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Is anyone else frustrated with Amtrak.com to make a reservation?

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Is anyone else frustrated with Amtrak.com to make a reservation?
Posted by anglecock on Sunday, July 24, 2022 8:08 PM

I entered all the info for Saratoga to Burlington VT and the button would not let me make the reservation nor give me times the agent which took 20 min to answer after begging Juile to connect me 4 times had no idea when the New Ethan Allen train would be starting WTF What The Flubber!

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Posted by Overmod on Monday, July 25, 2022 2:00 PM

I have fundamental disagreements with any site that does not provide an up-to-date route and a timetable showing the arrival times at each point on that route.  I also have a fundamental disagreement with any site that does not give me a calendar of open times and prices, so I can either 'time' my travel for economy or have some idea when open departure and return times are.

You'd have to be hard up indeed to actually ride something like the modern Amtrak as 'transportation' to get from one point to another.  Yet this is the only thing the current site is geared to provide... imperfectly, as you noted.

I do enjoy and appreciate the tracker app.  But in a world where unanticipated delays, only some of which are objectively caused, seem to happen regularly, having to continue watching to see where the system says the train currently is just isn't a substitute for something that actually tracks anticipated arrival times accurately and displays those in some form like an alert you could set with a last-mile travel-time offset to know when to go pick someone up... or provide them with one of those catered hot meals or snacks we keep discussing.

 

 

 

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Posted by BaltACD on Monday, July 25, 2022 5:01 PM

Overmod
I have fundamental disagreements with any site that does not provide an up-to-date route and a timetable showing the arrival times at each point on that route.  I also have a fundamental disagreement with any site that does not give me a calendar of open times and prices, so I can either 'time' my travel for economy or have some idea when open departure and return times are.

You'd have to be hard up indeed to actually ride something like the modern Amtrak as 'transportation' to get from one point to another.  Yet this is the only thing the current site is geared to provide... imperfectly, as you noted.

I do enjoy and appreciate the tracker app.  But in a world where unanticipated delays, only some of which are objectively caused, seem to happen regularly, having to continue watching to see where the system says the train currently is just isn't a substitute for something that actually tracks anticipated arrival times accurately and displays those in some form like an alert you could set with a last-mile travel-time offset to know when to go pick someone up... or provide them with one of those catered hot meals or snacks we keep discussing.

It is exceedingly hard for 'bit & byte' counters to place themselves into the minds of end users for a web site such as Amtrak's.  Remember the 'bit & byte' counters KNOW they are beyond reproach and the end users are just the 'great unwashed' and not worthy of being given a user intuitive web site that they can easily and productively navigate.

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Posted by Backshop on Monday, July 25, 2022 5:31 PM

anglecock

I entered all the info for Saratoga to Burlington VT and the button would not let me make the reservation nor give me times the agent which took 20 min to answer after begging Juile to connect me 4 times had no idea when the New Ethan Allen train would be starting WTF What The Flubber!

 

I thought that you were riding your bike?

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Posted by CMStPnP on Tuesday, July 26, 2022 3:43 AM

BaltACD
It is exceedingly hard for 'bit & byte' counters to place themselves into the minds of end users for a web site such as Amtrak's.  Remember the 'bit & byte' counters KNOW they are beyond reproach and the end users are just the 'great unwashed' and not worthy of being given a user intuitive web site that they can easily and productively navigate.

I can tell you all the years I spent as an IBM Data Warehouse consultant and even now working near the top of the Federal Government, the problem is always the manager(s)  in charge of end user experience who do not have any clue what the end users do or even how they use the system.    They are not "bit and byte" people by any means.   Additionally, most websites are written by interpreted languages vs machine languages which is also a little removed from bits and bytes and allows the programmers to be far less intelligent with design and operation.

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Posted by anglecock on Tuesday, July 26, 2022 6:19 AM

Yesterday I walked into the Rutland Vermont Chamber of Comerace and the President of the Chamber had the same problem too. We should just go back to paying cash in where the conductor has a little book that he flips though to find the fare

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Posted by BaltACD on Tuesday, July 26, 2022 8:44 AM

anglecock
Yesterday I walked into the Rutland Vermont Chamber of Comerace and the President of the Chamber had the same problem too. We should just go back to paying cash in where the conductor has a little book that he flips though to find the fare

Doubt that present day Amtrak Conductors are qualified on such a system.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Tuesday, July 26, 2022 9:12 AM

Perhaps Amtrak should get the people who develop European websites to redo theirs?  My DB Navigator works smoothly, in multiple languages.

