than "Unreserved" space on the train.

But then often there are "prestige" trains that are "All Reserved" and the bedlam of Unreserved is reserved for the lowlier trains.
 

crescent-zephyr

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For instance I took the crescent last year when it was not very busy and although I was in the sleeper I could see they were checking every ticket on the platform before boarding and assigning specific seats in one coach car even though another car was closed off and empty.

I saw a coach passenger kicked off the Crescent in Atlanta for arguing about the empty and closed car. The Conductor said "If you don't like how I run my train, you aren't going to ride it" after he continued to argue with her that he should be able to sit in the empty, closed-off coach.

My understanding is that the coach was being saved for passengers boarding in Charlotte NC.
 

Train3414

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Sectioning coach cars to ensure overnight arrivals and limiting noise is a sensible policy. There's probably just a better way of doing it. On the Wolverine out of Chicago, you are sent from the boarding line to a particular car or cars based on your destination. If that's still not enough, signage could be posted within cars - this half of the car is for travelers to XXX city. In that manner, people can still choose their seats within their defined sections. Since tickets are checked on board, conductors can move folks around who didn't seat themselves in the right place.
Expanding on this, could they also in addition to having specific sections for destinations reserve off seating to ensure groups, or at least a parent with a small child, can sit together? Or at that point is the amount of seating available to choose from for singles or small groups so limited that just reserving seats is easier?
 

crescent-zephyr

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Expanding on this, could they also in addition to having specific sections for destinations reserve off seating to ensure groups, or at least a parent with a small child, can sit together? Or at that point is the amount of seating available to choose from for singles or small groups so limited that just reserving seats is easier?

I’ve seen them do this. Reserving seats for parties of 2, and for 3+. Still you’ll have solo passengers arguing that “the seats are empty why can’t I sit here, I don’t want to share a seat!”
 

Train3414

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I’ve seen them do this. Reserving seats for parties of 2, and for 3+. Still you’ll have solo passengers arguing that “the seats are empty why can’t I sit here, I don’t want to share a seat!”
This is all a difficult situation because if you prioritize trying to give people an empty seat next to them seating groups together is harder, but if you prioritize sitting groups together, giving people an empty seat next to them is harder
 
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