Dear Ace: I was a recent passenger of Amtrak‘s Crescent line and had a bit of a mishap. Not-so-spry passengers had to negotiate a wire fence and stumble over an unpaved surface simply to board the train. Is it possible there are no safety guidelines in place to protect at-risk travelers from falling through the "tracks," especially at night?—Dee Railed
Dee: Ace went down to the train station to get a better look at the area, and he couldn’t agree more. There are areas where it’s definitely a bit of an obstacle course. For those of you who haven’t been down there recently, there’s a long stretch of train tracks on the north side of the station. At the very end, labeled "Location 7," the fencing (which Ace would call "chain-link" rather than "wire") stops. At this point, just as Dee said, one must navigate around the fence to a poorly paved surface to wait for the train. To be fair, before the passenger reaches Location 7, there is a gate in the fence, with a place in the sidewalk for wheelchairs. However, by the time you get close to Location 7 and realize there’s no other gate on the horizon, it’s easier just to negotiate the fence.
The Amtrak train station is not quite on the right track when it comes to providing safety for its boarding passengers.
That said, as best Ace can tell, there aren’t any actual guidelines set forth by Amtrak (at least not any readily available to the public). The company provides passengers with helpful tips (arrive early, watch your step, be careful when entering and exiting the train) and even suggests ways to get around any unforeseen obstacles (ahem, fence) by arriving early and asking for assistance from "Red Cap agents" (whom Ace can only assume wear red caps in order to be easily identified). Amtrak does not, however, claim liability for any "inconvenience," as stated in the company’s Disclaimer of Liability.
Although, in 1997, Amtrak established its Customer Advisory Committee (ACAC) in order to help meet the needs of its passengers. Since it began, the Committee has implemented a no-smoking policy and worked to improve the Special Service Request process (among other things). The part that Ace thinks applies most to you, Dee, as you noted that you (and other passengers) are not so spry, is the Disabled and Senior Task Force, which Amtrak established to better assist those with hearing, vision and mobility issues. In 2004, the Force was given the President’s Award for their accomplishments in sensitivity training.
Aside from all that information (and if you ask Ace—which you did—it’s a lot), if you don’t think Amtrak is on the right track with its improvements, the company welcomes feedback.
Of course, if you don’t feel like going to all that trouble, remember what Quad City DJ said about railway travel: "Come on, ride the train (woo woo) and ride it (woo woo)." He’s a man of few words, Ace thinks, but the sentiment is there.