(Photo: Will Vanlue)
Bikes have become a big part of train travel here in the Pacific Northwest, and train travel has become a big part of bike tourism. The latest sign: Amtrak Cascades just boosted its bike hauling capacity by 67 percent.
Every run on the state-subsidized regional train line that connects Eugene, Vancouver BC and various cities in between now offers 10 bike hooks per train, up from 6. Adding your bike to an Amtrak Cascades trip, an easy step during online checkout, costs $5 for each direction hauled.
The most popular city pair on Amtrak Cascades, between Portland and Seattle, is also one of the most crowded with bikes, Cascades Operations Supervisor Kirk Fredrickson said Wednesday. Seattle-Vancouver and Portland-Vancouver regularly fill up, too.
On summer weekends, he said, about half of all trains were previously full to capacity with hanging bikes.
Amtrak also allows you to ship a bike horizontally if it’s in a box. Bike boxes, which Amtrak requires for “tandems, recumbents and other specialized bikes” are available at train stations for $15.
Earlier this year, two trainsets bought by the Oregon Department of Transportation for the Amtrak Cascades system included 10 bike racks. Now, Washington has modified its own trainsets to follow suit.
Bikes and inter-city trains go together beautifully, because trains usually roll directly into downtowns — when most Northwest cities were built, trains were the main way to get between cities. Bikes, meanwhile, make it easy to explore an unfamiliar city. As Amtrak Cascades continues to improve, it’s nice to know that bikes are continuing to be important.