Volunteerism At a Whole New Level.
As just about everyone knows, for many years–a dozen or so, at least–Amtrak has been in a cost-cutting mode. Just one example: for the past couple of years, despite protests from NARP and others, Amtrak has not replaced ticket agents at smaller Amtrak stations who were transferred or retired.
The subject of unattended railway stations came up during one of the presentations at the NARP meetings today and it was the first time I had heard the story of the station that serves Olympia, the state capital of Washington, and the nearby town of Lacy, both some 75 miles south of Seattle.
The station there was essentially a three-sided shack that barely afforded minimal shelter to Amtrak passengers. And that was a disgrace because Olympia is the capital city of Washington State. The lack of any kind of railway station troubled many of the residents.
They formed a non-profit 501(c)3 corporation, and came up with a Board of Directors. The old shelter was torn down and, with donated materials and volunteer labor, they built their own station. Then they got the local transit authority to buy the land and the building and pay for the utilities and the maintenance.
Then they recruited volunteers to staff to station. That was no small undertaking because a total of 14 trains a day stop at the Olympia/Lacy station–a dozen trains operating between Seattle or Vancouver to the north and Eugene, Oregon, to the south. There are also two Coast Starlights every day, one in each direction.
That schedule requires the station to be open for business and staffed from 6:30 in the morning until 9:30 at night . . . longer than that, of course, when trains run late.
Here’s the thing: they did all this without any support from Amtrak–financial or otherwise–and they’ve been doing it since 1993. Furthermore, they haven’t missed a train in all that time. Not one. And isn’t that remarkable!