Posts Tagged ‘station volunteer programs’

Niles Station Host Program Set to Launch

December 7, 2018

Hosting open house events is the first step that volunteers in Niles, Michigan, are taking as part of their efforts to launch a train station host program.

Training will be conducted this month for the two dozen people who showed up at the open houses to volunteer for the program.

Eight Amtrak trains a day stop in Niles and the volunteer hosts will be able to work whatever hours they’re able.

Earlier this year, Amtrak removed its ticket agent from Niles and hired caretakers to open, close and clean the station.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the Niles station used to be open only through late afternoon, but with the caretakers and volunteers it is open from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m.

If the last train of the day is late, someone should be on hand to allow passengers and those meeting them to have access to the waiting room, restrooms and a pay phone.

Serving Niles are six Wolverine Service trains between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac) and the Chicago-Port Huron Blue Water.

Magliari said the Niles community has been active in helping Amtrak look after the depot, which dates to the days when the trains were operated by the Michigan Central.

During that era a local gardener would present a flower to each woman passing through the Niles station .

For many years the Four Flags Garden Club has maintained the station’s flower beds and decorated the depot for the holidays.

When Amtrak was planning to remove its Niles ticket agent, it contacted the Niles DDA Main Street program to ask it to help organize the effort to start a volunteer host program.

Director Lisa Croteau said the host program will help carry on the station’s “long history of hospitality,”

Croteau said the hosts will greet travelers, share tidbits about the history of the depot and serve as “kind of a concierge for the downtown and the city of Niles,” to tell people where they can get a ride or a bite to eat or whatever they need.

Magliari said the Niles program could serve as a model elsewhere in Michigan or in Elkhart, Indiana.

“It’s something happening in more and more places around the country where communities are engaging with us to have a welcoming presence in the stations,” Magliari said.

One of the Niles volunteers is Pete Womer, who is retired after working 40 years in the utilities department at the University of Notre Dame.

He told the South Bend Tribune that he was looking for a volunteer project, has been a train traveler for more than 50 years, and he loves to meet people and chat.

“In the long run, it makes customers feel a little more comfortable,” Womer said. “It’s a good feeling knowing you’re helping people out.”

RPA Starting Station Volunteer Program

July 30, 2018

The Rail Passengers Association is launching a program to provide volunteers to help passengers at Amtrak stations that have lost their ticket agent.

The program, known as the Station Volunteer Program, will provide information and directions for travelers, assist those who need help with luggage, and discuss train travel.

The first step will be to begin a pilot program at various stations to be named later. That is expected to get underway in August.

Winona May Create Station Volunteers Program

January 28, 2016

Residents of Winona, Minnesota, are considering launching a volunteers program to work at the city’s Amtrak station in the wake of the removal of the Amtrak ticket agent there late last year.

An Amtrak representative along with a member of a similar program in Kirkwood, Missouri, recently visited Winona to discuss how a volunteer program could be structured and operate.

Amtrak 4After removing its agent from Winona, Amtrak arranged for someone to open and close the station as well as do maintenance and cleaning.

Winona is a crew change point for the Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder.

Bill Burckhalter, the station manager for the Kirkwood Amtrak station said his community’s program started with volunteers serving in pairs and coming in an hour before train arrival times and staying for a half-hour after a train had departed.

The volunteers initially greeted passengers and saw them off, but the program has since evolved into providing information and receiving grants to operate, maintain and improve the station.

The City of Kirkwood later purchased the former Missouri Pacific station from Union Pacific.

Burckhalter said the volunteers are a mixture of of train enthusiasts and community members.

“I like the way the community has come together and surrounded the volunteer program,” Burckhalter said. “It’s grown so much.”

Charlie Monte Verde, an Amtrak government affairs representative, said the decision to remove the ticket agent from Winona was based on a shrinking need for staffed stations nationwide because many passengers purchase tickets and make reservations online.

“Nationally, and here in Winona, 85 percent of our customers were using e-ticketing,” Monte Verde said. “With that in mind we had come to the decision to reduce staffing here in Winona.”

Monte Verde said that Canadian Pacific still owns the Winona depot and uses part of it.

However, he said that developing a volunteer program in Winona could still work.  “I think it’s an environment where it can at least become a conversation,” Monte Verde said.

Winona Mayor Mark Peterson said there will be future meetings to discuss setting up a volunteer program.

In 2014, Winona had the second-highest passenger count among Amtrak stations in Minnesota, handling 20,318 passengers. St. Paul was the state’s busiest station with 94,077 passengers.