Niles Amtrak station to cease ticket window operations March 1

NILES — As of March 1, travelers who visit the historic Niles Amtrak Depot will no longer be able to purchase their train tickets at the station’s window, after Amtrak representatives announced earlier this month that the ticket window is set to close.

Marc Magliari, the spokesperson for Amtrak, said most people are purchasing their tickets online, instead of at the station. This is in large part because it is cheaper to do so, because ticket fares go up the closer they are purchased to the train’s departure. 

“People want the convenience,” Magliari said via phone from his office in Chicago Tuesday. “The earlier you buy the ticket, the lower the fare. We have had e-ticketing for several years, the dollar volume across the counter is declining. We have been closing ticket windows because of attrition.”

The depot will remain open for customers to use from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Benches are available to those waiting for a train. Train hours will not be affected by the change. The station will still serve four eastbound trains and three westbound trains.

“It is a valuable service and a valuable building that we continue to occupy,” Magliari said. “We need people to understand that the station will not close.”

Those who wish to purchase their ticket right before departure can buy a ticket from the conductor using a cash transaction, though Magliari warned that these tickets will be more expensive.

The Niles Amtrak ticket window is open five days a week and operated by one full-time agent, Magliari said. That job will be eliminated. A part-time caretaker will be employed to look after the building.

With online ticketing becoming the most common way for customers to purchase tickets, Magliari said less than half of the Amtrak stations across the country have a ticket window agent.

Magliari said Amtrak has discussed the changes with the city and the Four Flags Garden Club, a volunteer organization that cares for the station’s grounds. Should either party be interested, Magliari said they could discuss a train station host program to serve as a station ambassador.

The historic depot was constructed in 1892 by the Michigan Central Railroad and was known by travelers for its lush gardens, which were tended by German immigrant John Gipner. The building is modeled in Richardsonian Romanesque-Style and has served as a Niles landmark since it began operations.

The Four Flags Garden Club has long been part of the effort to preserve and care for the station’s grounds. The club was inspired by Gipner, to keep the grounds thriving.

Karen Persa, the public relations operator for the club, said the changes will not discourage the club’s efforts to preserve the station and its beauty.

Persa said she could not comment further on the change.

“Right now we just have to wait and see,” Persa said.

Amtrak has owned and operated the Niles Amtrak Station since 1971. The services are sponsored by the state of Michigan.

Magliari encouraged Amtrak customers to take advantage of online conveniences when planning to ride the trains. For more information, visit amtrak.com/home.

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