Security procedure invasiveness?

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first_time_amtrak

Guest
Hello all,

We are used to riding trains overseas, and we're wondering how invasive the "Random passenger and carry-on baggage screening and inspection*" are? We no longer fly in the US because it's so unpleasant, and we're wondering if trains are a viable alternative, or we only have driving left for moving around the country. We are thinking of getting a sleeper car on a WPB->CYN->WPB trip later this year. I'm not sure if the security differs per station? I've read through a lot of postings here, but there's not much mention about whether we should expect radiation and groping, or merely metal detectors, questions, and dogs. Thanks for any advice!
 

SarahZ

Conductor
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May 8, 2011
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KAL
I've been on Amtrak countless times, as in 100 or more trips, and I've only had my purse "searched" once. I say "searched" with quotation marks because they just shined a flashlight in it and didn't even rummage around. I had a ton of stuff in my purse too.

I've never been patted down or had my luggage searched. The stations don't have x-rays or metal detectors either.

It's as easy as getting on a bus.

Chicago Union Station does have a drug/bomb dog that wanders around, but that's it. She's really cute. :)
 
G

Guest

Guest
Thanks Sorcha, that's very reassuring. We don't mind what happens to our luggage, just our persons, and we're dog people too. :)
 

Amtrak Cajun

OBS Chief
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Sep 2, 2012
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681
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Lafayette Louisiana
Amtrak is not like the airports. You dont have to worry about groping and xrays and such. At worst, you may have to deal with a bag search here and there, but nothing overly harsh.

If you happen to be on a train and Border Patrol gets on, you may have to deal with the routine Are you a citizen question.

Otherwise, sit back, relax, and enjoy your trip.
 

FrensicPic

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Jan 15, 2012
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LAX
In El Paso, the Border Patrol routinely walks the train asking the "Are you a citizen question". However, they didn't contact the passengers on the platform who stepped off the train for fresh air or a smoke!
 

benjibear

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Dec 9, 2011
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The security is really tight and they will search you everytime. :) (answered for any would be terrorists reading the forum)
 

the_traveler

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Whatever siding I'm sitting on!
In all my travels by Amtrak, I have never been searched, asked for ID or otherwise questioned. The closest to being questioned has been when the Border Patrol asks me my citizenship. As soon as I said "US", they moved on! Nothing intrusive like at airports.

I'll take the way Amtrak does it over the way airports do it. Whenever I can (unless I had to be there "yesterday"), I fly Amtrak!
 

Ispolkom

Conductor
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Nov 27, 2007
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3,058
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St. Paul, Minn.
On a recent 5-day trip I encountered TSA personnel at Houston and Los Angeles carefully not interacting with passengers. I'm not sure why they were there, but no harm, no foul. In Portland two young men seem to have attracted the attention of 1) a plain-clothes policeman, 2) a uniformed policeman, and 3) Sniffy the Police Dog. All three law enforcement officers seemed very curious about the Big Dufflebag of Dope the two young men had. Especially Sniffy. He was one excited dog.

So as long as you're not carrying a BDD, you'll not have much interaction.

This shows the basic realization that there are hundreds of thousands of grade crossings in the US, and just about every day some nonterrorist driver manages to ram a train at one of them. What's the point of searching passengers while ignoring grade crossings?
 

RRrich

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Feb 23, 2008
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STL
We just completed a ten day train trip to Canada and back. No unpleasentness from Customs/Border Patrol/TSA personell.

As Ispolkom points out with all the grade crossings and all the rail running near highways if you want to mess it up why go to the expense of buying a ticket?
 

BCL

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San Francisco Bay Area
I've seen a couple of Amtrak Police K-9 officers come through the car I was riding in. Not sure if they were trained to sniff for contraband though.
 

George Harris

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Apr 6, 2006
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now in California
If you have been used to riding trains overseas there will be a few differences. What these differences will be depend upon what things were like where you were. I have been used to "reserved" equals having a car number and seat number on your ticket, but did not have your name on it. That is not the way in the US. In the US, "Reserved" simply means the number of tickets sold does not exceed the number of seats available. Also, you will be asked for identification when you buy and pick up your ticket, and your ticket will have your name on it.

Also, with the exception of some of the major stations there is no control of access to platforms, much less any sort of security checking.

If you are used to "set your watch by it" schedule keeping, forget that. Generally there is quite a bit of fat in the scheduled times, particularly in the last segment before a terminal. For some of the long distance trains this can be as much as an hour. This is in consideration that most US lines are single track, and many of those that are multiple track are very heavily trafficed so that it is common for faster trains to catch up with slower ones and having to run quite a few miles at much lower speeds before passing.

Ride quality is likely to be much rougher than you are used to. Just remember that comfort is way inside safety. There are legally defined track safety standards that are strongly enforced. But the point is that these are Safety standards. The railroad companies are under no obligation to maintain to a higher standard and, since passenger trains are for the most part a side show, they do not maintain higher than the level that makes economic sense, not public relations sense.
 

SarahZ

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Thanks Sorcha, that's very reassuring. We don't mind what happens to our luggage, just our persons, and we're dog people too. :)
I should add that the dog is a K9 unit and can't be pet (booo), but she's fun to watch. She's always with her assigned officer, and they wander around the public waiting area near the gates.
 

BCL

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Thanks Sorcha, that's very reassuring. We don't mind what happens to our luggage, just our persons, and we're dog people too. :)
I should add that the dog is a K9 unit and can't be pet (booo), but she's fun to watch. She's always with her assigned officer, and they wander around the public waiting area near the gates.
You're not supposed to pet working dogs, but for the most part they are dogs and generally like people. They're not likely to bite someone simply for reaching out. That would be a huge liability issue if they did.

I remember playing a pickup game at a local park with a sheriff's deputy. He brought the dog he was training to try to socialize it. That dog really liked people, and the deputy had no problem when kids were showing up and trying to pet it. However, the joke going around was "don't run".
 

Ted Bell

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Sep 17, 2012
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Salt Lake City, UT
Lack of TSA instrusion is a huge reason I enjoy travel to Northern California from Utah on Amtrak. It is difficult to explain to friends and family why I prefer a 14 hour train ride versus a 2 hour flight. But after a reasonable conversation describing the process which incudes expensive long-term parking, arriving at least an hour early, going through security, hoping the plane leaves on time, the cramped space on the plane, etc., they seem to understand why I prefer the train.
 

dlagrua

Conductor
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Nov 24, 2009
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Hillsborough, NJ
All this TSA search nonsense is worhless. Billions of dollars later, not a single terrorist has been caught since the creation of the DHS and TSA. All thats needed at any station or airport are bomb sniffing dogs. They have them at NYP and CHI and I don't mind seeing them there as they are non-intrusive. They are very efficient and accurate when sniffing for explosives.
 

jsreeves

Train Attendant
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Dec 28, 2012
Messages
84
Location
Hicksville, TN... no, really.
Of course, there is this if you do object, I guess (from the Amtrak website):

"Amtrak, along with the Amtrak Police Department, has a range of behind-the-scenes and front-line security measures in place to ensure passenger rail security.

Among these security measures, some of which are conducted on an unpredictable or random basis, passengers may notice any of the following in stations or onboard trains:

  • Uniformed police officers and Special Operations Units
  • Random passenger and carry-on baggage screening and inspection*
  • K-9 units
  • Checked baggage screening
  • Onboard security checks
  • Identification checks
*With due respect to passengers' privacy, the random screening and inspection of passengers and their personal items will be completed as quickly as possible - usually in less than a minute. Passengers failing to consent to security procedures will be denied access to trains and refused carriage, and a refund will be offered."
 

Bob Dylan

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Austin Texas
Did anyone see the Video of the HLS Secretary testifying to Congress about Immigration Reform? She had a Detail of Uniformed hLS Agents/Bodyguards with her and sitting right behind her was a Guy that is a Spokesman for Immigration Reform and is here from the phillipines ILLEGALLY! <_< Keystone Cops comes to Mind, and this from the Agency with the Largest Budget and Number of Employees in Washington!

Maybe they should be out putting on Dog and Pony Shows @ Amtrak Stations on the NEC!! :angry:
 
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JoeBas

Conductor
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Dec 30, 2011
Messages
1,134
Passengers failing to consent to security procedures will be denied access to trains and refused carriage, and a refund will be offered."

Whelp, no offense, but if my choice is "Comply or we'll give you your money back", I know which one I'm picking.
 
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