Here is what Amtrak rides might look like post-pandemic

Expect technology to take over.

Anna Rahmanan
Written by
Anna Rahmanan
Photograph: Shutterstock

Since the coronavirus has hit the United States, railroad service Amtrak has—unsurprisingly—witnessed a 95% drop in ridership coupled with a halving of each train's maximum capacity. 

As companies strive to find creative ways to still deliver their services and governors start discussing plans to open up the economy, Amtrak has been working on a post-pandemic plan that seeks to "create less contact and easier use" for passengers. 

Official changes will kick in on Monday, May 11, when all passengers and employees on both trains and buses will be required to wear face coverings. The requirement will only be loosened for those in private rooms and others sitting "alone or with a travel companion in their own pair of seats." Small children and folks spending time in dining areas will also be exempt. All passengers will be responsible for bringing their own face coverings.

While on a conference call with reporters, the company's chairman, Tony Coscia, addressed the proposal in a more detailed manner, mentioning "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."

Those tech developments will likely rely on a ticket app and a text messaging system that will relay boarding information to all passengers in order to reduce crowds within stations. The idea is that if people know where they need to go, they won't have to spend a lot of time walking around a station to find their track.

The app will also take care of on-board refreshments, allowing riders to order food and drinks via their phones. "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," Coscia explained on the call.

The company increased its cleaning routine as soon as reports on the virus' spread made headlines and, according to CEO Bill Flynn, the new protocols won't change any time soon. "We think this is what our customers will value as they come back," he said, mentioning on-board cleaning crews. 

We're thankful for the company's hard work and are looking forward to the next time we could sit and enjoy a beautiful cross-country trip. In the meantime, we'll be daydreaming about the most scenic train rides in America.

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