Amtrak ticket agents

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Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby Super Chief » Sun Aug 25, 2019 7:36 am

My Amtrak sources say Battle Creek station looses its agent soon followed by Kalamazoo and lastly Dearborn. So the entire line will be agentless in a few months. I haven't heard what MDOT plans are for caretakers or not. Wasn't Amrail the source they were using for such? Please share your thoughts.
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby DaveO » Sun Aug 25, 2019 7:45 am

Detroit has agents?
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby Ypsi » Sun Aug 25, 2019 1:11 pm

Ann Arbor still has an agent. I haven’t heard of them losing agents at any stations, however it will be a shame if and when and if they do. Considering how Dearborn hasn’t seemed to become a multi modal hub as big as intended, and Ann Arbor has the highest ridership.
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby NS3322 » Sun Aug 25, 2019 5:26 pm

Super Chief wrote:My Amtrak sources say Battle Creek station looses its agent soon followed by Kalamazoo and lastly Dearborn. So the entire line will be agentless in a few months. I haven't heard what MDOT plans are for caretakers or not. Wasn't Amrail the source they were using for such? Please share your thoughts.


I am pretty sure the city of Battle Creek staffs the agent. I could be wrong. I just remember reading that somewhere.
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby Steve B » Sun Aug 25, 2019 7:56 pm

The city of Battle Creek doesn't staff the agents or have anything to do with their presence. They're Amtrak employees, and not contractors or caretakers. Detroit has had Amtrak agents from day 1 of Amtrak. Half of the cities in Michigan that had Amtrak agents as of June 2016 (ten) have since lost them.
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby NYCMan » Sun Aug 25, 2019 8:17 pm

No need for ticket agents at any Amtrak stop. The Michigan trains are all reserved seat, so do your reservation online and pay by credit online. Amtrak (and, Michigan, since the state subsidies Amtrak) loses enough money. Having "agents" at each stop is simply an added waste.
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby Saturnalia » Sun Aug 25, 2019 8:38 pm

If local cities want to staff the stations, they can. Amtrak is trying to control costs and they're getting quite close to breaking even - hoping that it'll finally solidify Amtrak's funding as they'll no longer be a money pit. No sense in supplying agents when literally 95% buy their tickets online. Next time you ride the train, watch when the conductor does fare control: everybody either has their tickets on their phone or printed at home. Amtrak is just entering the 21st century here.

Same people bemoan airlines offering self-serve check-in kiosks and *gasp* Southwest now has you tag your own bags at most airports. Lo the days of full service are gone, but doing it yourself online is faster, is less prone to "sticky fingers" from cashiers, etc.

https://www.amtrak.com/content/dam/proj ... IGAN17.pdf

Battle Creek only had ~42,000 boardings and alightings in 2018. Assume half are actually boarding and could potentially need a ticket agent. That's just ~21,000 passengers. I dunno if the agent is considered full time, but if they are, it's easy to see how the agent could be costing whomever staffs it $2 per passenger, if the annual compensation is a meager $40K. That's insane when most fares are less than $80. No for-profit business would spend 2-5% of their revenue per passenger on a ticket agent almost nobody uses.
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby NSSD70ACe » Sun Aug 25, 2019 9:18 pm

Ticketing agents are good for more than just tickets...they assist with organizing the boarding segments as well as physical hoardings and alighting for passengers that need extra care. I believe they also operate the wheelchair machine at stations that have them.

From what I have seen in Kalamazoo, the agents do more than just stand behind the counter and do nothing. They are very active in the boarding process here, and I would hate to lose them because Amtrak is trying to save a few bucks. De-staffing your slower stations I understand. But Kalamazoo provides a lot of ridership, same with AA, thanks to the colleges. Just seems like a short-sighted management decision.
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby Saturnalia » Sun Aug 25, 2019 9:42 pm

NSSD70ACe wrote:Ticketing agents are good for more than just tickets...they assist with organizing the boarding segments as well as physical hoardings and alighting for passengers that need extra care. I believe they also operate the wheelchair machine at stations that have them.

