Caltrain Increases Bike Capacity to Two Cars on Every Train

Flickr photo: ##|m##

Six months ahead of schedule, Caltrain announced today it has increased its bicycle capacity to two cars on every train. The move is expected to provide some relief to the many Caltrain riders who bike and are routinely bumped from trains when the bike cars are full.

“This is going to make a huge difference for cyclists using Caltrain on a daily basis,” said cycling Caltrain rider John Murphy. “This should have happened a long time ago, not only because it provides better service for those customers, but because it makes financial sense. A cyclist with a bike in the rack and sitting in a seat pays more fare money than two empty seats ever will.”

“Caltrain’s parking lots are full, and the population in walking distance or willing to use Muni, SamTrans, and VTA has been tapped out,” he added. “The bike program is a winner.”

The older Gallery-car trains, which make up 70 percent of Caltrain’s fleet, can now carry a total of 80 bikes each, while trains with the newer Bombardier cars hold 48 spots, according to a news release. The $300,000 project marks a 50 percent increase in the system’s bike capacity since 2008.

“To provide consistent service and facilitate boarding, bike cars are in the same position on every train,” the release states, with “one at the northern-most end of the train and one near the middle of the train, two cars north of the locomotive. Bike cars are identified with a yellow bike decal on the outside.”

The addition comes after strong calls were made to increase bike capacity from advocates like Caltrain Bicycle Advisory Committee Chair Shirley Johnson, who leads the SF Bike Coalition’s Bikes ONboard Project. A Caltrain study conducted last May showed that increasing capacity would benefit all passengers.

“The financial data was pretty clear cut, and this should not have been as hard as it was,” said Murphy. “This is a tribute to the hard work of the Bikes ONBoard program, the ridership as a whole, and to Caltrain for responding, in the end, to customer feedback.”

  • Anonymous

    Hope this is enough capacity to eliminate almost all “bumping”. Getting barred from a train on your way to work can ruin your whole day. At some stations, trains only come once an hour.

  • Anonymous

    Finally. This is great, but… how long before the express trains (with only 48 spots per train) start bumping regularly? I don’t commute down the pennisula anymore but I used to catch the 8:14 out of _4th and King_ – because even with 48 spots, there would be occasional bumps at 22nd st.

  • Anonymous

    There is never enough of a popular good. Just like freeway expansion, more space will attract more users and the problem will come back. But this expansion brings us closer to optimum use of a limited resource. And unlike freeway expansion, more riders on trains is a positive.

    It’s also going to make boarding a lot more simple. No more running down the platform in bike shoes!

  • Anonymous

    @carbon_xt train 324 bumps people pretty much every day now that the weather is “ok”

  • Phenomenal.  Great work Shirley, Murph, and BoB!

  • mikesonn

    Now, if we can just get priority bike car seating for cyclists…

  • Anonymous

    This is really great news. Don’t know why they didn’t just do this in the first place instead of only doing 80% of them. However, the Bombardier trains still have a shortage of spaces. They really need to go to 3 bike cars for these so that they equal the capacity of the Gallery cars. 48 spaces versus 80 is a huge discrepancy.

    I also echo mikesonn’s comments that they really need to deal with the priority seating issue. I saw at least one train that had little signs saying this, but they were super tiny and on the stairwell up to the top level in the Gallery cars, and I really doubt anyone will see these. What they really need, in addition to much more prominent signs, is for the conductors to make regular and frequent announcements about it and, when they are standing in the bike car during boarding, go over and tell people who don’t have bicycles and who are sitting in the bike car to kindly move. That will make much more of a difference and really help improve the experience of bicyclists on Caltrain.

  • Anonymous

    On the Gallery cars, it pretty much solves the problem. But not so no the Bombardier cars. They still have barely more than half the capacity on the Bombardier cars versus the Gallery cars.

  • Anonymous

    Agreed that it will eventually fill up, which is why they always need to be thinking long term, especially when (if!) the electrification happens. When they get the new electric cars, they need to make sure there is not only sufficient bike capacity, but room to expand if needed. Afterall, SFMTA is really pushing getting more people on bicycles (their goal is 20% by 2020), and if that happens, most certainly many more bicyclists will be wanting to ride Caltrain.

  • mikesonn

    They need to provide more secure parking at 4th/King. Warm Planet does an awesome job but it is constantly full and their hours don’t help early morning riders (like myself). The SFMTA needs to work with Caltrain on this and not leave it up to Caltrain to solve.

  • Anonymous

    Warm Planet has been an unmitigated success. Kash has had to remove inventory off the floor to use that space as overflow parking. Amazing. I hope he’s bringing in good revenue.

    Caltrain started first with the propostion “how do we encourage people to not take their bikes on the train” in order to address the capacity problem. The ridership showed them that while the suggestions (Warm Planet, more lockers) were great, they didn’t solve everyone’s problem, and given the on-board space was being utilized inefficiently, adding more bike space was a win – and the lowest hanging fruit. Modifications to trains are easier than modifications to rider behavior.

    Now that we are nearing the limit on adding bike capacity on the train, it would be worth looking at how we can voluntarily reduce the stress on the current capacity. The problem is that Caltrain looks at most issues backwards. Instead of asking “how can we get you to not take your bike on the train”, ask “Why do you take your bike on the train?” That would provide some answers that are only obvious to the rider, not to the staff.

    There is a daily parade of riders that get off at Sunnyvale and ride their bike to work locations in walking distance from Lawrence. They take their bike on the train to save $50+ a month in fares via riding their bike a few miles. If we got rid of zone based fares, many of those riders would pay $10+ a month to ride the train one extra station and remove the need for the bike on board. The same thing happens in Redwood City and Millbrae.

  • Secure bike parking to dream about . . .

  • Quincy14142135

    Here here. I am sick of sitting on the floor, standing, or sitting in other cars.


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