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BART has very specific rules about when and where bikes are allowed on their trains. As they asked on Mission Mission, why doesn’t BART just dedicate one car during peak commute hours to be a “bike car?”

BART spokesman James K Allison answered this question for me at length:

Your question about bike-only cars is valid and I will explain later why BART does not have them. First, let me just say that BART strongly supports increasing cycling to BART by providing facilities to meet cyclists’ needs while also accommodating the majority of our riders, who do not use bicycles.

Every transit system that permits bikes on board faces the challenge of balancing riders’ basic needs and wants. It is a dilemma that while many cyclists prefer to take bikes on BART, well-used transit during rush hours leaves little space for bikes on board. There is a trade-off between space for passengers and for bikes during the rush hour, and also an issue of fare paying passengers versus bikes. Folding bicycles are allowed on BART at all times of the day. Many heavy rail transit systems ban bicycles on board or charge a fee for carrying a bicycle on board (e.g., in the Netherlands bikes are charged 3 euros on rail transit).

BART has over 4,000 bike parking spaces, including more than 1,000 in secure bike lockers, of which 294 are multi-use, electronic bike lockers. 200 additional electronic lockers will be installed in 2010. BART’s network of three Bike Stations, more than any other American transit agency, provides 433 secure spaces. In 2008, approximately 5,400 cyclists a day rode BART on weekdays. Even given current restrictions, 72% of cyclists brought their bicycle on board the train (including 7% whom brought a folding bicycle on board). The remaining 28% of cyclists parked their bicycle at the station.

BART is retrofitting the entire car fleet to create more room near the doors for bikes, strollers, and wheelchairs. BART is also installing wider, accessible fare gates to provide more convenient access.

BART is aware of Caltrain’s bicycle car. Unfortunately, this solution is not applicable to BART, a heavy rail transit system with very different operating characteristics and demand patterns than a commuter rail system.

BART carries approximately ten times as many passengers daily as Caltrain. Caltrain stations are farther apart, and trains stop much longer at each station. Due to our far higher ridership, if BART were to provide a bicycle car, it would immediately be full, as would a second and third bicycle car most likely. BART does not have enough cars in our fleet during the rush hour to provide such facilities. Additionally, during the peak period BART already runs 9-10 car trains and since the BART platforms can only accommodate a ten car train no additional cars can be added.

So, we encourage bicycling to BART, especially for transit users who ride folding bikes or who take advantage of the secure bicycle parking we provide.

Photo: Sex Pigeon

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  • Akit

    I’ve seen their “demonstration cars” and I’m impressed by some of their improvements, but one problem remains; they modified the bicycle spot, but the big label/sticker says “bicycle priority area” when priority should always be wheelchair passengers first (ADA violation?).

  • Akit

    I’ve seen their “demonstration cars” and I’m impressed by some of their improvements, but one problem remains; they modified the bicycle spot, but the big label/sticker says “bicycle priority area” when priority should always be wheelchair passengers first (ADA violation?).

  • Caltrain’s bike cars are bike priority areas. Not a violation because there is also a wheelchair priority area. BART has wheelchair priority areas so they are in compliance even if they have a bike priority area. Note that BART didn’t say “We can’t have a bike car because that would be an ADA violation”.

    Taken to the extreme, they need to rip out the seats because wheelchairs can’t go there.

    Ob on topic – It sucks that you can’t take bike on BART at rush hour but given the capacity constraints of the system, it makes sense. I don’t get the “heavy rail” comment because they are both heavy rail, the difference is that BART goes from big parking garages direct to the urban core in SF/OAK/Berkeley, Caltrain dots the little downtowns of the peninsula, but the jobs are 2-3 miles away from the stations and down there the mass transit sucks. A bike is much more valuable (on both ends) for a Caltrain commuter, so much so that Caltrain is really propping up their ridership by offering the service. Even the 4/K station in SF is not really that close to the job center.

  • Caltrain’s bike cars are bike priority areas. Not a violation because there is also a wheelchair priority area. BART has wheelchair priority areas so they are in compliance even if they have a bike priority area. Note that BART didn’t say “We can’t have a bike car because that would be an ADA violation”.

