Tonight at the San Francisco Bicycle Advisory Committee, the advisory group to the Board of Supervisors will review a recommendation presented by the BIKES ONboard Project of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition that Caltrain’s new electric cars should have enough room for 20% of passengers to bring their bikes on board.
Currently, about 15% of Caltrain riders use a bicycle with Caltrain, because bikes are a convenient way to connect the “first and last mile” to and from the train. (About 13% bring a bike onboard, and 1-2% store their bikes at the first-mile station using locks, lockers or bike storage stations) Overall, bicycle ridership is growing.
The BIKES ONboard Project is advocating for 20%
in other words 100% Caltrain-bike passengers to be able to bring their bikes on board. This recommendation is despite the fact that data from a recent survey shows that at least 50% of bicycle users say that they would be willing to use bicycle lockers, bike share, or other alternatives instead of bringing a bicycle on board, if these options were available.
The recommendation was endorsed by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, and Bike San Mateo County, before the survey data was available regarding bicycle user preferences, and before Caltrain has disclosed the amount of seated and standing passengers who will be able to take Caltrain at peak hour when electrification is first launched.
Update. Also, the 20% recommendation is not based on any estimate about how many overall riders will want to use a bike with Caltrain in the future, and what % of them would use offboard facilities if they were available and high-quality. Here is a presentation explaining the BIKES ONboard Project rationale for the 20% target.
Meanwhile, capacity on Caltrain is a major concern. Ridership continues to grow, and Caltrain is wrestling with ways to keep up, and ways to implement and fund capacity increases. Space on the train will continue to be at a premium.
What do you think? Should Caltrain prioritize bicycles on board? Should Caltrain continue to support bicycles with Caltrain, but invest in lockers and bikeshare, so that fewer passengers will need to bring their bikes on board. Should the wayside investments be included in the overall capacity investment spending package, as a way to ensure that more passengers overall will fit on the trains, while continue to support bikes as a great first/last mile solution?
The recent survey “oversamples” bicycle riders – over 40% of respondents use bicycles, a much higher share than actually use bikes with Caltrain. When a survey has more respondents in a given population, this makes the survey potentially more reliable for that subpopulation. However, the survey wasn’t based on a random sample. Caltrain will be doing more study of opportunities for first and last mile wayside facilities, using a $150,000 Caltrans grant. Meanwhile, the recent survey strongly suggests that more people would use good wayside facilities if they were available.
Update: At an upcoming board workshop in May, Caltrain is expected to disclose the amount of passengers space that will be available at peak hour, for passengers standing, seated, and with bicycles, in various scenarios. This information would help riders evaluate the about the relative amount of bike space and standing room that should be provided on the train.
Note: Friends of Caltrain strongly supports increasing the amount of bicycle use with Caltrain as an environmentally friendly and effective way for passengers to travel the first and last mile. FoC currently does not yet have a position about the number of bicycles that Caltrain should support on board, As demand for bike use with Caltrain grows, it may make sense to have a relatively higher share supported by good lockers and bike share. What do you think?