Assigned seats on the train?

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Bob Dylan

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I'm considering a Lake Shore Limited from Chicago Union Station to New York Union Station around 9:30 pm at night departure. My question is should I get there early because I want a window seat or do they seat you by destination? All the NYC people in one car while people getting off sooner are in others or people getting on at later stations but going to NYC will eventually wind up in your car? What is the process?
There are at least 2 Coaches going to New York City(#48) with the Boston Section (#448)at the Front of the Train, so your Chances of getting a Good Seat in the Amfleet II Coaches is good.

It will depend on the Passenger Load and the Crew, but every time I've taken the Lake Shore to NYP in Coach I've been able to pick my own seat.
 
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Getting there more than, say, 30 minutes early won't help much. Being at or near the front of the line when they start boarding IS important in getting a window seat. Know that #48/448 most likely boards from at the easternmost glass doors in the waiting area at CHI as far as I know. If you see the crowd from the Metropolitan lounge boarding/waiting to board about 9:05-9:10 (I've always ridden sleeper), stand by the door then if they haven't already called for coach boarding.
 

zephyr17

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Why is that a problem? Someone's not going to take a trip because they can't get just the right seat?
Well, most airline sites allow you preview a available seats before purchase. For air travel, I will decide against flights based on which seats are available, so the concept of changing plans based on seat availability does not sound at all outlandish to me. With that said, there are no seats on Amtrak nearly as bad as bad airline seats, so it assumes much less importance.
 

MARC Rider

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Well, most airline sites allow you preview a available seats before purchase. For air travel, I will decide against flights based on which seats are available, so the concept of changing plans based on seat availability does not sound at all outlandish to me. With that said, there are no seats on Amtrak nearly as bad as bad airline seats, so it assumes much less importance.
When the boss tells someone that they have to fly out to De Moines on the 14th of the month, or when vacation days are fixed, and a person can only travel on certain dates, the vast majority of people aren't going cancel or change their plans because they can't set the seat of their choice. Maybe a few retired people can be picky like that, but even then, this is transportation, you get there at the same time, whatever seat you get.
 

zephyr17

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When the boss tells someone that they have to fly out to De Moines on the 14th of the month, or when vacation days are fixed, and a person can only travel on certain dates, the vast majority of people aren't going cancel or change their plans because they can't set the seat of their choice. Maybe a few retired people can be picky like that, but even then, this is transportation, you get there at the same time, whatever seat you get.
When I traveled on business, I was usual able to choose flights based at least partly on seat availability. I was never forced into a middle seat. My employers were usually flexible on time of day, and were all right with taking an earlier or later flight as long as I was where I was supposed to be when I was supposed to be.

Most of my selections based on seat availability I referred to were actually for business travel. It wasn't when I was a "privileged" retiree.

Since I retired, I have not flown at all.

So, as I said the capability of seeing seats in advance and making travel plans at least partly based on that is not at all outlandish, even for business travel. Who wants to be stuck in a middle seat if one can find reasonable alternatives?
 
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rs9

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Here's one video from Feb. 2022 that suggests that passengers on the LSL departing from Chicago are grouped into cars by destination - at least for NYP passengers.

 

daybeers

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Why is that a problem? Someone's not going to take a trip because they can't get just the right seat?
Those upgrade coupons are precious, and to use them on Acela, you're already paying a higher base fare for not much upgrade in the experience department. It's the same thing with not being able to see the seat map before paying in cash: why?
 

rs9

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I was wondering if any recent Capitol Limited coach riders could share if seats are still being assigned these days. My boarding would be in both terminus cities (Chicago and DC).
 

crescent-zephyr

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Maybe a few retired people can be picky like that, but even then, this is transportation, you get there at the same time, whatever seat you get.
I’m not retired and always pick flights based on seat availability. I usually travel for work.

Recently I DID have to book a middle seat on delta but I kept refreshing the app on the day of my flight and got it changed to a window seat thankfully.

