Sunday, May 25, 2008

Passenger Rail and The Directionally Challenged

A large part of the job of any CSR working for a passenger transportation company - be it airline, rail or bus - is getting people to and from the terminal. People will get on the 800 number and use it like a free GPS to get directions.

It gave us the idea that Amtrak, in addition to publishing system timetables and train-specific timetables, should publish timetables that include every U.S. municipality. Not that Amtrak will probably ever serve every city, even with bus service. But in today's computer-driven age, there is no reason not to be able to publish your time from say Skokie, IL, to Union Station, Chicago, by car. And then at the other end by whatever means to whatever municipality. Sure this would take a huge book if published on paper. But on the Web, it would be child's play to design pages that would give the consumer this timetable.

This way a customer not only gets some idea of how long the total trip will take, but the customer also gets a sort of guide. Coupled with system maps, this should be an attractive draw for customers. We know there are many potential Amtrak riders that shy away from riding the train for the very reason that they do not know how to plan the non-Amtrak ends.

More specifically, in the Skokie example, the timetable could give the time at Skokie, representing the time the Skokie-ite had to leave home. Then perhaps the time at Lawrence Avenue, Chicago, and the Edens Expressway, maybe the time to park the car in some long-term facility. At the other end, a time would be shown for the transfer say from Oakland Jack London to a San Jose bound train, and then add the California train schedule with maybe time for cousin Joe to drive you from San Jose to his home.

Yes, some travel agents do this now, but only with the parts where you buy travel. If you are driving yourself, you are on your own to figure times.

Maybe this is already being done somewhere, and if it is, we would like to see Amtrak pick up on it and figure out how to do it with their own schedules.

© 2008 - C. A. Turek -
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