San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) officials say that in the last nine years, the number of passengers taking bicycles on board its trains has risen almost 65 percent—despite the fact that bikes are banned during peak commute times. As more customers figure out how to integrate bike and public transit travel, agencies are looking for ways to accommodate the trend. Promoting the combination of bicycling and transit is a great way for riders to make last-mile connections to work, school, and entertainment destinations.
For Sacramento Regional Transit (Sac RT), legislation introduced this year will help. If passed, it will allow Sac RT to replace two-position bike racks with three-position racks on its fleet of 40-foot transit buses.
“Under the vehicle code, a bicycle rack cannot extend more than 36 inches from the body of a bus (where the bus length is 40 feet) when deployed,” explains Sac RT Chief Operating Officer Mark Lonergan. “The commonly used three-position bike racks extend about 40 inches from the body of the bus. The rack we are looking at is a standard three-position rack commonly used by other transit systems in the state. We believe that three-position bicycle racks violate the vehicle code in California, when installed on a standard 40-foot transit bus, despite their widespread use in the state.”
California Vehicle Code 35400, which defines maximum allowable lengths for city buses and bike racks, already has similar exceptions for Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District (AC Transit) and Gold Coast Transit.
Sac RT regularly turns away bicycles when the existing two position racks are full. “We have not kept statistics on bicycle usage, but by observation I can tell you that we have a lot of use on our system by bicyclists, and that the three-position racks are supported by the local bicycle advocacy groups,” says Lonergan.
Lonergan notes that the pairing of transit and bikes is not a new trend for the agency. “In my opinion, the demand has been high and remains high for additional bicycle capacity on both our buses and our light rail trains,” he said. He is quick to say that bicycle capacity issues on RT trains raise an entirely different set of problems, for which the proposed legislation will not help.
If the legislation is successful, Lonergan reports that the agency has funding for the three-position racks and is ready to make the switch.
Have Bike, Will Travel
Last December, Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (CCJPA) invited media and the public to a showcase featuring the latest advances in folding bicycles. The Capitol Corridor carries over 1.75 million passengers each year and rider surveys show about 10 percent of its customers ride a bike to access trains. Folding bikes figure prominently in the CCJPA’s future plan to address safe bike storage on its trains. These bikes are encouraged on other transit systems as well.
This month [March] BART is in its second phase of “bikes on board” testing. During the week of March 18, bicycles were allowed in all stations and on all trains, all day during the test week. This is a change from the current policy that limits bicycle access to BART during commute hours. BART launched the first test phase of a modified bike access program in August 2012, when bikes were allowed on trains and in stations at all hours every Friday that month.
“Our first pilot offered us great insight, but Fridays in August tend to be slow, and another round of testing and customer feedback is required before permanent changes to our bike access policy are considered,” explains BART Board President Tom Radulovich.
Responding to input from some customers following its first pilot, BART is changing one rule during the new test period this month: No bikes are allowed in the first three cars of each train during commute hours. This rule gives more options to riders that want to avoid bikes all together. BART says for safety reasons at no time will bikes be allowed in the first car.
Other BART bike policy rules enforced during the test week include no bikes on crowded cars, yielding to disabled and senior passengers, no blocking aisles, and no bikes on escalators.
“Expanding access and parking for bicyclists encourages riders to ditch their cars, freeing up car parking spaces for those who have no other option than driving,” adds BART Board Member Robert Raburn.
Successful bike-sharing programs in Washington, DC, Montreal, and Boston complement existing transit systems by expanding the reach of transit stops and destinations, while providing locals and visitors alike with more options.
“San Francisco and the Bay Area are ready for bike sharing,” believes Ed Reiskin, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency director of transportation. “Bicycle use continues to grow in San Francisco and bike share is a great way to get more people on bikes in a convenient and fun way.”
Unlike traditional, individual bike ownership or rental, public bike sharing offers users 24/7 access to bicycles for short trips without the worry of maintenance, theft, or storage. Advocates say it is ideal for short distance point-to-point trips, providing users the ability to pick up a bicycle at any self-serve bike station and return it to any bike station located within the system’s service area.
For the Bay Area program, bicycle stations will be located near transit hubs, high-density residential areas, and key destination points, such as employment centers and universities, making it easier to quickly and conveniently connect to and from transit and to make short-distance trips by bike. The first phase of the pilot project will launch with approximately 700 bicycles at 70 kiosk stations deployed throughout the five participating service areas for a period of 12 to 24 months of testing.
Transit plus bike enthusiasts are encouraged by the recent efforts to make the complementary relationship even easier to manage, and bike coalitions are actively promoting the transit programs and in many cases are helping with the endeavor.
Transit California is a publication of the California Transit Association. © 2013. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission. This version has been excerpted for length.