Transit Coalition Backs Cyclists Right to Rail Cars

(Stephen Box has been leading the charge for a better bike plan on Metro trains than the "two bikes per car " rule that was proposed earlier this month.  In this post he updates us on his efforts to build consensus for a better plan.  Over the weekend he got a bevy of support from the candidates running for the Los Angeles City Council CD2)

At last night’s monthly Transit Coalition meeting, I presented the
Metro’s proposed "Bikes-on-Rail" policy which lifts the rush hour ban
on cyclists but imposes a universal limit of two cyclists per rail car.
I asked them to oppose the proposal and to support a robust and
comprehensive appraisal of the Metro’s capacity woes and to join me in
pursuing a solution that benefited all passengers including cyclists.

ensuing conversation was the discourse that we deserve to hear at a
Metro Board meeting. In fact, as I looked around the room at a Metro
insider, an Amtrak insider, a couple of local municipal system
insiders, a couple of political insiders and an array of transportation
advocates representing several modes including cycling; I realized that
the Transit Coalition was probably better qualified to run the Metro than their

Bart Reed went around the room, polling each participant on the Metro’s proposal to limit cyclists.

responses went from wonky to simple common sense, but they were
consistent in opposing the proposal and in pursuing a solution that
would support the Metro’s commitment to supporting all
modes of transportation.

Starting off with a
review of the capacity projections that predated the Red Line to the
length of the stations to platooning to headway limitations to rail car
configurations, the experts quickly took us through many
considerations that effect how and where people board the train, all of which simply confirmed that the Metro’s current
proposal was nothing if not hasty and ill-conceived.

reviewed other systems ranging from Moscow’s subway to the Metrolink.
Capacity calculations, bike rack configurations, bike cars, bike
lockers at both ends, increased service, better connectivity and simply
applying common sense to specific situations were all tossed out as
solutions to the current capacity issues that Metro apparently
hopes to solve by limiting cyclists to two per rail car.

the end of the great discussion Bart Reed polled the group and with no
objections, positioned the Transit Coalition in favor of a policy that
recognizes cyclists as customers and challenged the Metro to get in the
business of moving people instead of simply moving buses and rail cars.

It’s evenings such as this that give me hope!

  • Not Spokker

    Oh great, let’s just let as many people as possible pile on board with their bikes. Bikes are the best!

    People who ride bikes are number one! Everyone else is number two!

    I love bike rides that cork intersections and teach everyone a lesson about living responsibly. Nothing like being stuck in traffic to teach me a lesson.

    Now I can enjoy the same thing in a train car or a bus.

    Let me ask you guys this – with so many bikes on the train, where will I put my oxygen tank? Oh, let me guess, it’s my fault I have emphysema. When will you bike riding Nazis give it a rest?

  • Ladies & Gentlemen!

    Representing “the Strawman” and hailing from the Land of False Dichotomies, Spokker!

    When you’re ready to discuss a robust Transportation System that serves and supports all modes of travel and all customers using equality as the foundation of good problem solving, we can work together to make it happen.

    But you have to leave the corking Nazis behind. Bad baggage. Certainly beneath you!

  • Not Spokker

    Goooo BIKES!

    Out of the way fatties! It’s the greening of everything! Next thing you’re going to tell me, it’s illegal for me to smoke on the subway!

  • Does anyone here have any personal experience with what they do in cities like Amsterdam or Asia where bicycling isn’t considered just exercise or a novelty, but actual transportation?

    If forget who came up with it, but I liked the proposed hierarchy for transportation planning:

    1) Self-propulsion (Pedestrians first, then Cyclists)
    2) Mass transit (in order of number of riders: HRT then LRT then BRT then local buses).
    3) Shared private vechiles (vanpools, carpools)
    4) Single-occupancy automobiles.

  • Marcotico

    I get all the lates comments on various stories in a sequential fashion on my google reader, and I gotta ask Spokker “Why all the anger and sarcasm?” On this blog many of us always come back to the problem that funding splinters different subgroups of the alt-mobility movement. We end up with peds, bikers, choice transit riders, and low-income riders all fighting over pieces of a smaller pie. So what is your deal fellow commenter? You’ve been on a tirade the last day? What is your ideal transportation blend?

  • Fake Spokker

    I’m 100% behind the edgiest of roadway users, the Midnight Ridazz, of course!

    Only their blend of tragically idiotic prancing deserves the full consideration of our authorities.

  • Marcotico

    Again, really what are you trying to say? I get that you think the midnight rides are counter-productive, so what is your solution for alternative transport? A bus in every garage a la BRU? Choice transit for all? Subsidized housing as a economically sustainable what to achieve environmental sustainability? Are bike recreational only in your world view? I’m not a midnight rida or a far left greenie, I’m just trying to seriously engage you, because your comments have been kind of scatter shot the last day or so.

  • Spokker

    Haha, the last two comments under this post were not posted by me. I 100% support bikes on Metro. They could add more capacity by allowing people to store bikes vertically, maybe four or six per car. That’s who they do it in San Jose. I thought it was pretty ingenious when I saw it.

    However, I do not support mass bike rides that supposedly drum up support for cyclists where traffic laws are habitually broken and drinking is encouraged.

    So if you want to know if a crazy rant against bikes is really mine, go to the source!

  • Spokker

    The first comment wasn’t posted by me either.

  • Spokker

    “a policy that recognizes cyclists as customers and challenged the Metro to get in the business of moving people instead of simply moving buses and rail cars.”

    I think this line is odd, though. It implies that Metro hasn’t been moving people all this time, and the only people worth moving are those on bikes. Come on. Sure, they may be able to do better on the bike situation, but to call the whole operation a failure (only moving buses and rail cars) is simply wrong.

  • David Galvan

    Spokker, is someone spoofing your username? what’s going on?

  • To the person using Spokker’s account, the Metro has people who sit and count passengers. They sit in the back row and watch people enter, they watch people exit and they collect the data.

    They don’t count the number of people bringing bikes.

    When the Metro collects data on cyclists, we will then be considered customers. Passengers. People with gap closing transportation solutions. Until then cyclists don’t count.

    Asking the Metro to get into the business of moving people is to position customer service as a priority, not as an afterthought.

    Surely you don’t don’t have a problem with customer service, do you?

  • I think I re-tagged all the comments by Fake Spokker. For the record, I asked Spokker if I should remove the messages and haven’t heard back yet so I did this edit. C’mon people, I’m pretty sure Spokker will say something to rile everyone up all on his own.

  • Spokker

    Just to clarify, don’t take my real comments to be anti-bike. I am 100% for a serious investment in bike infrastructure. It’s just that I saw some images of certain groups doing stupid things and when I saw they were featured here, I reacted. If you’re the type of person who doesn’t condone that type of behavior, then I’m cool with you. If you’re one of the people in the videos doing stupid stuff, then I want nothing to do with you.

  • Spokker

    “Asking the Metro to get into the business of moving people is to position customer service as a priority, not as an afterthought.

    Surely you don’t don’t have a problem with customer service, do you?”

    I think they should count cyclists, but there ARE valid concerns about accommodating cyclists. I think vertical storage areas for bikes is awesome, but you can’t have a policy of allowing unlimited bikes on board obviously. A line must be crossed somewhere.

    These customers DO bring on an object that is large and takes up space. There are concerns to be fleshed out. They didn’t just look at cyclists and spite them. They need to do the most amount of good for the most amount of riders.

  • Spokker

    You know, I’ve been thinking about it more recently. Bike riders and drivers have more in common than you think.

    Drivers are always complaining about being hassled by the law and being stopped for no reason. Cyclists are always complaining about being hassled by the law and being stopped for no reason.

    Drivers hate dicks on the road. Cyclists hate dicks on the road.

    Drivers are just trying to get where they need to go. Cyclists are just trying to get where they need to go.

    Drivers complain about potholes, narrow roads and highways. Cyclists complain about potholes, narrow roads and lack of bike lanes.

    Instead of working together, it turns into a fight about who started it and who’s worst. In my opinion, both sides have done stupid things.

  • A few key differences: cars weigh a crap ton more and receive boat loads of state subsidy; cars are demonstrably pretty terrible for air quality and overall health;and land uses that are car-friendly are generally quite dangerous to people walking or bicycling.

    Otherwise, I agree with your point.

  • DJB

    I think the headline should be tweaked. It’s true to say that the transit coalition “backs cyclists’ right to rail cars”, but it’s also true to say that MTA “backs cyclists’ right to rail cars”, just not their unlimited right to use space in rail cars during the peak hours at the expense of other transit users.

    I agree that the transit system should adjust to accommodate its users and it seems like MTA probably needs to do a better job of studying how many users are trying to bring on things like bikes, luggage, and strollers.

    Vertical racks may be a good solution, although I’ve never seen them in person. I think the long-term solution though is better service with an expanded ADA section in each car. If we’re fighting over scarce space, let’s make peak hour space less scarce by improving service.

    Meanwhile, cyclists can help by bringing folding bikes on trains when space is scarce. I’ve seen it done beautifully several times.

  • David Galvan

    Vertical racks are a good idea (for the red/purple lines only), but to be honest I don’t think they’d really solve the problem. Loading one’s bike on a vertical rack requires lifting the bicycle somewhat high above the ground to hang it from a hook by a wheel (as I understand it). This could be impractical for smaller people with heavy bikes. I see a good number of people with beach-cruiser style bikes, many of whom are petite women.

    Folding bikes are similar: a good idea, but only a small percentage of the cycling population would spend the time and money to get a folding bike (decent ones cost from $500 to over $1200). I’m sure most cyclists who use transit are just using whatever beat-up old bike they can get their hands on that works.

