Rail User Experiences Wanted

I’ve been asked to do some background research for a railway advisory group. This group is interested in gathering a variety of information for a major rail carrier relating to both recreational cyclists/travelers and multi-modal commuters (bike/rail) for the purposes of developing new stops, routes and procedures for moving bikes and cyclists aboard trains.

Although I’ve spent a lot of time traveling via train (I don’t fly), I’ve never traveled with a bike…nor have I had the opportunity to go multi-modal. Anyhow, what I’m hoping you could provide is your experiences using trains and bicycles together. The kinds of information that would be useful are:

–how are the bicycles stored or secured onboard? In a separate cargo car or mixed in with passengers?
–any fees you might have encountered while bringing a bike onboard
–hits/misses in the experiences you’ve had. Was it good and efficient or a nightmare of logistical headaches…or somewhere in between?
–what was the purpose of your travel: for recreation or for commuting purposes?
–any specific policies or procedures that worked or needed improvement?
–whatever else you care to add about your time onboard

Please indicate where you used a rail service in your comments…and thanks in advance for participating!


35 Comments

  1. Doug Jesseph January 28, 2010 8:08 pm 

    1) In general, bikes were stored in a separate car, or at least in a segregated part of a car.

    2) As far as I recall, no extra fees for a bike.

    3) All good — not a logistical or practical problem worth mention.

    4) Purpose of travel was 75% recreation/tourism, 25% commuting.

    5) Nothing needed improvement: bikes were considered part of the standard occupancy of the train, basically just like luggage.

    6) I’m a big fan of bike/rail transport. Tell that to your local represenative.

    7) Sadly, all these experiences were in Europe, basically in Germany (and a little bit in Holland). America could learn from their example.

  2. dugg January 28, 2010 8:28 pm 

    amtrak
    bike store with luggage and boxed up. about 20 for bike with your own box. no real issues was for travel.
    mbta-boston
    bikes are rolled right on the subway. no special spot for them. some lines do not allow them. rush hour black outs. folders can be brought at any time. no fee
    metronorth-ct/new york
    need bike permit(lasts forever) costs about 5 bucks i think. blackout for rush hour unless folding. bikes stored in handicap seating area

    i would like to see designated bike spots/cars

  3. breakaway9 January 28, 2010 8:46 pm 

    –Bikers have to stand with their bikes at the front and rear of each car.
    –No extra fees
    -Just that Trax in Salt Lake City doesn’t run frequently enough, nor does it run long enough into the night, but that is not really a biking problem.
    –I use Trax 1-2 times a month in the Fall/Winter 4-5 times a month in Spring and Summer.
    –Nope, it was pretty smooth.
    –I think its a great way to get downtown in a reasonable amount of time with a bike. The only real complaint I have is that they raised prices when gas was 4.50-5.00 but didn’t lower prices when gas prices went down, plus it’s an electric train, why am I subsidizing gas prices for buses? It’s not that big of a deal, better to have the service than not.

  4. Ghost Rider January 28, 2010 9:10 pm 

    So, in most of these experiences, it sounds like the bikes are just loose and in the same car as passengers. Were there any racks, designated tie-down points or similar devices available for the bikes?

    I’m under the impression that if bikes are allowed in the same car as passengers, the rail line is afraid of any liability if there’s a crash and bikes get flung around. A separate cargo car is being used in some areas (some of the Caltrans lines, if I’m not mistaken), and of course Amtrak requires boxed bikes for most, if not all of their lines.

    Thoughts?

  5. parker January 28, 2010 9:16 pm 

    I’ve taken my bike several times on the Amtrak Cascades trains which run between Eugene, OR, Seattle, WA, and (a recent extension) Vancouver, BC, with transfers (if needed) in Portland, OR. It’s very convenient and no hassle at all. You make a reservation for your bike ($5 each way), and you receive a separate ticket for it. At your departure station you roll your bike to the baggage office and get a tag to hang on the handlebar. To load the bike, you roll it to the baggage car where an attendant lifts it on board and hangs it securely on a vertical rack. At your destination, you walk down the platform to the baggage car and reclaim your bike. Each train has room for 6 bikes. Only regular bikes can be carried – no tandems or recumbents. These trains use the Spanish-designed Talgo trainsets which are very comfortable. It’s popular to bring bikes on these trains so advance reservations are a good idea.

