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roll-on bikes on Amtrak Northeast Corridor?

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roll-on bikes on Amtrak Northeast Corridor?

Old 01-28-15, 04:40 PM
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Ferdinand NYC
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roll-on bikes on Amtrak Northeast Corridor?

I am wondering if anyone has heard whether Amtrak's announced plans to allow bikes to roll onto their trains is anywhere near being effective on the Northeast Corridor trains. A check of their website says nothing about roll-on bikes on that route.

I rode to Philadelphia and back from New York at the end of last summer. While that was an enjoyable adventure, I didn't get to see as much of Philly as I would have liked; only about 50 miles out of the nearly 280 total miles that I rode on that trip were ridden within Philadelphia. With Amtrak's announcement in mind, I started hoping that I could go back down to Philly by train, and do all my riding in the city.

Does anyone who knows about Amtrak consider it realistic to hope that I could do this during this coming summer?
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Old 01-28-15, 11:36 PM
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Check the latest comments on the blog entry. It's not promising. If you really want the latest info, best bet would be to email them. Calling them would probably just get someone who doesn't know much, whereas an email may be forwarded to the people in the know.

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Old 01-28-15, 11:50 PM
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I had seen the page that you linked to; it was the source of all the news articles from last summer. But since then I have heard nothing. I posted here in the hopes that someone who is more aware of these things might have heard something that I missed.

Maybe I will send Amtrak an e-mail. Thanks for the suggestion.
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Old 01-29-15, 12:08 AM
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Read the comments on that story, not the story itself.
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Old 01-29-15, 12:26 AM
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Ah, I see. So it's really no closer now than when it was announced. OK, thanks for the info.
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Old 01-29-15, 05:03 AM
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You do have options, but they are not convenient as the advertised roll on and roll off.

I found out that Amtak does carry checked bags between Phildelphia and New York, but you won't find out by calling their 800 number. (You have to talk to someone in the shipping department) Since the passenger trains don't check bags, you'd have to box the bike, put it on a train, and pick it up later (i.e. not same day), so you'll have to be able to get home without the bike and pack it carefully.

I've seen/spoken to others that have taken bicycles on Bolt Bus. I think this works OK for transportation/beater bicycles, not sure how nice your bike is.

I've done it when I'm moving permanently, or for 3-6 months, not sure it's convenient for a day trip.
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Old 01-29-15, 11:41 AM
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Boxing it really isn't an option. So I guess that my imagined scenario of going down to Philly for the weekend by catching a train after work on a Friday will not be realisable for the forseeable future.

And, call me ignorant, but I didn't know about BoltBus. I am just now reading up on it, as a result of your mention. I see that it is owned by Greyhound, and that most reviews say that the buses are comfortable.

I am sure I have seen these buses in my rides; but I suppose that I just lumped them in with all the shady companies that operate out of Chinatown (through which I ride every day), and assumed that they use substandard equipment, unlicenced drivers, etc.

While my bike is not extremely expensive, it is certainly not a beater. I have only the one bike, and it is new -- I got it in December after my previous bike of 11 years was stolen. So I am not keen to have it damaged.

The reviews that I have seen say that bikes are treated as normal luggage by BoltBus, and are just laid on their sides in the luggage compartment. It seems like a broken spoke or something could easily result from that sort of treatment. But what if I brought my own blanket to wrap the bike? Do you think that would work?
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Old 01-29-15, 11:58 AM
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I've heard absolutely nothing, one way or another, about Amtrak service BUT you can get your bike into Philly by taking NJ Transit to Trenton and take SEPTA from there. The fares will be cheaper too.

The only restriction that I know of on NJ Transit is that you can't take your bike on peak-time trains. I don't know the rules for SEPTA.
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Old 01-29-15, 12:40 PM
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Ah, great thought! I once took my bike on NJ Transit from Bay Head to Newark, coming back after I had ridden down to Seaside Heights. I will check out the restrictions on these systems.

