Caltrain Staff Floats Idea to Charge Bicyclists Extra to Ride Trains

caltrain_bike.jpgFlickr photo: richardmasoner

It’s bad enough Caltrain already has an image of being unfriendly to bicyclists, despite its efforts to prevent bumps on the system by boosting bicycle capacity on its trains, now comes this word: Staff is toying with the idea of making bicyclists pay a $1 surcharge that would raise an estimated $800,000.

How the surcharge would be collected is anyone’s guess, and it may not even be legal, according to some commenters on the San Franciscio Bicycle Coalition’s public listserve.

Mark Simon, special assistant to the CEO at Caltrain, stressed it’s just an idea, and not a formal proposal. But in an interview with Streetsblog San Francisco, he explained it this way:

"A cyclist takes up two seats. One for where the cyclist is sitting and one for the bike, and there’s always been a question among some people about whether or not a bicyclist is already subsidized because they’re getting to use two seats for the price of one. We hear more frequently about how much we subsidize parking lots and I think that’s one of the things we’re going to analyze because I don’t think we subsidize parking lots quite to the degree that everybody seems to say we do. But there is a school of thought that bicyclists are subsidized too and more than they realize."

Marc Caswell, the program manager at the SFBC, isn’t buying it:

Without bicyclists on Caltrain, the trains
would be empty and per rider subsidies would go up, not down.  Unless
there are capacity issues among all riders, penalizing riders for
biking should be the last option. If Mr. Simon is correct that Caltrain
does not currently have those numbers available, I would be curious to
know how the $20 monthly parking pass was formulated.

At today’s Caltrain Board of Directors meeting, staff also put several options for dealing with a $10 million deficit on the table, including raising fares, eliminating weekend service and scaling back mid-day service. From the San Jose Mercury News:

Riders would take
an estimated 1 million fewer trips but the agency would save $2 million
under that scenario. Caltrain currently operates 16 trains on
Saturdays and 14 on Sundays.

Caltrain will also discuss reducing
midday weekday service from about every 30 minutes to hourly, Harvey
said. By doing so Caltrain would save $2.5 million but riders would
take 100,000 to 200,000 fewer trips.

A public hearing will be held June 4th.

  • Beyond current subsidies, I can’t see why CalTrain wouldn’t crunch the numbers of how much money could be made selling off the land under the parking lots to build Transit-Oriented Villages. I bet THAT would make more than $2 or $2.5 million, like these other proposals…

  • I guarantee for every time I pay that $1 surcharge, I will also ride all the way to work one time. Caltrain would net minus $4 in the deal, per day.

  • kit

    The $1/ride model is untenable for monthly pass holders like myself because it would be a huge inconvenience to have to print a $1 ticket every time I wanted to ride the train, and furthermore it would be more expensive than monthly parking.

    However, call me a heretic, but if, for example, Caltrain offered a $15/month bike pass, $5 less than a parking pass, I might be amicable to the idea (Hell, they should up the parking fees by another $5 at least, while they’re trying to make more money).

    As a cyclist, I probably use less Caltrain resources than a driver who parks their car at the station, but more than a passenger who walks or takes another form of public transportation to the station.

  • Wait a sec, so how is adding a $1 charge add bike capacity? Like John says, it’s just going to driver away ridership.

  • What are the obstacles to people keeping a bike in a secure facility at each end of the trip, and how can they be fixed?

    You don’t see the Japanese or Europeans taking bikes on trains like Caltrain riders. It doesn’t seem as environmentally friendly as having two bikes — it’s not space-efficient and it’s extra weight to carry.

    (Before you object that it’s not environmentally friendly to own multiple bikes — you can get one for $100, so unlike cars they don’t exactly encapsulate a lot of resources, and the average Dutch person owns 3 or 4.)

    I understand some people are obsessive about their bikes (and their image!) but I definitely wouldn’t mind riding my primary bike from home to the Caltrain and having a beater/street cruiser at the other end. Especially if it made the train trip more pleasant.

  • These are the schmoes who don’t inform cyclists where we should wait on the platform, and then when we’re at the wrong side and ride, so as to not delay the train, down the now empty platform to the bike car, threaten to kick us off of the train for riding on the platform.

