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Old 11-16-09, 11:57 AM   #1
neilfein
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New Brunswick to Philly on a holiday - train problems

I was considering posting this on the Northeast regional forum, but there are plenty of folks in the northeast here in the touring forum.

Here's the problem: I have a 4-day tour planned, from Washington DC to Philadelphia, starting on Saturday November 28th. I was planning to take Amtrak out of Philadelphia, boxing my bike up, and would have taken NJ Transit from New Brunswick to Trenton, there to catch a SEPTA train to Philly.

(Those who are familiar with bikes-on-the-train policies in NJ and on Amtrak's NE Corridor can skip this paragraph.) Amtrak allows you take a bike on board as checked baggage, but the catch is that not all Amtrak stations do the checked baggage thing - there are none in NJ, you have to use either Philly or NYC. NJ Transit and SEPTA allow full-sized bikes during any non-rush hour time. My original plan was to get to Philly insanely early - around 7 or 7:30 am to catch the 8:30AM train to DC, so rush hour is not an issue. The catch is that NJ Transit considers November 27th - the day after Thanksgiving - to be a holiday, and I'd be bumping into rush hour on SEPTA in any case. (SEPTA operates on weekday schedules the day after Thanksgiving, I think.)

So... given that I don't drive, and would prefer not to ask a friend to get up insanely early to get me to Philadelphia, what are my options for getting me and my touring bike to DC on that day?

I'd appreciate any thoughts anyone has on this. I've already put in for some vacation days for this, and don't want to reschedule this tour. I also really don't want to get stuck with cab fare from New Brunswick to Philadelphia.

Thanks!
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Old 11-16-09, 01:24 PM   #2
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I have taken a full sized bike on NJTransit at rush hour; I take the train in question every day, with a folding bike, so one day I asked the conductor if it would be okay. He said sure, find me on the platform before you get on, and I'll show you where to go. You probably can't do exactly that, but you probably can find some way to get advance permission -- ideally, talk to the lead conductor of the train in question. I believe the conductor has final say over the rules, regardless what the rule book says.

I don't know about SEPTA, but from Trenton you can take the River Line, on which bicycles are always allowed; then you have to ride across the Ben Franklin and through Center City, but it shouldn't be too much of an ordeal.
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Old 11-16-09, 08:33 PM   #3
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Why not skip NJ Transit altogether and ride to Trenton in case SEPTA does not allow you on which would be strange, take the River line to Camden and the PATCO over to Philadelphia. Find out what the bicycle rules for PATCO are but I'm sure they won't kick you off. Should this happen, a cab from Camden New Jersey over the bridge shouldn't cost much.
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Old 11-17-09, 08:36 AM   #4
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Good news! Amtrak takes checked luggage out of Newark, NJ (which I did not know) and, more to the point, Amtrak Express therefore accepts packages there. I'll stop in Newark on the way home and confirm everything, and check if they have bike boxes there.
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Old 11-17-09, 09:25 AM   #5
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The SEPTA bike policy on regional rail is what I remember. http://www.septa.com/service/bike_ride.html Bikes on non-peak trains only. Which a weekend day should mean any train that's doesn't have it's wheelchair spots all filled. No clue what they would do about a boxed bike. The trains generally don't spend a lot of time stopped at stations. Holiday time R7 Trenton is the line used to get from Philly to NYC so it gets plenty of use with all the college students at Penn and everywhere else.
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Old 11-17-09, 10:03 AM   #6
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1. I've had success carrying a bike on Amtrak in a bike bag on the northeast regional.
2. Patco makes up rules at different locations. For example their website says bikes are allowed, then at the stations there are signs everywhere saying that bikes are banned from all trains.
3. Septa can and will stop you from carrying your bike on an empty train just because the conductor feels like it. It happened to me on an empty train at 10pm. They will leave you totally SOL so you must have a backup.
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Old 11-17-09, 11:29 AM   #7
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Neil and I have some mixed memories of PATCO. Yes, they let us bring bikes on. But we had to carry the bikes over the turnstiles. The PATCO stations were not bike friendly.
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Old 11-17-09, 11:48 AM   #8
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Sounds like you've solved your problem.

FYI- PATCO is bicycle friendly in that bikes are allowed on their trains. The large stations in jersey and Philly have elevators, or you can lift over the turnstiles, or you can call on dedicated phone to have a gate opened. Most commuters just go thru the turn stiles.

If the plan falls thru and you use PATCO, if the bike is not boxed, you can ride it over the Ben Franklin Bridge and then on to 30th Street Station. Short ride.
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Old 11-17-09, 04:44 PM   #9
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Neil and I have some mixed memories of PATCO. Yes, they let us bring bikes on. But we had to carry the bikes over the turnstiles. The PATCO stations were not bike friendly.
So is it not wheelchair friendly either? I few times I have taken a bicycle on our local subway, the collector usually motions for us to either use the maintenance gate or the wheelchair entrance. Some stations now have elevators, your allowed to use that as well. Out of over 1700 buses, only 185 don't have bike racks installed, a lot of transit companies are now learning multi-modal is the way to go...
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Old 11-18-09, 08:01 AM   #10
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Patco must've changed. I recall years ago seeing people with bikes thrown off the train.
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Old 11-18-09, 08:25 AM   #11
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Amtrak expects next Wednesday to be one of its busiest days on record; I can't imagine Saturday will be much better.
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Old 11-18-09, 09:13 AM   #12
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Amtrak expects next Wednesday to be one of its busiest days on record; I can't imagine Saturday will be much better.
I'm traveling on Friday, but I'm sure that it'll be pretty packed then as well. I already have my ticket, and I'm shipping the bike to DC on Tuesday. (It generally takes a day or two, but this gives me a little padding.)
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Artistic Differences - 8-track EP "Dreams of Bile and Blood" now available for download.
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