BART Staff Opposes Rush Hour Bike Access on Rear Cars

Flickr photo: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/zigdon/3162285816/sizes/z/in/photostream/##zigdon##

BART staff has shot down a proposal from Director Robert Raburn to allow commuters to bring bicycles aboard the back cars of rush hour trains. In a memo [pdf] to the BART Board, Executive Planning and Budget Manager Carter Mau recommended maintaining the current policy, which prohibits bicycles aboard its most crowded trains during peak hours.

Raburn couldn’t be reached for comment but BART Director Tom Radulovich said the response from staff was frustrating. He said they’ve been “stonewalling” the issue for years.

“I think the BART staff need to be doing more to expand bike access to all trains at all times,” he said. The issue is not dead yet, however. Radulovich said the board could revive the proposal and call for a public hearing.

San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC) Executive Director Leah Shahum said “BART is forgoing a major source of new riders and new revenue” by “refusing to even consider easing the existing black-out period for bikes and allowing escalator access for bikes.”

“We urge BART to modernize their approach to bicycle access to support the growing number of people who bicycle in the Bay Area and depend on regional transit, from lawyers to waiters to architects to small business owners,” she said.

According to an article on BART’s website, “while BART ridership has grown about 15 percent [since 2002], the number of riders bicycling from home to BART rose almost 65 percent, from 2.5 percent of all passengers to 4.1 percent.”

But “BART has unfortunately been reducing the lengths of trains to attempt to cut costs without opening up access to cyclists on these trains (which could boost ridership and generate more revenue),” says the SFBC’s website.

Mau, who addressed the memo to BART Director Thomas Blalock, cited six reasons for the decision:

1) There will likely be insufficient capacity for bikes on the last car of trains during the peak period causing confusion, queuing on the crowded platform and spillover into adjacent cars.

2) It will be very challenging to enforce this policy. Once bicyclists are on the platform, if the last car is crowded they will likely board other cars (cars that may become more crowded as the train progresses).

3) This would permit bikes on crowded rush-hour platforms potentially leading to safety concerns and conflicts with other passengers.

4) Vertical circulation is already crowded in busy stations. Allowing more bicycles in the system during peak periods would further tax busy stairways and elevators.

5) Overall this would complicate the enforcement issue for the BART Police Department.

6) As ridership increases, trains will be getting more crowded and room for all passengers will be impacted. When new cars start deploying and potentially there may be more train capacity, we may have an opportunity to revisit this policy.

BART is in the process of updating its Bicycle Master Plan and surveyed riders earlier this month “to understand how and why people access BART today to be able to understand what encourages BART passengers who can bicycle to BART to do so, rather than drive to their station,” according to survey consultant Victoria Eisen.

But Shahum said the SFBC is “concerned that the current Bicycle Master Planning process omits the two most important issues: greater on-board access for bicycles and better station access.”

The next generation of BART cars could potentially provide better accommodations for bikes, but Radulovich says they’re “a decade away.”

In lieu of expanding bike access aboard trains, Mau’s memo recommended “clear communication regarding when bikes are and are not allowed on trains” and “continuing to improve bike parking at stations to give riders a safe, secure parking option.”

Mau pointed to recent parking additions at the Ashby and 19th Street stations as well as plans to add bike stations and lockers at Civic Center and MacArthur. BART also plans to add “up to 1,000 electronic lockers at 25 stations over the next few years,” according to the memo.

Radulovich said staff has been slow to act on bike parking expansion and pointed out that it won’t address the core issue for riders who need to use their bikes on both ends of a trip.

East Bay Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Renee Rivera called Mau’s citation of “safety concerns and conflicts with other passengers” on platforms at rush hour “a total non-issue.”

“The platforms have plenty of room for people to be there with their bikes,” said Rivera.

Restrictions at 12th and 19th Street stations in downtown Oakland, said Rivera, prevent riders with bikes from entering the stations during rush hour, even if they want to access trains that are unrestricted at that time.

“They are a real barrier to people and totally unnecessary,” she said.

On its website, the SFBC urges BART to make numerous access improvements to BART stations, “including wide fare gates that allow wheelchairs and bicycles through, stair channels to allow cyclists to wheel their bikes up and down stairs, and improved bike parking, such as racks inside the paid areas, on demand bike lockers, and bike stations.”

Radulovich said concerns about circulation in some BART stations like Embarcadero are legitimate, but that staff is falling back on the excuse after years of citing train capacity as the issue. BART has added some room for bikes over the years when it refurbishes cars.

