Bike stuff

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PaulM

Conductor
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Jun 27, 2008
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So I'm thinking about bringing my folding bike (Dahon Vitesse, 20" wheels, about 25 pounds) on a trip to Florida (PHL to ORL.) And I'm trying to decide if it'll be too big a hassle or not. The policy says you are allowed to bring on a folding bike as carry on, but the Viewliners don't have the dedicated cargo space that Superliners have, so how does that work? I can't imagine jamming a folding bike in a roomette with me.

Or--I can I check a folded bike as is or would I have to put it in something? (Do we know the dimensions of the bike box? I would think I would be able to just fold my pedals up to fit it in a bike box, versus taking them off.) Or do I just not fold it, treat it like a regular bike and hand it to baggage car staff as part of the walk up bike service?

(I suppose I'm just soliciting opinions before I call Amtrak myself, given that not all Amtrak staffers are equally aware of all Amtrak policy.)
I frequently travel with a Dahon MU P8. I agree that it wouldn't fit very well in VL room if there are two people (I've never traveled alone in one). What I did once was sneak the bike onto a coach where there was ample luggage space. I did this successfully departing CHI on the LSL and returning from Albany after biking the Erie Canal from Buffalo to Albany.

Several times when traveling to Florida, I packed it in an airline legal suitcase; and the station agents were kind enough to store the suitcase until I returned. But I wouldn't count on that. Another time we manage to carry the suitcases to our motel.



A 20" Dahon would get lost in an Amtrak box; and I doubt you would have to remove the pedals. Since your origin and destination has walk up bike service, I would go that route. I don't see why you would have to fold it (nothing in the rules indicating that a clown bike :p is not acceptable). I doubt Amtrak will have thought through the question of whether walk up bike service for a folder works better folded or not.
 

justinslot

Service Attendant
Joined
May 25, 2014
Messages
132
Thanks PaulM. Yeah, I think my best options are either checking it in a suitcase, or using the walk up bike service.
 

justinslot

Service Attendant
Joined
May 25, 2014
Messages
132
Update: after talking with a CSR it appears the attendant will place the folded bike in the baggage car. So I am going to take my chances tomorrow with just bringing my bike to the station, sans suitcase or bike reservation. Wish me luck.
 

justinslot

Service Attendant
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May 25, 2014
Messages
132
I had no issues carrying it on, and the SCA took it to the baggage car after asking the conductor if it was okay to leave it there.
 

Thirdrail7

Conductor
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There are a number of things that people that aren't involved in operations never consider. First, is a train to train comparison it not wise since different trains utilize different equipment. As examples The Capitol Limited and the Vermonter use a modified bike coach, while the Heartland Flyer and the Downeasters use a cabbage (something that TX and OK may eliminate to save costs).
Unless something changes, I think this song is appropriate.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CT1uxJb2ci8

Happy New Year! :ph34r:
 

TiBike

OBS Chief
Joined
Apr 18, 2015
Messages
709
So we're well into the new year and summer is coming up fast. It seems no one at Amtrak is breaking a sweat over implementing roll-up bicycle service. It's stuck at where it was seven months ago.

They've finally gotten around to including the correct information in the California Zephyr and Empire Builder schedules, but that's about it. The Coast Starlight schedule doesn't even mention bikes, on both the standalone version (published January 2016) and the version in the systemwide timetable. The coastal California schedule in the systemwide version, on the other hand, makes it look like bike service is available at every station on the route. The correct info is available on website pages, but you have to dig around to find it.

The ticketing system is still messed up. If you buy a bike slot on a round trip and book a bike in one direction, the system automatically adds it to the other direction. That's true whether you book the bike just on the outbound or just on the return. And it still adds the $20 upcharge on a per segment basis, whether you take a bike on both segments or not. To use an extreme example, if I want to travel from Reno to Klamath Falls and back, but just want to take my bike as far as Sacramento on the outbound leg and leave it there, it'll cost me $80.

One workaround is to book one-way tickets. Booking single segment tickets isn't much of a solution: you still end up paying more for the journey – in one scenario I tried it was more than the $20 phantom bike charge – and you lose any protection you might have for a missed connection. But not everyone is going to figure it out, nor should they have to. It's just typical Amtrak sloppiness, but it's also grounds for a consumer fraud complaint if someone gets tagged with unnecessary extra charges.

