Washington Union Station Boarding Procedure

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jackintosh11
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Washington Union Station Boarding Procedure

Post by jackintosh11 » Thu Oct 29, 2015 12:21 pm

What is the boarding procedure like in WAS? If I get a red cap, will I be able to get on the train sooner?
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Rockingham Racer
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Re: Washington Union Station Boarding Procedure

Post by Rockingham Racer » Thu Oct 29, 2015 2:04 pm

If it's like Boston and New York, the answer is "yes".

TomNelligan
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Re: Washington Union Station Boarding Procedure

Post by TomNelligan » Thu Oct 29, 2015 2:53 pm

Unless they've changed things since I was last there about a year ago, which I doubt, it's like other big NEC stations. You line up at the gate and and get your ticket checked when the train is deemed ready for boarding and the gate is opened. You can avoid this adventure by hiring a Red Cap who will take you out to the train ahead of the teeming masses.

bratkinson
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Re: Washington Union Station Boarding Procedure

Post by bratkinson » Sat Oct 31, 2015 8:34 pm

Or, if you're travelling first class Acela or sleeper, the Metropolitan lounge always boards before the hoards. I've used a Metropolitan lounge pass (via 5,000 AGR point redemption for 5) to do just that when I was travelling 'regular' business class on a lowly NEC corridor train.

jackintosh11
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Re: Washington Union Station Boarding Procedure

Post by jackintosh11 » Sat Oct 31, 2015 8:55 pm

We were able to get a red cap. Our train was the palmetto, so it came from south of DC. We were taken on a golf cart out to the platform before it even arrived. It was running late, so that might have had something to do with it.
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Ken W2KB
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Re: Washington Union Station Boarding Procedure

Post by Ken W2KB » Mon Nov 02, 2015 7:32 pm

Disabled and senior citizens are boarded ahead of those on the regular line.
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mr. mick
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Re: Washington Union Station Boarding Procedure

Post by mr. mick » Tue Nov 03, 2015 8:04 pm

As a train host I sometimes am asked about taking trains out of South Station in Boston, and Red Cap Service. My question - so i can be informative and accurate if asked - is, what is a typical tip for a Red Cap (per bag) (and I will say 'in Boston" , unless it does not make any difference. The tracks at South Station back right up to the station, there are no flights of stairs, elevators etc needed to get to the trains.) Thanks for any input,

Mr. Mick
(sorry about the thread drift, but this seemed like a good intro to my question...)

jackintosh11
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Re: Washington Union Station Boarding Procedure

Post by jackintosh11 » Tue Nov 03, 2015 8:49 pm

I generally give about $5/person. Doesn't matter which station.
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TomNelligan
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bording process at Washington Union Station

Post by TomNelligan » Sun Dec 02, 2018 10:44 am

This morning's Washington Post has an interesting article on the general chaos that often characterizes the boarding process at Washington Union Station. His observations certainly apply to a number of other busy stations as well.

Head to Union Station any time during the busy holiday season, and you’re likely to encounter a familiar ritual: scores of train passengers shuffling into long, snaking lines that extend past the shops and cafes, perhaps beginning at one gate but stretching two or three others past it. Inevitably, a passenger will ask whether they’re in the correct line. It seems suspect, after all, to be lining up at Gate F for a departure from Gate J. Meanwhile, long train platforms that could accommodate the crowds are ghost towns until the boarding process begins — and the sudden stampede of luggage wheels against the pavement signals the coming departure.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/tr ... story.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Nasadowsk
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Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Post by Nasadowsk » Sun Dec 02, 2018 3:19 pm

And Amtrak trots out the standard excuses as to why it has to be this way.

News to Amtrak: In Europe, they service the trains in terminals, too. Hell, they even change power in terminals. Yet, you can walk right up to the platform and wait there for your train to be ready. At Stuttgart, I sat out at the end of the platform for 45 min watching traffic go in and out.

Nobody cared.

When my train was ready to board, the doors opened, and I walked on.

This whole thing of treating customers like cattle is pretty much unique to Amtrak and north America. You don't see it elsewhere.

PC1100
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Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Post by PC1100 » Sun Dec 02, 2018 5:44 pm

This is an issue of inadequate concourse space, not the boarding process. Restricting boarding until the determined time (by station/operations forces) has been around in the U.S. for well over a century. It started in none other than Commodore Vanderbilt's Grand Central Depot with the "Doormen" (known as "Gatemen" on the rest of the NYC and other roads, or "Usher" on others such as the PRR) controlling platform access (typically under authority of a stationmaster) for none other than the aforementioned reason of safety. In fact, the original purpose of the main concourse of GCT was for crowds to wait at the gates and the process was still used for Amtrak trains there until the end in 1991. When was the last time you saw wide open gates at an airport? Comparing a long distance/intercity railroad to a subway is comparing apples to oranges. I highly doubt this was an issue 60-70 years ago when traveling by train was much more common in this country, and concourse space was set up to properly handle the crowds. A similar problem exists at Chicago Union Station. Open up that concourse space (make it a true train "concourse") between the North and South gates and you'd see the difference. Scroll halfway down the page on this link for a historic reference, Michigan Central Station in the 1950s: https://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/2 ... -look-back" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Delays tend to exasperate the situation, but even then, with adequate concourse space the traffic flow would be a lot smoother. Unfortunately, long ago the economics of passenger railroading and terminal operation have made it seem much more worthwhile to the operators to cut the space up into retail and other uses.

I should mention that the situation seems worse in more crowded stations. Having followed the same boarding process in Seattle and New Orleans, I can tell you the experience is much better than in crowded, cluttered spaces like the Washington Union Station and Chicago Union Station boarding areas.

Nasadowsk
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Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Post by Nasadowsk » Sun Dec 02, 2018 6:33 pm

PC1100 wrote:Comparing a long distance/intercity railroad to a subway is comparing apples to oranges.
The TGV is a subway. Today I learned...

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Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Post by SouthernRailway » Sun Dec 02, 2018 7:38 pm

At Grand Central Terminal, you just walk into any platform at any time. Metro-North passengers often wait on the platform before their train arrives.

When Amtrak runs trains from Grand Central, ONLY Amtrak makes people line up away from the platform before boarding.

I also discovered that Amtrak makes people line up at only one end of the platform (as there are north and south entrances to most platform). I have crept onto the platform from the other end. The Amtrak staff will yell, but there’s no harm done.

So clearly Amtrak’s “line up and wait” boarding is just make-work and an unnecessary hassle for passengers.

PC1100
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Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Post by PC1100 » Sun Dec 02, 2018 8:01 pm

Nasadowsk wrote:
PC1100 wrote:Comparing a long distance/intercity railroad to a subway is comparing apples to oranges.
The TGV is a subway. Today I learned...
My mistake, I should have been more specific. I was referring to the U.S. Particularly the reference to the Amtrak vs, the Washington Metro.
SouthernRailway wrote:At Grand Central Terminal, you just walk into any platform at any time. Metro-North passengers often wait on the platform before their train arrives.

When Amtrak runs trains from Grand Central, ONLY Amtrak makes people line up away from the platform before boarding.

I also discovered that Amtrak makes people line up at only one end of the platform (as there are north and south entrances to most platform). I have crept onto the platform from the other end. The Amtrak staff will yell, but there’s no harm done.

So clearly Amtrak’s “line up and wait” boarding is just make-work and an unnecessary hassle for passengers.
Until the mid 1980s all trains at GCT were "gated." When the train was ready to board the brakeman or conductor would give the gateman ("usher" from the Penn Central era onward) a wave to open the gate, and that's when the train would start boarding. After the massive reduction in Ushers in the mid-1980s this ended for all but Amtrak trains. If you go back to the New York Central/New Haven RR era, you had to go to the Station Master's Office to get a special pass to go beyond the gates if you did not have a ticket (ie. if you were there to help an elderly person get on the train). What you see is only what it has become after years of the old system breaking down, not as it what was designed and as it was done for decades. See image #10 on this link: http://trn.trains.com/railroads/railroa ... to-gallery" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Several years back I spoke with a long time Amtrak customer service rep in Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal who explained to me how frustrated the station staff was over the removal of all but one of the boarding gates. This was due to the addition of stores and the LA subway entrance in the 1990s, all within what had formerly been the "controlled" area behind the gates. The frustration was the difficultly of now dealing with uncontrolled masses of people while trying to get baggage trucks through.

Let's also consider the fact that the subway lines have controlled fare areas in terms of turnstiles, so the platforms are not just "open" to the public - passengers only.
Last edited by PC1100 on Sun Dec 02, 2018 9:22 pm, edited 2 times in total.

PC1100
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Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Post by PC1100 » Sun Dec 02, 2018 8:27 pm

PC1100 wrote:
Nasadowsk wrote:
PC1100 wrote:Comparing a long distance/intercity railroad to a subway is comparing apples to oranges.
The TGV is a subway. Today I learned...
My mistake, I should have been more specific. I was referring to the U.S. Particularly the reference to the Amtrak vs, the Washington Metro.
SouthernRailway wrote:At Grand Central Terminal, you just walk into any platform at any time. Metro-North passengers often wait on the platform before their train arrives.

When Amtrak runs trains from Grand Central, ONLY Amtrak makes people line up away from the platform before boarding.

I also discovered that Amtrak makes people line up at only one end of the platform (as there are north and south entrances to most platform). I have crept onto the platform from the other end. The Amtrak staff will yell, but there’s no harm done.

So clearly Amtrak’s “line up and wait” boarding is just make-work and an unnecessary hassle for passengers.
Until the mid 1980s all trains at GCT were "gated." When the train was ready to board the brakeman or conductor would give the gateman ("usher" from the Penn Central era onward) a wave to open the gate, and that's when the train would start boarding. After the massive reduction in Ushers in the mid-1980s this ended for all but Amtrak trains. If you go back to the New York Central/New Haven RR era, you had to go to the Station Master's Office to get a special pass to go beyond the gates if you did not have a ticket (ie. if you were there to help an elderly person get on the train). What you see is only what it has become after years of the old system breaking down, not as it what was designed and as it was done for decades. See image #10 on this link: http://trn.trains.com/railroads/railroa ... to-gallery" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Several years back I spoke with a long time Amtrak customer service rep in Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal who explained to me how frustrated the station staff was over the removal of all but one of the boarding gates. This was due to the addition of stores and the LA subway entrance in the 1990s, all within what had formerly been the "controlled" area behind the gates. The frustration was the difficultly of now dealing with uncontrolled masses of people while trying to get baggage trucks through.

Let's also consider the fact that the subway lines have controlled fare areas in terms of turnstiles, so the platforms are not just "open" to the public - passengers only.

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