Prince Loses Its Station Agent.
Prince, West Virginia, is the latest Amtrak station to lose its station agent and the locals are unhappy. One, a lady named Kristy Roberson, was upset enough to send me a note. For her, it just doesn’t seem right that Amtrak has basically abandoned the station.
“It has been manned as long as I can remember,” she wrote, “and always has the best people working there.”
It is true that there hasn’t been a lot of ridership originating from Prince. Amtrak says there were not quite 3,000 boardings there in 2015. That’s really not as bad as it sounds because the Cardinal only comes through there three days a week. That’s an average of ten people boarding every time it stops at Prince.
“This station just installed new bathrooms, updated the building,” Kristy wrote. “It is a landmark and now the people who like to stop there during the hours they WERE open to take pictures and visit, and roam around and ask questions, cannot do that.”
Kristy says many of the passengers are elderly people who buy tickets at the last minute and need the station agent to help with their baggage. And she says, despite what the Amtrak people say, the on board train crews cannot be counted on to help with baggage.
In a small town like Prince, the railroad station is the focal point, a gathering place. Kristy says, “I, and many others, do not understand this thinking at all.”
In an earlier post about Winona, Minnesota, losing their station agent, I wrote about the pressure Amtrak is under to cut costs . . . how Congress keeps reducing their subsidy which forces Amtrak into doing away with the cranberry juice in Superliner sleeping cars and axing station agents in towns like Prince. Kristy doesn’t care about that. “I am SO very disappointed about this, and no one hears my voice …”
Organize, get a millage on the ballot, and fund the manning of the station. Less complaining, more doing. Many communities fund community centers – now you have a wonderfully suitable building [with new restrooms!] – and is a train station – waiting to be your community center.
Just like Winona, Grand Forks, and Glenview, Prince joins the conundrum of how transportation service is to be defined.
Of course, Amtrak will provide data to evidence how the majority of passengers now purchase tickets electronically, not requiring a depot agent(s). Yet, our population is aging, especially in these smaller towns. Unlike Europe, the platform does not indicate the consist and location of the baggage car or sleepers (which also are not distinctively marked as “First Class”); nor, which coach is for thru passengers or just “shorts.” At the same time depot agents are eliminated, CAF continues to build new baggage cars for Amtrak. For what now-just bicycles for day trips?
Unlike the airlines that actively compete and mimic each other, let alone the intensely competitive cruise industry, Amtrak apparently is content to sit on its monopoly and give new meaning to the definition of ‘Marketing,” and how passenger services are minimally provided. After degrading dining and lounge services, removing the concept of “First Class” in sleepers, what was left but baggage, i.e., depots?
As these de-activated depots are inevitably reincarnated as spaghetti restaurants, who will remember how they once defined and served their town?