- Aug 24, 2003
I agree with you. They are just excuses to try to avoid spending the effort to do a good job in the reservations systemI kind of do not get the excuses why Amtrak cannot do LD seat assignments.
The railroad reservations bureaus did it routinely, although manually with paper car charts. Creating an electronic equivalent is not a particularly challenging task.
The problem of optimal allocation of seats is an example of a class of problems known as the Knapsack Problem in the field of Computational Complexity. These are known to be NP Complete in that there is no polynomial time algorithm to get the most optimal solution. However, there are dynamic programming techniques using various heuristics that gets one pretty close. So while you cannot get the absolute perfection, you can get pretty good and close to optimal solutions in most cases. Suffice it to say that unless one has some training in Computational Complexity and dynamic programming one is unlikely to either dream up or easily understand the algorithms. In any case all hope is not lost, and specially if some human intervention is allowed then bad corner cases can be thrown back to a human to provide information about what the preferred course is.
Anyway, such systems exist and are used in real life. An outfit like Amtrak has to engage people who actually know what they are doing instead of those that are running by the seat of their pants.
In case it interests you, as a starter you can get a feel for the field from the link I provided above to a Wikipedia writeup on it.
Anyhow here is an interesting paper on the subject if it catches your fancy: The Seat Reservation Problem (PDF)