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.