Amtrak roll-on provisions finally passed as part of FAST Act

Back in March 2015, we asked you to contact members of the House to ask for their support for bicycle roll-on on Amtrak rail cars.  In July we reported that similar language had been adopted in the Senate.

But of course, neither of those is the final passage of the bicycle roll-on language.  So what happened next? Was it ever actually passed into law?

Working with Congress means doing work now that pays off years later--in a big way

One reason we ask you to weigh in with your members of Congress when we have opportunities early on in the legislative process, is because that is where issues like these are won and lost.  Just one or two key supportive members of Congress in each Chamber working on our behalf in an early hearing, and we have the language we want in the earliest legislative drafts in both the House and the Senate.

Then, when the full bill moves forward--often months or even years later--our hard-fought issue moves with it.

For better or worse, that is how the system works.  And that is why we often make a big fuss about an important issue--and then have to wait an interminable amount of time to see the results. And--if we have played our cards right--when the final legislation passes, it anti-climactic. Because of the work we did on the front end, our key points were built in from the start.

So, that is exactly what happened with the Amtrak bicycle roll-on study issue. A coalition of groups from across the country including MoBikeFed worked hard on this in 2014, we all asked our members to contact Congress in March 2015, the issue again came to the forefront in July 2015. 

And then we waited--until December 2015 when the FAST Act was passed and signed into law by President Obama.  The FAST Act included the language we had worked so hard for over the preceeding year.

What does the FAST Act do for Amtrak Bicycle Roll-on?

Our summary of the bicycle roll-on provisions from March 2015 is still pretty accurate. The FAST Act incorporates two small but helpful provisions. 

Amtrak has allowed roll-on bicycle access on the Missouri River Runner for nearly 20 years now
Amtrak has allowed roll-on bicycle access on the Missouri River Runner for nearly 20 years now

Neither of these is a slam-dunk guaranteed win for bicycle roll-on.  Both will require bicycle advocacy organizations to engage with Amtrak as it prepares these reports and implements their recommendations to ensure that positive recommendations for bicycle roll-on are incorporated and implemented.

Still, after years of frustration and little or no progress on this issue, these congressionally require reports provide the opportunity to move bicycle roll-on on Amtrak forward across the U.S.

The U.S. is far behind most other industrialized countries in making bicycle roll-on access easy and universal. We have a lot of catching up to do. These congressionally required reports could be the first steps in catching up.

Taking Missouri's decades-long positive experience with Amtrak bicycle roll-on nationwide

On the Missouri River Runner in Missouri, which parallels the Katy Trail for much of its route, after instigation by MoBikeFed leaders in the 1990s, Amtrak has provided bicycle roll-on availability for nearly 20 years now.  And MoDOT is currently working to update Amtrak rail cars used in Missouri to make the bicycle roll-on experience even easier and better and dramatically increase the capacity to carry rolled-on bicycles

It is unfortunate that, with the positive experience with bicycle roll-on on Missouri Amtrak routes, this simple and obvious improvement to Amtrak service has not been rolled out nationwide.

The bicycle roll-on provisions passed as part of the FAST Act are a welcome step forward.  We encourage and urge Amtrak to take advantage of this opportunity to the fullest extent, working to implement universal bicycle roll-on acros the U.S. as soon as possible.

More information about bicycles on Amtrak in Missouri:

 

Building a world-class transportation system for bicycling and walking in Missouri is one of the four primary goals in MoBikeFed's Vision for Bicycling and Walking in Missouri. Allowing easy intermodal use of our national transportation system--like bicycle roll-on for Amtrak--is one way we can reach that goal. Developing relationships with Missouri's Congressional delegation to encourage them to support better, safer bicycling, walking, and trails in Missouri is another way.

Your ongoing membership and generous financial support helps turn out Vision into reality!

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