Sunday, August 22, 2010

Baby on Amtrak? Changing can be tricky.

When Gwen and I recently went up to New York to introduce friends and family to our newborn daughter Tara, deciding on a means of travel was easy. We chose Amtrak because the train would:
  1. Save us the hassle of airport security;
  2. Give us space to move around; and
  3. Make it easier to bring home gifts.
Did they mean to put one here and forgot?
Amtrak has long sought to promote itself as a family-friendly way to travel. Imagine my surprise, therefore, to find no changing tables in the restrooms in Amtrak's trains on the Northeast corridor, neither in the newer Acelas nor the older Northeast Regionals.

Sure, we can all accept that a changing table on a train is a risky proposition; the train moves. But think about it: the baby needs to be changed either way. Absent a changing table, parents are left to struggle with changing babies on toilet lids or handicap transfer seats, or on the floor. Each option is considerably more risky than a well-designed changing table.

The transfer seat is flat but not wide enough and has no safety strap.

I'm not sure whether changing tables are available on the Superliner or Viewliner cars used outside of the Northeast. We've traveled on most Amtrak routes, but we didn't have a baby at the time and thus weren't looking for changing tables. It's also possible that there may be some restrooms among the Northeast rolling stock that do have changing tables.

But what good is that? Realistically, every train restroom should have a changing table, just as planes include these in their lavatories. Train trips are long, and babies need to be changed frequently. Having tables just makes sense.

For now, be warned: if you're traveling by train with a baby, changing your baby is going to be more challenging than it needs to be.

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