Thanks for the suggestion.
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Old 01-30-15, 02:30 PM
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It's possible to board a NJ Transit train with a bike at Penn Station, right?
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Old 01-31-15, 04:15 PM
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You can take your bike on any non-rush hour train on both NJ Transit and SEPTA. Check the individual websites for both NJT and SEPTA for the actual rules and schedules. You could take a NJT train from Penn Sta to Trenton. You could then take a SEPTA train from Trenton to Philadelphia.
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Old 01-31-15, 07:18 PM
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Great! I'm definitely going to do that. I saw only a fraction of that city; and I am eager to see more.

Thanks to Estasnyc and SBinNYC for the help.
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Old 02-06-15, 09:52 AM
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As I understand it, the roll-on possibility is supposed to be made possible by new baggage cars that Amtrak is bringing on line. The last I read, they are supposed to be used only on long distance trains, however those are defined. Currently, there is at least one train between NYC and Florida that has baggage service, so it may be that roll-on will be coming to that route. There may also be one or two other trains that run along the NEC that have checked baggage service.

As noted, you can take SEPTA and NJT outside of certain times. NJT does a good job of explaining its bike policy on its web site. Note that there are restrictions on and around certain holidays in addition to the rush hour restrictions. The SEPTA platform at 30th St. is probably the easiest to negotiate with a bike, so you might want to board there. Having taken bikes on both SEPTA and NJT, I find the NJT trains to be easier to deal with space-wise. The bike gets placed in the handicapped area. Note that if someone in a chair needs that space, you may be asked to leave and catch the next train.

If you really want to "see the world," you can also take the PATCO train from Philly to Trenton, pick up NJT's River Line light rail (there are hooks to hang your bike) to Trenton and then catch NJT from there.
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Old 02-06-15, 11:35 AM
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Thanks for the reminder that the Amtrak roll-on service might be coming to routes other than the Northeast Corridor. I have to keep on the lookout for that.

You mentioned "take the PATCO train from Philly to Trenton" to get the NJ Transit's River Line. You meant Philly to Camden, right? Anyway, all of these things are possible.

When I went down to Philadelphia last year, I found an inexpensive but very comfortable hotel in Northeast Philly, on the corner of Grant Ave. and Roosevelt Blvd. I intend to stay there again; so I'd be getting off SEPTA's Trenton Line at Torresdale, and just riding up Grant to the hotel. The location is far from Center City; but it's near Pennypack Park. And there are plenty of bike lanes in the immediate area, unlike in the equivalent sections of New York City, which would be Queens.

On the day that I leave, I will have to check out of the hotel at noon; but I'll probably not leave the city until several hours later. So I'll keep in mind the tip that the 30th St. SEPTA station is easy to board with a bike.
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Old 02-06-15, 06:02 PM
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The only train that carries roll on bikes on he NE Corridor (right now) is the Downeaster from Boston North Station to last stop Brunswick Me. Gotta check the schedule as every train is not bike roll on. I did this in June and it werked perfectlly. $5 extra for the bike.
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Old 02-09-15, 05:58 PM
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Boxing a bicycle and taking/sending it on Amtrak is a great option to have, and really can't be beat in terms of cost.


I've taken or sent bikes variously from New York and Newark to Washington, Alexandria and New Orleans. For destinations beyond DC, you and your bike can ride on the same train. Within the corridor requires some creativity and flexibility.


As has been mentioned, you can use the baggage cars that are attached to the long-distance trains running along the corridor, even if you yourself can't take these trains. They're closed to corridor travel to keep space available for passengers traveling to places like Miami and Chicago.


So for example, if one wanted to go anywhere south (railroad west) on the corridor on a Saturday morning, your bicycle must arrive at NY Penn by 10:17am (just as an example) for passage on a train leaving at 11:02am and bound ultimately for Miami. That train would arrive in DC around 2:30pm. At 11:05 a regular Northeast Regional departs NY Penn and keeps basically the same schedule as the Miami-bound train on the way down the corridor. There's an instance where you could avail yourself of baggage services while riding only within the corridor (you could do the same thing as far as Philadelphia, Wilmington or Baltimore as well).


The other thing to consider, if that 10:17 dropoff is inconvenient, is that you can leave baggage at the station up to 48 hours before departure; so one could drop off a bike on, say, Thursday evening for a Saturday morning departure. The same rules apply at the destination ... you get 48 hours storage.