“I just want to know, ‘what do you need to do to fix this?'” he said. “We need to get our act together on capacity.”

Cities like Portland, Oregon have found solutions to better accommodate bicycles on commuter trains. Portland’s MAX rail system provides hooks near doorways to allow passengers to hang their bikes, providing more bike capacity with less space.

Bikes hang on hooks on Portland's MAX rail system. Photo: ##http://www.trimet.org/howtoride/bikes/bikesonmax.htm##TriMet##

“I’d love to see BART consider on-car bike parking racks,” said Rivera. “That would solve the issues brought up in the memo around people being able to get on and off the cars during peak hours.”

The SFBC has also urged allocating dedicated space “for bikes so that they won’t interfere with other passengers and can be stowed safely for the duration of your trip.”

“It is very hard right now when trains are full to get bikes on and off because of the way the BART cars are configured with the seats right next to the doorway,” added Rivera.

But more crowded systems like the New York City subway, Radulovich pointed out, allow bikes aboard at all times and rely on “a common sense rule.”

“You don’t take your bike on if it’s too crowded,” he said. “Someone will yell at you. I think people in the Bay Area are both a little more polite and tend to be more rights-conscious.”

“That whole ‘common sense of how to share space’ thing, we’re not as good as New Yorkers are at it because we don’t live in crowded conditions.”

  • greg

    what the Bay Area needs is a bike sharing program like they have been building out in Washington DC. If you put a bike sharing station at every BART stop, then you don’t need to bring your bike on BART. you park your bike at the station you’re departing from, and when you get to your destination, you pick up a bikeshare bike and continue on your way. Crowding during rush hour is a real concern, and it could take years to fix the infrastructure to make this feasible. Bikeshare would do gangbusters here, and it would go a long way to solving the bikes on BART issue. 

  • fairandbalanced

    I do sometimes feel like people bring their bike on BART when it can safely and conveniently be parked at the station.  If your destination doesn’t require use of a bike, you can leave it behind and retrieve it later.  This way, more capacity is freed up for people who actually will be using their bikes on the other end.

  • Anonymous

    They oppose bicycles because that would encourage too many people to use BART?

  • =v= Intermodal access built ridership on Caltrain and made it a much-studied model, but BART seems content to remain in the Space Age.

  • The great majority of destinations are a bike ride away from a BART station.

  • This would cost much more than bike carriage.

  • mikesonn

    I mean, look at those fancy cars. Plus, people of the future love screeching under the bay.

  • Jaded

    I agree with BART on this one.  I have tried to ride BART from 7-9 am from the middle of Oakland. There is hardly room for people.  People are packed like sardines.  The current design doesn’t allow bikes very well.  

    I am 100% in support of bikes in the redesigned cars with a dedicated space for them.

  • LOVETHEBAY

    I live in DC….The Bike share program is successful. But your theory is flawed.  Many don’t want to park there personal bike at a station. In DC the bike theft rate is super high. I’d assume it would be the same in the Bay area. Bike sharing works better for leisure that for highly time based commuting.  Not to negate it as an option.  The bay ares should have sharing but it would be limited in solving the real problem.

  • LOVETHEBAY

    DC sucks by the way.  

  • Anonymous

    I have traveled with a bike on BART quite a lot. Probably hundreds of times.

    But I basically agree with bart’s list of reasons why this shouldn’t be done. Even outside the banned times, I’ve been on some pretty crowded cars. And the problem is that once you’ve paid your fare and you’re on the station, it’s very hard to say “no, this car’s too crowded, I’ll wait 20 minutes for the next train.” Even running down to the next car is an iffy proposition. You might miss the train, and it next car might be worse than the current one.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love taking my bike on bart, and I think it should be maintained as much as possible. Better bike areas on cars, more doors, and wide gates everywhere would all be nice. But I don’t see the crowding problems going away. Instead, I’d like to see BART improve pedestrian connections and destinations by developing its parking lots, and to improve transit connections wherever possible. An integrated Bay Area-wide bikesharing system would also be great (they could have different bike fleets, as long as the membership/payment system was integrated).

  • maaaty

    More trains, please, more trains.

    In the meantime, I’m about to go to a 2-bike system.  I have 10-minute rides from my commute stations.  Sucks to leave at home the bike I love to ride, but I don’t want to risk it getting stolen.  My beater bikes — I won’t lose sleep worrying over them.

