More on the Missing Ticket Agents.
There are a number of frustrating aspects to Amtrak’s dogged determination to eliminate ticket agents in x-number of railway stations across the country. I’m told that the main argument in defense of this policy is that “everyone buys their tickets on line now” . . . hence no need for a ticket agent.
Sorry, I don’t buy that.
In fact, I’ll bet a hot fudge sundae that by far the biggest percentage of people who do use the internet to buy Amtrak tickets live in or near the Northeast Corridor—let’s say from Virginia to New Hampshire. But I seriously doubt that “everyone” who boards the Cardinal in Thurmond, West Virginia, or the Empire Builder in Staples, Minnesota, or in other communities in remote areas across the west and midwest, have uninterrupted high-speed internet connections. In fact, when those folks travel, I’ll bet a lot of them wander over to the railroad station and have the agent there print out their tickets.
After all, these are small stations in rural areas. Passengers have questions and Amtrak’s automated agent, Julie, doesn’t have all the answers. The ticket agent does, but not if he’s gone.
The fact is, ticket agents do more than just sell tickets. They handle checked luggage—receiving it, tagging it, and loading it on arriving trains. And, of course, they receive luggage and boxes that have been checked to their station. No ticket agent means no checked luggage, one more service gone that some passengers would consider important—maybe even essential.
The list of disappearing perks, especially those sleeping car passengers once enjoyed, keeps growing. Now, when a husband and wife in Staples, Minnesota, are waiting in sub-freezing temperatures at 1:30 in the morning to board the Empire Builder, there’ll be no one there to check their big bag or tell them the train had some mechanical issues after leaving St. Cloud and will be two hours late.
That’s OK. Just tell ’em Amtrak couldn’t afford the former ticket agent’s salary. I’m sure they’ll understand.