Conductors and assistant conductors can handle those duties. It'd be cheaper to add a couple extra minutes of station dwell than pay the cost of maintaining a station agent.

A much more prudent investment would be investing in cars and platforms that match each other in height.

I can see Kzoo and Ann Arbor justifying an agent with well over 50,000 boardings each. But if more than $1 per passenger is the cost to maintain the agent, that's where about I'd draw the line.
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby jrgerber » Mon Aug 26, 2019 1:20 am

68000 boarded in East Lansing and they still eliminated the agent
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby chapmaja » Mon Aug 26, 2019 6:13 am

jrgerber wrote:68000 boarded in East Lansing and they still eliminated the agent


East Lansing also has one train each direction per day. Ann Arbor has 3 each direction and K'zoo has 4 each direction. I think that, more than the number of riders would be the reason they lost the agent at EL.

Personally I think EL should still have a station agent, but I do understand why they would have eliminated that position. I can't see that happening in K'zoo or AA however.
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby NSSD70ACe » Mon Aug 26, 2019 6:14 am

jrgerber wrote:68000 boarded in East Lansing and they still eliminated the agent


LNS has only two trains a day. Kalamazoo has eight, AA has six.

Saturnalia wrote:
NSSD70ACe wrote:Ticketing agents are good for more than just tickets...they assist with organizing the boarding segments as well as physical hoardings and alighting for passengers that need extra care. I believe they also operate the wheelchair machine at stations that have them.

Conductors and assistant conductors can handle those duties. It'd be cheaper to add a couple extra minutes of station dwell than pay the cost of maintaining a station agent.

A much more prudent investment would be investing in cars and platforms that match each other in height.

I can see Kzoo and Ann Arbor justifying an agent with well over 50,000 boardings each. But if more than $1 per passenger is the cost to maintain the agent, that's where about I'd draw the line.


Yes, they can. But take it from someone who already works in an extremely time-sensitive industry: the more people you have, the better the operation goes. Yes, the conductor can do that job. But that would be the equivalent of a pilot running the gate for a flight. You need support staff to help the operation go smoothly. You can get away with it at smaller stations because there aren’t a lot of people, typically. But you can’t at stations like Kalamazoo, etc, because it’s just too busy. That’s when you need support staff to help manage the process.

Additionally, there are some places where high-level platforms are probably not practical without complete station replacement. Kalamazoo is one.
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby NS3322 » Mon Aug 26, 2019 10:38 am

Steve B wrote:The city of Battle Creek doesn't staff the agents or have anything to do with their presence. They're Amtrak employees, and not contractors or caretakers. Detroit has had Amtrak agents from day 1 of Amtrak. Half of the cities in Michigan that had Amtrak agents as of June 2016 (ten) have since lost them.


My mistake. Perhaps I am getting that position confused with the city Intermodal Station manager?
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby Buster Manning » Mon Aug 26, 2019 4:06 pm

There is an Amtrak ticket agent on duty in the morning.....a caretaker sits there during the afternoon/evening shift....emphasis on sits
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby coasterrider » Mon Aug 26, 2019 4:21 pm

Saturnalia wrote:
NSSD70ACe wrote:Ticketing agents are good for more than just tickets...they assist with organizing the boarding segments as well as physical hoardings and alighting for passengers that need extra care. I believe they also operate the wheelchair machine at stations that have them.

Conductors and assistant conductors can handle those duties. It'd be cheaper to add a couple extra minutes of station dwell than pay the cost of maintaining a station agent.

A much more prudent investment would be investing in cars and platforms that match each other in height.

I can see Kzoo and Ann Arbor justifying an agent with well over 50,000 boardings each. But if more than $1 per passenger is the cost to maintain the agent, that's where about I'd draw the line.

