Amtrak ticket agents

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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby Doktor No » Tue Aug 27, 2019 1:08 pm

What or who makes money in transportation? Amtrak doesn't. Neither does any other form of rail passenger transportation world wide. Amtrak and commuter trains run in many places to alleviate pressure from highways that can not handle todays traffic. Try Chitown most any time of day let alone 'rush' hour. Toss in the rail commuters into that morass....yeah right.
Buses and trucks run on highways that they DON'T EVEN BEGIN TO PAY FOR. Check out tractors and trailers from various Michigan companies with a fleet. See any Michigan plates? Sure don't! Meijer, Gordon Foods, Spartan Nash...all out of state plates. Have been for years. Meijers trucks have MAINE plates...they aren't even in Maine!
Even shipping on the lakes. Ask what fees are charged at the Soo for passage of a thousand footer thru the system. NOT A DAM CENT. IT'S FREE (to them anyway, the website says it's taxpayers that pay for it) That's you and me NYCMan....who picks up and places the buoy system? YOU AND ME!
So stop already with the red ink and subsidy etc. EVERYTHING is subsidized. Next time you see a Holland Motorfreight snowplow on I96 let me know. Or perhaps a crew from Meijers patching the street. Or United Air Lines manning a tower.
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby Buster Manning » Tue Aug 27, 2019 3:31 pm

TRUTH!!!
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby NSSD70ACe » Tue Aug 27, 2019 5:05 pm

NYCMan wrote: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.


This is quite possibly the dumbest thing I have ever read on this forum, bar none.

There is not a single passenger rail system in the world that doesn't get some sort of money from the government. Not one. None of them make money either.

You do realize why many of these problems are occurring, don't you? No? Let me paint you a picture:

The Nixon Administration created Amtrak in 1971 as a temporary measure to take pax service away from freight. The administration believed that highways and jets would take over and people didn't want trains anymore. They couldn't have been more wrong. The traveling public started taking the train again and the government had an issue on their hands which they never solved.

Amtrak was never supposed to last beyond the 70s, let alone survive the last 50 years. If Congress and the WH would finally begin to consider Amtrak as critical public service and not an ad-hoc solution, things would be far better than they are now. The "for-profit" mandate is ridiculous and causes issues like we have seen recently: cutbacks in OBS, threats of losing service to various areas of the country, old equipment, lack of an ability to start new services or expand current ones, etc.
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby PerRock » Tue Aug 27, 2019 6:11 pm

NSSD70ACe wrote:
NYCMan wrote: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.


This is quite possibly the dumbest thing I have ever read on this forum, bar none.

There is not a single passenger rail system in the world that doesn't get some sort of money from the government. Not one. None of them make money either.

You do realize why many of these problems are occurring, don't you? No? Let me paint you a picture:

The Nixon Administration created Amtrak in 1971 as a temporary measure to take pax service away from freight. The administration believed that highways and jets would take over and people didn't want trains anymore. They couldn't have been more wrong. The traveling public started taking the train again and the government had an issue on their hands which they never solved.

Amtrak was never supposed to last beyond the 70s, let alone survive the last 50 years. If Congress and the WH would finally begin to consider Amtrak as critical public service and not an ad-hoc solution, things would be far better than they are now. The "for-profit" mandate is ridiculous and causes issues like we have seen recently: cutbacks in OBS, threats of losing service to various areas of the country, old equipment, lack of an ability to start new services or expand current ones, etc.


Really no passenger transportation system makes money on it's own, they all get money from the governments in one way or another. Who pays for the airports & the air infrastructure, us taxpayers; who pays for the roads buses (and your car) run on, us taxpayers. There's only a handful of countries that believe that rail transportation should be 100% self sustaining, despite the fact our tax dollars prop up all other forms of human transport.

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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby Saturnalia » Tue Aug 27, 2019 6:31 pm

DaveO wrote: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?

People may always complain about bare-bones and/or "lack of service" but they tend to pick the cheapest fare every time. There's a reason why airlines sell you a 33" x 17" space - if you're lucky! Because no matter how much people complain about the leg room, they still tend to buy the cheapest fare. Same at the supermarket. I see tons of people complaining that the floor workers are only making a "starvation" wage - but then the same shoppers turn around and pounce on sales and coupons.

Amtrak ought not spend tens of thousands on the small handful of people who cling to the days of buying tickets at the station. The CTA in Chicago passes tens of thousands daily, and I don't think they even operate a single ticket counter anywhere. If all of them can use the kiosk machines, so can you. And then you can be happy that the overhead saved by not staffing the station means that your fare is that much lower.
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby kd_1014 » Tue Aug 27, 2019 7:58 pm

Saturnalia wrote:
DaveO wrote: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?

