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Bicycle rider pleads his case during VRE hearing on policies
Virginia Railway Express asks for comment on proposal to change fee to ride Amtrak trains, limit full-size bicycles on trains

Date published: 2/2/2011


When Jim Buckley of Fredericksburg carried his full-size bike aboard commuter trains in California, he could store it in the front or rear railcar on every train.

Stacked five or six deep, the bikes took up fewer seats than if they were scattered throughout the train individually, Buckley said.

By limiting bikes to the railcars on the train's outer edges, it kept seats free in the center of the train for passengers with disabilities, he said. And cyclists placed their bikes in the order they planned to disembark, smoothing exits.

Buckley shared those examples as ways Virginia Railway Express could preserve full-size bike storage on its trains, but keep seats free at a time when the most popular trains have up to 200 people standing in the aisles.

"I want to help you solve this," Buckley said.

About a dozen people attended a public hearing in Fredericksburg last night on several policy changes under consideration as the railway breaks ridership records.

The system's top 10 ridership days since it began operating in 1992 were all set in the past year.

While the railway is working to lengthen the most crowded trains within a year, it does not have the funding or storage space to add trains and seats immediately, said Dale Zehner, VRE's chief executive officer. He spoke to riders for more than an hour at the Central Rappahannock Regional Library on Caroline Street.

But three ideas are being considered in the short term. All would have to be approved by VRE's Operations Board before they could go into effect.

One proposal would ban full-size bicycles on VRE trains. Collapsible bikes would still be allowed.

This change has generated the greatest volume of comments, mostly in opposition, Zehner said.

Riders currently can bring full-size bikes on the final three northbound VRE trains each morning, and the final three southbound trains in the evening.

Storing a full-size bicycle on a VRE train occupies four seats, plus the fifth seat used by the bicycle's owner.

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Virginia Railway Express is still accepting comments on the potential elimination of discounted group fares, changes to its full-size bicycle policy, and a lower fee for riding an Amtrak train.

Comments can be submitted to publiccomment@vre.org.

Comments can be mailed to Public Comment, Virginia Railway Express, 1500 King Street, Suite 202, Alexandria, Va. 22314