Amtrak Cascades trains can now carry more bikes

Photo from WSDOT

Photo from WSDOT

Amtrak’s Cascades trains can now carry ten bikes, a small but potentially trip-saving change for a route that connects some of the continent’s bikiest cities.

The train connects Vancouver, BC, to Eugene, passing through Bellingham, Seattle and Portland. The fact that the train carries any non-boxed bikes at all is enough to make east coasters drool, and is necessary if the train wants to fend off competition from cheaper intercity transit options like the relatively new Bolt Bus.

Taking a bike on Amtrak costs $5 and must be reserved in advance. Too often, people booking late discover that all the bike spots have been taken, and it is especially not dependable to buy a ticket at the gate and expect a bike space to be open.

Bolt Bus, while not nearly as pleasant a journey (I-5 is a soul-sucking place), is much cheaper and does not require a bike reservation. However, your bike will not get the same TLC as it will on Amtrak: On Bolt Bus, it is treated as oversized baggage and shoved into the underbelly cargo area of the coach, but on Amtrak it will be hung on a bike rack in the baggage train.

More details on the changes, from WSDOT:

AmtrakCascadesMap_largeEnjoying the Pacific Northwest on two wheels just got a bit easier.

The Washington State Department of Transportation and Amtrak recently added more bicycle storage racks to all Amtrak Cascades trains, with space for 10 bicycles now available. Riders can reserve a seat and bike space through amtrakcascades.com/ or by calling 1-800 -USA- RAIL.

“Washington is a six-time champ as the top bicycle-friendly state and these bike racks will make it easier for bicyclists to combine Amtrak Cascades and bicycle travel to tour the Pacific Northwest – from Eugene, Ore. to Vancouver, BC, and all stops in between,” said Washington Secretary of Transportation Lynn Peterson.

On-board bicycle storage racks must be reserved in advance and can only accommodate standard bicycles. The racks allow Amtrak staff to hang and secure standard bicycles on the walls of baggage cars. Tandem, recumbent, or other specialized bicycles will require a bicycle bag or box and must be checked as baggage at staffed Amtrak stations. Travelers who do not have a bicycle box can purchase one at staffed Amtrak stations for $15.

When Amtrak Cascades trains began service in 1999, six bicycle storage racks were included in each train’s baggage car.

To reserve a bicycle rack, buy tickets early for the best fares. All cities are on sale at 25 percent off when purchased early. Once on the train, local food and drink is available in recently- upgraded bistro cars.

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9 Responses to Amtrak Cascades trains can now carry more bikes

  1. Karl says:

    This is also good news because last year they did not even have the ability to carry bikes when I went to Bellingham. They tried to make me box it up and put it in the luggage car. It was cheaper and easier just to rent a bike there. Portland was so much easier.

  2. Andres Salomon says:

    Great! I’ve had instances where I couldn’t take the train because they were out of bike spaces.

    Next up, I wish they’d officially allow freestanding cargo (and other nonstandard) bikes. This is especially important to the kid-hauling folks. I’ve emailed them asking for a policy change. I encourage others to do the same.

    http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentServer?c=Page&pagename=am%2FLayout&cid=1237608364155

    • doug p says:

      A couple years ago, my wife and I finished up a camping trip with our tandem in Eugene. The plan was to take Cascades back to Seattle. Multiple calls to the Amtrak customer service center assured me that the tandem was okay on Cascades if I purchased two bike boxes. This was repeated in Amtrak’s regulations.

      Of course, when we rolled up to the station for our 9AM train, we discover that no, non-standards bikes are not allowed on Cascades train. The procedure is actually to check an oversized bike onto that day’s Coast Starlight. Of course, the northbound Coast Starlight blows through Eugene at 3AM or something. So no go.

      I explain to the Station Agent that I had called multiple times to avoid this sort of problem. He apologizes, says there is no room for oversized cargo on a Cascades train, and walks away. Once he leaves, the ticket clerk called up the Portland station and asks if they’d be willing to transfer a tandem. They say okay, and she makes the arrangements.

      We got home with our bike just fine. During the ride I walked and peered into the cargo car and see my bike leaning against the wall with no issues.

      Why I told the long story: They certainly could accommodate extra-large bikes, and even do on a case by case basis. They just refuse to acknowledge that reality.

      • Andres Salomon says:

        I’ve heard similar stories, where people succesfully convince amtrak to take their cargo/longtail/tandem/etc bike. I’ve also heard stories where people have been rejected. The lack of consistency means one has to assume rejection, unless you’re the type of person who likes being stranded at the train station with angry family members/screaming kids.

  3. RTK says:

    I made the trip down and back a few weeks ago, down on BoltBus back on Amtrak. I agree with Tom on both counts, Amtrak is much more enjoyable and treats bikes better.

  4. Barb G says:

    “They certainly could accommodate extra-large bikes, and even do on a case by case basis. They just refuse to acknowledge that reality.”

    …So true! Because while many individuals do travel with their bikes, so do many families with cargo bikes and the standard bike policy essentially discriminates against those cyclists. They do offer a box or bag option for specialized bikes:
    “The racks allow Amtrak staff to hang and secure standard bicycles on the walls of baggage cars. Tandem, recumbent, or other specialized bicycles will require a bicycle bag or box and must be checked as baggage at staffed Amtrak stations. ”

    Yes, just a moment while I put my Longjohn Cargo Bike into its handy bag. Right. There is no bag or box (at least not the one Amtrak sells) that fits those bikes, so again, discriminating against those cyclists.

    Someday, someday, perhaps Amtrak will get this right.

  5. Scott M. says:

    Your statement is so true, Barb. And as others have noted above and I’m sure you read in this “Open Letter to Amtrak,” this is not a new issue this summer. http://transportland.org/2012/03/open-letter-to-amtrak/

    Perhaps a twitter campaign will also help sway the official policy of Amtrak to represent reality that it would be good for Amtrak and good for people in the Pacific Northwest if they began to carry family and utility bicycles.

    Perhaps could help on this account? She has a long history of progress on bicycle issues in our two states.

    • Scott M. says:

      html is not my friend. *Perhaps Lynn Peterson, Secretary of the Washington State Department of Transportation, could help.

  6. Pingback: Annals of Cycling – 126: Cultural Trail … Items from Ron Richings | Price Tags

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