No more Amtrak gate dragons

Boarding at major stations in the Amtrak rail passenger system long added needless hassle by pre-checking tickets before boarding at major stations including:

  • Albany, NY
  • New York, NY (Penn Station)
  • Chicago, IL (Union Station)
  • Boston, MA (South Station)
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • Washington, D.C. (Union Station)

This procedure was much loathed and derided. The pre-boarding ticket checkers were disaffectionately known as “gate dragons” and at Chicago Union Station you were introduced to gate dragons after being led to the gate on a “kindergarten walk”. However, there was not an official reason to have such draconian boarding procedures. An Amtrak memo posted to a paid-access railroad forum claimed this procedure has ended.

My Experience

My experience is that this is true–there are no more “gate dragon” ticket checks throughout the Northeast corridor, including Boston South Station, New York Penn Station and Washington Union Station.

  1. there were no pre-boarding platform ticket checks, no needless queuing
  2. The conductors scanned the tickets on-board the train, before or just after departing Boston South Station. Previously, conductors didn’t scan tickets until after RTE Route 128 Westford, MA station, which is about half an hour from Boston South Station.

Before riding, I feared that the no ticket pre-check would lead to MBTA commuter rail passengers mistakenly boarding Amtrak Northeast Regional trains, but the earlier on-board ticket check by conductors seems to mostly mitigate this possibility. I think this is an excellent change, allowing resources to shift to random checks and other more effective forms of transit security and efficiency.