Author Topic: Deciphering AMTRAK  (Read 762 times)

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Offline misterflask

Deciphering AMTRAK
« on: July 24, 2021, 11:21:29 am »
I'm in early planning of a C&O/GAP ride.  I see that the AMTRAK Crescent passes sort-of-nearby my home late enough (1a) to catch it after a day's ride and arrives in DC early enough (2p) to get the heck out of town.  But their bikes-as-baggage language has me befuddled.  Any comments on what to expect?  If they don't have walk-on service do they want you to box your bike? If the rack is full are you off the train?  In general, what is their organizational demeanor towards bikes; helpful or airline-hostile?

Offline adventurepdx

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Re: Deciphering AMTRAK
« Reply #1 on: July 24, 2021, 03:37:30 pm »
Have you checked out these two links? If you haven't, you definitely should:
https://www.amtrak.com/bike
https://www.amtrak.com/onboard/bring-your-bicycle-onboard/bike-faqs.html

In short, if the train doesn't have some sort of roll-on bike service, to bring a bike aboard:
  • You will need to box the bike. Amtrak provides boxes for a cost, but sometimes a station may be out of boxes.
  • The train you take will have to have checked baggage service.
  • Both the origin station and destination station have to have checked baggage service.

Offline aggie

Re: Deciphering AMTRAK
« Reply #2 on: July 24, 2021, 04:33:02 pm »
If you make a reservation on the Amtrak web site it will generally show if the train has roll on bikes available.  There are a limited number of spots so it is possible they will be sold out on popular routes.  You can box the bike but you can only check/get your bike at stations that have baggage service.  I currently have reservations from Cleveland to Pittsburgh to ride the GAP/C&O to DC.  I then have reservations from DC to Cincinnati.  I have reservations for my bike as well.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Deciphering AMTRAK
« Reply #3 on: July 24, 2021, 04:38:36 pm »
I am not up to date on current roll on options.  I think I read that some trains have new baggage cars with racks that don't require boxing.  Maybe I got that wrong and it is just a spot on the regular car.  Maybe someone with more current knowledge can comment.

On the trains that require you to box and check I think still are the same as things used to be.  Adventurepdx and aggie covered that except, I'll add a couple details.  The cost was $15 for the box and $10 to check it as baggage (or vice versa).  The box is huge.  I only needed to remove the pedals and rotate the handlebars to roll it in.  Bring your own tape to put the box together.  AMTRAK doesn't provide tape.
« Last Edit: July 24, 2021, 04:40:32 pm by staehpj1 »

Offline misterflask

Re: Deciphering AMTRAK
« Reply #4 on: July 24, 2021, 05:30:57 pm »
Quote
The box is huge
Quote
Bring your own tape
Two super useful factoids.  And the FAQ link was clarifying.
I'm currently befuddled though.  The Atlanta station sells bike boxes but they don't have checked baggage.  That doesn't make sense, does it?  Hopefully a typo or a temporary Covid or staffing thing.

Offline George

Re: Deciphering AMTRAK
« Reply #5 on: July 24, 2021, 05:40:54 pm »
I'm currently befuddled though.  The Atlanta station sells bike boxes but they don't have checked baggage.  That doesn't make sense, does it?  Hopefully a typo or a temporary Covid or staffing thing.
That is confusing -- it also says "Baggage assistance provided by Ticket Agents upon request -90mins prior to departure", so you're probably OK, but a phone call would be in order. (800) 872-7245

Offline TCS

Re: Deciphering AMTRAK
« Reply #6 on: July 26, 2021, 11:47:36 am »
In short, if the train doesn't have some sort of roll-on bike service, to bring a bike aboard...

・Have a folding bike.  Amtrak's definition is a little funky, but their allowable dimensions are quite generous. Fold it and stow it in the baggage area on the same car where you're sitting.  Get on or off at any stop.

