More roll-on, roll-off bike service coming to Amtrak

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More options for bicycle travel are in the offing as Amtrak says it is installing baggage cars with bicycle racks on all 15 of its long-distance routes by the end of the year.

Baggage car bike race; photo by Amtrak

Baggage car bike race; photo by Amtrak

The upgrade means that bicyclists can roll their rides onto the baggage cars and hang the bikes on the vertical racks. No more breaking down the bikes, boxing them, and re-assembling them at a destination.

The vertical racks are currently undergoing field testing on trips to Chicago, New Orleans and Miami as well as the Northeast Corridor.

This should be great news for touring bicyclists. It gives them another option on returning home or starting a bike tour at a distant location. We’re hoping this easy bike loading system, which is used across Europe, becomes a standard service on Amtrak soon.

The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy touts one of the immediate benefits of the new bike rack system on Amtrak — bicyclists traveling the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal corridor can roll them bikes onto the Capitol Limited that serves Washington DC and Pittsburgh.

Linda Boxx, who is among those instrumental in forming the GAP trail, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “It’‍s great to have Amtrak understanding how important the bike tourism industry is.”

Another advocate for roll-on bike handling on trains is Champe Burnley of the Virginia Bicycling Federation. Burnley, who helped test the system, told the RTC Trailblog:

“After this test run of roll-on bike service, it’s clear to me that carrying an unboxed bike on a train can work in the U.S., just as it does across Europe. My only concern is that on routes like the Capitol Limited, which serve bike-friendly cities and hugely popular corridors like the GAPCO and U.S. Bike Route 50, there won’t be enough racks on each train to adequately meet demand.”

Amtrak currently has roll-on service on some lines in the West, such as the Amtrak Cascades, Pacific Surfliner, and the San Joaquin.

Find the full list of trains with roll-on service and other details of carrying your bike on Amtrak at Bring Your Bicycle Onboard.

Also, see more about the baggage car upgrades at New baggage cars.

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