Part of the Bay Area News Group

down and out in Berkeley

By enelson
Friday, August 25th, 2006 at 5:13 pm in Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), Security.

Cap Corridor in Berkeley.jpg

Photo from 

Funny that just as I’m about to write a story about the Capitol Corridor’s triumph over our limited railway network, nearly doubling its service to San Jose and adding more trips to Sacramento, I get a call from someone who’s less than pleased with the service.

In the corridor’s defense, he’s not a regular rider, but this one-time experience was a doozy.

David Francis of Wooster, Ohio, was visiting his mom in Oakland in July when he agreed to send his 15-year-old daughter to see an old friend in Davis.

Like many parents putting their children onto public transportation, “I was worried about the other passengers…,” he told me.

Turns out, according to his daughter’s account, it was the conductor he should have been worried about.

She told her dad that the conductor demanded see her identification, and when she explained that she was 15 and had none, he yelled at her to “GET OFF MY TRAIN!”

He then proceeded to herd her off of the train at Berkeley, which is unstaffed and hardly the sort of place you want your Ohio farm girl dropped off without a cell phone.

All this after paying for a ticket.

Francis said he has tried and failed to get satisfaction from Amtrak, but had no idea that Amtrak is running the line for the multi-county Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority. I gave him their number.  

“What I was hoping was that I would get a letter saying, hey, we’re sorry that this happened. If they said the conductor has been fired, or that the conductor has been punished in this way, then I’d be satisfied with that,” Francis said.

I told him that the Capitol Corridor people have worked hard to cultivate a customer-conscious environment, and they might be more responsive than a national entity like Amtrak.

Whatever happens, Francis got his daughter after she  borrowed a cell phone from a stranger and he got directions from the phone’s owner.

She’s ok, luckily, but if her story is accurate and I were running the railroad, I would hope that an apology and a free train ticket will be enough to set things right.


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11 Responses to “down and out in Berkeley”

  1. George Head Says:

    I sent this to my friend who works for Amtrak. You can bet he’ll let his boss-man (the District boss) hear about it.

  2. Frequent Amtrak Rider Says:

    Could you please follow up with this story? I’d like to know the outcome. As a periodic Amtrak rider (1-2 trips per year) and someone who works in public transit, I am very interested in how this gets resolved. This could have turned out quite badly for this young woman who was dumped in a strange place where she had not idea where she was or how to get home.

    By the way, does Amtrak require ID? I know they ask for ID on the train when they request your ticket but I didn’t realize it was required. If it is required, shouldn’t clerks advise every person who buys a ticket about any existing requirements or restrictions? And is the only alternative to throw people off the train? This is very troubling since they don’t check your ticket or ID until after the train has left the station.


  3. Frequent Amtrak Rider Says:

    ID is required but the website is confusing about what is required of someone 15 traveling unaccompanied. Ticket clerks should always tell passengers about the ID requirements for the benefit of first-time riders, or have something written to pass out, particularly if the consequences are to be ejected from the train.

  4. Regular Rider "D". Says:

    I am responding to the Father who sent his daughter, who is a minor I might say, on a train ride, supposedly by herself WITHOUT any identification what so ever, no school ID or a cell phone (for an emergency) on a train ride….PLEEZE

    With all the terriorist things going on in the media, which they are targeting major transportation vehicles in major cities, how and why would he do such a stupid and not thinking clearly thing to his young daughter. Especially in a strange city where she supposedly did not know anyone!!!


    I was on that specific train that Friday morning being a regular commuter, and was on the car when the Conductor, who I might say, was doing his job of collecting tickets and asking ALL passengers for thier ID’s, approached your daughter who was sitting with another woman, who was acting strangely because she too did not have any ID. She got out of her seat was walking down the isle to see if anyone on the train had seen her and the girl because someone else bought the tickets for them… she did not think they needed an ID….

    “YOU HAVE TO SHOW ID TO GET THE TICKETS BECAUSE THEY HAVE YOUR NAME’S ON THEM” That is confirmed once you get on the train….DUH

    The conductor politely told the two women ( lady and young girl) that they needed ID’s or they would have to leave the train at the next stop…

    The conductor continued his regular business of going through the train of collecting ID’s and tickets, which is required by ALL major transportation company’s. NEWSFLASH….WHO KNOWS WHO ANYWAY… HELLO!!!

    At the next stop which was Berkeley, the TWO females walked down the train stairs and were on the platform in Berkeley on a cell phone, when the train left the station.

    So, if someone is looking for any punishment for actually doing their job, then something must be wrong here.. I can say that I know that the conductor did suffer from his employer, but I feel that the whole situation was blown out of proportion AND unnecessary. Especially since there was no yelling, or screaming to “get off my train”…Let’s be real here..






  5. David Francis, The Father, Wooster, OH Says:

    This is from the Father of the Girl put off the train.

    AMTRAK rules state that minors (15-18) can travel without an ID as long as the ticket is purchased by someone with an ID. I had this discussion with the ticket agent when I purchased the ticket, and the ticket agent checked my ID. AMTRAK rules also state that a minor is never put off a train at an unstaffed station. And, the conductor was told explicitely by my daughter that she was a minor travelling alone. At the least the conductor broke two company rules.

    On the subject of the conductors behavior, he was yelling at passangers from the moment they were getting on the train. This included an elderly gentelman who was heading toward a car nearer the engine from where our conductor was, “NOT THAT CAR, I SAID THIS ONE”. There were other witnesses to this behavior, and it is not difficult for me to imagine that the yelling continued on the train.

    Queen B is right. I was stupid to trust my daughter’s safety to AMTRAK.

    A possible solution so that this doesn’t happen again? Check tickets and IDs before letting people on the train.

