More room for bikes on trains

Bay Area bike commuters are popping a few celebratory wheelies at the news that Caltrain, the rail service that runs between San Jose and San Francisco, is adding more bike racks to its train cars. Overall bicycle capacity will rise 27 percent — resulting in some carriages having as many as 40 slots for bikes.

To get the job done, Caltrain will remove some seats and reconfigure interior layouts to accommodate both cyclists and regular passengers. What I find most encouraging is that Caltrain acted in response to a campaign by cycling advocates to create more space for bikes. The activists put a spotlight on a growing problem: bike commuters arriving at the station in time to catch a train only to be told that there was no more room for them. Passengers can stand without too much inconvenience and still get to work or home on schedule, but cyclists may have to wait up to an hour for the next train.

After a spirited public meeting last Thursday, Caltrain decided to reconfigure the cars. On an average weekday, 2,400 cyclists take bikes on board — about 6 percent of total riders. Now even more commuters can save a car trip to/from the station and gain the added mobility — and improved health — that comes from taking along a bike.

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  1. Anonymous - February 11, 2009

    I think DC, Boston, NYC, and Chicago should follow California’s initiative:) What a great way to further lower our carbon footprints!

  2. James - February 11, 2009

    It took quite a bit of yelling and screaming to get this to happen. It took large scale measurements of biking habits, and caltrain ridership to essentially prove to caltrain that bike space drives ridership = profit. The conventional wisdom is that bikes take more space that riders can use, so why switch several seats to accommodate 1 biker. But the data actually suggested that when bike capacity was increased, ridership increased on the trains. Getting them to believe the numbers was harder than you might think — facts being facts and all.
    If you want other cities to do it, you need to drive the community such that there is enough demand for it. They will be unwilling to do so if it places further strain on a subsidized system. (Caltrain is one of few commuter systems that is private and profitable, most metro area mass transits are subsidized by the local taxpayer)

  3. Eric - February 11, 2009

    Yeah, Chicago is annoying because neither the Metra nor the El (CTA) let you bring your bike on board during rush hours. Seems like it would really discourage a lot of people from riding mass transit. If you live/work beyond walking distance from a train station, and you’re not allowed to bring a bike on the train, obviously you’re not going to ride the train.