  • 28jim

    A few thoughts.

    If anyone is itching to get their bike stolen, a great way to go about the task is to park it in any bart station in the morning and leave it there for eight to ten hours.  It’s just not a smart idea.  The safest station with the most vigilant attendant can’t catch everyone all the time, and most stations with high bike traffic (16th St comes to mind) are less secure/policed than is ideal.  So the “one-side” commute just isn’t an option for many folks who would like their bike to be there intact when they want to ride it home.

    As someone who needs my bike on both sides and runs into the commute restrictions almost daily, bart’s official stance is plain wrong.  Sure, as currently configured the cars can’t handle a mass influx of bikes during peak times, but their blanket ban on bikes also includes some trains that reliably have ample room for more than one bike per car all the way from oakland to glen park without incident.  And I say that with firsthand knowledge.  

    But even in places where bikes are “legal” all the time – including Portland, where I lived and rode MAX with my bike pretty regularly – you just can’t barge onto a full car and jam your greasy chain into the white pantsuit leg of some unsuspecting commuter.  A full car means wait for the next one. Hopefully, the endgame for bart/cyclist commuter standoff looks something like this: It’s up to cyclists to use some discretion when boarding crowded cars, sure.  But it’s also up to bart to make the cars more bike friendly make smart policy/infrastructure tweaks (remove seats in last car, lower ridership lines open to bikes, bikes out at embarcadero) to accommodate all their customers.

  • I thought about the new Bay Area Bike Share that’s going in around Market, but then I realized that doing it as suggested would encourage unbalanced use.  Only stations with roughly equal numbers of boardings and exits should have bike share at the entrance.

  • Colin Maher

    Despite having bike hooks, MAX light rail trains in Portland can get too crowded to fit a bike onboard during peak hours, also. It’s simply a question of the nature of people’s travel patterns – everyone goes home at 5pm and transit vehicles can’t scale up to accommodate the number of bikes that passengers would like to bring at the busiest times. This is why cities like Amsterdam provide large amounts of bike parking, but few – if any – accommodations on transit: when a large share of your passengers arrive by bike, you can’t fit everyone’s bike onboard.

    Colin Maher
    Portland, OR

  • Anonymous

    Anyone serious about commuting by bike and Bart during commute hours should buy a fold-up bike.  Problem solved.

  • guest

    Re: New York: “You don’t take your bike on if it’s too crowded,” he said. “Someone
    will yell at you. I think people in the Bay Area are both a little more
    polite and tend to be more rights-conscious.”

    I would agree Bay Area folks are rights conscious, but more polite?  Hardly.  Just more passive aggressive and afraid of outright conflict, New York style.  I miss that East Coast no nonsense approach.

  • llama

    maybe, by the same logic, we should oppose strollers on BART. 

  • Anonymous

    Vertical circulation is already crowded in busy stations.

    If and when Caltrain gets extended to the new Transbay Terminal, we can look forward to the same stupid commute-hour restrictions there too. Plans for the new Transbay Terminal (and underground train “Box”) make all the same mistakes with crowded platforms and passenger circulation.

  • maaaty

    Amen to that.  I wouldn’t say “rights-conscious.”  I would say the culture is too cowardly and tolerant to challenge transgressions.

  • Kevin

    For most us however, we can count on the lack of enforcement during peak commute. I wonder why the BART staff care so much about written law if they won’t enforce it in practice. http://drupal.sfexaminer.com/local/2011/05/riders-gamble-bikes-bart

  • Bsthomas

    We should.

  • Anonymous

    It just cant be done right now. Theres often too many bikes outside of commute hours already (and im not talking about overflow from the restricted hours), and trains are already very crowded during commute hours.

    For those needing a multimodal commute (like myself, and I have to say that multimodal commutes suck), you can get a folding bike, or you can get a cheap beater and use the bikelink station at the embarcadero, or if youve got the gamblers spirit you can lock your bike behind fare control at Civic Center.

  • Guest

    Having lived in both areas for long periods, I’d agree, just passive
    aggressive. No one will move in the car until several people scream
    “MOVE IN” and start to shove and shove. I don’t follow all the BART rules since 1 I don’t follow any rule mindlessly unless I see a good reason to do so 2. They don’t make sense to me 3. They aren’t enforced. As far as bikes, I
    wait until there’s room, but I do break the rush hour rules, and I see other people breaking those rules, routinely. When else would you want to take your bike on BART, if not during the popular times?