No one has bothered to figure out how to deal with bikes at most unstaffed stations, either. The two unstaffed stations on the EB and the one on the CZ still take roll ups, so it's solvable. And the staff at Centralia, Washington still hasn't figured out how to load/unload bikes in both directions.

After seven months of accepting bikes – and two years of trying to figure out how to operate the bike racks on the new baggage cars – what might have been reasonable start-up glitches have become standard operating procedure.

Pathetic.

Unless something changes, I think this song is appropriate.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CT1uxJb2ci8

Happy New Year! :ph34r:
 

Thirdrail7

Conductor
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Messages
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Train side bike check is now available on trains 67/65 and 66 at Richmond Main Street station (RVM.) That makes 6 out of 9 stations that offer train side bike check on the WAS-NPN section of this train.

I don't have a lot of hope for the other three but I didn't have a lot of hope for RVM.
 

Thirdrail7

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According to the Amtrak website, the Hoosier State will allow carry on bicycles. It takes effect on 8/20.
 

Thirdrail7

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Hammond (HMD), Meridian(MEI), Tuscaloosa(TCL) offer train side bicycle check.
 

dogbert617

OBS Chief
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Aug 19, 2016
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According to the Amtrak website, the Hoosier State will allow carry on bicycles. It takes effect on 8/20.
I think there is a trip to CHI with my bike in the future. Will CRF support them?
I did a test booking on the website of Crawfordsville to Chicago on one of the days Cardinal doesn't run, and it appears the fee is $10 to bring a bike on board with the carry on bike program for the Hoosier State train. Oddly enough, the carry on bicycle website Amtrak page hadn't yet been updated to show this, but it shows the thrice weekly Cardinal charges $20 for a carry on bike(ouch, when I assumed most such fees were $10 or less). https://www.amtrak.com/bring-your-bicycle-onboard
 
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TiBike

OBS Chief
Joined
Apr 18, 2015
Messages
709
Moving this from the carry-on policy thread -- there are plenty of bicycle solutions, on and off Amtrak, that don't involve fancy bike racks and/or dedicated space. These pictures are from my trip to LA. Didn't get pics at the Salinas station, where the agent was extremely helpful, offering to store my bike while I got lunch and then rolling it up to the baggage car himself (no other checked baggage, and 11 was 2 hours late – he took the initiative and sped things up for everyone).

2018-11-02 18.04.46.jpg

Onboard the Catalina ferry. The bike racks were full, so the crewman told me to lean it up against the bulkhead. No bungee cord needed, worked fine.

2018-11-04 10.10.15.jpg

On the Metro Blue Line, from Long Beach to downtown LA. I hooked my handlebar over the railing (it's shared space with wheelchairs), the next guy on bungeed his bike to a post, guy #3 held onto his. No drama.

2018-11-04 11.15.41.jpg

In the LA Union Station Metro Lounge. The attendant smiled when I came in and said "put it over there".

2018-11-04 13.58.21.jpg

On board the Surfliner, heading to Santa Barbara. The bike racks are minimal – just a velcro strap to hold the rear wheel. Works fine. Notice the hooks and other hardware for wheelchairs – the primary wheelchair space is next to the bike area, but it's designed to be flexibly shared if needed.

2018-11-04 14.41.33.jpg

Underneath the Thruway, from Santa Barbara to Salinas. The driver had me slide it in on top of the wheelchair lift.

No problem transporting a bike anywhere. Everyone – staff and fellow passengers – was gracious. The bike racks in the Viewliner 2 baggage cars are nice, but not particularly necessary. Attitude is what matters.
 
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AG1

OBS Chief
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Jul 8, 2018
Messages
785
Nice report and  photos on the transport of bicycles on Amtrak. Do you have insurance on your titanium bike ? I would be apprehensive leaving it out of my sight ! (off train)
 
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TiBike

OBS Chief
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Apr 18, 2015
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709
I don't have special insurance for my bikes, just whatever coverage I might have on my homeowners' policy.

Yes, I worry about it too. The bike area on the Surfliner was full this trip, and bikes needed to be moved around, so I didn't lock it. If I can, I do, but I don't worry about it so much on the Surfliner or Capitol Corridor. Anywhere else, unless it's checked, I keep it in sight – I'll stand next to it or sit in a jump seat if necessary. At stations, I'll put it in a bike locker – Bike Link is well established in the Bay Area, and a few other places in California. Secure bicycle parking is also becoming more common, particularly around train stations and transit hubs. When I'm in a hotel, I always bring it in the room with me – never leave it in their so called bicycle parking areas.
 

Thirdrail7

Conductor
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Ottumwa,La Junta, Fort Madison,  and Topeka will offer train side bike service.  Check the website for details, possible fees,etc.
 

TiBike

OBS Chief
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Messages
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Ottumwa,La Junta, Fort Madison,  and Topeka will offer train side bike service.  Check the website for details, possible fees,etc.
Thanks! That's great news. They're figuring it out, and deserve credit for it. [emoji3]
 

PaulM

Conductor
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Jun 27, 2008
Messages
2,267
Ottumwa,La Junta, Fort Madison,  and Topeka will offer train side bike service.  Check the website for details, possible fees,etc.
You can add Mt. Pleasant, IA to the list.

I do have a question about MTP.  It is one of those stations that lost its agent in the latest downsizing.  Recently at train time someone was performing agent duties, filling out baggage claim checks, including bikes; letting people know when the train is approaching, which side of the double track to stand on, and where the coaches and sleepers were located;wheeling checked baggage out to the baggage car; and in general making like an agent.  After checking my bike ticket, he took it from me and did the rest.

Is it possible that Amtrak is hiring someone just to help out at train time?  Agents may not be selling as many ticket anymore; but there services are sure needed at train time at places like MTP.
 

Thirdrail7

Conductor
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The title is "caretaker." They open/close the station and assist passengers. A lot of the unstaffed stations have them.  I've heard they are volunteers or work for the city that provides them. 
 

TiBike

OBS Chief
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Apr 18, 2015
Messages
709
Here's a picture of a bike (not mine) loaded into the baggage car on the Starlight on a recent trip. There were three bikes, including mine, getting off at the same station and the conductor just leaned them up against the baggage shelves when he loaded them on at various stations as the train came up from LA. No bike rack, no bungee cord, no problem. It's a good way to load bikes in – see my post above for an example of doing it the same way on a ferry boat.

It tells me a couple of things: 1. the conductor knew what he was doing and made a smart and efficient choice, and 2. you don't need a whole baggage car with fancy bike racks to transport bicycles.

I'm glad that at least some people at Amtrak have figured out that bicycles are not radioactive. There's no good reason not to take roll on/roll up bikes at any station on any train.

bike_on_starlight_625px.jpg
 

Thirdrail7

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I'm glad you're condoning all of the violations that this conductor committed. It is equally gratifying that you're posting it for any manager or supervisor that may frequent this board to see.


Why don't you finish the job by sending this into Amtrak and gush about what a great, efficient rule violator he is? Even better, submit the crew name and date of travel? That will save them the trouble of sending spotters or causing local management to hide and scout out the actions of other crews.
 

TiBike

OBS Chief
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Apr 18, 2015
Messages
709
Yes, to the extremely limited extent it matters to the universe, I am condoning any and all violations, and offering gushing praise about what I saw. If an employee acts rationally, or at least fails to succumb to what others have accurately described as bicycle derangement syndrome, and that causes Amtrak managers' blood vessels to pop, then the problem is with Amtrak management. This is an example of the way it can be done – it's a method that can be used to improve customer service and make long distance trains more attractive to more people. Maybe not make a huge difference, but every little bit helps.

Given the volume of comments on this board about employee rule violations that diminish the quality of service offered to Amtrak customers that don't seem to result in massive undercover operations to find the offenders, I'm not going to feel guilty about mentioning one that can actually improve it.
 

tricia

Conductor
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Aug 23, 2011
Messages
1,011
Possible problem suggested by the photo in post #95: One bike is taking up space that might be needed by a whole lot of other baggage. There's gotta be a better way...
 

Thirdrail7

Conductor
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Perfect....this is what I actually wanted:

Given the volume of comments on this board about employee rule violations that diminish the quality of service offered to Amtrak customers that don't seem to result in massive undercover operations to find the offenders, I'm not going to feel guilty about mentioning one that can actually improve it.
Rule and safety violations (that the FRA requested Amtrak implement even though they don't restrict other railroads) are cool and you're all for employees breaking rules...as long as it helps you or works to your favor.

I suspected as much. Thanks for the confirmation.
 
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TiBike

OBS Chief
Joined
Apr 18, 2015
Messages
709
Thanks for the snark. Sometimes the problem is an employee breaking the rules, sometimes it's the rule itself. I'm inclined to believe it's the latter, although you don't actually cite a rule that's being violated. So exactly which FRA rule is being violated? Where do I find an FRA rule regarding bicycles?
 
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