Bikes on Trains Is Essential
Caltrain is a national model for intermodal transportation — more cyclists use Caltrain than any other commuter rail service in the United States. This is not surprising, because Northern California is blessed by mild ice-free temperatures and low precipitation. High bicycle ridership in many municipalities has helped generate a bicycle community. Cyclists have been instrumental in encouraging Caltrain to accommodate the growing demand of bikes on board trains. The BIKES ONboard project is working to ensure that Caltrain's future plans continue to incorporate cyclists' needs.
Many cyclists need their bicycle at both ends of their commute, because their starting point and final destination are not near the train station. Often public transportation is either nonexistent, or riding a bicycle is faster and/or more reliable than the available public transportation. Bringing a bike on board the train provides flexibility — cyclists can easily change their commute pattern, or run an errand during the day or on the way home.
Caltrain's onboard bicycle program has been so successful that it is unable to keep up with demand. Bicyclists are routinely bumped, and many cyclists have stopped riding Caltrain altogether to avoid the risk of being bumped. The SFBC has formed the BIKES ONboard project to help Caltrain plan for the future to guarantee access on board trains for all cyclists.
BIKES ONboard FAQ — Responses to Misconceptions about Bikes on Caltrain
The Problem with Being Too Successful
Caltrain's bicycle program has been a fabulous success. There are more bicyclists wanting to bring their bikes on board than available bicycle space. Bicyclists are frequently bumped, even when there are plenty of empty seats. Routine bumping discourages bicycle commuters from using Caltrain at all, because 80% of bicycle commuters rarely if ever take Caltrain without bringing their bicycle on board. Routine bumping causes frustration, missed appointments, unreliable service, and wasted time standing on the platform. In the one-year period ending June 2007, 64% of bicyclists reported having been bumped, most of them repeatedly. Frustrated cyclists quit using the train and start driving, resulting in increased congestion on the roads and lost revenue for Caltrain.
Caltrain is Losing Paying Passengers
Eight percent of Caltrain passengers ride their bike to the station, and 7% bring their bike onboard the train. Bicyclists were Caltrain's fastest growing passenger segment, until limited bike capacity thwarted growth in 2006 when routine bumping began. Caltrain may be losing as many as 1000 bicycle boardings per weekday, because there is too little bike space on trains.
From 2003 to 2006, walk-on passengers increased 16%, whereas bicycle passengers increased 41%. From 2006 to 2008, walk-on passengers increased another 16%, but bicycle passengers increased only 5% due to limited space for bicycles on trains.
References: Caltrain Annual Passenger Counts, Caltrain 2007 Online Bicycle Survey