So I asked Amtrak (again)…
Didn’t this start as ‘would a fat tire bike fit in the box’?
The boxes are pretty big, the main limit being the length the shaft for the
pedals+arms. My center stand punched a hole in the box for example.
My fat-arse no horn cushion seat _JUST_ fit. My BMX bars on a more or less
beach cruiser 26″ were too tall, had to be folded down. (all of them req twisting)
As for RORO, it came in too late for me to use it, I’m now in Florida. (sigh)
But while logic says that pretty much any bit of strap etc would work.
Most of us can relate to that baggage check person who weighs your bag at
2oz over 50# and INSISTS you remove something, right? That’s not usually the
case in PGH, but I _could_ see some overly anal guy in the roro car giving the
thumbs down to anything that is not middle of the road normal.
Too bad they don’t have a static display rack you can try your bike(s) on in or
even outside the station! (stu maybe suggest this?)
I think the california systems did this.
If you want to see fun, try SUNRAIL btw, their ‘system’ is a single strap that
is supposed to tie any bike to the side of the car. Not unusual to see bikes
falling over, domino effect even, and in the end req the owner to stand there
(no straps to grab up high either!)
Best of luck to all who ride Amtrak and can take advantage of the RORO!
ps, Volusia county (Daytona) has the same racks on all busses as PGH!
There was discussion of increasing Amtrak train service from Pittsburgh toward NYC from its current pathetic level of one train per day to three trains per day. I didn’t hear them say that there was any realistic prospect that this would happen, though. They mentioned that the “Pennsylvanian” train out of Pittsburgh toward Philadelphia & NYC has one of the highest load factors in the Amtrak system: the existing trains are nearly full.
Radio excerpt (22 min) here: http://wesa.fm/post/feasibility-adding-another-amtrak-line
“In an effort to increase passenger rail use and decrease congestion on Pennsylvania’s roads, PennDOT announced last week that they’d be discounting tickets for Amtrak rides across the Commonwealth. Pittsburgh was added to the network between Harrisburg, Lancaster, Philadelphia and New York in what’s being called “PA Trips By Train.” Will this encourage Pittsburgh travelers to jump on board? We’ll ask Lucinda Beattie, Vice President of Transportation, Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership and Mark Spada of the Western Pennsylvanians for Passenger Rail.”
Dilemma: Where they’re talking is mainly between Harrisburg and Philly. The problem of getting trains across the Allegheny Mountains was resolved in 1850, but apparently that’s still difficult to consider doing.
My suspicion: The greatest economic impact would be an infinitesimal decrease of cars on the PA Turnpike. But that infinitesimality (is that a word?) is justification enough to keep the purse-string holders at bay. Most of the cost of running Pgh-Hbg service comes from one line in the PennDOT budget. AFAIK there’s always the chance we could lose the service entirely.
Recall that the whole reason I started this thread was so I could RORO a bike to Altoona. Not D.C.
I’d be willing to bet that they’re losing money on the Pennsylvanian. So adding another trip, to lose money faster, isn’t something they want to do.
@stuinmccandless: when Mark Spada on that radio program spoke of highest “capacity” (I think he meant load factor (i.e. fraction filled)) he was talking about the Pennsylvanian, which is the train that runs from NYC to Pittsburgh.
The next leg of the Amtrak system to get RORO is the Vermonter. This almost happened last year but that big derailment derailed the project as well. Well, it’s still going to happen, and this season. Stay tuned for further developments.
Stu, a few points the next time you speak to your amtrak buddies.
One, this is so awesome and well-implemented.
Two, I really want wifi on my trains.
Three, here’s a blog post
The Road to the Flèche: Team If We Lived Here…
containing this note:
Our friends will take the Amtrak out to the start. Our freak bike tandem is not yet permitted on Amtrak trains so Felkerino and I will do a one-way vehicle rental to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
it notes that a team of cyclists is using Amtrak to get to an event!
and grieves they can’t take their tandem yet.
Brian O’Neill wrote a Post-Gazette article about how Pittsburgh deserves more train service, e.g. to Philadelphia. No mention of bicycles or roll-on-roll-off. http://www.post-gazette.com/opinion/brian-oneill/2016/04/07/Brian-O-Neill-Pittsburgh-could-roll-with-more-Amtrak-service/stories/201604070014
In may I’m using RORO from pit to Cumberland. How easy is the process? I already paid for my bike with the ticket. I assume if they see me on the platform with a bike they’ll point me the right way.
Do. Need to take off rear panniers and front bag?
Get to the train station at least 30 minutes before the departure.
