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.