  6. Realistic Dope Says:

    It is unfortunate Isabel was mistreated on Amtrak, especially in light of the increasingly unfriendly skies. Train travel is usually a pleasant experience for many, despite the many delays on Amtrak.
    I am glad the conductor was punished for how he acted. A month without pay, formal disciplinary action, AND re-training are NOT a mere “slap on the wrist” for the conductor. Endure through all that, and any intelligent person will be thinking twice.
    However, if all he got was a letter of reprimand and was back to work the next week, then THAT would be a slap on the wrist. Let’s not call an apple, an orange.
    As for a hearing: sorry, but that is not likely to happen now. Amtrak personnel at Emeryville have no authority to “promise” a hearing. As Isabel stated, “AMTRAK personnel … asked if I would be WILLING TO TESTIFY” (emphasis added). The filed complaint is an OFFICIAL statement and is entered ON THE RECORD in disciplinary proceedings. In-person, oral testimony is NOT required if a written statement suffices. If, however, a formal hearing were necessary, such as due to factual ambiguity, then Isabel and her dad could be called to testify.
    Here, the written complaint was sufficient, alone, to find the conductor acted inappropriately. Amtrak took disciplinary action. CASE CLOSED.
    To Isabel and her dad:
    If you want a personal apology from the conductor, then demand one. But understand, the time for confrontation is over; YOU WON, without needing to waste your time, AND money, to attend a formal hearing, in California.
    CAVEAT: How much time and money would it cost you and your Dad to come back out here to testify? Your Dad, a hard-working man, will be forced to take time off work, use vacation time, AND need to leave your sisters under care (assuming they are minors). You are probably starting back in school now, meaning, you will miss class and have to make-up work. What, then, is the real cost, to your 20 minutes at a hearing? Is it realistic?
    Just let Amtrak be it’s beaucratic self, knowing you made some jerk conductor just a wee bit wiser, and go enjoy the free travel Amtrak has offered (or, at least, post it on eBay and cash out for a nice family dinner somewhere).

    PS: David- You were NOT stupid to trust Isabel to Amtrak, though you might want to think about a cell phone for her (I’m sure she’s now saying, “See, Dad, even these people think I need a cell phone!”) Here, you happened to find the rare bad apple on the tree; just don’t expect the tree to produce applesauce too.a

  7. V.E Says:

    I agree with Queen B. I recently took an Amtrak train to Stockton and was not allowed to board without ID for security reasons and yes I was angry but, thinking realistically this is for the safety on our transit systems. I do think the conductor may have been a bit insensative and should have investigated other options and not put this minor off the train once she was allowed to board, this was a child he made get off the train and things could have very well turned out differently. I do feel both parties had some responsibility in this situation. Parents get your children ID this could have prevented this problem regardless to the rules

  8. Frequent Amtrak Rider Says:

    Minors 15 and under are not required to carry ID. The conductor violated Amtrak policy, which is why he was suspended. Queen B seems to have observed an entirely different incident. I’ve never had my ID checked before boarding. It’s always after the train has left the station.

  9. The Capricious Commuter » Blog Archive » Amtrak, Corridor apologize to Isabel Says:

    […] After being booted from Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor in Berkeley and failing to obtain satisfaction from Amtrak, Isabel and her father, David Francis, finally turned to the multi-county Capitol Corridor, which pays Amtrak to operate its railroad service between Auburn and San Jose. Here is the result of that effort: In addition to the conductor who booted her being sent home without pay for 30 days, the Corridor’s managing director, Eugene Skoropowski, outlined these steps in a letter to Michael Graff of the Bay Rail Alliance: Michael,I just returned from a week off and found all this info on the incident had come into my office. I have attempted to call the girl’s father (left messages at both his office and on his cell phone). He did speak to our Marketing Manager, Priscilla Kalugdan on Friday last, but she was not aware of the incident.I was aware of the incident, but I had no information on the name and contact information of the passenger (this may have been given to Amtrak staff at Emeryville, but our office did not have this information).Amtrak operates our Capitol Corridor trains under a contract, and all employees on the trains are Amtrak employees. While we cannot become directly involved with relations between Amtrak and its employees, we clearly do become involved when an incident involves one of our customers. Hence, my attempt to contact the girl’s father, and I will extend an apology to his daughter. I expect that he and his daughter will also hear directly from Amtrak.As for the Amtrak employee, yes, he has been returned to work but only after being off for a month without pay, formal disciplinary action is now in his personnel file, he has been ‘counseled’ on proper conduct in such situations in the future, and I can tell you that he is one very sorry person about this whole incident. It almost cost his family their livelihood, and he knows it. In any future incidents, I think the conductor will use his head and his heart before enforcing what he thinks are the Amtrak rules.From my perspective, I think the employee situation has been addressed and taken care of. The apology to the customer has not, and that is what I am trying to take care of now. I think our Capitol Corridor riders know that we are trying to operate a customer-based service. I still read every e-mail that comes into my office, and see that those that require a reply get one. This one is no exception.In a business that relies on human talent to operate the service, and provide the major contact with the customers, there will be an occasional ‘human failing’. This incident certainly qualifies. The ability to apologize to others for our mistakes, and forgive those who fail when the apology is sincere, is what distinguishes our civilized society from other societies that are not so forgiving.I am attempting to provide a measure of ‘healing’ to this incident.Gene    […]

  10. Sergio Rojo Says:

    To whom can I make a complaint re a Caltrain/Amtrak conductor’s actions?
    -Sergio Rojo

  11. Capricious Commuter Says:

    Sergio, Amtrak would be the agency that hires and disciplines conductors. However, you might do better if you contact Caltrain (I’m assuming that’s where the problem occurred). I spoke to one of their media reps and she said the best number to call is Caltrain’s customer service at 1-800-660-4287. So I’m dying to know: What was the issue?

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