Being able to choose a seat would definitely be a nice thing on Amtrak and Acela.
 

Sidney

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I was wondering if any recent Capitol Limited coach riders could share if seats are still being assigned these days. My boarding would be in both terminus cities (Chicago and DC).

If the train is full or close to it you will get assigned seats.
 
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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.
I couldn't agree more. I fly Alaska mostly, and they have a nice graphic where you can see all the seats and which ones are booked and which ones aren't. But, as we can't even get PDF Timetables anymore, on the Amtrak website, maybe it is asking too much.
 

ehbowen

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Here's how I would do it if I were suddenly named the Amtrak czar and had the budget to write a new reservation system:
  • At the time of reserving you are allowed to designate preference(s) for your seat(s). Window; aisle; engineer's side; fireman's side; front, back, or middle of car.
  • Seventy-two hours before the train departs the initial terminal, the reservation system assigns seats by passenger preference. First priority is seating groups together, especially children traveling with adults. Second priority is utilization of seats; 'hot-swaps' enroute to maximize utilization will be made if possible. Third priority is passengers' designated preference, assigned in order of booking.
  • After seats are assigned but before departure of the train the system will allow you to swap to another seat of your choice if available up to three hours before departure time. You may also request to swap onboard by asking a crew member.
  • Passengers booking within seventy-two hours of departure may select from any available seat showing in the system. If groups are separated...well, you should have booked early.
  • Passengers booking are allowed to reserve a second seat for comfort if they wish, at full price. The seats will be assigned together. If only the second seat is cancelled before departure but after seats are assigned, any refund will be conditional on selling that seat...if you tell the system you want a second seat and then change your mind after assignment, no refund unless someone sits next to you.
  • If budget permits I'd put an electronic display above each seat showing when it was reserved and where it becomes available.
Just my .02...
 

Trollopian

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I was wondering if any recent Capitol Limited coach riders could share if seats are still being assigned these days. My boarding would be in both terminus cities (Chicago and DC).
Assigned seating has been my experience in WAS (based on two WAS-PIT round trips this summer). At WAS, where passengers are sorted into cars by their destination (basically Pittsburgh and points east vs. Cleveland and points west), the platform conductors will not only point you to a car but give you a seat ticket and ignore any polite plea for a window seat or other preference. They dispense seat assignments in order, and that's that :(. I can't testify to CHI but as a terminus it's probably the same.
 

Devil's Advocate

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Why is that a problem? Someone's not going to take a trip because they can't get just the right seat?
There is a vast middle ground between wanting a good seat and abandoning a trip entirely.

When the boss tells someone that they have to fly out to De Moines on the 14th of the month, or when vacation days are fixed, and a person can only travel on certain dates, the vast majority of people aren't going cancel or change their plans because they can't set the seat of their choice.
Our corporate booking service shows available seats and we can pick whatever flight we prefer.

Maybe a few retired people can be picky like that, but even then, this is transportation, you get there at the same time, whatever seat you get.
Is it your view that sites like SeatGuru, ExpertFlyer, and FlyerTalk exist to appease a few retired people?
 

jebr

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When the boss tells someone that they have to fly out to De Moines on the 14th of the month,
Maybe they take the connection through Atlanta instead of the connection through MSP, because both segments on the Atlanta routing have preferred seating, but there's only a middle seat on one of the MSP legs. Or maybe they take the United itinerary instead of the American itinerary because United has better seating availability.
when vacation days are fixed, and a person can only travel on certain dates,
There's still the flexibility in timing or airline, even if date-specific travel is required. Also, in all the full-time jobs both my spouse and I have had, there's generally been flexibility in what days you take off. That seems to be the experience I hear about with other friends and family as well.
the vast majority of people aren't going cancel or change their plans because they can't set the seat of their choice.
Cancel? Probably not. Change? Quite possibly. I can't say that the particular seat on the aircraft has influenced my decision, but I've definitely decided to prioritize taking certain aircraft over others if I have the choice.

