New Chicago Boarding Procedure

Old Oct 13, 16, 6:11 am
  #1  
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New Chicago Boarding Procedure

From another message board:

The communication being sent to passengers boarding at Chicago
Union Station, regarding the boarding policies:

> Dear Amtrak Customer,

> We see you are scheduled to board the train or make a connection in
> Chicago. To provide our customers with a more convenient experience,
> we now have a new boarding process at Chicago Union Station. Coach
> Class customers (except Hiawatha Service customers) boarding or
> connecting to reserved trains in Chicago will need a boarding pass.

> When you get to the station, check in with a station employee who
> will verify your ticket and give you a boarding pass. You will then
> be directed to the appropriate boarding area to wait for your train.
> The earlier you check in, the earlier you’ll be in the boarding
> process. If you don't check in, you'll be among the last to board.
> General boarding for Coach Class customers will take place in the
> Great Hall. Since Hiawatha Service trains are unreserved, boarding
> passes are not needed. Hiawatha Service customers can go straight
> to the North Boarding Lounge to wait for their train.

> Coach Class customers who want priority boarding can purchase a $20
> pass for the Legacy Club and enjoy free snacks, TV, games plus the
> benefit of early boarding access. Uniformed military personnel can
> enjoy the Legacy Club free of charge.

> Seniors age 62 and over, customers with disabilities, families with
> children 12 and under, and active duty military personnel can board
> from the South Boarding Lounge, ahead of general boarding.

> If you are traveling in a Sleeping car, Business Class, or are a
> Select Plus or a Select Executive Amtrak Guest Rewards member, you
> will be boarded early from the Metropolitan Lounge. Just make sure
> to wait in the in the Metropolitan Lounge in order to take advantage
> of advance boarding.

> Passengers should arrive at Chicago Union Station no later than 45
> minutes before departure (60 minutes if ticketing, baggage or
> passenger assistance services are required). Note that the boarding
> gates will close five minutes before train departure. We look
> forward to welcoming you to Chicago Union Station. Thank you for
> choosing Amtrak.

----

Bob H
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Old Oct 13, 16, 3:33 pm
  #2  
 
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Sucking the joy and ease out of train travel....

Originally Posted by BobH View Post
From another message board:

The communication being sent to passengers boarding at Chicago
Union Station, regarding the boarding policies:

> Dear Amtrak Customer,

> We see you are scheduled to board the train or make a connection in
> Chicago. To provide our customers with a more convenient experience,
> we now have a new boarding process at Chicago Union Station. Coach
> Class customers (except Hiawatha Service customers) boarding or
> connecting to reserved trains in Chicago will need a boarding pass.

> When you get to the station, check in with a station employee who
> will verify your ticket and give you a boarding pass. You will then
> be directed to the appropriate boarding area to wait for your train.
> The earlier you check in, the earlier you’ll be in the boarding
> process. If you don't check in, you'll be among the last to board.
> General boarding for Coach Class customers will take place in the
> Great Hall. Since Hiawatha Service trains are unreserved, boarding
> passes are not needed. Hiawatha Service customers can go straight
> to the North Boarding Lounge to wait for their train.

> Coach Class customers who want priority boarding can purchase a $20
> pass for the Legacy Club and enjoy free snacks, TV, games plus the
> benefit of early boarding access. Uniformed military personnel can
> enjoy the Legacy Club free of charge.

> Seniors age 62 and over, customers with disabilities, families with
> children 12 and under, and active duty military personnel can board
> from the South Boarding Lounge, ahead of general boarding.

> If you are traveling in a Sleeping car, Business Class, or are a
> Select Plus or a Select Executive Amtrak Guest Rewards member, you
> will be boarded early from the Metropolitan Lounge. Just make sure
> to wait in the in the Metropolitan Lounge in order to take advantage
> of advance boarding.

> Passengers should arrive at Chicago Union Station no later than 45
> minutes before departure (60 minutes if ticketing, baggage or
> passenger assistance services are required). Note that the boarding
> gates will close five minutes before train departure. We look
> forward to welcoming you to Chicago Union Station. Thank you for
> choosing Amtrak.

----

Bob H
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Old Oct 14, 16, 12:59 pm
  #3  
 
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Arrive at least 45 minutes prior to departure? Killing the benefit of riding the train.... I don't see how this can't be implemented electronically like Southwest....
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Old Oct 14, 16, 8:18 pm
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This sounds like a variation on the routine I remember boarding the Cascades in Seattle a few years ago: There wasn't an actual boarding pass, but we did have to get in line to get seats assigned and then wait for our section to be called to board.

I have no idea what problem Amtrak is trying to solve here. The NEC runs fine with general boarding and onboard ticket collection; why would you need to mess with boarding passes in stations that aren't as busy?
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Old Oct 15, 16, 2:30 pm
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Originally Posted by vatraveler View Post
Sucking the joy and ease out of train travel....
Srsly, what a damn nightmare.
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Old Oct 18, 16, 12:23 pm
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What a terrible change. To be time-competitive with flying, trains need to require only the bare minimum of waiting around time at stations. Adding 45 to 60 minutes to a train trip is just bad!
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Old Oct 20, 16, 9:22 am
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My initial reaction was negative for all the reasons above, but based on this post, it might be a step in the right direction (at least for long-distance/non-corridor trains). For anyone who has ever had to board in CHI as a general coach passenger, assembling in the Great Hall is a big improvement over the crowded, chaotic gate areas and it makes sense for long-distance pax who aren't as time-sensitive. That said, I do wish all the corridor trains (not just Hiawathas) were exempt from the process.