Actually Amtrak is CUTTING dwell times at stations and holding crew accountable for delays. Conductors get 2 minutes to do the station work at DER ,ARB and I believe KAL.
When a crew exceeds the dwell mgmt needs to know what the delay was. loading 100 people at ARB or 70 at DER in 2 min....well you figure it out.
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby Super Chief » Mon Aug 26, 2019 4:31 pm

I'll bet it's Sam Bernstine, Michigans First Family of Law!#.?
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby Garry K » Mon Aug 26, 2019 8:59 pm

I would prefer having an actual Amtrak agent at stations where I could purchase a ticket in person. I will never own a (so-called) "smart" phone, and even if I did, I certainly wouldn't want my ticket on the phone where the ticket could suddenly become unavailable because the battery ran down at the wrong time, or the phone got dropped and stopped working, or the phone got stolen, etc. Give me an old-fashioned paper ticket, please. It will never malfunction, and it is a lot less likely that someone would want to steal my paper ticket than a fancy cellphone.

Not to mention that I immensely dislike having to use my credit card at an unmanned ticket kiosk, especially since it is so easy for miscreants to install things like credit card skimmers on the kiosks (just like on ATMs and gas pumps)!

If Amtrak was really worried about wages of the agents, can't they just hire folks part-time to staff stations that are only open for limited times during the day? Also, if a station was open without an agent (or at least a care-taker), how would they keep petty crooks and other creeps out of the stations so as not to annoy or prey upon the passengers? Not to mention that if Amtrak just kept their stations closed all of the time, then waiting passengers wouldn't have access to restrooms, which could be a royal pain if the train was very late in arriving at the station.

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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby Ypsi » Tue Aug 27, 2019 7:31 am

I believe that you could technically check in with the conductor with your last name and an ID if your phone died. IIRC the manifest is on their iPhone scanner, it’s just much faster to scan a ticket vs do it that way. As for rest rooms, most stations that go unmanned would probably get a care taker/ the city could have someone. That being said It’s hard to hire people for 1-2 hour shifts at random times. On the Chicago line with the trains stopping at roughly the same times (29, 30, 48, and 49) it’s easy to have an AM open time and a PM open time with a care taker. For the Michigan line trains run at various times as early as 0550 and as late as 0055 (departure of 351 and arrival of 354 into Pontiac respectively). I know I wouldn’t work for a low amount of money for only 1-2 hours at a time randomly. Unfortunately for the older school takes adapting will be required. There is nothing wrong with preferring a dumb phone or paper ticket, but in 2019 you will mostly HAVE to be your own ticket agent and print it at home. Using Amtrak dot com is a safe way to go, and even if you get a fraudulent charge most credit card companies will without question despite and refund them (just happened to me with a rental car “pay now” online instant charge, and then I was charge again at the counter).
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby DaveO » Tue Aug 27, 2019 8:28 am

Stations that are staffed by caretakers need to be opened before the scheduled arrival of the trains. So the start time for the caretakers should be consistent. The problem is the end times. Because if the train is running really late, the caretaker needs to be there past what should be their scheduled quit time. And if they have a life, that could interfere with it.

Obviously Amtrak knows very few people buy tickets from the station agent. So no need to keep them. What revenue is lost they know is covered by the lesser compensation caretakers get versus an Amtrak agent. Service? Welcome to the modern economy, isn't it great?

The bigger problem right now is the seeming inability to run the trains in Michigan on the scheduled time.
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby NYCMan » Tue Aug 27, 2019 11:42 am

Reality is that Amtrak needs neither agents nor caretakers to staff the stations. Why have a station in the first place, when a simple bus stop type shelter will do just fine. Amtrak can have a "mobile caretaker" who has a high-pressure sprayer in the back of a pick up truck come by once a week or so and spray down the shelter just like they do around Detroit and other metropolitan areas with bus stops.

Do they need a "station" there just to have a rack with some timetables in it? Another waste! Why does Amtrak even print a timetable? Just put it on their website. If someone wants it, they can print it from their computer.

Amtrak keeps operating in the red, meaning that your and my tax dollars are paying to keep it operating. Amtrak is the proverbial money pit. As long as Amtrak is run by the Government, it will never be profitable.

Amtrak is long dead. Time to hold its funeral.
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