2 bike cars on every Caltrain

Yesterday, Caltrain announced they have completed conversion of additional ‘gallery’ cars into bike cars. Every Caltrain train set now runs with two bike cars.

The ‘old’ Nippon Sharyo gallery cars can carry 40 bikes in each bike car, but Caltrain did not have enough bike cars to run two on every run until this week. Every gallery set can now carry 80 bicycles on each run.

Of 38,000 daily riders, about 3700 of them bring bicycles on the train, and almost all riders who are turned away are those with bicycles. Increasing bike capacity means more practical capacity and, potentially, more revenue for Caltrain, especially since parking lot capacity at the train stations has been maxed out for years now. Because each trainset is run four to five times per day, the 240 added bike spaces is the equivalent of about 1,000 new parking spaces at train stations.

Mark and his bike

Previous gallery bike cars were all converted from ‘cab’ cars, which have a control cabin at one end to enable locomotive control by an engineer from the ‘back’ end of the train. Nippon Sharyo bilevel cab cars also have a bathroom in the car. Knowledgeable cyclists identified the presence of a second bike car by looking for a mirror and reflective red markings on the end of the car. The newly converted bike cars were converted from regular passenger cars without a control cab or bathroom so these telltales are missing, but that’s now moot since every run has two cars. The lack of a control cabin means there are six extra seats available at the end of the bike car. Cyclists will also notice a narrower entryway into the bike portion of the car and the lack of a bathroom.

Caltrain also modified their youth policy to encourage families to use the train, allowing children as young as six to bring a bike on board when accompanied by an adult. The minimum age was previously 12 (a rule I broke frequently with my daughter, who is now 11).

Finally, Caltrain announced they plan to post signs on the bike car discouraging non-bike passengers from boarding the bike cars. With increasing ridership in 2011, passengers sitting in the bike cars is a problem, but Caltrain may not legally restrict passengers from boarding certain cars.

More on Caltrain’s bike improvements at Streetsblog SF, which quotes everybody’s SF bike friend John Murphy. Have I mentioned yet that I am ecstatic that I’ll no longer ride Caltrain after my office moves to Santa Clara?

Cyclists disembark Caltrain at Palo Alto Station on Bike To Work Day

Since we’re talking Caltrain, I ride the train a little earlier than many commuters, but watching the last night’s tweets from stranded riders after the ‘track incident’ was still awful. I sympathize with your plight.

It’s helpful to know your Plan B. For me in Santa Clara County, that’s either riding my bike the entire distance or taking VTA 22/522, which has stops within walking distance from all Silicon Valley Caltrain stations. I usually bail immediately upon hearing of a death on the tracks.

In San Mateo County, Samtrans KX (weekday buses 5:20 AM to about 11 PM) is a commuter express between Palo Alto and San Francisco. Stops near Caltrain are Menlo Park, Redwood City, San Carlos, and Belmont; you can transfer to BART from KX at SFO.

Samtrans 390 (5:30 AM to 11 PM; stops near Caltrain Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Redwood City, Burlingame, Millbrae & San Bruno) will get you to Millbrae BART, South City BARt and Daly City BART.

Samtrans 391 (4 AM to past midnight; begins at Redwood City Caltrain, with other stops near Caltrain at San Carlos, Belmont, San Mateo and Millbrae). 391 serves BART stations at Millbrae, San Bruno, South City and Colma.

Finally, Samtrans 397 (operates between midnight and 6 AM) stops at Caltrain stations Palo Alto, Redwood City, San Carlos, Hillsdale, and Millbrae.

VTA and Samtrans both charge $2 for one way fares (as of June 2011). Both VTA & Samtrans are free with a Caltrain 2 zone (or more) monthly pass. And both almost always waive fares for Caltrain ticket holders whenever there’s a ‘track incident.’

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