Amtrak — Ticket Refund / Replacement Policy and inability to account for tickets is a breach of National Security, and poor customer service

I have an issue with the ticket and replacement policy.

I purchased a round trip ticket on Amtrak. I went to the station for my trip and I was told that I could not separate my tickets… “both had to be printed at the same time” i.e. my return ticket must be printed with my originating departure.

When I showed up for my train on my return trip, I asked for a reprint/replacement, I was told that if I didn’t have the original ticket to give up, there would be a 10% penalty and $75 fee. It did not matter the if it was lost, stolen, damaged, etc. I was then told that if I was going to ride today, I must purchase a new ticket.

I was given a form for lost ticket refund and told that I had a year to submit the form. I was told that it generally takes 6 months to process the form (verify that the ticket had not been used). The form also included a waver stating that Amtrak was not responsible if they could not prove that it was not used, or used by someone else. (even though they require id’s, and I reported it missing/stolen)

This whole process is first a customer service issue, and a second, a homeland security issue that I am sure the news media would love to hear about.

First, customer service, this is just plane poor customer service for the passenger involved. Plus, since it took so long to deal with at the station, several other passengers had longer waits for an agent ( I should have been able to just print my ticket for the trip at the kiosk when I arrived at the station… if both tickets were not printed initially. Since they were, a replacement should have been printed invalidating the other one).

Not only this, but poor customer service may continue to other passengers as you have agitated the passenger(s) involved, and stressed them out. They are now wandering less forgiving when they must navigate a stressful environment. The train need not be stressful, but with the poor customer service, delays, and Chicago’s busy union station, it is stressful. The passenger may be less likely to step aside when another stressed passenger is passing by [Either A: in the terminal where the line is the entire length of the corridor including past the restroom or B: in the train]. They may be less likely to fit entirely into there seat when barked at by a conductor. Heck, with last nights news, (Airplane annoyance leads to brouhaha in the skies over D.C.  By Ashley Halsey III, Published in The Washington Post: May 31 — http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/a-common-airplane-annoyance-leads-to-a-costly-brouhaha-in-the-skies-over-dc/2011/05/31/AGrlMcFH_story.html) We see that two stressed passengers ended up fighting costing more customer service and homeland security issues, and tens of thousands of dollars – Amtrak DOES seem concerned about money loss…. Hence the $75 replacement ticket fee.

This incident could even cause medical issues. Ranging from heart attacks to seizures. Heck this one incident has caused me to have numerous prodromes which are potentially precursors to an aura which precedes a seizure. These incidents could cause further delays, stress, expenses, and a poor customer experience affecting hundreds of passengers if an ambulance is needed. This could even affect / trigger passengers with mental health issues.

The poor customer service continued but was better when I called on June 2. It continued because I spent 45 minutes on the phone. It improved because the customer service representative offered to send a voucher valid for one year – No confirmation number (something the counter agent should have done).

Second, this affects Homeland Security / National Security. This occurs in multiple ways:

A: lack of reporting missing tickets (due to cost, and agent’s attitudes)
B: Lack of security… Amtrak apparently is unable to track tickets. They can not invalidate tickets, or note that it has or has not been used or stollen. They can scan barcodes on reservations, but they can not do what every ticket taker at every concert I’ve been to in the past 3 years can do, and that is scan your ticket with a hand held scanner to verify its authenticity, and mark it as used.

C: Distraction: If TSA agents, and conductors are busy dealing with stressed out passengers – or potentially, a cascade of stressed out passengers, they are less able to direct there attention to potential security issues.

 

How can this be solved?

1: Issue scanners to the conductors. Whether used when boarding, or once on board – when the tickets are taken or processed in bulk after the walk through, it would be an improvement.

2: Check ID’s when entering a secured area. i.e. boarding? Or when a flagged ticket is used.

3: Reprint tickets at the station, let people print the tickets at home, or just don’t print all the tickets for the entire trip until they arrive at the station for that departure – a multi leg trip is different than a return trip days or weeks later.

4: Anything other than being told by an agent that they can’t replace your ticket unless you wave your rights, pay $75, and wait 6 months. I can understand being issued a voucher for future travel. But even then, not everyone can pay over a hundred dollars while waiting in line waiting to board, if they want to opt for an immediate replacement, and you still want to discourage irresponsibility, charge $5 or 10 to replace it on the spot, but even that is cheaper than mailing a voucher. Heck Email the voucher as you do the confirmation number, and weekly specials / offers. – Either way, replacing a ticket would not be required if you waited to print the ticket until the passengers arrival at the station for the scheduled departure – If you continue to issue all [departure and return] tickets at once you would not need to wonder if the replacement was fraud if you scanned tickets (see 1 above).

