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Monday, March 31, 2008

Connecticut cyclists fight for train access

Bicycles on the Metro-North train car
From the New Haven Independent, 03.25.08:

Bikes on Trains? ConnDOT and Commuter Council Say No
Members of Elm City Cycling, Connecticut Bicycle Coalition and other supporters of making room for bikes on the new Metro North train cars in the interest of multi-modal transportation were dealt a serious blow when the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council voted on March 19 against a resolution that asked Metro-North and Connecticut DOT to provide bicycle parking on New Haven Line cars.
Bike Commute Tips Blog reader Mark Abraham forwarded information about this fight in Connecticut, trying to gain better bicycling access on one of the busiest commuter routes in the U.S. Presently, bikes are allowed on-board only during off-peak hours; such as this ridiculous sitation in the image above. Compare this chaos on Metro North, with a system like Caltrain's dedicated bike cars on every train or, better, the Amtrak Capitol Corridor. (Better, IMHO, because it disperses cyclists in small numbers throughout the multi-car train, rather than causing them to crowd in and crawl over each other in a single dedicated bike car.)

Bicyclists were a strong presence at a recent Metro North President's Forum:
A half-dozen New Haveners joined a group of cyclists on a train ride from New Haven to Grand Central Station Wednesday to promote their cause before the president of Metro North Railroad. He insisted it's a zero-sum game--i.e., more bike access means fewer seats for passengers.

So the cyclists vowed to take their fight to the governor and the Connecticut General Assembly. New Canaan resident (Richard Stowe) is a devoted cyclist and promoter of linking cyclists to mass transit. He’s been beating the drum, asking Metro North to create "safe, secure bicycle parking" on the new M8 cars the railroad has ordered.
One of the problems seems to be conflicting information from the Connecticut DOT, which first indicated that additional bike space would be provided on the system's new cars. Then it seemed that added capacity wouldn't materialize.

CT bikers are writing letters, reaching out to media, packing hearings, making noise. They will succeed. I'm a daily multimodal commuter, and wish great success to cyclists in Connecticut. (And until victory, they might want to consider a folding bike.)

Abraham also reports that New Haven registers a respectable--by U.S. standards--1.8 percent mode share for bike trips. He also sent a link to an interesting article on the Elm City's role in bicycling history.

Image: Five Borough Bicycle Club. Bikes on Metro-North car.
Visit: Metro-North unveils bike rack ideas, The Advocate (Stamford, CT)
Visit: Study: Bikes will get to ride on trains, The Advocate (Stamford, CT)
Visit: Cyclists fight for space on trains, New Haven Independent
Visit: The facts about bikes on trains, Darien Times
Visit: Connecticut bike commuters on TV, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site


Unknown said...

I will certainly be getting involved. Commuting from Norwalk to Greenwich is about 15 miles each way, and my entire trip goes parallel to the train line. However, I have no choice if for any reason I need to take the train to or from work with my bike. Connecticut seems not only indifferent, but hostile to bicycle commuters. I would think that for each person like me who is actually commuting by bike there are ten or so considering it. The state does little to encourage such a good solution to one of it's biggest problems. I-95 was established in CT before the national highway system and at rush hour operates at 400% or more of its intended capacity. Yet it seems inconceivable to the legislature here that a possible solution is to leave the car home and get on a bike... I suppose if they figured out a way to tax bike commuters it would take off...

dr2chase said...

At least once, the MBTA commuter rail let us load 8 bikes into not much room for the first leg of a Boy Scout biking trip to Cape Cod.

Picture here

The T (subway) used an opposite policy, and requested that we spread out, two bikes per car, I think officially at opposite ends of the car.

The (old-style, "excursion service") ferry back from Provincetown was completely ok with bikes, except that we were not allowed to ride them on the decks while the boat was underway.

Anonymous said...

Feel free to add more comments here:

also visit: to find out what can be done.

Richard Stowe said...

Where did you get that photo of the bikes-on-train seats?

It represents a very inefficient way of storing bikes-on-trains.

It is emblematic of Metro-North's neanderthal policy toward bicycles of not providing safe, secure bicycle parking area on trains.

In this photo, which may be a early morning train taking cyclists to Bike New York, bicycles are literally using train seats. Bicycles on seats may be exactly what Metro-North officials, Connecticut DOT officials and Connecticut Rail Commuter Council members fear.

The photo on this link( shows one safe, secure, more efficient way to park bicycles on trains.

I spoke with Christopher Tymniak, a Director at the Office of Governor M. Jodi Rell, about this very issue last night. He was as stunned by Metro-North lack of bicycle parking on the M-8's as the cycling community is.

We will prevail on the bikes-on-trains issue. Yes, we will.

Richard Stowe

Paul Dorn said...

I got that photo at the Five Boroughs Bike Club site. It's obviously a group bike outing, or conclusion of one.

I agree, this method of transporting bikes is hugely inefficient and possibly destructive. And imagine passengers looking for seats and seeing this. They're not going to think "Metro North needs to create on-train storage space for multimodal bicyclists." They're more likely to think "look at those selfish cyclists."

Best of luck getting better access at Metro North.

Anonymous said...

Paul -

I am not really a fan of the convoluted racks that Amtrak has - they work great but they don't scale. Not to say a similar system could not be put in place - I think a simpler setup like the hooks on VTA lightrail would be perfect. Amtrak distributes the bikes with its racks but they capacity is weak, most days you end up with extra bikes scattered all about, in the bathroom, etc...

The best setup I've seen frankly is the ACE rail. I'll see if I can find a photo, if not the next time I am on ACE for some reason I'll snap a photo for you. The ACE cars are bombadier style like the new Caltrain cars, with seats only on one side of the lower level of the car. The opposite side is all racks, small diagonal wheel slots and you just roll your bike in, no sorting needed. There are only 14, but then there are also 2 jumpseats that fold up for handicap access. If there are no wheelchairs, 2 more bikes can be put in those slots, bungeed like Caltrain (bring your own bungee).

Paul Dorn said...

Yes, I would love to see a photo of the Altamont Commuter Express (ACE) bicycle system.

Yes, the older Amtrak Capitol Corridor were overly complex. The newer cars are more simple and easier to use.

My point was that I think it's better to have bicyclists distributed throughout all cars of a train (Capitol Corridor model), rather than have bicyclists crowded into a single special bike car. (Caltrain model). Politically, this is also preferable. It suggests that bicyclists are a routine part of the train system's passenger mix, rather than a special class of passengers that require "special" accommodation.

Multimodal transit access can really extend the potential for bike commuting.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the Paris solution would be better. Leave your bike at your home station, and rent another one for cheap at your destination. It may be that offering cheap rentals to passengers would be cheaper and easier than having bikes take up space, and loading and unloading time, on the train.

Yokota Fritz said...

I've been meaning to take a photo of the ACE bike storage for a while -- I'll try to do it this evening.

Unknown said...

This pdf includes photos of the ACE train layout: