Sunday, February 15, 2009

Bikes on transit

I use mass transit extensively, I don't own a car. Trains sometimes work well with bikes and sometimes not. I can and do bike to Penn Station (or Jamaica for a longer ride), and take the LIRR on a Sunday to my Mom by biking the 3 miles from my destination station to her house and then reverse at night. But if I want to go there on a "holiday" such as President's Day, my bike is not allowed on the LIRR. This makes sense on Memorial Day / 4th July / Labor Day on the Montauk line which is always crowded with passengers on those days (and therefore under-serviced. -- if every train in the daytime is standing room only, the railroad needs to add another train to the schedule). I never see such crowding on the Port Jefferson or Ronkonkoma/Greenport branche but the policy stands.

Metro Noth has the same rule. NJ Transit is worse, forbidding bikes the day before a holiday. That may make sense in summer on the Long Branch lne, the Jersey Shore is no doubt popular. But how many people can possibly be going to Long Branch on Columbus Day or Port Jervis is summer? Sure in winter perhaps someone is going to ski. -- and the bulky ski equipment is not only welcome on these winter holiday trains, the railroad has getaway pacages which include lift tickets, rail fare and a shuttle bus!

Looking beyond commuter rail Amtrak needs to upgrade its policy on bikes. All baggage cars need a bike rack so one can roll on lockup and go. I would prefer it in the passenger car but having ridden Amtrak in the Northeast I don't see where they could fit a bike rack (and I have yet to see a car with a wheelchair area such as is on LIRR and Metro North; obviously if they had such one could reserve it for wheelchair or bikes). A baggage car I have no sympathy whatsoever they could relatively inexpensively securely put a proper bike rack in if they wanted. Some lines do have it but not in the Northeast.

We cyclists need to work with the congressional Bike Caucus and get legislation passed (with a little funding for commuter rail; Amtrak charges for a reservation for the bike rack just as for checked luggage so that is potentially a profit center not just self-funding) requiring bike access. It makes tremendous sense and I understand this is available on many European railroads. Once again we are behind on mass transit.

All this really came to a head for me trying to organize a rail-based self-contained overnight trip for Sunday/Monday of Memorial Day weekend. As it is I put the return on Tuesday so all concerned have to take the day off which is limiting the audience. That of course results in less room nights for the hotel and less money spent in resturaunts in the destination area.

Indeed some folks may want a day trip to someplace because they have a day off but they can't bring their bikes on the train so they don't go

The 5BBC does do "weekend" trips with vans but that's more expensive, requires 2 van-certified leaders (for insurance reasons) per van and is not ecologically friendly as you're burning fossil fuels etc.

We'll see how things turn out for my trip. Technically, on a weekeday offpeak train its 4 bikes/train. Indeed there is a 8 bike limit on Sunday bike trains. In both cases its up to the train crew I have seen us get away with more bikes on Sunday to Brewster. It comes down to available space and cooperation with the crew. Which while the reality today is wrong: bikes onboard should not be subject o expulsion to make room for passengers getting on at a later stop. This isn't Jim Crow South and we are fare paying passengers we don't deserve 2nd class treatment. Another item for the Bike Caucus but their clout is small (more than just the one legislator has but limited)

1 comment:

  1. Hi Dana--this IS a horrible problem: just wait until you try and take the train with your bike to Easthampton on a Friday. Or come back from EH on a Sunday. GOOD LUCK! Yes you are right. And in Switzerland, not only can you take your bike, but you can rent a bike in every station, and you can park your bike securely in a parking lot in every station. not to mention ride in bike lanes and not stop for red lights, or have to deal with cars. Amazing. We are so backwards!
    Jen B