    Selling land would be a mistake, one time windfall won’t solve structural budget problems. Leasing would work in a good economic year, but the same economic slack which is causing lower tax revenues is also reflected in slack demand for real estate of all classes.

    What we need to do is to get the feds to pony up operations subsidy for transit nationwide. Imagine a matching funds program where the feds paid for half of all transit ops from Amtrak to the NYC MTA down to the Springfield Seniorville Trolley. That would serve as a stimulus, incent environmentally and geopolitcally safer behavior.

    -marc

  • MikeD

    If they would ever build the DTX, less people would need to bring their bikes all the way to The City, so storage at Peninsula stations could replace bike space on trains.

  • kit

    Theo:

    The obstacles are numerous.

    1) Only a handful of stops have secure bike parking. Of those even fewer offer accessibility to the facility 24/7. Correcting this problem would result in capital expenditures.
    2) Not all Caltrain Cyclists ride exclusively from point A to point B. My wife and I have points C, D, E, F and G to worry about.
    3) Japan and Europe have far superior public transportation beyond the train, making it easier for people to reach their final destination.
    4) Image and the possession of a bike you can be proud of and want to show off is nothing to talk down. It’s one of the major reasons people start cycling.

    There are more. This was what I could think of off the top of my head.

  • @theo – some trains stop at Sunnyvale. Some don’t. Let’s say on Wednesday I go home and leave my beater at Sunnyvale. Then the next AM I miss the Sunnyvale train. The next train to Mountain View is in 15 minutes, and it’s a bullet to boot. But my bike isn’t in Mountain View, it’s in Sunnyvale. So I have to wait an hour. Oh, and I want to stop in Palo Alto to pick up something on the way home, and that’s a store over a mile away from the train station. etc…

    If you say I should plan better – then you are buying into car think. If I have a car, I don’t have to plan at all. The reason Caltrain has these problems is because the current setup is kickass, so people use it. If it becomes painful, screw it I’ll figure out some other way to get to work. And Caltrain loses one more fare.

    @marcos – the bike car has been in the same place since there has been a bike car. yeah yeah yeah when there is a 2nd bike car. Caltrain is publishing which trains will have 2 bike cars, and they’ve hit 93% accuracy with it, and if there has been any noise on twitter’s @caltrain feed then you know that’s the day the consists will be out of whack.

    @marcos.2 – the fact that the stimulus has not gone to transit operations is shameful. The concept that building new stuff is jobs and operations is not jobs is crazy. If we can’t afford to use the new stuff – no jobs.

  • Keith Hearn

    There’s no justification for charging cyclists extra.

    Sure, cyclists take up more space on the train. But currently the trains are not space-limited. How many non-cyclists get bumped because there aren’t enough seats? None. So taking up additional space doesn’t reduce revenue or raise costs.

    One could argue that cyclists put additional weight on the train, which results in higher fuel usage. I weight about 180 pounds, and my bike probably weighs about 40, loaded for a rainy day, for a combined weight of about 220 pounds. Will non-cyclists who weigh 220 (and there are plenty of them) also get charged an extra dollar? I know there are petite cyclists with lightweight bikes whose combined weight is certainly less than my 180. Shouldn’t they be exempt if the justification is based on weight?

    If they start charging me a dollar per trip, my monthly cost goes up around $40, which is about a 36% increase from my current $112 monthly pass. In that case, I’ll quit buying monthly passes and start skipping the train and just riding the whole route a lot more often. So they’ll see a less revenue from me, not more. I strongly suspect I won’t be the only one.

    This is just so stupid, we need to do more to encourage people to ride bikes instead of driving, not discourage them.

    Keith

  • @Theo: What if there is no free, secure place to store your bike at both ends of your trip.

    @Marcos: I agree on the budget issue- but that’s not the point. That land is currently wasted by being a parking lot and TOD would help increase revenue and build a more transportation-friendly Bay Area, which would increase the perceived value of public transportation and, hopefully increase likelihood of government funding at appropriate levels instead of passing the costs on to the user groups.

