Amtrak ticket agents

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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby Steve B » Fri Aug 30, 2019 10:10 am

I realize my last paragraph wasn't fair and removed it. Also, I realize that most tiny stops (Lapeer, Dowagiac etc.) can't justify an agent. But a line should be drawn at cutting agents from substantial metro areas.
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby DaveO » Fri Aug 30, 2019 10:33 am

Amtrak is trying to cut it's way to prosperity. Which is never a really sound business plan.
In the meantime, Amtrak can't run the trains on schedule. That is something that is aggravated by the decisions upper-level management has made.
The Viewliner II debacle being a current example.

I was giving serious thought to taking Amtrak for a trip to somewhere/anywhere. But after seeing the scheduling/staffing/service quality issues that keep appearing, no thank you :(
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby NS3322 » Fri Aug 30, 2019 1:58 pm

Steve B wrote:Also, I realize that most tiny stops (Lapeer, Dowagiac etc.) can't justify an agent.


When I rode the Blue Water back in June to Port Huron, I was pleasantly surprised at how many people got off at Lapeer. I would not call it a tiny stop.
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby Ypsi » Fri Aug 30, 2019 2:31 pm

I want to see a 2 min stop at Ann Arbor with the conductors also operating the mechanical high level platform :lol:
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby Super Chief » Fri Aug 30, 2019 4:32 pm

Who owns the Dowagiac station? Reason I ask theres a small gift shop in it. The lady sells her wares but it leads me to believe the city might own it. I know Elkhart is city owned but allows Amtrak to have a caretaker open there part for passengers. Are most of the stations Amtrak property or not?
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby NS3322 » Fri Aug 30, 2019 5:23 pm

Super Chief wrote:Who owns the Dowagiac station? Reason I ask theres a small gift shop in it. The lady sells her wares but it leads me to believe the city might own it. I know Elkhart is city owned but allows Amtrak to have a caretaker open there part for passengers. Are most of the stations Amtrak property or not?


According to The Great American Stations Project, the city of Dowagiac owns the station building.
https://www.greatamericanstations.com/s ... ac-mi-doa/
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby coasterrider » Fri Aug 30, 2019 5:29 pm

ConrailDetr​oit wrote: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?

simple....they can pay with a credit card on the phone (which they could of done BEFORE they boarded as conductors cannot process credit cards at this time. Pay with cash (for now anyways till they close BTL then it will be a cashless system. Pay with cash and you get the highest fare regardless if you made a reservation or not. once they go cashless its a card or thrown off the train as you would have no way to pay.

but we have a few weeks before that happens :)
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby Garry K » Sun Sep 01, 2019 12:29 am

coasterrider wrote:
ConrailDetr​oit wrote: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?


simple....they can pay with a credit card on the phone (which they could of done BEFORE they boarded as conductors cannot process credit cards at this time. Pay with cash (for now anyways till they close BTL then it will be a cashless system. Pay with cash and you get the highest fare regardless if you made a reservation or not. once they go cashless its a card or thrown off the train as you would have no way to pay.

but we have a few weeks before that happens :)


If Amtrak refuses to allow patrons to pay with cash, then Amtrak will be in violation of Federal law! Have they never noticed the fine print on all USA paper money that says "This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private"? In other words, they CANNOT refuse to allow customers to pay with cash! Of course, they're probably mostly worried about their employees "skimming" the cash instead of reporting the full amount and turning it in. That's an Amtrak management problem. And actually, it seems all of Amtrak's woes are management problems. It looks like Amtrak is trying to force some of us to drive where we want to go, instead of taking the train.

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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby DaveO » Sun Sep 01, 2019 7:36 am

If I give you a ticket and then you pay, I must accept the cash to repay the debt.
If I don't give you the ticket until after you pay, you're not in debt to me and I don't have to accept the cash.
Obviously an oversimplification. The important part is that you have a debt that meets the legal economic definition.
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby C&O6084 » Sun Sep 01, 2019 11:39 am

There's a flower and garden shop near Grand Rapids (MI) that only takes credit cards. Maybe debit cards. Of which I have neither, so I can't shop there.

There hasn't been any real outrage about it, and no lawsuits. So, it's (illegal) business as usual. I'd get a prepaid debit card, like what Wal-Mart sells, but set-up and per-transaction surcharges will kill any savings the store offers.

People working there claim the policy isn't because of theft, but because banks now charge for counting money.

I suspect "Big BAnks" are the real villains here.
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby justalurker66 » Sun Sep 01, 2019 1:23 pm

https://www.treasury.gov/resource-cente ... ender.aspx
The pertinent portion of law that applies to your question is the Coinage Act of 1965, specifically Section 31 U.S.C. 5103, entitled "Legal tender," which states: "United States coins and currency (including Federal reserve notes and circulating notes of Federal reserve banks and national banks) are legal tender for all debts, public charges, taxes, and dues."

