Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

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Lisa's Travel Plans & BayCon

Lisa looked at the cost of gasoline and the mileage that her Giant Orange Van gets, and asked me how much a round-trip roomette (standard bedroom) ticket on the Coast Starlight between Salem and San Jose would cost on the days around BayCon. According to the Amtrak web site, $493 (after National Association of Railroad Passengers discount).

"That's less than the cost of driving, given how much fuel the van burns," she said.

Her father agreed to pay the cost of an Amtrak ticket, and I called Amtrak and made the reservation. Lisa had seven days to take her and her father to the Salem train station and pay for the ticket.

So the two of them went in today to collect the ticket. Seems that when they got there, the ticket agent demanded Government Photo ID (which Lisa had forgotten to bring with her; her father was driving, and on principle she's stopped carrying ID on her when she doesn't need it for things like driving), and was very rude to her when she said she didn't have it. (Addendum: It is Amtrak policy that you produce ID when purchasing a ticket from an agent in person, albeit not from ticket vending machines or by mail.) Lisa says the agent said, "Well, you need ID to fly, so you need it to travel any other way as well."

Furious, she went home and called me. I called her father and we first tried to walk him through making a new reservation on the Amtrak web site, but what he's seeing on his computer wasn't what I was seeing. (You can't access a reservation made by phone on the Amtrak web site, so we needed a new reservation. This seemed okay at first because we'd just let the original reservation expire.) Then I tried to make a new reservation -- I know how to use that Amtrak web site, having made numerous reservations on it -- intending to have him give me the credit card information. But now the ticket cost about $50 more than it did yesterday.

I figure that the reservation we made yesterday filled up the last "bucket" at that price, so we were now seeing the next-highest bucket. We needed to pay for the original reservation in order to get the lower price. I took down my father-in-law's credit card information and called Amtrak and pretended to be him long enough to pay for the reservation and have the mail the ticket to Lisa. She still may have to show ID to board the train, although this doesn't happen as much when you board at smaller stations like Salem as it does at the large terminals like Portland or Seattle.

Of course it's all a silly game anyway. Forcing people to show ID to travel by train is just Amtrak (by government order) trying to show that they're Doing Something to Prevent Terrorism. Unfortunately, a recent court case appears to have upheld the right of the government to demand Your Papers Please when traveling by air or rail. I wonder when the roadside checkpoints start going up. I bet they start by putting them on state boundaries, on the grounds that the federal government should be allowed to regulate all interstate movements by any mode. *sigh*

Anyway, we eventually got Lisa's ticket paid for, and it should be in her hands soon. If all goes as expected (that is, if the Starlight is about as late as it lately has been, she should arrive in San Jose mid-afternoon on the Friday of BayCon, and we'll put her back on the train late Monday night (which does mean I'll miss the Dead Dog and BASFA meetings on the last night of BayCon, but such is life).

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