Caltrain and Bikes
a multimodal success story - but mind the bumps!
Bicyclists can extend their range terrifically when travelling the San Francisco-San Jose corridor by using Caltrain. By bringing your bike aboard the train, you can make a multi-county commute by rail and go door to door, with the convenience, economy, and social grace of a bicycle "last mile" at each end.
Unfortunately, Caltrain hasn't kept up with demand for bikes onboard and for several years the problem of bicyclists being "bumped" (denied boarding and left behind) has worsened. To learn more about the campaign to fix and grow Caltrain's bicycle "bring along" service, see our BIKES ONboard page.
- Caltrain schedules
- be smart, be courteous — top tips on using Caltrain with a bike
- Caltrain's Bicycle Service FAQ
- be a good bike+rail rider and tag your bike — download a tag here
- User-reported realtime bike car availability on Twitter
Bike Parking at Caltrain Stations
You can park your bike securely at San Francisco and Palo Alto stations. Other stations have racks, to differing degrees of quality and supply, and some stations have lockers which you can rent (see the Caltrain FAQ for more info).
- Warm Planet Bikes at SF Caltrain station (130 spaces, attended)
- Bikestation Palo Alto (96 spaces, unattended, membership required)
Caltrain's Bicycle Service — History and Background
"Bikes on board" (bicycle bring-along by Caltrain passengers) is a service success that built Caltrain's ridership, enhanced its reputation, and has been studied and admired by transit systems all over the nation.
Work to develop the service predates the formation of Caltrain/Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board. Bicycle advocates worked with Southern Pacific Railroad for several years before winning a 4-month demonstration project in 1982 that permitted four bikes being held in the aisle of the cab car. Despite the popularity of the service, Southern Pacific refused to continue the project.
It wasn't until Caltrain was established in 1992 that provision of the service was resumed; advocates were successful in identifying and allocating funding that allowed Caltrain to remove cab car seats and provide bike racks, resulting in 8 bike spaces per train. By 1996, 24 bikes were accommodated per train and by 2002, 32 bike spaces were provided on gallery cars, but new Bombardier cars held only 16 bikes. As a result of SFBC advocacy, Caltrain increased bike capacity in 2009 by 35%. Trains now accommodate 48, or 80 bikes, though waiting customers do not know which train will show up, resulting in irregular, unpredictable service.
Over the past 15 years, the bicycling community has continued to build on this proven track record of working collaboratively with Caltrain to implement and improve on-board bicycle service. This legacy of partnership and collaboration has served Caltrain's and our communities' fundamental interests in reducing traffic congestion on highways and local streets and protecting our environment (particularly climate-change concerns), as well as providing a regional transportation option that rivals the automobile in convenience and flexibility.
Unfortunately, Caltrain's engagement in maintaining and enhancing this essential service has been badly distracted and grossly undercommitted. Cyclists have had to take service planning into their own hands — learn more about SFBC's BIKES ONboard project and get involved.