Boarding by Zones at San Diego station

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SubwayNut

Conductor
Joined
Nov 17, 2011
Messages
1,470
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.
Masks will still be required in Santa Fe Depot inside (but not outdoors, the TSA has updated it's guidenance last week to no longer require masks when waiting outside at a transit hub, like on a rail platform) because the Mask Mandate on Public Transportation Remains in effect.

One of the unusual but I think decent ways to illustrate this is in the just updated guidelines for Disneyland, masks are no longer required for vaccinated guests except for "the bus shuttle to and from the Toy Story Park Lot." This bus shuttle is operated by ARTS the public bus system in Anaheim under contract to Disney so masks are required. Similar at Dinseyworld masks are now only required there on buses and the monorail.[/QUOTE]
 

TheTuck

Train Attendant
Joined
Jun 1, 2009
Messages
62
This is a trial for this station only, starting tomorrow and running for approximately 3 weeks. I'd assume the "zones" will align with open doors on the train. This would circumvent the current practice of sending the line of passengers to the platform, only to have the majority of passengers board the first available door, slowing down the boarding process.
 

rickycourtney

Conductor
Joined
Dec 21, 2012
Messages
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Location
Fresno, CA
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.
That is a good theory.

If nothing has changed since earlier this year… the plan is to have trains every 15 minutes on the Blue Line between Santa Fe Depot and UCSD/UTC (trains will remain every 7.5 minutes on the south section with cars short turning at America Plaza). Santa Fe Depot will also continue to be served by Green Line trains every 15 minutes.

So that’s 8 trains per hour, per direction… 16 trains over the pedestrian crossings per hour. Roughly one every 4 minutes.

I want to say that we should just “trust people to be adults” around the train tracks… but I’m not so sure about that anymore.

The biggest issue I see is that access to the platforms is rather uncontrolled. People can just walk out onto the platforms without waiting in the station. Granted, it’s been several years since I’ve been there… but as I recall… the coaster commuter trains share the same platforms and I don’t see them supporting controlled access to the platforms.
 
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Controlled access to platforms...how many station's truly have that? While it's true that most passenger's will enter by going thru the main entrance(s) of a station, other's (commuter's, railfan's, etc.), may not. Some will take a "shortcut" from a crossing along the tracks to reach platforms in some cases...
 
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Devil's Advocate

It's just a scratch.
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Some airlines tried/are trying zone boarding, so now Amtrak has to try it. That's my theory.
Personally I wish Amtrak would focus on offering specific seats (and 2x pp) instead worrying about boarding zones. Unlike airlines there is usually plenty of room for luggage and if Amtrak passengers knew which seats they had ahead of time the order in which they board wouldn't matter so much.

Airlines can get super granular about the boarding process and on AA the long haul list looks something like this.

Group 1
First Class
Military
Business Class (2C)

Group 2
Executive Platinum
Oneworld Emerald
Business Class (3C)

Group 3
Platinum Pro
Platinum
Oneworld Sapphire

Group 4
Gold AAdvantage
Oneworld Ruby
AirPass Members
Premium Economy
Citi Executive
Priority Boarding

Group 5
Preferred Boarding
Main Cabin Extra
AAdvantage Cards
Corporate Travelers

Group 6
General boarding
Non-Rev and Staff

Group 7
General and Basic

Group 8
Basic Boarding

Several terms sound similar but each has a specific qualifier distinct from the others and there's a "Group 0" for the biggest spenders and managers. Amtrak is a long way from needing anything like that and I wish they'd put this effort into assembling their trains in a specific orientation for more predictable bookings.
 
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joelkfla

OBS Chief
Joined
Oct 16, 2018
Messages
661
Location
12 miles from Walt Disney World
Controlled access to platforms...how many station's truly have that? While it's true that most passenger's will enter by going thru the main entrance(s) of a station, other's (commuter's, railfan's, etc.), may not. Some will take a "shortcut" from a crossing along the tracks to reach platforms in some cases...
In Tampa, the accessible entrance is directly to the platform area, bypassing the station house completely. You can get into the station house from the platform via a ramp (and a heavy door which is difficult to open from a wheelchair), but there is no accessible access to the station house directly from the street.

I don't know whether this is the case at any other stations.
 

dcipjr

Train Attendant
Joined
Mar 8, 2012
Messages
25
I boarded from San Diego on 6/13 to the Surfliner, and it wasn't by zones. There was a business class line, and an unreserved coach line.
 

daybeers

Conductor
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Jan 6, 2016
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HFD/POU
Whatever the rules say, social distancing when boarding is not usually practiced anymore on any form of transportation. It's silly anyway, as you'll be sitting inches from another passenger on the train/subway/bus/plane.

I am very interested in how this pans out!
 
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allanorn

Train Attendant
Joined
Jul 30, 2018
Messages
32
This is a trial for this station only, starting tomorrow and running for approximately 3 weeks. I'd assume the "zones" will align with open doors on the train. This would circumvent the current practice of sending the line of passengers to the platform, only to have the majority of passengers board the first available door, slowing down the boarding process.
Good point, and something I didn’t consider. Santa Fe Depot is a thru-station for trains even though it’s a terminus for passenger rail. The trains move further south when they need to be stored, so all of the lines remain active 24/7.

