Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

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For various reasons, I have to have a couple of the tickets for my transcontinental Worldcon train trip re-issued, and that requires going to a staffed station because I have to turn in the old tickets to get the new ones.

On one of the intermediate legs of the trip (Schenectady-Chicago on the return), Amtrak changed the car number in which our sleeping compartment is located from car 4910 to 4911. Without the re-issued ticket, we wouldn't be able to get our bedroom.

The second re-issue is more complicated. The very first leg of the trip is Salem OR-Emeryville CA (SLM-EMY). This was also the only overnight leg of the trip we had to buy rather than using frequent-purchase points. (SDY-Montreal outbound is purchased as well because it couldn't be connected to the point-using Chicago-SDY leg.) Originally, this was just going to be Lisa, so when we originally set up the trip, we bought her a ticket (including a roomette). Recently, I got permission to "bracket" the trip by working in Oregon the three days before leaving Salem and the four days after getting back. That means adding me to Lisa's roomette on the SLM-EMY leg of the trip, with me purchasing a coach fare but riding along in the same roomette. (Roomettes hold up to two people, and the cost of the room is the same regardless of whether one or two people stay in it -- the coach fare is separate from the room cost.)

Adding someone to an existing roomette turns out to be more difficult than you would think. I spent time on the phone with an Amtrak reservation agent, who thought he'd set it up correctly and gave me a reservation number. I then walked over to the Fremont/Centerville train station, where there is no station agent, but there is a ticket vending machine. (I'd previously printed all of the other tickets for my trip from that machine.) When I issued the ticket, I realized it was missing my Amtrak Guest Rewards number, so I called Amtrak to add my number to the ticket. Looking more closely, I realized that my ticket said only "reserved coach" and didn't point at the roomette in which Lisa was staying. I brought that to the attention of the agent on the phone, and she looked at the two reservations (mine and Lisa's) and said the first agent had done it wrong and hadn't properly associated the two. She went through a bunch of jiggerty-pokety at her end and redid the reservation so it should properly relate to Lisa and the roomette. If she had not done that, when we boarded in Salem next month, the conductor might have banished me to the coaches. Even if they'd let me travel with Lisa, I might have had to pay for my meals (which are included in the cost of a roomette) and I would have been using up a coach seat back the cars, possibly preventing someone else from traveling.

While I can print new tickets from the machine at Centerville, you can't re-issue tickets there. Because on Amtrak, paper tickets are still magic, they can't just cancel the ticket and say, "print another one at Centerville." They have to see and destroy the old ticket before they can issue a new one. This is presumably because the conductors on the trains have no way of checking records, and generally speaking, access control to the trains is via the conductors on the ground. This is one of the good things about train travel -- you don't have to show up two hours early and endure Security Theatre to board a train -- but for now it does mean a trip to one of the staffed stations.

I could of course drive to San Jose, Oakland Jack London Square, or Emeryville, but instead, I bought a round-trip to Emeryville and a little later this morning will take a train up there, deal with the ticket re-issue, and explore the area around the station for an hour or two, probably having lunch up there, then coming back on a train later in the afternoon. After all, I have a train station within easy walking distance of my house; why not use it?

While getting a haircut yesterday afternoon, I mentioned my plan to take the train to Emeryville today, and the barber said, "You mean BART?" I said, "No, the train between San Jose and Sacramento via Fremont and Oakland." He didn't even know the trains existed. To him, the only trains there are around here are BART.

(If the Metropolitan Transportation Commission hadn't stolen the bridge toll money earmarked for restoring commuter train service across the Dumbarton Bridge and redirected it to BART, I could have had decent hope of someday being able to use the train to get to my office. The MTC laughingly claimed that the north-south BART line from Fremont to Warm Springs is the "same transportation corridor" as the east-west trans-Bay Union City-Fremont-Redwood City Dumbarton Bridge route. Had I known they would do that, I wouldn't have voted to increase bridge tolls and I would not have urged my friends to vote for the measure. The money is styled as a "loan," but all such "loans" to BART are one-way propositions because BART simply acts as a money sponge, soaking up funds that could have been used for much more cost-effective projects.)

Besides, it's a "spare the air" day today and we're supposed to avoid driving if possible, so it seems like a good day to combine errands and take the train.
Tags: lisa, trains, travel

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