Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Caltrain: Cyclists turned away as ridership surges

From the San Jose Mercury News:
It's 5:15 p.m., rush hour at Caltrain's Hillsdale station in San Mateo. Among the dozens of riders arrayed across the platform to catch the northbound "Baby Bullet" express train, the most watchful are the bicyclists.

They're hoping they don't get turned away.

Ridership is soaring amid high gas prices and global warming fears. The bicycle program is a well-established hit, with about one in 15 Caltrain riders bringing their wheels on board. Caltrains are getting so crowded at peak commute hours that not everyone's bike can fit on board. So when a Baby Bullet pulls out of the station, a handful of the rail line's most dedicated customers are left in the cold.
Read the full story in the Mercury News. I ride Caltrain daily on my commute and I'm amazed at how crowded the bike car remains. This morning, many of the usual riders were on the train in spite of the rain and cooler weather. I took the below photo in the summer of 2006 -- the bike car now looks like this in winter 2007.

Full bike car

The Highway 17 Express bus from Santa Cruz to San Jose also remains crowded, although in the winter I'm often the only cyclist. Now that we have WiFi, incidents like this 14 car pileup this morning means I sit longer on the bus hooked to the Internet.

If you take public transportation for your commute, are you seeing similar ridership increases in your area?


  1. One in fifteen???!!! During rushhour?!

    -jealous in Chicago

  2. When I take my bike on Caltrain (1-2 days per week on average) I regularly see bike commuters get bumped, both in the mornings and evenings. Ridership surges, yet Caltrain STILL only has ONE BIKE CAR PER TRAIN -- what gives?!?!?

  3. Slightly better link to the car crashes that held you up this morning.

    (Almost wrote 'accident', but I don't believe in that word when associated with car crashes anymore...)

    As for CALTRAIN - I don't usually see passenger train-cars more than 50% full - because each passenger typically takes up two or more seats. That's far from being anywhere near capacity. Time to rip out the other side of the cab car to make room for 32 more bikes!

    I love making people grumble by asking them to move their bags so that I can sit near the luggage area and keep an eye on my folder...

    (Don't know about bullets - they don't hit San Mateo)

  4. I'm in the Chicago suburbs going north and south along the Fox River. My bus route services mostly those who can't afford cars or those that get off at the train station going to Chicago.
    My bus has a 2 bike rack and about half the time I'm the only bike. Maybe twice I have seen a cyclist waved off because the rack was full. I haven't really seen much ridership increase in the past few months, but as it gets colder I'll ride both ways on the bus, instead of commuting 15 miles home on the bike.

  5. I've updated the post by adding a photo of the bike car interior. The bike cars are provisioned for the exclusive use of cyclists, and there is always at least one bike car per train.

    Jim, Caltrain wants to electrify the line so they don't want to buy additional equipment right now until they know for sure if electrification will ever happen, or if they're stuck with diesel for the next 20 years. I have seen the passenger bullets packed full during commute times.

    Thanks for the link, Gazer. I guess the CHP info times out after a short bit. And thanks for the comments, all!