Amtrak Ticket System Failure Nationwide

Readers and Twitterers report Amtrak’s ticketing systems are down nationwide. Tickets are being handwritten and they’re letting you purchase onboard. Maybe their computers heard that Biden was about to announce a $1.3billion infusion and simply freaked the freak out? (Photo: mbeldyk)

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  1. CRNewsom says:

    Wow, I totally misunderstood that headline. I interpreted it as “People are buying fewer Amtrak tickets.”

  2. bohemian says:

    Amtrak was the red headed step child for so many years it simply doesn’t know how to act now.

    Funding national rail = funding the interstate highway system.

  3. N.RobertMoses says:

    Like anyone would want their overpriced lousy service. I can take Bolt Bus for way less money and get much better service. Why have their fares gone up so much compared to a few years ago?

  4. Anonymous says:

    This happened to us last summer traveling from New Rochelle, NY to Boston. Got to New Ro, ticket vending machine down. Got on the train and conductors said they’d sort it out. Got to Boston without ever producing a ticket. Then, on the way back a few days later (system was fixed by then). Boston couldn’t issue us tickets because Amtrak said they were already issued (in New Haven). It was so hard getting them to understand there’s no way we could have picked them up in New Haven since we got on in New Rochelle. Anyway, made good friends with the Back Bay Amtrak guy who had to escort us onto the train and make nice with the conductor. Never did get tickets but they did charge my credit card.

  5. Pro8678 says:

    I believe there is still a giant hole in Memphis forcing those going south to get off the train, on a bus, and then back on another train to get around it. Sad.

    • scoosdad says:

      @Pro8678: No different in Boston. If you want to continue north to Maine on Amtrak (or on the commuter train lines serving most of northern Mass.), you have to get off at South Station where the NY line ends, then take a taxi or two subway lines to North Station to pick up the train to Maine.

      I guess the number of people who go from NY to Maine on Amtrak wasn’t worth the price tag to include a rail connector in the Big Dig project. But hey what’s another billion dollars in this economy, right?

    • Reginald2 says:

      @Pro8678: Hey! That giant hole you are talking about IS Memphis.

      I love Amtrak, but it is too expensive. Does anyone really have the time to travel anymore?

  6. nakedscience says:

    I’ve never been on a train!

  7. Ubik2501 says:

    So now I don’t even need to buy a ticket before boarding a train that’s 8 hours late? Fantastic!

  8. DarthVegan says:

    So, it’s like how it was before computers, then? I’ve seen North by Northwest. You can operate a train system without computers.

  9. Yoko Broke Up The Beatles says:

    Dr. Jones (in disguise) will physically throw you off the train if you don’t have a ticket.

  10. JGKojak says:

    So…. ummmm… if we are allowing people to travel on trains with no electronic verification of anything.. then what is the point of all the B.S. they put you through to purchase tickets???

  11. oneandone says:

    @N.RobertMoses: Bolt bus doesn’t go everywhere – not even DC-Philly. DC-NYC, and Philly-NYC, yes, but not anywhere in between… why does NYC get to be the center of the world? Some of us like smaller cities, and need to get from one to another.

    They (and I’m not sure who ‘they’ are exactly) should fix Amtrak and beef up regional rails. It’s sorry that NJ transit is pretty much the best state-wide system, since it also has quite a ways to go.

    • y2julio says:

      @oneandone: because NYC IS the center of the world. Got a problem with that? Move to NYC. Problem solved.

    • N.RobertMoses says:

      @oneandone: It seems like every time there is a NJ Transit rail problem it is on the tracks that Amtrak owns.
      And basically going from/to NYC is about all I care about. Amtrak does a piss poor job at an absurd price.

  12. TheWillow says:

    Thanks… I have a train in an hour and methinks I’ll be headed to the station earlier than I planned.

  13. TanKill3R says:

    God bless Amtrack! I used them when I lived in Norfolk. I could travel from their to DC for less then it would cost for gas in my car doing the same thing. And they had big comfy seats with a/c adapters at each one for laptops. Ahh.. Was heaven. Too bad air plains can’t learn from them.

  14. Blueskylaw says:

    Maybe Amtrak should outsource their ticket sales operations to TicketMaster.

  15. raleel says:

    I took the train a year or so back from Portland, OR to Pasco, WA. Very very enjoyable, outside of the crazy lady who sat next to me (not kidding, really actual mental health problems, picked her up out on weekend furlough I think). Took me about 30 minutes longer than by car, with the 4 stops, and if I made 4 stops between Portland and Pasco regularly, it would probably be the same.

