Visually impaired woman says Amtrak didn’t help her

WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) — A 72-year-old woman who has relied on Amtrak for years wants to warn other passengers after a nightmare 18-hour trip.

Linda Kaye is visually impaired. She maintains her independence as best as possible by wearing specialty glasses and using a walking cane to sense her surroundings.

Last Friday, Kaye got on the early morning train from Grand Rapids to St. Joseph to visit her dad, a trip she’s done numerous times with no issues.

“It started out wonderful, nice scenery. Little chilly, but train was warm,” Kaye said.

Kaye said she always purchases a ticket to sit in the handicap car and when the time comes to get off in St. Joe, a crew member will help her off.

“My seat was marked, but nobody came. Then it started to move,” Kaye explained.

There are help buttons above the seats, Kaye said, but in previous trips she found they don’t work. Instead, she called Amtrak’s 1-800 number and waited as the person on the other end worked to get in touch with a supervisor.

Meanwhile, the train continued west and no crew member checked on the car she was in.

“So, all the people I was talking to at the number hadn’t even let the engineer — on the train I was on — know what the problem was. It just blew me away,” Kaye said. “Now I don’t feel safe. I’ve ridden Amtrak for years and it’s always been OK. so why am I so upset now? Because it was an emergency and there’s no way to contact anybody.”

The crew on board told her they couldn’t stop until they reached Chicago. Once there an Amtrak employee escorted Kaye to a lounge inside the train station, where they offered her food, movies and a paid trip back to Michigan.

Kaye added she was disappointed that no one took time to sit with her to discuss her concerns, though, including the help button not working and a crew member never coming to check on the handicap car before leaving St. Joseph.

“I (hoped they could) put me on a bus or a taxi or something and get me back to my father in St. Joe where I was supposed to get off. That was never offered or maybe I didn’t push it enough,” Kaye said. “If you care about your customers and want repeat customers like me, you’ve gotta fix this emergency thing. You gotta come up with a system that we can all use because there isn’t one now.”

An Amtrak representative contacted 24 Hour News 8 Friday night disputing a portion of the report that said Amtrak did not have a record of Kaye’s Feb. 2 experience.

24 Hour News 8 has requested more information from Amtrak showing there was documentation of the incident.

In the meantime, Amtrak responded with the following statement in two emails:

“We reached out to this customer, apologized for what occurred and hope to keep her as a customer in the future…

The operating crew members on this train on that day failed to give the service Amtrak expects and this customer ordinarily receives. That has been dealt with through our internal processes.

It was determined to be a better outcome to take this customer to Chicago, where we apologized and did our best to make her comfortable.

There are no scheduled stops between St. Joseph and Chicago. It would not have been appropriate to have disembark a customer short of Chicago without an emergency medical need.”