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So I asked Amtrak (again)…

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This topic contains 186 replies, has 49 voices, and was last updated by  Steven 2 mos.

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Steven

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Nov 3 2011 at 8:34pm #

On the GAP email list last month, a guy posted a reply he’d just gotten from Amtrak:

In response to your inquiry about the design of a train car to transport bicycles, please be advised that Amtrak is currently in the process of producing such a car. Details have not yet been released; however, we are encouraged by the process thus far and anticipate some very positive results soon.

As information, significant reductions in federal funding have been proposed for Fiscal Year 2012 that may affect this and other projects currently planned.

And I posted this reply I got from Amtrak last month:

We appreciate your inquiry regarding roll-on/roll-off bicycle service aboard the Capitol Limited between Washington and Pittsburgh. At the current time, Amtrak is working on this program and we are hopeful that a spring start-up of a pilot program for this train will take place. Final details are being formulated, and we hope to have some information available soon.

It seems like Amtrak doesn’t have a form letter for this. Not sure if that’s good or bad.

BTW, the Capitol Limited does carry checked baggage. However, you can only access it at checked-baggage stops: Chicago, South Bend, Toledo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Washington. Six of 16 total stops, where you can load or unload a bike in a box, or other checked baggage. None between here and DC.


StuInMcCandless

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Mar 6 2012 at 6:56pm #

Got this in a tweet:

Bike accommodations on Amtrak Surfliner


ejwme

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Mar 6 2012 at 6:58pm #

“Surfliner” != Capitol Ltd.

But I’ve been on the Capitol Ldt. There’s room to spare. Why can’t we have those?


Pseudacris

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Mar 6 2012 at 7:09pm #

I rode the surfliner from LA to Oceanside last week, sans bike. Someone boarded with a bike and when they discovered luggage in the area reserved for bikes the conductor made everyone move their bags!


dwillen

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Mar 6 2012 at 7:20pm #

In Northern California, they have so many people using the roll on service on the Amtrak Capitol Corridor, they are trying to figure out how to add more racks. During rush hours, passengers max them out and have been stashing their bikes in the aisles.

http://www.sacbee.com/2012/03/05/4310949/editorial-corridor-commuters-bikers.html


rsprake

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Mar 6 2012 at 7:29pm #

My friend Joe posted this from SF, not sure what train it is but he said the bikes are all arranged by stop.


edmonds59

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Mar 6 2012 at 7:44pm #

That’s fantastic. Althought to be honest is just reminds me of riding in Europe 30 years ago.


dwillen

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Mar 6 2012 at 7:51pm #

That would be Caltrain. A bit more progressive than Amtrak.


Mick

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Mar 6 2012 at 7:58pm #

@rsprake My friend Joe posted this from SF, not sure what train it is but he said the bikes are all arranged by stop.

Wow, that looks SWEET! I love to travel by tyrain, but between seriously slow rides, expensive tickets and not bikes, I don’t.

I’m guessing it gets hellish in that bike room if a couple of adams apples just put their bikes anywhere and aren’t getting off until the last stop.

I wonder if there is a bike fee?


dwillen

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Mar 6 2012 at 8:16pm #

No fee. They floated a $1 surcharge to bridge some budget gaps, but I think that was quickly shot down.

Even with all those bikes, they still have to bump bike riders when they max out capacity.

For details:

http://www.caltrain.com/riderinfo/Bicycles.html

http://www.sfbike.org/?cuts


scott

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Mar 6 2012 at 8:45pm #

So not only is ATA, BikePGH, PA Walks & Bikes, Rails to Trails advocating for this, we found out last week at the Adventure Cycling Assoc. talk at CMU that they too are working with Amtrak on these issues. Hopefully there’s roll on/off service soon!


