Midwest Amtrak Routes Will Get More Bike-Friendly With Onboard Racks

Rendering of the new bike racks.
Rendering of the new bike racks.

In Chicago, the nation’s railroad hub, there are tons of option for taking your bike on trains for a car-free getaway. For example, I like to ride Amtrak to Carbondale in southern Illinois to explore the hilly Shawnee National Forest.

We’re also very fortunate that all Amtrak routes within Illinois accept unboxed bikes for a nominal fee, and more Midwestern routes, including the Hiawatha Line to Milwaukee, and various routes to Michigan, are offering roll-on service. However, sometimes it’s a bit of a scramble to find a place for your bike on the train, because there’s often no dedicated space.

However, that will change beginning in mid 2020, when all-new federally funded coaches with bike racks will be phased in on all state-supported Amtrak Midwestern corridors in Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and Missouri, according to railroad spokesman Scott Speegle. On a standard train set, there will be two coach cars, each with a three-bike vertical rack, so each train will be able to accommodate six bikes.

The racks will be available on the following trains:
Illinois:  Lincoln Service, Illini/Saluki, Carl Sandburg/Illinois Zephyr
Wisconsin:  Hiawatha
Missouri:  River Runner
Michigan: Blue Water, Pierre Marquette, Wolverine

One minor drawback is that touring cyclists with loaded bikes may be required to remove their saddlebags and camping gear to hang up their bikes. But overall, having dedicated space for bikes on all Midwestern state-supported routes will be a step in the right direction for making Amtrak more bike-friendly.

  • skelter weeks

    Amtrak doesn’t charge for Wifi, so, since the racks will be standard equipment, bikes should be free.

  • what_eva

    One reason to charge a small fee is to ensure that people register to use the service and there aren’t capacity issues. If it’s free, some people won’t register and will just show up with bikes assuming they can get them on (“but it’s free!”).

  • skelter weeks

    When you reseve a seat, you can reserve a bike space on the rack. If you don’t show up & check-in, you lose the seat and the rack. So Amtrak can tell people waiting they have x seats and x spaces on the bike rack available. There’s no reason to gouge people.

  • what_eva

    Is $10 gouging? (that’s the charge for the regional services in question per https://www.amtrak.com/bring-your-bicycle-onboard)
    I’d certainly understand annoyance at the fee if they don’t keep the racks in good condition.

    My point stands that if it’s free, at least some people will not reserve and assume they can show up and get a spot. While it’s easy to say those people are SOL and can’t bring their bike, it’s not good customer service. I would have no quibble with the fee being $5, but I don’t know how Amtrak decides on the fee. If it’s paying for the racks and their upkeep, that’s fine. If they pulled it out of their behinds (probably true) just to have a fee, then $5 would perhaps have been better.

  • Kevin M

    I’ve been taking my bicycle on Amtrak almost every year for athe last decade or so, and my most recent experience was Memorial Day Weekend, and I can honestly say that almost every time I do so, nearly every Amtrak staff I encounter displays some combination of tension and confusion. The tensions usually comes out in the form of assuming that I do not have a bike ticket, or assuming I am taking a long-distance train (which might require a box) when I’m taking a Midwestern train (with roll-on service). Their service response changes over time; currently, you’re required to stand in line at the baggage counter to get a claim ticket for your roll-on bike (which they did not previously require). I feel like Amtrak does little–if any–training on how to treat customers with bicycles (an occasional smile instead of brow would be refreshing). Instead, I feel like I’m causing a problem by taking my bicycle on Amtrak–which feels lousy and can spoil the excitement of launching a trip.

  • Kevin M

    Also, they often do not know when or where to board my bike, and often provide different directions (or none at all) each time.

  • christie

    One year earlier I made a decision to drop my past job and I am too glad nowadays…. I began doing work online, for a corporation I found out on the internet, for a number of hr each day, and I bring in much more than I actually did on my office workplace job… My pay-check for past calendar month was 9,000 dollars… The best thing regarding it is the extra free moments I managed to get for my babies…and that the only requirement for this task is simple typing and having access to broadband… I am in a position to devote quality time with my loved ones or friends and also look after my little kids and also going on a family vacation with them very consistently. Don’t ignore this opportunity and be sure to act quick. See, what it’s about… icyderive.guest.de

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG