Amtrak Capitol Corridor To Run Bike Share Program?

While riding the Amtrak Capitol Corridor train again today I found a card advertising a survey (pictured at right). I’ve been riding the Capitol Corridor trains for years, and I had some time to kill on my one hour 50 minute trip, so I figured “why not.” I was a bit surprised, however, when I found out that the grand prize in a drawing of those that take the survey is a Brompton M3L folding bike. Seemed a little bit of an odd give-a-way item, and raised my interest even further.

Once I started taking the survey I found out why that bike was associated with this survey. Seems Amtrak is considering running a rental-bike program.
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Amtrak Capitol Corridor to change bike policy

I’ve heard rumors through the grapevine (or on the mailing lists, if you want to get technical) that the Amtrak Capitol Corridor trains were considering changing their policies regarding bicycles aboard the trains.  Currently, they allow you to take a complete, assembled un-boxed bike on board the train and store it in one of the spaces provided.  These spaces include a standing floor rack, or hooks you can hang the bike from.  These accommodations vary by train car and equipment set configuration, but cars generally have space for either 3, 8 or 13 bicycles at a time.

Currently, if and when all spaces become full and more bikes want to get on, passengers are allowed to continue to board the train and place their bikes … wherever.  There is a walkway with a handrail that has been a particular favorite of many, as well as a large empty spot allocated for wheelchairs.

The rumors flying around are that conductors were going to start denying passengers access if all “official” bike spots were already taken.  The facts behind this rumor were revealed in a blog post on the CapitolCorridor website:

You may have heard or read public comments about the Capitol Corridor’s Joint Powers Authority’s (CCJPA) new on board bike storage policy. I want to clarify that on February 1, 2012 we will start our “get acquainted period” to help educate riders who bring bikes on board the importance of proper bike storage. We will begin implementing the new policy several months afterwards in order to give riders time to prepare and acclimate to proper bike storage practices that allow for adequate access and safety.

David Kurtrosky

Kurtrosky further explained the need for this policy change by citing “…our [Capitol Corridor trains] growing ridership and the corresponding increase in bike usage over the past few years.”  However, the official policy statement stops short of saying that people will be denied the right to board, using much gentler language:

Several months from now, when the Capitol Corridor’s new bike policy is in place, passengers who board trains with bikes will be required to:

  • Secure bicycles to prevent the sudden or uncontrolled movement of bikes in the event of a sudden train stop; and
  • Store bicycles so that all passengers (including those in wheelchairs) can safely navigate the train aisle-ways.

Kurtrosky’s blog post gives further details, and a response to the anticipated “why don’t you make more space for bikes” questions.  I’ll personally be keeping a close eye on this, as I’m on the cusp of changing from once weekly commutes to 4 times a week.  Of course my bike is an integral part of that commute.

Thanks to VeloReviews member, and fellow Amtrak rider Paul Crescione ( @paulcrescione ) for bringing the Amtrak blog post to my attention

Not riding is spurring our economy

Wow…  Who’d have thought that me taking a day off of my bike for the daily commute could be such a huge boon to the economies of the areas that I travel through?  The lack of a bicycle, coupled with delays a getting out of the office has pushed my normal transit agency up 100%.

Normally, I use both Amtrak and Capitol Corridor trains – coupled with my bike – to deal with my commute.  Well, technically speaking I think that even both of those two servers are technically Amtrak, but we’ll consider them two for the time being.

Today, however, without the bike I actually used 4 distinct transit agencies.  Here’s the lowdown:

Departure

  • Leave house to bus top.  Unfortunately, at the bus stop I realize that I forgot something and go back to the house, missing the bus.  Beg the wife (who was happily snoozing in bed until my rude interruption) for a ride to the train station instead.
  • Board Amtrak capitol corridor bound for Emeryville
  • Transfer to bus, across the Bay Bridge to the Caltrain station
  • Caltrain to Palo Alto

Going Home (this is where things get more interesting)

  • Meeting at the office runs a little longer than hoped.  Catch a later Caltrain that wanted at Palo Alto
  • Since I won’t make the Amtrak connecting bus leaving Palo Alto at this time, and missing that bus would result in me getting home about 90 minutes or so later, I start to scheme and plan.  I could take a taxi from the Caltrain station to the Ferry building and catch a different Amtrak bus ($10-$12 with tip)  However, I’ve got some Bart tickets in my wallet with balances left on them.  After a whole bunch of time schedule cross-referencing between Caltrain, Bart and Amtrak, I opt to get off of Caltrain at Milbrae and take Bart out to the Richmond Amtrak stop.  Haven’t been on Bart in a while, otta be fun…
  • Get off Bart, stand around for 20 minutes waiting for Amtrak
  • Get off Amtrak in Sacramento, walk 3 blocks to bus stop
  • Take Sacramento RT home

I think I may have been less complicated for me to cross three or four countries in Europe compared to this.  However, I did get to catch up on a bunch of podcasts during my little experiment in mass transit.