I did some research, including the rather confusing port authority website and this message board. Looking for advice/opinions, especially from those with first-hand experience.
The three of us are doing the Cumberland to Pittsburgh section of the GAP in August. I’ve booked the Amtrak (leaving PGH 5:20 AM). I would like to catch the first Red Line T train from Mt. Lebanon (leaving 4:26 am, arriving Downtown 4:51). I have very limited experience riding the T, and none with bikes. I know that both Mt. Lebanon and Steel Plaza are high platforms (OK for bikes). I also know from past experiences that the Amtrak is frequently delayed. Even if it is on time, we should have plenty of time to make it to the Amtrak station from Steel Plaza.
Since we are traveling with a young teenager who is not used to riding at night and not all that comfortable with steep hills, I would prefer to take the T and not have to bike from Mt. Lebanon. Which brings me to my questions.
How reliable is the T at such an early hour? Do the trains run on schedule?
I know there is a two-bike limit per carriage. How strictly is it enforced? I don’t foresee the train being particularly busy at 4 am on a Monday. However, it seems like most red line trains are one carriage.
There is the option of splitting our party in two and someone taking the next T train at 4:46, arriving Downtown at 5:11, but I think that is pushing our luck with the Amtrak.
You should have no problem. I’m actually surprised the T runs quite that early, might want to call the Port Authority and verify that schedule just to make extra sure.
Rode the T for years but admittedly never caught the first train, otherwise it’s usually on time within a few minutes. Use Tiramisu or a similar app to double/triple check the schedule.
Dont worry about the bike thing, it’s not strictly enforced unless the train is packed. You’ll very likely be the only ones on the train, you can even be Pittsburgh-friendly and chat up the driver for a minute and explain what you’re doing with bikes so early. Normally you enter through the front and roll the bikes to the back during off-peak hours, but again since you’ll likely be the only ones aboard, even this may not Be necessary.
Bring exact change, or allow some extra time to purchase Connect Cards from the kiosk. I just rode the T about a month ago (with my bike) and the lone kiosk at station by PNC park wasn’t working. Go figure. Only in Pittsburgh does this seem to be a problem. In fact I’d say bringing cash in case the machine doesn’t work is even more of a concern than worrying about the T showing up!