What you need to know about unstaffed stations
Unstaffed Amtrak stations are becoming more common for small to mid-sized communities across the country. Because of increased online ticket sales and cost-cutting factors, many stations lost their agents. The amenities at these stations vary greatly, but they are nothing to fear.
This page will inform you of what you need to know about unstaffed stations.
What is an unstaffed station?
An unstaffed station is as it sounds, a station without employees to help you while you are there. There are staff that cleans, open and close the station, but are employed or a vendor of the local municipality and not Amtrak.
What can you expect at an unstaffed station?
As Forrest Gump said, unstaffed stations are like a box of chocolate; you never know what going to get.
The biggest expectation you can have with unstaffed stations is this: the train will stop, and you can get on or off of it. Anything beyond that is a bonus.
Stations can range from a beautiful building such as my home station of Sturtevant, WI, or a bleak walk-in closet such as Kankakee, IL. Stations can are an open shelter or less, such as a sign and a place to stand, such as platform stations.
Amtrak’s website and the app offer information about each station in the system. It pays to do your research before you leave, so you know what to expect when you get there and are not disappointed.
Buying your tickets for unstaffed stations
You may purchase tickets for your next adventure in the following ways:
At the stations Quik-Trak ticket machines (not available at all locations)
- These machines allow you to buy or print out tickets with a few exceptions
- Check to see if a Quik-Trak is available at your station before you leave
- These machines only accept credit or debit cards
The internet or phone
- If you need assistance with booking call 1-800-USA-RAIL
- Online either by using Amtrak.com or the Amtrak app
Buying tickets on the train
- Not available on all train
- There might not be space if the train sold out before you boarded
- Cash only
- There is an onboard fee
For the best deals, buy your tickets early. (For more information on saving money with Amtrak click here)
If you purchase your tickets over the phone, on the app, or the web site, and it will come to you via an email. The eticket is printable from home or be the Quik-Trak Machine, or the conductor can scan the code off or a smart device.
If you use the app to buy tickets, the app will hold those tickets, and the conductors can scan your phone as well.
Select trains do allow tickets to be purchased onboard
Who owns the unstaffed station?
The maintenance and ownership of many stations fall on the local municipality, and they determine the building or shared space. Some towns take pride in their stations while others do not. Amtrak provides informational materials and ticket machines, but they are not responsible for these stations.
The big takeaways on unstaffed train station?
- You cannot check bags, pets, or bike at unstaffed stations (some exceptions do apply)
- The station may or may not have restrooms
- Could be a platform with a sign, and possibly a shelter
- Many have ticket machines but not all
- Announcements may or may not happen. If the station uses one track for boarding, they usually do not announce upcoming trains.
- There is no one there to answers questions
- The onboard staff will help you on and off the train
What to do to maximize your experience at unstaffed stations?
- When you buy your tickets, sign up for text or email alerts. If you do, Amtrak will text or email you if there are significant delays. You can sign up for alerts on the website at any time. You may even have messages sent to whoever picks you up; this is an easy way for others to stay up to date if your train becomes delayed. There are times you may not have a cell signal, so your ride can still be alerted to your arrival, providing they have one.
- Know how to use the status feature on the Amtrak website or app. This site will give you an idea of your trains arrival time. One thing to remember, most Amtrak trains do not run on tracks owned by Amtrak so the host railroad may cause delays for Amtrak trains. Amtrak has a twitter account dedicated to delays.
- You can use this website to help you track your train
- Look up your station on the Amtrak app so you know what that station can offer you
- Pack light
I hope this helps you understand what you can expect if you use an unstaffed station for the first time. The Sturtevant Station is my home station outside of Chicago Union Station. The main issues I have at these stations are from other passengers, for they do not prepare themselves, or they don’t listen to the announcements
If you have questions on traveling with Amtrak, please reach out, no matter the subject. If you need personal help planning your trip on the rails, Travels with Kev can work with for a reasonable rate. No matter how you need, help contact me HERE.