    Taken to the extreme, they need to rip out the seats because wheelchairs can’t go there.

    Ob on topic – It sucks that you can’t take bike on BART at rush hour but given the capacity constraints of the system, it makes sense. I don’t get the “heavy rail” comment because they are both heavy rail, the difference is that BART goes from big parking garages direct to the urban core in SF/OAK/Berkeley, Caltrain dots the little downtowns of the peninsula, but the jobs are 2-3 miles away from the stations and down there the mass transit sucks. A bike is much more valuable (on both ends) for a Caltrain commuter, so much so that Caltrain is really propping up their ridership by offering the service. Even the 4/K station in SF is not really that close to the job center.

  • Fred

    It certainly has not been my experience that CalTrain stops longer at stations than does BART. They both leave after about 20 seconds. Am I wrong?

  • Fred

    It certainly has not been my experience that CalTrain stops longer at stations than does BART. They both leave after about 20 seconds. Am I wrong?

  • Akit

    For BART’s demo cars that are in service, the open spots are clearly designated as the bike spots, and there’s nothing noting wheelchairs. Doesn’t this seem a little odd?

  • Akit

    For BART’s demo cars that are in service, the open spots are clearly designated as the bike spots, and there’s nothing noting wheelchairs. Doesn’t this seem a little odd?

  • miketopher

    Im not familiar with the public transportation system.. but i knew that bikes were allowed on bart, never did i think there would be a specific time that they were not..

    i finally got a job after well over a year of small worthless gigs. never falling in the early hours.. so now i got a job early in the morning.. and appearantly i cant work anymore because i have no way to get there.. because i cant take my bike and bart..

    thanks a lot to the ass hole who who thought of this one.
    its not like my bike is a damn car that takes up space, its impossible to not be able and handle it without getting in peoples way .. no more than other bodys are already in the way.

    yet another obstacle im unable to even attempt to get over.

    screw you

  • miketopher

    Im not familiar with the public transportation system.. but i knew that bikes were allowed on bart, never did i think there would be a specific time that they were not..

    i finally got a job after well over a year of small worthless gigs. never falling in the early hours.. so now i got a job early in the morning.. and appearantly i cant work anymore because i have no way to get there.. because i cant take my bike and bart..

    thanks a lot to the ass hole who who thought of this one.
    its not like my bike is a damn car that takes up space, its impossible to not be able and handle it without getting in peoples way .. no more than other bodys are already in the way.

    yet another obstacle im unable to even attempt to get over.

    screw you

  • sfchop

    I commute used to commute via BART EVERY morning and can tell BART officials flat out: add 2 bike cars to the Fremont train. It’s ALWAYS 8 cars.

    Take people to West Oakland and then the bike restrictions are lifted for ALL trains in the Easy Bay. I need the Richmond line, which is crowded in rush hour from SF, but the Fremont always has space.

    Afternoon rush hour to SF from the East Bay is a bit more challenging. Just try a bike only car… it will work.

    I still think that BART can work this out. I call BS on them.
    I would be a permanent daily rider if they could just sort this out. As it stands now, I’m 3 connections and 1.5hrs on public transit to my job in Berkeley from SF Bernal Heights. It’s 20 minutes and 14 miles by car. There’s a reason I drive 95% of the time…

  • sfchop

    I commute used to commute via BART EVERY morning and can tell BART officials flat out: add 2 bike cars to the Fremont train. It’s ALWAYS 8 cars.

    Take people to West Oakland and then the bike restrictions are lifted for ALL trains in the Easy Bay. I need the Richmond line, which is crowded in rush hour from SF, but the Fremont always has space.

    Afternoon rush hour to SF from the East Bay is a bit more challenging. Just try a bike only car… it will work.

    I still think that BART can work this out. I call BS on them.
    I would be a permanent daily rider if they could just sort this out. As it stands now, I’m 3 connections and 1.5hrs on public transit to my job in Berkeley from SF Bernal Heights. It’s 20 minutes and 14 miles by car. There’s a reason I drive 95% of the time…