Caltrain plans to underfund needed offboard bike facilities

At Thursday’s board meeting, the Caltrain board is scheduled to approve the Request for Proposals for electric trains, which is a major step moving electrification forward.   One of the big debates is how much space to provide for bikes on the trains. But with any of the proposals about how much space to add bikes on the train, Caltrain is not yet planning to seek full funding for the increased need to support bicycles offboard.

At the last Caltrain board meeting, Caltrain proposed budgeting $3 Million to increase offboard bicycle facilities, which is a substantial improvement over past minimal investment.  The goal is to meet the needs of 20% of Caltrain passengers who will be using bikes with electrified Caltrain.

In any of the scenarios for accommodating bicycle users onboard electric Caltrain – Caltrain’s proposal to keep the share the same as today, and also the San Francisco and Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalitions’ proposal to increase the share onboard – a larger share of bike users will need to use offboard facilities (storage, bikeshare) instead of bringing bikes onboard.

Based on some modeling with assumptions reviewed with Caltrain, the $3 Million is not enough to accommodate the expected 20% bicycle use with Caltrain.
  • If Caltrain pursues the staff recommendation of a ratio of 9:1 seats to bikes, and wants to be able to accommodate a goal of 20% of passengers using bicycles with Caltrain, then  ~ $9 Million will be needed.
  • If the Bicycle Coalition ask to accommodate a higher share of bikes, with a 6:1 ratio of seats to bikes, then a lower share of bicycle users will need to be accommodated – at a cost more like $7 million.

If you support the Bicycle Coalitions’ proposals for more bikes on the train – there will still be a need for more investment in offboard facilities to support growth in bike use with Caltrain. 


Currently, Caltrain is in negotiations with High Speed Rail to invest $600 Million or more in increases to Caltrain capacity. Investments in offboard bike facilities enable Caltrain to carry more passengers while maximizing space on board.  A contribution from HSR would account for less than 1% of that proposed budget.  There are other available funding sources, including regional, state, city, and employers.

Given our area’s land use, bicycles are a critical component of the transit system, providing essential first and last mile connections that enable more people to use transit and stay off the clogged freeways.

As Caltrain plans for electric service, it would be wise to acknowledge and set a goal for the full funding needed to accommodate 20% bike use.  The main goal of electrification is to increase passenger capacity.  Since approving a bicycle access plan in 2008, Caltrain has struggled to move forward with small improvements. A plan for full funding will help marshall the resources for this critical first/last-miile and capacity solution.
Meanwhile, Caltrain is planning to convert some of the used railcars purchased from Metrolink to bike cars.  At the same time, and before electrification, Caltrain should also to move forward with with offboard improvements as soon as possible to alleviate bumping – denial of service to paying customers.
If you agree that Caltrain should fully fund needed offboard bike facilities, in addition to continuing support for bikes on board, send a note to, and copy
Model and estimates
Here is a table showing a cost estimate, and the spreadsheet with the underlying model.
Cost estimates, offboard facilities with 20% bike usage
Percent secure storage (lockers, cages) vs. racks 0.85
Individual offboard users Lastmile Bikeshare, SF and SJ only Bikeshare users Bike storage users Lockers/cages Basic racks Cost of lockers & cages Cost of basic racks Cost, offboard facilities
Offboard bike trips, with 9:1 seat/bike ratio 10,782 5391 0.16 1,725 3,666 3116 550 9,348,244 68,737 9,416,981
Offboard bike use, 6:1 ratio 8,191 4095 0.16 1,311 2,785 2367 418 7,101,479 52,217 7,153,696
The underlying model is available for review: see the tab called “Offboard Storage Estimates” for a clean presentation and “Full Model” for the fuller model.