Cincinnati Fighting to Keep Ticket Agents

Cincinnati officials are eyeing providing assistance in an effort to keep open the Amtrak ticket office at Union Terminal.

The action came after Amtrak said it would remove its two ticket agents from Cincinnati on June 5.

“The city administration is glad to assist in these efforts should that be the desire of the mayor and City Council,” acting City Manager Patrick Duhaney wrote in a memo to the Cincinnati City Council, which must approve any expenditures.

Duhaney responded after being contacted by passenger rail advocacy groups Friends of the Cardinal and All Aboard Ohio, which asked elected officials and city administrators to help keep the ticket office open.

Cincinnati is served by the tri-weekly Chicago-Washington Cardinal. No. 50 arrives in the Queen City on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday while No. 51 stops on Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Both trains arrive in the middle of the night.

“While there are other stations on the Cardinal route that are unstaffed, Cincinnati is a popular, multi-level station which makes assistance by Amtrak staff for handicapped and elderly passengers very important,” Duhaney said in his memo.

He said that any loss of station services will degrade ridership and jeopardize continued service.

Aside from selling tickets, Amtrak’s two agents in Cincinnati assist with boarding and checked baggage.

Amtrak plans to hire a caretaker to open and close the waiting room before and after trains arrive.

The situation in Cincinnati is complicated by the fact that renovations at Union Terminal have forced Amtrak to temporarily locate to an adjacent, station facility on Kenner Street behind the Terminal.

The renovations at CUT are slated to be finished this fall.

Amtrak has cited an overwhelming preference by passengers to buy tickets online rather than at ticket offices as well as a desire to cut costs as motivating the closings of 15 ticket offices between mid May and late June.

“This is in no way a reflection on them,” Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said in reference to the performance of the agents in Cincinnati.

He said that the agents might be able to transfer to a different position within Amtrak.

After the Cincinnati ticket office closes the nearest Amtrak station with a ticket window will be Indianapolis. Amtrak also has ticket offices in Ohio in Cleveland and Toledo.

Magliari said the caretaker the passenger carrier plans to hire in Cincinnati will do more than open and close the waiting room.

He said that person will also assist passengers and receive training in how to operate the station.

The 15 stations set to close reportedly handle 40 or fewer passengers per day, yet rail passenger advocates content that Cincinnati should not be measured by that criteria due to the limited service and ongoing renovations of Union Terminal.

“Cincinnati is an outlier,” said Derek Bauman, the southwest Ohio vice chair for All Aboard Ohio.

“If you look at the other places where this has happened, [these are] basically smaller burgs,” he said. “I think that if it had not been for Union Terminal being under construction for the past year, that we would probably not have been in a position to lose our two people.”

Bauman expressed optimism that once the construction if completed at Union Terminal that Amtrak ridership in Cincinnati will increase.

“If anything, especially during this time of Union Terminal being rehabbed and the location and security and difficulty for (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance, we need the assistance of the full-time Amtrak employees,” he said.

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