Adventure Cycling promote/partners with Amtrak.  You'd think they'd evaluate the folding Change Bike and Montague as tourers in the magazine.
« Last Edit: July 27, 2021, 12:55:04 pm by TCS »
"My name is Pither.  I am at present on a cycling tour of the North Cornwall area taking in Bude and..."

Offline staehpj1

Re: Deciphering AMTRAK
« Reply #7 on: July 26, 2021, 12:11:58 pm »
In short, if the train doesn't have some sort of roll-on bike service, to bring a bike aboard...

・Have a folding bike.  Amtrak's definition is a little funky, but their allowable dimensions are quite generous. Fold it and stow it in the baggage area on the same car where you're sitting.  Get on or off at any stop.
FWIW, I have a bag that is used mostly as a cover so the folded bike could go on transit without looking like a bike.  It is basically just a big envelope that the bike fits in and can be carried on one shoulder.  It was light enough and packed small enough to take along.  I haven't used/seen it in years but it was nice for quickly hopping on a bus.  Not sure if it would be helpful to be less obvious that you had a bike in the train or not.


Offline TCS

Re: Deciphering AMTRAK
« Reply #8 on: July 26, 2021, 12:12:28 pm »
Speaking of deciphering Amtrak...

Adventure Cycling has made appeals by email and in the magazine for members to contact their congressional representatives in support of Amtrak funding.

This additional funding is sought because Amtrak's ticket fare revenue over the last 50 years hasn't begun to cover the now estimated $50,000,000,000 deferred maintenance backlog nor depreciation (replacement costs) of their 40 year-old rolling stock.

Can someone give me a compelling reason why I should ask the American tax payers to subsidize my adventures?
"My name is Pither.  I am at present on a cycling tour of the North Cornwall area taking in Bude and..."

Offline TCS

Re: Deciphering AMTRAK
« Reply #9 on: July 26, 2021, 12:16:25 pm »
Not sure if (a bag) would be helpful to be less obvious that you had a bike in the train or not.

Amtrak doesn't have that requirement for folding bikes.  As a decent person we should strive to not get chain grease & etc. on other's luggage.
"My name is Pither.  I am at present on a cycling tour of the North Cornwall area taking in Bude and..."

Offline adventurepdx

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Re: Deciphering AMTRAK
« Reply #10 on: July 26, 2021, 03:10:18 pm »
Can someone give me a compelling reason why I should ask the American tax payers to subsidize my adventures?

Because other forms of transportation in America get more subsidies?

Roads and airports get A LOT of money from American tax payers. Amtrak has been starved from its inception, and if we want better train service and alternatives to just roads and planes, they are going to need more $$.

Offline TCS

Re: Deciphering AMTRAK
« Reply #11 on: July 27, 2021, 12:48:18 pm »
Because other forms of transportation in America get more subsidies?

That would be a good reason...if only it were true.

http://ti.org/antiplanner/?p=18116

America's 7 Class 1 (freight) railroads operate without subsidy.

Pre-COVID, air travelers received subsidies averaging 1.1¢/mile.  Most of this went to small airports under Congress's 'Essential Air Service' vote-buying scheme.

Highways are paid for mostly by user fees in the form of fuel taxes.  Still, if you add in various high-cost 'bridge to nowhere' pork-barrel projects, there's overall around a 1¢/mile general taxpayer subsidy for automobile, intercity bus and heavy truck transportation.

So, Amtrak subsidies were 36 cents per passenger mile pre-COVID.  Amtrak is currently carrying about 0.11% of this country's passenger traffic, and basically 0% of the country's freight.  If Amtrak were totally and completely shut down this afternoon, the impact would not even be able to be measured on next quarter's GDP.

My question stands:  Can someone give me a compelling reason why I should ask the American tax payers to subsidize my adventures?
« Last Edit: July 31, 2021, 12:39:48 pm by TCS »
"My name is Pither.  I am at present on a cycling tour of the North Cornwall area taking in Bude and..."