Or just contract with CMStPnP?

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Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, July 26, 2022 9:42 AM

BaltACD
anglecock
Yesterday I walked into the Rutland Vermont Chamber of Commerce and the President of the Chamber had the same problem too. We should just go back to paying cash in where the conductor has a little book that he flips though to find the fare

Doubt that present day Amtrak Conductors are qualified on such a system

Would be just as easy on a smartphone or phablet...

Of course they'd be provided a link to the mobile version of the current yivshish, and have to type airport codes into little boxes to get any actual information.

Very likely this is a commercial package, sold by the lowest competitive bidder that was Federally qualified, that has been optimized to actually sell tickets.  And then do all the back-office magic needed to guarantee the space, confirm the payment information and credentials, etc.  It is not optimized for any purpose other than 'arranging transportation' for people who want to pay money to get from A to B.

It is scarcely the fault of 'programmers' that such a system was specified and adopted.

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Posted by BaltACD on Tuesday, July 26, 2022 11:01 AM

Overmod
 
BaltACD
anglecock
Yesterday I walked into the Rutland Vermont Chamber of Commerce and the President of the Chamber had the same problem too. We should just go back to paying cash in where the conductor has a little book that he flips though to find the fare

Doubt that present day Amtrak Conductors are qualified on such a system 

Would be just as easy on a smartphone or phablet... 

Of course they'd be provided a link to the mobile version of the current yivshish, and have to type airport codes into little boxes to get any actual information.

Very likely this is a commercial package, sold by the lowest competitive bidder that was Federally qualified, that has been optimized to actually sell tickets.  And then do all the back-office magic needed to guarantee the space, confirm the payment information and credentials, etc.  It is not optimized for any purpose other than 'arranging transportation' for people who want to pay money to get from A to B.

It is scarcely the fault of 'programmers' that such a system was specified and adopted.

Wheneve a 'new' system is implemented in virtually any form of business activity and becomes operational for any period of time; it becomes impossible to return to the 'old' way of doing things because all the checks and balances of the old system were eliminated when the new system was implemented.

Systems when implemented always have a system of checks and balances to ensure that the system remains accurate in achieving its goals.

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Posted by CMStPnP on Tuesday, July 26, 2022 1:14 PM

charlie hebdo
Or just contract with CMStPnP?

I am not a website person as I have a low tolerence for stupidity that is rampant in that field among the inexperienced as BaltACD described in part.    Some of what BaltACD said is true of inexperienced website developers with no proper supervision but again that is a Manager issue more than performer issue.   We hired a guy when I was at Verizon IT from what I was told was the top IT college in India.   His job was to implement an algorithum to validate a telephone number.   Smart thing to do would be pull that code off the internet because someone even smarter than him wrote it already.    Instead he writes it form scratch, 19 lines of code that took 4-5 min to execute behind the UI screen after data entry.    A normal programmer would have implemented the one line of code solution off the internet using regular expression pattern recognition which executes in less than a second.   Verizon had him back looking for a job a week later.

My team lead who is about half my age or less is a Angular user interface programmer and a full stack Java programmer it took him 12+ years to get there.    I started down the path of full stack Java, there are about 12-15 different software packages and add-ins you have to be proficient in.    With full stack Java you write the software based test cases to test the software and there is a supervisory software package that reviews what you wrote and identifies scenarios you have not tested properly using the software already written.  It's really kind of cool.     

I will probably retire before I get anywhere near his level of experience.     He has done a number of user interfaces and rarely if ever gets any push back from the users because he knows what he is doing.   Rarely any bugs in his applications as well.

There is no inability to work together between himself and I because while he knows the Java and User interface part........I know the database and back end OS and system integration part.    So when we work as a team we compliment each other......which is how IT teams should be developed.   

At a lot of companies you have say 12 people all competing for recognition as the "go-to" person for one software package, which leads to a lot of arguing, turnover and HR issues.    Usually only 1 of the 12 is any good and refuses to share experiece with or mentor the other 11 trying to catch up.    Everyone should have a speciality in an area that is needed.

