BART Ridership Up, Staff Digesting Bike Pilot Results, Draft Survey Results Out

BART’s historic Bike Pilot Project ended on August 31 after a successful trial.

Bicyclists loved it, of course.

But what has happened since August?

Many cyclists have been wondering….

 Here’s an update.                                                          
BART is still processing the wealth of information and feedback it received last month. The  DRAFT survey results BART released Friday–which show that 90% of BART passengers did not experience problems during the bike pilot–are just one example. In August and September BART’s ridership has also jumped considerably(BART averaged 345, 256 riders per weekday in FY 11, which ended June 30, 2011. In FY 12, ending June 30, 2012, 366,565  weekday riders rode BART. So far in September, daily weekday ridership has topped 400,000  four days in a row and 9 times overall. And ridership at Oakland’s 19th Street station–with no auto parking lot and no bike station–is up almost 10% over 2011.) The increased passenger load makes adding more bikes on trains more challenging–for now–with BART’s limited rolling stock.

         

BIKE PILOT RECAP

For the first time since BART began carrying passengers 40 years ago, BART ended its bike blackouts entirely for all five Fridays in August. For a limited trial period bicyclists were able to take their bikes on any BART train going in any direction, to or from any BART station, at any hour. 

Cyclists could board BART trains as long as there was sufficient room (just as at all other times) and all other bike-related rules  applied during the pilot: there was  no other special treatment for cyclists and bikes were not allowed on escalators. 

According to the June 8 memo from  BART’s impressive General Manager, Grace Crunican, the first BART GM to come from a transit background:

“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…bring suggested changes to the Board for discussion.” 

AFTER THE PILOT: BART PROCESSING NEW INFO 

The bike pilot yielded lots of information to the BART staff and to activists–just what they wanted. It also revealed several areas in which BART needs to improve bike access–whether or not the current BART policy  banning bicycles during peak commute periods is ended or modified.

The bike pilot will be discussed  at Monday’s meeting of the BART BIcycle Advisory Task Force (BBATF), 6-8 PM on October 1,  in Room 171 of  the Joseph P. Bort Metro Center at 101 Eighth Street in Oakland. It’s across the street from Lake Merritt BART(Bike parking is available inside.)

BART is already modifying its older cars, removing “wind screens” to make them more accessible for all passengers. The staff is also exploring changes in signage, new passenger courtesy campaigns (to reduce rider conflicts), improved station access, better bike security, and possibly modifying the bike blackout periods themselves. Until BART staff is certain that changes can be implemented safely and successfully, they are unwilling to recommend new policies or procedures to the board.

Look for a full report to the BART Board on the August Bike Pilot in November or December, with implementation of the board’s decisions to follow,perhaps in 2013. 

BART’s improved welcome to cyclists has been decades in coming. The August pilot project joins BART’s new 2012 bike planimproved bike security efforts, new bike stations, and reduced blackout hours, among other progress. Some BART staffers still resist or oppose increased bike access on BART trains, but the agency has bike advocates on the inside, too.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I have represented Alameda County on the BART Bicycle Advisory Task Force (BBATF) since 2011. 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 soon.

If you have any local transportation news, questions, tips, or comments, please 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.

Is BART’s New Bike Plan Missing Links?

This is Part I of a series on the draft BART bicycle plan. The draft plan will be presented to BART’s Board of Directors at their meeting on Thursday, June 14, at 9:00 a.m.

The San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) first carried public passengers on September 11, 1972. Bikes, however, were only allowed on selected BART trains—and then only with permits—on January 1, 1975, following a concerted effort led by the young East Bay Bicycle Coalition (EBBC). This breakthrough put BART and bikes on the March 1975 cover of BICYCLING! magazine.

Four decades later, the 14,000 bicyclists using BART every day—roughly 4.1 percent of all BART patrons—still face barriers. Many cyclists hope that the new draft BART Bicycle Plan: Modeling Access to Transit will improve cyclists’ access to BART.

BART has worked hard—and successfully—in recent years to attract more bicyclists by installing bike stations, bike lockers, and other improvements: from 1998 to 2008 the number of cyclists using BART jumped 69 percent while system ridership rose 28 percent overall.

The plan’s ambitious goal is “…to double BART bicycle access, to 8 percent of all trips, by 2022.” To double the number of cyclists (the bicycle mode share) on BART, the draft suggests revisiting the ban on escalator use, adding new signage, improving bike access at and around BART stations, and expanding secure bike parking. The plan also recommends installing wider fare gates at all station entrances, and better lighting in bike parking areas outside the fare gates. It also includes the first version of a Bicycle Investment Tool for planning bike facilities.

Compared to BART’s 2002 bike plan, the 2012 draft plan has intentionally “less traditional structure and contents.” Unlike its predecessor, the current draft seems light on hard data and specifics.

What do cyclists say they need from BART? Cyclists’ top needs for years have been ending the commute hour blackout periods, preventing bike theft, and allowing bikes on all station escalators and platforms. (Their responses to BART’s surveys and focus groups are in Appendices A and C.)

The current draft plan’s three biggest omissions seem to be:

1. Not considering an end to the bike blackouts. Even discussing an end to blackouts in the bike plan was considered contrary to BART policy by senior managers until about a month ago, even though cyclists have asked for an end to that ban for decades. (See Recommendation 4.2, p. 33.)
2. A serious discussion of BART’s frequent bike thefts. It also omits the BART Police Department’s significant and expanding efforts to reduce thefts. (Daily BART bike commuters who lock their bikes in a BART station rack face a roughly 50 percent chance of having it stolen over the course of a year.)
3. BART held no public hearings on the completed draft plan after it was released at the end of April and the public comment period was less than a month long. Did BART provide for sufficient public comment on the plan?

The draft’s recommended “persuasive programs” are marketing campaigns aimed at getting more people to ride their bikes to BART. But BART cyclists and advocates I talk to cite the draft bike plan’s shortcomings and wonder: will BART be willing—or able—to remove the remaining barriers to bicycle commuters who want to use BART? How can BART reach its 8 percent goal without more substantive policy changes—like increasing the security of its bike parking areas or ending the blackouts?

There may be hope for bikes on BART: revisions now underway to the current draft will reflect many of the 200-plus comments BART has already received and reviewed, and half of those support ending the bike blackouts. And a companion implementation plan—as yet unfunded and without a timeframe, however—will cover the specifics of bike facilities and include more public participation.

What do you think about BART’s new plan? Read the draft—and the appendices—and let BART know at bikes@bart.gov, or attend the June 14 board meeting and tell BART in person.

I’ll discuss the many hopeful recent developments on the BART bike plan in Part II of this series on Friday. Stay tuned…

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