Cyclists test roll on/roll off service on Amtrak
By Mark Hofmann
Published: Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Avid bicyclists took to the Amtrak train Tuesday morning at different stops in different trail towns for an experimental program that is hoped to increase ridership on the train and bike/hike trails.
“This is a trial run,” said Linda Boxx, president of the Allegheny Trail Alliance.
Boxx and five other bicyclists waited for the 6:45 a.m. Capitol Limited passenger train with their bikes by their side at the Amtrak station in Connellsville, ready to try Amtrak's roll-on/roll-off bicycle service.
The service is something trail and bicycle enthusiasts have been lobbying to get for years.
It provides bicyclists a chance to roll their bikes onto a train car equipped with bike racks, ride the train and then roll the bikes off when they reach their destination.
There is no such service at all currently, but bikes can be checked as luggage (once partially disassembled and boxed) and loaded/unloaded only at Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.
“They want to see how quickly they can get six bicycles on and off the train,” Boxx said. If the program is implemented by Amtrak, the popularity of the trail will bring more bicyclists on the train, said Boxx.
“Six racks won't be enough,” she said.
June Deakins of Somerset has been riding the Great Allegheny Passage before it was a bike trail and said if the program is implemented, it could mean a greater ease and a lower expense for bicyclists.
“It's another door opening if Amtrak can help us out,” Deakins said. “People fly to Pittsburgh and put together their bikes, and it's expensive to hire a shuttle.”
Bob Hand of Irwin was another volunteer departing from Connellsville for Cumberland, Md.
“I think this is a great exercise,” Hand said. “I expect it will work well and be a boom to cyclists.”
The group riding from Connellsville to Cumberland weren't the only passengers testing out the roll-on/roll-off service. There were volunteers at each stop with their tokes in tow.
A group traveled from Pittsburgh to Connellsville to cycle back to Pittsburgh.
“It's easy to get on and off the train,” said Vannevan Bush of Beaver, adding the program will help bring more people to Connellsville. “People and local business owners should call Amtrak and encourage them to make it a permanent program.”
James Taggart of Monroeville, who is on the Allegheny Trail Alliance board, said the program made a one-day bike trip more convenient in terms of time and transportation.
“This was easier than folding and carrying my bike on and off the train,” Taggart said.
Boxx said she doesn't know if or when Amtrak will make the program available for the stops at the bike-trail towns.
Mark Hofmann is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-626-3539 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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