Faster way to board at Penn Stn???

Old Jul 12, 13, 9:06 am
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Faster way to board at Penn Stn???

.....even on Slate, there's been commentary on boarding procedures at DC and Penn..... and these hints on an alternate boarding point at Penn stn.....

http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/...wpisrc=flyouts
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Old Jul 12, 13, 10:00 am
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Oh, dear. Did we really need this publicized on Slate? We already have anecdotal reports of people being stopped/harassed on the mezzanine (though I haven't personally experienced it).
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Old Jul 12, 13, 10:41 am
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Hardly news. I (and plenty of others who are frequent Amtrak travelers) have been doing this for years, and it's been discussed many times on this board.
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Old Jul 12, 13, 12:11 pm
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Anyone who has taken NJ Transit more than once will realize they're letting you enter the same platforms, from any stairway, to a train that will travel over the same rails.

Millions upon millions of passengers know it already but if this big "reveal" puts Matthew Yglesias on a TSA watch list and keeps him from sitting next to me for 3 hours then cool.
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Old Jul 17, 13, 5:52 pm
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Boarding hassles at Penn & DC---more investigation

......Slate's business writer continues his investigation of overly-complex boarding procedures for Amtrak at DC and Penn.....

http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/...wpisrc=flyouts
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Old Jul 18, 13, 7:47 pm
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Sorry to say, but I think that Amtrak's rationale for boarding, as in the blog mentioned in Slate, is total bunk.

Amtrak has the "line up and wait" boarding process even in Charlotte when boarding the Piedmont, which is a 3- to 5-car train. There is plenty of room on the platforms. I think that it's just for the convenience of Amtrak's personnel--not the passenger.
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Old Jul 19, 13, 4:53 am
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I think everyone needs to pipe down about this, the Slate writer included. If Amtrak changes the system to let everyone down to the platforms at Penn, then I will no longer be able to use the mezzanine boarding method to reliably get a desirable seat! Shh!
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Old Jul 19, 13, 8:57 am
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To debunk every point made on their rebuttal even more...

They try to shift off some of the policy decision as it being due to the law or partner agency regulation in their response. Conveniently, NJT announced today they are letting people board originating trains at Hoboken terminal 20 minutes early since the station has no air conditioning. So not only does the partner agency not care about boarding trains early but are now encouraging you to board even earlier. I know there is no Amtrak at Hoboken but would love someone to point out any NJ (or any other state/locality) law that actually addresses this process.

If they just came out and said any of the following more honest and genuine responses, it would be so much more admirable. The process doesn't tick me off as the kool-aid theatrics and justifications.
-"We do it so the ticket checker only has to stand at the door for 10 minutes versus 20. That would never go over with the staff."
-"It removes some burden from the on-board staff of removing passengers/selling tickets. They may have to walk the train and check tickets after every single stop. The union would demand the labor agreement be amended."
-"It's the way it's been done. We don't know why but we just continue with the policy."
-"It would remove incentive to board from Club Acela."
-"We like seeing two lines snake around each other in Union Station"
-"Hunger Games is our favorite movie. Watching the tracks post at Penn reminds of the tributes starting the game."
-"We are evaluated on fare protection and screening quotas. Fire hazards are not our area of concern."
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Old Jul 20, 13, 10:59 am
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Originally Posted by travelmad478 View Post
I think everyone needs to pipe down about this, the Slate writer included. If Amtrak changes the system to let everyone down to the platforms at Penn, then I will no longer be able to use the mezzanine boarding method to reliably get a desirable seat! Shh!

Why pipe down? A more rational boarding process can result in shorter dwell times, less wasted motions by customers and an overall better customer experience. Plus better deployment of station staff to functions that truly need attention.

Amtrak can't possibly check every entrance to the NYP platforms.