  • Don’t the U-Bahns in Germany charge an additional fare for bicycles? The NYC MTA doesn’t charge and is pretty lax at last check.

    Again, all projects that are dependent on real estate for financing, such as Transbay, are if not dead in the water, being kept alive on life support by stim $. Although the banks are being made whole, I’m not seeing any sort of uptick in demand that would provide the wage basis to support very many TOD projects right now.

    If we’re going to rely on the fare box, a user fee, to cover any significant portion of operating costs, then it might make sense to charge by amount of space used, that open door comes with the territory.

    But I’d reject that approach and oppose relying on farebox recovery for funding transit, which should be operated more like a public utility like the streets and sidewalks are.

    -marc

  • @John Murphy, not a regular CalTrain rider, was going to a job interview, didn’t know which end the bike car was, there was no signage.

    We are uniquely positioned in Pelosi’s district to break new ground for the rest of the country and build political support for fed funding transit ops.

    If we’d wanted to accept the hand we’ve been dealt, we’d just vote or not. But part of electing folks to office and working with them means trying to change the hand we’ve been dealt if not the rules of the game. So many are trapped in this notion that “the feds only fund capital,” but as we’re learning that there is no free lunch, operating that capital means raising farebox recovery or identifying other sources of funding. We need to leverage the fact that we are uniquely situated to create a new reality where the feds fund operations.

    -marc

  • Diane

    Public transit should be COMPLETELY subsidized! We don’t ask car drivers to pay for using the streets and highways (well, generally). Roads are built and maintained entirely with public monies. Why should transit be expected to pay its own way?

  • lee

    When the revolution comes, caltrain will be free.

  • DaveO

    Not sure how many parking spaces Caltrain has. Let’s say 2000 (I counted about 250-300 at Mountain View). Lose those spots, and you lose about $20/month in revenue. That’s $40,000 per month, or $480,000 per year.

    How many of those people who used parking spots would then drive instead of use Caltrain? Let’s say 75% of them. Let’s say, on average, each is responsible for a 3-zone monthly pass (some will be more, some less) at $160/month. That amounts to a loss in revenue of $240,000/month, or $2.88million/year. Together, selling those parking lots would cost $3.36million/year. Over 20 years, selling those lots would cost Caltrain $67.2million.

    I don’t think selling them would be economically sound.

  • bikerider

    If Caltrain were to lease out its real estate currently being used for parking to a developer, the agency would earn WAY more than $2.88 million per year (even in a down economy).

    In any case, this bike-surcharge trail balloon just shows once again how retarded and anti-consumer Caltrain staff has become. Note that every other non-USA transit agency long-ago eliminated their conductor positions (i.e. glorified ticket punchers) as cost-saving measure. There are some blatantly obvious ways to close Caltrain’s deficit. Dinging bicyclists $1 ain’t one of them.

  • @bikeriders is absolutely correct. The Caltrain lots are prime time real estate. 4 acres in downtown Palo Alto? Fuggedaboutit!

    Caltrain’s ridership’s last mile problem is stitched together with bubblegum and bailing wire. Drivers arriving late at Mountain View arrive at the station to coincide with the arrival of bullet trains from San Francisco, then follow people who got off the train to where those riders have stored their CAR in the Mountain View lot overnight. That’s right – (MANY!) people have bought and keep second cars in Mountain View solely for the purpose of getting from the train station to work – the lot is full overnight! This includes some of my co-workers – and we have a company shuttle!

    Bikes on Board – seamless.

  • Peter

    we should find another term for ‘bump’ — something that does justice to the extreme experience of being bumped, at night, on your way home from work, when you’re alone, in a dimly-lit caltrain station on the peninsula somewhere.

    ‘No One Left Behind’ needs to be our new motto. However we get the bikes on the train, or if they have to be locked up at the station until tomorrow — the train waits on the bike riders to do so. That should be our stance.

    By taking this stand, in a very short amount of time we’ll see the problem dealt with appropriately.

  • Mike

    Am I the only distressed at losing weekend service? I don’t use the train for regular commuting, I use it to go to San Jose evenings and weekends. The thought of having to take BART around to Fremont and then the horrible 180 express is probably going to make me start driving to Sharks games next season.

