Copies of this letter were sent to Amtrak Boston Management, TCU, and UTU Representatives
From: TCU clerks John P. McCabe, Steven Rainone and relief clerks at Kingston
Fri, May 31, 2001
Somehow Amtrak got the message about comfort on board the train but seems to miss
the anxiousness of guests leaving the train to get themselves and bags out to the curb, and conversely the challenges of getting out to the trains and while boarding the trains. Seniors
and other challenged ‘guests’ are left to fend for themselves with luggage while trying to
understand the need and procedures for leaving the Kingston station in a van to access a train.
In the station at Kingston RI there are signs apologizing to the 'guests' that they may be shuttled to track one. Track one is opposite the station and was accessed by a gated fence under the direction of a *conductor-flagman, which passengers felt safely managed and went with no guest complaints. In some rare cases the flagman has had to request the train move forward to allow last minute passengers. When the station is closed trains use the crews to protect and cross passengers from track one side.
* ( The crossover with a flagman ran successfully from December to May 26th of this year.)
1.) Guests at risk of missing trains
Guests are being put at risk of missing westbound trains do to insufficient shuttle bus capacity and the lack of an implementation plan being set to manage the movement of passengers. A single agent on duty is being expected to handle reservations, ticketing, phones, and office work, as well as the duties of operation crafts, IE: movement of trains, shuttling, and passenger handling outside the station. Trains will not be held to await the shuttle past five minutes. Passengers being left behind may have no options when remaining trains are at full reserved capacity, and this is very common during peak times and summer season.
Example: One passenger went out to the bench to have a cigarette and missed the shuttle to track one. On seeing the train approaching on the opposite track he had to be stopped from crossing track 2 and jumping the fence. He was accommodated on the next train by the agent but had to rearrange his plans in New York. Fortunately there was a flagman to restrain him from jumping the fence. As expected, on May 27th , two guests went over the fence to track one to gain access to the train.
The so-called 'shuttle' is a nine-passenger dodge van that sits outside the station from about 8:30am to 5:30pm.
In an effort to save a few dollars the cheapest shuttle vehicle and driver were employed.
Even on a slow day this 'shuttle' van is sometimes forced to depart and return for additional pickups of 'guests'. Some guests have required a taxi, as they can’t climb up to van.
The van has to leave the station property drive to Rt. 138 and go west over the overpass. It then has to wait at a busy traffic light to make a left turn to Fairgrounds Rd., then it has to drive through a gated lumber yard and then onto Amtrak property to approach a fence opening which accesses the track one platform.
There was no time study done to inform employees at what point the van should leave the station, nor how often. Guests that don’t make the van are going to be left behind we are told.
This traffic light is at the intersection of the main entrance to American Power Conversion Inc. Headquarters which employee 1200 or so people around the clock. On shift changes the intersection is jammed up.
The Arnold's lumberyard is closed at five in the evening and the gate is locked.
According to RIDOT, Rt. 138 is an overused secondary highway of two lanes with a current traffic load of 20 to 30 thousand cars per day. During the summer this route is a major connection point from Exit 3 on Rt. 95 for vacationers and others to drive eastward to Newport and Cape Cod. Traffic crawls along in bumper-to-bumper fashion from as far west as Rt. 2 all the way up to and beyond the Kingston Village and Rt. 108 to the east.
The University of Rhode Island holds events that create even greater strains on the traffic patterns. Most of this traffic exiting out to Route138, less than a mile from Kingston Station.
Under this plan, indications seem to point to some major complications and unsafe situations as the summer season approaches.
2,) Guests being put at safety risks!
a. *Soon there will be no flagman or other employee to oversee operations outside at the station. The plan to save some revenue by not using the crossover gate and flag-man to manage passengers to track one is going to be replaced with allowing the passengers to figure it out on their own by use of signs and a 9 seat truck to get over to track one by way of the highway. (* The flagman jobs were abolished as of May 26th )
b. Passengers not transferred to track one are going to be put under stress with irrational actions predicated. As mentioned some have already used the fence-over as access.
There will be no one on duty outside the station to restrain passengers from attempting to jump over the fence or run around the end of the fence to get to track one and access the train.
However, with proper supervision and with a proper sized vehicle, a conductor flag-man could communicate with the passengers, bus driver, train crew and dispatcher, to assure that the entire process was safely handled and all passengers boarded to trains. Clerks are not authorized to hold trains or manage train operations. Train crews are not required to communicate or follow the instructions of clerks or non-operations personnel. The railroads have rules for those proceedings.
c. High speed trains are a daily reality now. Trains pass the Kingston Station at speeds of up to 130 mph on both track one and two. Since December flagmen were present to assure that persons along the platforms were alerted and safe. His duties include being aware of where all trains are at all times. He is in contact with those in his craft in the operating department to
communicate to the station and back to the dispatcher for safe passenger movements. With no access or egress to track one other than the nine-passenger shuttle bus, a very unsafe scenario is being created. *It should be noted that there has been a 19% increase in passenger use of Kingston Station from 1998 to 2000, the station handled over 79,800 passengers
in one year alone serving 16 trains per day. A station producing revenue at very decent figures per year and growing, requires the support and personnel appropriate to the goals set out by the carrier for it's customers, ( guests).
3.) Responsibility for this 'shuttle plan' has been loaded to the ticket agent on duty at Kingston Station.
a. There was no communication to include station personnel prior to and during the construction of the driveways and other preparation’s made. Only management and perhaps some engineering persons were in the loop.
b. There was no written statement, plan, request, or overview provided to the station personnel.
c. Just days before the initial planned start up of the 'shuttle' the station personnel were notified that they would be expected to cooperate to make this work, but that there would be no one there to assist or to work with other than the *driver of the shuttle.
*(The non-union driver is not an employee of Amtrak nor is he required to do anything but drive the van.)
d. The main function of the agent precludes working on tasks and aspects of the 'shuttle plan'.
Passengers would have to be ignored at the ticket window for outside functions to be managed, and or phone communications with a dispatcher in Boston, or attempts to guide the crews or passengers at platforms.
e. It appears that the persons responsible for the 'shuttle plan' concept left it to the Passenger Services department to figure out. The shuttle plan is ill conceived, badly communicated, severely lacking, and creating stress for all those concerned. There is no support for it by anyone in the field working for the railroad, or by any passengers subjected to it or learning of it so far.
Most important, with no *outside supervision, it is just plain unsafe, a mistake to use to justify what operational revenue it might save. The guests are poorly under-served! Use of the van driver to red cap at curb and at trackside is helpful but is crossing crafts with our jobs.
*( Outside supervision meaning an employee to manage and assist outside the ticket office, as well as to keep in contact with operation employees on train and in dispatching office.)
f. The flag jobs were abolished as of May 30 to protect guests on crossing, so the clerk on duty is the sole personnel at the sight. However, during this holiday weekend of Memorial Day holiday, a temporary red cap position was created for a four-day duration but not posted.
On May 27th, two guests were seen going over the fence between tracks one and two and around the southbound train to board it. This has been reported to the Amtrak Police in Providence. Spot coverage by red caps and police is not sufficient to the guest safety or service requirements.
Respectfully submitted on behalf of the clerks and myself at Kingston,
John P. McCabe, 6/24/74
Other clerks in opposition to this plan:
*These are figures from RIARP and National Association of Rail Passengers
** Based on averaging fares to vehicles parked at the station