Washington Union Station Boarding Procedure

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Greg Moore
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Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Post by Greg Moore » Sun Dec 02, 2018 9:11 pm

What I find particularly frustrating is that at the Albany, NY train station, for years you could stand on the bridge over the tracks and wait for your train. This gave a nice few of the tracks and provided additional waiting area.

Now... you have to line up. I've been told it's for "security" reasons.
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east point
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Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Post by east point » Sun Dec 02, 2018 9:57 pm

Actually at GCT you could access any platform by walking between the gates and the track endings. Just had to find one open gate for commuter train(s)

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Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Post by STrRedWolf » Sun Dec 02, 2018 10:55 pm

Consider the following:

Short of a nuke, both Grand Central and NY Penn Station are far away from Wall Street (a high value target). Washington DC is fairly short to the White House, Congress, and the Supreme Court (all high value targets). Yet Amtrak has a unified-for-uber-traffic-stations policy to force you to line up. Washington Union Station has it, Philadelphia 30th Street has it, New York Penn has it. I bet Boston South Station has it too.

So it's not security. What could it be?

The only time it makes sense is when an equipment change or restock occurs. I can see a restock at WAS and NYP. I've seen the engine change at 30th Street PHL for the Pennsylvanian, and I think they do a crew change and restock as well. You got carts going left right and center, and having people in the way slows things down because safety first and running over people delays trains and costs more money. Besides, on certain tracks in WAS, the platform is never wide nor high enough. Thus, it's a safety issue... and I think MARC presented it as that when the change was announced years back.

Grand Central can get away with it because it's trains are just hauling humans. Nothing that needs refreshing -- that was removed decades ago. The only carts needed are for helping elders and emergency crew, which flashing lights and sirens. People know about those. Amtrak is doing a lot more at those stations, and thus it can't.

The other way of arguing it is "Why doesn't BWI, Baltimore, New Carrolton, Wilmington, or Newark Airport do this?" Simple: The trains aren't getting refreshed/reloaded/reconfigured. They're just passing through. Stop, unload humans, load humans, go. That's it.
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JimBoylan
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Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Post by JimBoylan » Sun Dec 02, 2018 10:58 pm

east point wrote:Actually at GCT you could access any platform by walking between the gates and the track endings. Just had to find one open gate for commuter train(s)
Or, like at Reading Terminal, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, run the wrong way through one of the exit gates.

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Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Post by mackdave » Sun Dec 02, 2018 11:26 pm

Heaven forbid we service the train BEFORE it arrives at the platform! That might cost a few bucks to have a service facility for Passenger trains. The United States will go bankrupt if it spends anything to make the lives of the owners (citizens) acceptable. Where is the logic?

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Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Post by x-press » Mon Dec 03, 2018 12:49 am

Exacerbating the problem: Still no assigned seats except in first class Acela.

Forces everyone who gives a hoot about where they sit to line up an inordinate amount of time ahead to make a mad dash to the train.

And it doesn’t have to be universal. In the UK, at least as of 2010, one could opt for assigned or un-assigned seating. No additional charge. Find your coach, find your seat, seat check with your name on it. Beautiful.

Lines get shorter, people who opt for unnassigned can trample all over each other while the assigned folks finish their beer.

I do agree that the concourse issue is a massive problem. The union station was done in an era where Authorities still couldn’t accept that passenger rail wasn’t just going to fade into a novelty. When built, that area was one of, if not the, largest rooms in the world, presumably to handle crowds. It’s bad enough to let a station die from neglect, but to spend massive amounts of capital to prettify the station and all but destroy its functionality? Wow.
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Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Post by SouthernRailway » Mon Dec 03, 2018 5:27 am

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.
We are no longer in the 1980s.

This is about Amtrak, not subways.

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Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Post by PC1100 » Mon Dec 03, 2018 9:02 am

SouthernRailway wrote:
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.
We are no longer in the 1980s.

This is about Amtrak, not subways.
Well I'm not the one who brought up subways, the guy that wrote the article did. And I never said we're in the '80s...heck we also aren't in Europe, but everyone loves referencing how it's done there. I brought up the whole thing as a point of reference to how this evolved (or devolved perhaps) and what the real problem is (a concourse/space issue).

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Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Post by SouthernRailway » Mon Dec 03, 2018 9:36 am

The real problem is the operations decisionmakers at Amtrak who require the "line up and wait before boarding" procedure ("LIUW").

LIUW is used in Boston, where there is plenty of space on the platforms, and Charlotte, where there is even more space on the platforms and even less of a confusing station layout, so if Amtrak claims that LIUW is used because of station congestion, Amtrak is telling a tall tale. In Charlotte there are 2 tracks and often just one train in the station, so even a blithering idiot can figure out which train to get on--the only one there!

My guess is that LIUW is used so that Amtrak onboard staff can have easier jobs by having passengers already seated more or less based on where they're getting off; Amtrak staff yells at customers in NYC and tries to force them to board particular cars and sit in particular areas. So LIUW is really for the convenience of Amtrak onboard staff. Never mind that plenty of people are capable of getting off a train at a stop without being micromanaged or yelled at.

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Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Post by Suburban Station » Mon Dec 03, 2018 11:02 am

PC1100 wrote: 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.
sounds like the old way with the gates was more like an airline experience where a much larger portion is relegated to ticketed passengers only?