  • I appreciate that folks here are enraged over the $1 bicycle surcharge. But I am also concerned by the apparent lack of interest in the proposed service cuts — not only in the comments, but also in the original article, which merely mentioned the service cuts at the end, almost like an afterthought. This deserves at least as much of our attention as the bicycle surcharge. What Caltrain has proposed here are quite deep cuts. Elimination of weekend service and/or basically cutting weekday service in half? This would be a major step backwards. The JPB corridor is no longer just a curiosity for commuters. It is increasingly a regional lifeline in the way that BART is, and maintaining service on this corridor is central to improving the livability of the Peninsula. But it will be impossible for the corridor to serve that purpose and realize its full potential, if it must basically run on life support outside of peak commute hours.

  • Reality Check

    It’s time for Caltrain to form a district — just like BART has. Without a district, there is no stable/predictable funding source … Caltrain is at the mercy of the whims and political winds and budget crises/priorities of the 3 JPB member agencies (MUNI/SF Co.; SamTrans/SMCo.; and VTA/SCCo). Every year, they squabble about their share of the subsidy, etc., and whether or not they’ll all agree to figure out how to cover the operating shortfall … Caltrain is a weird orphan transit system in that sense, and has never had a stable and predictable funding source. A proper Caltrain District, allows for a stable funding source because it confers the ability to create a small tax — property and/or sales — for that desperately needed funding source not a the whim of the JPB member agencies.

  • Cutting weekend service is a fiasco. Forget Sharks games, what about the Giants games?

    They could save a decent chunk of money by closing Atherton and Broadway permanently (reduced station maintainance – never having to upgrade vs the holdout rule) and running every other train on the weekend as a limited – using key stations and excluding stations with a good feeder line to another station (for example take out Cal Ave because you can take the 22 from Cal Ave to Palo Alto to get the train). Frankly this would probably increase ridership by cutting weekend time from the Peninsula to SF in half. Very attractive.

    Not sure if there is money savings from also running 4 car consists on the weekend (this would require them to add and take out cars).

  • The Railrunner in New Mexico from Albuquerque lets riders put bicycles on any car, haphazardly, with no special facilities, in the area near the stairs.

    -marc

  • @Eric: It wasn’t my intention to include the service cuts and fare hikes as an “afterthought.” I got more detail and comments initially on the bicycle surcharge. You can see now the Merc has updated its story: http://www.mercurynews.com/peninsula/ci_12318079. Their reporter attended the meeting. It’s too bad they are not televised. One thing I noticed in the latest Merc story: “Board member Jim Hartnett said the board possibly should discuss discontinuing Caltrain’s bikes-on-board program altogether.” Caltrain staff plans to release a more detailed budget document shortly before the June 4th hearing.

  • kit

    Cutting all Caltrain service on weekends would be a disastrous blow to so many events. What would happen to the Mountain View Farmer’s Market? With people unable to take Caltrain, lots would be parked up in no time and frustrated people unable to find parking would just drive to Safeway.

    How about the increases in DUIs, quite probably resulting in DEATH due to the lack of affordable transit to and from city centers all up and down the peninsula. These are just a few of the very real dangers of cutting weekend service entirely.

    Discontinuing bikes on board TO WHAT END!? They haven’t even presented any information that indicates we tax their resources. And they’ll be building more seating for people who aren’t even riding. The trains ARE NOT FULL.

    Caltrain is also mistaken if they think they are the only ride in town. Bauer is making a play as we all know to lure the Peninsula’s commuters away. Right now it’s more expensive, but it includes a lot of appealing creature comforts. What happens if Caltrain hikes their fares to comparable prices? How about if Bauer adds a bike trailer?

    I think Caltrain needs to be purged of all its backward thinking bureaucrats and rethought by people who actually know what the hell they’re doing and give a shit about their business, their community, and their world.

  • theo

    I’m still puzzled by why the Caltrain bike debate is playing out in terms of space on trains and surcharges. It seems like the win/win should be to get bikes off the trains and into parking facilities.

