Timetables returning in September?

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joelkfla

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Here's the answer I just got to an inquiry I sent last week. So believe whomever you choose.

Thank you for contacting us.

Amtrak is in the process of automating timetables and has discontinued traditional PDF timetables on Amtrak Tickets, Schedules and Train Routes. We apologize for any inconvenience.

For assistance with reviewing schedules and fares, please call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245). Press '0' to bypass the automated system. A Reservation Sales Agent will be happy to help you; 24 hours a day.

We hope this information is helpful.

Sincerely,

Brian
Amtrak Center of Excellence
 

me_little_me

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"Center of Excellence" - is that like the eye of the tornado where everything around you is in motion but nothing happens where you are?

Edit: I think I'll copyright it or at least put it in my signature. :)
 
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chrsjrcj

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I received nearly an identical email today:


Thank you for contacting us with your inquiry.

We apologize for the delay in responding. We have had a high volume of email correspondence.

We are in the process of automating timetables and have discontinued traditional PDF timetables. Timetable automation is expected to be completed sometime in September. We apologize for any inconvenience while the new solution is being implemented.

In the meantime, you can view our schedules on Amtrak.com through the “Schedules” tab. Simply enter in your Origin and Destination and click the “Find Schedules” button. Please call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245), 24/7, should you need assistance. Press '0' to speak with an Amtrak reservations agent.

We look forward to serving you aboard Amtrak.

Sincerely,

Pamela C.
Amtrak Center of Excellence
 

jis

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I wonder how many names are in the list to pick from for automatically including in the signature block of that email. Maybe we should start building a list and see how many we can capture in it :D
 

toddinde

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Here's the answer I just got to an inquiry I sent last week. So believe whomever you choose.

Thank you for contacting us.

Amtrak is in the process of automating timetables and has discontinued traditional PDF timetables on Amtrak Tickets, Schedules and Train Routes. We apologize for any inconvenience.

For assistance with reviewing schedules and fares, please call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245). Press '0' to bypass the automated system. A Reservation Sales Agent will be happy to help you; 24 hours a day.

We hope this information is helpful.

Sincerely,

Brian
Amtrak Center of Excellence
May I ask what an “automated timetable” is?
 

MARC Rider

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May I ask what an “automated timetable” is?
For most of my life I used the words "timetable" and "schedule" interchangeably, but I think that the use of "schedule" on the Amtrak web site means a selection of the alternatives available that travel between the original and destination point selected on the date selected. Thus, if I ask for a schedule between Baltimore to Chicago on a date that the Cardinal runs, I will get 3 possibilities: the usual NER/Capitol Limited, NER/Lakeshore Limited, and the Through train Cardinal. The "schedule" includes information and calling times for the connections, but no other information about the routes and the available accommodations for each leg of the journey. However, it gives no information about the route traveled, and someone making reservations might wonder why travel times range from 17 hours to 24 hours.

On the other hand, a "timetable" provides information about all of the stations along the route and allows one to compare trains and possible connections without having to constantly be pinging into the Amtrak reservation system. Aside from railfangeekiness, this is certainly helpful to people who are planning trips that involve connections between services that have multiple daily departures. It also helps potential passengers plan the dates of their trips by quickly showing differences in service on different days of the week, and such.

Sometimes I think that web pages are designed by people who have been taught that the ideal web page should force a user to stay connected and maximize the number of times a user accesses the web site. While I understand why someone might do this for content that sells ads based on the number of views, it's very frustrating for customers who just want to do their business giving their money to a company as quickly as possible. Nonetheless, most websites I've dealt with seem to operate on that design principle. I think someone needs to teach programmers that all the "bells and whistles" aren't necessarily a good thing.
 

jis

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For most of my life I used the words "timetable" and "schedule" interchangeably, but I think that the use of "schedule" on the Amtrak web site means a selection of the alternatives available that travel between the original and destination point selected on the date selected. Thus, if I ask for a schedule between Baltimore to Chicago on a date that the Cardinal runs, I will get 3 possibilities: the usual NER/Capitol Limited, NER/Lakeshore Limited, and the Through train Cardinal. The "schedule" includes information and calling times for the connections, but no other information about the routes and the available accommodations for each leg of the journey. However, it gives no information about the route traveled, and someone making reservations might wonder why travel times range from 17 hours to 24 hours.
It does provide a lot of information about the train you choose to look at the Details for though. And you do get many more possible connections than just the three you mentioned, since there are many Regionals and Acelas that potentially connect to the Cap and the LSL I suppose.

As you can see, the Details includes all station stops on the way, the accommodation available on the train and basically everything one expects in the timetable footnotes or symbols. I am not sure that bickering over whether it is a timetable or schedule is a good use of time, since it is what it is no matter what you choose to call it. What it is not is a printable timetable that we were familiar with in the pre-Web days. In some sense it is exactly what one would expect when searching for stuff on the web, and someone who has been brought up in the web culture, having never experienced what came before, would be perfectly at home with this.

The Details block actually has live links under many of the items that takes you to further information popups which is kind of neat. Unfortunately they do not have links from the accommodation items to info popup. Those pointing to what each accommodation looks like would be an improvement I think. Would be even neater if it showed the current fare for that combo. But that will require some fancy cross linking between two complex modules. But if done right it should not be hard to achieve.

