BikePGH!

So I asked Amtrak (again)…

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This topic contains 186 replies, has 49 voices, and was last updated by  Steven 1 mo, 3 weeks.

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atown

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Jun 25 2014 at 8:30am #

I am very excited for this. I miss being able to roll my bike onto a train for a one day trip/ride to various regions and be able to head home that night on a return train. Hopefully I can soon start exploring more of the state’s less-visited areas on a bike.


RustyRed

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Jun 25 2014 at 9:47am #

<=== sees a PGH to DC trip in her future now!


Benzo

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Jun 25 2014 at 10:07am #

My hope is they will update their reservation system to allow ticketholders to reserve a spot. I would hate to have any uncertainty as to whether there was going to be room or not for my bike, especially when I’m boarding outside my home city.


Benzo

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Jun 25 2014 at 10:07am #

.


StuInMcCandless

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Jun 25 2014 at 12:32pm #

*squints eyes* *tilts head*
I’m happy they said this, but from what I gathered in the meetings so far (I only missed one), I don’t see how it’s possible that they will outfit all the routes by the end of the year. They were only talking two routes as pilots by the end of the year, one long-distance (Capitol Limited), one short (the Vermont one).

To go system wide, this is going to be like outfitting all PAT buses with bike racks, and in the meantime — years — getting a train with a bike car will be a hit-and-miss proposition. Each year, they will get a few more cars equipped, and make changes to stations and train handling along those routes. (Some stations are too short to have the baggage car next to the station while they are boarding passengers, so they have to move the train a few feet to load baggage and bicycles. Not an issue on Capitol Ltd, but several others.)

And the matter of multiple routes sharing a pool of cars means they can’t provide the service at all on them, reliably, until they have enough cars equipped to do all the cars that form that pool. And Amtrak is only the point of contact. Much of the car ordering and station modifications have to be agreed upon and contracted out by various state departments of transportation.

Plus there is the non-trivial matter that something can come up to kibosh the whole project, money being only one major one. That is still entirely possible. And even all I said here is not anything close to a complete list of the hurdles to jump.

As I said a few posts up, I had no idea there were so many things in play. Really, we’re probably talking 2018-2020 before we have all the pieces in place. The 2014 date is more about getting the pilot in place and running smoothly.

We are still a long way from getting RORO service on the Pennsylvanian.


n3glv

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Jun 26 2014 at 9:50pm #

Here is the issue.
Checked baggage.
The run to Philly from Pittsburgh has no checked baggage. Full Stop.
The run to DC (senator) does, but of course you’ll need a bike box ($20 from them) and pay an extra $8 or something for extra/oversize bag.

I found this out last January on the coldest night of the year when trying
to go to Florida on the senator. Not only was it 8hours late, it had been
turned into a BUS and BUS==no checked bags == my bike stays here??
Leaves me riding home @ 4am and -17 + increased wind chill from bike.

Bottom line is ASK QUESTIONS FAR AHEAD..
(the morons knew at 11p that it was going to be a bus and bus=no bike, but took chatting up a SECURITY GUARD to find out I was screwed)

fwiw they lost my bag, discovered it busted open at the next stop in fla etc.


atown

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Jun 30 2014 at 10:07am #

So I need to book a trip to NYC this weekend. I’m deciding between Megabus or Amtrak. As I understand, for either situation, I would have to have my bike completely packed in a box? Is that correct? Or is one service more flexible than the other?


Benzo

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Jun 30 2014 at 10:51am #

Megabus official policy is no bikes.

“Bicycles are not permitted on megabus motorcoaches.”

https://us.megabus.com/luggage-allowance.aspx

Amtrack is a bit more accomodating. You have to have checked baggage service available between your start and destination and you also must buy a bike box (typically available at the station for 10 to 20 dollars.) The bike box only requires you to drop your seat down, remove handlebars from stem, and remove pedals from what I remember.

http://www.amtrak.com/bring-your-bicycle-onboard

The tricky bit about amtrak is that you need to make sure that there is checked baggage service at your starting station, destination station, and there are no GAPS in baggage service if you need to switch trains.

I don’t think that this is available to NYC due to lack of baggage service on the pennsylvanian and east coast corridor route trains.


Benzo

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Jun 30 2014 at 10:57am #

Greyhound may be a bit more permissive with allowing bikes.

“Packaging exceptions will only be made for the following items: bicycles, skis and ski poles must be packed in wood, canvas or other substantial container, and securely fastened”

https://www.greyhound.com/en/ticketsandtravel/baggageinformation.aspx

I have no personal experience with this. I’ve heard stories of varying levels of success with bikes on greyhound.


edmonds59

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Jul 14 2014 at 6:36am #

Brilliant! Who wants to go to Rugby?


Vannevar

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Aug 28 2014 at 6:14pm #

Bullet Four in this list

http://www.adventurecycling.org/resources/blog/five-two-wheeled-reasons-to-visit-pittsburgh-this-september/

teasing an announcement of Amtrak RollOn, RollOff pilot service.

The announcement will be made in Pittsburgh in early Sept.
hmmmmmm.

paging Stu, paging SaraP.
paging Stu, paging SaraP.


edmonds59

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Aug 28 2014 at 6:37pm #

My son and I want to go to Philly in November. It would be cool to find out we could take the train and take bikes!


n3glv

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Aug 28 2014 at 8:51pm #

edmonds59
As I read the spreadsheet, nothing has changed for the Pittsburgh to Philly train.
To clarify, NO CHECKED BAGS == NO BIKE BOX etc, if you had folders then I guess
that you’d be fine (assuming you don’t run into the clueless types in power.


StuInMcCandless

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Aug 28 2014 at 10:32pm #

I am your information source. It won’t be ready by November.

But short answer, yes, if you have a foldie, it’s considered carry-on baggage, and you can ride anywhere with it right now.

Right now, they only have one baggage car ready. A pilot run, like the one last October but westbound, is being set up to take a couple of riders from D.C. to Pittsburgh in time for the Pro-Bike/Pro-Walk conference. They have to find their own way back.

Getting this up and rolling is dependent upon Amtrak facilities retrofitting about a dozen railcars with the requisite hardware, and getting them put in place in the right places at the right time. I tried to interest them in doing a “soft opening” for sometime over winter, when the rolling stock would be ready but demand would be minimal. I think they think it’s do-able, but they were hesitant to commit in a conference call. It’s in the minutes, though, along with my comment that a soft opening was used successfully for our airport trail.

The hard opening will likely be in springtime, probably April sometime, when tunnels open, water is turned on in outdoor facilities, and traffic picks up. Hopefully by then, any glitches in various systems will have been worked out.

I am pleased to be able to participate on this committee! Much of the time, I’m just soaking it in while ThemWhatDoesRailStuff figures out the details, but I can tell that they really are listening to us non-railfolk out in the field.


edmonds59

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Aug 29 2014 at 5:46am #

On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced before a special joint session of Congress the dramatic and ambitious goal of sending an American safely to the Moon before the end of the decade.
On Monday July 21, 1969 Neil Armstrong put foot on the moon.
Apparently Amtrak is looking at a similar time frame.
Fuck it. I’ll drive.


StuInMcCandless

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Aug 29 2014 at 9:35am #

Well, it will be full steam^H^H^H^H^H diesel ahead with RORO service on the Capitol Limited and the Vermonter by April, with others to follow soon after. But yes, we’re probably looking at the end of the decade before it’s widespread.

Funding is a biggie, but so is politics, since state departments of transportation, not Amtrak itself, have most of the sway.


Benzo

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Aug 29 2014 at 11:06am #

That also means we can RORO to chicago and anywhere else on these lines too, right stu? Even stops without checked baggage?


n3glv

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Aug 29 2014 at 11:34am #

Still means that if I went to DC with roro service to connect to my Meteor/Comet
to fla, I would then need to get a BOX etc… In the DC station….. More fun……


StuInMcCandless

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Aug 29 2014 at 11:46am #

Benzo – Yes, definitely to Chicago. I am less sure about the other half of that query. I’m not going to venture a guess, as I believe some of this is what has yet to be worked out.

n3glv – Right, RORO to D.C., then standard box to go anywhere other than on the Vermonter, the other route that got the go-ahead.

What I know they do want is to see that this thing is going to work. So when it does become available, they want to see usage. There will be booking available, you’ll have to reserve space, and it likely will not be free (except for occasional promotions). If they do go for the soft opening, I would definitely try it out while you’re almost guaranteed a space. I’m hoping they have either free or reduced rate for the RORO between the soft and hard opening dates, but that’s not my call, and it hasn’t been decided.


n3glv

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Aug 29 2014 at 11:59am #

My bike is electric assist, and if I pull the battery and carry it on or put it in other
checked bag, the weight etc is compliant with the box although it’s rather tail
heavy as most bikes have more gear on the back than the front wheel. I see
roro as a vast improvement over the box in prep time (took over 1hr to box
my bike, then to have the train turn into a bus / destroy the trip, discard box
re-assemble, ride home in -35f wind chill.. yay) They have had the ‘auto train’
to Fla. For decades, I want / need my bike in S. Daytona when I visit for a month
and RORO would work for me just like the auto train. It might be worth $40 (2x
the cost of the box) if it then is not counted as a checked bag ($8). I think most
would go for something like that just for the sake of not having to dismantle parts
from the bike, supply real tape (theirs us useless, use DUCT TAPE) etc..


Steven

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Aug 29 2014 at 12:41pm #

FWIW, current Amtrak routes with RORO bike service charge either $5, $10, or nothing for bringing a bike. Current rules also prohibit motorized bikes.


n3glv

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Aug 29 2014 at 12:48pm #

My ELECTRIC ASSIST BIKE is under FEDERAL GUIDELINES a BICYCLE.


reddan

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Aug 29 2014 at 1:33pm #

I wonder if the Amtrak rule re: motorized bicycles was instituted before electric-assist was common? Forbidding internal combustion engines, with their associated fuel tanks, makes some sense…forbidding electric, not so much in my opinion.


n3glv

Private Message

Aug 29 2014 at 1:37pm #

reddan, yes that’s what they really mean, somthing-that-could-combust (gas).
Ie MOPED or converted gas bike. I can show you a video of a guy with a nail
gun, driving a 3″ spike through a 30ah LiFeP04 battery, it emits STEAM for like
30min, nothing else. (I run the same batt tech and would have the batt with me
not on the bike anyway.)


StuInMcCandless

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Aug 29 2014 at 1:52pm #

@n3glv – Just making sure you know what we’re talking about here, a picture of the racks that are going to be used can be found in @Vannevar’s blog post, from our ride last October. They are vertically mounted. (see photos in post, one of these is shown below)

Will your bike be able to do that, and will you be able to do that without help?


n3glv

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Aug 29 2014 at 2:00pm #

Yes, is a standard 26″ bike frame with a helmet trunk sized pack (if I left it on)
On a rack similar to the center bike in that pictures rack. Weight WITH batt is
74lbs and that position is nearly perfect for its weight distribution.


Steven

Private Message

Aug 29 2014 at 2:29pm #

Sounds like Amtrak needs to reconsider and maybe be more specific about what exactly they really need to prohibit, so their employees have some hope of consistently enforcing the rules. No gas tanks, no bikes over a certain weight?

They also prohibit “Batteries with acid that can spill or leak”, whether as baggage or not, unless they’re “used in motorized wheel chairs or similar devices for the mobility-impaired”. I don’t know if any ebike models use batteries like that. Steam-spewing batteries aren’t mentioned.

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