How to get seats together

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fhussain44

Train Attendant
Joined
Jan 28, 2013
Messages
54
Seems Amtrak makes it as hard as possible for families to use these regional trains. First off, there is no priority boarding. The gates are announced last minute and there's a mad rush of people to board the trains. So chance of getting on first is minimal. Second problem is these trains seem to all originate in Boston. So are likely already filled up . Worse case scenario is I need to ask people to move. Are most people receptive to this ? I am the kind of person that if someone says no it will greatly upset me inside. If I am already in bad mood I might say something nasty to them... So what should I expect? Maybe just avoid these trains? Although I know families takes them everyday so there must be some method to the madness!
 
Joined
Jan 22, 2020
Messages
202
If I am already in bad mood I might say something nasty to them... So what should I expect?

If you said something nasty to me then you should expect the same sort of reply but significantly escalated.

That said, I would also change seats for the sake of your family becasue I was raised to be courteous to other people. I cannot speak to what other people might do but my reaction would be to help you and your family sit together. That is unless I would end up seated next to someone with a cat as a service animal. Then no seat change is possible.
 

alpha3

Service Attendant
Joined
Aug 29, 2018
Messages
111
It sounds like you already have 'attitude'. The way you approach someone makes a big difference, and your bad mood is not my or anyone else's problem, that's on you. If someone doesn't want to move and tells you no, accept it and move on. No one is obligated to you. But if you approach someone politely and ask nicely, I'd say your chances are good. I can understand wanting and needing to sit with your child, but how you go about it is on you. Maybe avoiding these types of trains would be best for you.
 

rs9

Service Attendant
Joined
Dec 26, 2021
Messages
218
Location
Chicago
I doubt this will be an issue for you - there is significant passenger traffic from Boston, Providence and New Haven disembarking at Penn Station, so odds are when you board you will find an open pair of seats without too much of an issue. On a November BOS-NYP trip I took on the regional train, about half of my car exited at NYP.

If you don't feel comfortable asking someone to move, if you explain your situation to a conductor, they likely will assist with asking someone to switch seats. You can also ask a Red Cap for assistance with advanced boarding - make sure you tip your Red Cap for their services.
 

zephyr17

Engineer
Joined
Jul 23, 2009
Messages
7,122
Location
Washington State
Look for a train that originates at NYP. There are a lot of them.
I was on a late morning train midweek train that originated at NYP. I walked down the consist for awhile, I didn't board at the first door, and peeked in the windows until I found a sparsely populated car. The car I chose had like 8 people in it when we left NYP, and was only about 1/4 full by Trenton.

If you ask nicely, I would likely move. I won't if not asked, and will stubbornly stay put if attitude is displayed.
 

ashleyryan15

Train Attendant
Joined
Jul 30, 2022
Messages
15
Location
Philadelphia, PA
Seems Amtrak makes it as hard as possible for families to use these regional trains. First off, there is no priority boarding. The gates are announced last minute and there's a mad rush of people to board the trains. So chance of getting on first is minimal. Second problem is these trains seem to all originate in Boston. So are likely already filled up . Worse case scenario is I need to ask people to move. Are most people receptive to this ? I am the kind of person that if someone says no it will greatly upset me inside. If I am already in bad mood I might say something nasty to them... So what should I expect? Maybe just avoid these trains? Although I know families takes them everyday so there must be some method to the madness!
I board at NYP heading SB all the time before anyone else gets on. About 10% of the seats are taken by through travelers, the rest are empty. Most people get on or off in NY, and the trains run through more for operational efficiency than anything else.

Amtrak doesn't make it "as hard as possible," they want families on their trains, as you're still a paying customer. The operational realities of New York Penn, primarily the narrow platforms, require this, and assigned seating isn't going to happen with coach seats for a variety of reasons. If you want assigned seating, buy business class, though the same problem will occur if you don't book far enough out as they won't save any seat pairs for you.

If you look at their website they have lots of information on ways to make things easier, including the easiest solution - getting a Red Cap to take you down to the train before everyone else gets on. You SHOULD tip but you do not HAVE to tip. Or, a little secret the frequent passengers know: when you hear the track number announced, you can dash down through the Long Island railroad concourse and get on the train before the escalator's been opened, though if you have lots of luggage this may not be a good solution.

Worst case scenario, you will be able to find some seats close to each other, and if it's such a sold out train that you can't find some aisle seats across from each other, someone will be willing to move to help you out, but you will have to seek that person out. Once someone is sat in their seat, they are under no obligation to relinquish it for your convenience, and many won't, as it may mean they have to sit next to someone when they otherwise wouldn't have to.

