Amtrak Knows How to Deal with Unruly Passengers

Several people were kicked off one of Amtrak’s Cascade trains the other day at the Olympia-Lacey station, some 75 miles south of Seattle. They were caught smoking on board and Amtrak’s policy is clear: Smoke on board and you’ll be getting off at the next stop.

On one of my Amtrak trips, I chatted with a conductor about how they deal with troublesome passengers – usually people caught smoking or someone who’s had too many beers in the lounge car.

“We tell them to change their behavior or we’ll put them off the train,” he said. “If they keep it up, there is no second warning. We don’t want them to know ahead of time that we’re going to put them off. That can lead to big problems because some of them will get violent. So the next thing they know, the train has stopped and they’re looking up at a couple of big state troopers.”

I had a first-hand experience with this many years ago aboard the late lamented Desert Wind as we were heading southwest across Nevada toward Los Angeles. A disreputable character in one of the coaches had been wandering into the sleeping cars cajoling passengers into giving him their little bottle of complimentary wine. (Ah, those were the days!)

The Amtrak conductor dealt with this clown very effectively. The train stopped in the middle of the Nevada desert where a state highway crossed the tracks. A police car was there waiting and, when last seen, the wine hound was looking back at us from the rear seat of the police car en route to the jail at Caliente, Nevada.

Several of us waved good-bye to him from the air-conditioned comfort of the lounge car. There was even a smattering of applause.