    You can also take your bike on the Amtrak Coast Starlight which runs between Seattle and LA – but the bike has to be boxed. Large bike boxes are available at stations. I haven’t done this yet.

  6. Steve A January 28, 2010 9:26 pm 

    The Trinity Railway Express, running betweeen downtown Dallas and downtown Fort Worth in North Texas

    –how are the bicycles stored or secured onboard? – the riders hold their bikes. No special requirements or facilities beyond the bike being clean.

    –any fees you might have encountered while bringing a bike onboard

    None and no hassles

    –hits/misses in the experiences you’ve had. Was it good and efficient or a nightmare of logistical headaches…or somewhere in between?

    Uniformly positive

    –what was the purpose of your travel: for recreation or for commuting purposes?

    Both

    –any specific policies or procedures that worked or needed improvement?

    Nope. These guys are pretty durn good.

    –whatever else you care to add about your time onboard

    TRE is the best! DART is also pretty good!

    Please indicate where you used a rail service in your comments…and thanks in advance for participating!

    Dallas and Tarrant Counties, North Texas.

  7. Gary January 28, 2010 10:29 pm 

    –how are the bicycles stored or secured onboard? In a separate cargo car or mixed in with passengers?

    I have taken Amtrak several times on 6 to 10 hour trips as well as a couple of overnight trips. On some lines, my bike was boxed and placed in the baggage car. On other lines, my bike rolled into the passenger compartment in the location where one would store a wheelchair.

    –any fees you might have encountered while bringing a bike onboard

    There was a small fee for a box when I purchased one for one trip.

    –hits/misses in the experiences you’ve had. Was it good and efficient or a nightmare of logistical headaches…or somewhere in between?

    Good and efficient. The logistical problems are getting to the train station. Some minor inconvenience arriving at 3AM in Memphis.

    –what was the purpose of your travel: for recreation or for commuting purposes?

    I was joining an organized tour.

    –any specific policies or procedures that worked or needed improvement?

    When I purchased a box, it was flat and I had to beg for tape to assemble it.

    –whatever else you care to add about your time onboard

    I enjoyed the experience

  8. Gary January 28, 2010 10:34 pm 

    1 how are the bicycles stored or secured onboard? In a separate cargo car or mixed in with passengers?

    I have taken Amtrak several times on 6 to 10 hour trips as well as a couple of overnight trips. On some lines, my bike was boxed and placed in the baggage car. On other lines, my bike rolled into the passenger compartment in the location where one would store a wheelchair.

    2 any fees you might have encountered while bringing a bike onboard

    There was a small fee for a box when I purchased one for one trip.

    3 hits/misses in the experiences you’ve had. Was it good and efficient or a nightmare of logistical headaches…or somewhere in between?

    Good and efficient. The logistical problems are getting to the train station. Some minor inconvenience arriving at 3AM in Memphis.

    4 what was the purpose of your travel: for recreation or for commuting purposes?

    I was joining an organized tour.

    5 any specific policies or procedures that worked or needed improvement?

    When I purchased a box, it was flat and I had to beg for tape to assemble it.

    6 whatever else you care to add about your time onboard

    I enjoyed the experience

  9. Doohickie January 28, 2010 10:47 pm 

    I rode the TRE commuter train from Fort Worth to Dallas with some friends on a Friday. We took our bikes so we could ride around White Rock Lake in Dallas.

    –how are the bicycles stored or secured onboard?
    On the TRE commuter train there was a special area for securing bikes right next to the door. There straps to secure the bikes in place. We also rode on the Dallas light rail, which was more like a city bus inside. The best place for the bikes was in the articulated section where cars joined together. There were four of us, and it was a little cozy. We got a few dirty looks from other riders (and I admit we were in their way) but no one said we couldn’t take the bikes on the rail cars.

    –any fees you might have encountered while bringing a bike onboard
    For $7.50 I got a day-pass that was good on all local public transit in DFW; this includes The T bus system in Fort Worth, the Dallas DART buses and light rail, and the TRE commuter train that connects them. This was the normal rider’s rate; the bike did not cost extra.

