COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Pandemic: Amtrak-related Discussion

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jis

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Malaria also, even if you take Agent Orange's Favorite Med!!
For Malaria, people in Malaria endemic areas develop limited immunity such that subsequent episodes are usually less severe. This is specially true if you get Malaria before your are in your late teens.

Of course the other thing that happens is that US Blood Drives refuse to take your Blood if you frequently visit Malaria endemic areas. They have refused to take my blood ever since I started visiting India every year. During this period I have never had Malaria.
 

Rasputin

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I am not sure what the current version says (I assume there is a more current version) but the April 30, 2011 Amtrak Service Standards Manual, indicated that Coach attendants were to check the restrooms every hour during the course of the trip and every half- hour between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. and clean as required. They were to do a heavy cleaning as their last duty in the evening and also after the 6 a.m. - 10 a.m. peak usage time and as needed. They also had the duty to clean the lounge car and restrooms in the lounge car on long distance trains.

Sleeping car attendants had the similar duties within their car.

The NEC had a position of en route cleaner and I have seen this en route cleaning being done on trips on Acela trains.

https://www.governmentattic.org/4docs/AmtrakServiceStandardsManual_2011.pdf
 

Green Maned Lion

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I'm not attempting to justify institutional laziness - just pointing out that non-union businesses are not having any problems getting their employees to step-up and take on the additional tasks.
I have seen nonunionized businesses of Which Hades has nothing on the restrooms of.
 

Bob Dylan

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For Malaria, people in Malaria endemic areas develop limited immunity such that subsequent episodes are usually less severe. This is specially true if you get Malaria before your are in your late teens.

Of course the other thing that happens is that US Blood Drives refuse to take your Blood if you frequently visit Malaria endemic areas. They have refused to take my blood ever since I started visiting India every year. During this period I have never had Malaria.
I did ( also Hep so cant give Blood or Plasma)and it's not lots of fun, but luckily have not had any relapes!
 
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me_little_me

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I would be curious to know what the staffing levels are like for coach attendants and sleeping car attendants. I've heard in other threads here that Amtrak has reduced the number of attendants per train. This had presumably resulted in each attendant having more bathrooms to clean. The increased number might be manageable under best-case conditions, but all they would need would be some moderately unusual circumstances that might make cleaning the restrooms frequently a lower priority for the attendants. I've been in situations where the train has made unscheduled stops to discharge passengers (medical emergency, police "emergency", etc.) or a lot of passengers that need special assistance, etc.

In my experience, dirty restrooms on Amtrak, even in coach, is a spotty occurrence. Usually, they're pretty clean. But if they've been cutting back on car attendants, that might explain why the restrooms aren't as clean as they used to be.
What trains have you been on? Surely, not in coach the LD ones in which most of the restrooms smell by the end of the trip - most, really bad.

And it in NOT a recent problem so I doubt that "cutting back" is the issue. The blame, however, does not belong on Amtrak employees. It belongs on management. Amtrak, IMHO, has never shown an interest in resolving the problem. IF they did, they wouldn't make rules then ignore the failure of the employees to abide by them. IF they showed an interest, they would ride in coach periodically and see for themselves what it is like, not just in the bathrooms, but all the individual rules the employees make up when they feel like it. If there is a problem with employees, they could take action. If their employees need more help, some people whose job it is to clean bathrooms, or whatever, they could do something about it. But they'd rather sit in their ivory towers and do nothing.

Has Flynn even made one portion of a trip in coach on a LD train even before he officially took over? Did Anderson ever do it? Any other executive? And I don't mean in First Class on an Acela when their presence is fully advertised. Did they ever travel from DC to NOL or MIA even in a sleeper and eat the meals they have pawned off on us? The fact is, they don't care about their employees. They don't care about their customers.

THAT'S THE PROBLEM!
 

jis

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I did ( also Hep so cant give Blood or Plasma)and it's not lots of fun, but luckily have not had any relapes!
I had Maleria before I came to the US, long time back in a galaxy far far away. Took Chloroquine Phosphate back then to beat it. I have never taken anything as a prophylactic against Malaria though.
 

caravanman

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It is strange how the covid-19 pandemic caused the public to panic buy toilet rolls, and our Amtrak discussion now has a similar theme. Us humans are strange folk. :D
Without wishing to prolong the topic, I will say that while standards of cleanliness have not been ideal, I don't recall many occasions where things have been unbearable. Maybe one idea would be for us all to report directly to the coach or sleeper attendant when we find a problem, or even the conductor. If enough people approach them about it, maybe that could get some action, just to get folk off their backs?
 