People may always complain about bare-bones and/or "lack of service" but they tend to pick the cheapest fare every time. There's a reason why airlines sell you a 33" x 17" space - if you're lucky! Because no matter how much people complain about the leg room, they still tend to buy the cheapest fare. Same at the supermarket. I see tons of people complaining that the floor workers are only making a "starvation" wage - but then the same shoppers turn around and pounce on sales and coupons.

Amtrak ought not spend tens of thousands on the small handful of people who cling to the days of buying tickets at the station. The CTA in Chicago passes tens of thousands daily, and I don't think they even operate a single ticket counter anywhere. If all of them can use the kiosk machines, so can you. And then you can be happy that the overhead saved by not staffing the station means that your fare is that much lower.


Well said
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby chapmaja » Wed Aug 28, 2019 1:17 pm

I think the biggest issue isn't the caretaker vs agent issue, it is the paper vs electronic ticket issue. There are still a large number of people who simply will not get a smartphone and thus will not have access to the modern method of ticketing. There still needs to be a method for those people to purchase and have a ticket. If the Kiosk can provide a printed ticket to those customers, great (which they can without significant added cost for the machine). If it can't then there should be someone to sell the tickets to customers (which shouldn't be needed because people should get a printed ticket from a kiosk.)
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby Doktor No » Wed Aug 28, 2019 2:34 pm

What REALLY TICKLED ME this morning is the announcement on WOODTV about the big new extension to Concourse A at GR Ford airport. It will not be paid for by taxpayers but rather GRANTS from the State of Michigan and the Federal Government, Bonds and user fees. Sooo as I see it then the feds and the state just manufacture some cash and hand it over. (well the feds can do that to some extent) and no one pays the interest on bonds to the bond holders and user fees fall out of the sky or fart out of the back of landing jets.
WE ARE ALL PAYING FOR IT BUBA! So go out and use your GR Ford INTERNATIONAL airport and travel travel travel.
Oh and Midwest Express with NONSTOPS to Milwaukee (non stop mind you!) will start soon with connections to OMAHA. Go for the cookies. The TV8 girl was all giddy about the cookies.
Fer chrise sakes already...someone gimme a rope or a gun or a ....
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby Mark F » Wed Aug 28, 2019 3:32 pm

I always hopeful that any flight I take is "non-stop".
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby Doktor No » Wed Aug 28, 2019 3:35 pm

I thought they'd at least post a flag stop a Jenison International or Zeeland Executive....
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby Saturnalia » Wed Aug 28, 2019 4:50 pm

chapmaja wrote:If the Kiosk can provide a printed ticket to those customers, great (which they can without significant added cost for the machine). If it can't then there should be someone to sell the tickets to customers (which shouldn't be needed because people should get a printed ticket from a kiosk.)

Exactly. There are kiosks at all the stations that matter.

As for weather a "large" number of people don't have cellphones, that's debatable. Amtrak would probably lose a negligent number of passengers if they didn't go out of their way to provide a human or a kiosk at the smaller stations. There are some midsize stations that probably could use kiosks, but I'm sure either way that option is cheaper than an agent in the long-haul. Say staffing the station costs $40,000 per year, and the average ticket costs $75, which are probably halfway decent estimates. That agent would need to sell 534 tickets just to pay for their own salary, let alone funding the train itself.

Amtrak needn't spend thousands in staffing or machines to collect a pittance from a few. That's called losing money, and is frowned upon in the private sector.
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby R.E.A.P.E.R. » Thu Aug 29, 2019 10:44 pm

I think this is what the ticket agents are being replaced with. Why pay money if someone does it for free?

(East Lansing, MI) - Members of the East Lansing and surrounding communities are coming together on August 23 and 24 to help enhance the passenger rail experience for people traveling on Amtrak. This is the Rail Passengers Association launch of its nationwide Station Volunteer Program which aims to help fill the void left after Amtrak unstaffed stations across the country as a part of an overhaul to the national rail network.....

https://www.railpassengers.org/happenin ... ansing-mi/
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby chapmaja » Thu Aug 29, 2019 10:59 pm

Doktor No wrote:What REALLY TICKLED ME this morning is the announcement on WOODTV about the big new extension to Concourse A at GR Ford airport. It will not be paid for by taxpayers but rather GRANTS from the State of Michigan and the Federal Government, Bonds and user fees. Sooo as I see it then the feds and the state just manufacture some cash and hand it over. (well the feds can do that to some extent) and no one pays the interest on bonds to the bond holders and user fees fall out of the sky or fart out of the back of landing jets.
WE ARE ALL PAYING FOR IT BUBA! So go out and use your GR Ford INTERNATIONAL airport and travel travel travel.
Oh and Midwest Express with NONSTOPS to Milwaukee (non stop mind you!) will start soon with connections to OMAHA. Go for the cookies. The TV8 girl was all giddy about the cookies.
Fer chrise sakes already...someone gimme a rope or a gun or a ....



