The SVBC Caltrain Workgroup has worked hard in advance of the Feb. 5 JPB meeting to create a position on feasible short-term improvements in Caltrain's onboard bike accommodation, meeting with Caltrain staff and gathering ideas from various community sources. The position statement below is the summary of much of that work, and (pending approval) will be presented at the JPB meeting as SVBC's position on the onboard accommodation issue.
1. Car Position & Seats
We favor a one-car arrangement (with optional extra car) on Gallery trainsets with all seats removed from the lower portion of the car and
replaced by racks. On Bombardier trainsets, we favor a two-car arrangement with 24 bike slots in the downstairs section of each car (16 slots as in the current configuration would be an acceptable minimum). This gives a total capacity of 32-48 bikes per train, which we believe would be a significant and highly desirable short-term improvement in the current situation. We prefer the two-car arrangement for Bombs because the one-car option does not allow adequate seating within sight of the bikes. This is not a significant issue for the Gallery cars since the upstairs section is open.
Either the north-end or south end position is acceptable, though we slightly favor the south end. There are logistical advantages to the
south end: two adjacent cars, easier boarding and less crowding with ADA car. However, we understand from our meetings with staff that this
would take more money and time to accomplish. If the north-end position is chosen, we prefer 1st & 3rd car positions because 1st & 4th as presently is impractical for quick boarding and utilization of capacity. We also want more station amenities to be installed at south ends of stations if this option is selected.
2. Priority Boarding
We would like cyclists to have equal-priority boarding with pedestrians at a minimum. We would like cyclists to have priority boarding in the bike cars (board and deboard first), but understand that if the north-end selection is made, this may be impractical because of the crowding at the north end.
3. Real-Time Notification
If our #1 is implemented, the number of spaces on each type of train is fairly consistent. However, trainsets are used on different runs
and people still need to know whether their train is Bomb or Gallery, both for capacity and for positioning for boarding. We would like
Caltrain to provide this information and ask that they experiment with using existing infrastructure (Twitter, etc.) and reach out to the community to find ways to do this in the short term (in the long term looking for a permanent and effective system).
We are sympathetic to the changing situations they encounter on a day-to-day basis, but believe they should look at creative ways to
solve this. However, we rate this of less importance if all trains have 32-48 spaces, because that is a more consistent range and a
larger capacity, making notification less critical.
4. Capacity-Dependent Consists
We advocate for demand-based consists for high-demand trains to the extent that this can be accommodated in the current highly variable
environment; e.g. placing two Gallery bike cars on a high-demand train. There are certain trains that are currently crowded and highly desirable within the 8-9 and 5:30-7 hours and these trains could use the extra capacity.
5. Statistics and Monitoring
We advocate strongly for increasing monitoring of bike ridership, bump, dwell time, peak and average capacity for each train and for the
system, seasonal change, etc. This would help Caltrain understand a loyal and growing segment of its ridership. It would also allow Caltrain to communicate what the needs really are. As with item 3, we advocate that Caltrain work with volunteers to get data, even if that data is not statistically valid, as it could indicate areas of interest for further study.
We advocate for Caltrain to take a more active role in the education of cyclists and pedestrians using the system via flyers, posters, and online resources like videos and tips (e.g. Bay Rail Alliance Caltrain Bike Tips, SFBC's Caltrain Bikes page). We hope that the material will be bike-positive while realistically conveying the limits of the system.
7. Bike Program Coordinator/BAC
We would like to see a bike program coordinator and BAC at Caltrain because it would improve information collection and help improve customer service communication, integrating input and community liaison into Caltrain's organizational structure. Caltrain staff have indicated they hope to do this and we are happy to hear that.
We would like to see increased rather than decreased provision of bike destination tags. If expense is an issue, we suggest a different tag
type -- cheaper, or more flexible -- and would like to see provision through conductors, TVMs or similar, not only mail or staffed stations. Too many bikes remain untagged as of now, and this increases dwell time and hassle.