P.S. BTW, I did not agree to the replacement policy in the terms and policies when I purchased my tickets (I just double checked), and if it were buried in the terms, they may not be enforceable in court unless it is line item checked.

 

Print Friendly
Posted in Complaints and suggestions, Travels, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Biking (and a bit on driving) in NOLA update June 2011 — Routes from areas of town-including Earhart, Magazine, Lafitte, and Jeff Davis .

I live pretty far Uptown. Just past Tulane University, but also pretty central.

I live so far up that cutting across the center of the circle/wheel/crescent is quicker than other ways.

St. Charles and Magazine are always slow routes due to traffic. Claiborne is lately just because of all the construction. Why are the not adding turn lanes when they are adding curbs and trees?

Anyway, by car, Tchoupitoulas is not too bad if you are already on that side of town.

But I have found out that Magazine is not too bad to bike down. I just don’t try to pass cars. I can keep pace with them, and they can’t complain about going slow due to me.

NOTE: when I bike I bike, I don’t wander. I hate people wandering in the quarter if there are cars around.

St. Charles is not bad at night… late.

I avoid central city though I have biked in parts even at night. (Yea, I’ve done Oretha C Haley at night)

Years ago, I was shown Earhart its a nice diaganal route from way uptown avoids the extra loop of going around central city towards the river. It avoids the heavy traffic of Claiborne. It has a great shoulder (concrete). There are some cars parked by some shops around lopez (there parking lot is not big enough–argh), and the projects (yea I feel pretty safe riding by there, but wish they had parking). It also gets pretty messed up just after the Home Depot on your way into the city. The shoulder goes away, and you ‘could’ take the sidewalk for a block or so, but its very winded, and kinda disappears when you need to cross by the train station/simon bolivar.

I have recently been shown Lafitte St. from the quarter to Bayou St. John. I’ve heard about the trail they are wanting to put in. Still no progress after 3 years or so. I had wondered about safety, but on the street, I feel pretty safe, it pretty smooth, and angled towards uptown. (safer than Orleans Ave) but I must wonder about when it either gets enough bike traffic to draw attention (but not enough to have a ton of good eyes), and also when the projects (er….. mixed income) get rebuilt.

When taking Lafitte, it drops you off at Jefferson Davis Pkwy, its great because it has a great trail on it, and so far feels pretty safe too. There are a few spots its rough i.e. why have a sidewalk that has a 6 inch ramp cresting in the middle. Just keep it street height. To keep water going somewhere? Well when it hits the end of the median (yea its a median there not neutral ground) it/water crosses anyway.) The trail, I believe its intended for biking as well as jogging and walking. (as do the cars who honk if I am on the road instead of the trail — yea honking is reckless driving, as its a known safety hazard for bikers–it causes them to look, and looking often causes the biker to lean and swerve into the lane. Be careful if you feel the need to honk to let them know you are there — Yea cars are quieter than ever. Perhaps you the car driver should just wait a second, or truly pass as you would a car.)

Anyway, back to the jefferson davis trail, it is nice to be separate from traffic going up the hill/bridge over I-10, but between Tulane Ave, and Washington, it swerves too much, and has too many ramps. I end up taking the road over the bridge. Coming from uptown I must cross traffic to get to the trail only to swerve and meander a lot on the trail. Going either direction, I want ride out room. I’m going 20+ miles per hour going down the hill and want all the momentum I can get after peddling up the huge bridge, and going uptown, I want all the help I can getting up the incline approaching the canal at Washington.

 

 

Things I came across when writing this:

Cop ticketed driver tailgating and honking at me today!

$1400 ticket for reckless driving on a bicycle — From the comments: Washington state says police should assist not ticket drunk bikers. Interesting since they ticket you for DUI on nearly anything in most states. It sounds like it is intended for those walking, but also covers those riding….

Print Friendly
Posted in NOLA Public transit, The road | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NOLA public transport June 3 edition (Part 4 of 5 – The reason this started… Trip Planner, Google, and stuff….)

Oh I started thinking about this as I stated in part one because I have been riding more. However, back in March or so, someone on another web page said our system was simple, and there was no need for a trip planner.

I am sorry, but if I am in a hurry, or just need a quick lookup of times, i.e. what time is the next bus, I can’t always count on downloading the pdf schedule. Google works with many RTA’s and can do the trip planning for any RTA that does not want to purchase the software. All they have to do is keep the schedules with google up to date.  What cities are covered on Google maps? (more than 446 as of June 2011 generic info link) >> Program Link <<— noRTA management click this one!!!

I know they are working on some sort of automated phone system I saw a press release almost a year ago on in. I see the new bus stop signs are starting to be posted uptown now. What ever happened to the pilot lines? the system at least several of the lines on the other side of Canal were to be up by now.

Anyway, I may not be local, I may just need a quick check of when the next bus is supposed to be here. (NOTE: supposed…. NOLA’s RTA is often very unreliable), I may just want to be on my new smart phone and be told to walk 5 minutes down xyz street to the bus stop.

Yes, trip planners are very important!
Google & Bing integration is very important.

It still employs people the data needs to be updated. If it does save man-hours, higher more drivers with the savings. If its expensive, there are or were grants available. Plus, it probably would pay for itself…. there are many times with it being tough to determine schedules, that me, guests, and others opt not to take public transit (NOTE: We are not taking cabs, so you can’t say that its to help commerce)

Print Friendly
Posted in Complaints and suggestions, NOLA Public transit, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NOLA public transport June 3 edition (Part 3 of 5 Uptown — Connecting St. Charles to Canal/Mid-City — #32 Leonidas/#11 Magazine/#39 Tulane/#27 Louisiana #16 Claiborneplus affecting #91 Esplanade & Jet’s E3, and affecting service to City park & Cemeteries )

Ok, I think that there is a better way to both serve the far uptown area, and better connect Uptown to Mid-City.

First, what is the point of the #32 Leonidas bus?

Second, we NEED a St. Charles (end) <—> Canal Connector

Ok with the #32, it connects Magazine to city park/NOMA, enters a ton of neighborhoods along the way along with connecting to the following lines #11 Magazine, The St. Charles Street Car, #39 Tulane, #27 Louisiana, The Canal Street Car (both to City Park & The Cemeteries), #91 Esplanade, and JeT’s E3 Jefferson Hwy(?).

I call it the handicap line better served by a ‘lil easy’. I suppose I can’t really comment since I’ve never taken it. It may have great ridership numbers, but its image sure prevents it from being ridden by me.

The reason I write this….

I was heading up to the end of the Canal Street Car line from Broadway and Willow. I head up to Claiborne and Carrolton to catch the #39 Tulane bus, and tell him I want to catch the #27 Washington. The driver says I should transfer to the Leonidas (does not pickup at Claiborne/Carrolton), and then Transfer to The Canal Street Car. I think not. The #27 heads out a few minutes after the #39, it drops off 100 feet from the end of The Canal Street Car line, and it involves only one transfer.

Here is the reasoning the #32 tries to do too much, and thus its service “sucks” according to the system map published on the web page, its frequency is 70 minutes and only runs on weekdays.

I am sorry I am not waiting more than an hour to catch a bus. Especially when we have a highly tourist line the St. Charles line that should connect with another highly tourist line the Canal line. Each with a published frequency of 8-15 minutes. That is 4-8/hour. Sometimes they run in pairs (officially). I think I saw a press release once (Spring 2011) saying the St. Charles frequently has 12+ cars per hour, and before Katrina it was up to 20 or so per hour.  Canal St. is a bit more fixed(?) on its times?

Either way, if a bus were to run from the end of the St. Charles line to Canal street. it would pick up the slack from #32 plus #39 (runs every 20-30 minutes) , #27 (running every 20-70 minutes), and helps tourism that rides the two streetcar lines. –Or are you trying to hide the tourists from the locals???, and suggesting they only ride the streetcars (and Magazine)? (BAD BAD BAD RTA!!!)

With this St. Charles/Canal Connector, the distance is 1.7 miles 1.9 with turn arounds. We are talking 5-10 minutes with traffic but no stops. Two busses can easily make 4 trips an hour each with stops. i.e. every 15 minutes. Add Layovers, breaks, and a buffer, and we are talking every twenty minutes 3 trips each direction.

If you don’t think you can count on Claiborne not being too crowded? The risk is already taken with the #39, and can be reduced if you use smart lights as I have talked about for years, and suggested here over 6 months ago.

How do you do this? One, Since this overlaps the #32& #39, you can cut out half of each of those lines. On the 32 that would free up 2 busses (the two needed for the connector). Then, it allows the #32 to run twice as often, and even pick up slack from the last 10 blocks of the #39.

I don’t need the #32 to run everywhere. If I can wait 70 minutes for a bus, let it do the job of winding through and serving the neighborhoods. Let it take us to a main line If I get the opportunity to wait only 30 minutes, I can wait the other 10 for a main line bus.

Oh and the St. Charles/Canal Connector would also connect the #16 Claiborne to mid-city something you currently have to transfer to the #39 and transfer to #32 (if its running) or #27 to get to …. or ride the #16 back into the city.

