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Harvey Botzman
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If Iowa City is to become an important Midwest rail hub it must have unboxed bicycle carriage on the trains entering and leaving its station. It is important, at this very primary stage of planning for high speed rail passenger service, for all the projects funded by this $2.4 billion award to agree to have a section of a rail passenger car on each train for the carriage of at least 10 unboxed bicycles. A. Unboxed carriage of bicycles in rail passenger cars encourages and allows ease of travel to and within each region where both high speed rail passenger and conventional speed rail passenger trains will operate. 1. In particular, there are many residents, bicyclists and non-bicyclists, of major urban areas who do not regularly own or use a motor vehicle for transportation. 2. Bicyclists prefer to use their own bicycle when touring in cities, suburbs, and rural areas other than their place of residence; and when visiting friends and relatives. a. The use of the bicyclist’s personal vehicle (a bicycle is a vehicle in every state) provides more comfort; is usually better equipped with safety and other accessories than a rented or borrowed bicycle. 3. Amtrak can greatly increase its market share of the leisure travel market by making certain all it’s future high speed and conventional speed trains have the facilities to carry unboxed bicycles in Amtrak passenger cars. See the Secretary's blog announcing "DOT awards $2.4 billion to continue developing 21st century high-speed passenger rail corridors" for a continuation of this comment.
It is important, at this very primary stage of planning for high speed rail passenger service, for all the projects funded by this $2.4 billion award to agree to have a section of a rail passenger car on each train for the carriage of at least 10 unboxed bicycles. A. Unboxed carriage of bicycles in rail passenger cars encourages and allows ease of travel to and within each region where both high speed rail passenger and conventional speed rail passenger trains will operate. 1. In particular, there are many residents, bicyclists and non-bicyclists, of major urban areas who do not regularly own or use a motor vehicle for transportation. 2. Bicyclists prefer to use their own bicycle when touring in cities, suburbs, and rural areas other than their place of residence; and when visiting friends and relatives. a. The use of the bicyclist’s personal vehicle (a bicycle is a vehicle in every state) provides more comfort; is usually better equipped with safety and other accessories than a rented or borrowed bicycle. 3. Amtrak can greatly increase its market share of the leisure travel market by making certain all it’s future high speed and conventional speed trains have the facilities to carry unboxed bicycles in Amtrak passenger cars. B. Current Unboxed Bicycle Carriage Facilities: Throughout the Amtrak passenger rail system, with a few exceptions, carriage of bicycles is limited to trains with a baggage car and to Amtrak stations with baggage car service. 1. Bicycles must be boxed to be carried in a baggage car. 2. An Amtrak station must have checked baggage service for bicycles to be loaded/unloaded from the baggage car. 3. True folding bicycles (e. g., Bike Friday, manufactured in Oregon) are permitted to be carried into the passenger cars of all Amtrak trains. 4. Only the following trains have facilities for carriage of unboxed bicycles: a. Cascades: 6 unboxed bicycle spots per train (12 trains x 6 =72 unboxed bicycle spots) b. Capitol Corridor (CA): 3 unboxed bicycle spots per car (54 trains x 3 = 162 unboxed bicycle spots x # of cars) c. San Joaquin: 3 unboxed bicycle spots per car (12 trains x 3 = 36 unboxed bicycle spots x # of cars) d. Pacific Surfliner (not all trains): 3 unboxed bicycle spots per car (48 trains x 3 = 144 unboxed bicycle spots) e. Downstate Illinois Service: 4 unboxed bicycle spots per train (16 trains x 4 = 64 unboxed bicycle spots) f. Missouri River Runner: 4 unboxed bicycle spots per train (4 trains x 4 = 16 unboxed bicycle spots) g. Downeaster: 8 unboxed bicycle spots per train (20 trains x 8 = 160 unboxed bicycle spots) h. Piedmont: 6 unboxed bicycle spots per train (4 trains x 6 = 24 unboxed bicycle spots) i. Figures are derived from Amtrak’s web site, Route information and bicycle baggage policy. 5. With the exception of the “Downeaster” all the trains with unboxed bicycle carriage facilities are NOT in the northeast. The northeast is where Amtrak has its highest ridership. 6. Result: The boxing of a bicycle severely inhibits bicyclists from coming to and traveling within all Amtrak service regions because it involves at least 10 additional procedures to prepare a bicycle for travel in a box. In essence, bicycle tourism is inhibited from developing. 