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Date: 07/21/19 06:03
Lengthy Station Stops
Author: NB1001

Having recently returned from Switzerland where I made good use of my Swiss Rail Pass, I was struck by one reason why American passenger trains (both Amtrak and commuter) are so slow in comparison to their European counterparts. Lengthy staiton stops. In Europe, station stops are quick. Every door on the train is available for boarding. No conductor assistance is needed. Passengers know where to line up on the platform as diagrams are posted indicating the locations of first and second class cars. In comparison Amtrak and American commuter trains require conductor assistance at most stations. Generally, a single door, occasionally two doors on the train are open. All passengers must file through that single door. Standing on the platform, passengers can only guess where the open door will be. Only when they see the conductor alight the train do they see where the need to go to in order to board the train. All of this adds up to increased dwell time at the station. Multiplying that delay by every station stop, trip times are materially increased.
Admittedly this was not typical, but I witnessed an extreme example of station stop delay in May at Plattsburg New York. On this day, SUNY Plattsburg had held their graduation. A mob of students and their luggage/trunks had gathered at the Amtrak station. I timed the station stop at 17 minutes as the conductor loaded the passengers and their belongings one by one through a single door. If there was only a better way.



Date: 07/21/19 06:21
Re: Lengthy Station Stops
Author: andersonb109

There is a better way. You just outlined it. Even with European sleepers, boarding at the origination point is quick. Two examples. First in Finland. The train was platformed one half hour before boarding. Each car was diagrammed on the platform information sign. People waited near where their car would be positioned. The platform was accessible at any time. If you boarded the wrong train, too bad. No tickets were checked until just after we were underway. Somehow people managed to find their appropriate compartments. In Sweden it was done a bid differently. Passengers checked in with the conductor on the platform before  train was even platformed. There they had their tickets checked and were given their room key (yes, with most European sleepers, you can lock your room while you are away). So no pigs in the pen (Chicago Union Station) waiting to board. No conductors checking tickets on the platform before boarding. There is no reason why this couldn't be done here. You open the door yourself once the train is stopped and the door is activated. If you get off at the wrong stop, it's your fault. There was only one deboarding announcement and that was for the final destination just to make sure everyone was awake. That's it. That said, most European platforms are high level so no steps need to be negotiated to get on and off the cars where assistance might be needed. But I do recall in Ukraine where there are few high level platforms, you still open the door yourself to deboard although there is a Provodnik in each car to assist if needed. The U.S. is indeed well behind the curve when it comes to passenger train operations.



Date: 07/21/19 06:30
Re: Lengthy Station Stops
Author: kevinrail

The american traveling public is not going to be reading diagrams at the station



Date: 07/21/19 06:37
Re: Lengthy Station Stops
Author: WP17

I want to highlight another factor which has already been somewhat mentioned in the previous contributions -- platforms in major stations are open and accessible. None of the situation that exists in stations such as Chicago, NYC, Philly DC etc) And the platforms in Europe aren't necessarily wider



Date: 07/21/19 07:58
Re: Lengthy Station Stops
Author: Duna

kevinrail Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> The american traveling public is not going to be
> reading diagrams at the station.



Agreed.  American Exeptionalism theory says the Europeans are doing it wrong.

USA # 1 in dwell times!



Date: 07/21/19 09:26
Re: Lengthy Station Stops
Author: cabsignaldrop

Agree with the above comments. Most stations, including some on the NEC are low level platforms and the crews can only open as many doors as there are conductors. Add to that many Americans have no clue how to travel or behave around transit and you will never have speedy station stops.

On a certain NEC run I'm familiar with, passengers at many smaller low level stations wait until the train has stopped, they slowly drag their bags to an exit, if they can find it after repeated announcements. Just leave 'em and go? Well, lawyers and lawsuits, another thing the USA is number one at. Also, crews get disciplined for carrybys regardless of gross incompetence on the part of the passengers.

Posted from Android



Date: 07/21/19 09:57
Re: Lengthy Station Stops
Author: march_hare

If we can teach American airline passengers how to line up for a Southwest Airlines flight, I’m sure we can teach them how to arrange themselves on a train platform. We’re not as stupid as we appear (good thing!). 

Honestly, it think a big part of this is that Europeans are more familiar with trains, simply because they use them more than we do. 

And of course, long dwell times help to hide how god-awful our schedule compliance is, particularly on long distance trains. What difference does it make how promptly we deboard if the schedule is only to the nearest hour or so?



Date: 07/21/19 10:10
Re: Lengthy Station Stops
Author: nsrlink

What's been posted above is true.  I thought I'd be reading about the ridiculous practice of making two stops at a station: one for passengers to board, then another "stop" at the same station to pull up & work the baggage car on the rear.  Stupid.



Date: 07/21/19 10:31
Re: Lengthy Station Stops
Author: kevinrail

Most of the two stops are because train is too long for platform

Posted from Android



Date: 07/21/19 11:22
Re: Lengthy Station Stops
Author: sums007

kevinrail Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Most of the two stops are because train is too
> long for platform
>
> Posted from Android

I can't think of another reason to do it.



