Sacramento officials are scrambling this weekend to make improvements after a bumpy first week of operations at the downtown depot's new passenger tracks and platforms.
Some infirm passengers said the five-minute walk up and down ramps to the trains was too long. Other passengers complained that the temporary winding path through a construction zone was confusing. Some commuters missed their trains. And one man collapsed of an apparent heart attack.
By week's end, Amtrak officials said they would hire eight more employees to help. That includes more courtesy golf cart drivers to ferry disabled and elderly passengers to and from the new tracks, which are several hundred feet farther from the depot than the old tracks.
The city and Union Pacific say they built the new tracks, tunnels and platforms to reduce freight and passenger train congestion and to open space for development in the largely empty railyard. This phase is being called the "Path to Progress."
Depot renovation is also under way. Later phases include an urban transit village between the depot and tracks. The City Council will discuss those plans next week.
For now, officials are preaching patience.
"Change can be frustrating, we understand," city spokeswoman Linda Tucker said. "But there is a bigger picture here. Let's just say the Path to Progress is a work in progress."
Week one got off poorly. An early morning passenger died Monday after collapsing while walking to his train.
"There was obviously a pre-existing (medical) issue that caused this to occur," Sacramento Fire Department official Niko King said.
That didn't stop one track-move critic, Rich Tolmach, from sending out emails blaming the extra walking distance.
The city will build a slightly shorter walking path with a canopy in late October after the old tracks are removed and the soil cleaned.
Tucker said city officials have begun working with Amtrak to create designated spots at the depot and the platforms where disabled and infirm people can wait to be picked up in a cart.
Commuter Zak Frieders, who missed his train the first day when his light-rail train arrived too late, is among those who say they haven't gotten an adequate explanation of the city's long-term plans at the railyard, and suspect transit riders are taking a back seat to development interests.
"This remodel seems to make the process harder with no tangible benefit," he said. "It seems like it is all tied up with the politics of the railyard development."
Rider David Stephenson, however, said he likes the look of the new facilities, looks forward to more changes, and appreciates the fact that freight trains no longer hug the passenger platforms.
"You don't have to have those big monsters coming through as you are standing there," he said.