Petition for Bike Space on Caltrain’s Electrics

When Caltrain finishes modernizing, there may be even fewer places for bike storage

Despite promises, it looks as if Caltrain still plans to decrease space for bikes on its future electric trains.
Despite promises, it looks as if Caltrain still plans to decrease space for bikes on its future electric trains.

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Caltrain is busy converting from diesel to electric propulsion. But according to Caltrain rider, bike advocate, and sometimes-Streetsblog-contributor Shirley Johnson, the agency is still talking about reducing the number of bike spaces on the new electric trains. That’s why the organization she helped found, “BIKES ONBoard,” recently started an online petition to push Caltrain to maintain a ratio of eight seats-to-every bike space. “The [Caltrain] Board mandated an eight-to-one ratio on electrified trains in 2015,” explained Johnson, but Caltrain staff is trying to wiggle out of that mandate.

From the petition:

Caltrain plans to electrify its line and run six-car electric trains, which have fewer seats and less bike capacity than today’s diesel trains and no dedicated seats within view of bikes. I urge Caltrain to run eight-car (instead of six-car) electric trains with seats within view of bikes. Eight-car trains with 96 bike spaces per train satisfy the board-mandated 8:1 ratio of seats-to-bike-spaces and provide more capacity for all Caltrain passengers.

Overall, the current bike space count is 77 bike spaces per train. For electrified trains, Caltrain staff is proposing only 72 bike spaces per train, 36 in each of two bike cars.

Despite promises, it looks as if Caltrain still plans to decrease space for bikes on its future electric trains.
Despite promises, it looks as if Caltrain still plans to decrease space for bikes on its future electric trains.

As Streetsblog reported last year, Caltrain staff is trying to claim a net increase in bike capacity because they’ll be running more trains. But Johnson has pointed out that given the growth in transportation demand on the Peninsula, these trains will immediately fill up, leaving more cyclists stranded on the platforms – unless current bike-to-seat ratios are maintained or increased.

In 2014, Caltrain surveyed riders specifically to find out how many people depend on bikes getting to and from the stations on its system, as a guide for operating and designing the new electric fleet.

Some results below:

From Caltrain's 2014 rider survey.
From Caltrain’s 2014 rider survey.

And here’s a look at how many people bring bikes on board, at least some of the time:

CaltrainSurvey Pie Chart
From Caltrain’s 2014 rider survey

Bikes Board First

In related news, Caltrain has announced that this week it will expand its “Bikes Board First” pilot.

From the Caltrain release:

Bicyclists on the northbound platforms at the Sunnyvale and Hillsdale Stations, and the southbound platform at the 22nd Street Station, will be allowed to board bike cars first. Passengers with bicycles are encouraged to board the bike cars at the southern end of the platform. Caltrain staff will be on hand at those stations to enforce the policy, which would prevent bicyclists from having to navigate through a crowd of riders blocking the entrance. These boardings will be timed and compared to the standard boarding process to determine if this new approach could make overall Caltrain service more efficient.

In April, Caltrain started Bikes Board First in Mountain View, Palo Alto and Redwood City and found it reduced dwell time and delays. “Bikes-board-first has two distinct advantages (1) bike riders have first choice of seats in the bike car to guard bikes against theft, and (2) walk-on passengers can board at other doors to speed boarding,” wrote Johnson in an email. “We applaud Caltrain for conducting this pilot.”

Speaking of theft, BIKES ONBoard is also advocating for better security on the new electric fleet. They want to make sure bikes are distributed among the cars, so that riders have a good shot at sitting in a place where they can keep an eye on their steeds. Caltrain prefers dedicated bike cars with bikes on the first level and the seats on the second level. “So you would not be able to see your bike at all,” said Johnson in a phone interview with Streetsblog. “This layout is a theft magnet; Caltrain would never ask someone to put luggage or a laptop in a car where they can’t see it, but they’re asking someone with a bicycle to do that.”

Again, the petition is available here.

“BIKES ONBoard” is also asking for help from Caltrain riders to get more people to sign the petition and get involved, by handing out business cards for the organization. If you’re interested in helping with outreach, contact them directly to bikesonboard [at] sonic.net.

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