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Bikes on Amtrak

Old 02-06-24, 04:49 PM
  #126  
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One more transfer, we got on a Amtrak bus on Fisherman's Wharf, the bus had room for two bikes on the rack on front. A third cyclist was bummed because his bike had to go into a luggage compartment below where it could slide around as the bus drove.

Then at the Amtrak station we bought the boxes and boxed up the bikes.

Photo taken while sitting in the Amtrak bus, that is our bikes on the rack as we go across the bay. The Amtrak station is not in San Francisco, it is in a suburb, I do not recall the name.



Keep in mind that these buses are not Amtrak buses, they are private bus companies that Amtrak will take care of ticketing a bus ride for Amtrak customers.
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Old 02-06-24, 09:59 PM
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Originally Posted by adlu
Thanks so much for all the tips! I really appreciate the voice of experience.

My plan is to do the Great Divide offroad route, so I want to take my Surly Ogre, no folding bike on this trip. Since none of the NM stops are baggage stops, it looks like my only option is to get off at El Paso and bike to the route. It's about 150 miles on pavement, hopefully there's a route that's not too bike-unfriendly.
If not a baggage stop, you can't check baggage ON. However, you may still be able to pull baggage OFF. I seem to recall them mentioning that before a stop, but I can't recall if that was just pulling the bag from baggage into the passenger car before the stop, or opening the outside baggage door. Thus, may be big difference if bike in a box, versus on wheels where you can just carry it down the car stairs. I would ask the attendent well before the El Paso stop, about pulling your bike at the later stop that you prefer.

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Old 02-07-24, 03:43 AM
  #128  
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Originally Posted by mev
??
I am 6' 4" and (barely) fit on the downstairs when the seats are folded down and mattress is placed on top and can stretch completely.
It was first gen Superliner equipment. I had to bend my knees a bit. Newer equipment possibly affords more room.
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Old 02-07-24, 02:01 PM
  #129  
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Originally Posted by mev
I expect it to be determined by the tag that is put on the bike/box when it is checked in.
Amtrak has a Bring Your Bike Onboard bullet for "Train to Train" transfers but doesn't state a policy for Train to Thruway Coaches. Obviously check-in is a bad time to find out the trip won't work. If anyone is planning a trip like this and receives a positive answer from anyone at Amtrak, get it in writing.

Fun fact: Interestingly, Amtrak's bike box is 70x41x8.5 inches. Greyhound's box is (typically) 54x29x8 inches. Uh...

Anyway, it was the "Otherwise..." part of the question that most intrigued me. Will Thruway take your bike if you start 'Carry On' or 'Trainside Checked' w/o a box?

In an attempt to enlighten myself, I began planning a hypothetical Amtrak journey from San Antonio to Pueblo, CO (hypothetically to ride half the Trans-Am) - saving a day or more of vacation time by not going through Chicago.

https://www.amtrak.com/content/dam/p...m-Map-1018.pdf

Well, this immediately fouled my question, requiring a boxed bike. But carrying on with the exercise, I hit a glitch at El Paso: the train and bus stations are 1/2 mile apart, labeled "Self Transfer"... Then there's the scheduled 11-hour Thruway/Greyhound ride to Pueblo.

Okay, head north to Oklahoma City & Newton Kansas, then west (compromising and getting off in La Junta). Hmm. This might work IF the third leg of the trip on Beeline Express bus will transfer your boxed bike. Amtrak and Beeline are both unclear about this so a telephone call would be in order.



Or I could hypothetically save two days of vacation by flying.
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Old 02-07-24, 02:34 PM
  #130  
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I still hold out hope that FlixBus* will improve cycletouring options in America. From their website:

https://www.flixbus.com/service/bike-travel

Can I take my bike on the bus?

Yes, you can! Bikes are allowed on most FlixBuses, so you can experience great adventures wherever you want. Many buses in our fleet have a bike carrier at the back of the bus that allows you to transport your bike or are equipped with special bike covers, which ensure a safe transport in the baggage compartment of the bus.

