Transit Tuesday is a weekly feature or profile on transit.
Bikes and transit often seem to be a match made in heaven. When the bus is too infrequent or the walk just a bit too far, a bicycle can get a transit rider to a multitude of destinations. As a result of the increasing popularity of cycling and transit, many agencies are taking steps to include bikers. Today, Transit Tuesday looks at allowing bikes onboard railcars.
Six heavy rail systems have a bike “lockout” period during each rush hour because trains and stations are crowded. During these periods, cyclists must leave their bike at the station or ride to their destination. Systems with lockouts are: Boston T, Chicago L, Los Angeles Metro, PATH, Philadelphia (Broad Street & Market-Frankford), and Washington Metro. New York’s MTA has a lockout for bikes on the Staten Island Railway, but not the other subway services.
In contrast, San Francisco’s BART prohibits bikes on certain trains on specific parts of each line during rush hours, instead of a blanket lockout. This allows cyclists to use less-crowded trains operating in the off-peak direction or on inbound trains which are not yet crowded.
Other cities don’t have prohibitions on bikes during rush hours: Baltimore Metro, Cleveland Rapid, MARTA, Miami Metro, New York Subway, and the PATCO Speedline. However, Miami requires bikers to have a permit at all times of the day.
Boston prohibits cyclists from using the downtown transfer stations except to change lines. Cyclists may not enter or exit those stations at any time.
Among light rail systems, Boston’s Green and Mattapan Lines, Philadelphia’s light rail lines, and San Francisco’s Muni Metro are unique in barring bicycles at all times.
Houston, Hudson-Bergen, Newark, and Pittsburgh have rush hour bike prohibitions. Los Angeles bans bikes during rush hours on light rail trains in the peak direction only.
Two commuter rail systems have a blanket ban on cycles at all times: Maryland’s MARC and Chicago/Indiana’s South Shore Line.
SEPTA Regional Rail trains have a ban on bikes during rush hours.
Five systems ban bikes on peak direction trains during rush hours only. Those systems are: MBTA Commuter Rail, Chicago’s Metra, NJ Transit Commuter Rail, and New York’s Long Island and Metro North Railroads.
Virginia Railway Express bans bikes from certain trains, but it is possible to bring your bike on board some rush hour, peak direction trains.
The remaining 13 systems allow bikers on board at all times. They are: New Mexico Rail Runner, Trinity Railway Express, Los Angeles’ Metrolink, Miami’s Tri-Rail, Minneapolis’ Northstar, Nashville’s Music City Star, Connecticut’s Shore Line East, the FrontRunner in Salt Lake City, California’s Caltrain, Coaster, and ACE, Seattle’s Sounder, and Portland’s WES.
Permits are required in order for bikers to bring their cycles onboard Metro North and the Long Island Railroad. Cyclists can only board NJ Transit commuter trains at “accessible” stations (where the doors in the center of the coach open).
Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, PATH, and Washington impose a limit of 2 bikes per car on weekdays. Miami allows up to 4 bikes per car, but bikes are only allowed in the last car of the train. PATH and BART do not allow cycles in the first car of the train. Other operators don’t specifically mention a limit on cycles per car, but all require that bikers avoid crowded trains.
San Diego’s Trolley has a limit of 1 bike per car during rush hours, 2 bikes per car otherwise. Buffalo, Cleveland’s light rail, and Houston have a limit of 2 bikes per car. Denver, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, Seattle, and Tacoma allow a maximum of 4 bikes per car. San Jose’s VTA allows 6 bikes per car, although they must remain in the center articulation area. Other cities don’t have specific limits on the number of bikes, although some mandate that cycles remain in certain areas of the car, which presents an inherent limit.
In Sacramento, the last train of the day in each direction has no bike limit.
Many light rail systems, because of handicap access and the high-floor nature of the cars have restrictions on which areas of the car can be used for bikes. Baltimore, Denver, Sacramento, and St. Louis disallow bikes from using the first door on the train, but Buffalo requires cycles to use the first door.
Pittsburgh’s LRT is a mix of high-platform “stations” and low-platform “stops.” Bikes can only board and alight at high-platform stations.
America’s newest commuter rail line, Minneapolis’ Northstar allows for one bike per car. Rail Runner, Metra, Metrolink, Tri Rail, and NJ Transit have maximums of around 2 bikes per car. Coaster and Sounder allow for up to 4 bikes per car. WES allows for 6 in each car.
Metro North and the Long Island Railroad have a limit of 4 bikes per train and require that bikes be in the first or last car, with a limit of two in each. SEPTA and VRE allow for only 2 bikes per train. In VRE’s case, cycles are required to be in the cab car.
The Bay Area seems to come out on top in regards to bike access to commuter rail. ACE allows for 34 bikes per train. And Caltrain, which claims to have the premiere bike-on-transit program, runs all trains with at least one “bike car.” This allows for a minimum of 40-48 bikes per train. Some trains have two bike cars, which doubles bike capacity.
Other systems don’t include maximum limits per car, but several require that bikes fit in the area reserved for ADA access, including the Music City Star and Trinity Railway Express. Even systems with maximums often require bikers to vacate space for disabled passengers, even to the point of leaving the train before their journey is finished. Few systems guarantee space for cycles, but more are moving in that direction. The Utah Transit Authority recently announced that they’re looking for ways to increase the amount of space for bikers on FrontRunner.