    Anyhow, the space you got was very good. I actually got some work done. Gimme some wifi on there and a power outlet and it would make a fine alternative for short to mid-range travel.

    Took the train from Oslo to Bergen, Norway when I was there. Again, a very nice experience.

  16. Major-General says:

    So, how is this different than the rest of Amtrak?

  17. christoj879 says:

    Here’s what was going on: if your train was about to leave, you could purchase on-board. If it wasn’t, you could only purchase same-day tickets at the counter.

    If you purchased your tickets ahead of time and got the barcode to scan at the kiosk, you brought that onboard. Here’s where it gets fun: if you (said you) used your own credit card, they asked to see it, if you (said you) used another, they didn’t (weird – they said they were going to process everything on the back end to take care of it). They said that the way the ticketing system works is that they verify funds are available when you buy online, but don’t charge your card until you pick up the tickets. Since the pickup kiosk was down and everything was done by hand, methinks a lot of people got free travel today.

  18. Trai_Dep says:

    @N.RobertMoses: err, you DO realize that you could walk and even save more money, right?

  19. Floobtronics says:

    This may very well be may fault.

    I changed my Acela Express reservation this morning, en route to Boston South Station. I got my updated ticket printed when I arrived at the station, and boarded my 9:15am train out of South Station.

    A short while later, when we hit Providence, they made the announcement about allowing people to purchase on the train because of the system-wide ticket system fail.

    Sorry about that..

  20. thomaserb says:

    and how well do you think the government will run our health care system or create a universal medical records system.

    Amtrak is hugely subsided by the federal government. It should work in the close cities of Boston-NY-DC-PA but taking a train from NY to Chicago doesn’t make sense economically or environmentally.

  21. Anonymous says:

    I like the train and I take it when I can afford it (it has really jumped in the past couple of years — I’m prone to motion sickness so reading/doing anything but looking out the window is nearly impossible for me on the bus. The train is usually more comfortable and you can usually find a seat with an outlet.

    Twice, though, I haven’t ever had them take my ticket while onboard. Once, it was between Alexandria and Richmond (VA) and the next time, I think it was between Philadelphia and D.C. So it seems to me that it’s not too hard to get away with not buying a ticket.

  22. coold8 says:

    Damn it’s going to be even harder to pay $200 for a roundtrip from Philadelphia to D.C. I guess I will just drive my car for $40 in gas.

  23. TVGenius says:

    Most of Amtrak’s problems stem from the fact it’s been underfunded and not given enough power for too long. The freight railroads it’s forced to use in most areas could care less if Amtrak’s trains ever get through or sit on sidings for three hours. Had Amtrak been able to establish its own routes (and rails) you wouldn’t have gaps like those in Boston and Memphis, and the US wouldn’t have the worst-developed rail system of developed countries. I love how the government for years threw billions at the airlines, being private companies, yet Amtrak was constantly on death watch. I’m glad to see someone like Biden who understands the value of rail.

  24. Anonymous says:

    I traveled on this day and indeed all of the kiosks were down at penn station, making everyone stand in line at the limited ticket counters. Staff instructed us that printed confirmation pages would be accepted onboard however, my conductor simply recharged my credit card for half of the roundtrip fare quoted on my confirmation page (even though both legs were different prices). He stated that ticket agents would be able to charge me only the remaining portion of the quoted confirmation page at the arriving station. For the return trip, I had to print out both tickets, causing me to be charged twice for my arriving portion and now I have to get in touch with customer service to be refunded more than half of what my fare should have been.

  25. Zatnikitelman says:

    Normally I stay away from big arguments, but I feel I have to respond. Just about all you Amtrak bashers don’t understand jack!
    “There’s a hole in Memphis” there was, but it’s fixed, and the only operational problems were to the train and not passengers having to take a roundabout rote backing into the city.

    “environmentally unfriendly” This one takes the cake! Airlines burn thousands of gallons of fuel on NY-CHI and can transport maybe 100 people on that route. Amtrak can carry 200+ people and burn less than half, or even much less fuel.

    “longer trip time” Correct only on mid-range routes and corridors outside the North East and even non-NEC corridors are rapidly speeding up. For long distance trips though, trains usually beat road traffic hands down unless you plan to hand off drivers and not stop at all for anything.

    As for the topic at hand the ticketing system, go ahead bash Amtrak then get a plane ticket for the next time airlines ticketing systems go down. From what we’ve seen, they’ll cancel all the flights, balk at offering refunds, and along the way probably accuse someone of being a security risk. Whereas Amtrak just said “go, find your train, we’ll get it sorted out later.”