Amtrak to Begin Welcoming Bikes on Long-Distance Routes

Roll-on bike storage, coming soon to Amtrak trains. Photo: Amtrak
Roll-on bike storage, coming soon to an Amtrak train near you. Photo: Amtrak

The nation’s intercity passenger rail service just got a lot bike-friendlier.

Amtrak announced last week that it is installing new baggage cars — equipped for bike storage — in all trains on its long-distance routes by year’s end. The change will allow Amtrak riders to “roll on” their bikes, rather than disassembling them and transporting them in boxes. The new baggage car equipment is being tested in Chicago, New Orleans, Miami, and the Northeast Corridor, Amtrak officials said in a blog post.

Amtrak officials hinted the more convenient bike transport was in response to demand from consumers. Campaigns aimed at securing assembled bike storage aboard Amtrak routes have been waged in New York and other states. Only a handful of Amtrak routes currently allow a limited number of fully assembled bikes.

“It’s clear that Americans want a national system of intercity passenger rail and Amtrak is moving ahead to build new equipment to meet customer demand,” said Amtrak President and CEO Joe Boardman in the blog post.

In the comments, people were already indicating their intent to ride Amtrak more.

“Roll-on bike service will make me choose Amtrak over air travel every chance I get,” said Washington Bikes Director Barb Chamberlain. “I’ve been waiting for this to transform my vacation choices.”

69 thoughts on Amtrak to Begin Welcoming Bikes on Long-Distance Routes

  1. The first and last legs of a long intercity journey are the ones that beg for the use of a car so often. Especially when you reach your destination hub, you either have to pay for a taxi or pay for a rental car or pay for a bus. I’ll be excited to have the freedom to get to my hometown station easily on my bike for free, and then have my bike with me to move for free when I get to my destination. I can’t wait to try it as soon as possible!

  2. Just as soon as they shut down the money losing highways and roadways that we drive and die on every day.

  3. This is NOT correct: “Amtrak announced last week that it is installing new baggage cars — equipped for bike storage — in all trains on its long-distance routes by year’s end.”

    Amtrak announced that they expect to BEGIN to deploy new baggage cars into revenue service by the end of 2014. They have 55 baggage and 25 baggage-dorm cars on order from CAF. Delivery of all the baggage and baggage-dorm cars and entry into revenue service is likely to take until early 2016, maybe longer. Yes, all the new baggage and baggage-dorm cars (to be used on the eastern overnight long-distance routes) will have bike storage racks, but they won’t be on all LD trains by the end of the year.

  4. This is what Amtrak says in their blog post: “The new baggage cars will be used on all 15 long-distance routes, which means the benefits ofimproved reliability and an enhanced climate-control environment for baggage will be available to our long distance customers by the end of 2014. Also, the new cars will be equipped with built-in luggage racks that will be able to secure unboxed bicycles (hooray!).”

  5. So Corn Dog,
    As you drive down the highway, I pay 49% of the expense of your travel. But of course you do the same for me when I travel the highways. Gee I guess we’re both socialists.

  6. This is a nice development. Boxing a bike is an annoyance. But an even bigger annoyance is how to get the box to your departure station and what to do with the box once you arrive at the destination. Eliminating the box also eliminates the need to take a car to/from the station and allows the bike to satisfy the last-mile links. I hope Amtrak sees ridership gains by generating more bike-train-bike trips.

  7. This could really boost bike tourism for bikeable cities served by Amtrak, and especially those that also are near good rail-trails. It will be up to those local jurisdictions, and maybe local bike shops, to provide the “last mile” links from the Amtrak station to the trail — whether it’s a bike route, bus, or private shuttle service. I’m planning a bike vacation now, and it seems that most state and local jurisdictions assume that everyone using the trail is going to drive to a trail head.

  8. There’s an 8-80 fail. Trying to imagine my 92-year-old grandmother using that bicycle storage. Sorry, anything that involves lifting the bike just excluded the elderly and everyone else not strong enough to lift it.

    Why reinvent the wheel? In The Netherlands, one just rolls the bike on the train. Easy! But you have to pay 6 euros or else everyone would do it. See:

    http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2008/10/things-that-dont-scale.html

    And in Denmark it is often free:

    http://www.cycling-embassy.dk/2011/06/29/x-tra-bikes-on-the-s-train/

  9. Good point, but I assume there would be other passengers on the train, in addition to the crew. People need help with all sorts of things when they’re traveling, and they can easily get it. Lifting a bike would just be one more thing.

  10. Unfortunately the blog is not consistent with the Amtrak June 17 press release on the start of testing of the first baggage car. The first new Viewliner II has just started formal testing with “The expectation is that new baggage cars will begin entering revenue service by the end of 2014.” (quote from the Amtrak press release). No way Amtrak completes testing and then CAF delivers all the Viewliner II baggage cars by the end of the year. Just some sloppy writing by the contributor to the blog post website.

    The good news is that by 2016, all the Amtrak trains that take checked baggage should also store bikes in the baggage car.