When adding a bike in the booking process, all reservable trips will be carried out by a bus equipped with a bike carrier or with bike covers.





Uh, but here's the kicker (without going into details of where the kick is placed): I scheduled a half-dozen hypothetical trips, and all of them had upgrade options to reserve a particular seat, sit next to an empty seat if possible, add additional "bulky" baggage and purchase a carbon offset for your trip (!) - but none had "Add Bicycle". Well, maybe this is something they're working towards in the future - or maybe an intern just copied and pasted info off their European website.


*Not schilling for these cats, but as I said in post no. 36, "AmTrak serves 516 destinations. Airlines with scheduled service go to 503." Flixbus/Greyhound service ~3500 US destinations, and you can get your luggage at every one. It just seems like this would be beneficial for American cycletourists if it could evolve into a decent service.

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Old 02-07-24, 03:47 PM
  #131  
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Originally Posted by mev
Yes Amtrak has it's problems, but I wouldn't put it in the useless category either for bike touring. Every once in a while I need to anticipate a delay but otherwise it serves a purpose.

I've used it in two general models:
(1) Long distance one-way for not too much when it connects where I want to travel. In last five years I've had five of those trips:
2018 - train from Austin to El Paso. Cycle home.
2018 - train from Minot to Chicago to Austin after driving to Abilene and cycling to Minot
2018 - train from Austin to Texarkana. Cycle to Memphis. Rental car to Memphis and train back to Austin
2019 - train from Austin to Tucson. Cycle to El Paso. Train back to Austin.
2021 - rental car Austin to Albuquerque. Around ABQ a few days with my bike. Train to Chicago. Around CHI for a few days. Train back to Austin.

(2) When I was in a city with a regional route to cycle on part and take a train the other part. When in Portland, I did all the variations of Seattle to Portland, Vancouver to Seattle, Eugene to Portland, Salem to Portland many times on the Pacific Cascades. When I lived in San Jose, I did the SLO back to San Jose four or five times.

I haven't had much issues with employees or customer service in my travels. I've seen occasional long delays (more on long haul routes than short ones) but generally structured my travels so they adjusted.

For most all those trips, Amtrak was a better alternative for me than others either because of cost or ease (e.g. packing/unpacking for airlines - or ability to make short term tickets or one way). In return, I structured my trip keeping in mind Amtrak routes and anticipated some uncertainty in schedule.
Have you ever ridden from El Paso to Austin or San Antonio? My other option is to ride the portion of the Southern Tier from around Navasota west to NM, but I've read that the west Texas portion of the route isn't that enjoyable, so I'm leaning towards taking the train.
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Old 02-07-24, 03:57 PM
  #132  
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I don't know if I understand the problem but here is one data point.
I regularly take Amtrak between San Diego, Ca and Redding, Ca., through the California Central Valley, with my bicycle, both standard and folding, never boxed.
It is a combination of 2 or 3 Thruway buses and one or two trains, depending on how I arrange the trip.
Each time on the bus the drivers require me to slide (and remove) my bicycle into the storage area under the bus.
The driver will not touch your bicycle, it is all on you. But he/she will take care of your luggage.
The San Joaquins train (Bakersfield to Stockton) has a baggage car that you can hand your bare, unboxed, bicycle to store for the trip.
I can start in San Diego @ approximately 4:30 am and end up Redding at about 6 pm, almost 8 hundred miles.
There is a 3 hour layover in Sacramento, but that can be kinda fun as it gives you enough time to bebop around and explore a little on your bicycle.
I don't know how a boxed bike is handled on that particular route but I imagine it would be about the same.
It's a long day but fairly stress free considering I'm taking my bicycle along and not having to box anything.
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Old 02-07-24, 04:25 PM
  #133  
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It is a combination of 2 or 3 Thruway buses and one or two trains...


