The last Amtrak ticket agent in Winona, Minnesota, will sell his last ticket in late December and then transfer to another job.
The station, which is served by the Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder, will remain open, but be maintained by a part-time worker, starting in early January.
Amtrak has agreed to install a ticket kiosk, but checked baggage service will end.
This represents a compromise of sorts after Winona residents and elected officials protested Amtrak’s plan to yank its ticket agents.
The initial plan, which Amtrak announced in August, was to have a caretaker open and close the station as well as keep it clean.
Winona is a crew change point for Nos. 7 and 8 and Amtrak said at the time that outbound conductors and engineers could answer questions from passengers as to when the train would be arriving.
Amtrak said most passengers buy their tickets online and that passengers desiring checked luggage service could take it to the La Crosse, Wisconsin, station, which will continue to have Amtrak ticket agents.
“So we have to make a business decision and the right business decision is to not have agents two stations in a row in both La Crosse and Winona,” said Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari back in August.
But that didn’t sit well with Winona Mayor Mark Peterson.
He lobbied Amtrak to keep Winona’s station agent and sought the help of Minnesota’s Congressional delegation and U.S. senators.
Peterson noted that ridership at Winona was second only to St. Paul in Minnesota and only slightly less than that at La Crosse.
As a result, Amtrak agreed to maintain the ticket agent in Winona through the end of the year and to hire a part-timer who will provide travel and train information
Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the employee will be more than a caretaker.
“A caretaker is just there to empty the wastebasket, but this is going to be doing more than emptying wastebaskets,” he said. “In some cases, the caretaker is more a custodian than someone who is there to help passengers, but in this case they will help passengers. They will be required to help passengers.”
Magliari said Amtrak on-board personnel will also be able to help passengers with their luggage.
Amtrak also plans to advise Winona residents how to launch a volunteer group to support the depot and greet travelers.
The railroad said it will pay for the leader of a friends of the depot group in Kirkwood, Missouri, to come to Winona to talk about the volunteer program.
“I’m pleased that they are listening and are doing something better than what they originally said they were going to do,” Peterson said.
However, he continues to hope to change Amtrak’s mind and keep a ticket agent in Winona.