Roll-On Service Begins on Amtrak’s Capitol Limited; Also to Richmond for the Cycling World Champs

Nate Evans, Tom Bowden, Champe Burnley, Caron Whittaker, Jeff Miller, and Linda Boxx on the inaugural run with the new bike racks on Amtrak's Capitol Limited

Nate Evans (Bike Maryland), Tom Bowden and Champe Burnley (Virginia Bicycling Federation), Caron Whittaker (League of American Bicyclists)), Jeff Miller (Adventure Cycling Assn.), and Linda Boxx (Allegheny Trail Alliance – GAPCO) on the inaugural run with the new bike racks on Amtrak’s Capitol Limited

From Amtrak’s press release:

“Amtrak is expanding the availability of bike service on the Capitol Limited to allow more passengers the convenience of traveling with their bikes. This enhanced service begins on Sept. 14 and provides passengers with a way to travel with their bicycles without the hassles of driving and parking vehicles.

This service is available at all stations along the Capitol Limited route between Washington, D.C., and Chicago. Passengers will be able to roll their bikes along the platform and onto the train and secure their own bikes on a rack in the baggage cars. Amtrak partnered with Adventure Cycling Association and other bicycle and passenger rail groups to form an advisory bicycle task force to oversee this project to establish walk-on bike service on the Capitol Limited.”

Note how Amtrak’s press release says, “expanding the availability of bike service.” So what’s new, and why is it important?

Previously, bikes had to be boxed and checked as luggage, eliminating destinations without luggage service, like Harper’s Ferry, WV. And for most riders, it eliminates the possibility of riding to or from the station — as part of a biking day trip, or an extended tour.

Now riders can take a bike on or off the train at any station along the route. This creates many new possibilities for multimodal bike and train travel, and many new customers for Amtrak.

Amtrak’s new bike racks are passenger-self-serve, to minimize delays. Note that reservations and fees ($20 at this writing) are still required. Amtrak’s bicycle page has the scoop, summed up by our friends at Adventure Cycling Assn:

“Reservations are required and passengers must have a travel document (ticket) for their bicycles. Passengers can reserve their bicycles by selecting “add bike” when they book their train travel on, by calling 800-USA-RAIL, or by visiting any staffed ticket office. Amtrak charges $20 per bicycle for a reservation. Passengers with bicycles need to walk their bikes through Amtrak stations, use elevators, not escalators, and arrive 30 minutes prior to train departure to allow time to transport the bike to the baggage car. Those traveling with panniers or trailers should remove these and carry them on the train. Amtrak will provide instructions in the train car for passengers to load and unload their own bicycles. Amtrak will continue to offer boxed bike service at stations with ticketing and baggage service.”

With so many cycling groups along the route from DC to Chicago rallying for roll-on service, the Capitol Limited got Amtrak’s attention, perhaps as pilot for system-wide adoption. Hopes are high for roll-on in Virginia, especially for the new service to Roanoke. As if to whet our appetites, Amtrak is offering limited roll-on service to Richmond for the 2015 UCI World Cycling Championships:

Click image for Amtrak info page.

Click image for Amtrak info page.

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