Seating Protocol

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jis

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It always amazes me how many people rise bravely in defense of silly policies when there are all sorts of alternative policies that are known to work at many other rail operations. Sigh ...

Neither a single getting window seat nor a group getting seats together is an entitlement, just the same as getting a seat on the train at all isn't either. Those who book early have a better chance of getting what they desire in a reserved preassigned or self assigned seat situation, than those that book later. Seems to work just fine in many places even on trains that make 50 stops on the way. No reason that it would not here.
 
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jis

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Typically, they operate first come first served, together with some form of quotas on the order and number of seats that are released for pre-selection. In most cases all seats are not released for pre-selection from the get go. In many cases the entire train is not reserved. There are cars that are either unreserved or even if reserved that do not have pre-selection.

Actually the quota things works really well when you have intermediate major stops with large turnover. But it takes way more effort in monitoring demand and adjusting inventory, a lot of which these days gets automated.

This really isn't rocket science. Even airlines on occasions do not release all seats for pre-selection, and of course even if a seat is pre-selected on rare occasions one is requested to swap seats at the gate, including those gate upgrades and what not.

The system that the Japanese use is to have a few cars in the train that are non-reserved and the rest of the train is reserved first come first served together with assigned seat.

The British and the Germans seems to prefer to just reserve some seats as requested by the customers and leave the rest unreserved. The seat status is visible in signs above the seat and unreserved ticket holders can occupy any seat that is not reserved or occupied at the moment with the proviso that if it is a reserved seat they will move when the reservation holder shows up. Again reservations are FCFS based on availability. Yes there are cases when a through seat between point A and B is not available, but seats are available A to C and then C to B. More often than not people just buy a ticket, get on and then find a free seat to cover such situations.

I generally tend to just buy a ticket and get on even if I cannot get a reservation for a seat that I desire or any seat for that matter. In the worst cases one may have to stand. I remember standing in the vestibule of a Hikari high-speed train in Japan one time all the way from Osaka to Hiroshima. It happens. But at least I get there, instead of being left stranded.

In short there are many variations that work just fine. The worst of them are the ones where one group is consistently treated poorly over others. There is no logical reason why a group that booked late should get seat preference over an individual that took the trouble to book early, just like there is no logical reason why one would bump someone who had booked early to accommodate another that booked late.
 

John Bobinyec

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Jishnu,

Thanks. Now how would that work on Amtrak? What upgrades would be necessary?

Amtrak is now revising its station loading policy. Maybe its train loading process is under review as well.

jb
 

crescent-zephyr

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What’s the goal of selecting one’s seat on a train? If I get an aisle seat I just hang out in the lounge more.

It would be nice on Acela / regional where the business people frequently put computer bags on the empty seat next to them... but on long distance trains I don’t get the appeal.
 

jis

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To be able to do the British or German style thing they would either need to use the pre-automation British method which was to tag seats that are reserved with paper slips, or post automation with rather fancy and informative seat status signs which shows for upto three segments where the seats are reserved.

To use the Japanese method it takes nothing more than to demarcate some cars as reserved assigned seat and others not, and do assigned seating on only those designated cars. In all cases the total number of tickets sold for a train can always be limited to the net number of seats available, even though the Japanese do not do that. That restriction at least avoids trying to explain to people why you do not have a seat even though you have a ticket for a specific train, though almost anyone traveling on the NEC is probably quite familiar with that phenomenon.

Of course Americans generally being less disciplined and more entitled feeling crowd on the whole may feel slighted if they are denied access to a reserved car. In order to enforce, it might require creation of a new "class" with a nominal fee.

Incidentally, the French extract a reservation fee for any reserved seating. In spite of that people get onto TGVs with any random ticket (which apparently saves them from getting hit with a penalty if you speak French well :) ), and pay the difference and even sit on jump seats by the doors when push comes to shove, even though TGVs are supposed to be "Reservation Obligatiore".

And of course there is a need to get a 21st century reservation system too, which may be the hardest thing to achieve apparently.

Realistically, any policy has to live within an environment, and it is hard to tell what precisely will work in the Amtrak environment. Perhaps some experimentation with a few variations will need to be tried out. I understand the Aceal 21s are intended to be introduced with assigned seating in all classes from the getgo. So we'll see how that goes down.
 

Brian Battuello

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I can see both sides of the issue, both having tried to find a group of four with little or no assistance from the staff, and also being bunched together firmly when travelling alone. And of course the NE corridor laptop/coat/food seat grab :). Not sure we'll ever make everyone happy.

Another permutation is used on trains like the Adirondack, where they sometimes keep a car completely locked until Albany northbound, so there are more options for the passengers arriving there for the trip north. As soon as the car opens, though, you can move up there if you want. And on the way south, they keep one car reserved just for New York City (Penn) travellers, so that they don't have to wander that car looking for people to throw off at tiny stations along the way.
 