Now do I miss the PDF stuff. Of course Yes. But for someone casually trying to figure out where to travel and how to get there, this seems to be more or less adequate. For most of my everyday needs I could live with this. OTOH, this is inadequate to satisfy my railfan urges.

All IMHO of course.

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Barb Stout

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There are some people who have problems reading a timetable like the pdfs that Amtrak used to have. My sister is one of them. I have to be the person to figure out the schedule when we travel together. I'm not sure what the exact difficulty is, but I'm wondering if this new version might be easier for her.
 

west point

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different persons read differently. School teachers say this is a big problem getting the various persons to be able to read. Amtrak should not try to put some square pegs in a round hole..
Try to get some persons to read a map is another example. Even persons from the south trying to navigate the cornfields of the Midwest from the air. At times drove me crazy.
 
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Skeets

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I will be watching for the new timetables to print out for my upcoming Rail Pass trip. I have copies of the old ones as well as route guides just in case the new ones are not ready by then.
 

TheTuck

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Automated timetables might very well be more appealing to the masses.. but they're not being made available for at least 3 months. Meanwhile Amtrak is choosing not to maintain the PDF timetables for the entire summer travel season! Pretty much any white collar worker in 2021 is capable of updating a PDF file. Amtrak is simply choosing not to prioritize this.

Website traffic might be able to find the info they need without consulting a timetable. But what about at stations and on board the trains? How can Amtrak simply not provide such basic information about their business?
 

chrsjrcj

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What's the difference between an "automated timetable" and the clunky site where Amtrak is directing users to now? It's very overwhelming when you put in an origin and destination and see a dozen choices with only one being a direct train.

Even more useless for the Cardinal and Sunset Limited. Put in NOL-HOU for one of the 4 days the Sunset Limited doesn't run and nothing even comes up. A non-aficionado would eliminate the train option after that.

ETA: I notice the PDF timetables are still available for both triweekly trains. Somehow Amtrak can manage that, but not update the other long distance trains to reflect daily status.
 
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jebr

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Now do I miss the PDF stuff. Of course Yes. But for someone casually trying to figure out where to travel and how to get there, this seems to be more or less adequate. For most of my everyday needs I could live with this. OTOH, this is inadequate to satisfy my railfan urges.
There's too many issues with the experience for me to find it even adequate as a replacement for the PDF timetables. I don't see a way to have a full itinerary if the trip goes through more than 10 stations (there's a tap/click to see next 10 stations, but then the previous 10 disappear,) there's no information about the intermediate station stops beyond scheduled arrival/departure time, and there's no print-friendly option that minimizes white space and makes it look relatively clean when printed.

One other major downfall is that there's no central location to see connecting Thruway schedules along the route, or even little notes to indicate what transfer options might be available. There's quite a few times where it's hard to tell if a connection to a Thruway route doesn't work because of an actual timing issue, or if it's just ARROW being ARROW and not having the route properly built.

I don't mind if Amtrak automates it, or if it's a bit less polished around the edges. But it needs to be usable for most use cases first, and I consider "being able to print out the timetable for a route with a single print job" one of those essential use cases.
 
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Historically, in railroad operating rule definition's, the timetable listed all the stations, and all the regular trains that ran. The schedule was that part of the timetable that listed the operating times for a particular train. Under timetable and train order rules, the timetable granted the authority of trains to be at a particular place at a particular time, and established meeting points. The timetable's were extensive, and were also often accompanied with timetable special instructions...
 
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There are some people who have problems reading a timetable like the pdfs that Amtrak used to have. My sister is one of them. I have to be the person to figure out the schedule when we travel together. I'm not sure what the exact difficulty is, but I'm wondering if this new version might be easier for her.
All too true. Back in ancient times, when I was in grade school, one of my teacher's, maybe fifth grade?, taught us how to read railroad, bus, and airline timetables, as well as the NYTimes shipping schedules. Now it's a 'lost art', replaced long ago by quick reference type tables...
 

Cal

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ETA: I notice the PDF timetables are still available for both triweekly trains. Somehow Amtrak can manage that, but not update the other long distance trains to reflect daily status.
That's simply because nothing is changing for those schedules with the resumption of daily service, they don't need to change the days of operations to daily, so they kept it.
 

MARC Rider

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Even more useless for the Cardinal and Sunset Limited. Put in NOL-HOU for one of the 4 days the Sunset Limited doesn't run and nothing even comes up. A non-aficionado would eliminate the train option after that.
That should be a pretty easy fix on an automated timetable. Just program to give a message detailing the closest days to the requested date (on both sides of the requested date) that the train runs. I've seen online airline schedules that do that very well for non-daily services.
 

zephyr17

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Historically, in railroad operating rule definition's, the timetable listed all the stations, and all the regular trains that ran. The schedule was that part of the timetable that listed the operating times for a particular train. Under timetable and train order rules, the timetable granted the authority of trains to be at a particular place at a particular time, and established meeting points. The timetable's were extensive, and were also often accompanied with timetable special instructions...
But public timetables had no authority at all. They reflected the times in employee timetables, which did confer authority.
 
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