Fifteen years ago, Amtrak and Caltrans began a new passenger train service connecting the Bay Area and Sacramento with three round-trip trains a day. The Capitol Corridor trains quickly drew standing-room crowds on some trains and prompted some predictions of a rail renaissance.
Today, the rail service runs 16 round-trip trains between Oakland and Sacramento, including seven of those that go as far as San Jose and one that goes to and from Auburn. A total of 1.3 million passengers rode the Capitols in the past 12 months compared with 273,000 in the first year of operations.
What has been missing from all the deserved celebratory coverage of the Capitol Corridor is bicycles.
The train serves the bike friendly communities of Sacramento (bronze level Bicycle-Friendly Community Award), Davis (the most bike-friendly community in North America), Berkeley (home of cycling university students, bike boulevards, and the Bicycle Friendly Berkeley Coaliton), and San Francisco (gold-level Bicycle-Friendly Community Award.)
As the image above of the train station in Davis suggests, hundreds of intermodal bike commuters use the Capitol Corridor every day. Each passenger car of the Capitol Corridor has space for three bikes, or usually a 12-bike capacity per four-car train. Many cyclists leave their bikes locked at their departure station.
More can be done to encourage these intermodal cyclists. In Sacramento, for example, there is little secure bike parking. Just outdoor racks. A secure, staffed bike station similar to those at the Berkeley and Embarcadero BART stations or the Palo Alto and San Francisco Caltrain stations, would attract dozens of additional bicycling rail passengers.
Charging more for vehicle parking--most Capitol Corridor lots are free--would encourage passengers to shift from cars to bikes. Adding more secure bike parking facilities, such as the Bike Tree or bike lockers, would also attract additional cyclists.
The success of passenger rail in car-crazy California--two of the three most successful Amtrak routes are the state's Capitol Corridor and Pacific Surfliner--should encourage every alternative transportation activist in the U.S. And bicycling passengers are a significant factor in that success.
Top Image: Web capture. Train station in Davis, California, built in 1913 by Southern Pacific.
See: Capitol Corridor riding high, San Francisco Chronicle, 12.13.06
See: Capitol Corridor rail service chugs into 16th year, Contra Costa Times, 12.08.06
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site