  • BARTbiker

    Imagine if we could reprioritize here people. Bikes don’t depend on huge amounts of oil or cough up crap into your kids’ lungs. I get that it’s not convenient when I’m in your BART car, but think of the reduced carbon footprint and the healthier population.

  • Anonymous

    BART should take a leaf from Caltrain’s book and have one or two cars (10% to 20% on a 10-car train) with fewer seats in order to accomodate bikes and airport passengers with lots of luggage.  The cars could be visually different from outside as well. More oversize fare gates for passengers with bikes or luggage while we’re about it.

  • Anonymous

    BART should take a leaf from Caltrain’s book and have one or two cars (10% to 20% on a 10-car train) with fewer seats in order to accomodate bikes and airport passengers with lots of luggage.  The cars could be visually different from outside as well. More oversize fare gates for passengers with bikes or luggage while we’re about it.

  • Anonymous

    The hooks are harder to use then it looks. If you have a heavy bike, or if you are a short person, it takes a lot of effort to hang it up. Even harder when the train start moving. This may work on uncrowded suburban light rail. On BART I doubt there is enough room for this maneuver. One slip and a lot of people behind can get hurt. Hook is not a great option unfortunately.

  • Anonymous

    The hooks are harder to use then it looks. If you have a heavy bike, or if you are a short person, it takes a lot of effort to hang it up. Even harder when the train start moving. This may work on uncrowded suburban light rail. On BART I doubt there is enough room for this maneuver. One slip and a lot of people behind can get hurt. Hook is not a great option unfortunately.

  • Richard

    On uncrowded trains, it makes sense to have lenient bike rules to encourage ridership. But fitting more people without bikes should always take priority over people with bikes when trains are crowded- as peak period peak direction trains will (and should) continue to be. Most of BART’s policy makes perfect sense (except perhaps the 12th & 19th St station ban). And I say this as a regular transbay bike+transit commuter (I take the bus).

    Lots of secure bike parking and a strong bikesharing system at stations are the answer. Also, there should be significant discounts for people transferring between BART and local buses.

  • Okra Winfrey

    Couldn’t each train be outfitted with one car entirely devoted to cyclists? As in no seats or limited seating and bike racks?

  • Okra Winfrey

    Bike sharing program sounds great. They seem to work well in Paris and Lyon.

  • Andy Chow

    No. Because BART cars get shuffled all the time. The cab cars can be placed in the middle of the train and can switch position all the time. In BART’s case, you either have space on every car or none at all. BART is not Caltrain. Caltrain’s cars rarely get shuffled. Of course, people complain why Caltrain can’t run shorter trains during off peak hours like BART.

  • Anonymous

    To add to Jym Dyer’s comment … and nobody wants to leave their bike at
    a BART station because it’s asking for it to get stolen, especially if
    you get stuck at work and have to come home late.

    Now, maybe if BART provided secure bike parking (ie, near the attendant so that it is being watched), that is another story.

  • Anonymous

    I think @pchazzz:disqus raises a good point: the same configuration of the BART cars that allows for more bikes also allows for luggage, strollers, or people just carrying other large things. BART really needs to do more to accommodate bicyclists, especially since it will help others as well.

  • David Vartanoff

    Yes, Andy Chow notwithstanding, BART could for instance reconfigure any slant front car for bike usage because they can on be the very front or rear no matter what is between.   

  • Andy Chow

    No. I don’t think BART has enough of the A cars (slanted front) to ensure that every train has two of them (and forcing A cars only make car shuffling more difficult, which is why BART introduced the C cars). Remember that one is not enough because the train reverses at the end of each run. Also, when you have trains of different lengths, restricting people to use the end car only may cause bicyclists to run or even bike on the platform to the end of the car if they found out the train is longer or shorter than they thought.

  • Large numbers of bikes on a crowded train makes it more difficult to get on and off and the dwell time at stations increases.

    I recall one time (on the Boston MBTA) where I’ll swear the dwell time exceeded 60 seconds as someone was getting off with a baby stroller.

  • Anonymous

    How much of this is “OMG BART directors, they are evil and hate bicyclists and beat up baby seals” and how much of this is due to the fact that the current cars could never accommodate cyclists the way the bike cars on CalTrain do?

    I realize that whenever we talk about bikes everyone has to get all crazy emotional, but having just ridden an N where some douchebag hippie from out of town had his stupid bike (illegally) on board, it was a pain in the ass. blocked much of the seats and made boarding/deboarding on a crowded rush hour train almost impossible.

