What Caltrain should do for bike parking

Caltrain, a leader in permitting bicycles onboard transit, has been suffering from its success for sometime. Everyday, bicyclists are denied boarding (being bumped) because of the limited bicycle capacity.

The Bicycle Master Plan, unfortunately, will be a big disappointment for some bicyclists who want to see more bike capacity on trains. The plan focuses primarily on bike parking issues. For various reasons, Caltrain is putting the controversial issue of bicycles on trains off the table just like Nancy Pelosi putting impeachment off the table.

Nonetheless, bike parking is a real issue, for me, I would love to bike between the San Jose station and my work place, which is a mile away. I would not have to wait for the bus and I would not be at risk for missing my train because of a late bus.

However, I really don’t need to bring my bicycle onboard because I don’t need my bike on the other end between my home and the station. Given the fare structure, I tend not to use the station closest to me (Redwood City), but rather use another one a few miles down (Menlo Park). I can drive to Menlo Park quickly and that station has plenty of parking. Menlo Park would be too far for me to bike on a regular basis.

I have thought about leaving my bike at San Jose station overnight, but the issue that is holding me back is security. At the station, I’ve seen bikes missing their wheels left on the bike racks. Will my bike be stolen or striped apart? At the same time, all the lockers at San Jose has been rented out.

Preferably, Caltrain should have a system of shared bicycle enclosures at its major stations to provide a balance between security and flexibility. Even though Mountain View, Menlo Park and Palo Alto stations already have shared use enclosures, these enclosures don’t act as a system. To get access to one enclosure, you have to sign up and pay at a non-Caltrain entity. To get access to another, you have to sign up and pay again at another entity. Ideally, I should have to pay one fee to Caltrain and get access to all enclosures throughout the system, just like I do for my car.

For riders like me, it is more easier to bring the bike onboard and occupy valuable slots than to find safe bike parking at stations. Secured bicycle parking can certainly help improve Caltrain access and address the onboard bike capacity issue.