Non-stop to Milwaukee you say. I'm glad they aren't trying to stop along the way. Taking off from the middle of Lake Michigan can't be easy. (Neither is landing there, a friend of mine was on the Med-flight plane that crashed into Lake Michigan on the way back from Milwaukee).
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby Saturnalia » Thu Aug 29, 2019 11:24 pm

R.E.A.P.E.R. wrote:I think this is what the ticket agents are being replaced with. Why pay money if someone does it for free?

https://www.railpassengers.org/happenin ... ansing-mi/

If anything has ever proven that most "passenger rail advocates" are in it for the love of trains, not money or practical sense, this is surely it!

And I'm not trying to degrade anybody who wants to volunteer their time at all - it's just not a wise expenditure of public money to supply something which cannot be readily justified. Kudos to the folks who want to lend a hand - it'll be a great position for somebody who is retired or would like to build their resume, or just be helpful and around trains. I hope to see this program expanded throughout the network. :)
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby Steve B » Fri Aug 30, 2019 1:22 am

R.E.A.P.E.R. wrote:I think this is what the ticket agents are being replaced with. Why pay money if someone does it for free?


Maybe because agents are professionals who plan complex, multiple train, high revenue trips for people, can quickly tell them which days are the cheapest to travel, explain the highs and lows of the amenities on each train, accommodation substitutions, and how close a particular train is to selling out. They have the internal info to explain to anxious passengers exactly why the train is running late, and are experienced in dealing with people with disabilities, unaccompanied minors, homeless people, weirdos harassing passengers, protecting the property, and ENFORCING safety practices at the station and trainside.

Volunteers can do little but refer people to the 800 number or the website (which is already explained on posters), and look vaguely "in charge" with their snazzy, pointless safety vests & badges. Volunteers don't have the authority, nor likely the temperament, to be the official representative of Amtrak. And I wouldn't expect them to. Who wants to volunteer to face an angry mob on a regular basis?

When I travel, regardless of the mode, I want to have actual staff that knows what the hell is going on and keeps things under control, not someone who just smiles and hands me a travel brochure from the rack. I want to deal with a representative from the company, not some subcontractor who provides feel-good window dressing. It's sad that MARP and the Rail Passengers Association are being exploited by Amtrak to put a happy face on this cost cutting.
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby ConrailDetr​oit » Fri Aug 30, 2019 5:28 am

At stations with or without agents that do not check for a ticket before being allowed onto the platform (which is nearly all in Michigan) cant one always board the train and then pay the conductor with a credit card when coming around to scan tickets? Or cash? (which the transaction may need to take place in the cafe car). And, they would obviously be charged the highest fare. If not, what is the procedure for a passenger who boards the train without a ticket?
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby NSSD70ACe » Fri Aug 30, 2019 8:54 am

Steve B wrote:
R.E.A.P.E.R. wrote:I think this is what the ticket agents are being replaced with. Why pay money if someone does it for free?


Maybe because agents are professionals who plan complex, multiple train, high revenue trips for people, can quickly tell them which days are the cheapest to travel, explain the highs and lows of the amenities on each train, accommodation substitutions, and how close a particular train is to selling out. They have the internal info to explain to anxious passengers exactly why the train is running late, and are experienced in dealing with people with disabilities, unaccompanied minors, homeless people, weirdos harassing passengers, protecting the property, and ENFORCING safety practices at the station and trainside.

Volunteers can do little but refer people to the 800 number or the website (which is already explained on posters), and look vaguely "in charge" with their snazzy, pointless safety vests & badges. Volunteers don't have the authority, nor likely the temperament, to be the official representative of Amtrak. And I wouldn't expect them to. Who wants to volunteer to face an angry mob on a regular basis?

When I travel, regardless of the mode, I want to have actual staff that knows what the hell is going on and keeps things under control, not someone who just smiles and hands me a travel brochure from the rack. I want to deal with a representative from the company, not some subcontractor who provides feel-good window dressing. It's sad that MARP and the Rail Passengers Association are being exploited by Amtrak to put a happy face on this cost cutting.

I've said my piece, and accept that others will continue to respond with more boilerplate that's lifted from Heritage Foundation and Cato Institute press releases.


That is EXACTLY right.

