Caltrain has rolled out some online tools to enable cyclists to alert the transit agency and fellow bike commuters any time a train is at full bike capacity and they are denied boarding. And that capacity will eventually increase, because the agency has purchased several additional bike cars that it plans to press into service.
The mobile-friendly bike-bump form allows users to file reports that include the train departure time, date, station, train number, destination and direction associated with each incident. And each time a rider submits a report, a tweet is automatically generated to help other bike commuters anticipate which trains might not have room for their bikes.
The bike-bump form was created at the request of cycling advocates, including the San Francisco Bike Coalition, who had already been keeping their own records on when and how often cyclists have been denied boarding, said Tasha Bartholomew, a Caltrain spokeswoman.
Data collected from the form will enable Caltrain to track trends and notice whether specific trains, locations or times are more likely to be associated with boarding denials, Bartholomew said, and the information will also be made available to members of the agency’s Bicycle Advisory Committee.
Each train in the system is typically made up of five cars, Bartholomew said, with two cars per train being specialized bike cars. On the older Gallery trains, this translates into 80 slots for bikes, while the newer Bombardier trains currently have just 48 bike spaces.
That will change, however, when Caltrain begins to operate Bombardiers that have three bike cars instead of two. The added capacity will come from bike cars that Caltrain recently purchased from Southern California’s Metrolink agency, Bartholomew said, and the result will be Bombardier trains that have a total of 72 bike slots each.
Caltrain bought a total of 16 used cars from Metrolink, of which six are bike cars. It made no sense to buy brand new diesel train equipment because the system will be converted to mostly electric-powered trains by 2020, Bartholomew said.
None of the bike commuters recently approached by The San Francisco Examiner at Caltrain’s Millbrae station were aware of the new bike-bump form, but they all expressed favorable opinions.
As Adam Beshears waited to load his bike onto a southbound train, he noted that traffic problems are only getting worse in the Bay Area, and he expressed hope that encouraging bicycle use might alleviate some of the congestion.
“I think it’s great that they’re making it easier for bikers to commute,” Beshears said.
Yong Sheng, a bike commuter who works in San Francisco and lives in Foster City, said he had been denied boarding “a couple of times” in the past year, but that it was not a very frequent occurrence. And he noted that cyclists are more likely to be bumped from the Baby Bullet and Limited than from local trains that make more frequent stops.
Bike commuters wishing to submit bike-bump reports can do so at caltrain.com/bikebump. To receive notifications of bike bumps, follow Caltrain’s dedicated bike-bump Twitter account at twitter.com/BikesonCaltrain.