Caltrain is currently putting together a Bicycle Master ‘Plan’. This is a Good Thing, as Caltrain has some serious problems with their current bicycle situation, which are getting worse fast (and, I’d argue, will continue to worsen polynomially with respect to gas prices). However, Caltrain’s Draft Bike Master Plan currently isn’t focused on these issues – but rather on bike parking and storage at stations. Which is not a problem of any significance. Awesome! Is this one of those classic ‘the people making the decisions are not the people using the service’? Or is this intentional blindness? Is it that the money coming in has strings attached to it? What’s the deal?
In any case, Caltrain is accepting comments on their draft plan through August 17. If you ride Caltrain (especially with a bike), please take the time to tell Caltrain what issues you think it’s important the bike plan address, and any ideas you may have for actually addressing them. You can email your comments to email@example.com.
From: Michael J. Fogel <mike … at … fogel.ca>
Subject: Bikeplan comments: refocus on the real issue – bikes on board
Good Morning Bikeplan,
I want to add my voice to the chorus. I feel it’s downright silly that Caltrain is investing time and effort into bicycle parking and storage at this time. It’s true that may need improvement, but it doesn’t have anywhere near the urgency nor importance that the ‘not enough space on board for bikes’ problem does.
- a significant portion of the Caltrain system is consistently delayed, primarily due to bikes loading and unloading.
- 100’s of riders a day are ‘bumped’ from their trains because of a lack of space for them and their bike.
- This problem is getting worse, fast. This is primarily a product of rising gasoline prices.
- I’ve been riding Caltrain for 5 years, often with my bike. I have yet to ever, ever hear someone complain about bike parking or storage at a station.
Addressing the ‘bikes on board’ problem is much more difficult than the ‘bike storage’ problem. But Caltrain needs to suck it up, and address it now. It’s getting worse, fast! There are three classes of general approaches:
1. Disallow bikes on board. They take up too much space and time.
2. Continue fully subsidizing bikes on board. Thus you need to add more trains, and achieve better loading and unloading throughput. I don’t (nor does Caltrain, I gather) feel this is a practical solution in the long term (long term meaning: $10-20 for a gallon of gas).
3. Implement a series of coordinated of incentives/disincentives to bringing bikes on the train. Caltrain’s current approach falls into this category. However, Caltrain is restricting their study and action to one small part of this solution: Caltrain wants to provide one incentive (improved bike parking/storage) to help reduce demand for bikes on trains.
Providing improved bike parking and storage will indeed reduce demand and ease the real ‘bikes on board’ problem… by what, 3% ??? Has Caltrain made any estimates of the (intuitively insignificant) effect this is going to have on the real issue here?
Caltrain must refocus its Bikeplan directly at the real problem: bikes on board. Improved storage and parking is a part of the solution, but a small part.
A few suggestions for other (larger) parts of the solution:
1. Begin charging a ‘fair’ (in comparison to the other Caltrain patrons, who do not bring bikes on board) fare for bringing a bike on board. If a bike takes up enough space for what would have been another passenger, require that all bikes have tickets. Also, a surcharge could be imposed on that bike ticket to account for the increased loading/unloading time.
2. Remove all bike cars from express trains and add them to the non-express trains. Now you can still bring a bike on board if you need to, but you know your trip will be a little longer.
3. Require advance reservation (and purchase) of bike spot on a train, just like assigned seating. This would reduce loading/unloading times, and greatly reduce the stress of bringing a bike on board. In addition it would provide a moderate disincentive bringing a bike on board, via increased complexity.
Caltrain has made impressive strides in the last five years or so. The issue of bringing bikes on board is causing significant problems, while the issue of bike parking and storage is not. And worst of all – the situation with bikes on board is getting worse, fast. Caltrain must refocus its Bikeplan now, directly and explicitly on the real issue: bikes on board.
Thanks for your time and consideration,
Michael J. Fogel
(This letter, and your responses, will be publicly posted.)
If Caltrain ever does reply, I’ll post it here. Don’t hold your breath – we’re already pushing two weeks.
The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition has also publicly posted their comments on the situation.