This statute means that all United States money as identified above are a valid and legal offer of payment for debts when tendered to a creditor. There is, however, no Federal statute mandating that a private business, a person or an organization must accept currency or coins as for payment for goods and/or services. Private businesses are free to develop their own policies on whether or not to accept cash unless there is a State law which says otherwise. For example, a bus line may prohibit payment of fares in pennies or dollar bills. In addition, movie theaters, convenience stores and gas stations may refuse to accept large denomination currency (usually notes above $20) as a matter of policy.
Emphasis added.

At this point Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut and the city of Philadelphia have banned cashless businesses (with exceptions). Other states and cities are considering cashless bans. But as it stands, there is no federal prohibition on refusing cash.

There are a lot of discussions online about the benefit and risk of not accepting cash (one benefit: lower insurance rates due to not having cash on hand to be stolen, one risk: customers not being able to pay). But this is a railroad forum.


Amtrak's rules can be found here:
https://www.amtrak.com/onboard-ticket-p ... nd-pick-up
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby Ypsi » Sun Sep 01, 2019 2:10 pm

Honestly the minority of people who would get upset with no cash being taken won’t save Amtrak by buying tickets with cash. And based on the major opposition they likely wouldn’t buy a ticket anyway. If you want to take the train, you’ll follow Amtrak’s rules. If not then you just won’t take the train.
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby Saturnalia » Sun Sep 01, 2019 3:47 pm

Most airlines are now cashless on-board.

Now I could see the number of Amish/Mennonites using Amtrak as a factor in why they may wait longer than say the airlines to go cashless, both on board and at the station.

There are plenty of reasons to keep the station agents. It's just a matter of whether those reasons alone can justify the costs.
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby justalurker66 » Mon Sep 02, 2019 12:14 am

Saturnalia wrote:Now I could see the number of Amish/Mennonites using Amtrak as a factor in why they may wait longer than say the airlines to go cashless, both on board and at the station.
Are there a lot of Amish on the Michigan Service?

Elkhart Indiana usually sees a fair amount of Amish and Mennonite travelers - especially due to the trains traveling out to the east (Pennsylvania and New York states). Somehow they manage to buy tickets and travel via a station that doesn't have an Amtrak agent (caretakers only). ATM not available, No payphones, No Quik-Trak kiosks, Unaccompanied child travel not allowed, No vending machines, No WiFi, No checked baggage service, No baggage assistance. I assume Waterloo has a fair amount of Amish travelers.

As posted above, Amtrak continues to accept cash on board but does not guarantee travel for people boarding reserved trains without a ticket. Passengers may end up with a ride from Elkhart to Waterloo instead of Elkhart to Pennsylvania if no space exists for the full trip.
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby railrod1949 » Mon Sep 02, 2019 4:53 am

justalurker66 wrote:
Saturnalia wrote:Now I could see the number of Amish/Mennonites using Amtrak as a factor in why they may wait longer than say the airlines to go cashless, both on board and at the station.
Are there a lot of Amish on the Michigan Service?

Elkhart Indiana usually sees a fair amount of Amish and Mennonite travelers - especially due to the trains traveling out to the east (Pennsylvania and New York states). Somehow they manage to buy tickets and travel via a station that doesn't have an Amtrak agent (caretakers only). ATM not available, No payphones, No Quik-Trak kiosks, Unaccompanied child travel not allowed, No vending machines, No WiFi, No checked baggage service, No baggage assistance. I assume Waterloo has a fair amount of Amish travelers.

As posted above, Amtrak continues to accept cash on board but does not guarantee travel for people boarding reserved trains without a ticket. Passengers may end up with a ride from Elkhart to Waterloo instead of Elkhart to Pennsylvania if no space exists for the full trip.


Amtrak tickets are also available at travel agencies.
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby ConrailDetr​oit » Mon Sep 02, 2019 7:25 am

coasterrider wrote:
ConrailDetr​oit wrote: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?

simple....they can pay with a credit card on the phone (which they could of done BEFORE they boarded as conductors cannot process credit cards at this time. Pay with cash (for now anyways till they close BTL then it will be a cashless system. Pay with cash and you get the highest fare regardless if you made a reservation or not. once they go cashless its a card or thrown off the train as you would have no way to pay.

but we have a few weeks before that happens :)


So, A passenger gets on the train in Battle Creek to go to Chicago with a wad of cash in their pocket and without a reservation. Since The Battle Creek Station does not check for a ticket before letting passengers on the platform nor does the conductor check for a ticket before letting a passenger on the train, the passenger finds a seat and the train starts moving toward Kalamazoo. The conductor goes to scan tickets and the passenger says I don’t have a ticket and pulls out cash to buy one. The conductor says we do not accept cash, card only. The passenger says I don’t have a card only cash. The conductor says sorry we have throw you off at Kalamazoo since you have no Amtrak accepted ways to pay for your ticket. The train gets to Kalamazoo and the passenger is thrown off. Actually, the passenger just wanted to go to Kalamazoo and just got a free ride there and will use the same loophole later to get a free ride home to Battle Creek.