    –hits/misses in the experiences you’ve had. Was it good and efficient or a nightmare of logistical headaches…or somewhere in between?
    It was fine. The worst part I already described- fitting in the cramped light rail car.

    –what was the purpose of your travel: for recreation or for commuting purposes?
    This was a pleasure trip, but it was on a commuting day (Friday) and we saw both commuters and people traveling to the State Fair of Texas which was being held in Dallas.

    –any specific policies or procedures that worked or needed improvement?
    I thought accommodations were fine. We were a little cramped on the light rail but short of taking out seats and dedicating an area for bike storage, there really isn’t an alternative. The train car was loaded enough that I thought this would not necessarily be a good solution. On the commuter train there was plenty of room and provisions for securing bikes in the train car.

    –whatever else you care to add about your time onboard
    <a href="http://doohickie.blogspot.com/2009/10/tour-de-dallas.html"<Here is a writeup with pictures from the ride.

  10. ulugeyik January 29, 2010 2:04 am 

    I have used my bike in SEPTA Regional Rail in Philadelphia for ~3 years. 2 years it was a folder , 1 year a single speed, commuter bike.

    –how are the bicycles stored or secured onboard? In a separate cargo car or mixed in with passengers?

    o Mixed in with passengers at the end of the rail-car where is either a ~4 person facing seats with a larger leg space or larger leg space in the last row.

    –any fees you might have encountered while bringing a bike onboard

    o No fees.

    –hits/misses in the experiences you’ve had. Was it good and efficient or a nightmare of logistical headaches…or somewhere in between?

    o Several points:
    – System is very inefficient. You are asked to life the bike on the back wheel and roll it through the narrow corridor. If there are people sitting in the last row — most of then, there are because it is more comfortable there — you need to somehow negotiate with them and place the bike. You take up ~2 person’s space.
    – SEPTA bans (or used to) full size bikes in “peak hours” which makes it inconvenient for working people like me. With a folder, when folded, you are supposed (key-word: supposed!) to be able to use it at all times. There were several instances that I was denied boarding very rudely and in violation of SEPTA rules.
    – There is a limitation on the maximum number of full-sized bikes in the whole train which you can’t know in advance. So you have to keep your fingers crossed that there are not 2 (or 5 in week-ends) bikes in the car already. When the gas prices soared in USA, it became more popular to utilize bikes and this was an issue. The rule was enforced irregularly.

    –what was the purpose of your travel: for recreation or for commuting purposes?

    o Commuting.

    –any specific policies or procedures that worked or needed improvement?

    o Special bike storage parts are important. Conductors should be well educated about the rules. The rules should be transparent and easy to enforce.

    –whatever else you care to add about your time onboard

    o We gain strength in numbers. The more people with bikes I saw, the less were the accusing looks from the other passangers.

  11. 2whls3spds January 29, 2010 3:31 am 

    I ride Amtrak on the southern East coast, primarily between SC and NC with occasional forays into VA and GA.

    Bikes are only allowed as checked baggage on these trains. The last time I took one home with me, the box was $15 and the fee $5, for a $20 total. You had to remove the pedals and turn the handle bars to fit in the box. AFAIK a small folder that is bagged can travel as carry on luggage and will be stored at the end of the car you are riding in, some of the cars have racks for this some don’t.

    Amtrak has many stations that are non checked baggage, if you want to embark or disembark at these stations you are SOL if you want your bike unless you take a folder with you.

    I am planning a longer trip in the Midwest later this summer and the non baggage stations are becoming a real issue. There are no checked baggage stations in the entire state of Iowa, which I find surprising given the major events that occur there like RAGBRAI.

    I would like to see more “roll on” service on the East Coast, I have no problem with the bike being properly secured in a baggage car. Hanging racks like in the wonderful videos from the UK that apparently took place in the 1950’s.

    Anything rail can do to make travel easy and affordable is going to be a huge plus in my book. Airlines have lost my business and driving is fast becoming my least favorite form of transportation.

    Aaron

  12. Ghost Rider January 29, 2010 4:30 am 

    This is great stuff everyone…keep it coming!

    I was going to ask about the bike boxes — what disassembly was required to fit the bikes into the boxes, but Aaron must have anticipated it because he covered it before I had a chance to ask. Thanks!

    @Doohickie, excellent write-up of your experiences. Thanks for the link. Your photo illustrates that some type of dedicated storage area is crucial for lines that have regular bike-users…it looks awfully cramped in the articulated “accordion” area. I can certainly understand any dirty looks you might have received!

  13. jatackett January 29, 2010 5:52 am 

    i wished amtrak had uniformed policy for bicycles they seam to have one for wheel chairs, baby strollers , walkers……
    roll on would be the best policy ….and if amtrak set aside in their schedule that certain trains would have such and such a car be available for roll on items…..bulky things….
    i have ridden the “empire builder” many times home to montana….and you have people who get on board with their back packs….why not have on those trains…. special cars for people who are traveling with bicycles or backpacks….
    i would not mind having to sit in a special car that was set aside for bicycles and other wheeled items that other passengers have brought with them while traveling…..
    i do not trust baggage handlers…..
    especially when the investment you have put into your bicycle…
    and when you get to your destination i hate having to deal with a damage bicycle late at night….
    amtrak has dropped the ball when it comes to uniformed policy…

  14. Brian January 29, 2010 9:00 am 

    I’ve rail/bike toured three times this past year:

    1) Dutch Rail,
    2) MBTA commuter rail, and
    3) Amtrak Downeaster.

    Each system worked very well, and I’d recommend it to any cyclist.
    Specific topics:

    Storage – Dutch Rail & MBTA have you store your bikes in the wheel chair space, which I think is ideal since it is easily accessed from the car door with minimal carrying of bikes. The Downeaster had a baggage car with a bike rack.

    Tie-Down – You have to bring your own straps. Dutch rail had a grab bar you could strap to. MBTA did not, so we strapped our bikes together, which worked well. No tie down was necessary on the Downeaster baggage car.

    Fees – No fee for MBTA. Dutch Rail & Downeaster was, I think, about $5 per trip, which is reasonable.

    Headaches – Low level platforms, the MBTA & Downeaster have a low platforms making it difficult to pick-up/carry your bike into the train; high platforms allow you to just wheel right on.

    Policies – MBTA & Dutch Rail have prohibitions during rush hour (Holland is small enough where most every train line is used for commuting).

    Improvements – High platforms (mentioned above). Dutch Rail cars had bike & wheelchair symbols on the entrances for them (this is particularly useful when more than one door is used to get on the train, common in Europe, not so much here). A clear & consistent policy for the entire system, or at least each line (cyclists should know what to expect at the station before they get there, most cyclists are happy to do what is best for the train, so long as they know beforehand).

    ~Brian

    PS I have MBTA & Downeaster photos here: http://bummels-jaunts.blogspot.com/
    I have some Dutch Rail photos I could send you.

  15. Ghost Rider January 29, 2010 9:22 am 

    @Brian…for MBTA and other trains where the bikes go in the wheelchair storage spaces, what happens when actual wheelchair users get on? I would imagine the bikes get bumped somewhere else, but where?

    Yes, please send the Dutch Rail photos, particularly any that show the bike storage, signage and other related details. If you could label them or provide brief descriptions, that would be fantastic. You can email them to me at ghostrider(at)bikecommuters(dot)com.

  16. Celos January 29, 2010 10:25 am 

    This is for the Capitol Corridor and ACE rail lines in Northern California.

    –how are the bicycles stored or secured onboard? In a separate cargo car or mixed in with passengers?
    Most trains have at least one car in the consist that has roll-in bike racks that hold the front wheel (like the old-style ones you’d find in front of a store) taking up half of the bottom level of the car, approximately 14 bikes per car or 24 per train. Other trains have velcro spots. Passengers are also on both types of car. Bike cars have external markings and are always in the same position on the train so you can easily line up in the right spot at the station.

    ACE has an overly fancy 360 graphic [url=”http://www.360andbeyond.com/gallery/ace/ace_bikecar/_flashvr/ace_bikeCarPub.html”]here[/url] that shows the bike car (click on the yellow dot in the middle of the car marked “intermediate and lower level”).

    –any fees you might have encountered while bringing a bike onboard
    Nope, blissfully free.

    –hits/misses in the experiences you’ve had. Was it good and efficient or a nightmare of logistical headaches…or somewhere in between?
    Both the Capitol and ACE have done a great job accommodating bikes. They’ve added capacity over time, and also have rentable lockers at various stations for folks that want to bike on one end of their ride but not take the bike onboard. I’ve been taking my bike on these trains near-daily for 10 years, and only rarely is it an issue (typically summertime when the number of bikes goes way up).

    –what was the purpose of your travel: for recreation or for commuting purposes?
    Commuting.

    –any specific policies or procedures that worked or needed improvement?
    They’ve adjusted. The dedicated bike cars/onboard parking didn’t exist originally, and there were passenger conflicts when bikes needed to boot people out of spaces. That’s been solved for a long time. Overall the system works really well.

    –whatever else you care to add about your time onboard
    Much better than driving, and a good way to mix a long bike commute one way with a shorter one the other.

  17. Dan D. January 29, 2010 11:57 am 

    Not specificly related to the questions as asked (I’ve not yet gone multi-modal but probably will soon on the MBTA for recreational use). But the type of train realtes to the ease of use. For subway/transit/light rail (intracity commuting) use, Roll-on Roll-off convenience is a must. A commuter is not going to want to spend 10-20 minutes retrieving a bike from a baggage car, or 20-30 retrieving it and unboxing it.

    For commuter rail (inter-city close, trips in excess of say 40 minutes, but daily use) the commuter might be willing to work with a streamlined retrieval from a baggage car, but will not want to box. For both of the above, the train is also not likely to want to sit in intermediate stations for the time required to transfer bikes onto and off of a baggage car.

    For passenger rail (inter-city, long distance), baggage car storage is much more practical. To appeal to either business travelers or recreational, boxes (reusable cases?) should be provided as part of any transportation fee, available at all stations and returnable at the next.

  18. Ghost Rider January 29, 2010 12:58 pm 

    @Dan D. — excellent idea…particularly the last one about a reuseable/returnable box that is included as part of the transport fee (or for a nominal additional fee).

    @Mark — great links. Thank you! These will be very useful for the advisory group.

  19. Anthony January 29, 2010 1:43 pm 

    Metro System, Melbourne Australia

    –how are the bicycles stored or secured onboard? In a separate cargo car or mixed in with passengers?
    On the train mixed with the passengers
    –any fees you might have encountered while bringing a bike onboard
    No fees.
    –hits/misses in the experiences you’ve had. Was it good and efficient or a nightmare of logistical headaches…or somewhere in between?
    No misses, you will get some evil eyes if you bring a bike on during peak time, but it’s not really a problem.

    –what was the purpose of your travel: for recreation or for commuting purposes?
    Commute or Recreation

    –any specific policies or procedures that worked or needed improvement?
    None.
    –whatever else you care to add about your time onboard
    Don’t fall asleep holding your bike or it could fall over.

    Lastly, I’ve brought my bike on the train only a handful of times, mainly because my wife came to the city so rather than ride home I’ve ridden the train home with her. I’ve seen people with their bikes on trains and often wondered why they just don’t ride. 😀

  20. Crank Mule January 29, 2010 2:17 pm 

    I rode NYC Subways for years and they technically allowed bikes on the trains but they are usually too crowed and have no designated space for anything but people.

    I now live in Atlanta and ride the MARTA frequently. Most stations have elevators, wide stairways and escalators. Every train car has designated spots for bikes or luggage with one spot having a simple hook chain so that one person can strap down there stuff. I would say 3 people with bikes could use each car with-out blocking doorways or aisles.

    Problems: Trains have limited reach with in the city. People use the bike/luggage areas to stand in even when the train isn’t full and rarely move for cyclists. Trains stop running late night.

    Added bonus is that the neighborhood I work in, Buckhead, has a program to encourage alternative commuting and will give you a free ride home if you take transit or ride a bike and get stuck late at work. I like riding at night so I haven’t used it yet.

    I just made Atlanta sound like a really good commuter town. It has it draw backs as well, namely for me heavly trafficked and shoulder-less roads and limited access points to cross the interstate highways that dissect the city.

