Activist Jym Dyer of San Francisco posted his thoughts to the SFBIKE list on the role of advocacy and what he believes should be done to improve the Caltrain Bicycle Master Plan. I reproduce them below with his permission. Remember, Caltrain is accepting comments on the draft plan until July 3.
Bikes on board is a success that built Caltrain's ridership, enhanced its reputation, and has been studied by transit systems all over the nation. Yet Caltrain overlooked the fact that their newer trains will only hold half as many bikes, and again failed to give the program any consideration when working on the current "Bike Master Plan." They didn't even *try* to maintain, much less enhance, this program; in fact their stated goal is to achieve a bike rider share of 5%, which is terrible given that they have already achieved a share of 7%. (7% is a figure for
February and serves as an underestimate for warmer months.)
An activist's role to provide vision and push to have it implemented. That's exactly what Cap Thomas and others did to make bikes on board a reality, and then to make it a success. Our vision must include context that Caltrain is overlooking. Allow me to suggest three "big picture" puzzle pieces:
(1) A bike+train combination gets you door to door, making it the *only* option that matches the (heavily-subsidized) convenience of cars for these distances. That's why bikes on board has been such a success. That's why whittling away at this convenience with schemes like requiring two bikes and locker rentals, charging fees to reserve spaces, and the current failure to provide capacity, are all bad ideas.
(2) Bikers actually make the least demands on transit overall. Non-biking riders generally require parking, buses, and/or shuttles, burdening roads and/or transit systems. Usually the comparison is made between bikers "needing more" than other riders, but that only makes sense if the other riders are all walking at both ends of the train journey, and the number of people who can do that is extremely small -- much smaller than the number who can bike at both ends.
(3) From the public meetings I attended, I got the feeling that this "master plan" is driven by the type of funding Caltrain goes after. They apply for "pilot" project grants, use them to try something out for 3 years or so, then let it whither. This results in disjoint, wasteful policy. I don't see why
they can't go after "project" grants to enhance an existing success story, taking a proactive role in making a case for it, if necessary.