7. Additionally, only a small percentage of Amtrak’s stations have checked baggage service, therefore not all stations can accept boxed bicycles, let alone unboxed bicycles. This situation severely hampers the development of healthy outdoor tourism for both residents and non-resident tourists. 8. Outdoor, healthy tourism is one of the fastest growing segments of the tourism market. Amtrak is losing its share of the transportation market because of the difficulty in transporting bicycles and other oversize sports equipment on trains. C. Secure, monitored bicycle lockers and short term bicycle rack parking must be provided at all Empire Corridor stations 1. Covered, secure bicycle rack and locker parking at all stations is necessary for individuals who bicycle to rail stations throughout the Amtrak system. Currently, there are no or very few bicycle racks at any stations; almost all of these bicycle racks are exposed to weather elements; and the racks are not within view of station security cameras or personnel. Such facilities must be built in compliance with Homeland Security Administration regulations (e. g., the lockers at the Utica Station being unusable due to Homeland Security regulations implemented after the reconstruction of the Utica Station.) 2. If intermodal transportation is important then such facilities as secure bicycle parking racks and lockers must be considered as an integral part of any program for a High Speed Rail Initiative or conventional speed rail passenger service. D. Platform level loading of passengers, disabled passengers (with and without wheelchairs), and bicycles must be the norm for all high speed or conventional speed Amtrak stations. 1. Harvey Botzman, author, Cyclotour Guide Books (4 of 7 books contain routes traversing the Empire Rail Corridor; a frequent traveler on Amtrak (20,000+ Guest Rewards points); both a Director of the New York Bicycling Coalition and the Canal New York Business & Marketing Alliance; a) He has timed similar (by observational demographics) passengers with and without small and large luggage at both the Rochester and Syracuse stations; b) Harvey’s findings: it takes an average of 4.5 times for individual passengers to board a train at the Rochester (passenger car stairs loading) than at the Syracuse (platform level loading). 2. Passenger car stairs loading can be considered as a prime reason for delays of Empire Service trains. E. All European, Japanese, Chinese, and Australian high speed rail trains have accommodations for the carriage of unboxed bicycles in the passenger cars of their trains. E. Both domestic and international travelers are increasingly seeking new places to bicycle. The Empire Service Corridor with its myriad attractions, bicycle clubs, lodging facilities, excellent paved wide shouldered roads needs only an affordable, rapid, and convenient way for both domestic and international bicycle tourists to travel to the Corridor. High Speed Rail trains can easily provide such a transportation mode if and only if unboxed bicycle carriage facilities are provided in the design of the passenger cars. 1. Pictures of unboxed bicycle carriage facilities in passenger rail cars of high speed and conventional speed trains in Europe, Japan, China, and Australia are available on the internet or from either the railway companies or national bicycle organizations.
These bike lanes are a unique and needed addition to Washington DC's transportation infrastructure. - Smaller cities, those with less than 1,000,000 persons in population need these facilities too. Hopefully, the Secretary will submit federal funding programs specifically for cities in the 100,000-500,000 population range and other smaller cities, towns, and villages to improve these municipalities' bicycle infrastructure. Likewise, the Secretary should not forget about intermodal transportation facilities such as bicycle carriage on Amtrak passenger cars as long as the full sized bicycle is partially assembled (wheels & pedals off, hand bars turned); placed in a sturdy bicycle bag or Pullman suitcase sized hard case; and weigh no more than 50 lbs. Such a change in policy by Amtrak would encourage bicycle tourism in areas outside of the major megapolis' such as Washington DC. More importantly, a change to the full sized bicycle in a bicycle bag policy involves no additional expenditure by Amtrak or a governmental entity! Sturdy bicycle bags are relatively inexpensive and are made in the U. S. A.! As the author of 7 bicycle tour guide books www.cyclotour.com for the Great Lakes & New York State bicyclists write me to say how much more they discovered in the U. S. A. by bicycle touring compared with going to Europe, Australia, or other continents.
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Jun 23, 2010