The Rail Passengers Association is looking for volunteers to help travelers navigate the Amtrak station in East Lansing.
It’s part of a nationwide service implemented to fill the void left after Amtrak un-staffed stations across the country.
You hear them from far away and are often told not to get too close. But in East Lansing, trains are a common way of travel.
“The station here in East Lansing, has more riders per train than most of the Amtrak stations in the entire country,” says Joshua Hamilton, Volunteer Program Manager and member of the Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers.
Hamilton says more than 70,000 people come through this Amtrak station a year.
He credits that to it’s location and students choosing train travel.
So you’d think there’d be a ticket agent, an updated message board, or just someone to share what to do… but that’s not the case.
“I think that MDOT and Amtrak had to make the best situation with the money that they had and unfortunately this station was one of the ones that wasn’t going to be able to carry a ticket agent all day,” says Hamilton.
Hamilton says in the Fall of 2017, the station was de-staffed as part of an overhaul to the National Rail Network.
Why the Rail Passengers Association wants to help fill the void and they’re doing that with the help of people like Steve Vagnozzi.
“I’ve been riding with my son who’s now 24 since he was 7,” says Vagnozzi.
Vagnozzi is the Treasurer of the Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers and also will be a volunteer.
He’s traveled everywhere from New York to San Francisco on Amtrak and says no it’s his turn to help others.
“A lot of people come here and especially if they’re first time riders, they’re not familiar with the process,” says Vagnozzi.
He’s just one of many who will volunteer to staff the station on peak days.
Wearing ID badges and safety vests, they’ll answer questions such as if you’re train will be late, questions about Amtrak trains and services, promote rail advocacy, highlight local attractions, and promote an inviting atmosphere at the station… with one goal in mind.
“his is our station. This is our community that we really love, and we want to make sure that when people come here or when they leave they’re welcome and they feel like this is a place they want to stay and continue to be,” says Hamilton.
The new program is looking for more volunteers.
There will be an open house from 6-8PM at the station on Friday, August 23 and another from 10AM-1PM on Saturday August 24.
Hamilton says, the volunteer program has also been implemented at many other stations around the country.