Yeah, Amtrak is kinda train/region-specific, and many local/regional services are funded all or in part by the host state.

I understand California - by law - requires Amtrak to accommodate bikes on its state-funded Thruway - and allows state-funded Thruway to compete with for-profit intercity coach companies.

https://amtraksanjoaquins.com/bus-routes/
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Old 02-07-24, 04:43 PM
  #134  
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Originally Posted by adlu
Have you ever ridden from El Paso to Austin or San Antonio? My other option is to ride the portion of the Southern Tier from around Navasota west to NM, but I've read that the west Texas portion of the route isn't that enjoyable, so I'm leaning towards taking the train.
Yeah, it's riding across the Chihuahuan Desert, and to keep from dying of heat stroke, most folks do it in late fall or early spring. It has its own beauty even at that time of year, but it's no cool-weather ride on the Florida Coast-to-Coast Connector Trail. Adventure Cycling didn't help when they rerouted from Fort Davis' mountains (lovely country!) to Valentine (Yes! More flat desert, since you just can't get enough.)

IF you have a folding touring bike, my recommendation would be to ride from Amtrak-Sanderson (See the picture on post no. 36 - no baggage service, thank you very much!) east to where ever your vacation days/money runs out. A taste of the desert, the lovely Texas Hill Country (Clifford Graves even liked it!), Austin, the Post Oak Belt, and vast pine forests - plus great barbecue!

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Old 02-07-24, 05:32 PM
  #135  
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Originally Posted by adlu
Have you ever ridden from El Paso to Austin or San Antonio? My other option is to ride the portion of the Southern Tier from around Navasota west to NM, but I've read that the west Texas portion of the route isn't that enjoyable, so I'm leaning towards taking the train.
I last cycled from El Paso to Austin in 2018. Here is my journal for that trip -https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/mevtexas2018 As @tcs mentions you want to pick your time of year. My 2018 trip started at the end of April and was on the edge of my comfortable time.

I also rode this route in 2001 while riding the Southern Tier.

"Enjoyable" is in the eye of the beholder, but I like the route and the wide open spaces. There are some reasonable sized gaps between services and a dry open country without as many trees. There are subtle changes e.g. a very gradual descent of ~3500ft from Alpine to Del Rio over 200 miles which introduces slight but noticeable changes in the plants and landscapes. After Del Rio annual precipitation doubles getting to Austin with corresponding addition of trees. A collection of populated spaces (El Paso, Alpine, Marfa, Sanderson, Del Rio, Fredericksburg, Austin to name some specifics) are different from each other in their own ways and interesting to explore. For long parts there are not many people and mostly one paved road US90 - but then also not much traffic. For example not only does Sanderson not have a traffic light - but it is also over 60 miles from there to the nearest light. The gap between Van Horne and Marfa is over 70 miles with only Valentine between and services in Valentine are hit/miss. There is the "Prada store" as an interesting display near Valentine.

So I can understand why some might not find this section as enjoyable - but I found enough variety to keep me intrigued and like the more arid regions where more of the land is on display.

Retrieving my bike from the baggage car.

Prada store

Cinco de Mayo parade in Alpine

Judge Roy Bean museum
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Old 02-07-24, 05:43 PM
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One more thing I forgot: I asked the ticket person at the Amtrak station in San Diego what the deal was with folding bicycles.
She said just fold it up and you can do whatever, and go wherever you want on the train, it is just luggage at that point.
But I kept it unfolded (it's a bit of a pain to fold) and just moved it from bus to train to bus with zero hassle and no bicycle reservation.
I imagine that might not work as well during a high travel season because Amtrak can be pretty anal about bringing your bicycle along.
So if I would have encountered any push back I could have just folded up my little bicycle and boarded the train like a regular passenger.
That was kinda cool.
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Old 02-07-24, 06:10 PM
  #137  
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Originally Posted by adlu
it looks like my only option is to get off at El Paso and bike to the route. It's about 150 miles on pavement, hopefully there's a route that's not too bike-unfriendly.
For what it is worth, I rode some of that pavement in December 2019. My trip report - https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/22685

If you go by Hachita you can camp for free inside the community center.