    The majority of Caltrain bike commuters are point A to point B (and occasionally B’ on certain trains). I realize that some riders need the independence of being able to go to points C, D, and E on their nobrakesters, but many more riders could be served by having better bike parking at points A and B.

    This quote from bikerider:

    (MANY!) people have bought and keep second cars in Mountain View solely for the purpose of getting from the train station to work – the lot is full overnight! This includes some of my co-workers – and we have a company shuttle!

    seems ridiculous. If Caltrain is already providing these people with parking, they could provide secure bike parking for 4-6 bikes in the same space used by 1 car. Given the cost of keeping a second car, how much would it take to get these people to switch to bikes?

    Why aren’t people agitating for more secure bike parking sheds? Why is the entire bike storage system decentralized and run by 10 different agencies? Why doesn’t Potrero, which is in an industrial wasteland, have lockers? Why don’t Mountain View and Sunnyvale have more? Why wasn’t a comprehensive bike parking plan shovel-ready?

    http://www.caltrain.com/caltrain_bicycle_parking.html

  • David M

    CALIFORNIA CIVIL CODE
    SECTION 2180-2191

    2180. A common carrier of persons, unless his vehicle is fitted for the reception of persons exclusively, must receive and carry a reasonable amount of baggage for each passenger without charge, except for an excess of weight over one hundred pounds to a passenger; if such carrier is a proprietor of a stage line, he need not receive and carry for each passenger by such stage line, withoutcharge, more than sixty pounds of baggage. 2181. Luggage may consist of whatever the passenger takes with him for his personal use and convenience, according to the habits or wants of the particular class to which he belongs, either with reference to the important necessities or to the ultimate purposes of his journey. Luggage within the meaning of this section shall include the samples, case, wares, appliances and catalogs of commercial travelers or their employers, used by them for the purposeof transacting their business and carried with them solely for that purpose, when securely packed and locked in substantial trunks or sample cases of convenient shape and weight for handling. No crate cover or other protection shall be required for any bicycle carried as luggage, but no passenger shall be entitled to carry as luggage more than one bicycle.

  • Option 2: cut weekend service – save $2 million, riders would take an estimated 1 million fewer trips

    Option 3: scale back midday service to hourly – save $2.5 million, riders would take 100,000 to 200,000 fewer trips.

    Sounds like option 3 is clearly superior to option 2.

  • “The majority of Caltrain bike commuters are point A to point B (and occasionally B’ on certain trains)”

    Do you have a link to the study with this data?

    Oh… I see, you just made that up…

  • kit

    @Theo

    You’re clearly just not getting it. Do you, 7 days a week, only travel from point A to point B? What if you’ve a friend in another city having a dinner party? Or what if there’s a gallery opening in San Jose? Or a concert at Shoreline?

    For longer distances that would be time-prohibitive by bike, one can take the train the majority of the distance. Having a bike with you once you step off the train makes the possibilities almost limitless in the cities that Caltrain services.

    As long as public transportation is considerably more time consuming and inconvenient, it will not be accepted en masse. Caltrain has bridged that gap with “Bike on Board.” The elimination of that service would be a huge step backward for Bay Area sustainability.

  • theo

    “The majority of Caltrain bike commuters are point A to point B (and occasionally B’ on certain trains)”

    Do you have a link to the study with this data?

    Go do one, I’ll wait. It’s in the nature of commuting patterns. People go from A to B to get to work, and they don’t stop off in Burlingame on the way home.

    The number of current bike storage users (by definition A-B) isn’t exactly small, about 1000. Many of the current bike storage facilities are full, so there’s unmet demand from more A-B commuters — say a few hundred. Add them to a couple hundred “car storage” users who might be converted to bikes and are also A-B.

    So out of the 2,300 who currently take bikes on board, only 500 would have to be A-B commuters to prove my claim.

    Also, I rarely saw any bike passengers with a deck of destination signs. Usually just two.

  • theo

    You’re clearly just not getting it. Do you, 7 days a week, only travel from point A to point B? What if you’ve a friend in another city having a dinner party? Or what if there’s a gallery opening in San Jose? Or a concert at Shoreline?

    No, kit, you’re not getting it. How often do you go to gallery openings? Five nights a week? Right.

