Caltrain Struggles to Meet Bike Parking Demand at 4th and King Station

Caltrain’s Bike Hub facility will soon give commuters a choice between valet or self parking. Photo: Yelp.

The Caltrain Bike Station parking facility outside its terminal at Fourth and King streets is set to be remodeled and slightly expanded to accommodate the growing number of Peninsula train commuters who are arriving by bike. But demand from bike-to-Caltrain commuters may continue to overwhelm the small, staffed bike station.

Paltry funding over the years proved insufficient for Warm Planet Bikes, the original parking station operator, even after Caltrain approved an additional $50,000 in 2012. Warm Planet operated the space as both a bike shop and parking station from 2008 until last year, but parked bikes blocked merchandise and cut into their revenue.

Within the first six months, the facility was already over its capacity. “When we opened the facility, we knew that the space was smaller than the original project required,” said Kash, the owner and president of Warm Planet Bikes, now operating as a full-time bike shop on mid-Market Street.

In 2013, Caltrain selected BikeHub through a competitive bid for a 3-year, $245,000 contract to operate the space. Despite a doubling of capacity to 200 spots, demand has not let up. Josh Carroll, who manages the bike station, says he has squeezed in up to 250 bikes on the busiest days.

Caltrain now intends to remodel the bike station to accommodate more overflow bike parking, said Caltrain spokesperson Christine Dunn. The remodeled facility will offer a combination of valet and self parking for Caltrain commuters, allowing riders to park their own bikes while the station is unstaffed, whether early in the morning or late at night.

While the bike station renovation is underway, bike commuters will be able to park in a fenced-in area on the west side of the facility. “If all goes well,” said Dunn, “BikeHub may be able to continue to use this [outdoor area] after the completion of the construction.”

In the long run, “Caltrain’s history demonstrates a commitment to funding the bike parking facility,” Dunn added.

While secure bike parking helps hundreds of bike-toting commuters, it’s not an option for the burgeoning number of riders who need a bike on both ends due to inadequate transit options on the “last mile” of their trip. Caltrain says that about 13 percent of riders bring bikes on board, and demand has long exceeded car capacity. According to a survey conducted by Caltrain in 2007 [PDF], only 18 percent of commuters bringing their bikes aboard trains cited “unsatisfactory bike parking options” as a reason for doing so.

Secure bike parking isn’t a substitute for on-board bike storage, said Kash. “Putting the bike on the train means not having to pay for a bus to, and from, inter-urban transit,” he said.

For those bike-to-train riders who don’t need their bikes at both end of their commutes, an adequate level of staffed bike parking is a must, said Shirley Johnson, head of the SF Bicycle Coalition’s BIKES ONboard Project. “Lockers can be broken into, and bike racks are especially vulnerable to theft,” she said.

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