Bike stuff

Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by Bjartmarr, Jul 25, 2016.

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  1. Sep 19, 2016 #51

    TiBike

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    The info is starting to go up on the Amtrak website:

    No Coast Starlight.

    Lots of other routes, though – maybe all the other LD routes? – with most limited to 6 bikes per train and "Select Stations" and cost at $20 or "$20 or less".
     
  2. Sep 19, 2016 #52

    Thirdrail7

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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). Meanwhile, the newly added trains will all use the modified bike racks on the LDSL fleet. This naturally allows for different capacities.

    Additionally, there are different operating parameters to consider. The vast majority of these trains traverse railroads that belong to other companies. It is easy to praise the ease of the Heartland Flyer. It is normally a 2 car train. On same occasions, it is a 3 car train. This allows the train to fit on even the tiniest platforms without increasing dwell since you can spot the cabbage and a coach on the platform simultaneously. When the train is operation normally, you can not do that with the 13 car Lake Shore Limited, with baggage cars on both ends (which is why 448/449 is not involved in bike service just yet). At stops like Erie PA (as an example) the baggage cars are nowhere near the platform. Same goes for a train such as the Coast Starlight, which can have up to twelve cars under normal operation. At a great deal of stations along the route, the baggage car is not on the platform. Therefore, to accommodate bikes at stops that don't have existing baggage service, depending on platform length and surroundings (is there a safe way to get passengers train side to get the bikes) you have to increase the dwell to allow a double or (possibly) triple stop. There are some stations where this is feasible but not optimal and in some cases, the host railroads wouldn't even allow it because of dwell.

    That is why different trains have different options. Everything from dwell, recovery time, platform length, loading plans and train length has to be considered. It is a work in progress. As platforms are modified (there are plans to lengthen some over time), consists are adjusted and actual bike usage is monitored, I fully expect the plan to change. However, you have to start somewhere.

    If all goes according to plan, the Coast Starlight begins next week.
     
  3. Sep 20, 2016 #53

    TiBike

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    Good news re the Coast Starlight. I suppose I'm allowed to dream that some or all of the delay is due to Caltrans insisting that the same bike rules apply on every train at every station in California. Would be a wonderful world.

    Roll up bike loading/unloading is being allowed at three unstaffed stations on the Empire Builder and one on the California Zephyr. So there's no inherent problem doing that with a Viewliner 2.

    I get that a long train won't completely fit every platform. Double spotting isn't the only solution, but it is a solution in many cases. It's also simple to unload a bike at a station prior to one with a short platform, and temporarily hold it, say, in the lower level of a coach. Any place that's able to accommodate a wheelchair can accommodate a bicycle too -- it's a solution you see every day on transit buses and commuter lines. And yes, there might be times when half the passengers show up with a bike and the other half in wheelchairs, and someone is going to have to step a couple of feet out of his or her comfort zone. But it works.

    You don't need to rebuild stations or reinvent trains in order to accommodate bikes.
     
  4. Sep 21, 2016 #54

    PaulM

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    Platform length, i.e., platforms too short for the baggage car to stop at it without double spotting, does have some logic to it. But that doesn't explain Ottumwa, IA. It's platforms can easily handle even the extended CZ summer consist. Besides, it is usually a smoke stop, so dwell shouldn't be a problem.
     
  5. Sep 22, 2016 #55

    afigg

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    Amtrak posted a news release yesterday announcing the expansion of the trainside checked bicycle program to a number of trains.

    AMTRAK EXPANDS BICYCLE PROGRAM FOR TRAVEL ON NATIONAL ROUTES

    The Coast Starlight is not in the list though.
     
  6. Sep 26, 2016 #56

    TiBike

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    The Coast Starlight is now listed as accepting roll up bikes. The info on the website still needs work – it says there's limited service available at CEN, which is Centralia, Illinois. I assume they mean CTL, which is Centralia, Washington. Not sure what limited service means, though – it's listed as a stop with baggage.

    Amtrak is charging $20 for bikes between Capitol Corridor and San Joaquin stations, but $0 between stations on the Surfliner route. It's also $20 if you go from a non-Surfliner to a Surfliner station, and vice versa. The charge between Northwest corridor stations is $5, but $20 if you go to or arrive from further south.

    None of the stations without baggage service are allowing roll up bicycles.

    I supposed I should be happy that I can now roll up a bicycle in Salinas. And I am, but only to that extent. Overall, Amtrak's handling of this is a disappointment.
     
  7. Sep 26, 2016 #57

    TiBike

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    More insanity: the bike charge is per segment, and if you travel roundtrip, you have to pay for the bike in both directions, whether you're taking it or not.

    Example: a Reno-Klamath Falls roundtrip (Zephyr-Starlight) cost $132 for the days I priced it ($66 each way). Adding a bike is $80 ($40 each way), for a total of $212. Even if you only have the bike with you going in one direction or another.

