BART is updating its bicycle plan [PDF] and setting a new goal to double the rate of passengers who bike within ten years, largely by expanding secure parking and possibly relaxing its restrictions on bike access to trains and stations. The agency is asking the public to submit comments on the draft plan until May 27.
Currently, four percent of passengers get to and from BART stations by bike. To bolster that rate, the agency is looking to roll out a targeted expansion of secure parking facilities, as well as reduce “blackout periods,” when bikes are banned on rush hour trains, and revisiting its ban on bikes on escalators. The agency even developed its own computer model, known as the Bike Investment Tool, to project the ridership increases derived from different types of upgrades at each station.
Overall, the plan has been widely praised: the SF Examiner called it a wise strategy to reduce emissions and “encourage smarter, denser growth around existing stations and new extensions” by reducing demand for car parking.
Bike advocates said they’re encouraged by the agency’s commitment to installing more secure bike parking, and that reducing blackout periods is also key to boosting ridership for those who need it. San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Leah Shahum said the organization “commends the BART leadership for stepping up their commitment to encouraging more bicycles on and to the BART stations. By implementing this new plan, BART is sure to draw even more new customers and lessen its overall cost per rider by encouraging more bike-transit trips replacing car-transit trips.” The SFBC is calling on members to urge BART staff to eliminate blackout periods.
Steve Beroldo, BART’s Bike Program manager, said staff is “going to look very hard at the blackout periods, see if there are some where we can narrow them down a little bit and do some experiments to see what’ll happen if more people are on board.” He and advocates noted that Grace Crunican, the agency’s new general manager, seems more willing to experiment with changes than previous management. BART also expects to roll out new train cars with more dedicated bike space in 2017.
Even with reduced blackout periods, space aboard trains will always be limited, said East Bay Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Renee Rivera, adding that the greatest barrier to “dramatically increasing the numbers of people accessing BART by bike” is the lack of “excellent, abundant, secure parking at the stations.”
“The surveys that BART has done show that half the people who bring their bikes on BART bring them on because of the lack of secure parking at the station,” Rivera said. As a model, she pointed to the wildly successful, valet-attended Berkley Bike Station outside Downtown Berkeley BART, and other rack installations inside paid areas. Oakland’s 19th Street BART station is also set to get a bike station within a year.