    Look, those are all great reasons to bring a bike on board. I’m not telling you that bikes on Caltrain should be abolished.
    I’m telling you to bring one on days when you need one, not every day when you don’t!

    Maybe you’re misunderstanding me because of the topic of the post, but I thought it was fairly relevant to my point.

    What I’m trying to say is that I DO NOT understand why the debate is focused on bike capacity and bike surcharges when there’s clearly unmet demand for bike storage. Better bike storage would relieve the constraints on the Caltrain bike car and would bring back riders who have stopped because they get bumped, improving overall sustainability.

    Everyone seems to be fighting this zero-sum battle with Caltrain over the bike car, which I do not understand. The bike car is a bizarre hybrid system which makes sense for some people, like the Amtrak Auto Train.

    Bike storage makes more sense for more people, and it works well in every other developed country. It is a win/win situation because Caltrain gets rid of bike congestion while riders get more commuting options.

  • kit

    Theo,

    Take a quick poll of the next bike storage facility you see. See how many of those bikes move over a week. Then get back to me about how well used those bike storage facilities are.

    Next, ask the cyclists waiting by the bike car whether they’d like to have a bike on either end of their commute. As for myself, I’ve used Sunnyvale, Palo Alto, Redwood City and San Francisco stations this week.

    Your arguments don’t hold water because you’re speaking as an authority on subject material you have no personal experience with.

  • MBrandt

    For cost savings economy of scale opportunities should be considered. In the private sector back office mergers and elimination of redundancies are very effective.

  • kit

    Theo:

    Re-read your message. In an effort to further this conversation between concerned parties, I suggest we all stop talking about the bike situation because it’s been talked to death and instead discuss the other proposed “solutions.”

    I like Murph’s idea of having every other train be a limited on the weekend. Less rolling stock necessary, less personnel, less stops, less cost. It also seems like Atherton and Broadway could be closed.

    Does anyone else have any ideas we could propose to Caltrain in June?

  • kit

    MBrandt:

    I think Caltrain is pretty much fully unionized, so that is going to be complicated, though not out of the question. Concessions need to be made, and any sensible business cuts internally before it starts cutting product offerings.

  • Kit and Theo: Let’s please leave the “you’re not getting it” and “proving your ignorance” comments out of this exchange. We strive to maintain a high level of quality and collegiality in Streetsblog’s comments section.

  • bikerider

    kit:
    Caltrain contracts operations through Amtrak. If Amtrak is unable to provide cost-competitive service, then the board should put the contract out to bid.

    Compared to USA, European has much stronger unions and worker protections. Nonetheless, their commuter/regional operations use half the labor as Caltrain. The JPB needs to decide whether it is running a jobs program or actual transportation service.

  • theo

    I guess what I’m trying to figure out is how the perception that Caltrain is “unfriendly to bicyclists” can possibly arise.

    As far as I know, Caltrain’s the only metro rail system that runs exclusive bike car service. Many metro rail systems don’t allow bikes at all during peak commute hours. Not only does Caltrain allow them, it even allows bikes on express trains! Objectively speaking, Caltrain is the most pro-bike rail system in the country, maybe the world.

    From Caltrain’s perspective, a bike surcharge would be a good incentive for customers to leave their bikes at the station(s), which saves energy and leaves more space for other passengers. From the perspective of bike advocates, it’s another insult, like the downsizing of the bike cars.

    It seems like there’s a major disconnect between Caltrain and its bike passengers. If you read Caltrain’s bike plan, and comparing it to the SFBC and SVBC websites (or the comments here), it’s like two different systems are being discussed.

    Caltrain is primarily focused on the issues of bike storage and on getting bikes to the station.

    The SFBC’s website on Caltrain says virtually nothing about bike storage; it is entirely focused on the bike carriage debate. I understand that this has been a major topic recently, but the website gives the impression that the current focus is adversarial towards Caltrain rather than collaborative towards advocating for various cities and governmental bodies to pursue the (sensible) improvements they have proposed.

    It would be great if someone who’s currently more plugged in to Caltrain than I am would assure me that no opportunities are being missed because of the contention between Caltrain and bike activists, who are not always representative of either commuters or bicyclists, although I realize they’re trying their best. Pointers to relevant position papers or board minutes or online discussions would be great.