    If the N Judah car had some accommodation like in Portland, it would have been no problem. But until you change the streetcars running on the tracks, ain’t nothing gonna change. Same with BART. I would hope that someone at BART is smart enough to think ahead when they go with new train cars Sometime In The Future and maybe have a bike car or two so everyone wins and no one has to go home in tears.

  • David Vartanoff

    @014d815e337305dccb0b861fe6cdb3e3:disqus.  The point is the slants have to be front or rear.  BART could easily program the arrival prediction displays to say bikes front or rear during the currently blacked out times.  off hours it doesn’t matter. Bottom line, BART needs to be more bike friendly.    When I first dealt with them, they required a separate BART photo ID bike user pass.    It is clear that between luggage and bikes BART will be cutting seats in favor of open floor space.  
    BTW there are at least tewo va(r)let parking stations–Berkeley and IINM Embarcadero.

  • Sven Bravo

    Sorry, but BART got this one right.  Rush hour trains are often so crowded that passengers get left at the platform. Financial District platforms are unsafely crowded. Adding bikes to the mix is a major safety issue.

  • Andy Chow

    David Vartanoff, “front or rear” is not an acceptable solution, sign or no sign. Where do you expect the cyclists to wait, in the front or the rear where they may have to run or bike as much as 600 feet to the other end? or in the middle where it is the most crowded and where they may have to run or bike 300 feet. Not everyone gets to wait a few minutes to know where they need to stand. There will be many runners who just get down or up and want to board rightaway.

    If you have a folding bike, you can always bring your bike on any train and or any car. If someone is truly feel that biking on both end is necessary and better than other alternatives (they can take buses, ferries, or Caltrain), getting a folder shouldn’t be such a overwhelming barrier. Of course from a self interest point of view it is understandable that cyclists prefer unlimited bike access, so that they can take whatever they want (versus something like a folder) to wherever they want (rather than parking it somewhere faraway risking for theft.)

  • Zach

    Only BART could need to do an extensive study to find out why more cyclists aren’t using the system when they have outright banned bikes during the hours most people need to travel. It really isn’t rocket science: when you ban something (and enforce that ban with trigger-happy transit cops), people do it less. It doesn’t take a study to demonstrate that the bike ban is the biggest impediment to increased bike use in the BART system.

  • “But “BART has unfortunately been reducing the lengths of trains to attempt to cut costs…””
    Am I the only one that thinks this new cost cutting policy is stupid?  How is cutting the trains from 10 cars to 8 cars during rush hour saving ANY money??  It’s not like you have to staff each car.  There’s one operator per train.  Why can’t every train in the morning and evening rush hours be 10 cars???  They used to be a few years ago.  And the trains came more often.  So now we have shorter trains with more wait time between trains.  We have jam-packed platforms with no room for bikes and then sardined-in cars and angry, annoyed passengers.  This is my biggest beef with BART.

  • But the casual rider should be barred completely? No one should have to buy a completely new bike just so they can commute on BART.

  • There are too many bikes because they’re trying to fit into spaces not designed for them. If you’ve taken Caltrain you’d notice how well the bike cars work. Having vertically mounted bike racks mean that you can fit an efficient number of bikes into one car, separated from the rest of the population. Much more efficient than the current mess.

  • bikerider

    I cant believe this BART!!! way to keep oakland down.  tonight is art murmer in oakland and I have an art show there .  I as planning on taking my bike because I commute with it mostly because i cant walk very well because of disablilities.  My opening is at 6pm but I cannot take my bike until 640 which means I will miss most of my show if i travel (from SF) this way.  I never have been to the art murmer and barely go to oakland. this would be a good introduction on how to go to oakland and have fun going from place to place on my bike
    but alas it is too restricted. so i guess i will stay in SF.  Way to go BART yet another way to keep people out of Oakland.

  • mikesonn

    There are AC Transit buses you can take with bike racks on front. I also think that Caltrans has a bike shuttle they run (others who are more knowledgeable can speak to that better than I).

    But yes, the biggest problem with BART bike access is that there are very very limited bike options across the bay. BART, a couple spots on a bus, or the ferry to Jack London – you can’t ride yourself over.

  • Even LA removed their Metro rush hour restrictions on bikes.  C’mon BART…

  • Guest

    The

    The Fruitvale BART bike station is great!  BART needs more bike stations.