Offline adventurepdx

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Re: Deciphering AMTRAK
« Reply #12 on: July 27, 2021, 01:20:42 pm »

That would be a good reason...if only it were true...

Highways are paid for mostly by user fees in the form of fuel taxes.  Still, if you add in various high-cost 'bridge to nowhere' pork-barrel projects, there's overall around a 1¢/mile general taxpayer subsidy for automobile, intercity bus and heavy truck transportation.

https://usa.streetsblog.org/2013/01/23/drivers-cover-just-51-percent-of-u-s-road-spending/


Fuel taxes do not pay 100% of highways/roads. There are other subsidies, and they are significant. And if we want to go down that road, there's the whole "bikes don't pay for their share of the roads, so don't deserve to be on them" argument that gets thrown around because of that assumption.

So, Amtrak subsidies were 36 cents per passenger mile pre-COVID.  Amtrak is currently carrying about 0.11% of this country's passenger traffic, and basically 0% of the country's freight.  If Amtrak were totally and completely shut down this afternoon, the impact would not even be able to be measured on next quarter's GDP.

https://usa.streetsblog.org/2012/09/21/reminder-amtrak-subsidies-pale-in-comparison-to-highway-subsidies/

Despite it all, Amtrak covers 85 percent of its operating costs with ticket sales and other revenues, according to that link.

And if we want Amtrak to have more than a below 1% share of travel in the US, the only way is to expand the network. And the only way to do that is give them more money, not continuously starve them as they have been for 50 years while saying they get too much money at the same time.

My question stands:  Can someone give me a compelling reason why I should ask the American tax payers to subsidize my adventures?

How about this:
Americans need more options for travel. Built-in redundancy is good, especially when one mode has to suddenly shut down (9/11). And if we are concerned about climate change, one way to combat that is by getting people out of their cars and out of airplanes. Bicycling is good, but I don't always have the time to bike long-distances.

Offline canalligators

Re: Deciphering AMTRAK
« Reply #13 on: August 08, 2021, 06:40:44 pm »
This discussion on public policy, while it has to do with cycle touring, is starting to sound very political.  Please take it to a more appropriate forum.

Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: Deciphering AMTRAK
« Reply #14 on: August 13, 2021, 04:33:04 pm »
But their bikes-as-baggage language has me befuddled.  Any comments on what to expect?  If they don't have walk-on service do they want you to box your bike? If the rack is full are you off the train?  In general, what is their organizational demeanor towards bikes; helpful or airline-hostile?

It's all pretty well summed up here:

https://www.amtrak.com/onboard/bring-your-bicycle-onboard.html

Folding bikes aside, there are three types of service:

Trainside Checked, where you hand your bike to an employee and he or she loads it into one of the newer baggage cars that are equipped with a rack to hang bikes. You must remove all large bags from the bike. A bike space reservation is required, so you are guaranteed a spot. I used this service last year to go from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh to start a cross-PA tour. Went smoothly. Even left my lightweight tent attached to my rear rack.

Carry-On service, where you bring your bike onto the train yourself. How that is accomplished differs between some services. I have twice taken my bike on the Vermonter, which offers this service.  On that train, there are "cubbies" near he end of certain cars. (Those cars are marked on the outside with a bike sticker near the door.) You bring your bike on and hang the bike by its rear wheel. Because my touring bike is large with a long wheelbase, I have to remove the front wheel.  There is a mechanism to secure the bike so it does not swing side to side. Again, you have to remove large bags like panniers. A bike reservation is required (except on two of the services noted), so you are guaranteed a spot. Since you very well may have to remove your panniers before entraining it is useful to put them in something like a strong garbage bag so you can get them on board all at once. I use a sleeping bag storage (not stuff) sack. Extremely light and compact so it adds nothing for the ride home.

The last is checked baggage, which requires that you box the bike and is only available between stations with checked baggage service.