Staffed to Unstaffed Stations Master Thread

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cpotisch

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In light of the reduction in staffed stations and the resulting reduction in checked baggage, I wonder if Amtrak didn’t make the wrong decision about the baggage and baggage-dorm cars. Wouldn’t it have been better to have more bag-dorms and reduce or eliminate baggage cars on single level trains? This would at least generate more revenue.

Do trains like the Carolinian, Palmetto, Star, Cardinal and Crescent really need that much baggage space. Even though it’s a bigger train, the LSL certainly doesn’t need two baggage cars. Would it be possible to reconfigure full baggage cars to bag-dorms?
Remember that the full baggage cars are used on almost every single Amtrak route. The bag-dorms would really only work on the single-level long distance trains, which makes them much less useful. There are 17 single-level LD consists. Add in a 20% protect margin and that comes out to about 21 cars, if they were to literally put the bag-dorms on every long distance single-level train.

And if checked baggage is being abandoned altogether, why even have bag-dorms? Just buy that many full sleepers, since that would bring in so much more revenue. My point is, the bag-dorms really only work on routes that could use a bit more sleeper space, but do not need much checked baggage space. The problem is, that's really only the case for a few trains.

So I don't think that it was a mistake to cut the number of bag-dorms in favor of baggage cars, because pretty much every route in the country can use the latter, and only a couple can use the former.
 
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looshi

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In light of the reduction in staffed stations and the resulting reduction in checked baggage, I wonder if Amtrak didn’t make the wrong decision about the baggage and baggage-dorm cars. Wouldn’t it have been better to have more bag-dorms and reduce or eliminate baggage cars on single level trains? This would at least generate more revenue.
The change from bag-dorms to full bags was made primarily because of a projected increase in bike demand. I don't see that demand going away, but they probably need to expand the number of stations than handle walk-up bikes.
 

jis

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Also because they wanted to be able to take the Heritage bags off regular service by mid-this decade, and not stretch it till the next decade perhaps [emoji57]
 

cpotisch

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Also because they wanted to be able to take the Heritage bags off regular service by mid-this decade, and not stretch it till the next decade perhaps [emoji57]
I imagine the plan would have been to replace the old baggage cars with bag-dorms anyway, so his point still stands. If Amtrak had felt that the bag-dorms have enough capacity to accommodate the baggage (and bike) load on more trains,, they could have replaced the Heritage cars with these.
 

jis

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Also because they wanted to be able to take the Heritage bags off regular service by mid-this decade, and not stretch it till the next decade perhaps [emoji57]
I imagine the plan would have been to replace the old baggage cars with bag-dorms anyway, so his point still stands. If Amtrak had felt that the bag-dorms have enough capacity to accommodate the baggage (and bike) load on more trains,, they could have replaced the Heritage cars with these.
Only if they could have them delivered as early as they got the baggage cars, which are the easiest to manufacture.
 
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Thirdrail7

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The list continues to grow.   Topeka(TOP),  Ottumwa(OTT) will now offer trainside,  baggage lite service.  La Junta(LAJ)will offer baggage lite when the station is unstaffed. Additionally, they have restored baggage lite to Fort Madison (FMD).

Bikes are also included.
 

jebr

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Is there any reason (other than inertia) that they aren't offering baggage lite at all unstaffed stations? At this point it seems like every western LD route has at least one baggage lite stop, and it'd be nice to have that at every unstaffed station that has trains with baggage service stopping there.
 

Thirdrail7

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As previously indicated, there are things to consider. Is there a clear path to the the baggage car? Will the host allow  the dwell? Where is the baggage car located? how big is the platform?

So, stations have to be evaluated. We've already seen some stations that had baggage lite cancel it.
 

