Bikes on BART: Pilot Project Launches This Friday

This is Part III in a continuing series on cyclists’ efforts to gain full access to BART.

BART’s historic Bike Pilot Project starts this Friday and continues on all five Fridays in August.

For the first time since BART began carrying passengers 40 years ago, bicyclists will be able to take their bikes on any BART train and to or from any BART station–at any hour. 

BART will end its bike blackouts entirely for a limited trial period–just on the five Fridays in August. 

The no-bike-blackouts pilot will look like this:

1.  There will be no bike blackouts on Fridays: August 3, 10. 17, 24. and 31.

2. Cyclists can board any BART train in any directionas long as there is sufficient room. (Just as at any other time.)

3. Cyclists will be allowed on all station platformsincluding San Francisco’s Embarcadero station plus the 12th Street and 19th Street stations in Oakland—during the trial Fridays.

4. All other bike-related rules will apply during the pilot: there will be no other special treatment for cyclists and no bikes allowed on escalators. 

Renee Rivera, Executive Director of the East Bay Bicycle Coalition, lists several great suggestions for cyclists in her July 27 blog post.

Usurping wheelchair spaces is always illegal under the Americans with Disabilities Act and against BART rules.

This Bikes-on-BART rule is always in effect, with or without a pilot project:

“Regardless of any other rule, bikes are never allowed on crowded cars. Use your good judgment and only board cars that can comfortably accommodate you and your bicycle. Hold your bike while on the trains.” 

It may seem obvious that everyone is helped by “good judgment” and common courtesy when sharing crowded BART stairways, elevators, platforms, and trains. According to the June 8 memo from the General Manager to BART’s Directors:

“The goal of the pilot program is to test the impact on passengers and train operations of having bikes in the stations and on the trains during peak periods. Allowing bikes on board at all times can make BART more convenient for people and potentially increase ridership. (Emphasis added.)

The pilot will be evaluated from an operational perspective, from the perspective of bike riders, and from the perspective of non-bike riding passengers…If the pilot demonstrates…potential to ease the restrictions…we will begin the process with… our bicycle and access committees and bring suggested changes to the Board for discussion.” 

Under current BART policy,  only bicyclists are banned during peak commute periods. Passengers with luggage, baby strollers, or wheelchairs are never excluded as user groups from rush hour BART trains.

BART’s turnaround on bike policy has been a long time in coming.  The August pilot project is one of several initiatives by  BART’s impressive General Manager, Grace Crunican. As the first BART GM to come from a transit background and not from heavy-rail transportation, she has a very different perspective on bikes–and many other issues–than her predecessors, which explains why the pilot is taking place now.

BART’s bike pilot is historic–take your bike on BART on Fridays next month and tell BART about your experienceMembers of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and the East Bay Bicycle Coalition will be at many BART stations to monitor the pilot during the no-blackout/trial days.

Or attend next Monday’s meeting of the BART BIcycle Advisory Task Force (BBATF) 6-8 PM on August 6, in Room 171 of  the Joseph P. Bort Metro Center, 101 Eighth Street in Oakland. It’s across the street from Lake Merritt BART. (Bike parking is available inside.)

The pilot project is great news for Bay Area bicyclists and for those who want BART to be more responsive to rider needs. And many BART staffers support these changes, too.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I have represented Alameda County on the BART Bicycle Advisory Task Force (BBATF) for about a year. My comments here are solely my own: they do not represent the official or unofficial views of BART, the BBATF, or any of its members.

Look for more about Bikes on BART in this space, coming soon.

If you have news, questions, tips, or comments about any aspect of local transportation, contact us or leave a comment.

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The Farmer’s Market-Shopping by Bicycle

For almost 15 years I have been shopping by bicycle at the Alameda Farmer’s Market almost every Tuesday, rain or shine.

Home with produce: strawberries, scones, flowers, and more, July 17, 2012.

I discovered Alameda’s weekly farmer’s market just after we moved to Alameda in 1997. It was smaller then and  at the Taylor and Webster parking lot, but it soon became our primary food source, especially for fresh produce.

Here’s how I do it. (You can, too.)

I shop the Tuesday Farmer’s Market by bicycle, using canvas shopping bags, recycling food containers (plastic berry trays, half-flat strawberry boxes), and washing and reusing plastic produce bags, too. Riding my bike is easier than driving (no parking hassles) and makes shopping simpler: my bike is centrally located inside the market.

After locking my bike with a Kryptonite New York U-lock, I often stop in at Wescafe first with my travel mug for a cup of tasty (and necessary) caffeine first–a tip for the household’s designated shopper. Then I load up on tasty fruits, vegetables, and baked goods, canvas shopping bag and Timbuk2 Messenger Bag (size L) on my shoulder.

Beckmann’s Bakery: resistance is futile, especially to their pies.