  11. Anyone know what the capacity will be? That Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article said their trial run handled 20 cyclists. If they actually built that much capacity in to these baggage cars, I think that is saying that Amtrak expects strong demand over time for this.

    Also, does anyone know what they’ll charge per bike? I’ve got to think that as long as they keep it reasonable, this is going to be a small money-maker for Amtrak. Win-win.

  12. Cyclist are also good about helping fellow cyclist as well. I’m sure some young man or lady will help their elders.

  13. Has the ability of the racks to handle recumbent bikes and trikes been addressed. We are a small, but definitely increasing (especially among the senior crowd) segment of the cycling group.

  14. If you build capacity, capacity may eventually follow..and besides, if they aren’t in use they fold up.

  15. I imagine that this will work like the Amtrak Cascades, where there’s “roll-on” service (but the bikes are housed in a separate baggage compartment). The bike fee for those trains is $5.

    It appears that the “racks” are hooks that clip onto the standard baggage racks, so capacity can be managed accordingly.

  16. Normal bicycles are not allowed to be carried on national train routes during peak time in Netherlands (6.30 – 9 AM, 4.30 – 7 PM), and the profile of train routes in Netherlands is very, very different than that of Amtrak.

  17. Tandem bikes need to be accommodated, too. Tandems are a much larger % of the bicycle touring community than they are of the bicycle community at large. Tandem couples spend more money per tour than any two “average” bicycle tourists– they are the upper end of the bicycle touring market, able to pay for bedrooms aboard overnight trains and “rail cruises.” With recumbent riders, tandem riders are part of the retired boomer generation: they bike, they buy high ticket goodies, and they Vote..

  18. Tandems are still a small subset of total bike users, even in the touring “community”. It would be great to accommodate tandems and recumbents, but there are challenges in doing so. It looks like Amtrak is taking the first step of accommodating bikes in general, but it’s going to take some work to extend that to “non-standard” bike types.

  19. Long-haul trains go a lot farther, though, so I wouldn’t be surprised if a trip on the Empire Builder cost $15-$20 for a bike.

  20. Still waiting to hear if I’ll be able to load or disembark with my bike at any station. Make it so, Amtrak!

  21. I tend to agree. For what it’s worth, when I was taking a recumbent on the capitol corridor nobody bothered me about it, but it was a pretty short-wheelbase one and if you turned the front wheel around it fit fine.

  22. I carried a recumbent on the capitol corridor for a year with no troubles. It was a Bacchetta Giro, and with the front wheel turned around and bars lowered it fit just fine.

  23. This can’t happen soon enough. I’ve taken my bike on for tourist reasons on trains to Sacramento and the Central Valley (ACE train) and was a little put off from heading to SoCal, the Sierras or the Pacific Northwest due to the boxing requirements. Say when and I will be on the train!

  24. The Crescent would be another good one to allow bikes either way, with the SilverComet/Chiefladiga trail and the trails in VA. Sign me up for either direction leaving from the Toccoa station.

  25. I wasn’t too thrilled with this design when I used it with my bike on the Capitol Corridor to go to the APBP Conference in Davis in 2007. It worked okay but not really well and if the luggage racks are already folded down and full of bags, you’re out of luck.

    Why is it so hard for Amtrak to replicate the well functioning vertical bike racks that I found on German trains 15 years ago?!?! (sorry I can’t find my photo, originally shot on slide film).

  26. OMG–pick it to pieces, willya–? We will make it work for 92-year-olds and triple tandems in Phase 2! mcget/trophy bikes philadelphia

  27. 3 years ago I boarded an Amtrak train with my folder, 2 panniers, and a handlebar bag. The station had no platform; the trains steps were lowered. Scratching my head how about what to set down, a conductor reached down from the top of the stairs, took my folded bike and placed it inside for me… draw your own conclusion.

  28. Continuing, and expanding service, is contingent upon use. So let’s get out and use it. Grab your bike and take a day trip to another city. Houston to New Orleans if it’s offered. Wish Amtrak still had service to Galveston.

  29. So happy to hear this news. I had such a great time last month cycling in combination with Amtraking in Oregon and California on the routes that allowed walk on bicycles. I plan to use Amtrak more as increased bicycle walk on service is implemented. Wise move, Amtrak!

  30. I am so happy to hear this. It is so hard to get to start and end points for bike touring and this will really help. This will be so awesome!!! Now, if you can allow those of us who only have “unmanned” stations in our neighborhoods to allow us to bring on our owe luggage e.g. our bikes, that would be doubly awesome.

  31. Well done AMTRAK best news I could receive. I tried to plan a tour of the Katy trail last year using amtrak. ended up cancelling and driving down from Canada. Can’t wait to give it a try.

  32. Absolutely well done. I will certainly use their service in the future, rather than have to hassle with an airline! Thank-you AMTRAK,

  33. By all means, Give them a big thumbs up. I am a cross country cyclist, and will only travel on Amtrak from now on if this becomes the norm. In the past I’ve looked at other “bike friendly” means of travel. You just got my business. Thanks

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