Amid reports that some passenger have been kicked off crowded trains on the Hartford Line, the state is asking Amtrak to add cars to some trips between Springfield and New Haven to relieve overcrowding.In common with the rest of Amtrak's Northeast Corridor, the Springfield service, connecting with the electrified line at New Haven, is by reservation, and reservations plus high fares mean low ridership.
“We’re really watching a new market emerge here,” James P. Redeker, the state transportation commissioner., said. “The good news is that the program is working, ridership is growing.”While the Hartford Line provides much of the train service on the four-month-old commuter rail line, Amtrak trains also serve the route. Redeker said he did not have an exact timetable because Amtrak does not have a lot of extra cars. Amtrak trains on the Hartford Line have two cars and Hartford Line trains have four.
Prior to the start of the Hartford Line in June, Amtrak transported about 725 passengers a day between Springfield and New Haven. That number has now climbed to 2,000 with the introduction of the Hartford Line, boosted by more trips, lower fares and no caps on ticketing.
Now comes the Knowledge Corridor regional line, and it appears their tickets are good on Amtrak. (Is anybody in the Chicago or Boston area paying attention?)
Connecticut Public Radio reported Friday that some with CTrail tickets and U-Passes, which give students at participating colleges unlimited travel on buses and trains, were getting kicked off Amtrak when those trains reached capacity.It's not quite the freedom to choose any train the holder of a British Rail pass enjoys. It's a small beginning, though, if true.
The WNPR report cited two instances on the 4:32 p.m. out of Union Station in Hartford, and the long wait that followed for the next train.
Redeker said this may have happened for a couple of reasons. First, when Amtrak provides the service, it has two-car trains, while Hartford Line trains have four.
But it also may have more to do with past, ticket-selling practices at Amtrak. Before the Hartford Line, Amtrak worked on a reservation system, selling only as many seats as were available, at about 80 per car.
The Hartford Line removed caps on ticket sales. The incidents of passengers being asked to get off trains is probably tied to conductors filling in on the Hartford Line who normally work other routes, Redeker said. They probably aren’t familiar with the unlimited seating, he said.
“That’s completely unacceptable,” Redeker said. “We don’t want to see that, and I’m sure Amtrak doesn’t want to see that.”
Amtrak issued this statement: “Amtrak and CTDOT are working together to resolve the crowding issues that are occurring on some Hartford Line trains.”