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Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Post by electricron » Mon Dec 03, 2018 11:07 am

SouthernRailway wrote:The real problem is the operations decisionmakers at Amtrak who require the "line up and wait before boarding" procedure ("LIUW").

LIUW is used in Boston, where there is plenty of space on the platforms, and Charlotte, where there is even more space on the platforms and even less of a confusing station layout, so if Amtrak claims that LIUW is used because of station congestion, Amtrak is telling a tall tale. In Charlotte there are 2 tracks and often just one train in the station, so even a blithering idiot can figure out which train to get on--the only one there!

My guess is that LIUW is used so that Amtrak onboard staff can have easier jobs by having passengers already seated more or less based on where they're getting off; Amtrak staff yells at customers in NYC and tries to force them to board particular cars and sit in particular areas. So LIUW is really for the convenience of Amtrak onboard staff. Never mind that plenty of people are capable of getting off a train at a stop without being micromanaged or yelled at.
On the northeast corridor with Amtrak trains running every half hour or so, if passengers miss their station they could always get off at the next station and ride another train back to their desired station within hours. Not much of a big deal for Amtrak. But on long distance trains, that other train may be the next day or a second day away. Who would be responsible to pay for the over night lodging? It is vitally important that the conductor or car attendant know where everyone should disembark, and since Amtrak changes conductors every 8 hours or so, and long distance trains can stretch over three days, grouping passengers by destinations make perfect sense. Will you be awake at 2 am by yourself, or will you trust Amtrak to make that wake up nudge?

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Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Post by SouthernRailway » Mon Dec 03, 2018 11:30 am

electricron wrote:
SouthernRailway wrote:The real problem is the operations decisionmakers at Amtrak who require the "line up and wait before boarding" procedure ("LIUW").

LIUW is used in Boston, where there is plenty of space on the platforms, and Charlotte, where there is even more space on the platforms and even less of a confusing station layout, so if Amtrak claims that LIUW is used because of station congestion, Amtrak is telling a tall tale. In Charlotte there are 2 tracks and often just one train in the station, so even a blithering idiot can figure out which train to get on--the only one there!

My guess is that LIUW is used so that Amtrak onboard staff can have easier jobs by having passengers already seated more or less based on where they're getting off; Amtrak staff yells at customers in NYC and tries to force them to board particular cars and sit in particular areas. So LIUW is really for the convenience of Amtrak onboard staff. Never mind that plenty of people are capable of getting off a train at a stop without being micromanaged or yelled at.
On the northeast corridor with Amtrak trains running every half hour or so, if passengers miss their station they could always get off at the next station and ride another train back to their desired station within hours. Not much of a big deal for Amtrak. But on long distance trains, that other train may be the next day or a second day away. Who would be responsible to pay for the over night lodging? It is vitally important that the conductor or car attendant know where everyone should disembark, and since Amtrak changes conductors every 8 hours or so, and long distance trains can stretch over three days, grouping passengers by destinations make perfect sense. Will you be awake at 2 am by yourself, or will you trust Amtrak to make that wake up nudge?
Fair point, but when I board a long-distance train, there is always an Amtrak staff member waiting by the door of the car to check my ticket. This is in addition to the LIUW procedure that I've already gone through. Isn't one ticket check at the door sufficient? And why not treat people like responsible adults?

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Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Post by mohawkrailfan » Mon Dec 03, 2018 12:13 pm

The other way of arguing it is "Why doesn't BWI, Baltimore, New Carrolton, Wilmington, or Newark Airport do this?" Simple: The trains aren't getting refreshed/reloaded/reconfigured. They're just passing through. Stop, unload humans, load humans, go. That's it.
The Vermonter changes locomotives at New Haven, where the general public is allowed unfettered access to the platform.

The Lake Shore Limited and Maple Leaf change locomotives at Albany-Rensselaer, where through passengers are allowed to take a "smoke break" on the platform.
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Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Post by Arborwayfan » Mon Dec 03, 2018 12:33 pm

I spent last year in Norway and rode trains from above the Arctic Circle to almost the Dutch-Belgian border: Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands. In the Netherlands turnstiles restrict access to the platforms to ticketholders, but not ticketholders for any particular train -- just someone with a ticket to somewhere. Nowhere else did I encounter any restriction on accessing the platforms; most of the platforms had benches, vendors, etc., and were clearly meant for people to wait there. Some of those trains had reserved seating, some didn't, some were mixed. Most had automatic doors, some didn't. Some were long distance, some short. Some shared tracks and platforms with commuter trains. Some of the stations were terminals, some intermediates.

I think Amtrak is being silly. Well, maybe the platforms at CUS are so narrow and so obstructed by posts that it's actually better to line people up and walk them out. But BOS? WAS? Champaign-Urbana, for Pete's sake?

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Re: bording process at Washington Union Station

Post by NaugyRR » Mon Dec 03, 2018 3:04 pm

I sort of wish Amtrak had assigned seating on Empire Trains. It royally sucks standing in line for 20-30 minutes at the rope for Track 16 to get a decent seat (river side), especially after walking around the city all day. I'd pay a little extra for an assigned seat on one of them.
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