StuInMcCandless

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Mar 7 2012 at 5:16am #

Coming up on two years since I started this thread (April 2010), after asking them the first time in June 2009. The whole point of the 2009 trip was to take a day trip with my wife to Lakemont Park in Altoona as a silver anniversary present. I would still like to bike to the earliest O12 McKnight Flyer, transfer to the 7:20 eastbound Amtrak, jump on bikes in Altoona, bike to Lakemont Park, play for five hours or so, bike to an ice cream stand somewhere, bike back to the Amtrak station, ride to Pittsburgh, and catch the last 12 McKnight home. Pure fun, and I think I costed the whole thing out to about $100. How many missed opportunities are there out there? Part of me is sad, and part of me is pounding a fist saying “Make it happen already! None of us are getting any younger!”


ejwme

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Mar 7 2012 at 2:05pm #

The saddest part is that it already exists, in this country, by this company. This isn’t some kind of perplexing and crazy new problem that we have no idea how to fix, or something they as a company have never encountered before and have no experience with.

They simply don’t see it as worth actually moving on. The only alternative to that pessimistic view is that there is not enough support for the change – but a recent post listing the organizations supporting it indicates that’s not true.

So Amtrak simply must just be jagoffs.


Marko82

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Mar 7 2012 at 2:31pm #

I agree EJ. There’s that train commercial on tv that talks about moving a ton of freight 400 miles on a gallon of fuel or some such. So adding an extra ‘baggage’ car onto a train really can’t be all that expensive from an operations perspective. On the other hand, the train doesn’t even come close to breaking even as it’s currently run. Kind’a a chicken & egg argument if you ask me.


dwillen

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Mar 7 2012 at 3:08pm #

The saddest part is that it already exists, in this country, by this company.

Not only that, but it is so popular that they can’t add enough capacity to keep up with current customer demand. The article I linked earlier said 10% of passengers are cyclists. I don’t know if that includes those who bike to the train station or not. When I lived in Davis, there was about 150 rack spots for bikes at the station, and usually twice as many bikes parked there on any weekend. Most people locked to a nearby fence. Who knows what fraction of riders would bike (or what fraction of bikers would take the train!) if they had capacity to handle all the bikes, both transporting them and parking them.


wojty

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Mar 7 2012 at 6:18pm #

What’s funny is that CalTrain is also operated by Amtrak, including Amtrak employees on the trains themselves. So there is one more route they clearly know how to manage this type of demand on…


Anonymous

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Mar 7 2012 at 8:53pm #

@dwillen

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVu8spXa1XY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&NR=1&v=NzNsbw9tF8k


dwillen

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Mar 7 2012 at 10:46pm #

CalTrain can’t keep up with demand either. Even with 80 bike capacity trains, they still bump cyclists. Last I heard, CalTrain was firing Amtrak.

Mikhall: http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=_1TPBR6rSSg


Steven

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Apr 6 2012 at 7:07am #

There was some recent discussion on the GAP mailing list on this. It seems Amtrak modified a baggage car specifically for Capitol Limited roll-on roll-off bike service, and it was on display in DC for a while. But their safety guys weren’t satisfied with it and requested changes. Once the engineers build a setup that the safety people approve, they should be good to go.

I’m guessing they can’t just copy whatever they did for those routes that already have the service because maybe the Capitol Limited uses different baggage cars. But who knows?


rsprake

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Apr 6 2012 at 1:19pm #

That’s good news!


dmtroyer

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May 8 2012 at 1:53pm #

according to Eric from Philly’s CTC account, he boxed his bike on Amtrak from Pittsburgh to Philly (about 90% down the page).


sarapgh2

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May 8 2012 at 2:01pm #

I recently heard an update on the bike accommodations on the Capitol Limited. They do have a new design in place and I believe it’s going through the safety department now (not 100% sure on that) BUT it will only accommodate something like 6-8 bikes total.

You will not be able to reserve the bike space in advance. If it’s filled when you get to the station you’re SOL. I don’t see how this will actually be a useful transportation method for GAP riders unfortunately.


StuInMcCandless

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May 8 2012 at 2:26pm #

I thought we already could put a bike on the D.C. train. But getting to Philly (or Altoona, my original destination) requires a box. That makes me a non-customer.