    You can get around it by booking it as two oneway trips, which is easy to figure out if you're used to dealing with Amtrak, but not so obvious if you're a casual tourist. Not only will the tourist be doubly ripped off, but a bike rack slot will be taken out of service needlessly.

    Another problem: the "add a bike" button doesn't make it clear that you're booking a space for an unboxed bike. If, for example, you're on a trip that combines airline and Amtrak travel and you have a (necessarily) boxed bike, you could end up clicking the add a bike button and be charged $20 or more for what should be $10. And a bike rack slot will be needlessly removed from inventory.

    Completely nuts.
     
  8. Sep 27, 2016 #58

    Thirdrail7

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    Limited service means only 11 will accept bikes until further notice.

    Thank you for pointing that out. I had the same problem when I used the online reservation system even though I purposely didn't click on ADD BIKE TO THIS TRIP, but it must be a website issue. However, it didn't happen on the res system. This will be "leaked" to someone, I'm sure. :ph34r:

    So, TBIKE, I noticed you didn't complain about the transfer charge. I'm guessing you're not thrilled, but you're taking an "it is what it is" attitude?
     
  9. Sep 27, 2016 #59

    TiBike

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    Taken by itself, charging $40 for a service that requires less work than a similar, included service (i.e. a 50 pound checked bag) is a ripoff. According to the website, the passenger is responsible for the transfer – taking it off one train, wheeling it over to the next one, and handing it up. Amtrak will allow passengers to store bikes in baggage areas during lengthy transfers, when those areas are available, but handling the bike is the passenger's job (and it should be – I want to have full responsibility for my bike). So log that as my formal complaint.

    But on my long list of complaints about the program, it's near the bottom. The $20 fee is a bigger issue, because it will affect far more people – I gotta believe single segment trips are far more common than double segments, particularly for cyclists who use the train to bridge ride segments, or to come home from a one way ride. It's essentially the same complaint: it involves less work by Amtrak staff than checking a bag in one station and picking it up in another, and far less than the convoluted routing that sometimes happens when bags and passengers end up on different trains. It should be viewed as a way to increase ridership, and therefore overall revenue, rather than an opportunity to gouge riders because there's no other choice.

    The problem is compounded by the haphazard way it's implemented. If I go from SLO to LA, the bike is included in my fare. If I go from SLO to San Jose, it's $20 extra. Same train, same amount of work and associated costs for Amtrak.

    Personally, it doesn't really matter – I can afford an extra $20 or $40. Maybe I'd skip a business class upgrade or BYOB, maybe not. Depends on the total cost. It annoys me, but I'll get over it. Having a bike with me is much more important. That's not the case with all cyclists, though – more people use bikes for transportation out of necessity than by choice. If you doubt that, come spend an hour on the Monterey bike path during commute times.

    But for someone like me who rides for pleasure, even, or maybe particularly, when I'm riding somewhere I have to go to anyway, the biggest problem with the program is the lack of access to stations. From a transportation point of view, the lack of access of the CZ to the Richmond BART connection and the CS to convenient and inexpensive hotels and car rentals (and kinder riding conditions) at Burbank is a much likelier deal breaker. Shutting out popular cycling destinations like Paso Robles and Truckee is money out of Amtrak's pocket, as well as frustrating for would be passengers – completely counter-productive to the ostensible goals of the program.

    To round out the list, implementation appears to be crude. The round trip policy on the website is one example, the possible confusion over boxed/unboxed bikes is another. I fear it goes deeper. A hypothesis: if six people book bikes from LA to Salinas, then those six slots are dead for the entire run to Seattle. True or false? I don't know what the IT people would say, but given the otherwise poor implementation, I wouldn't believe them unless I tested it myself.

    From my perspective, this program is designed to minimise impact on staff rather than maximise both Amtrak's revenue and the benefit to potential customers.
     
  10. Sep 30, 2016 #60

    Train2104

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    Some unstaffed stations seem to be offering the bike service too. WIP is one of them.
     
  11. Sep 30, 2016 #61

    neroden

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    The limit of 6 bikes is not appropriate long term for the Viewliner cars. IIRC, the design allows for every luggage rack to be converted to a bike rack. Proper yield management would notice when the 6 slots are taken.... and open up another 6 slots, with a note to the conductor about this.
     
  12. Sep 30, 2016 #62

    Thirdrail7

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    Noted and I agree. I thought it would be one charge for a logical trip.

    In the current form of this program, you would be correct. Let's say you 5 passengers book from LAX-SNS. Then, two passengers attempt to book from SLO-OKJ. Only one passenger would be able to used the walk-up service. The other passenger would have to use the boxed bicycle option as long as they are traveling to a station that has checked baggage.

    I don't believe every rack converts to a bike rack at this point. I believe the racks are mounted between the actual luggage racks. That would only leave room for maybe a dozen bikes? I'll try to take a look the next time I get near one.
     
  13. Sep 30, 2016 #63

    TiBike

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    From the pictures below, it looks like it's set up so that two bikes will take up two shelves (an upper and a lower), and that the bike racks are not installed on every set of shelves. In looking at what online pictures I could find, I think there probably is only six bike racks installed per car. There's room to add a lot more bike racks, but it becomes a question of how many luggage shelves do you want to give up.

    Waiting for Amtrak to install more bike racks is a losing game, though. What's important now is effectively managing the bike racks that are there. That's about 50% competent data base coding, and 50% on board flexibility – e.g. occasionally make do with bungee cords or whatever to briefly accomodate an extra bike or two, like Amtrak already does on corridor routes. That's also one of several solutions for accomodating bikes at stations without baggage service.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  14. Oct 1, 2016 #64

    neroden

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    Well, this is OK, because it's the same algorithm used for seating: SLO-SNS is filled up at 6 bikes. The key question is this: if 6 passengers book from LAX-SNS, can 6 passengers book from SNS-OKJ? If not, it means Amtrak has reached the limits of ARROW's power, and needs to replace ARROW ASAP.

    Now, as I said before, management should allow the "opening up" of an extra 2 bike slots from SLO-SNS if it seems appropriate (looking at passenger load, and thus expected checked baggage load, to see whether it's OK to reduce checked bagagge capacity)
     
  15. Oct 2, 2016 #65

    TiBike

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    Is the seat management algorithm that precise? Good if it is, but I wouldn't assume so -- don't know, just wondering. On some routes - I'm betting the Coast Starlight will be one - bike capacity usage as a percentage could soon be higher than seat loading. Some sloppiness in tracking seats might, for example, be cost effective, but wouldn't work for a much more limited resource like bike racks.
     
  16. Oct 9, 2016 #66

    TiBike

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    I used the new roll up bike service on the Coast Starlight last night, Salinas to Emeryville. Worked fine.

    I walked into the station and the agent asked me if I had a ticket for the bike. I said yep, she gave a baggage tag and claim check, I attached it and waited for the train. When the train arrived, I walked the bike up to the baggage car, handed it up to the agent on the baggage cart, who handed it up to the conductor. Then I walked back to the coach section.

    When the other conductor scanned my ticket, she asked me where the other passenger was. I told her I was the only passenger, she said no, I had two tickets. Turns out the bike technically had a ticket -- that's apparently how Amtrak is accounting for the bike slots.

    Only glitch came when I got off in Emeryville. When I started walking up towards the baggage car, the coach attendant stopped me and told me to go the other way, into the station. I said I was picking up my bike. She said they'd bring it to me and adamently told me I couldn't go up to the baggage car. I was just as adament and she said fine and I went up and got my bike, which had been unloaded and was nicely leaning against a pole. No problem for me, but it would have been for someone who didn't know the program and/or was less assertive. But it worked it for me.

    It's a night and day difference with the old system. It's more convoluted than just rolling it on and hanging it yourself, but it's easy enough to deal with. I would have never have gone through the hassle of boxing and unboxing a bike for such a short train ride and, more importantly, such short bike ride on the other end.

    Huge improvement.
     
  17. Oct 11, 2016 #67

    Bjartmarr

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    It's a huge improvement, yes. And I can easily see using it on rare occasions.

    But I just priced LAX->SJC with a bike, 10 hours on the CS is $79. BoltBus is 7 hours and costs $31. I love the train, but I wish it were at least somewhat competitive price-wise; $48 is a hefty premium to pay.
     
  18. Oct 11, 2016 #68

    TiBike

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    Amen. My ticket from SNS to EMY was $22, the bike's ticket was $20, total of $42. Could have done it by bus/BART for half that.

    I skipped the business class upgrade - $67 for a $22 ride was taking it too far. Which meant that Amtrak also missed out on my parlour car bar tab. Shortsighted, IMHO.
     
  19. Oct 14, 2016 #69

    justinslot

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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.)
     
  20. Oct 14, 2016 #70

    Ryan

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    Roomette or Bedroom?
     
  21. Oct 14, 2016 #71

    justinslot

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    Roomette.
     
  22. Oct 14, 2016 #72

    Ryan

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    Less space, but a small cubby above the hallway in your room.

    Bedrooms have a massive amount of space above the hallway and restroom.
     
  23. Oct 14, 2016 #73

    justinslot

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    I know...my post assumes putting a folding bike inside a roomette is suboptimal, if not impossible.
     
  24. Oct 14, 2016 #74

    PVD

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    A viewliner upper makes a good storage shelf for a single traveler, not so practical in a SL.
     
  25. Oct 14, 2016 #75

    oregon pioneer

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    Do you have a tote bag for it? I am going to make one out of recycled blue jeans for my new Bike Friday (just arrived this week, green gear green, woohoo!!). Not much protection, but I figure it will make it easier to tote, and easier to put on a seat or bunk. I don't think it would fit very well in a Viewliner roomette storage cubby, but certainly on the upper bunk, maybe even on the backwards facing seat (if you are traveling alone, and depending which seat is facing backwards).
     

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