  21. Ghost Rider January 29, 2010 2:39 pm 

    Crank Mule, I know what you mean…I lived in Buckhead for a few months (across the street from Fellini’s Pizza on Rumson Road). It definitely has pluses and negatives — and the traffic there is atrocious. BUT — there’s a strong and growing cycle culture there.

  22. Scott January 29, 2010 3:08 pm 

    I live outside of Philadelphia. So I only have experience with SEPTA and NJ Transit. I take AMTRAK often, but none of the Amtrak trains I take allow bikes. So that would be my biggest complaint: Some trains don’t take bikes unless they are folding bikes. It is VERY sad and incovenient that those of us who live in the area of the country that has the best rail system, but we can’t bring our bikes on it.

    SEPTA allows bikes on their Regional Rail trains, but only on off-peak hours. There is no special place for bikes on the cars. We wedge them into this area of the car that’s essentially supposed to be for handicap people. They do not charge extra for bikes, but I’ve heard reports of conductors giving people with bikes a hard time because they don’t know the rules (the conductors, that is). I have not had this experience.

    NJ Transit has a better system. They actually have a place for you to strap your bike in. It is also the handicap area, and you have to give up your space if a handicap person gets on, but it’s more out of the way than the SEPTA trains. Plus, it’s nice to be able to strap your bike in. Again, no extra fees.

    I don’t use rail during my regular commute. But I do combine bike and rail for occasional longer distance transportation. I wouldn’t really call it recreation. It’s more like utility/transportation purposes.

  23. Emma J(inary bicycle) January 29, 2010 10:46 pm 

    I love traveling by train – but not especially in the US. I have traveled enjoyably by train from Portland, Oregon to Bloomington, Illinois, but not with bikes.

    With a bike I only have a “miss” to add to your data. We had planned a 10-day multimodal bike/ train trip from Portland to the Kitsap Peninsula and Puget Sound. A week before departure Amtrak let us know that their special “bike” cars were all being pulled from the line for maintenance. (!) They offered us refunded tickets but no other options. It ended up being a mostly bike trip (eked out with a few motorcar lifts).

    I love the idea but I’m leery of Amtrak’s reliability.

  24. zouch! January 30, 2010 11:44 am 

    all comments are for the Amtrak Capitol Corridor, either from the East SF Bay area to Sacramento or San Jose.

    –how are the bicycles stored or secured onboard? In a separate cargo car or mixed in with passengers?

    o- trains typically have at least one car which is set up with bike racks of the sort where a bike is hung by its front wheel with an arm that extends to strap it to. if there isn’t enough room in the racks (and there rarely is during good commuting weather), bikes are generally tolerated almost anywhere they’re out of the way of passengers.

    –any fees you might have encountered while bringing a bike onboard

    o- no fees; just roll it on.

    –hits/misses in the experiences you’ve had. Was it good and efficient or a nightmare of logistical headaches…or somewhere in between?

    o- generally good WRT the bikes themselves. train service itself still generally sucks due to the fact that it isn’t cheap, isn’t frequent, isn’t as fast as driving in many cases, and the Amtrak trains are secondary priority users so it’s impossible to count on them for arrival times if you have a fixed schedule.

    –what was the purpose of your travel: for recreation or for commuting purposes?

    o- both business/commuting and pleasure.

    –any specific policies or procedures that worked or needed improvement?

    o- while cars with bike racks are typically well-enough marked from the outside, it would be nice if bike cars were grouped together when there are more than one so it wouldn’t necessitate scrambling along the platform to the other car when one is found to be too full.
    also, just a note if you have a bike whose finish you care about; the racks were obviously designed by someone who didn’t have any regard for the finish of a bicycle. the ‘hooks’ that the front wheels hang by will scratch rims, and the ‘arms’ that extend to keep bikes from swaying will scratch the paint on your frame. (i use one of my gloves at each contact point as an insulator if i’m riding a bike whose finish i care about.) this, of course, is all in addition to the disregard some of our fellow commuters display for others equipment when cramming their jumnkers into the racks… but that’s just how some people are about *everything* and is no fault of Amtraks.