F900ElCapitan

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So on the LD trains with a baggage car is “baggage lite” only available if you take your bag/bike to the baggage car or are the coach baggage cars also used for this?
 

lordsigma

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This post mentions Altoona, PA as unstaffed but I was there today and there was a ticket office. Was it unstaffed and then restaffed or was merely baggage removed? Or did Amtrak propose de-staffing and local/state say no?
 

brianpmcdonnell17

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This post mentions Altoona, PA as unstaffed but I was there today and there was a ticket office. Was it unstaffed and then restaffed or was merely baggage removed? Or did Amtrak propose de-staffing and local/state say no?
According to Amtrak, Altoona is still staffed. It does not have baggage service, but that is not a recent change, as the Pennsylvanian doesn't have a baggage car.
 

lordsigma

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According to Amtrak, Altoona is still staffed. It does not have baggage service, but that is not a recent change, as the Pennsylvanian doesn't have a baggage car.
Did a little more research. It seems Amtrak proposed de staffing in 2016 but it never happened - May want to update the postings. I am guessing the local folks objected and the state DOT vetoed it - I found an article which mentioned that the transit facility relies on the Amtrak agent to open/close it and that as a result the managing agency didn’t support Amtrak’s proposal. So I’m guessing Pennsylvania’s DOT said no and it remains staffed.
 

pennyk

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Did a little more research. It seems Amtrak proposed de staffing in 2016 but it never happened - May want to update the postings. I am guessing the local folks objected and the state DOT vetoed it - I found an article which mentioned that the transit facility relies on the Amtrak agent to open/close it and that as a result the managing agency didn’t support Amtrak’s proposal. So I’m guessing Pennsylvania’s DOT said no and it remains staffed.
The first post was updated to indicate that the ALT station is still staffed. Thank you for your research.
 

lordsigma

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The first post was updated to indicate that the ALT station is still staffed. Thank you for your research.
ALT is now getting checked baggage on the Pennsylvanian too which likely further insulates the staffing there.
 

Cho Cho Charlie

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Is Spartanburg, SC, now closed?

The Amtrak website still says that it suppose to have a waiting room that is open from 11pm to 6am, in support northbound and southbound Cresents.

My kid has making his first solo LD trip. He got dropped off at the Spartanburg station around 11pm, but the place was dark, closed, and deserted. The Crescent was running late (surprise, surprise) and instead of arriving at 11:39PM, it arrived around 3:30AM.

My kid ended up having to wait outside, in the dark, for those 4 hours. :mad:

Understandably, I was already a worried parent over his first solo LD trip. Having him wait at a deserted station thru the night didn't help.

I know that Amtrak is making painful cutbacks. However, does one of the cutbacks need to be maintaining their website?
 

me_little_me

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Is Spartanburg, SC, now closed?

The Amtrak website still says that it suppose to have a waiting room that is open from 11pm to 6am, in support northbound and southbound Cresents.

My kid has making his first solo LD trip. He got dropped off at the Spartanburg station around 11pm, but the place was dark, closed, and deserted. The Crescent was running late (surprise, surprise) and instead of arriving at 11:39PM, it arrived around 3:30AM.

My kid ended up having to wait outside, in the dark, for those 4 hours. :mad:

Understandably, I was already a worried parent over his first solo LD trip. Having him wait at a deserted station thru the night didn't help.

I know that Amtrak is making painful cutbacks. However, does one of the cutbacks need to be maintaining their website?
Your son should file a complaint with Amtrak and include a picture of the web page.

BTW, there re numerous programs for Windows (and an included one on Linux) that allows you to "print" a web page to a PDF file. Useful since PDF files seem more acceptable on some sites as attachments.
 

FreeskierInVT

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Is Spartanburg, SC, now closed?

The Amtrak website still says that it suppose to have a waiting room that is open from 11pm to 6am, in support northbound and southbound Cresents.

My kid has making his first solo LD trip. He got dropped off at the Spartanburg station around 11pm, but the place was dark, closed, and deserted. The Crescent was running late (surprise, surprise) and instead of arriving at 11:39PM, it arrived around 3:30AM.

My kid ended up having to wait outside, in the dark, for those 4 hours. :mad:

Understandably, I was already a worried parent over his first solo LD trip. Having him wait at a deserted station thru the night didn't help.

I know that Amtrak is making painful cutbacks. However, does one of the cutbacks need to be maintaining their website?
The waiting room at Waterbury, VT was also closed during hours listed as open on Amtrak's website when I boarded the northbound Vermonter this past week. It's an unstaffed station but has station hosts to open the waiting room, provide train status updates and provide passenger assistance.
 

lordsigma

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I would complain to customer relations that the station wasn’t open during listed hours.
Spartanburg should have been open when you were there. That station is listed as having a caretaker that should have opened the station up. Obviously someone wasn’t doing their job.
 

railiner

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Is there a difference between a “caretaker” and a “host”?
Is one paid and the other a volunteer?
And are there substitutes available, to cover vacancies?
Who, if anyone, monitor’s this type of “staffing”?
 

lordsigma

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Is there a difference between a “caretaker” and a “host”?
Is one paid and the other a volunteer?
And are there substitutes available, to cover vacancies?
Who, if anyone, monitor’s this type of “staffing”?
A caretaker is usually employed by Amtrak to open the station and make sure restrooms are cleaned, etc. these are stations that have enclosed buildings where Amtrak is responsible for opening and cleaning the facility. Hosts are usually volunteers that provide some additional services that would be available at a staffed station and can be managed by the local municipality (such as answering questions, providing boarding information and announcements and sometimes helping passengers with needs board.) Some stations with caretakers also have hosts that go above and beyond the duties expected of the caretaker and actually interact with passengers. I think what you get out of a caretaker probably depends on the individual and whether they go above and beyond or just do the bare minimum. Some of the caretakers in Vermont really go above and beyond in helping out passengers and provide basically everything that a staffed station has other than the ability to sell tickets/change reservations. I think the basic duties of a caretaker sometimes only require opening/closing/cleaning the facility and not necessarily interacting with passengers.
 

lordsigma

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I am concerned about some language of Anderson in the recent congressional hearing. When defending the call center decision he also alluded to how they are going to be installing new self serve kiosks in the stations. I wonder if this alludes that some big station cuts could be coming. I think one could argue it is appropriate to adjust station staffing at large stations where there are a lot of agents in this age of digital ticketing. However most of the stations have self service kiosks now and I don't see a big migration of people that buy their tickets in station to using new kiosks instead of an agent unless they eliminate in person human ticketing all together. I am a tech savvy person, but I really don't like self serve kiosks in places like McDonalds and I usually find myself going to the counter to order anyway. I do not think that making more major stations unstaffed is a good thing. Having a human presence to answer questions and assist passengers is just basic customer service. It's one thing to reduce the agents at the ticket counter at a large station like NYP where you have red caps and an information desk so you have people that are just dedicated to selling tickets and changing reservations. But at a medium sized station where you don't have red caps, the station agent is it and provides all station services as far as assisting passengers and answering question and you eliminate all of that service when you unstaff the station. Personally I think if they go too far with this they could get major blowback from congress but I guess we'll see what happens.
 

Seaboard92

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I for one prefer to buy tickets from a human than a machine. Even thought when I’m running for a train sometimes it’s easier to deal with the machine. Especially in a station I’m unfamiliar with like Los Angeles. I wanted to catch a Surfliner after a flight and had no choice but to use a machine because I couldn’t find the human agent.
 

Bob Dylan

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I've been told by several Agents and Amtrak employees I know, that the plan is to eliminate all Quik-Trak Machines and De-Staff ( including Redcaps)as many Stations as possible in order to "Save Money!"

There was even a suggestion to follow the Airline model and charge a Fee to deal with a "Live Agent" in person or on the Phone!
 

jebr

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I'd be fine with getting rid of the Quik-Trak machines...if they were replaced with a machine like this:


These could also be a replacement for station staff on-site at smaller/less busy stations. If Amtrak could ever figure out trainside checked baggage systemwide (or at least where platform length allows) it would still allow most services to continue even without on-site staff. At stations without on-site staff currently, this could be a way to offer in-person assistance without needing someone on-site.
 
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