Ferroequinologist

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When I took French in high school, I learned that some European places have bathroom attendants who stay in the bathroom and are constantly cleaning it. I encountered one of these at an opera house in a German city, possibly Frankfurt. She did not appear happy to be there, but the bathroom was clean. When and if things get back to normal on Amtrak, maybe they could have a bathroom attendant who circulates from bathroom to bathroom in all the cars to keep them clean, like the fellow at Disney. Sounds like a dream job to me!
Too expensive. Amtrak will never do this
 

Ferroequinologist

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It is strange how the covid-19 pandemic caused the public to panic buy toilet rolls, and our Amtrak discussion now has a similar theme. Us humans are strange folk. :D
Without wishing to prolong the topic, I will say that while standards of cleanliness have not been ideal, I don't recall many occasions where things have been unbearable. Maybe one idea would be for us all to report directly to the coach or sleeper attendant when we find a problem, or even the conductor. If enough people approach them about it, maybe that could get some action, just to get folk off their backs?
The problem is that prior to Covid-19 bathrooms were often not very clean but now with a deadly virus EXTRA attention to cleaning and disinfecting are absolutely ESSENTIAL. If Amtrak couldn't achieve modest standards prior to Covid-19 how are they going to maintain the HIGH standards needed to avoid Covid infections?
 

Green Maned Lion

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Rest rooms are not a major source of Covid spread- in fact if you engage in the normal (dear god, I hope it’s normal) practice of washing your hands thoroughly after touching and cleaning your unmentionables, I’d say a private bathroom on Amtrak is one of the least likely places to contract the virus that is outside your private enclosed places. Remember to open the door of Amtrak (and all other) public restrooms using a disposable wad of paper (TP or a hand towel works great) and immediately dispose of it. You’ll be fine; the cosmetic cleanliness of the restroom will be irrelevant unless it is so dirty you wouldn’t use it before Covid either.
 

Rasputin

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Maybe one idea would be for us all to report directly to the coach or sleeper attendant when we find a problem, or even the conductor. If enough people approach them about it, maybe that could get some action, just to get folk off their backs?
Unfortunately on Amtrak, there is virtually no accountability, no one seems to be in charge and conductors seem adept at playing disappearing acts. Therefore you complain at your peril.

I have seen situations at fast food restaurants where a restroom will need some attention. I have mentioned it to an employee. In every instance the employee has thanked me for bringing the problem to their attention and I observe the situation taken care of shortly thereafter.

On Amtrak I have never been thanked for mentioning these problems. In fact, you are quite apt (from my limited observations) to get your head handed to you. And of course on Amtrak long distance trains, you may be traveling with these employees for the next two or three days. Who wants to **** off an employee and have that affect the enjoyment of your trip for the next day or two (unless of course you thrive on conflict and confrontation as some people do but most of those people are on planes)?

On Amtrak long distance trains, the sleeping car attendants seem to do a good job keeping the restrooms in their car in decent condition based on what I have seen. It is the coach restrooms and the lounge restroom which suffer. The coach attendants have a lot of responsibilities and restrooms being a rather unpleasant duty does not seem to be given priority. I think the solution is to adjust the responsibilities of the coach attendants and make ONE coach attendant responsible for restroom cleanliness in the coaches and the lounge. The duties of that particular attendant would then be reduced in other areas to make up for the extra restroom duties. That attendant should also become one of the highest paid on board service employees. on each train.

In conversations with a number of relatives who have traveled on Amtrak and from what I have read on discussion groups, I don't think it is possible to overestimate the importance of restroom cleanliness, especially to female passengers. It is a make or break issue. A number of them will not travel on Amtrak again due to the poor condition of the restrooms.
 

me_little_me

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I've given talks for seniors at the local college and talk to visitors at our local model railroad club where I often run my Amtrak train and talk to people about my experiences. The biggest complain that the first-time coach users have is the restroom cleanliness and many of them say they'll never do it again. Worse, many people who have not traveled by train mention a relative who did (but doesn't anymore) and told them about bathroom conditions.
Stupid Amtrak!
The last time I gave my talk,well over 50 people showed up - all paid a fee to the college for my 4 hour two-session class but I declined the honorarium. I included, among the "good, bad and ugly", the restroom condition as an "ugly" to set their expectations.
 

Green Maned Lion

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Sleeping car attendants clean restrooms regularly because they know that if a passenger has trouble finding a clean restroom in their car, they are substantially less likely to give a tip. Coach attendants are rarely tipped, and therefore the cleanliness of the restroom is less important.
 

v v

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Within the theme of restrooms but a different point.

I assume being a toilet cleaner is one of the least sought after jobs anywhere on the planet, so why do we pay the people who are prepared to or desperate enough to take on this highly challenging job a pittance? Shouldn't they be highly paid to do something that most of the rest of us would never consider doing?

Just a few thoughts in particular for Amtrak and the like if dirty restrooms are one of their largest loss of revenues.

Just to connect into Covid-19 and low paid workers what about care home workers too. Getting very personal with elderly people all day long is not most peoples idea of fun including looking after their hygiene needs. Not Amtrak related I understand, but these often dedicated workers who have come to the fore recently need a mention too for the abysmal pay they receive.

Edit: My view is to have a dedicated restroom and general car cleaner for each LD train. Amtrak could then advertise the fact that their restrooms are cleaned say every 3? hours to maintain the highest levels of hygiene, may just attract more paying customers?
 
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Devil's Advocate

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Rest rooms are not a major source of Covid spread- in fact if you engage in the normal [...] practice of washing your hands thoroughly after touching and cleaning your unmentionables, I’d say a private bathroom on Amtrak is one of the least likely places to contract the virus that is outside your private enclosed places. Remember to open the door of Amtrak (and all other) public restrooms using a disposable wad of paper (TP or a hand towel works great) and immediately dispose of it. You’ll be fine; the cosmetic cleanliness of the restroom will be irrelevant unless it is so dirty you wouldn’t use it before Covid either.
I looked for something to substantiate this claim but found nothing to corroborate your assertions. Viral contamination has been found in bodily fluids that prior studies have shown are likely to be encountered in public restrooms. Amtrak restrooms feature clumsy outdated fixtures that seep water, require extended physical contact to operate, and are prone to recontaminate your hands. The high pressures and tiny basins can ricochet contamination onto other surfaces. Lack of routine cleaning leads to an increasing potential for cross-contamination over the course of the trip. While it's difficult to establish a specific treat level, when all factors are considered Amtrak restrooms are far from ideal and more than a simple wad of tissue can fully mitigate.

@oregon pioneer @SarahZ
 
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Green Maned Lion

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Nonsense. You wash your hands as you are leaving, hold the handle with a protective layer and touch nothing else after doing so, and you will be fine. The virus spreads almost exclusively from the nose and mouth; if your hands are sanitized and you don’t make a habit of licking the walls of Amtrak restrooms, you’ll be fine. A coach seat is a more likely place than the restroom.
 

Devil's Advocate

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Nonsense. You wash your hands as you are leaving, hold the handle with a protective layer and touch nothing else after doing so, and you will be fine.
In many Amtrak restrooms the sink design requires constant physical contact to release water with a basin that comfortably fits one adult sized hand. Under typical operation a soiled right hand operates a lever to rinse a soapy left hand which is then recontaminated by having to operate the same lever to rinse the right hand. In other restrooms you might be able to use an elbow or something but this would be rather difficult on Amtrak. If you push just slightly too far the water will enter the basin with enough force to ricochet off your hand or even the bottom of the basin and land almost anywhere.

The virus spreads almost exclusively from the nose and mouth; if your hands are sanitized and you don’t make a habit of licking the walls of Amtrak restrooms, you’ll be fine. A coach seat is a more likely place than the restroom.
The virus spreads through the nose and mouth but the source of contamination can potentially be any number of bodily fluids or fecal matter. The paper barrier you previously mentioned is likely to struggle with Amtrak's fixtures because they're located very close to the counter and many of them seep a continuous stream of water that would soak through most towels and tissues.
 

MARC Rider

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Edit: My view is to have a dedicated restroom and general car cleaner for each LD train. Amtrak could then advertise the fact that their restrooms are cleaned say every 3? hours to maintain the highest levels of hygiene, may just attract more paying customers?
And the restroom cleaner gets higher pay than the regular coach attendants.
 

SarahZ

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I looked for something to substantiate this claim but found nothing to corroborate your assertions. Viral contamination has been found in bodily fluids that prior studies have shown are likely to be encountered in public restrooms. Amtrak restrooms feature clumsy outdated fixtures that seep water, require extended physical contact to operate, and are prone to recontaminate your hands. The high pressures and tiny basins can ricochet contamination onto other surfaces. Lack of routine cleaning leads to an increasing potential for cross-contamination over the course of the trip. While it's difficult to establish a specific treat level, when all factors are considered Amtrak restrooms are far from ideal and more than a simple wad of tissue can fully mitigate.

@oregon pioneer @SarahZ
Why am I tagged in this?
 

caravanman

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Of course Jamie is right about low wages. Here in the UK, care home staff, and folk who care for the elderly and infirm by visiting them at home are mostly paid minimum wage, and often are expected to provide their own car to reach clients. A dedicated cleaner for each LD train is a very good idea.
 
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