Let’s go back to my Gate Agent example. We had a delayed flight a few days ago that seemed to be getting worse from the customer’s prospective. There was a line of people standing at the podium when I got upstairs asking what the delay was and how much longer it would be. They were able to satisfy the crowd and everyone waited patiently. Without the gate agents explaining what happened and give updates, the passengers would’ve likely gotten very frustrated.

Amtrak doesn’t usually put causes of delays out there for passengers with the exception of Twitter, where the traffic appears to generally be very little. The station Agent helps to keep the peace and assist with problems. They don’t just stand there and look pretty.
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby PatAzo » Fri Aug 30, 2019 9:09 am

Last year Delta Airlines posted a per share profit of $2.35. Southwest 4th quarter $1.17 net income per share. American $1.9B in pre-tax profit. Amtrak...$1.8B in federal subsidy plus whatever the states are kicking in. The reality of a business that consistently losses money is costs have to be cut regardless if it seems to make sense or not. It would be great to have an agent but the Amtrak has to compete on price point. Two shifts a day seven days a week requires a minimum of four full time people. Fully burdened your looking at $200K/year or so for Kalamazoo alone. Spread that across the system and your talking real money.
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby Saturnalia » Fri Aug 30, 2019 9:22 am

Steve B wrote:
R.E.A.P.E.R. wrote:I think this is what the ticket agents are being replaced with. Why pay money if someone does it for free?


I've said my piece, and accept that others will continue to respond with more boilerplate that's lifted from Heritage Foundation and Cato Institute press releases.

Have any other good jokes? :lol:

You actually have some halfway decent arguments, but finishing off with insinuating that nobody else has an informed opinion instantly devalues your argument’s stock to worthless.
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby Saturnalia » Fri Aug 30, 2019 9:45 am

NSSD70ACe wrote:Let’s go back to my Gate Agent example. We had a delayed flight a few days ago that seemed to be getting worse from the customer’s prospective. There was a line of people standing at the podium when I got upstairs asking what the delay was and how much longer it would be. They were able to satisfy the crowd and everyone waited patiently. Without the gate agents explaining what happened and give updates, the passengers would’ve likely gotten very frustrated.

Amtrak doesn’t usually put causes of delays out there for passengers with the exception of Twitter, where the traffic appears to generally be very little. The station Agent helps to keep the peace and assist with problems. They don’t just stand there and look pretty.

Let's break down airline gate attendants then. According to Glassdoor.com, the average earnings for a gate agent are about $11 per hour, so let's round to $90 per 8-hour shift. So next let's take the fleet size average, basically a Boeing 737, with an average of 175 seats or so per aircraft. We can figure a gate agent probably turns about 5 flights per shift, sometimes more, sometimes less but let's run with it. Thence the gate agent provides customer service to roughly 875 people per shift in our example. That's a cost to the airline of $0.10 per passenger.

Back to the Amtrak example. There are quite literally only a handful of stations in Amtrak's network that even process more than 875 passengers per day, and we can figure the staffing cost to be the same at $11 per hour / $90 per 8-hour shift for the sake of comparison. Kalamazoo served 115,231 passengers in FY17. So assume half actually boarded, the rest detrained - in keeping with the gate agents who really only board planes. That's just 156 passengers per day total, between 8 daily trains. Even if you could serve all 8 trains in a single 8-hour shift, which isn't possible due to the timetable, but even if, that station agent is going to run Amtrak $0.58 per passenger. That's almost 6x the cost. Figure on actually needing two station agents to cover the whole schedule and it just gets worse - probably around 10x the cost per passenger.

Then let's look at the overall utility. Amtrak station agents can inform passengers, sell tickets and in general be helpful. They typically speak to just a tiny fraction of the overall number of people who pass through the station. Meanwhile, airline gate agents are providing security at the gate, handling paperwork for the flight, physically process every single passenger's ticket, gate check baggage, all while still keeping passengers informed. They do so much more, load so many more passengers, and thus are worth it for the airline. Most of what an airline's gate agents do is ultimately handled by the train conductor.

So airlines versus Amtrak is comparing apples to oranges, but even if you boil it down to passengers processed, it's still an order of magnitude apart in cost per passenger. That's all before getting into airline's profitability, the fact that they tend to command 2-3x the price for short and medium haul runs, etc.

There is simply no way for Amtrak to justify the cost of a station agent at all but the very busiest stations. Businesses can't just do things out of heart, especially when they always lose money to begin with. If somebody else wants to fill the void with their own time and/or money that's cool. But I'd rather see Amtrak save this money and invest it into their rolling stock and physical infrastructure. Wise move on their part.
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