    Overall, I think that what will actually happen is probably the most cost-effective: keep those sections on the red/purple lines for handicap/luggage/bicycles, and most importantly put decals and signage on all the rail lines indicating the best section to be in if you have a bike. On the blue/green line it would be in the articulating sections or at the front/back bulkheads, blocking the driver’s door (in cars where there is no driver). On the breda trains it would be in the articulating section only. Folding bikes should be allowed anywhere they can fit.

    There should definitely be limits. Perhaps two to a car (excepting folding bikes) during rush hour, and no limits during non-rush-hour times.

  • David Galvan

    (forgot to mention)

    The other worrisome thing about vertical racks would be trying to load them on the racks while the train is starting to move. Has anyone hear ridden on trains with such racks? Is it ever a safety hazard to have someone trying to load a bike and then thrown off-balance by the train moving?

  • Two-to-a-car bikes is a shitty idea. Should we only allow two tourists (with bags) per car on the Green Line? Two moms with strollers per car?

    Why is the un-encumbered passenger so much more important than the others?

  • Spokker

    Here are the bicycle racks from San Jose:

    Another angle:

  • Spokker
  • Spokker

    Caltrain has a bike car too. Maybe it would work in LA, maybe it wouldn’t.

  • A response to Umberto:

    “Two-to-a-car bikes is a shitty idea. Should we only allow two tourists (with bags) per car on the Green Line? Two moms with strollers per car?

    Why is the un-encumbered passenger so much more important than the others?”

    For the record, I support as many bikes as can be fit into the area assigned to them, but I do not support them being fit anywhere in the rail car that the cyclist wants.

    I also believe that luggage, tote bags, etc. are only welcome when they are not blocking aisles or doors and not taking up a seat in addition to the passenger.

    Strollers should always be folded when taken on any transit vehicle, bus or rail. Those create a much more difficult logistics problem than have any cyclists I have ever encountered.

  • Oops, I forgot to add my response to Umberto’s last question.

    The “unencumbered passengers” are more important by sheer virtue of numbers. There are more of them than ones with bikes, strollers, luggage, or other items that take up more space than the passenger’s body by itself.

  • ubrayj02

    Strollers should always be folded? Are you mad?!

    You have seen the enormous amounts of crap parents stuff into those things (along with the occasional kid) in order to run errands while using transit, no?

    I can guarantee you that folded stroller rule is an invitation for 45 lbs. of random baby stuff and grocery bags to be spread over several seats or all over the floor. Or, worse yet, parents totally economically destroyed because they will be forced to drive everywhere (which they won’t be able to afford) to take care of the most menial tasks.

    Tsk tsk tsk, we need to give people more options – not cut them off for being non-single and unencumbered by life’s little logistical struggles.

  • Spokker

    At Disneyland all strollers must be folded before getting on the monorail.

  • That settles it! Point to the stroller folders. I rest my case.

  • Spokker’s Mom

    I voted for ZPG in 1983, but my husband made me have Spokker.
    We folded up the stroller with Spokker in it so it would fit on the bus.

  • Strollers are part of the bus and train. I know we’re all joking, right? I mean people aren’t seriously debating that strollers be folded up, because people in general who are moms need to have all that crap in there. I am not a mom, but you know babies take poohs and don’t use the toilet, they have to eat special food, they dribble stuff all over their clothes, they spit on your clothes…I don’t know I would rather have a big stroller than a mom with a little stroller and no diapers and have a stinky crying baby on the bus.

    But you know in general I see young moms doing that, because they are not quite sure what they need. The moms that are older seem to not be as weighed down. I saw this young mom, maybe 20 on the bus. The stroller was as big as the mom. All of the older moms were helping her and the big stroller get situated they then gave her advice on how to properly ride the bus with a kid.

    Then a person with a trashbag full of cans got on and the stroller seemed to be alot less annoying.

    I’m not trying to be a jerk, but the going in the trash can and bringing that on the bus or train, that’s total bs. That spreads disease. That is disgusting. That needs to stop. And I understand times are tough, but it’s getting to the point that it is an everyday and every trip thing.


  • I’ve seen buses where the seats fold up to accommodate wheel chairs. I believe the Orange Line Metro Liners have two seats that fold up to accommodate bicycles. Perhaps this is a solution for Metro Rail.

    Additionally, if the issue is that bikes interfere with the safe boarding and unboarding of trains when the train is _full_ of passengers, why not make the rule specific to that situation instead of all hours restriction.

    For example a rule that stipulates no more then two bikes when the train is fully loaded or no more then two bikes between 4:30 and 6:30.

    The other thing that can be done is increase bicycle storage facilities so a greater number of bicycles can be left securely back at the train station.

    Lastly, if bicycle demand is sufficient, how about one car per train that has a large number of seats removed to accommodate many bicycle. Say the last car in each train. Station signage could say, “persons with bicycles please use last train car.”

  • David Galvan

    Saunders, all are great sugggestions in my opinion. Hopefully the MTA board will consider such options.

  • brianguy

    I like Saunders idea…

    alternatively, a ~6 bicycle rack per car seems like a great idea. but then they would have to enforce stricter rules: if your bike doesn’t fit, you must find another car or wait for the next train.


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