This should be a one-hour decision. “Yeah, we’ll do that. Develop a set of rules and figure out where to put them. Couple thousand for an off-the-shelf rack that dozens of transit systems use. Training, publicity, yours and yours to figure out. Bang, done.”

How hard can this be?


ejwme

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May 8 2012 at 3:03pm #

Somebody said something once somewhere on here about the style of cars being wrong, or old, or something. But where there’s a will, there’s a way. Someone at Amtrack doesn’t perceive a will of enough strength to motivate them to provide the way.


edmonds59

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May 8 2012 at 3:15pm #

Stu, so that’s step one. Step 2 would be getting the people on the trains to actually know what the company policy is. They’ve got to be at least as smart as PAT drivers, right?


Pseudacris

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May 8 2012 at 4:07pm #

Although I don’t think it is posted on their web site, Amtrak does seem to have an official policy now permitting folding bikes as carry on luggage. I don’t own a folder but I was considering renting/buying one while looking at misc options for getting a bike into and out of NYC for the 5 Boros ride. ***** I asked the guy to print me a copy of the policy so I’d have it in hand in case I was coming back with a new or used bike. ***** So, I do have a printed copy of the official policy rendered in old school all caps dot matrix! I will scan it at some future date and post it here. In summary, folding bikes can be considered carry on luggage. There are a few more specifications about where they can be stowed (not checked).

This was for a 2-train ride from Springfield, MA to NY Penn Station involving two routes that specifically do not allow full sized bikes to be carried on. (except for rare occasions that don’t seem reliable or predictable). There are a lot of stops in New England that don’t allow for checked baggage, so a boxed full sized bike is not a possibility in any case from those stations.


scott

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May 8 2012 at 4:20pm #

Here’s some decent news:

“The Great Allegheny Passage has become a very popular destination for many touring cyclists. Several touring companies sponsor sagged tours, but I would guess the majority of riders are self-supported.

One of the challenges of self-supported touring is transporting your bike for one leg of the journey. Amtrak’s Capitol Limited Route between DC and Pittsburgh is one option. Currently your bike must be boxed for travel on the train. Roll-on/roll-off service would be much more convenient for cyclists and would likely attract many more passengers traveling the Passage.

We were encouraged to see that 18 members of Congress, including Representatives Connolly, Moran, and Norton, recently signed a letter to Joseph Boardman, President and CEO of Amtrak, asking that roll-on/roll-off service be provided:”

Read more: http://fabb-bikes.blogspot.com/2012/05/congress-urges-amtrak-to-provide-roll.html


sarapgh2

Private Message

May 8 2012 at 4:29pm #

Scott, this is great news and I’m happy that there is strong political support behind it.

If the result is 6 bike racks in the storage car that you can’t reserve and which may be filled when you get there, will this be a reasonably effective service? My concern is that this scenario plays out, no one uses the racks (or few do) because of the uncertainty and limited space, and Amtrak then says “look, we added bike storage and no one used it. So clearly there isn’t a need for bike transport on our system.”


ejwme

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May 8 2012 at 6:22pm #

wow, Congress acted. Not exactly an Act of Congress, but hopefully Mr. Boardman can be convinced and drive it down through his company.

And hopefully not in the entirely plausible scenario sara just outlined. It’s not just implementation of SOMETHING, but implementation of the RIGHT thing. If the people doing it don’t understand why they’re doing it, we’re likely to get something that looks good on paper until it’s scrapped for lack of use.


Adam

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May 10 2012 at 4:00pm #

The times I have packed my bike in a freakin’ box to take it from DC to Pittsburgh… They put the thing in a COMPLETELY EMPTY baggage car.

It is pretty damn sad that they can’t accomodate bicycles on the train — yet if some 1,200 lb fat american piece of trash got on the train they would make every accomodation to clear away enough space for them less they get sued for inhumane treatment.

Just sayin’

Not to mention, the times I’ve carried a bike on the train they treat you like a complete piece of garbage and make it as difficult as they possibly can to get a friggin’ box from them and have the guy put the thing on the train before it pulls out of the station.

