So I asked Amtrak (again)…
Anonymous 05/14/2012 at 1:20pm #
+1 Stu. Having a rack on EVERY bus in the city, and allowing bikes on the T/incline during peak hours were the primary reasons I started using my bike during my commute. It’s drastically increased the number of trips I take on the bus/incline/train.
Now I’m hooked. I’d love to be able to take Amtrak with roll-on service. I love to fly, but even that is becoming less appealing due to the bike boxing policy and charges. If Megabus changes their bike policy they’re going to bury a lot of competition.
Come on Amtrak, your trains are SO much nicer than a cramped bus!
glad to ease your mind, myddrin. also cool to know that I wasn’t the only one who felt that way.
May 15 2012, 7:43 a.m., this reply from Amtrak:
Dear Stuart Strickland,
Thank you for contacting us.
We apologize that it has taken longer than expected for us to reply. We have had an unusually high number of e-mail requests. Your patience is appreciated.
We regret that our current bicycle policy is not meeting your needs. The comments and suggestions we receive from customers help us to calibrate our services, and make adjustments where warranted. Your concerns are important to us. They have been noted for review, and made a part of our permanent records.
Please be assured that your patronage is valuable to us. We appreciate your taking the time to write to us about this matter.
Amtrak Customer Service
From Sunday evening to Wednesday morning, to me, is not an unreasonable wait. I would sure like to think this one made it up the food chain a notch or three, though.
I think the “longer than expected” bit is because you said “I have been asking for a way to get from Pittsburgh to Altoona since mid-2009.” Patrice figured you’d been waiting for a response since then. No wonder they appreciated your patience.
No wonder they appreciated your patience.
For some reason, I am getting an image of Stu losing patience, turning big & green and yelling “Stu Smash!”
I have no idea why that popped into my head, but I’m finding it highly entertaining.
I blame Joss Whedon.
I can picture Stu turning huge and green then citing in detail route info, ridership info, bus specifications, and local transit history until his foes wilt in weeping dumbfounded ignorance.
I promised this a few weeks ago.
Here is an image of the FOLDING bike policy that was printed for me at the Springfield, MA Amtrak station…
Unicycles, woot! Everyone should learn to ride a unicycle.
Y’know, that would’ve been an awesome solution to the original problem. Sarah can ride it a bit, not real well, but with some practice could get reasonably adept at it. It would’ve been soooo cool to put two unks on an Amtrak train, ride to Altoona, then unk across town to Lakemont, and back. Guaranteed, nobody else anywhere would’ve done that for their silver anniversary.
I think since Amtrak is government subsidized we will all be rolling down the street in walkers unable to ride bikes anymore by the time they come up with a sensable bicycle policy on the trains.
Given that the roads are government subsidized, your statement doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
(Though it does give me an idea: contacting Mike Doyle–or Jason Altmire, who sits not only on the House Transportation Committee but on its Railroads subcommittee–might be worth at least a small kick in the pants to Amtrak…)
Well, how long does it take to get a broken road fixed around here? How many letter writing campaigns and activists does it take to get a bike lane painted on a street?
Take those into account and it makes perfect sense why it will take another 30 years before you can just roll a bike onto an Amtrak train LOL.
Well, at this rate, we’ll be lucky even to have train service.
The Pgh-Hbg line is specifically mentioned as being a target for cuts.
A similar fate faces the Pennsylvanian service, the once-a-day diesel passenger train that operates between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh. Pennsylvania does not contribute to the costs of operating that train, which gets a $7 million annual subsidy from Amtrak.
Seven million dollars. Pathetic. The current rt 28 work is budgeted at something like $140 million. There are single family homes around here that are $7 million. Somebody is supposed to run a railroad on those kind of numbers? The world is out of whack. But we knew that.
We should take those $7M and and the $445M that goes towards PBS and put it all towards the military where certainly more good can come of it.
I never realized the trains between Pittsburgh-Harrisburg and Harrisburg-Philadelphia were separate lines.
Amtrak says they’d like a state to buy the railroad cars for them. I was curious how much that would be. This Forbes article talks about the cost for a private individual or group to buy a railroad car and have Amtrak haul it around.
You can buy an old sleeper car for as little as $25,000. Refurbishing it can be much more expensive, they say, but I’d think the work required to carry bikes could be fairly minimal. Buying a current-model passenger car and retrofitting part of it for bikes would be far more, I imagine, but I didn’t find prices for that.
“If you want to hook your car up to an Amtrak train (about your only option), expect to pay $2.10 a mile for the first car and $1.75 for subsequent cars, with a $1,000 minimum, along with an annual activation fee of $250.” Amtrak’s site says it’s $1.90 a mile for frequent customers.
So putting one on every Capitol Limited trip for a year, just from here to DC, would be around $500,000 per year. But that’s for private owners. Perhaps Amtrak would haul it for free or cheap if it helps them sell tickets, or if it could replace some existing but underused car (baggage car?) on the train.
Could Pittsburgh or BikePgh or somebody buy and retrofit a railcar and sweet-talk Amtrak into carrying it? That’s nuts, right? We should just wait patiently for Amtrak. Right?