It also is just more customer-friendly to let that seat selection happen at the initial point of purchase. It sets expectations properly, and it adds some assurance that they have the seat they want at the moment they're buying the ticket. I don't think it's unreasonable to want Amtrak to have similar functionality.
 

zephyr17

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I would imagine for most flyers whichever Frequent Flyer program they are in would trump seat availability for choosing an airline.
If the choice is between a middle seat on an airline that I have a frequent flyer account with and an aisle seat on one I don't, I'll take the aisle and forgo the points.

It's likely I'd try to hunt up another flight or routing on my preferred airline with better seats before bailing on them, though.
 

Devil's Advocate

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I would imagine for most flyers whichever Frequent Flyer program they are in would trump seat availability for choosing an airline.
On travel forums it's easy to forget that most fliers do not have loyalty accounts and even among those that do the vast majority will never earn status or even one free trip. Perhaps you meant frequent fliers?
 
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WWW

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Interesting - any indication on the ticket about what car you will be in and a seat within that car -
With Sleepers the ticket notes what car and the Roomette or Bedroom assignment.

Without any assignment - one is going to have rush down the platform and brush the car attendant aside -
push over the little old lady with mobility aid - derail the mom with stroller -
and once on board place your luggage in the empty seat next to you -
After doing this act may be the Conductor may see to have you upgraded to the prima business seating section

On a more serious humorous note - one of the forum readers may have the official answer you seek - - -

Does Amtrak have a boarding procedure - boarding women and children - mobility assist guests first ?
Obviously on a full train putting your luggage in an empty seat is not going to pass muster !

With member replies - noting what seats are best for viewing - business (USB power ports) other creature comforts
riding in the middle of the car to avoid noise and wheel truck/coupler movement.

You will probably get a slow response to this - this being the Thanksgiving/Black Friday holiday.

HINT: Arriving early asking the station personnel your question may give a glimpse of gaming the system.

Good Luck and enjoy your Amtrak experience !
 

Kbyrdleroydogg

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Interesting - any indication on the ticket about what car you will be in and a seat within that car -
With Sleepers the ticket notes what car and the Roomette or Bedroom assignment.

Without any assignment - one is going to have rush down the platform and brush the car attendant aside -
push over the little old lady with mobility aid - derail the mom with stroller -
and once on board place your luggage in the empty seat next to you -
After doing this act may be the Conductor may see to have you upgraded to the prima business seating section

On a more serious humorous note - one of the forum readers may have the official answer you seek - - -

Does Amtrak have a boarding procedure - boarding women and children - mobility assist guests first ?
Obviously on a full train putting your luggage in an empty seat is not going to pass muster !

With member replies - noting what seats are best for viewing - business (USB power ports) other creature comforts
riding in the middle of the car to avoid noise and wheel truck/coupler movement.

You will probably get a slow response to this - this being the Thanksgiving/Black Friday holiday.

HINT: Arriving early asking the station personnel your question may give a glimpse of gaming the system.

Good Luck and enjoy your Amtrak experience !
It just says 1 coach seat.
 
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I have only traveled by sleeper on the Lake Shore in recent years so I have no personal experience. However based on my trips by coach on other trains, it seems to depend on the crew (as a lot of things on Amtrak do) .

I would say that in the peak holiday season, it is likely that the crew will assign you a seat as you board. But that is only a guess. Best to try to line up early in case it is a free for all.

Hope you have a good trip. I would also recommend a sleep mask. Don't forget that there is a cafe at Albany which is well stocked with food and you should have time to go there during the stop.
 
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Does Amtrak have a boarding procedure - boarding women and children - mobility assist guests first ?
Amtrak policy is that passengers needing boarding assistance are supposed to be boarded first, but in practice they're usually the last to board, especially when a wheelchair lift or bridge plate is needed. Best way to board first is to get a redcap, where available.
 
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