Date: 07/21/19 12:24
Re: Lengthy Station Stops
Author: RuleG

A major reason that high-level platforms will not be built on most stations outside of the Northeast Corridor is the due to the lateral clearance requirements of freight cars.  Therefore, in addition to the expenses of building high-level platforms, there would be additional costs of special track work needed to shift freight trains away from station platforms. 

I believe that if all of the stations between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg had high level platforms, station dwell times could be reduced to cut the Pennsylvanian running times between 20 - 30 minutes between these two cities.



Date: 07/21/19 12:41
Re: Lengthy Station Stops
Author: joemvcnj

There is a cost to installing gauntlet tracks, and freight railroads do not much like them. Facing point turnouts are a potential source of derailments. The Lehigh Line portion of the NJT Raritan Valley Line has them at Roselle Park and the Union station.



Date: 07/21/19 12:56
Re: Lengthy Station Stops
Author: Lackawanna484

Didn't CSX derail a Train on the gauntlet West of Union NJ station?

Screwed up service for days...

Posted from Android



Date: 07/21/19 13:57
Re: Lengthy Station Stops
Author: joemvcnj

Yes, but I never knew the cause. Wrecked freight cars were all over the place for 6 months. 



Date: 07/21/19 14:33
Re: Lengthy Station Stops
Author: agentatascadero

Just a couple of points....

In the past, there was a time when the railroads, even Amtrak at one time, operated their passenger trains with a sense of urgency to make schedule.  At stops where there was a large passenger volume, the crews got everyone aboard as quickly as possible (I remember vestibules crammed with luggage to be sorted later), get the train rolling, and then sort everything out while on the move.  Station staff would often preposition passengers on the platform when they knew the train was "in the block".   Back then coach travellers had assigned seats on many trains, which eliminated the current ordeal of seat assignments at the car door, in what I think to be THE most inefficient way to load a train ever.

Trains are  NOT too long, most have insufficient capacity and are too short.  Platforms are too short, even for short trains.  One disclaimer......back in the day, some, many, platforms were too short then too.....and passengers would alight onto bare roadbed....crew members were extra careful of passenger safety in such situations.

AA

 

Stanford White
Carmel Valley, CA



Date: 07/21/19 14:39
Re: Lengthy Station Stops
Author: ctillnc

NCDOT installed a high-level platform at the new Raleigh station, and the forthcoming Charlotte station will get one too. In each case, freights run around the station not through it. But the other 14 stations in the state don't have high-level platforms and there are no plans to install them. 



Date: 07/21/19 14:54
Re: Lengthy Station Stops
Author: Lackawanna484

You can see different amounts of urgency on the Ashland VA rail camera.  Some trains, the conductor hops off the train with a step stool, followed by people with suitcases, briefcases, strollers, etc. They've obviously lined up in the car.

People gather to board, you can see the conductor pointing which way they should go once aboard.

Other trains, the conductor throws down the stool. Gets off, waits, a few people come off. Waits, and a few more people come off. They likely began to gather their stuff as the train came to a stop.
 



Date: 07/21/19 15:19
Re: Lengthy Station Stops
Author: colehour

I am most familiar with the trains in Italy -- I lived there from 2001-2007. As noted above, platforms are open, and when you get to the proper platform, there are diagrams of the consist of the trains indicating where the cars will be when the train pulls into the station. I think this works because the trains are consistent in their makeup. For example, the train from point A to point B wil almost always have the same consist. Also, on many of the intercity trains you have a reserved seat, e.g., seat 51 in car 5. There are trains that do not have reserved seats as well, mainly local and non-express trains. On these you just get on a find a seat as you would on a bus or streetcar. 

When I was in Italy, you could already make reservations online and have the info sent to your cellphone. When the conductor came by you just showed him the number, which he checked using what I believe was a wi-fi enabled device. Even with a reservation, on Amtrak, coach passengers don't generally have a reserved seat, i.e., a designated seat in a designated car. 

I don't mean to direct all the criticism at Amtrak, which IMHO does not have the funding it needs to operate decent passenger service. It is also somewhat unfair to compare Italy and the USA: Italy has a population of 60 million in a country the size of Arizona. The government, as often noted here on TO, has invested heavily in passenger rail, and Italians are culturally more inclined to use public transportation than we are here in the USA. Having said that, I do think that the boarding experience could be made more efficient than it seems to be.



Date: 07/21/19 16:51
Re: Lengthy Station Stops
Author: irhoghead

The American public in general might not be very energetic or sharp as a tack, but some of the blame has to go the train crews as well. There is a certain amount of pride and professionalism in getting your train over the road on time, which is not so prevalent anymore with some crews. There used to be more enthusiasm and hustle, which in my travels these days I don't see much of anymore. For example, when we had a wheelchair passenger that required the lift to load or unload from an Amfleet car, we used to do that within the two minute station dwell and still highball on time. When there is a will, you can find the way. As long as you can put whatever excuse you want on the delay report and not get called on the carpet for it, as with the crazy and time consuming boarding procedures some crews use, what's going to change?



Date: 07/21/19 17:24
Re: Lengthy Station Stops
Author: mundo

American equipment for the most part is not designed for the passenger to open the doors. At present its Apples and Oranges.

Yes, it would take hell and hi water to train most Americans on how to find where to board and how to board. They  have not had to deal with this. But I would be all for it,  having seen it work so well.



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