AutoTrDvr

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CZ...You still don't understand my discussion topic. I am not asking for 2 seats for the price of one. But if there are seats available, why can I not choose the one that I want...? If someone else decides that they would like to sit next to me, let that be their decision as well. You seem to be defending the power trip that those who work on the train seem to be on. I am the paying customer and you are (apparently) a member of the group I am criticizing. Most people on a plane would rather sit in a 3 seat row with the middle seat open...even couples. Most single people on the train would rather sit in a row without someone else next to them. When it is possible for that to happen, why not accommodate their wishes...? If the train fills up, then so be it...but until it does, why not make every paying customer as comfortable as possible...? When I see empty seats and am told that it will be full within the next stop or two, and it does not fill up...I cry foul...! Making those claims and then finding that there is no possible way for them to be true looks really bad on you and your crew. On last Monday night's run up to GRO I asked to sit in an open seat and was refused. The train was 2 hours late, the cafe was closed and I just wanted a little bit of peace and quiet. The employee then informed me that "if I wanted to get off at the next stop, I was welcome to". Nice way to treat your customer...
I think I get what you're saying. I've flown and taken trains extensively. On all of the trains I've taken (including Amtrak Acela and regional service to/from NY/Wash), no conductor has ever told me I needed to move, to accommodate a couple. On NJ Transit, they have told me I needed to move to a different car if they're closing that car or it's not going to be open as of yet, but they've never told me where to sit in any car. I've always traveled alone and understood that anyone can take the empty seat(s) in my row, and I'll gladly let them sit there. Sometimes, I try to keep the aisle seat and they (passenger) will balk about climbing over me to take the window, but that's all.

Actually, I worried more about the "couple" issue on Aircraft than trains. I always got a specific window seat when on the aircraft for a specific reason and, once assigned, I never want to move. Again, because I travel alone, the seat next to me is often open (in Bus. Cl/bus. First), even up to and including gate departure (i.e. they aren't even offering freebie upgrades to coach passengers). I have had couples who book late and got separate seats see the seat open next to me and ask me if I'd move, and (especially if it's an inferior seat), I'd have to say no. Sometimes they'd be pi$$ed off, and sometimes not. But in no case was I ordered to move by FA's. The worst that would happen would be the (usually) male of the couple would take the seat and it would result in a rather uncomfortable flight. But I'll take that any day. Two can play that game.

But, to your original point, if I'm lucky enough to get a row of seats to myself, then so be it. If I'm not, then so be it as well. I don't own the seats next to me, and if someone wants to take it, they take it. If not, I'll enjoy the extra space.
 

John Bobinyec

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Jishnu,

I'm still not visualizing the non-reserved concept in conjunction with Amtrak's long distance overnight trains which have trap doors which have to be opened manually. Currently, Amtrak tries to load passengers with similar destinations into the same car or additionally, the one next to it as well. Amtrak does not have enough personnel to open all the doors at a station so what happens with a non-reserved car on a train making a stop at midnight (no announcements)? Are people to simply:
  1. Be awake and aware of where they are (this always helps)
  2. Also be aware of which door will be opened at their stop
  3. Trudge through the train to get to the opened door
  4. Make that move (number 3) early enough to not delay the train?
jb
 

jis

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Yes. People have to be prepared to disembark at a station before the train comes to a stop.

Amtrak really does not have all that many cars in its trains. Opening a door per three or four cars should be sufficient for loading unloading a handful of passengers, which is what they do anyway. Having to walk 170' to disembark should not be a deal breaker for anyone except the mobility impaired, and they are handled separately and specially anyway.

The corralling of passengers that they do on the fly is something that can also be done when the reservations are made since the origin and destination are invariant in each PNR associated with the train.

And the bottom line is even absent all this they do not have to treat single passengers like sh*t, which is what they currently do. There should be no special entitlement for just being two passengers together, beyond holding a few rows of seats for such. You don't have to put the 7 single passengers in two rows leaving the rest of the car empty. That is plain ridiculous.
 
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What’s the goal of selecting one’s seat on a train? If I get an aisle seat I just hang out in the lounge more...on long distance trains I don’t get the appeal.
The goal is to give single travelers a chance at getting a seat they want instead of being shut down and pushed around for a "big group coming" that rarely materializes in the actual flesh. The lounge car may not even be around much longer and sitting in a seat you don't like for days on end without an option for meaningful improvement is a poor way to run a railroad.


I can see both sides of the issue, both having tried to find a group of four with little or no assistance from the staff, and also being bunched together firmly when travelling alone. And of course the NE corridor laptop/coat/food seat grab. Not sure we'll ever make everyone happy.
No system will make everyone happy, but that doesn't prevent us from putting everyone on an even playing field and allowing those who want a different outcome to book earlier (or pay a little more) for the privilege.
 