Has Amtrak not found a solution to this loophole from not accepting cash?
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby NYCMan » Mon Sep 02, 2019 10:30 am

Our society is going cashless. Pretty soon, you will not be able to do anything unless you have a credit card. And, the way things are moving, one of these days, "they" are just going to install a chip in your head when you are born, and everything will run based on that chip. No need for cell phones, televisions, credit cards, etc. It all will be transmitted/received from the chip in your head. And, then Google and Facebook and Twitter, etc. will be reading your thoughts and marketing that information, too. You will be thinking about buying a "whatever", and within seconds, your brain will be flooded with advertisements from "whatever" marketers. Orwell's 1984 arriving about 35 years behind schedule... kind of like Amtrak's trains.
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby NS3322 » Mon Sep 02, 2019 3:43 pm

justalurker66 wrote:Elkhart Indiana usually sees a fair amount of Amish and Mennonite travelers - especially due to the trains traveling out to the east (Pennsylvania and New York states). Somehow they manage to buy tickets and travel via a station that doesn't have an Amtrak agent (caretakers only). ATM not available, No payphones, No Quik-Trak kiosks, Unaccompanied child travel not allowed, No vending machines, No WiFi, No checked baggage service, No baggage assistance. I assume Waterloo has a fair amount of Amish travelers.


I can verify this first hand. When coming back from D.C. on the CL in 2016, the conductor jokingly told us the "whole city of Elkhart" would be waiting for us; as about 200-250 Amish travelers were to board the train to go to a funeral somewhere west. The poor conductor and other crew members were freaking out as they did not know where they were going to put them all. (I believe they had most of them sit in the lounge).
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby coasterrider » Mon Sep 02, 2019 4:20 pm

ConrailDetr​oit wrote:
coasterrider wrote:
ConrailDetr​oit wrote: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?

simple....they can pay with a credit card on the phone (which they could of done BEFORE they boarded as conductors cannot process credit cards at this time. Pay with cash (for now anyways till they close BTL then it will be a cashless system. Pay with cash and you get the highest fare regardless if you made a reservation or not. once they go cashless its a card or thrown off the train as you would have no way to pay.

but we have a few weeks before that happens :)


So, A passenger gets on the train in Battle Creek to go to Chicago with a wad of cash in their pocket and without a reservation. Since The Battle Creek Station does not check for a ticket before letting passengers on the platform nor does the conductor check for a ticket before letting a passenger on the train, the passenger finds a seat and the train starts moving toward Kalamazoo. The conductor goes to scan tickets and the passenger says I don’t have a ticket and pulls out cash to buy one. The conductor says we do not accept cash, card only. The passenger says I don’t have a card only cash. The conductor says sorry we have throw you off at Kalamazoo since you have no Amtrak accepted ways to pay for your ticket. The train gets to Kalamazoo and the passenger is thrown off. Actually, the passenger just wanted to go to Kalamazoo and just got a free ride there and will use the same loophole later to get a free ride home to Battle Creek.

Has Amtrak not found a solution to this loophole from not accepting cash?

The problem is not the accepting cash part..the issue is remitting such funds. Since BTL is the turnaround point for the crew,monies collected on the trains are remitted to the agent who then does the required paperwork for Amtrak. Since the agent is eventually going to be removed that option is no longer available. The crew now has ticket funds but noway to remit. Unless they want to delay a train to allow the crew to remit in Detroit or pay a crew member 8 hours to drive to DET station to turn in momey. Easier and cheaper to go cashless and yes a few will get away with it once. Second time probably will end with LEOs meeting the train :)
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Re: Amtrak ticket agents

Unread postby Saturnalia » Mon Sep 02, 2019 5:24 pm

My gut feeling with the whole cashless debate is that Amtrak should expand the distribution of the Quik-Trak kiosks to all stations. I would really like to know how much those cost, both on a first-time install and recurring basis, although I figure it is probably similar to a typical ATM.

In any case those could accept the cash for ticketing purposes and then Amtrak could move to requiring a ticket be purchased before boarding the train. It would be really easy to have people flash the ticket to the conductor before boarding, and/or the conductor could scan the ticket as they board with the cellphone device they are already using.

Additionally, I could see a further alternative to the ticketing problem in the form of requiring on-board ticket sales be handled by the Cafe car attendant on most trains like the corridor services, where again, they have a fixed point of sale. Plus all monies collected could simply be handled at the next designated stop for such things, rather than being tied to a crew change point. For instance all of the Michigan Services ultimately end up in Chicago, where there is obviously the infrastructure to handle this stuff already in place.

Since Amtrak's Cafe and Diner cars are fixed points-of-sale, I don't see any particular reason for them to go cashless there. With the airlines it was of course always a headache to run sales in the aisle, plus the sticky-fingers issue. I suppose they could but I don't see any real reason to do so either way.
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