Discussion of Canadian Passenger Rail Services such as AMT (Montreal), Go Transit (Toronto), VIA Rail, and other Canadian Railways and Transit

Moderator: Ken V

  by chriskay
During Thanksgiving weekend my partner and I took #68 from Toronto to Montreal, and then returned on #65. For the first trip on #68 there was no assigned seating. Coach travel is always so stressful when you're travelling with more than one person (if I'm alone I don't care where I sit or who I sit next to), so we planned accordingly: we arrived at Union Station an hour ahead of time to line up. We were relatively close to the head of the line, however I realize this is hit-and-miss as you never know which car they will direct you to, or how full the car will be that they will send you - you could be at the end of the line and end up in a near-empty car.

So, as luck would have it, my partner and I were directed to a nearly-full car. There were only a few single seats left... perhaps 4 or 5, and there were other people like us, searching around for seats. The attendant zipped through, pointing out the empty seats, but I'll be damned if I can't sit with my travel companion when I paid for two tickets together.

I moved to the next car, which was practically empty, and we easily found available seats there. All was good until we arrived in Kingston, then everyone in the car - except for us - disembarked. An attendant came by, I explained the situation, and she helpfully suggested I run to find other seats, since for safety reasons they can't leave only us in there, and I should find other seats before embarking passengers from Kingston take them all.

I zipped down the cars, and eventually found a couple of seats together -- 5 cars ahead. I had to run back, grab my stuff, and then return to the seat.

My return trip on #65 was a breeze -- assigned seating in coach class meant that we could take our sweet time to board. No lining up, and no hassles trying to find seats together.

My question is - why can't assigned seating be used on all corridor trips? It should be just like commercial flights - you are assigned a seat and if the train/aircraft isn't full upon departure, then you can grab whatever you want. Anyone know why this is? IIRC, assigned seating even on this limited basis is a fairly new event.

  by NellieBly
I made a couple of trips on VIA trains two weekends ago, and I'm afraid I can't answer your question. I'm as mystified as you seem to be by VIA's seat reservation policy.

I rode a morning train from Montreal to Ottawa -- five cars, not terribly full -- and was assigned a window seat in advance. Our car was full, some others were not.

Then on a Sunday at midday, took a train from Ottawa to Toronto. Huge crowd waiting to board. Train was seven LRC cars and a P42. No assigned seats. As you note, attendants directed people to one or another of the cars based on destination. There were three cars for those going through to Toronto. The other four, apparently, were for "shorts". Luckily, I was directed to a car that was virtually empty when I boarded, so I was able to choose a seat to my liking. Later arrivals were not so lucky.

But I have no idea why, on a Saturday, a not very busy Montreal - Ottawa train would have assigned seats, while on a Sunday afternoon (a peak travel time) a longer and busier train would have open seating.
  by chriskay
NellieBly wrote:But I have no idea why, on a Saturday, a not very busy Montreal - Ottawa train would have assigned seats, while on a Sunday afternoon (a peak travel time) a longer and busier train would have open seating.
Based on my observation, it's only certain regular runs. It doesn't seem to have anything to do with anticipated volumes.
  by Tadman
I have the same consternation with Amtrak's assignment techniques - namely, whatever the heck the attendant feels like doing. I really wish the online reservation program allowed you to reserve your seat early. It would cut down gate time significantly, especially in places like Chicago where 100+ people board. What bothers me even more is when the attendant decides to pre-board the train in a podunk town, stretching the dwell time far above the appropriate time.