Friday, August 7, 2009

WTFWisconsin: Intermodal Insanity

The letter I just sent to Amtrak:

I need to be reimbursed for the $9 surcharge I had to pay on the Amtrak Hiawatha Line from Milwaukee to Chicago at 8 am on Friday, August 7.

Let me start out by saying that I love Amtrak. I am always in favor of the system getting additional funding and would love to see the US invest in a european style rail network. Unfortunately, my experience this morning more closely resembled the organization of train travel in India (translate ridiculous) versus an efficient system.

I arrived at the Milwaukee Intermodal Station with 20 minutes to get my ticket to Chicago. This is usually plenty of time. I walked inside to find three HUGE lines. One was expected--the line to board the train. Another was somewhat expected--the line for the staffed ticket counter. The third was mindblowingly unexplainable--the one to use the automatic ticket kiosks. Then it was explained two-fold, both reasons that were completely avoidable. Two simple solutions that could have prevented Amtrak from severely angering dozens of customers as well as inconveniencing it's own onboard staff.

I misspoke when I said kiosks, plural. For some ungodly reason there is only  ONE automatic ticket kiosk for the 2nd busiest train line in the United States. This seems woefully inadequate. To make matters worse, those passengers who had the foresight to purchase tickets online in advance were required to stand in this line as well. How in any universe does this make sense?

To make matters worse, the ticketing staff did not assist in reassuring the growing, and increasingly disgruntled, crowds that everyone would get on the train. Much later, the conductor (lecturing those of us who purchased onboard) said that he held the train two extra minutes for the lines to clear. I'm certain it would have been longer of several of us had not decided to purchase on board versus risk missing the train. The fact that delaying the train was even feasible was NEVER communicated to us. In fact it was another PASSENGER who pointed out you could buy onboard.

I don't think I should be charged extra for Amtrak's faulty ticketing logistics. I have learned a lesson about arriving earlier, but moreso I hope Amtrak learns a lesson about adding kiosks and true e-ticketing.

Luckily I have plans to take Megabus back on Sunday. I only have to show them a confirmation number from their website.

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