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Posted by CMStPnP on Tuesday, July 26, 2022 1:35 PM

BaltACD
Wheneve a 'new' system is implemented in virtually any form of business activity and becomes operational for any period of time; it becomes impossible to return to the 'old' way of doing things because all the checks and balances of the old system were eliminated when the new system was implemented. Systems when implemented always have a system of checks and balances to ensure that the system remains accurate in achieving its goals.

This is true but it is not always one computer system.   Where I work currently it is a combination of computer systems spread among different departments and the record bounces from system to system until it reaches it's final destination.   That is pretty normal for most companies.    Your right though that once a new system comes online and runs in parallel with the old system until the end users are convinced both systems produce the same output.    Then old system is turned off and disks are wiped clean of the old software and repurposed.   End users have to sign off that both systems are producing the same output before the old system is done away with.   So if ever it happens that logic or business rules were lost.    Whomever managed that process is incompetent.    Never seen it happen in my career but I would not be surprised it happens at some companies.  Most especially at companies that outsource to second and third world countries.

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Posted by CMStPnP on Tuesday, July 26, 2022 1:43 PM

BaltACD

We had a former VIA Rail programmer at Verizon IT all those years ago when I worked there.    She was a very nice person personality wise but dumb as a rock technically.   So I am guessing that rules of government apply here to an extent as well.   I work for the Government now, they like to hire consultants to code systems then turn around and dump the newly coded system onto their own programmers with not much turnover...........so that is the flip side of the coin.   It is not always some government employee that has not kept their skillset current.

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Posted by anglecock on Wednesday, July 27, 2022 11:09 AM

anglecock

Yesterday I walked into the Rutland Vermont Chamber of Comerace and the President of the Chamber had the same problem too. We should just go back to paying cash in where the conductor has a little book that he flips though to find the fare

 

Dennis who had worked the ADK train since the D&H and later Amtrak knew how to use the book which he did up until his passing in 2001 as a Conductor who worked Deleware and Hudson and later Amtrak

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Posted by Overmod on Wednesday, July 27, 2022 11:27 AM

Personally, I don't think Amtrak is running its reservations on incompatible systems cobbled together with different legacy networking-protocol instantiations.

It is pretty clear to me that they bought a 'package' that could do scheduling and back-end fulfillment, and they bought it from a supplier that did the UI and IxD so unfortunately.  I have seen a number of cheap airlines and, I believe, bus lines that have the same idiotic required specification of time -- usually involving a search to get the origin and destination codes into the form the system wants, and then some ridiculous specification of how many people are traveling, whether any of them are children or elderly, any special needs, etc. -- which are of great importance for actual ticket sales, or companies looking loopholes to charge more, but of little value either in looking at route planning or to find the cheapest fare when 'time is not of the essence' -- this, on Amtrak, being so ironic a criterion as to make me laugh out loud.

It seems likely to me that such a 'package' will have been written in modular code, and to be as cross-platform compatible as possible.  It should not be difficult to locate a programming team that can hook into the Amtrak tracker app, populate it with train locations, and interface with a route map and schedule tables to make it easily searchable for the kinds of information we want.  The actual problem is that, just like Kalmbach, the organization doesn't want to spend the time and money to implement something without direct bottom-line effect.

It was always my practice to comment the hell out of source, to the extent that the comments far exceeded the actual LOC, so that anyone coming across it would understand the presumptions, design environment used, workarounds necessary or forced. etc. etc. etc.  That is particularly important for certain Government systems using obsolescent equipment in secure environments.  Where the fun starts is when the only codebase available is the compiled... optimized... obfuscated executed object code.  The problem is that code intentionally made hard for compilers to read or hackers to reverse-engineer is also hard for contract programmers...

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Posted by anglecock on Wednesday, July 27, 2022 2:11 PM

Getting a one way ticket was next to impossible...

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Posted by Harrison on Friday, July 29, 2022 9:20 PM

Sorry, only just saw this thread. The booking system was not set up for today (July 29th) but works for all subsequent days. Both trips were sold out anyway. 

Harrison

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Posted by anglecock on Monday, August 1, 2022 8:54 AM

Got on Montpelier to Randolph VT Sat at last minute. There was 25 other people who somehow got thru using 3rd party sites like Wanderlu to get tickets but poor me just kept hitting the green "Find Trains" button to no avail . The Conductor gave me some grace to let me get on which is probably a once in a lifetime deal

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