Either way, I don’t care how crappy they treat me if they would just allow me to put my bike on a mostly empty train.


Tabby

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May 10 2012 at 4:20pm #

Yeah Adam, I find it surprising too that they would be more accommodating of a person than someone’s luggage. Messed up priorities.

I’m really glad that you brought up this valid and relevant point about how fat people are what’s holding you back from roll-on train service. I totally agree that if they could be more rude to fat people they would have more niceness leftover for you and your bike.


that guy

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May 10 2012 at 7:43pm #

LOLz


StuInMcCandless

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May 13 2012 at 5:35pm #

A couple of days ago, a Twitter friend in Atlanta (@CCTgirl) got a little conversation going with Amtrak, to which I sent in this tweet:

@CCTgirl @amtrak @natltrainday I would love to go Pittsburgh<–>Altoona with my

bicycle and not box it.

To which I got this reply tweet this morning. Those poor people, can’t even get the URL of their own site correct; the link goes to a squatter. And yes, this does seem to be their official Twitter feed.

@bus15237 Regrettably this is not possible on the Pennsylvanian train. Please send your comments to us here: amtak.com/contactus

The link amtrak.com/contactus works fine.


salty

Private Message

May 13 2012 at 7:35pm #

i’m less worried about a typo than the fact this seems like it’s perpetually “about to happen” but never actually happens. I wrote another letter about the capitol limited line, i’d encourage everyone to take 2 minutes to do the same.


StuInMcCandless

Private Message

May 13 2012 at 9:26pm #

Really the typo is irrelevant; I’m sorry I pointed that out. It’s like bike racks on buses. Why have them only on buses going to Location X? The whole effing system needs to accommodate and promote roll-on bike storage, not just the train to D.C.

The question is, why doesn’t EVERY city have 100 bikes locked to a fence outside the train station because they cannot accommodate them all on the train? That’s the problem we want to have.

This is the same irritating problem as PAT and the bus racks circa 2007, a couple of rare trains have bike racks, so nobody even tries to use the system except for that tiny subset of people who actually DID use it once, somewhere, and found out how awesome it is.


StuInMcCandless

Private Message

May 13 2012 at 9:40pm #

So, here’s the 2012 request:

Please accommodate roll-on bike storage on all trains, at all stations. Having to box a bike makes me a non-customer.

A growing segment of your market does not own a car. They, and I, would arrive by bike, and immediately upon departing the train, would grab the bike and ride away. Please understand this.

I have been asking for a way to get from Pittsburgh to Altoona since mid-2009. I *know* the Pennsylvanian does not accommodate roll-on service, so please do not respond with a “Our bicycle policy varies by route. Unfortunately, that route does not offer this service.” message.

See http://bike-pgh.org/bbpress/topic/so-i-asked-amtrak-again/page/2

for a couple of years worth of the discussion in the Pittsburgh bicycle community. I am the “StuInMcCandless” with a couple of posts on this message thread.

What will it take to buy a few dozen racks, implement a simple reservation system, and add a couple of paragraphs about it to your website?

Please make this happen.


salty

Private Message

May 14 2012 at 2:42am #

nice stu… i also said that i don’t want to have to box my bike and gave examples of day trips and longer trips on the GAP that are a big pain due to lack of roll-on/roll-off service on the capitol ltd.


Erica

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May 14 2012 at 6:47am #

seriously, I think roll-on bike service would make amtrak worth the extra money to get to cleveland, or anywhere else, for that matter. (instead of using megabus)


edmonds59

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May 14 2012 at 10:37am #

I’m sure Amtrak on their own will do little to respond to these requests, they will continue to read them and file them in a dark hole and continue to proceed with the status quo until some motivation to change comes from the Federal level. So everyone who is interested in this issue, follow up these letters with letters to Congressmen and Senators as well.


myddrin

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May 14 2012 at 12:38pm #

@Tabby: Bravo! I was just about to post a long rant, but thanks to you I don’t have to.

(I’d been stewing on this all weekend.)

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