  • Euros pay high tax which offloads the basic costs of “reproducing labor,” to go Marxian on your asses, from businesses by socializing them.

    The issue is not whether or not there are unions present in a transit system, rather whether or not unions are successful at generalizing the commitment of the economy to provide the basics which gives each enterprise more flexibility.

    A casual glance around the house of labor in the US indicates to all but the most romantic that unions here are hardly successful. In fact, given that we are at a unique juncture in economic history right now, where working Americans need to marshal our power now more than ever, we see labor attacking itself and capitulating on issues like single payer health care as if labor had been infiltrated by a COINTELPRO style disruption campaign like the Black Panthers were.

    -marc

  • @theo

    Riddle me this. What is more useful to you – a train that takes no bikes, or a train that takes lots of bikes, but there is a 10% chance that you will be SOL to get on that train on any given day. FYI – this AM I saw someone arrive for the 8:14 AM train at 8:12. He was denied boarding on that train, AND the 8:19 train which was also already full. He was headed to Mountain View. Net delay – 40 minutes. If it’s not fairly reliable, it’s not “real” transportation. 95% of Caltrain riders will fade them a commute crunching mishap every other month – say a fatality on the tracks. But being late for work multiple times a week – there might as well not be a train (note that 10% applies to showing up at 4th/King. If you are boarding at Burlingame, good luck).

    For someone with a lot of patience and even more flexibility the current setup works. If that was legitimately the best Caltrain can do, great. But it isn’t. Want proof? 12 months ago Caltrain pretty much said it was *IMPOSSIBLE* to increase capacity for bikes, and repeated this refrain for months on end. Now, the capacity is increasing. So it wasn’t *IMPOSSIBLE* – they just didn’t want to do it.

    Aside from proving that this a capacity increase was in fact possible, it also justifies the whole set of shenanigans. The cyclists got what they wanted (or at least part of what they wanted), if they had just sat on the sidelines, Caltrain would have offered nothing. This has been true since the beginning – Caltrain didn’t wake up one day and decide to offer bike capacity, the customers demanded it. And the cyclists have gone to great lengths to prove that adding more space does NOT degrade the overall service, and in fact is a net financial gain for the train.

    Why did we ask for what we wanted? Because we could. The only people who were affected negatively by the whole thing were the lazy n’eer do wells working at Caltrain. Period.

  • bikerider

    “As far as I know, Caltrain’s the only metro rail system that runs exclusive bike car service.”

    That’s because every other metro and commuter rail agency on planet Earth concluded that exclusive bike cars are not a good way to accommodate on-board bike access.

    And, incredibly, Caltrain plans on continuing the archaic practice when they “modernize” to EMU trainsets.

  • The Greasy Bear

    Wacky question: would it be possible to secure bicycles to the *outside* of Caltrain cars?

  • JD

    “would it be possible to secure bicycles to the *outside* of Caltrain cars?” Sure, that would solve the problem, making bikes even easier to steal! But seriously, the space bikes take is not the issue. There are only 2 bike cars at either end of the train. The whole point is to get those pesky bikes off of there entirely or make them pay for the privilege, which Caltrain knows they can’t do legally but it makes a lot of fuss, and if no one figured it out, they sure as heck would go for it!

  • Riley

    The proposed $1 surcharge seems to be based on the notion that bicycles “cost” CalTrain money; that bicycles in some way displace revenue opportunities that must therefore be recovered.

    In the first place, bicyclists provide CalTrain with revenue without displacing non-bicycling passengers.

    Moreover, the comments thread on this page has mentioned the putative subsidization of automobile parking as one basis for comparing “subsidies”. What I don’t believe anyone has mentioned is the free shuttles that run from various CalTrain stations to adjoining office parks, universities, and the like.

    Bicyclists don’t require shuttle transportation. If CalTrain wants to start charging for the notional “lost revenue” caused by bicycles, does not it also need to start charging for the “free” shuttles used by non-riders?

  • A 1955 view of incorporating bicycles and trains: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qyz5d3entBw

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