I didn't take advantage of the services but there was also a guy named Jeffrey Sharp who sometimes provided services including shuttle for cyclists - https://www.continentaldividetrailhand.com/
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Old 02-07-24, 08:43 PM
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I had read about the Prada store in the news before I did the ACA Big Bend van supported trip several years ago. Since we were driving past and the guides said we had plenty of time, we stopped for a group photo op.



I just realized that there is a mirror in the building, I can see myself in the mirror as I was taking the photo.

If anyone is curious about this:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prada_Marfa
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Old 02-08-24, 12:54 AM
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Originally Posted by tcs
I still hold out hope that FlixBus* will improve cycletouring options in America. From their website:

https://www.flixbus.com/service/bike-travel

Can I take my bike on the bus?

Yes, you can! Bikes are allowed on most FlixBuses, so you can experience great adventures wherever you want. Many buses in our fleet have a bike carrier at the back of the bus that allows you to transport your bike or are equipped with special bike covers, which ensure a safe transport in the baggage compartment of the bus.
Now that's a plus, my guess is to keep bike from damaging or greasifying adjacent luggage, bonus points if those are padded. I wish the airlines would have such things, it would save a ton of cardboard and no worries about storing a dedicated non-cardboard container for the return trip.
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Old 02-08-24, 02:36 AM
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Originally Posted by tcs
...
Fun fact: Interestingly, Amtrak's bike box is 70x41x8.5 inches. Greyhound's box is (typically) 54x29x8 inches. Uh...
...
Thanks for posting. I was unaware that Greyhound had bike boxes.

Yes, the Amtrak boxes are huge, you can typically leave both wheels on. I think that they require total weight of no more than 50 pounds. I have an old Amtrak box in storage, but it is so deep in storage I am not going to go weigh it. I have packed the bike with two empty panniers on the bike when I put it in the box, although the photo shows three so my memory could be wrong.

Amtrak says you just need to turn the handlebars sideways, but my frame size is big enough I have to remove the bars from the frame.

This is how I packed it before I rode the GAP and C&O. I think I have lowered the saddle, but the saddle does not appear to be lower in this photo. The box is on the left, you can see the box height. This was the third time that this bike went into an Amtrak box.



Sorry about the poor lighting for the photo.

Sometimes Amtrak is not super careful with how they handle the bike in the box. Fortunately no damage, bike shifted fine.



Bar end shifter in photo below.

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Old 02-08-24, 03:00 AM
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Sounds like amtrak boxes are as big as airline boxes, I used one in the early '90s (only $10 at airport IIRC) to Germany and back, fortunately with a co-worker, for 2 weeks of work training. Only had to turn the handlebars and remove the pedals. But moving the box, what a pain! My boss dropped me off and picked me up from the USA airport in his VW van. In Germany, hauled giant box and suitcase from airport to train, then fortunately at destination town, hailed station-wagon taxi to haul to hotel (needed to fold back seat, my traveling companion then sat in front and I jogged to hotel), then deboxed and assembled, rode every day after work. Really enjoyed, but way too much hassle. Folding bike would have been so much easier. Not sure Bromptons were easily available back then. I think Bike Friday had just barely started up that same year. A couple years later, I had business in Japan, only 4 days, so I just got up early and jogged each day. Brompton would have been cool, that trip they flew me first class, a Brompton in a bag would have easily been allowed there, tons of luggage room in the nose of a 747-400, no seats in front of me, real recliners, choice of japanese cuisine if desired, that was luxury. Way more comfy, even 12 hours(?), than 8 hour flight in coach to Germany.