    –whatever else you care to add about your time onboard

    o- when commuting on a semi-regular basis into the Silicon Valley, i found many of the cyclists begin to recognize each other (and their bikes) and a small sense of community evolves amongst those who like that sort of thing. that isn’t possible when people are all caged up on the highway in their individual vehicles.
    tolerance of various conductors was generally amazing good WRT parking of bikes; some of them were very vocally Pro-Bike policy; “Amtrak should make better provisions for bicycles; just make it work!”. as long as bikes were out of the way, it didn’t seem that conductors ever expressed a problem with thoughtful bike parking on the train when it overflowed the racks as it typically did. (i once actually had a conductor have me put one of my handbuilt custom bikes in the aisle instead of parking it in any open slot between 2 junkers on the rack because it was less likely to get damaged!)

  25. BluesCat January 31, 2010 8:32 am 

    Please indicate where you used a rail service in your comments
    Valley Metro Light Rail – Phoenix, Arizona

    how are the bicycles stored or secured onboard? In a separate cargo car or mixed in with passengers?
    There are several bike racks in each car, for hanging bikes by their front wheel:

    Bike Racks in Phoenix Light Rail Car.

    If they are all full, or if you cannot lift your bike up onto the rack, or if your bike will not fit on the rack (such as my long wheelbase recumbent), you can stand with your bike as long as it is not blocking the aisle or a doorway.

    any fees you might have encountered while bringing a bike onboard
    No extra fee is required, you can ride all day, and change trains (or even change to a city bus and back) for a flat fee of $3.50.

    hits/misses in the experiences you’ve had. Was it good and efficient or a nightmare of logistical headaches … or somewhere in between?
    I had no problems at all.

    what was the purpose of your travel: for recreation or for commuting purposes?
    Recreation.

    any specific policies or procedures that worked or needed improvement?
    None that I can think of.

    whatever else you care to add about your time onboard
    I know Mark already posted some of this info, here’s another page at Valley Metro’s site:
    Light Rail and Bicycles.

  26. Peter Bancroft January 31, 2010 10:46 am 

    –how are the bicycles stored or secured onboard? In a separate cargo car or mixed in with passengers?

    In the UK there is often a small cupboard for bikes. These are usually narrow, and state that they will hold 2-3 bikes, but in reality only hold one comfortably.

    –any fees you might have encountered while bringing a bike onboard

    No additional charges that I’ve experienced, but taking them on at busy times is a definite no-no.

    –hits/misses in the experiences you’ve had. Was it good and efficient or a nightmare of logistical headaches…or somewhere in between?

    No real problems – except in the mad rush to get on/off a bike in the way does tend to antagonise fellow passengers. A separate carriage would be sensible in this regard, but that would mean less seating space.

    –what was the purpose of your travel: for recreation or for commuting purposes?

    Commuting.

    –any specific policies or procedures that worked or needed improvement?

    Rail staff couldn’t give a monkeys.

    –whatever else you care to add about your time onboard

    I wasn’t encouraged to do it on a regular basis, I’ll put it that way.

  27. kit February 1, 2010 1:57 pm 

    I commute daily on Caltrain, probably one of the best intermodal train systems in the country. Here’s how it works…

    –how are the bicycles stored or secured onboard? In a separate cargo car or mixed in with passengers?
    In a separate bicycle car. There are 8 racks per car, and each can accommodate 4 bicycles, laid against each other and bungeed on. A tag system is used to identify each bicycle’s destination to avoid being buried by bicycles going further than you. Conductors ask non-cyclists to use other cars if possible to allow seating for cyclists.

    –any fees you might have encountered while bringing a bike onboard
    No separate fees. In California I do not believe it is legal.

    –hits/misses in the experiences you’ve had. Was it good and efficient or a nightmare of logistical headaches…or somewhere in between?
    Caltrain has a HUGE adoption rate. I regularly ride on trains where the bikes are at or near capacity, and this is after Caltrain raised their bicycle capacity so they have had massive success with getting commuters to adopt this service. I would say that when the cars get up to 40 bikes, it is a logistical challenge to get cyclists and their bikes on and off the train, and delays occur. Some trains have more than one bike car, and allowing cyclists spread themselves out across two doors and two cars alleviates the problems.

    –what was the purpose of your travel: for recreation or for commuting purposes?
    Commuting.

    –any specific policies or procedures that worked or needed improvement?
    As I said, be prepared for slow but eventual mass adoption. Once this happens, plans may need to be in place to convert additional cars to bicycle cars or risk delays.

    –whatever else you care to add about your time onboard
    As someone pointed out on LinkedIn, you can find out more online from the SF Bicycle Coalition here:
    http://www.sfbike.org/?caltrain_bob

  28. Cyclin' Missy February 2, 2010 8:49 am 

    When I visited Chicago this past fall to meet bike blogger friends, I brought my bike and combined it with the El system to get around the city. The El trains allowed bikes all day on the weekends, which are not as busy as the weekdays. I never had any trouble bringing my bike on the trains. There were designated bike areas in each passenger car, though I didn’t understand how they really provided room for a bike. I still felt like my bike was blocking a set of seats behind or in front of mine. This didn’t matter at the time because passenger traffic was low, but I could see it being a problem during peak hours. The train staff also let me push my bike through the handicapped entrance/exit gates instead of the turnstiles, which was very helpful. There were no extra fees for carrying my bike on the trains.

    Several times, I rode between train lines or from a train stop to my destination. Overall, it was a very good experience.

  29. barefoot February 3, 2010 7:24 pm 

    I do an infrequent multi-modal commute to Melbourne, Australia, from Ballarat (a small city of ~90k people, about 70 miles from Melbourne).

    My commute is an hour on the intercity service to downtown Melbourne, then half an hour on a suburban train, then 10 minutes ride to the office. Luckily it’s infrequent, and I’m allowed to travel on company time. Most people drive the 1.5 hours each way between sites.

    The intercity trains have one bike/luggage bay per pair of carriages. It’s long enough to fit a bike comfortably, and wide enough to fit about 4 bikes (it’s about as wide as the 2-person seat that backs on to it). Above the bike bay is a rack for oversized suitcases. There are a couple of long velcro straps attached to the wall; you pull one of them around the top-tube and stick it back on to itself.

    It’s free to take your bike.

    It can be a squeeze getting a bike on to these peak services; Ballarat is within commuting distance of downtown Melbourne, and it’s becoming more popular every year. I haven’t missed out yet, but the official line is that bikes are only carried if there’s space. Luckily Ballarat is the start of the line, so there’s a better chance of getting a bike spot (and a seat) than if joining the train later.

    Melbourne suburban trains, as mentioned in a post above, have no specific provisions for bikes, but bikes are permitted. A ban on bikes was introduced then overturned after concerted lobbying a year or two back.

    On longer intercity routes, different (locomotive hauled) trains are used. These have a dedicated luggage room in the first half of the first carriage, which is where bikes are carried. I’ve only taken my bike on one of these; I loaded my (unboxed) bike into the carriage, and a railway staffer unloaded my bike at my nominated destination. I didn’t like this so much… not being able to see my bike and having no idea how it was being handled.

  30. 2whls3spds February 4, 2010 3:43 am 

    @ Emma J,

    That is a huge problem for Amtrak that they really need to work on. I know a in a large part it is caused by inconsistent and marginal funding. I just had to drive 250 miles due to cancellation/planned schedule outages due to track construction. Cancellation was due to east coast winter weather and lack of equipment. The track construction is being done by CSX and is major rail replacement. From my discussion with a couple of people in rail, apparently Amtrak’s lease agreement only allows them to use certain tracks so they cannot do run arounds like the freights do.

    Aaron

  31. SI Reasoning February 6, 2010 2:17 pm 

    I have wanted to do a rail/bike adventure with my family. This is what I would like to see:

    – recumbent friendly
    – space for larger and wider vehicles (I have a recumbent long wheelbase delta trike with a wide rear for storage that I use for hauling my boy and stuff)
    – trailer friendly
    – routes that include stops near National Forests, National, State and County Monuments/Parks

  32. Thank You For Your Input!!! | Bike Commuters April 6, 2010 8:07 pm 

    […] the end of January, I asked our readers to provide input on their bike/train experiences. This was part of a research project I did for a […]

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *