Making your Amtrak train ride less stressful

Photo by Ken Switay

Here in the northwest we have easy access to the Amtrak trains that can take us anywhere from a 30 minutes distance to days away and it provides an easy, green-friendly mode of transportation. However, as convenient as it is to ride the train instead of driving, purchasing food or bringing your bicycle with you for the ride isn’t always as convenient.


When bringing a bike with you on the train, there are a few things that every rider should know to make their trip easy. First of all, it is best to call Amtrak to find out how to get a train schedule that will always allow the bicycle as a carry on. Furthermore, the process of getting the bike from train to train can be a bit stressful. You must treat the bike as checked luggage, but even after “checking it,” you still must hold on to the bike until the train arrives. A few minutes before the train is slated to arrive, a bike carrying passenger must walk their bike out to the end of the train to meet the Amtrak employee so that you can witness your bike being put onto the train.  It is best to arrive at least 40 minutes prior to your train departure to allow proper time for the process.


The stressful part of this process is that by the time the employee gets to the end of the train to meet you with your bike and you get it on board, most of the other travelers have already gotten on the train and you are forced to run from the back side of the train to the front side where you will be sitting. The train is always on such a rushed schedule that if you are the last to get on the train the boarding employees are yelling at you to run as fast as you can to get to the other end of the train.


In addition to the process of getting a bike on board, passengers also need to be aware of the food costs. It is more sustainably friendly to bring your own food, which is cheaper and probably much healthier for you. On the train a prepackaged salad will run a person $5.50 and a bowl of Ivar’s Clam Chowder will run $4.50, a turkey or ham sandwich will cost $5.00, and the only cheap thing on the menu is a hotdog that will run about $2.00. All of the food on the train is prepackaged and is filled with many preservatives. For the health and money conscious rider, the food for sale is not a good option; always try to bring your own snacks and food on the train to save money.


In spite of this, Amtrak is well worth the money. A passenger gets to relax, work on homework or work for the job, watch movies, or read, all while having to never worry about traffic. Riding an Amtrak train is the ultimate way of carpooling and helping the environment. So the next time you feel like going to Salem or Portland for a good tour of the restaurants and bars, try riding Amtrak—it is less stressful, eliminates drinking and driving, and saves the environment one car ride at a time.


By Cristina Himka