I make several rounds of the market–on foot–to see what’s good and decide on the menus. I  load heavier, denser items (oranges, celery, potatoes, scones) in the Jandd grocery bag panniers up front first, balancing the weight evenly side-to-side. I usually buy and load more delicate and/or cold items (berries, stone fruits, tomatoes, flowers, fish, frozen enchiladas) after later  passes around the market, stopping occasionally to unload my shoulder bag into the panniers. (Frequent consultation via mobile phone ensures domestic satisfaction with my results.:-)

Depending on Linda’s preferences, what we need, and how the produce-based menu develops, I make my purchases, socialize, and enjoy the live music: I always see friends, neighbors, colleagues, great bikes, and wonderful kids.

If I fill up both front and rear panniers (some call them saddle bags) on my 1970s Peugeot  UO-18 “mixte” town bike, we eat really well for a week. The 1.8-mile trip from our mid-island apartment takes about 12 minutes each way. (It’s almost easier coming home loaded with food: there’s always a tailwind.)

My “shopping rig” (front and rear racks with panniers) is decked out with brightly colored and reflective gear. I always wear my high-visibility helmet, gloves, and safety vest, of course. And I always take the lane when necessary (on Encinal, Central, Eighth) and “ride the paint” at the left-hand edge of bike lanes to avoid the 5-foot-wide door zone next to all parked cars.

Taking the left lane after a left turn, ready to turn into our driveway. Lots of hi-viz gear ensures I can be seen day, night, or fog.

The year-round Alameda Farmer’s Markets are on Tuesdays and Saturdays, rain or shine, 9 AM to 1 PM, at Webster and Haight.

REMINDERS

BART’S Bike Pilot Project begins next Friday, August 3. For the 5 Fridays in August there will be no bike blackouts: bikes will be allowed on all BART trains and on all BART station platforms. (I wrote about it here.)

Here’s more from the East Bay Bicycle Coalition on the BART pilot in August.

How AC Transit Stepped Up During the June 14 Fire and BART Outage

The AC Transit District quickly stepped into the breach on Thursday, June 14,  to fill the void left when BART’s transbay service was shut down due to the arson-caused  fire in West Oakland. (KGO-TV’s story that night runs 9:21. Or read this from the Pleasanton Weekly.)

BART crews work to repair fire-damaged tracks and wiring June 14 in West Oakland. Photo courtesy of KGO-TV.

“We first got word…at around 3 o’clock in the morning. AC Transit responded almost immediately…we eventually placed 108 extra buses into transbay service and made 150 additional transbay trips during the course of the day,” according to AC Transit Media Affairs Manager Clarence Johnson.

AC Transit carried 23,410 transbay passengers on June 14—despite heavy traffic congestion on the Bay Bridge. (Compare this to their normal weekday transbay ridership of 10,750  passengers on 500 trips. Not bad for a fire drill.)

“We were constantly changing our response to the crisis throughout the day. Planners were redeploying buses on the fly, constantly changing our responses based on where the headaches were occurring,” Johnson told me recently. “AC Transit was gratified that we were able to respond the way we did.” 

AC Transit had help from other agencies during the BART outage, too. “For the first time in my memory, we were able to pull in extra buses from…VTA, Solano Transit, Tri-Delta, and one other transit agency,”  AC Transit Director-At-Large H. E. Christian “Chris” Peeples told me. “The problem is that there’s no way you can replace (BART’s transbay capacity) with just bus service…AC Transit doesn’t have (2,000) extra buses just sitting around…Overall, I’m quite pleased with how quickly we reacted, getting at least some additional service out there,” Peeples added.

AC Transit spokesperson Johnson called it “a very good training exercise for a number of our systems…we were continually updating what was going on with 511 and NextBus, but any of those systems will experience a time lag.”

Could AC Transit have done more during the one-day transportation crisis?

According to Director Chris Peeples,With our own dedicated lane on the bridge we could have doubled our throughput (of 150 round-trips), but to do that we’d have to get help from Caltrans and the CHP.”

Information about transit options was hard to come by during BART’s outage, denying web users access to up-to-date information on transit alternatives and bus redeployments. When I headed for downtown Oakland that Thursday morning—to the BART Board meetingNextBus information about the 51A was off by almost 10 minutes and local buses were packed. The 511.org system was also slowed by the sudden crush of users.

AC Transit is already working to improve its ability to provide timely information during a transit crisis, according to an email I received Sunday from Elsa Ortiz, President of the AC Transit District Board of Directors:

”AC Transit’s website…operated much slower than expected due to the heavy traffic. When the CPU utilization nears 100 percent (as it did for much of that Thursday morning) it is as good as downthe number of calls overburdened the system, preventing many riders from connecting to our website.

”We are working on improving the website…we need to accelerate our efforts to review log files and configurations. We will be replacing maps and schedules and buying parts for the website which have the oldest and most troublesome code.

”Rest assured that fixing our response system is a priority and we’ll keep on top of it until the results are what our riders expect.”

How was your transbay commute June 14? Take our poll or share your stories in the comments. 

If you have news, questions, gripes, tips, or comments about any aspect of local transportation, we’re all ears. Contact us.

Read Jon Spangler’s bio here.