Rolling onto Amtrak's Capitol Limited

September 2, 2015

Roll-on demo participants walk their bikes through Union Station.

Last Friday, six Amtrak passengers waited at Union Station in Pittsburgh in the early morning darkness to catch the Capitol Limited train with bikes in hand. They were demoing Amtrak's new, but not yet publicly available, bicycle roll-on service which has been eagerly awaited by cyclists around the country. The Capitol Limited parallels two popular bicycle trails—the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Towpath and the Great Allegheny Passage—for 350 miles of traffic-free cycling. 


When the train arrived, the passengers rolled their bikes into a car with seven bike racks, hooked their bikes on the wall, and secured them with velcro.  There will be eight bike racks total once the service is launched.


Ninety-five minutes later, the train pulled up to the Amtrak station in Connellsville, where the conductor alerted the cyclists, giving them time to get their bikes ready to roll off the train.

Cyclists load their bikes at the Connellsville station.

The feedback from the roll-on demo was very positive, and all participants were very excited about upcoming launch of the service. Participant Ed Quigley remarked, "All the Amtrak personnel were helpful and positive, and it was a wonderful experience. This is going to be such a boost for the local economy, the trail towns, and cycling. And Amtrak passengers!"

The new roll-on service is anticipated to be open to the public within the next two weeks and will allow passengers to roll their bicycles on and off the train at any station along the route—without having to box their bikes.

Amtrak partnered with Adventure Cycling one and a half years ago to form an advisory Bicycle Task Force to work on developing the service and addressing challenges. Amtrak will charge $25 for the fee and cyclists will need to reserve a space for their bike when buying their ticket online.

Stay tuned for Amtrak's official opening of bicycle roll-on service!

Great Allegheny Passage in the morning fog.

First six photos by Yale Cohen; bottom two photos by Don Erdjalec.

BUILDING BICYCLE TOURISM is written by Ginny Sullivan and Saara Snow of the Travel Initiatives Department and focuses on the growing national movement to build bicycle tourism, including economic impacts, bike friendly tips, multimodal travel, and resources for destination development and marketing.


Gary D September 8, 2015, 11:04 AM

Has anyone herd if the empire builder train route will have roll on service for bikes

Ginny Sullivan September 8, 2015, 4:30 PM

Hi Gary and Greg,

There is talk about the Empire Builder but nothing concrete yet. One of the goals of this project is to find ways to implement roll-on service across the Amtrak fleet. So lessons learned will serve to create more access on other lines. Stay tuned!

Greg Forrester September 5, 2015, 3:01 AM

Now, if we could get this service implemented on Amtrak Empire Builder. I live 2 blocks from a station on that line but it's 150 miles from the nearest station that accepts checked baggage (boxed bicycles). There are numerous rail trails in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Washington, and Oregon plus Glacier National Park that are on or just a few hours bike ride from stations served on the Emprie Builder.

helene clair September 4, 2015, 7:47 PM

could not be happier to hear of any cooperation between Amtrak and cyclist things are looking up and can only get better there is light in the tunnel and better times to come

Heath MacAlpine September 4, 2015, 8:01 AM

That's great news, sounds like progress. Now the service needs to spread to other routes. Just finished a self supported ride from Dayton, Ohio to New York City and came back via Amtrak's Cardinal Route, getting off in Cincinnati. It would have been great to roll the bike off intact, wait for the sun to come up, and ridden the last 60 miles or so home.

Ned McGuire September 4, 2015, 3:58 AM

This is not only great news for cyclist, but for the towns along the way. I can't wait to try this myself.

gerry September 3, 2015, 4:28 AM

$25 why so much other roll on service are free or as much as $10 on other routes.

Just used Amtrak pacific surf liner to take a trip from San Diego to Santa Barbra 230 miles no extra charges for bike

Ginny Sullivan September 8, 2015, 4:27 PM

Hi gerry,

After feedback from the cycling community, Amtrak decided to lower the fee to $20.

Paul September 4, 2015, 10:03 AM

Pacific surfliner trains are subsidized by California who says bikes go free. Cascades are subsidized by Washington and Oregon who say bikes cost $5. Illinois and Missouri trains are subsidized by them who say bikes cost $10. Michigan and NY trains are subsidized by them who say bikes don't go at all. As you know currently bikes go on long distance, overnight trains only in boxes in the baggage car, and then only to and from the few stations having baggage service. Boxes cost $15 (you can provide your own; but it's tough to carry a box while on tour) and the service charge is $10, totaling $25. So $25 for the the added convenience, not to mention greatly expanded availability, is just about right as far as I'm concerned. What do you want for nothing? Your money back!

gerry September 5, 2015, 5:35 AM

Paul WTF drop the attitude, I was just asking why so much.

I did not know about the subsidizes thanks for the info

you can still get a box for free at your LBS for free ride the train to your starting point recycle the box and be on your way for $10 baggage fee

if you need to box your bike for trip any LBS would like to see a box reused rather then just be trash

Charlie September 2, 2015, 1:00 PM

This is great, but if you are coming from DC you arrive in Pitts at midnight. Can you stay in the station until the morning when it is light enough to bike?

Paul September 4, 2015, 9:55 AM

The station is open 24 hours; and I doubt the agent would kick you out. We've waited until dawn several times when arriving from Chicago at 5:03AM.

Larry Winberry September 2, 2015, 11:31 AM

Will the roll on service accommodate Bob trailers ?

Ginny Sullivan September 8, 2015, 4:32 PM

Bob trailers will probably need to be pulled off the bike and stored with the luggage, just like panniers but a nice conductor may allow them to remain with the bikes.

Bill Gust September 3, 2015, 7:39 AM

That would be huge if they do! They should let us store everything in the room including trailers and panniers.

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