 

Print Friendly
Posted in Complaints and suggestions, NOLA Public transit, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NOLA public transport June 3 edition (Part 2 of 5 Uptown with a bike to Chalmette and mention of Kenner loop)

This is a continuation of my story of how clueless the NOLA RTA phone operators are.

Back in May I called the ride line saying I wanted to know when the next two busses close to Tulane university with a bike rack would be coming that could take me to the Industrial canal as I wanted to go to bike to an appointment in Chalmette.

They said to go to St. Charles. I said “So I can bring my bike on the street car?” They said no, and seemed clueless.

First, They should have said Claiborne, Feret, or even Magazine, but that was a 10 minute ride from Campus.

Well it turns out that the St. Clause bus actually crosses into the lower 9th. I know they have NOLA RTA there, but figured it was easier to just get to the canal. I thought they mostly just have the ‘lil easy’ (NOTE: they don’t mention ‘lil easy’ on there routes and schedules page. So I don’t know if any of them are flex routes without clicking on them. If none are, I don’t really/readily see info elsewhere on there web page on the ‘lil easy’. Some routes use little busses, but some are ‘lil easy’ routes that I believe are flex routes. Then there is the paratransit that is full flex type routes for the handicap individuals, and require an application and permit to ride.  )

If I would have gotten a lift on a bus I would have found out that St. Claude goes there even with a clueless RTA operator, but I ended up riding from Tulane to Chalmette completely on my bike.

Later, I have seen that the RTA is actually the transit authority serving St. Bernard as well — 51-52 St Bernard. (Oh they run the Kenner loop #201 too. That is instead of Jefferson Transit which serves the rest of Jefferson Parish and connects Kenner to Orleans Parish…. since Kenner is on the far edge of the suburbs… go figure)

In conclusion it turns out the #88 St. Claude & #84 Galvez (not sure how its modified with the Claiborne bridge over the canal out of service) both connect the Lower 9th/Chalmette with the rest of Orleans Parish. Caveat Galvez does not go all the way to Chalmette, but then I had my bike. Since my appointment was along Judge Perez Dr. (What Claiborne Ave turns into when it makes it to Chalmette) not St. Claude

Print Friendly
Posted in Complaints and suggestions, NOLA Public transit, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NOLA Public transport (part 1 of 5 — RTA Call takers; non-staggered schedule; biking Across or through the crescent)

Ok, my car died in April, and I’ve been taking public transportation a bit more. Here is some things I’ve found out.

Biking further out in the wheel/circle is not much longer than inside. I mean riding down magazine or even St. Charles was not too bad. Magazine was during the day, and like the quarter, I pretty much keep pace with the cars. I could have passed them, but didn’t feel like the trouble. I’ve followed a few busses, caught them and rode them. (However I still like Earheart, but have added Lafitte and Fontainebleau — See this weeks bike post)

I did call the info line a few times, and they are totally clueless. One time I asked when the next bus was leaving, and they said x. I asked when the next one was, and they said “you know it is an hourly bus”. No, but now I do. Well it turns out its not. (NOTE: It could have been I don’t remember, it could have been a weekend*) I was starting to get upset over the next few weeks when they said that the Feret #15 bus and the Claiborne #16 bus both end up uptown at the same time. (I’m thinking they should stagger adjacent bus lines so if you miss one, you can walk to the next one. Sure I understand that having them all meet at the same time means that they can meet other busses for transfers, but that is another point entirely)

Well, I knew the Claiborne bus shifts at some point, and shifts from about twice an hour to once an hour with at one point during the change over having an abnormally long time between busses as they don’t just eliminate a bus, and rather than cut the time they essentially cancel two and add a new one. (at least that is my thought on what it feels like.) But then as soon as the shift happens, its about time that they go back to two busses for the evening.

*Well it turns out that the Feret bus is not twice an hour on the weekends.

Print Friendly
Posted in Complaints and suggestions, NOLA Public transit, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NOLA public transport June 3 edition (Part 5 of 5 — Lost Items)

One final thing: I lost my keys on the bus. I fretted and worried all day trying to figure out where I left them. I disrupted several people’s day trying to figure it out.

Do yourself a favor. Make us feel good. Heck, one time it might even mean your day is not disrupted either at work or as an individual.

LOOK AT THE KEYS. Mine had a dogtag with my name and phone number on them. Many have frequent buyer cards that have a customer identification on them.

Why did I have to wait a day and call to see if you had them turned in?

Print Friendly
Posted in Complaints and suggestions, NOLA Public transit, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Protected: NOBLE – CMS

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Print Friendly
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Enter your password to view comments.

Protected: NOBLE Web Page and online update

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Print Friendly
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Enter your password to view comments.

Look for posts on other New Orleans issues. . .

Crime Cameras

French Market

….

….

….

Print Friendly
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment