Boarding by Zones at San Diego station

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Eric in East County

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We just received this e-mail from Amtrak regarding our upcoming trip on Pacific Surfliner #777 from San Diego to Los Angeles:

As part of Amtrak’s continuing effort to ensure your safety and that of our employees, we will be temporarily testing a program at San Diego station in which we will be boarding passengers by zones. You will be traveling during the timeframe when we’ll be assessing the effectiveness of the program. As part of this process, we’ve updated your ticket to now include a zone number. You should receive a new eTicket by early Monday morning which will display your zone number. Attendants will be on location to assist you in the boarding process. Our goal with this new initiative is to improve upon the overall customer experience while boarding. Should you have any questions, please feel free to text or call us at 1-800-USA-RAIL.

We’re not exactly sure how this “boarding by zones” process works. (In the past, there was an outside waiting line and the earlier you got into this line the closer you were to the front of it.) Is “boarding by zones” being done anywhere else? If so, how are the zone assignment being made? Seniors and families with small children first? Any information will be greatly appreciated, and we’ll posted any new information that is sent to us.

Eric & Pat
 

Cal

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When I was boarding from SAN a month ago there were two set lines with dividers they use at airport check in lines (don't use the name). One for business and one for coach. No idea what is happening with this.
 

Steve4031

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It subverts the first come first serve system of lines. Since Amtrak cannot set up a system to assign seats a head of time outside of the NEC, this zone system will probably be used to give preference to families and people traveling together. This a single person who has their stuff together and can be first in line has less of a chance at preferred seating.
 

chrsjrcj

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Aren't the Surfliners unreserved? Kind of hard to designate a boarding zone if you aren't certain 100% of passengers will take that train, but I guess Amtrak has data anyway.
 

MARC Rider

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I would think this is being done so that they don't have a crowd mobbing the train when boarding starts. Perhaps their ticket sales suggest that there's going to be a rush of passengers from all the pent-up travel demand, and they want to try to control the crowd. Perhpas this is an alternative to cattle lines, which take up a lot of space with social distancing. Whether it works or not is anybody's guess. I've never taken the Pacific Surfliner out of San Diego, so I don't know how the station is configured.
 

MARC Rider

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When I was boarding from SAN a month ago there were two set lines with dividers they use at airport check in lines (don't use the name). One for business and one for coach. No idea what is happening with this.
This is the arrangement that has been done at Washington Union Station for years, at least since they started implementing all-reserved Northeast Regionals. The business class line, or "priority boarding line" is also for families with small children, members of the armed services in uniform and Select Plus members. For a while, they were actually examining tickets, but gave up because it slowed boarding. Some of those trains have hundreds of people lined up.
 

allanorn

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SAN currently has two boarding lines: one for Business and one for Coach. The Coach line can extend quite a ways back and wrap around the fountain on its busy days.

I think this might be a trial due to the upcoming Blue Line trolley extension going into service later this year. The first thing one does when boarding at Santa Fe Depot is to cross the trolley tracks. When the extension goes into revenue service, that’ll double the amount of trolley traffic on the line and peak service is expected to be every 7-1/2 minutes (maybe less). My guess is that they’re trying things to avoid causing trolley delays or someone getting hurt.

FYI: I was on the Surfliner on Friday and one of the conductors stated they are expecting to add more trains (currently 6/day) soon to meet demand, possibly at the end of the month. Not sure when they’ll go back to the 13 or so each weekday.
 

allanorn

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To where is the Blue Line Trolley being extended?
It’ll go to the UTC mall via I-5 and UCSD, so a one-seat ride will be possible from the border to UCSD.

Lots of consternation here about the trolley extension not going to the Sorrento Valley COASTER station, but to be fair there’s no really good routing from UTC or UCSD. It could have possibly paralleled I-5 from Genesee, but that is not a grade I would want to run trolleys at without some help (having cycled that hill frequently).
 

Eric in East County

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This morning, we received our new Pacific Surfliner e-tickets with our assigned zone number.

As two seniors traveling in Business Class from San Diego to Los Angeles, we were assigned to Zone 1 and will board with that zone number.

We still have many questions about this new “boarding by zones” procedure. Will there still be two lines outside: one for coach and one for Business Class? Will people in the various zones be grouped together inside Santa Fe Depot or can we wait outside? (We always prefer to wait outside, particularly when it gets closer to our train’s departure time.) When our zone number is called, will the people in our zone be escorted as a group or will it be a race to see who gets to the coach first to claim the preferred seats?

Since “boarding by zones” appears to be in place at other stations, we’ll be interested to hear exactly how it works.

Eric & Pat
 

allanorn

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I don’t think there’s any idea of how this is going to work at Santa Fe Depot. If someone knows a start date for the trial, I can possibly go by when I have some time and report back what the situation looks like.
 

allanorn

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Nothing as of today, but I noticed they swapped the business and coach lanes. Not certain if they do this to keep people on their toes.
 

Eric in East County

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Tomorrow (June 15th) is when California will end many of the mandates imposed by COVID-19. Vaccinated people will no longer have to wear masks and “social distancing” will no longer be required with some exceptions: riding on public transportation, visiting hospitals, etc. Businesses have the option to request proof of vaccination, although this not a requirement. Businesses can also require that masks still be worn. How all of this will affect passengers waiting in San Diego’s Santa Fe Depot is still uncertain, although we should know more by tomorrow. It is our understanding that, once on board an Amtrak train, the rules governing the wearing of masks must be followed at all times.

Eric & Pat
 
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Eric in East County

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We’ve just returned from running some errands down in Alpine, a small community in East San Diego County. This was the first time that we’ve been out since California eased up on its mandates for social distancing and wearing masks. The tellers in the bank were still wearing masks so we wore ours, even though we’ve been vaccinated. (The bank wasn’t crowded enough to judge how social distancing is being handled.) The woman who runs a little dry-cleaning shop did not wear a mask. The clerk at a family-owned gas station didn’t wear a mask although the customer ahead of us did. The Alpine library is still requiring masks. The local McDonalds still hasn’t reopened its dining room, and the clerks were still wearing masks.

We haven’t yet heard what the Santa Fe Depot’s current policy is regarding wearing masks and maintaining social distancing now that the state requirements have been eased.

E & P
 

Cal

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I am Zone 4 by the way, travelling Business. Not seniors, no disabilities.

When is your trip?
 

AmtrakBlue

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We’ve just returned from running some errands down in Alpine, a small community in East San Diego County. This was the first time that we’ve been out since California eased up on its mandates for social distancing and wearing masks. The tellers in the bank were still wearing masks so we wore ours, even though we’ve been vaccinated. (The bank wasn’t crowded enough to judge how social distancing is being handled.) The woman who runs a little dry-cleaning shop did not wear a mask. The clerk at a family-owned gas station didn’t wear a mask although the customer ahead of us did. The Alpine library is still requiring masks. The local McDonalds still hasn’t reopened its dining room, and the clerks were still wearing masks.

We haven’t yet heard what the Santa Fe Depot’s current policy is regarding wearing masks and maintaining social distancing now that the state requirements have been eased.

E & P
Amtrak's mask policy applies to their stations & platforms, too. Don't know if that's all stations they serve, or just the ones they own.
 

jebr

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Amtrak's mask policy applies to their stations & platforms, too. Don't know if that's all stations they serve, or just the ones they own.
I think it applies to all of them - it's regulated under DOT/TSA order, which doesn't distinguish based on ownership of the platform/building. In practice things may differ, similar to how the order doesn't exempt sleeper compartments from the mask requirement, but in practice if you're in a sleeper compartment with the door closed no mask is needed.
 
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