Bottom line, CHI is not well-equipped for the current volume and flow of traffic, and won't be for quite some time until major capital upgrades are completed. Amtrak should be as flexible as possible as it grapples with finding a happy medium in the interim, making lessons from its recent OIG report on boarding as actionable as possible.
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Old Oct 21, 16, 5:02 pm
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Amtrak's boarding procedures come straight out of NJ Gov. Chris Christie's "Time for some traffic problems at Fort Lee" transportation planning department.

There is absolutely no inherent reason to make people line up or wait before boarding a train.

Just open the doors to the tracks when the train is ready for boarding and let people board. Period. That's how NJ Transit, the Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North and plenty of railroads around the world do boarding.
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Old Oct 21, 16, 5:51 pm
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At most stations, I agree. But Chicago is actually worse than even NYP: Amtrak frequently shares its narrow platforms with crush-loaded Metra trains. It's tough enough for service staff and bag handlers to safely navigate the platforms. Even more crucially, the horrible air quality and very high noise levels from the idling diesel engines in an enclosed environment are a constant threat to public health. Again, major capital upgrades are needed to make CHI's platform anywhere near the safe, pleasant, open environment found at other major cities' great terminals.

As much as I love to berate Amtrak for its overly officious, inefficient processes, there are compelling reasons in this case. One must experience CHI at peak times to appreciate the rationale here, then provide constructive feedback.
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Old Oct 21, 16, 6:39 pm
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Originally Posted by GoAmtrak View Post
At most stations, I agree. But Chicago is actually worse than even NYP: Amtrak frequently shares its narrow platforms with crush-loaded Metra trains. It's tough enough for service staff and bag handlers to safely navigate the platforms. Even more crucially, the horrible air quality and very high noise levels from the idling diesel engines in an enclosed environment are a constant threat to public health. Again, major capital upgrades are needed to make CHI's platform anywhere near the safe, pleasant, open environment found at other major cities' great terminals.

As much as I love to berate Amtrak for its overly officious, inefficient processes, there are compelling reasons in this case. One must experience CHI at peak times to appreciate the rationale here, then provide constructive feedback.
True; CHI can be very crowded, and the platforms are very narrow. However, there is no inherent requirement for the following:

* Requiring arrival at the station at least 45 minutes beforehand
* Charging $20 for coach priority boarding
* Making people line up and wait
* Requiring check-in with a station employee (even airlines don't require this!)

Amtrak needs to realize that reducing a passenger's time in the station is essential to making rail time-competitive with air or car. Amtrak also needs to take advantage of a train's main benefit in boarding: lots of doors, unlike a plane.

Last edited by ibrandsguest; Oct 21, 16 at 6:47 pm
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Old Oct 25, 16, 8:40 am
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Originally Posted by NYCommuter View Post
True; CHI can be very crowded, and the platforms are very narrow. However, there is no inherent requirement for the following:

* Requiring arrival at the station at least 45 minutes beforehand
* Charging $20 for coach priority boarding
* Making people line up and wait
* Requiring check-in with a station employee (even airlines don't require this!)
* The 45 minutes is really optional. Assuming you know where you are going, you merely have to present yourself at the gate before the 5 minute cutoff.

* The $20 is optional and includes the Legacy Lounge. My only question is how they will insure (highest) priority boarding when the lounge is the farthest from the platforms.

* Again optional. Nothing to prevent you from joining the line as it moves out, unless you want to get to the train before someone else. I never understood the long lines that formed long before any changes were made to the station layout or procedures.

* Again optional. "If you don't check in, you'll be among the last to board"

I love the European system where the platform serves as the waiting room. But with the narrowness, noise, fumes, and golf carts, it just isn't feasible in Chicago.


Waiting for ICE 123 at Amsterdam Central Station.
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Old Mar 30, 17, 10:56 am
  #12  
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Bumping to ask if there are any recent experiences to report re: Union Station departures. I have a 700a Saturday morning departure on Amtrak to Springfield and have never done this before. I've scoped out the Great Hall and the central kiosk, but did not see anyone lining up for anything.

Do they form up groups A-B-C-etc. in the Great Hall, then lead those groups down to the track one at a time, like grade-school field-trippers? And is it really advisable to get there 45m before train time?

EDIT to answer my own question, as I've now been through the experience:

The Great Hall boarding queue process is in effect only between 1200p and 800p, when things are busy. Mornings are quiet and all the confusing boarding advice on the Amtrak website, etc. is inoperative. You just go downstairs, use a Quik-Track kiosk to print off BPs if you need them or call up your e-BP on your phone if you'd rather, and show same to get access to the track-proximate boarding lounge.

It is absurd to get there 45 to 60 minutes before train time as Amtrak advises. 30 minutes prior is plenty. We could have slept longer.

Boarding is called about 20 minutes before train time (those in the know get up and form a queue at the appropriate gate before that), and cut off at five minutes before departure.

It's far simpler than Amtrak makes it out to be, at least in the mornings and evenings.

Last edited by BearX220; Apr 3, 17 at 8:38 am
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Old Apr 6, 17, 8:09 pm
  #13  
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Thanks for the update. I'll be taking the Capitol Limited CHI/WAS next month. What's the food situation like at the station? Is it typical mall type places? Any suggestions for close by area restaurants to bring on board?

It's my 2nd trip. Last year I rode DEN/PDX.

dh
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Old Apr 6, 17, 10:35 pm
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Originally Posted by dhammer53 View Post
What's the food situation like at the station? Is it typical mall type places?
Think of bad U.S. mall food court.

http://www.chicagounionstation.com/retail_guide.html
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Old May 2, 17, 3:58 pm
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Originally Posted by 3Cforme View Post
Think of bad U.S. mall food court.

http://www.chicagounionstation.com/retail_guide.html
Out of these options, IMHO the two best by far are Corner Bakery and Robinson's. Corner Bakery is just outside of the SE exit at Wacker & Adams, no entrance from inside the station, but in the same building.
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