Some work improving passenger flow at Amtrak’s Gainesville station is scheduled to be completed this month.
“Work to improve accessibility for passengers includes enhancing the entrance, restrooms and signage,” Amtrak spokeswoman Kimberly Woods said.
The station at 116 Industrial Blvd. has been a longtime stop for Amtrak as part of its Crescent route that runs from New Orleans to New York City, including a stop in Atlanta.
It leases the historic station, which resembles depots of a bygone era, from Norfolk Southern Railway.
Passengers getting on and off the morning train at the station last week said they believe the station was overdue for several improvements.
“I understand history, and that’s important, but not everything has to be ancient,” said Elizabeth Watson, about to board the train with her mother, Murtha Taylor, for Hattiesburg, Miss.
Tapping the back of the long wooden bench she sat on with her hand, Watson said with a laugh, “They need to put these in a museum.”
Passengers in the waiting area said they believed the station needed to at least have a machine where riders could buy tickets, with one man saying he had his ticket stored on his smartphone.
“But not everybody has a smartphone,” Watson said, looking at her mom. “She is almost 90.”
She went on to say that Hattiesburg has a much nicer station, one that serves as a site for city functions.
“Nothing like this,” Watson said.
Amtrak’s presence in Georgia is featured in the Georgia Department of Transportation’s Draft State Rail Plan, released in March.
“Although Amtrak’s intercity passenger services in the state are limited, Amtrak provides essential transportation services for Georgians,” the report states.
Norfolk Southern “has maintained the building in a state-of-good repair for its needs and recently replaced the roof and electrical system.”
Amtrak is Georgia’s only passenger rail service, although the state is looking at other options, including high-speed trains between Atlanta and Charlotte, N.C.
Norfolk Southern lines through Hall County are one of the alternatives for that route, but that might be a long shot, as slower speeds, fewer round trips, less ridership and budget shortfalls have been projected.
The rail line also could serve as a commuter rail stop at some point in the future.
Marie Holmes, a Gainesville native arriving Tuesday from Hanover, Md., joked about how, at 80, she might not see all the changes, but she does know Gainesville has morphed a lot in the years she has been away.
“I used to come here, rent a car and just go,” she said. “Today, I don’t even know one street from another.”
Holmes, picked up by relative Viola Childers of Gainesville, said she makes an annual trek home — and usually by train.
“I don’t like flying. I don’t like being up in the air so long,” she said.