The biggest issue I see is that access to the platforms is rather uncontrolled. People can just walk out onto the platforms without waiting in the station. Granted, it’s been several years since I’ve been there… but as I recall… the coaster commuter trains share the same platforms and I don’t see them supporting controlled access to the platforms.
While the Coaster platforms and Amtrak platforms can be shared, they’re typically kept separate. Amtrak operations tend to also involve hundreds of people moving together roughly at the same time across the trolley tracks, often with lots of luggage like rollaboards. That’s not necessarily the case for Coaster as a commuter rail line, where you may have a few people show up every minute or so, often without much luggage to speak of.

Amtrak tends to corral their passengers through the physical barriers much like an airline, while if you’re riding Coaster you’re supposed to walk around the station to board, bypassing the barrier… even though you most often access the Coaster and Amtrak tracks at the same physical point, because there’s a fence separating the trolley ROW and the NCTD ROW.
 

hmy1

Train Attendant
Joined
Aug 9, 2010
Messages
94
We boarded 763 from SAN yesterday, Thursday 6/17. We got the same e-mails and were re-issued new boarding pass PDFs listing Zone 01, which also appeared in the Amtrak app. However, the morning of, Zone 01 had dropped off the mobile boarding pass and boarding was as usual. Perhaps they weren't ready to start the trial yet. I didn't ask.
 

neroden

Engineer
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Feb 23, 2014
Messages
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Location
Ithaca, NY
Masks will still be required in Santa Fe Depot inside (but not outdoors, the TSA has updated it's guidenance last week to no longer require masks when waiting outside at a transit hub, like on a rail platform)
Oh goddamnit. Well, that's my trips for the fall cancelled for sure. Outside isn't magic, not in crowded areas. While this is no doubt fine on uncrowded platforms, it's not appropriate for crowded platforms.
 

Seaboard92

Engineer
Joined
Dec 31, 2014
Messages
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Location
South Carolina
Personally I wish Amtrak would focus on offering specific seats (and 2x pp) instead worrying about boarding zones. Unlike airlines there is usually plenty of room for luggage and if Amtrak passengers knew which seats they had ahead of time the order in which they board wouldn't matter so much.

Airlines can get super granular about the boarding process and on AA the long haul list looks something like this.

Group 1
First Class
Military
Business Class (2C)

Group 2
Executive Platinum
Oneworld Emerald
Business Class (3C)

Group 3
Platinum Pro
Platinum
Oneworld Sapphire

Group 4
Gold AAdvantage
Oneworld Ruby
AirPass Members
Premium Economy
Citi Executive
Priority Boarding

Group 5
Preferred Boarding
Main Cabin Extra
AAdvantage Cards
Corporate Travelers

Group 6
General boarding
Non-Rev and Staff

Group 7
General and Basic

Group 8
Basic Boarding

Several terms sound similar but each has a specific qualifier distinct from the others and there's a "Group 0" for the biggest spenders and managers. Amtrak is a long way from needing anything like that and I wish they'd put this effort into assembling their trains in a specific orientation for more predictable bookings.
I find it scarry that I work for the airline you are refering too and I learned this from you and not any sort of training.
 
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I find it scarry that I work for the airline you are refering too and I learned this from you and not any sort of training.
And why I consider being an airport gate agent the worst job on the airline...I would rather scrub toilets than have to go thru the pressure they work under...
Personally I wish Amtrak would focus on offering specific seats (and 2x pp) instead worrying about boarding zones. Unlike airlines there is usually plenty of room for luggage and if Amtrak passengers knew which seats they had ahead of time the order in which they board wouldn't matter so much.

Airlines can get super granular about the boarding process and on AA the long haul list looks something like this.

Group 1
First Class
Military
Business Class (2C)

Group 2
Executive Platinum
Oneworld Emerald
Business Class (3C)

Group 3
Platinum Pro
Platinum
Oneworld Sapphire

Group 4
Gold AAdvantage
Oneworld Ruby
AirPass Members
Premium Economy
Citi Executive
Priority Boarding

Group 5
Preferred Boarding
Main Cabin Extra
AAdvantage Cards
Corporate Travelers

Group 6
General boarding
Non-Rev and Staff

Group 7
General and Basic

Group 8
Basic Boarding

Several terms sound similar but each has a specific qualifier distinct from the others and there's a "Group 0" for the biggest spenders and managers. Amtrak is a long way from needing anything like that and I wish they'd put this effort into assembling their trains in a specific orientation for more predictable bookings.
And you did not even mention, "pre-board's"....
 

Seaboard92

Engineer
Joined
Dec 31, 2014
Messages
4,263
Location
South Carolina
And why I consider being an airport gate agent the worst job on the airline...I would rather scrub toilets than have to go thru the pressure they work under...

And you did not even mention, "pre-board's"....
My personal favorite had a mechanical delay and was not updated it was over, and the gate agent just started sending passengers without asking if we were ready. I was halfway into a really good chapter too waiting on the mechanical delay to be over.
 

Exvalley

OBS Chief
AU Supporter
Joined
Jul 7, 2020
Messages
785
Personally I wish Amtrak would focus on offering specific seats (and 2x pp) instead worrying about boarding zones. Unlike airlines there is usually plenty of room for luggage and if Amtrak passengers knew which seats they had ahead of time the order in which they board wouldn't matter so much.
I agree 100%. If Amtrak assigned all of their seats, most people would not feel the need to rush onto the train. I definitely got caught up in this when I boarded the train with my wife in New York City this past weekend. We felt the need to engage in the rush to have a chance of being able to sit next to each other.

Hopefully the seat reservation system will expand from first/business in the Northeast Corridor.
 
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