When you’re about 10 minutes from actual arrival,
use the elevator to move your bike up to the platform level.
I suggest leaving as many bags on your bike as you’d like – while you’re rolling it out to the train.
They put the passengers in different cars for different stops – for instance, probably all the CBL passengers will be in the same car – but there’s probably only one baggage car. So, your bike and your self may be in different cars.
Once you get into the baggage cars, quickly remove the panniers and bags. Stow them with the rest of the luggage (that’s already in the baggage car). Rotate your bike, front wheel up, and place it into one of the racks. There’s a pulldown lever that velcro’s to your seat-tube. This reduces swaying motion while the bike hangs on the rack.
This is a pretty good video but it’s a few years old. The only difference between this video and the Amtrak equipment is that Amtrak has a Velcro strap on the lower bar that connects to the bike. The velcro strap replaces the big U-lock shown in the video.
There’s a 1/4-inch steel cable coming out of the rack. You can lock that through the frame and use your own lock to secure your bike if you want to. Personally, I don’t feel the need. Once you’ve stowed the bike, exit the baggage car and get to whatever car they want you in.
When you’re 10 minutes out from your stop, move through the train and position yourself on the lower deck outside the baggage compartment. If it’s unlocked, I go in and un-rack my bike and start putting my panniers back on. The goal is: disembark without delaying the train.
Certainly, other people will be in the baggage area. It might be wise to remove lights/geegaws that are easily stolen.
So, can you RORO to DC then RORO to vermont? Is there extra roro charge for each leg or just one?
I was checking Pgh-DC and then DC-Florida RORO for a January trip, and the website wanted to charge the fee twice (once for each train).
I do not know that level of detail, but separate fees would seem reasonable to expect. On that, the initial plan is $20 to get the bike to New Haven, $10 if only RORO-ing beyond that.
The Vermonter service has begun. Some links:
One from Massachusetts:
I have four more links I can post, if you want them. Sure, why not, let’s see if I can just paste them here:
I’m sure they are keeping track. I will find out on the next conference call in a week or so.
I didn’t even know about this one! Found out about it via Twitter.
My big question is, why is the charge different on each line?
For the Vermonter, the reasoning is demand management. The line’s biggest use is in the southern half, so $20 to RORO. Northern half, less ridership, so only $10.
To Lucinda Beattie, the decision on whether to increase Amtrak service between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg is a simple matter of numbers. Ms. Beattie, vice president of transportation for the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, said it would cost $10 million to $13 million a year to increase rail service from one trip a day to three, according to a study the agency commissioned three years ago. By contrast, it costs about $8 million to build one mile of highway. “This is a very affordable transportation project,” Ms. Beattie said Friday. “This is not an extravagant project. It’s very doable.” …
The Vermonter is off to a good start, over 50 bookings in the first couple of weeks. Meanwhile, several months in, the Capitol Ltd’s numbers are “eye-opening”, in the Amtrak officials’ words, now averaging 100 bookings a week, over 1,500 since launch. It is the highest bike-revenue-generating route in the whole Amtrak system.
Several long-distance routes on the east coast are expected to get equivalent service by 2017, as baggage cars are purchased and retrofitted. If you recall the earlier posts, it is difficult to dedicate rolling stock to a particular route. A baggage car intended for one route can easily end up getting hooked to another train, then not make it back to the original route for months, resulting in no racks when promised.
The high revenue isn’t all that surprising, since the bike fee on Amtrak’s other routes is variously $10, $5, or zero (with one partial exception).
But 100 bookings a week is amazing. With 14 trips a week, that’s averaging just over 7 bikes per trip on a train that can accommodate up to 8 bikes at once. Of course, if bikers got on and off at every stop, 8 wouldn’t be the limit for the whole trip. Still, it sounds like they could easily be near or at capacity for some legs of most trips.
So when are they going to add more spots for bikes on the Cap Limited? :-)
Note that a booking does not translate directly into a trip right away. Some of those bookings might be for weeks or months in the future. Still, the info came directly from the Amtrak rep on the conference call.
The National Association of Rail Passengers (NARP) has an intern traveling around the country by train this summer, carrying a bike. Here’s a story out of Salt Lake City about her journey.
Unique internship: Travel 10,000 miles in 38 days in 15 states
Pittsburgh, alas, does not appear to be in her itinerary.
Stu, I had an email suggesting that Amtrak doesn’t use the term RORO now that they’ve decided to not open the cargo doors; it said they prefer WOBS, walk-on-bike-service. Have you heard of that? thanks! VB
I hadn’t. I’ll pay closer attention to the verbal terminology on the next conference call.