I'm sold on folders, now that mine has been modified to get the gearing I need. I'll never buy another non-folder.
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Old 02-08-24, 07:50 AM
  #142  
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN
I had read about the Prada store in the news before I did the ACA Big Bend van supported trip several years ago. Since we were driving past and the guides said we had plenty of time, we stopped for a group photo op.



I just realized that there is a mirror in the building, I can see myself in the mirror as I was taking the photo.

If anyone is curious about this:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prada_Marfa
Not there anymore but in 2018 someone had also created the world's smallest Target store between Alpine and Marathon

This was only a few years after the 2015 Conspiracy theories that military exercise Operation Jade Helm (https://www.texastribune.org/2015/07...e-helm-begins/) was really a plot to impose martial law and round up citizens to detain them in closed Walmart stores in west Texas... so I can't confirm whether there really is a basement underneath this Target
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Old 02-08-24, 10:00 AM
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Originally Posted by mev
Not there anymore but in 2018 someone had also created the world's smallest Target store between Alpine and Marathon

This was only a few years after the 2015 Conspiracy theories that military exercise Operation Jade Helm (https://www.texastribune.org/2015/07...e-helm-begins/) was really a plot to impose martial law and round up citizens to detain them in closed Walmart stores in west Texas... so I can't confirm whether there really is a basement underneath this Target
There was more graffiti when I was there. Being a van supported trip that I was on, I had my folding bike. Photo taken April 8, 2018.



Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase Big Box Stores. I do not recall if I looked inside, but I probably did not. Rattlesnakes sometimes hangout near abandoned building foundations, so I am careful near them.

I never heard of Jade Helm, ... fortunately. But I do not use social media like Facebook or Twitter or whatever Twitter is now called, so I often am clueless on what people are getting excited about. I get my information from genuine news media instead.

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Old 02-08-24, 10:50 AM
  #144  
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN
Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase Big Box Stores. I do not recall if I looked inside, but I probably did not. Rattlesnakes sometimes hangout near abandoned building foundations, so I am careful near them.

I never heard of Jade Helm, ... fortunately. But I do not use social media like Facebook or Twitter or whatever Twitter is now called, so I often am clueless on what people are getting excited about. I get my information from genuine news media instead.
Hysteria over Jade Helm made national press - https://www.cbsnews.com/news/jade-he...from-governor/ reinforced in part when the Texas governor said he was going to have the Texas Guard keep track. Some later suggested in influenced scope of disinformation techniques in the 2016 elections - https://www.texastribune.org/2018/05...s-former-cia-/

Your Target photo was April 8th. Mine was May 6th so this could also be what was visible in the pictures.
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Old 02-08-24, 06:00 PM
  #145  
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN
Thanks for posting. I was unaware that Greyhound had bike boxes.
Ah, well, for now. More and more bus companies and bus stops are moving from bus stations to a 'curbside business model' - pioneered in the USA by the 'Chinatown buses' - to cut costs. Greyhound is selling their beautiful 1930s Art Deco station in D/T Dallas and will be picking up/dropping off curbside like Megabus, Redcoach & Flixbus already do.

No station - no box?

Well, there's always boxes from Aircaddy, BikeFights, UHaul, the LBS...
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Old 02-08-24, 06:15 PM
  #146  
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Originally Posted by Duragrouch
Folding bike would have been so much easier. Not sure Bromptons were easily available back then. I think Bike Friday had just barely started up that same year.
Dahons were available then. And of course the famous Bickerton:



I'm sold on folders, now that mine has been modified to get the gearing I need. I'll never buy another non-folder.
It's the future - and like I opined in post no. 36, the golden ticket for Amtrak.
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Old 02-08-24, 11:56 PM
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Originally Posted by tcs
Dahons were available then. And of course the famous Bickerton:





It's the future - and like I opined in post no. 36, the golden ticket for Amtrak.
Funny you should post that pic; I was just about to mention with regard to conspiracy theories above, my college roommate, in US air force reserves, said all McDonald's were secret ICBM bases.
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Old 02-11-24, 06:22 PM
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Originally Posted by tcs
I still hold out hope that FlixBus* will improve cycletouring options in America. From their website:

https://www.flixbus.com/service/bike-travel

Can I take my bike on the bus?

