Almost two years ago, our work and your voices convinced the Caltrain Joint Powers Board to increase future bike capacity with train electrification (due for 2021) and commit $3 million for bike parking improvements.

Caltrain has now selected a final car design for the future train sets, which will include two bike cars of 36 bikes each (72 total) with the (current) stacking method. The cars will be similar to the Bombardier trains (newer trains) that you see today, with slightly different configurations due to the electric motors that must be on the trains to run electrified service. The bike car will have three ADA accessible seats on the same level of the bikes and there will be no bike hooks as originally proposed. Each trainset will include one bathroom. Caltrain’s goals to increase human and bike capacity will be met with an increased number of trains per hour.

Over the past several months, San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition have been meeting on a regular basis with Caltrain staff to coordinate on design preferences in order to meet the 8:1 seat-to-bike ratio that was approved by the Caltrain Joint Powers Board in 2015 and to ensure the design would work for passengers that rely on bringing a bike on board. We appreciate the lengths that were taken to meet the 8:1 seat-to-bike ratio set by the Board. However, we encourage Caltrain to go further by seeking every opportunity to increase train length for the 2021 launch of electrified service and increase bike space per trainset in order to meet growing ridership numbers. SVBC along with SF Bicycle Coalition recently submitted a letter on the process to determine the design for the new electrified cars, including the following comments:.

  • The outreach and decision-making process could have been more transparent. From early on, both our organizations had been vocal about a three-car bike option or bikes distributed through all cars. It was not until after decisions had been made that we were told the third bike car option would not be possible. Throughout the process, it was unclear how feedback from public outreach would inform final decisions.
  • While the 10% seat capacity increase and an 8:1 ratio have both been met, we encourage Caltrain to pursue every avenue to substantially increase capacity further. Given the capacity constraints of electric multiple units (“EMUs”), six-car EMUs that are expected at the 2021 launch of electrified Caltrain service will be inadequate to handle the overall demand. We urge Caltrain to seek additional funding to run longer trains to increase overall capacity along with bike space in order to reap the full benefits of electrified service.
  • We are concerned with the security of the bike cars. Some passengers only feel comfortable bringing their bike on board if they can be seated in view of their bike. The new car design does not allow for seats near the bike spaces, which is an issue we had brought up early on. Caltrain has not provided an adequate answer to this issue, and we urge Caltrain to find a solution to ensure people who bring their bike on board can feel like their property is secure.
  • We support the “stacking” option for bike storage and appreciate that conflict with accessible spaces has been mitigated.
    1. Given the constraints that only became evident much later in the outreach process, we support the “stacking” option in order to maximize bike space on board.
    2. We are also relieved to see that a compromise was reached to minimize conflict between bike spaces and accessible spaces (as required by ADA standards). Bike hooks with ADA flip seats have been removed from the final car design while maintaining those bike spaces and ADA accessible areas.

Next up: Caltrain Joint Powers Board will consider the Bike Parking Management Plan at their November 2 meeting. Together, these improvements will make Caltrain even friendlier to people who bike with transit.