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Barb Stout

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What I don't understand is it seems that the original poster prefers his/her own seat away from noisy people which I understand as a natural born introvert. But I can still hear people visiting and what not from the opposite side of the car. Do I have extra good hearing? What I do and I highly recommend the original poster do is to get a sleeper. I too am not rolling in extra cash, but signing up for that Amtrak credit card and the rides I have already done on Amtrak has allowed me several "free" segments of sleeper travel. It's the way to go for introverts or folks that want quiet to read or whatever.
 
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I wonder if it would be possible to make one of the LD coaches a "quiet" car, as we have on the NEC, and have you choose that when you book your ticket. And when the seats are filled, that is it for booking that car.

And yes, I know someone will say there aren't enough cars in the consist. But the quiet car in the Regional is usually full, as is the quiet car on lowly NJ Transit, so it's a popular feature that would not result in empty seats.
 

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I wonder if it would be possible to make one of the LD coaches a "quiet" car, as we have on the NEC, and have you choose that when you book your ticket. And when the seats are filled, that is it for booking that car. And yes, I know someone will say there aren't enough cars in the consist. But the quiet car in the Regional is usually full, as is the quiet car on lowly NJ Transit, so it's a popular feature that would not result in empty seats.
Imagine reversing the ratio and having quiet trains with a designated noisy (lounge) car instead. Perfection incarnate!
 

Qapla

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Not sure if this has been considered in this thread ... trying to remember - but, when it comes to seating, one of the reasons seating is done by destination is that, not all stations have a platform area long enough for people to board/detrain from any/all cars in the consist. It would not work to open the door of a car that is stopped on a crossroad instead of at the station. Many if the smaller stations are like this. I know I have looked out my window while stopped and found myself looking directly down the road at all the stopped traffic - imagine getting off that car and finding yourself in the middle of all that traffic. - especially if the station is four cars away from where you're sitting.

Personally, I have never had a problem getting a seat that fit my preferences - I simply asked while I was still outside the car about to get on. I have never been made to feel I was asking something wrong or that I was "secondary" to other passengers. But then, I asked in a generic way - like, can I have a seat on this side or that side near the middle of the car? They check their seating card and direct me to a seat that fits my request.
 

IndyLions

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One system that I have seen work pretty well is when they block off a few rows of a coach for couples / families only. That way couples / families are just about guaranteed a spot next to each other (or at least very close by for odd numbered groups), but the singles had the availability of anywhere else on the entire car to choose from.

That seemed to be a good compromise that worked pretty well for most everyone.
 

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Taken from the Amtrak Website:

Seating Accommodation Policies
Amtrak will monitor seating of passengers to ensure compliance with the following policies:

  • Each passenger paying a fare is entitled to a seat, to the extent coach seats are available.
  • Passengers are entitled to one seat per fare, to ensure other paying passengers are not excluded.
  • Unless specific seats are assigned, seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. On unreserved trains, there are no guaranteed seats.
  • Seating assignments are made without regard to race, color, creed, national origin or gender.
  • Amtrak reserves the right, whenever operating conditions require, to transfer passengers from one car or train to another en route.
Seeing as the policy already allows for Amtrak to transfer passengers from one car to another, then there is zero need or justification in preventing passengers sitting on an empty row just incase a group needs to sit together. Also the policy doesnt state the groups are guaranteed to sit together any way.

Personally I found when I travelled on Amtrak that a polite request when boarding to the conductor for a window seat with the brief explanation that I was tourist who had specifically chosen to travel by Amtrak for the views was enough to aways be assigned a window seat and on the CS from LA even got given my requested righthand window seat.

Perhaps I was just lucky on the 11 LD trains I took to get a reasonable conductor everytime and on 90% of them I was starting on the originating station and predominately going end to end. If it was solely down to luck then I need to start doing the lotto! I did find myself sharing a row much of the time but quite frankly that didnt bother me so much and I never had a bad seat buddy and for the most part found conversation possible to varying degrees.
 

ScouseAndy

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Are we the only country that still uses seat checks?
No UK still use paper seat checks on HSTs and electronic seat checks on modern express trains.
They refer to them as seat reservations but from experience of using split tickets I know the conductors do use them to check passengers haven't stayed on past their ticketed station. Although in the UK (and every other country I've travelled in bar Russia and some European sleeper services) its the passengers responsiblity to get off at their stop and not the train crew
 

John Bobinyec

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Are we the only country that still uses seat checks?
What would you do instead? We're not talking about the short distance Northeast Corridor trains.

Seat checks do 2 things:
  1. They identify the passenger's destination so that the crew can get them off the train at their stop. Most of the time passengers are paying attention but quite often they are sleeping. And even more often, they have earbuds in so they are listening to music or whatever, and do not hear the station announcements. And at night, they can't readily identify their location by looking out the windows.
  2. If the crew doesn't scan the tickets on the platform when the passenger is boarding (this is official Amtrak policy, by the way), the absence of a seat check signifies that the crew needs to "collect" the ticket.
Sure, when new equipment is obtained, perhaps they can have electronic destination indicators located above the seats and station stop message boards. But right now, what's so bad about seat checks?

jb
 
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