Bikes on Caltrain

Since 1992 Caltrain has provided its onboard bicycle program which allows passengers to bring bikes on the train.

This service has become so popular that the demand routinely exceeds the available bicycle capacity of the train. This results in bicyclists being unable to board their train (which has come to be known as "bumped"). Bumped bicyclists must wait for the next train (and hope there is space) or lock their bikes up at the station to take a later train, or in many cases, go home and drive their car.

If you get left behind on the platform with your bicycle, use this web form to report getting bumped. All bumps are recorded in a publicly available spreadsheet.

Every train has two bike cars. The older Gallery bike cars  hold 40 bicycles, the newer Bombardier bike cars hold 24 bikes. This gives a  bike capacity of 80 bikes per Gallery train and 48 bikes per  Bombardier train. All Gallery trains have five cars. Caltrain recently added a sixth car to Bombardier trains and has committed to converting the sixth cars to bike cars, expected in late 2015.This will increase the bike capacity on the Bombardier trains to 72 bikes.

To learn how to use this service go to our Bikes on Transit section. This system is very easy to use, but there are some simple rules to make it easier for every one to load and unload their bicycles.


BIKES ONboard Project

Since  2008  the BIKES ONboard project sponsored by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition has been working to increase on board bike capacity, and address operational issues to make the bikes on board system easier  and faster to use. Some of their accomplishments are:


BIKES ONboard successes:
 Increased bike capacity over 50% since 2009 ·
 Increased bike capacity from 32 to 40 bikes on gallery bike cars (completed in June 2009)
Increased bike capacity from 16 to 24 bikes on Bombardier bike cars (completed in August 2009)
Converted three Bombardier non-bike cars to bike cars with 24 bike spaces, so all Bombardier trains have two bike cars (completed in November 2009)
Upgraded all gallery trains to two bike cars (completed in May 2011)
Caltrain has committed to adding a third bike car to all Bombardier trains to increase capacity from 48 to 72 bikes per train, expected end of 2015.
Got rid of designated entrance/exit doors on Bombardier bike cars
Got rid of shorty racks by clarifying Federal Railroad Administration regulations on emergency exit windows
Caltrain brought back destination tags for bikes
Stopped Caltrainís plan to remove all seats in the bottom of Bombardier bike cars (theft risk)
Caltrain posted signs on trains indicating which trains have two bike cars
Convinced Caltrain to conduct Bike Count and Dwell Time Study earlier (April/May instead of June/July 2010)
Bicycle Advisory Committee formed August 2010
Convinced Caltrain to start counting bicycle bumps during its annual passenger counts starting in February 2012
Signs posted in bike cars asking passengers without bicycles to sit elsewhere as a courtesy

Result of their success: In 2008, 6% of Caltrain passengers brought their bikes onboard. In 2015, 11% of Caltrain passengers brought their bikes onboard! (Data from Caltrain February annual passenger counts)

Caltrain Letters to the Editor For many years Letters to the Editor in local papers have been submitted to support bikes on board. This has been a very effective method for individuals to voice support for bikes on board and was a critical part of the successes to increase on board capacity. Recent letters can be viewed at Caltrain Letters to the Editor

Why Bikes on Board and how Bikes on Board Benefits Bicyclists and Non-Bicyclists

Bicycle carriage on the train is a simple but powerful concept. Passengers who live, work, and shop beyond  reasonable walking distance to and from Caltrain stations now have the ability to engage in a healthy commute, while reducing air pollution and relieving traffic congestion by leaving their cars at home. They do not require the expensive infrastructure of parking lots, or publicly subsidized busses and shuttles. In fact, they exactingly fulfill the mandate given by the San Mateo County Transportation Authority to reduce the number of daily automobile trips.  This is an air quality as well as a transit issue. It is also a health issue.

Financial

All Caltrain passengers are subsidized, because fare box revenue covers only a portion of operating costs. Most Caltrain users require some additional transportation to and from the station. Bikes on board users require only a space for their bicycle; they do not require a parking space, bus, or shuttle service. When all costs are considered, bikes on board provide one of the most cost-effective methods available. This table from BIKES ONboard's Plan for Bicycle Carriage on Caltrain illustrates subsidies; see the Plan for references.

Travel mode to station
Travel mode to destination
Subsidy
walk
walk
$5
walk
bus
$10
walk
shuttle
$11
bike*
bike
$13
bike*
bike
$5
bus
bus
$16
bus
shuttle
$16
shuttle
shuttle
$17
drive
walk
$25
drive
Bus/shuttle
$31

*Bikes on board cost of $13 is exaggerated, as this subsidy is based upon the bicyclist taking a seat from a paying passenger. This rarely, if ever, happens. Almost all trains have many empty seats, so the true subsidy is only $5.

Reduces Demand for Automobile Parking Space

Caltrain parking lots are filling up and may soon require additional capacity to meet demand.  Parking lots are expensive, a recently completed BART parking garage (Pleasaton/Dublin) with a capacity of 1,200 cars cost $42 million. This is a cost of $35,000 per parking space. Bicycle commuters do not need expensive parking space.

Environmental

Cities are under increasing pressure to reduce both greenhouse gas emissions and other forms of air pollution. The most effective way to reduce these emissions is to reduce or eliminate the need to drive. Per Caltrain's February 2008 passenger count, there were 2382 bike boardings per weekday. For an average three-mile bike trip per boarding, this works out to 7,150 fewer automobile miles per weekday or 1,860,000 miles per year. This also represents 1000 tons of CO2 emissions not produced. It is estimated that Caltrain is currently losing 1000 bike boardings per weekday due to insufficient bicycle capacity on board trains. If capacity were increased to meet today's demand, this would be 10,150 miles not driven per weekday or 2,640,000 miles per year and 1500 tons of CO2 not produced.

Reduced Traffic Congestion

Traffic congestion is an ever-growing problem which increases commute time, frustration, gas consumption, and harmful air pollution as well as a general decrease in livable communities.

Healthier Neighborhoods and Healthier People.

Reducing traffic congestion, traffic noise, and air pollution and proving for quieter and safer streets has huge benefits for all residents. The quality of life is improved, kids might be able to walk safely to school, and the air will be cleaner. In addition bicycling is good exercise leading to more active and healthy life styles, which is both good for the bicyclist as well as helping to reduce health care costs in which we all share.

Provides a cost effective commute for lower income workers

By eliminating the need for either driving or taking additional public transportation, significant cost savings can be realized. For many lower income workers these savings could easily be $20 per week or more. In addition to the cost savings this opens up the ability to travel to worksites not accessible or well-served by public transportation.  This can open up additional employment opportunities for lower income workers who can not afford an automobile.



Web Links

http://www.sfbike.org/?caltrain    SFBC Sponsored BikesONboard (BOB) team website

http://www.sfbike.org/download/actions/caltrain/Plan_Bikes_on_Caltrain_SFBC.pdf   SFBC sponsored BOB team Plan for bikes on board (SUGGESTED READING)

http://www.caltrain.com/bicycle_access_and_parking_plan.html  Official Caltrain site for Bicycle Access and Parking Plan and related information

http://www.caltrain.com/pdf/Caltrain_bike_plan_DRAFT_09-29-08_BODY.pdf  Caltrain Bicycle Access and Parking Plan

http://www.caltrain.com/images/Bike%20Plan%20Aug%20board%20meetingFinalSCC.ppt   Caltrain presentation on Bicycle Access and Parking Plan