More Station Agents Are Axed.
Well, dammit!, you turn your back for a day or so and the next thing you know, the people now running Amtrak have taken something else away from us! The latest is laying off station agents at a bunch more locations just as the tourist season is getting underway. No argument. No discussion. Done deal.
Here’s the list:
Charleston, West Virginia; Cincinnati, Ohio; Fort Madison and Ottumwa in Iowa; Topeka and Garden City in Kansas; Hammond, Louisiana; Havre and Shelby in Montana; La Junta, Colorado; Lamy (Santa Fe), New Mexico; Marshall, Texas; Meridian, Mississippi; Ottumwa, Iowa; Texarkana, Arkansas, and Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Apparently one of the bean counters at Amtrak decided that the minimum standard would be an average of 40 passengers a day. If a station didn’t generate that much business, the station agent was therefore a luxury the railroad couldn’t afford. But gee, fellas, 40 passengers a day? That’s more than 14,000 people a year and no one there to answer their questions … to tell them that the train is going to be 90 minutes late, so go have a burger and a beer somewhere … to check a big trunk through to their final destination … or sell them some damn tickets!
For me, three of those towns jumped off the page as worthy of special note. Tuscaloosa and Marshall are both university towns and I would hope that the Amtrak brain trust has made some provision to accommodate the large numbers of college kids coming and going by train at vacation time and on weekends.
The third one is Meridian, Mississippi. Under the visionary leadership of its former mayor, John Robert Smith, it’s station was restored and turned it into a multi-modal facility, serving Amtrak, local and long-distance buses, and taxis. The result was the hugely successful revitalization of the entire area which thrust the dynamic Mayor Smith into national prominence and influence. I guarantee you that he is mightily unhappy at the loss of an agent at “his” station and has by now forcefully and colorfully made his feelings known to Amtrak.
Bottom line: one more short sighted and counter productive move.
Santa Fe’s newspaper (New Mexican) reports reports this will take effect June 1 at Lamy NM (gateway for visitors to Santa Fe), just in time for summers visitors with all their luggage!
Yes this displays extreme ignorance on the part of Amtrak. I’ve tried writing to City government there and also to the “SantaFe New Mexican”. Though the latter asked me for further ID, not sure if it ever got printed, though at least someone else’s response did. This is a major station on ths Southwest Chief, the one for Santa Fe. Even the trackage today is Burlington Northern SANTA FE, and Amtrak goes and removes the agent. It ought to awaken the need for response from New Mexico now!
I guess there are a bunch of reasons why it’s impossible, but why doesn’t Amtrak let the station to a private business, preferably one that could sell at least the basic stuff? I’ve seen stations rented out to pizzerias, travel agents, book shops, cafés, with the condition stipulated that the waiting room should remain open to Amtrak customers, and in the case of a travel agent, I could imagine that they would be willing to sell Amtrak tickets, too. In Italy, Scandinavia, etc, most tickets are even sold by newsagents and convenience stores…
There are several Amtrak stations that are manned by volunteers. Olympia, Washington, comes immediately to mind,and there are others.
So, if there’s no station agent, does that mean that I cannot check in my “checked” luggage or remove it from the train when I arrive? I was hoping to visit Charleston (WV) this year.
I’m afraid that’s exactly what it means, Sandy. You’ll just have to remember the old adage: There are only two kinds of travelers: this who are traveling light, and those who wish they were. But do contact Amtrak and complain!