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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