Non-Amtrak riders continue to be shut out because of capacity issues, despite having valid tickets, on Hartford Line trains serviced in Connecticut by Amtrak.
The heavy Thanksgiving travel rush was just the latest indication that periodically, the line can’t cope with ridership demand.
CTrail’s “Hartford Line Alerts” account tweeted on Thanksgiving eve that the Amtrak train stopping at 6:48 p.m. in Springfield would only accept Amtrak passengers – leaving CTrail and U-Pass riders on the platform.
Due to ridership demand, Amtrak Hartford Line Train #476 scheduled to arrive in Springfield 6:48 pm will only be accepting passengers holding an Amtrak ticket. Busses have been dispatched to accommodate CTrail passengers, and they are operating 5-10 minutes behind schedule.
— Hartford Line Alerts (@HLalerts) November 21, 2018
Capacity issues have been most prominent on the Amtrak two-car train that shows up in Hartford on Friday afternoons. There, Amtrak conductors have asked CTrail and U-Pass ticketed passengers to exit trains when there aren’t enough seats.
Connecticut’s Department of Transportation has maintained that Amtrak was supposed to honor CTrail and U-Pass tickets the same as it would its own.
“Our policy continues to be ‘one ticket, any train’,” said CT DOT spokesman Judd Everhart. “We will work with Amtrak regarding on-board capacity and demand planning for holiday travel.”
The parties have attempted to address the problem. A third car was added to Amtrak’s Hartford line offering on Fridays and in anticipation of high ridership volume during holiday travel, CT DOT announced that all CTrail trains would operate with four cars.
“CT DOT made a four-car train set out of coaches from our fleet and gave a complete trainset to Amtrak to operate for Thanksgiving holiday peak travel times,” Everhart said. “This strategy went a long way toward having more seats available to CTrail customers during peak holiday travel times.”
Amtrak had said at first that it wasn’t within company policy for Amtrak conductors to ask non-Amtrak riders to exit trains when capacity issues persist.
The company has changed its public stance since Connecticut Public Radio investigated rider complaints earlier this fall, saying it might ask certain passengers to get off in order to ensure a safe ride for everyone.
“While we saw an increase in our ridership, and the amount of trains that we ran during Thanksgiving, our policies did not change,” said an Amtrak spokesperson. “While we never desire to restrict customer utilization of our trains, for the safety of our passengers and employees, crew members may ask passengers to wait for the next available train, instead of creating an unsafe condition, such as standing in the vestibule.”
CTrail had hoped that it could overcome ridership inequality by adding cars during the holidays. One customer had reached out to Amtrak prior to the Thanksgiving rush to alleviate his concern.
“We want to assure you that your Hartford Line ticket will be valid on all trains listed on our schedule both Hartford Line and Amtrak.” pic.twitter.com/KiF6TlpYLW
— Jordan Byron (@JordanByron) November 21, 2018
Jordan Byron was sent an email two days before Thanksgiving eve letting him know that if he had a ticket, he’d be all set to ride.
“We want to assure you that your Hartford Line ticket will be valid on all trains listed on our schedule both Hartford Line and Amtrak,” read the email response.
Two days later, because of Amtrak experiencing crowding on its Hartford Line trains, things changed. The tweet that night from “Hartford Line Alerts” served as an acknowledgment that seats aren’t being allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.