The eastbound (returning) trips are slightly more challenging to coordinate, or at least require greater flexibility, in that long-distance eastbounds are somewhat expected to be late, but may even sometimes run early. If traveling east from Washington, consider using Alexandria as many (but not all) of the long-distance trains accept passengers there but none of them do so in Washington. Alexandria is a small-town station and is much less hurried than the behemoth Union Station.


Also, what is meant by "long distance" trains are those that operate outside the Boston-Washington and Philadelphia-Harrisburg corridors. That in many cases means a baggage car (to Charleston and Savannah and the overnight Boston-Washington) and in some cases sleeping cars as well (Miami, New Orleans and Chicago, and all of the western routes); but would also include routes to places like Montréal and Toronto, and the day train to Pittsburgh, which have neither baggage cars nor sleeper cars.
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Old 02-09-15, 09:16 PM
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Thanks for the thorough description. But, for me, taking the bike apart and putting it back together -- twice -- is a bit much. I am not willing to do that.

Instead of going through that hassle, I'd rather rent a bike in the destination city.
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Old 02-10-15, 05:00 PM
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You shouldn't need to box your bike if using NJ Transit/SEPTA.
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Old 03-07-15, 10:27 AM
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I've taken NJ Transit/SEPTA (with a bicycle) twice and Bolt once (without bicycle) since these posts.

I think NJ Transit & SEPTA will be better for you, but each has its advantages and disadvantages.

NJ Transit/SEPTA Advantages
No reservations or advance booking required - no penalty for changing schedule
Bike is on train, secure with bungee cords - don't need blankets, no concerns for bike damage
SEPTA stops in NE Philly available
NJ Transit stations available for departure, return

Rush hour trains may be faster if buses are stuck in traffic (but you may not be able to take your bike)
Run in bad weather (probably not important for a recreational trip)

Bolt Bus Advantages
Don't have policies prohibiting bicycles at rush hour
Don't need to transfer

Afternoon buses may be faster without local stops
From NYC to 30th St Philadelphia, might save $10 - both are far cheaper than Amtrak

In your case, NJ Transit & SEPTA will give you much easier access to the Torresdale SEPTA stop in NE Philly, no concerns about your bicycle, and a little more scheduling flexibility if you're able to leave after 7:00.

You can roll your bike on to the train from the platform at Penn Station, Trenton, and 30th Street (Phil), so transferring at Trenton is very easy. At Torresdale, you'll certainly have to carry your bike onto and off of the train (narrow steep stairs) and may have stair cases. SEPTA says Cornwell heights is 2.5 miles from Torresdale and is handicapped accessible, so this might be more convenient. (SEPTA also says the Claymont DE station is handicapped accessible. It is not.)

I haven't taken a bicycle on Bolt, however
* Drivers have told me it's no problem, they put it under the bus
* I did see someone with a nice looking hybrid take it on Bolt from Boston
* Years ago I took a bike on a bus (Greyhound?) with no problems; bike was 20 years old, not concerned about scratches
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Old 03-07-15, 10:40 AM
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Thanks a lot for your informative comments!

I think that I will most likely use the train. As long as getting on and off at the key stations is possible (even with some day-part restrictions), then that is the way that suits me best.
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Old 03-07-15, 08:42 PM
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Rule of thumb, Amtrak long distance trains are named. MOST, but not all named trains have checked baggage service, BUT, not at every station.
Some of the named trains with baggage service that call at NYP and Philly are the Cardinal, Carolinian, Crescent, Palmetto, Silver Star and Silver Meteor.

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Old 03-08-15, 07:45 AM
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Originally Posted by COG63 View Post
Some of the named trains with baggage service that call at NYP and Philly are the...Pennsylvanian....
Nope. Only for the connecting Capitol Limited:

http://www.amtrak.com/ccurl/439/770/...ule-011215.pdf

BTW...There was a delay in the production of the new baggage cars so their roll out will not be until this year assuming things go according to the new plan.
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Old 03-08-15, 06:32 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
Nope. Only for the connecting Capitol Limited
Corrected. Nice catch.
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Old 07-20-15, 10:33 PM
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visited Philadelphia via NJ Transit and SEPTA

I am back after three days of fun in Philadelphia. I took the NJ Transit / SEPTA combination, which worked out wonderfully. And it's amazing how little this cost: only $19 each way. On top of that, I got a "pay your birth year" deal for two of the three nights at the hotel.

