How Amtrak Hopes to Give Riders 'Confidence in Their Journey' After Coronavirus

Amtrak is now requiring all passengers and employees to wear masks while riding.

Photo: Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Looking to the future, when coronavirus quarantines no longer restrict us from relaxing on a long train ride, Amtrak is preparing for their customers to return with the help of an enhanced mobile app and cleaning protocols.

"There's a whole fleet of technology that we've been working on, that I think in general provides customers with more information, more control, [and] easier transactions," Amtrak chairman Tony Coscia said on a conference call. "In response to the crisis we're in now, and the changing expectations of customers, we're just looking to see how can we accelerate that where we create less contact and easier use for our passengers."

Specifically, Coscia mentioned relying more on their app for tickets, and their text messaging system that provides passengers with boarding information "so that folks know right away where to head [and] they don't have to spend time walking around or engaging in more idle time in the station than necessary."

Starting May 11, Amtrak will require all employees and customers to wear face masks. The facial coverings must comply with the CDC's guidelines and will not be provided to customers. They can be taken off for eating and children are exempt from the rule.

Depending on rules in specific states, customers may be required to wear face masks in lobbies as well.

When it comes to meals on board, Coscia said the company envisions purchases being made in advance or on the app to ensure efficient and reduced contact during transactions.

"Rather than go and wait in the café, we can receive your order in advance and process that order and you can come and pick it up and have less interaction, and more control, and a better overall experience," he said.

As the coronavirus pandemic initially swept the U.S. over a month ago, Amtrak quickly accommodated customers by waiving change fees and amping up its cleaning protocol. Currently it's operating at 50 percent capacity and a 95 percent decrease in ridership. The popular Acela route that runs from Washington D.C. to Boston has been temporarily suspended.

Additionally, some stations may have less staff on duty as a precaution for social distance.

CEO Bill Flynn said the increased cleaning routine — which includes having a cleaning crew on board — will be continued when the virus subsides.

"We think this is what our customers will value as they come back," he said.

Describing overcoming coronavirus as an "enormous challenge," Coscia ensured the protocols they're looking to implement will improve riders' experience and give customers "a level of confidence about their journey."

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