Besides, even if they could (or did), there is still at least one other legal method to board in advance to procure early seating.
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Old Jul 20, 13, 1:27 pm
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Originally Posted by Globehopper View Post
Why pipe down? A more rational boarding process can result in...an overall better customer experience.
Agreed. Sometimes I think that Amtrak has no idea that its customers could fly, especially on the Boston-NY-Washington route, and that some of its customers are frequent flyers.

I'm Preferred on US Airways, and I zip through the process at airports, including boarding. (Yes, it's still a hassle, but US Airways has done what it can to make the process easier.)

Conversely, when I went business class on the Carolinian from Washington, I recall being stuck in a mob of people lined up to board. Business class was allowed to board early, but the whole scene was so chaotic that I recall literally climbing over seats in the waiting area, surrounded by mobs of people, and really struggling. Completely unnecessary craziness.

Metro-North at Grand Central Terminal, like European railroads, has it right:
you just look on the departure boards, see what track your train is on, and go to it. No mobs of people to deal with and no lines.
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Old Jul 20, 13, 2:13 pm
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Faster way to board at Penn Stn???

I thought there was (uniquely) no priority boarding on Shuttle flights? Is that only on DL?
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Old Jul 20, 13, 5:35 pm
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At least on US, first class has boarded first as long as the planes have had first class, and now it's first class first and then by zone (i.e., Preferred members board right after first class).

US Airways at least has two boarding lanes leading up to the door to the jetway: one for first class and Preferred members, and "general boarding" for everyone else. That's one thing that Amtrak should definitely do at least, since if you are in first class or Preferred, you can avoid standing in an endless line when boarding.

Last edited by ibrandsguest; Jul 20, 13 at 5:43 pm
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Old Jul 21, 13, 6:42 am
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Originally Posted by NYCommuter View Post
Metro-North at Grand Central Terminal, like European railroads, has it right:
you just look on the departure boards, see what track your train is on, and go to it. No mobs of people to deal with and no lines.
I took Metro-North for the first time recently, and they indeed do it right at Grand Central. Boarding is civilized and leisurely, a la European train stations. Made NYP seem even more hellish.
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Old Jul 21, 13, 6:58 am
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Grand Central is vastly different than Penn Station. They have wider platforms; fewer trains all boarding at the same time; trains only run in one direction, north; only one Railroad, Metro North; and very often, last minute track changes. You can't board the wrong Railroad at Grand Central. The worst you can do is board the wrong train and they'll put you off 5 minutes later at 125th Street to catch the correct train.

If you board the wrong Railroad train at Penn your next stop could be Stamford. And people do that all the time on the NEC. A train pulls up and they pay no attention to whether or not it is an Amtrak train, an NJT train, or a Metro North train. Regarding track changes, once tagging along with a friend who needed Redcap help, we went down to track level with the Redcap level, only to be told that PSCC had changed the track at the last minute. So we had to troop back upstairs and come back down on the correct platform. This was less than 2 minutes before the Acela pulled in. But the big thing remains the narrow platforms at NYP. So I can understand why the do it at NYP.

I do think however that this nonsense of placing a police officer or other staffer on the lower LIRR level to stop those in the know from slipping down that way is excessive and a waste of money.

There are no good arguments for WAS and BOS IMHO.
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Old Jul 21, 13, 10:37 am
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Amtrak has the Penn Station-style boarding at stations as small as Charlotte. It's completely ridiculous to make passengers wait in a line that wraps around the station, just to board a 3- to 5-car train there. There is only one train every few hours in Charlotte and just one wide platform and so there can be no confusion about the wrong train, no concerns about space on platforms and no other grounds for confusion.

I also checked, and before Amtrak, (generally) only Pullman and Metroliner passengers were required to wait in line before boarding. Amtrak's lines are its own invention (largely), even though stations have been crowded, platforms have been narrow and multiple railroads have served stations for decades. New York Central tried an Amtrak-style queue system at Grand Central for some tracks but abandoned the attempt.

Amtrak just does this boarding style to make its personnel's jobs easier, regardless of how customers are inconvenienced.

Last edited by ibrandsguest; Jul 21, 13 at 1:53 pm
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