Yes, you can! Bikes are allowed on most FlixBuses, so you can experience great adventures wherever you want. Many buses in our fleet have a bike carrier at the back of the bus that allows you to transport your bike or are equipped with special bike covers, which ensure a safe transport in the baggage compartment of the bus.
...

...
Today was thinking of a possible trip, spent half a day on the internet looking at logistics options if I want to pursue this further, etc.

From Madison WI to Amtrak station in Chicago, Flixbuses do not list a bike option. And their single carry on and single bag for luggage compartment is pretty stingy, especially when you look at the allowable dimensions for the bags. And if I had an additional bag for luggage compartment, price jumps a lot.

For $10 more with a different bus company, two checked bags and one carry on included in the fare, plus a bike is $10 if boxed and $20 unboxed. I am not looking further at Flixbuses. I will pay the higher fees with the bus company I have used before to make sure my bike and luggage get there if I do this trip. I can ride my bike to the bus stop, pack my panniers in a big sack and use a bus line I have used before.

But thanks for posting, it might be a great option for people in other locations.

Side note, the website listed several different bus times for that trip, some were Flixbus and some were Greyhound, so there is some partnering going on here since both were listed on the same website.

The biggest downside to the trip I am considering is that the trip home after the biking part, have to get on an Amtrak train before it departs at 6:33 am. But the train has Trainside Checked Bicycle Service, thus no boxing necessary. But, I really can't get too enthusiastic about getting on a train at 6am.
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Old 02-11-24, 06:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN
One more transfer, we got on a Amtrak bus on Fisherman's Wharf, the bus had room for two bikes on the rack on front. A third cyclist was bummed because his bike had to go into a luggage compartment below where it could slide around as the bus drove.

Then at the Amtrak station we bought the boxes and boxed up the bikes.

Photo taken while sitting in the Amtrak bus, that is our bikes on the rack as we go across the bay. The Amtrak station is not in San Francisco, it is in a suburb, I do not recall the name.



Keep in mind that these buses are not Amtrak buses, they are private bus companies that Amtrak will take care of ticketing a bus ride for Amtrak customers.
if you do this again, would recommend taking BART (very easy for bikes outside of rush hour) to Richmond, assuming your Amtrak train stops there. It probably does. there are some elevators or stairs to deal with, but much better for your bike IMO! or if you feel like riding, the 5 min ferry to treasure island and you can ride across the rest of the bay bridge and then to Richmond!



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Old 02-11-24, 07:24 PM
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Originally Posted by mschwett
if you do this again, would recommend taking BART (very easy for bikes outside of rush hour) to Richmond, assuming your Amtrak train stops there. It probably does. there are some elevators or stairs to deal with, but much better for your bike IMO! or if you feel like riding, the 5 min ferry to treasure island and you can ride across the rest of the bay bridge and then to Richmond!
This. It's nice that Amtrak offers Thruway bus service from their East Bay stations into SF, but if you have a bike it's more of a hassle then a convenience. You can take the BART across the Bay, then it's about a two mile ride from MacArthur BART to Emeryville Amtrak (the station where most of the Thruway buses use). Oakland-Jack London Square Amtrak is less than a mile from either 12th Ave or Lake Merritt Stations. And as mentioned above, the Richmond BART station is directly across from the Richmond Amtrak. Though I will point out that only the California Service trains (Capitol Corridor and San Joaquins) stop in Richmond. If you are taking the California Zephyr, you'll need to use Emeryville. (You can use either Emeryville or Jack London for the Starlight.)

And yes, the ferry is another option. You can take a ferry from SF Ferry Building to Jack London Square and the Amtrak station is right there. And the ride is a lot more scenic then the Transbay Tube.
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