Amtrak's unaccompanied minor policy is quite clear, but I have a few questions about information that doesn't appear to be listed on their website (I am talking about their policy for 15 year olds):
Both boarding and arrival stations must be staffed. (Please note that even certain staffed stations do not allow for unaccompanied minors.) The stations that I am interested in are New Haven Union Station (NHV), Greenfield Station (GNF), Boston Back Bay Station (BBY), Boston South Station (BOS), and New York Penn Station (NYP). Are these stations staffed, and do they allow for unaccompanied minors?
No transfers of any kind are permitted. Is this a hard and fast rule, or do exceptions exist? I am not very familiar with the extent of railway connectivity available in the United States, but I would assume that nonstop train service exist only between certain stations, many of which may not be staffed. I am interested in traveling from Greenfield (GNF) to Boston (BBY or BOS). This is a fairly short journey and should only take 4-5 hours. The only trains that exist on this route, though, involves a transfer at New Haven (NHV). So I am assuming this trip would not be allowed for an unaccompanied 15 year old?
For each unaccompanied minor traveling alone, the adult (at least 18 years old) bringing the child to the departure station must complete and sign a release form. Both the adult and the minor must be at the boarding station at least 30 minutes before the train's departure time. Must an adult be present physically at the departure station? Isn't a release form carried by the minor or a digitally signed release form acceptable?
Finally, why exactly is Amtrak's policy so strict? They even require all minors to wear an Amtrak wristband during the journey! Such a policy would be appropriate for children younger than 10 or 12, but 16 seems too high in my opinion. Again, I am not very familiar with the railway system in the US, so is there something that I am not understanding here? Most countries allow domestic air travel for unaccompanied minors above the age of 12, and airlines like Emirates and Etihad even allow international travel. This includes flights with transfers and (obviously) immigration checks and border control. I would think that train travel would be similar to international air travel, and not significantly more dangerous or difficult for a teenager travelling alone. Am I missing something here? Again, I'm emphasizing the fact that I have no idea what rail travel in the US is like (apart from the exposure I have through the internet), so is rail travel significantly dangerous there? Or does Amtrak just have a really strict policy :(