^ I wonder what Red-Bull or Cliff-Bar would pay to have their logo painted on the side of a RR car dedicated to taking outdoor/active people places with their bikes? Not that I’m agreeing with said approach.
Edit: “Hey, I’m taking a long weekend to ride the GAP down to DC then riding the Red-Bull back home.” Sorta sounds like it could catch on.
How about someone finding a few million bucks and fitting all their cars with the necessary racks? I’m sure even one million would outfit a large part of the entire system for only twice what @steven suggested to do one private car.
OK, so humor me.
This page has some facts and figures on Amtrak rolling stock. A summary:
* 68 baggage cars.
* 124 state-owned, Amtrak-operated passenger cars
* 1,455 Amtrak-owned passenger cars
So let’s take a high estimate of $5,000/rack and 2,000 pieces of rolling stock; that’s $10 million, top end, that would fully equip the entire system. In the overall scheme of things, that sounds like chump change. A single locomotive is in the area of $2M; they own 416 of them.
What am I not seeing here? Why is this taking a decade?
@stu, hopefully you saw the post I made in the out-of-town thread a couple of months ago regarding conversion of some of the dining car space for bicycle storage… they were testing a concept on a line from Chicago to Michigan, but hopefully this is being considered for the DC-Pgh route as well. If not, perhaps it’s time to write some more letters.
Linda Boxx told me that at some point Amtrak came up with a number, $50k or something, and the ATA called their bluff and offered to pay it… but Amtrak balked and came up with some other excuse. It’s ridiculous.
Nice ideas, but I’m shooting for big game here. Five friggin million is chump change in the national scope. Hell, that’s what you’d pay to rebuild an intersection. Ten city buses. Renovation to one moderate sized building. One lane-mile of road.
Two-maybe-three new locomotives. Do one set a year if it’s that big a dent in your finances.
Cut the crap, Amtrak. Just buy the damn racks and put them in place. It is the single, simplest, most cost-effective thing you can do to improve ridership. And I bet it can be done for a good bit less than $5M.
As a commenter on this streetsblog post notes, Amtrak has an Auto-Train: roll-on service for cars from outside DC to Florida….
All luggage, luggage carriers and bicycles must be removed from the top of your vehicle and stored inside the vehicle before it may be boarded on the Auto Train. Bicycles cannot be brought onboard.
We cannot carry vehicles with temporary luggage racks or bicycle racks attached to the roof. Factory-installed roof racks are permitted, but must remain empty during the trip.
Rear-Mounted Bicycle Racks
Bicycles can remain in bicycle racks attached to the back of the vehicle only. You must sign a loss or damage waiver for bicycles transported on the back of the vehicle.
Or make a papier mache car body that can hold, say, 10 bicycles inside it. The outside could be festooned with Amtrak logos and Amtrak bumper stickers.
Things are looking promising. Just posted by the League:
The Amtrak issue has perplexed cyclists for years. In the past, Adventure Cycling Association has had limited success engaging Amtrak officials, and state and local advocates have been stymied time and again by the fact that many of the rail cars are not made to allow roll-on accommodation. Stating safety concerns and lack of storage, the ability to travel by train with a bicycle is hindered by the design of the rail cars, the platform heights, lack of on-train storage and train schedules (stops can be less than 5 minutes in some cases).
But finally, a few breakthroughs are in the works. Amtrak officials are conducting a pilot plan for roll-on/roll-off services on the Capitol Limited Line between Washington and Pittsburgh.
Well, so this train stops in Cumberland, right? So could you, for example, take the GAP from Pittsburgh to Cumberland and then ride the train back? Or take the train to Cumberland and then ride back?
On a somewhat related note, in the past week or two, Amtrak has announced that it will provide bike racks on the Ethan Allen line in Vermont, and will increase bike capacity from 6 to 10 per train along the Cascade Line in Washington State. You can reserve bike space when you make your train reservation/buy your ticket.
couldnt find info online about it, but my dad rode the pennsylvanian to pgh last night and said they were allowing bikes on board. (he heard an announcement about boarding passengers with bikes. he got on first riding in business class so didn’t have a chance to actually see) there’s no checked baggage on the train according to the ticketing site, so that makes me think they started roll-on service.
This is wonderful news! Can someone please confirm this? My original plan was to take a day trip to Altoona, then bike to Lakemont Park to ride a rollercoaster, and bike/Amtrak back to Pgh at day’s end.
It happened!! It really happened! I rolled my bike onto an Amtrak train, secured it in a matter of seconds in a real rack, walked up to my seat, and rode to Connellsville PA! Me and five others, two of whom (@Vannevar, @SR) have IDs on this message board. Those two and I then rode our bikes the 60ish miles back to Pittsburgh. And we could not have gotten better weather to do that, too!
Blog post to follow. Meanwhile, here is the P-G article about it.
P-G article about it .
Ms. Boxx, in a phone interview from Cumberland, said the trail alliance has been suggesting the service for more than a decade, aggressively pushing it with a letter-writing campaign in recent years.
“They said they got over a thousand letters,” she said of Amtrak, “and no more than 6 or 7 hundred of them came from Stu from McCandless.”
Great news. Stu, I’m glad you got to be involved given your tireless and appreciated advocacy on this matter.
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