Bad Train Trip? Help Us Make Your Voice Heard Now
August 12, 2022
By Jim Mathews / President & CEO
A few weeks ago, I shared some of the messages I got from members and supporters alike about the meltdown in service quality out on Amtrak this summer. In many instances, people reach out to me personally, asking me to intervene at Amtrak to solve some customer-service-related problem…something I’m generally happy to do.
But the problems have reached an intensity and frequency that demands something more than an ad hoc message from me to an Amtrak executive. Your Association has been working this summer on a Passenger Bill of Rights, and this will anchor a lot of our work for the coming legislative season.
Let me repeat something I’ve said a few times this summer already. Over the past few weeks, I’ve received dozens of complaints from Amtrak long-distance passengers about last-minute cancellations affecting trips which were, in some cases, booked and paid for as long as ten months ago. The root cause is a shortage of mechanical department employees needed to maintain and turn what little equipment Amtrak has for these routes during the peak summer demand period. It’s a perfect storm, and when coaches and sleeping cars become unavailable, Amtrak winds up dropping the car from the consist. Staffing and mechanical issues may make some of this inevitable, but we’re still hearing in way too many instances that these passengers are being treated very poorly. Freight-train interference and bad weather are things that are out of Amtrak’s control. But poorly handled service cancellations are self-inflicted wounds.
We’re taking a couple of steps to get a higher level attention on these problems, and we need your help to follow through.
The first step is probably the easiest and most direct thing you can do: take our 2022 service-quality survey and share your thoughts, feelings, and reactions to issues you may have had on a recent Amtrak trip. Dining or observation car taken off? Faulty equipment during the trip? Dirty windows and exterior? Toilets? Worse? Thanks to your support and participation in previous surveys, we have been able to take the passenger's voice straight to Congress and Amtrak executives. Help us keep hammering the message home and share this survey with other passengers! Every single response helps!
CLICK HERE FOR OUR SERVICE-QUALITY SURVEY
The next step is that we’re creating a dedicated pipeline for you to submit your descriptions of service-quality issues. I’ve intervened personally for many of our supporters who have sent me messages, but we need to share the load and be sure we aggregate these stories for policymakers who can make a difference and solve the problem. If you’re like some of those who have been stuck on a train that’s seven or eight or 12 hours late...or you’ve had your Sleeper suddenly and inexplicably replaced with a Coach seat…or you can’t get the reservations sales agents on the phone to work with you on your ticket...or any other issue with quality, send your story to [email protected]. We all share this email box, so one of us will be able to take a look.
We get literally hundreds of messages each day, all of us on the staff, so please be patient. But we’ll monitor this in-box every day, and while we can’t promise personal intervention in every single case, please know that we will do whatever we can to help if it’s possible and, at a minimum, we’ll be gathering up these stories to share with Amtrak, or the Federal Railroad Administration, Congress, or whoever else needs to see them to get answers.
Late trains are still the biggest complaint, and so I need to take this opportunity to urge more of you to take part in our Late Trains campaign to alert your congressional delegations to the problem. So far, our supporters have sent more than 400 messages to members of Congress and Senators, and that’s great – but a far cry from the thousands of messages you sent to Congress in 2020 opposing long-distance service cuts. Congressional staffs do keep score, so it’s important that you take a moment to share your story in that campaign as well.
We’ve created a page to make that easy, painless, and nearly automatic to do: "Take Action Against Late Trains!" sits at the very top of the Rail Passengers home page with a button that says in capital letters CLICK HERE.
When you go to the link, you’ll see a space on the right side labeled “Message Body,” and in that box we ask you to “please add your own story about this issue to personalize your message.” Here is where we ask you to type in your own experiences with late trains. Share details about the weddings you missed, or the hospital visits, or the graduations, or whatever other inconvenience you experienced. And that’s it! We’ve completed the rest of the message for you. All you need to do is include your name, your email address, and your phone number and click the big green button that says “Send Message.” If you don’t include your mailing address, our system won’t be able to find your members of Congress, so that’s an significant thing to include.
"The Rail Passenger Association's recognition of the essential work done by SMART-TD members aboard Amtrak during this difficult period is appreciated. The Golden Spike Award serves as a testament to the compassion and dedication our conductors, assistant conductors and other workers exhibit constantly through times both ordinary and extraordinary."
Jeremy Ferguson, SMART-TD President
December 21, 2021, on the Association awarding its 2021 Golden Spike Award to the Frontline Amtrak Employees.