The weather was perfect, after a little shower that delayed my start on Saturday. Temperatures were well in excess of 90 degrees each day, which is my ideal riding weather.

I totalled about 160 miles in the city over those three days, visiting almost all sections. My mental map of the city has greatly improved; I've got Allegheny and Lehigh and Aramingo and Torresdale and Rising Sun and so forth dancing in my mind.

My observations:

* There is no part of the city that lacks bike lanes. This contrasts sharply with New York, which has large swaths of bike-lane deserts. It's wonderful to find bike lanes in every neighbourhood.

* The drivers are polite. They stop at stop signs (unlike in New York), and they come to a full, prolonged stop before making a right on red (unlike in Nassau County). Furthermore, they readily yield to a bicyclist's hand signals, such as my raised-palm "stop", which I give to opposite-direction drivers who look like they are turning left across my path, and my extended-arm left signal, which allows me to change lanes. This latter signal was effective even at a complex merging, such as that of Spring Garden Ave. and Ben Franklin Pkwy. going west.

* There were only a handful of instances of cars parked in or standing in a bike lane. I see more of this in a half hour in New York than I saw in three days in Philly.

* The majority of bicyclists stop at red lights. This might be due partly to the fact that red-light periods are very short. But, taken together with the previous observation, and with the fact that I saw no pedestrians walking in bike lanes even in the crowded Center City area (unlike on Manhattan's avenues), I gained new insight into why so many people consider New Yorkers to be rude a-holes.

* There is no street more New-York-like than Broad St., with its many subway stations. The area particularly near where Broad crosses with Allegheny Ave. felt a lot like home.

* Do not confuse Green St. with Greene St. And do not confuse Cecil B. Moore St. with Moore St. Or with Cecil St. Or with B St.!

* It's notable how many university campuses are just laid out on the streets. In New York we have NYU; but in Philly there are several: Penn, Drexel, Temple, Philadelphia U.

* The official directions of streets can be hard to swallow. The grid in Northeast is on a slant, so the big streets run neither E-W nor N-S. Streets like Bustleton, Frankford, and Torresdale Aves., all of which feel E-W, are officially N-S. Torresdale Avenue is particularly weird one, as it becomes Erie Ave. (an E-W road) after it crosses Kensington Avenue.

* I saw people bathing in two places where I didn't expect it: in Pennypack Creek, and in the fountain in Love Park.

* Amongst the flags on Ben Franklin Pkwy., Scotland gets a display of its own flag, despite the presence of the U.K. flag, and despite there being no display of the flags of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Were the people who manage that street anticipating a "Yes" vote in the recent Scottish referendum on independence?

I'll post more thoughts as they come to me.

And thanks again to Estasnyc, who clued me in to the possibility of taking NJ Transit and SEPTA from New York to Philadelphia rather than taking Amtak, which would have cost more than $100, and on which I could not have brought my bike.

Last edited by Ferdinand NYC; 07-20-15 at 10:42 PM.
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Old 07-21-15, 07:04 AM
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LOL! I walk and/or ride in the city every day and see very little of what you describe. Indeed, yesterday I almost got hit by a cyclist who blew a red light. That happens nearly every week. Same deal with motorists. The bike share program has made things hairier. Lots more sidewalk riding and salmon. Two people on bike share bikes were recently seen riding on I-676 through the center of town--at night when there was a decent amount of traffic.

Take a ride down the Pine Street bike lane east of the Schuykill River and you will usually find cars and delivery trucks stopped in them. Same for Spruce St. You see, what the city did is make it illegal to park in a bike lane, as opposed to stop in a bike lane. IIRC, you aren't parked unless you have been there for more than 15 min. And on Saturdays and Sundays there is special dispensation given to people who are attending services at certain houses of worship.

Me thinks your perception is skewed by the fact that a lot of people are "down the shore" or up in the mountains between Friday and Monday. The GF and I love to take weekend rides to dinner and movies in July and August because the city is relatively empty. Things will be back to normal after Labor Day.
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