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Old 05-01-10, 04:27 PM   #1
jobtraklite
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Chicago Metra folding bike question

I'm planning an Amtrak point run to Naperville and a ride on the Illinois Prairie Path and Fox River Trail, and then take Metra to the loop to catch an Amtrak train back home.

I've read the Metra rules on blackout times and dates, maximum bikes per train, bungees, etc. One rule is that folders must be in a bag. Now if I'm traveling at a time when full size bikes are allowed, can I just wheel the unfolded bike on board and pretend it is a regular bike?

My wife and I have been all over the country on Amtrak with folders, and never had to bother with bags.
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Old 05-01-10, 09:56 PM   #2
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I've read the Metra rules on blackout times and dates, maximum bikes per train, bungees, etc. One rule is that folders must be in a bag. Now if I'm traveling at a time when full size bikes are allowed, can I just wheel the unfolded bike on board and pretend it is a regular bike?

My wife and I have been all over the country on Amtrak with folders, and never had to bother with bags.
As far as I know you will be fine, I think they will treat your unfolded bike like any other bike. That could vary with conductor I suppose but I doubt it. As far as I know the folder rules only apply when you try to take a bike on a peak train. I have no experience with folders on off peak trains though. You undoubtedly know this but Amtrak and Metra are two different carriers. Neither is actually a railroad, both are passenger services operated on host freight railroad tracks. There may be chance similarities between their rules but when they differ the rule from one cannot be appealed to on the other.

Ken
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Old 05-02-10, 01:25 AM   #3
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As long as it's not during rush hour, you'll be fine. The Metra Conductors are mostly only concerned that you bungee it to the handicapped seating. No need for a bag.

Amtrak is another beast. Be sure to bring a printout of the policy with you... some of the Amtrak conductors don't quite get the concept of a folding bike.
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Old 05-02-10, 09:54 AM   #4
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I've had a folder on metra many times out of the bag during non-peak hours. The conductors never made me bungie it (but bring them just in case) and once even had me put it in a seat unbagged. They didn't have the handicap car open for some reason. Of course I'm sure the official line is, that if its not covered its a full size bike. Luckily you probably will still get on with a folder even if all the bike space is taken.
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Old 05-02-10, 07:58 PM   #5
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Amtrak is another beast. Be sure to bring a printout of the policy with you... some of the Amtrak conductors don't quite get the concept of a folding bike.
Would you believe I carry a copy of the policy in my wallet? But as I said, I've been all over the country with a folder and not problem. Here is a links to my last trip are here and here.

I'm curious. How recent are your experiences on which your comment is based? Based on 13 trips in the last 9 months, 12 of them long distance, it appears Amtrak's on board customer service and attitude have improved considerably.

Thanks all for the scoop.
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Old 05-02-10, 08:46 PM   #6
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Personally (and I know your question was not for me) I have had only one Amtrak experience and it was sans bike. I was selling a vehicle to a family member downstate and we met in Dwight, IL so I could deliver it to them and use Amtrak to take me to Union Station then out on the UPNW Metra line to home. After all I've heard over the years and the constant teetering on bankruptcy I did not know what to expect other than little. I was pleasantly surprised. The equipment was decent, the staff was professional, and the train was packed. I don't think there was a seat empty at that point except the one I reserved! I only checked one car though, there could have been a few scattered here and there on the train. I believe that line runs to St. Louis so it is probably a heavily patronized line. Limited experience here but I would have to say that Amtrak could be a decent way to make a journey if it covers your route. I rather wish we had more Amtrak service because these days I would much rather deal with a railway station than an airport. Amtrak can be decent, it is worth improving, expanding, and considering for personal travel.

Ken
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Old 05-02-10, 09:37 PM   #7
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I used to ride Amtrak from Champaign to Chicago every week. Every once in a while, I would encounter a surly old-timer that would look at the folded bike and pretend to get upset. I should note, most of the conductors were great... but some were downright ornery. Additionally, the gate agents would sometimes be confused about folding bike policy. Even after I had been riding the same trains for months. I'm glad that things have improved over the last year. I haven't ridden the rails in about a year.
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