The Empire Builder line, which runs through Minnesota and Wisconsin, gets walk-on bike service.
A chief component of being able to provide this was the 2014 renovation for the St. Paul train station.
To my eye, this all boils down to capital infrastructure spending, to make it possible, and operating funds to provide the increased service. They, too, are trying to figure out how to add service, both south to Chicago and north to Duluth.
I also have an unconfirmed report that the Lake Shore Limited, through New York State, will also be on the list soon, with possible extension east to Boston. Waiting on station construction in Albany NY.
More Amtrak bike expansion, this time in Minnesota.
Also contains a shout-out to the bike task force that I’m on.
“The Empire Builder allows for Minnesota residents to easily travel to Chicago or all the way out to the Pacific Northwest.”
Stu, does this mean you could roll onto a Capitol Limited train in Pittsburgh, transfer in Chicago to the Empire Builder, and roll off in Seattle?
I think all this means is that you can get from Minneapolis to Duluth like we get from here to D.C.
Various pieces will keep dropping in place, in no particular order. It’s more up to state departments of transportation than to Amtrak central.
EDIT: Going back and re-reading this, yes it certainly does seem to mean you can get all the way to the West Coast now. Hmmm, that’s an accomplishment, if true.
EDIT 2: I punched the buttons on their website, and indeed, you can add a bike to your trip from Chi to Sea.
That is indeed what that means, Stu :-)
State Partner Liaison, Amtrak Sales Distribution & Customer Service
10 G Street, NE | Washington, DC 20002
Saw this on OTMA’s Twitter feed, thought I’d pass it along.
Adventure Cycling now has an interactive train-and-bike map on its website.
I missed the last Amtrak Bicycle Task Force call-in, but apparently a lot of good news, and good enough that Amtrak is going forward with significant expansion plans. A couple of bullet points:
- 3,200 bikes on the Capitol Limited since carry-on service launched
- Maxed out capacity in June, July and August, carrying between 450-480 bikes per month.
- Guessing that 75% are new riders.
- Similar good news on the Vermonter line, over 500 bikes and it was not a full year.
- Had the best August/September sales ever.
- Used results from Cap Limited as business case and outlined funding proposal to expand Cap Limited service to four other routes.
- Vermonter results being used for multi-state proposal, proving the case to expand that type of service.
- FAQ page being assembled based on the questions they’ve gotten on the service so far.
- Brief, 30- to 60-second instructional videos also being planned.
- Several other things (maps, presentations, website updates, facility tours) in planning stages, but not ready to discuss details here yet.
Short version, a whole lot of good stuff is happening.
Separately but related, NARP (National Assoc of Rail Passengers) is hiring another intern to travel by train all over the country with a bike. Last year’s intern did not stop in Pittsburgh. Boy, it would be nice if we could make arrangements for that person — yet to be chosen — to spend a day here, in the company of local bikey folks, who could take him/her for a ride out a bit of the GAP, up an Incline, up Federal (via 11 Fineview bus) to Catoma and Myler to revisit the opening scene from Flashdance, and a bunch of other places.
On the Pennsylvanian today, headed to NJ. Boy, if only I could take my bike on this train…
Anyway, as I got into the Amtrak station aepund 7:15 am, I noticed a couple of people with fully loaded fat bikes. Made me wonder if they had ridden all the way to Pittsburgh and were not able to load their bikes on the Capitol Limited, which had gone by earlier, given all the issues that we’ve discussed on this thread regarding larger bikes. Perhaps they didn’t read the fine print?
I bet they could box those bikes. But probably not RORO.
But that doesn’t help if you’re not expecting to have to do so, and don’t have the tools (and the box if the station doesn’t have them) handy.
Going to the National Bike Summit next month? From an email I received this evening from the Bike League:
National Bike Summit participants are invited to Washington Union Station to learn more about Amtrak’s bicycle service on Wednesday, March 8 at 9:00am. Train cars equipped with bicycle racks will be on display. Amtrak staff will demonstrate loading bicycles and answer questions. Participants are welcome to bring their bicycles to test out the racks. The first 100 Summit attendees to register through our on-line scheduler before Friday, February 3, will also receive an Amtrak Loves Bikes long-sleeved T-shirt.
Have a question for Amtrak? We are also collecting questions for Amtrak from League members and supporters. Some of them will be answered at the event, but Amtrak will give written answers for all of them. Whether you are coming to the Summit or not, please submit your questions and we’ll get you answers!
Add your question here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2LF5G7F
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