Thursday, May 7, 2009

Caltrain staff propose bicycle surcharge

SF Streetsblog attended the Caltrain Joint Powers Board this morning in San Carlos. In the meeting, the board discussed declaring a fiscal emergency and scheduling public meetings for service cutbacks. Among the proposals brought up by Caltrain staff to save money or increase revenue:
  • Fare hikes.
  • Eliminate weekend service (!)
  • $1 surcharge for bicycles.
A major problem with the proposed $1 surcharge is California state law currently does not allow a surcharge on bicycles. When Caltrain looked at a bike surcharge in years past, they decided the fee collection would cost more than the surcharge.

If Caltrain charges $1 per bike per trip, that's an extra $40 per month for me. It's likely I would just stop riding the train for nine or ten months out of the year and bike the whole distance, so they lose the $112.75 per month they currently get from me. Penny wise and pound foolish.



  1. And could Caltrain possibly expect to generate actual revenue from such a scheme? I've heard that lots of folks bring their bikes on the trains, but they are but a tiny fraction of total ridership.

    Perhaps a "briefcase surcharge" would make more sense? ;)

  2. Roughly 10% of passengers are bike passengers.

    Briefcase surcharge -- sounds good :-) The California law that prohibits surcharges on bikes is for luggage, and specifically lists bikes as a type of luggage that can be carried on for free.

  3. I guess that rules out the briefcase surcharge, too...seein' as how that is probably considered luggage.

    10%? That's not the tiny fraction I was thinking it was. Impressive, those multi-modal Californians!

  4. I think it is a lot of scare tactics. By having a financial emergency then they can get around certain studies and review policies. Their numbers will not add up. If you cut services you will not have the same numbers of riders, so total revenues will go down from both the increase as well as the reduced services. Like you said, you may stop riding just with the increased bike fee.

    They need to stop buying big ticket purchases and construction. They just received new Bombabiers and PA/Cal Ave cost over $6m by itself. It is nice but I would rather have old cars and stops, as to reduced trains and higher faers.

  5. If I have to pay extra to bring my bike on board, I'd better DAMN WELL NOT GET BUMPED!

  6. A good strategy might be to accept the surcharge, but insist that if you get bumped, you get your $1 refunded.

    This would make bumping bikers annoying enough to train crews that CT might actually put in some effort into avoiding it.

    Or, more practically, it's a way of showing how impractical the whole surcharge thing is and killing the idea.

  7. I would support the $1 surcharge if Caltrain could
    a) guarentee no bumping
    b) refund full ticket if bumped
    c) charge the fee once on board.
    They can't or won't do any of those, and CA state law requires no cost bicycle carriage.