If you say something nasty to a commuter for doing what they’re allowed to do, expect them to come back swinging, and pray that’s only in the metaphorical sense.

TLDR: Get a red cap, it's worth the 5 bucks and you're saving a hell of a lot more than that on the steeply discounted child rate.
 
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Bluejet

Train Attendant
Joined
Oct 14, 2019
Messages
46
While I disagree with the attitude, I can sympathize. I take the train with my 7 year old often and some conductors could really help the situation by addressing the “campers”. I’ve had to ride in the aisle while people all over the train have a Sherpa’s worth of luggage in the adjoining seat and I’m standing there with my kid from Saybrook to New London while greeted by a conductors shrug. Not just a shrug, , “you should get a seat in New London”. I’ll try to usually book Buisness for that reason, though even there at times I’ve seen people occupying my assigned seat, again to shrugs. I’m not trying to paint a poor picture of conductors based in New Haven, but sometimes it would be nice to have a proactive conductor assist in these situations.
 
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AmtrakBlue

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14,585
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Delaware
Looks like only Boston South Station and Albany have preboarding. :( I'm sure Washington did at one time.


Priority boarding​

At Boston - South Station and Albany, we invite select passengers to move from the waiting area to the platform first. If you're in one of these groups, we'll need to verify your eligibility for early boarding, so be sure to have your eTicket open on your device screen or printed ticket handy while waiting to board.
  • Amtrak Guest Rewards Select Executive and Select Plus members
  • Passengers traveling in Sleeping Car accommodations
  • Passengers traveling in Acela First class
  • Passengers traveling in non-Acela Business class
  • Senior citizens aged 65 and over
  • Active duty military personnel
  • Families with young children
  • Anyone needing assistance to board
At some stations it may be necessary to close boarding gates three to ten minutes prior to train departure to make sure you can board your train safely.
 

ashleyryan15

Train Attendant
Joined
Jul 30, 2022
Messages
15
Location
Philadelphia, PA
Looks like only Boston South Station and Albany have preboarding. :( I'm sure Washington did at one time.

I’m annoyed because Boston does not actually have any sort of formal priority boarding (though one could argue that everyone at BOS gets it because the other half get on at BBY,) that said showing my Select Plus card to the agent and walking in front of the rest of the line works 99% of the time
 
Joined
Dec 14, 2022
Messages
3
Location
New Haven Ct
that said showing my Select Plus card to the agent and walking in front of the rest of the line works 99% of the time
You can use that card to check in to the Acela lounge and they will walk you to the train before they call it to the general public.
If I was in line and you tried to get to the front by showing that card, I would make a fuss. I have Select Executive but that doesn't let me jump the line, only to use the redcap/lounge avenue to get early boarding if I take the proper steps.
 

ashleyryan15

Train Attendant
Joined
Jul 30, 2022
Messages
15
Location
Philadelphia, PA
Recently often the lounge has sent me down only after general boarding starts. Per the website, we are entitled to skip the line. If a non SP/E throws a fit, I’ll tell ‘em to take it up with Amtrak. If another SP/E does, I’ll invite them to come through with me
 

jis

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You can use that card to check in to the Acela lounge and they will walk you to the train before they call it to the general public.
If I was in line and you tried to get to the front by showing that card, I would make a fuss. I have Select Executive but that doesn't let me jump the line, only to use the redcap/lounge avenue to get early boarding if I take the proper steps.
Pre-pandemic, at Washington Union Station Select+/Select Exec and BC used to get priority boarding, and I have used my Select Plus status to use that to pre-board from general boarding area rather than use the Lounge. I don't see why others should complain if the boarding procedure involves pre-boarding based on status. Afterall, all airlines do so with multiple different priorities and order of pre-boarding groups.

Do you make a fuss while boarding a plane when the high status flyers walk by you and board before you? Is your fuss taken seriously by anyone?
 
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Joined
Jan 3, 2023
Messages
4
Location
Seattle
I board at NYP heading SB all the time before anyone else gets on. About 10% of the seats are taken by through travelers, the rest are empty. Most people get on or off in NY, and the trains run through more for operational efficiency than anything else.

Amtrak doesn't make it "as hard as possible," they want families on their trains, as you're still a paying customer. The operational realities of New York Penn, primarily the narrow platforms, require this, and assigned seating isn't going to happen with coach seats for a variety of reasons. If you want assigned seating, buy business class, though the same problem will occur if you don't book far enough out as they won't save any seat pairs for you.

If you look at their website they have lots of information on ways to make things easier, including the easiest solution - getting a Red Cap to take you down to the train before everyone else gets on. You SHOULD tip but you do not HAVE to tip. Or, a little secret the frequent passengers know: when you hear the track number announced, you can dash down through the Long Island railroad concourse and get on the train before the escalator's been opened, though if you have lots of luggage this may not be a good solution.

Worst case scenario, you will be able to find some seats close to each other, and if it's such a sold out train that you can't find some aisle seats across from each other, someone will be willing to move to help you out, but you will have to seek that person out. Once someone is sat in their seat, they are under no obligation to relinquish it for your convenience, and many won't, as it may mean they have to sit next to someone when they otherwise wouldn't have to.

If you say something nasty to a commuter for doing what they’re allowed to do, expect them to come back swinging, and pray that’s only in the metaphorical sense.

TLDR: Get a red cap, it's worth the 5 bucks and you're saving a hell of a lot more than that on the steeply discounted child rate.
Hello - I am new to this forum although I have been riding Amtrak since the late '70s. I live in the west so have a slightly different perspective. I often ride the Surfliner in and out of LA, but I don't go all the way to San Diego. The result is the chance of getting a window seat facing the ocean northbound is poor for me. While this is a drag, lets face it, you can still see fine from the other side. As for families, each coach has a few pairs of seat sets that face each other with a table in the middle. Usually there is a sign indicating they are reserved for families or groups traveling together. When I traveled with my kids we pretty much always got one. Sometimes an ocean side pair goes empty as people seem to respect this request and not use it when traveling alone or in a pair.
Traveling with three kids and trying to get two superliner roomettes together is another story!
 

daybeers

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Jan 6, 2016
Messages
1,730
Location
NHV
assigned seating isn't going to happen with coach seats for a variety of reasons. If you want assigned seating, buy business class
I call BS on this. There's no acceptable reason for every reserved train on Amtrak (all but a small handful) to not offer assigned seating. It would solve so many issues at the station, during boarding, and while underway. No reason to pay the often exorbitant upcharge for the lackluster amenities of business class just to get an assigned seat.
While I disagree with the attitude, I can sympathize. I take the train with my 7 year old often and some conductors could really help the situation by addressing the “campers”. I’ve had to ride in the aisle while people all over the train have a Sherpa’s worth of luggage in the adjoining seat and I’m standing there with my kid from Saybrook to New London while greeted by a conductors shrug. Not just a shrug, , “you should get a seat in New London”. I’ll try to usually book Buisness for that reason, though even there at times I’ve seen people occupying my assigned seat, again to shrugs. I’m not trying to paint a poor picture of conductors based in New Haven, but sometimes it would be nice to have a proactive conductor assist in these situations.
New Haven is my local station. I apologize for those conductors. If I was on the train and saw you hanging out in the aisle, I would go to the closest seat hog and ask them to move their belongings. I just have no tolerance for that; we all paid for the same product and there's plenty of luggage storage.

Shore Line East is now electrified using the Metro-North M8s which are quite nice on the shore with their large windows. It's never very crowded. Maybe try that next time, but also don't be afraid to ask a conductor to get you a seat. You paid for it.

I also believe the Amtrak statuses should be worth much more, especially for passengers using intermediate and off-NEC stations and services. One of those should be priority boarding. Sure, for time and logistics, maybe not every station could offer it, but most larger ones could definitely.
 
Joined
Sep 2, 2021
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Lubec, ME
I have never understood why just about every other rail system in the world has reservable assigned seating in coach class except here in the US. Also just about every US airline so people should already be used to the concept. For example traveling in Ireland last year I was able to reserve specific window seats here in the US before my trip.
 

BCL

Engineer
Joined
Nov 16, 2012
Messages
4,335
Location
San Francisco Bay Area
Hello - I am new to this forum although I have been riding Amtrak since the late '70s. I live in the west so have a slightly different perspective. I often ride the Surfliner in and out of LA, but I don't go all the way to San Diego. The result is the chance of getting a window seat facing the ocean northbound is poor for me. While this is a drag, lets face it, you can still see fine from the other side. As for families, each coach has a few pairs of seat sets that face each other with a table in the middle. Usually there is a sign indicating they are reserved for families or groups traveling together. When I traveled with my kids we pretty much always got one. Sometimes an ocean side pair goes empty as people seem to respect this request and not use it when traveling alone or in a pair.
Traveling with three kids and trying to get two superliner roomettes together is another story!

I've ridden it a few times between was far as SLO or Anaheim. But Santa Barbara was typically the endpoint. In a few particularly crowded trains, the conductor made an announcement that any four facing seats could only be occupied by groups of 3 or 4.

That being said, I've traveled with just my child or solo and have never had an issue getting seats for us or just myself without someone next to me. However, I never blocked off the seat (save preparing to get off the train where nobody would need to take an empty seat) and nobody asked to sit next to me.

But Amtrak is available to the public and for better or worse, first come is the way that it works with many trains. Sometimes you just have to get along in public places. Just recently I visited a few restaurants. One only had large communal tables almost laid out like rows of picnic tables. I found a spot early but then a large family came in and I couldn't exactly object and I was just minding my own business. But it would have been rude of me to say I wanted it to myself. Or another time I just set up at one spot in a communal table (seated maybe 8 total) in the bar area and someone came in saying that a group was going to join her and they were looking to order off the bar only menu. I was ready to go anyways and finished up (really just packing up my stuff) at another table. But then again, asking nicely helps. Being rude to others who haven't broken any rules is a pretty easy way to get turned down for an otherwise reasonable request.
 

BCL

Engineer
Joined
Nov 16, 2012
Messages
4,335
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San Francisco Bay Area
Seems Amtrak makes it as hard as possible for families to use these regional trains. First off, there is no priority boarding. The gates are announced last minute and there's a mad rush of people to board the trains. So chance of getting on first is minimal. Second problem is these trains seem to all originate in Boston. So are likely already filled up . Worse case scenario is I need to ask people to move. Are most people receptive to this ? I am the kind of person that if someone says no it will greatly upset me inside. If I am already in bad mood I might say something nasty to them... So what should I expect? Maybe just avoid these trains? Although I know families takes them everyday so there must be some method to the madness!

You don't want to be put in a situation where you might be ejected from a train for being rude to other passengers. They did nothing wrong and owe you nothing.
 

ashleyryan15

Train Attendant
Joined
Jul 30, 2022
Messages
15
Location
Philadelphia, PA
Assigned seats limits revenue. It means that even if there are seats available at all times between 2 stations yet no seat continuously unoccupied, well too bad, can’t sell a ticket! It also prevents them from overbooking trains - with Amtrak’s liberal change policy their no show rate is rather high. If they were to do what the airlines do and sell tickets when space is available but seat assignments aren’t, they’d have to implement check in - something they absolutely don’t want to do. They are right to charge more for the privilege. As many have observed on busy services they reserve seats for families. Providing assigned seats on premium services is a smart business move and gets more upsells, but it limits how many seats they can sell on the Acela.

Finally, it means that priority boarding is a much less valuable perk for Select Plus/Exec. While they could reserve some prime seats for them, that would limit sales to others and would be useless for last minute bookings.

On that note, it’d be less family friendly because late bookings/ticket changes would likely not have any single seats left, and the nature of train seating makes it a lot harder to swap seats with a stranger - unless your destination is the same, one may end up seated in someone else’s seat. This would lead to massive conflicts - just ride an LD train with assigned seating and see how frequently that ends in disaster.
 
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ashleyryan15

Train Attendant
Joined
Jul 30, 2022
Messages
15
Location
Philadelphia, PA
Long distance trains already have assigned seating, at least at car level, it's just that it's done on the spot by conductors. There's no reason reason why that process can't be done electronically with conductors just making adjustments as needed.
Yes, I mentioned that. I also mentioned some issues with electronic seat reservations, namely a situation where empty seats are available for every portion of a passengers journey yet there is no single seat available continuously, because when reserving seats online people will pick what they want. Could also lead to the only seats left (and I’m talking about like 40% of them, not one or 2 being in a row with someone else already in it. This happens all the time on the Acela, which is why I bring this up. On that train there are rarely families, and when there are and it causes an issue they can simply be placed on a regional.
 

Devil's Advocate

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What seems to get missed in the reserved seating discussion is that not every seat needs to be reservable as soon as a train is released to be booked. A proper booking system can hold back a percentage of seats to facilitate future bookings without forcing future groups to spread out or keep changing seats like musical chairs. As time goes on the percentage of reservations available in a given window can be fine tuned until most needs are met. That's not to say Amtrak would actually implement such a system just that it's possible.
 
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