Building a Movement to Increase Bicycle Access Support

July 18, 2012

BUILDING A MOVEMENT TO INCREASE BICYCLE ACCESS SUPPORT

I came back from my London research (see blogs 3 and 4) with lots of energy and ideas to apply the London lessons to the Capitol Corridor bike user’s experience. Upon my return, I attended a meeting with various entities in the Sacramento area to look into a bicycle-hire solution — also commonly described as bike-share. The very important first step, which is in its infancy stage, is to investigate if Sacramento is right for a bike share program.  The second step is to determine just how that system would work. To that end, the CCJPA was the first to contribute a modest amount of funding ($10,000) toward such a plan (a plan for Sacramento would probably be about $90,000 in total). The entities will hopefully use that seed funding to build a fully funded planning effort. A bicycle-hire solution at the train stations in Sacramento (and hopefully Davis) is a natural fit but the real key is making sure the entire system works in the community it is designed to serve. Thus, a program for cities like Sacramento (and Davis) actually takes more effort on a per capita basis than cities which are more no-brainers (like Boston, NYC, and, yes, London) for bicycle-hire programs. I will keep you up to speed on the developments in this area.

GETTING IT TOGETHER

Being an interregional service can have its drawbacks since we are not strongly integrated into regional or local planning processes.  With our limited resources, we can’t cover every corner. But with bicycling improvements like bicycle-hire, secure bicycle storage, and with options like Brompton Dock, we have to dive as deep as possible into the regional/local planning process. To that end, we are putting together a Bicycle Access Plan for CCJPA which will outline our efforts system wide – on the train, and at the stations. From that plan, we can work with regional and local jurisdictions to present a local perspective organized in an interregional framework. A good example of this can be phrased as a question – how many of you would like to be carrying multiple bike storage electronic-access cards because things were done differently in Sacramento than in Oakland? Or would you want one card system that works across the route?

HOW TO HELP US HELP YOU

If you do have an on-train bicycle issue (I am using “issue” to generally mean anything related to an interaction with another customer or a conductor in which some aspect of storing the bicycle on the train didn’t go as the reporting customer would have liked) it will really help us here at CCJPA to have the details about the train number, the date of the occurrence and finally, any other details related to the issue while still in the “education phase” of the 2012 bicycle access program, . Occasionally we have gotten complaints regarding on-train bicycle storage with reports of ‘the conductor did this…did that…”. We would love to get right into investigating and learning what we need to on such issues but without a date and train number, we are one step away from getting going and investigating since we need to circle back to get those details. So if you do have an issue – please include those details.

That said, there really have not been as many issues as I expected. I think that speaks to the conductors stepping up their management of the bicycles on the train and you, the traveling cyclist raising your awareness and making the effort to keep aisles free and bicycles secured. Nobody is perfect and sometimes, especially when an unfortunate four car set of equipment is out there (we are trying not to provide those!), storage gets tight and more issues can be anticipated. From riding the trains, I have equally seen conductors and customers not quite doing as much as we have hoped they can do, leading me to believe that there is room for all involved to improve.

 

Lessons from London Part II

June 27, 2012

Bicycle Blog #4 – Brompton Folding Bike

In London, my “Bikes on Board” research continued as I took a train from London Waterloo Station to Kew Bridge where I could walk to the Brompton folding bicycle factory.  There I met with representatives from the Brompton Dock program. If you google that term and poke around, you will see a smart looking set of lockers that each has room for a Brompton folding bicycle.  The Brompton Dock program is run like a city car share program where one becomes a member and then pays an access fee based on a plan.  If you look up those plan prices, those are UK prices and all set up with for-profit railway operators –if rail operators participated in a program like this, they would be able to customize their access and membership program.  There are just a few Docks out in the world and only in the UK, at this time. Later  this year there will be about 35 more placed in rail stations that feed into London and other locations.  It is still ‘early days’ in this but given the cost of the Brompton Docks, which can be supported with grants that come filled with a certain number of bicycles (more can be ordered), this sort of bicycle lease/membership program seems pretty ideal for Capitol Corridor service. Over the coming year we expect to monitor the expansion in the UK and will do our diligence to see if a system like this is a good match for the Capitol Corridor service.  As we mention on the web site, this is a great way to provide people last mile mobility, promote a healthy green lifestyle, and save space on a train if a bicycle is taken onboard. Like we have said, we love folding bikes!

On June 12, 2012, I arranged another meeting through Hannah to meet with the folks who were responsible for the Cycle Hire program in London.  Audrey Bowerman, a USA transplant from North Carolina, works for TfL and oversees the expansion program for their extensive City Hire program. When I mention extensive (these are the blue Barclays sponsorship bikes shown in the picture above), I do mean EXTENSIVE. When I was on vacation, I rode one of these  and other than a small information flow snafu on the screen, I was off and cycling sans helmet to get back to the hotel.  Later in the day, I used another biketo go see some music. So did I mention extensive? Yes. These stations are EVERYWHERE. So how did they do it and what did it take?

Audrey gladly answered those questions since Capitol Corridor has been thought of by cities as an ideal partner (and hub location) for their own Cycle Hire concepts. And even a CCJPA Board member asked about this for Capitol Corridor as we were discussing the options for dealing with bicycle crowding on the train. From my experience “extensive” is the operative word for London’s program. This was truly a massive effort tailor made for London’s travel patterns and some travel patterns that simply can’t be addressed such as the demand for these at train stations – there simply are not possibly enough open spaces for these at the train stations serving London to keep up with demand. All in all, what I saw here and knowing land use patterns, travel origin-destinations in the cities we serve, a good match for a Cycle Hire program may be more difficult to come by. Thus, it does seem like the Brompton Dock solution may be a better fit for the Capitol Corridor as it has more immediate advantages. In addition, we can certainly support and engage with cities along the route who may look to our service as a natural partner.

My final research meeting was with Peter Bowes of Virgin Trains. Peter was part of the team that helped to establish a Brompton Dock at the Manchester-Piccadilly Station located several hours away from London.  He described how their initial launch was going and how they were looking to go in even deeper with the Brompton Dock moving ahead and with the stations/communities they served.

All in all, a busy two days of bikes and trains, with me getting around using London’s amazing transit system.

Lessons from London

June 22, 2012

Web master’s note:  Due to unforeseen circumstances, we could not post the latest “Spoke N Word” blog in real time. We hope you’ll enjoy Jim’s observations, albeit a bit delayed.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

I was invited to present at a “Wi-Fi on Trains” conference in London and took the opportunity  to meet with representatives with Transport for London (TfL) and also with a unique bicycle share program using Brompton Bicycles.  I was fortunate to make these connections through  CCJPA’s citizen bicycle group that was created to help with Capitol Corridor’s own bicycle/train issues. Hannah White was my TfL contact Hannah is one of seven charged with coordinating the bicycle/train interactions and similar to Capitol Corridor’s experience, she said  these interactions succeed with partnerships. I don’t have blog space to get into the complex world of rail in the UK but suffice it to say, her job is far more challenging than ours. The sheer numbers of trains, train passengers, origin-destinations, and bicycle demands by customers are at a scale beyond but our core issues are strikingly similar. Like Capitol Corridor, there is not necessarily enough space on the trains. TfL does not have any control over each train operator and its policies but tries to coordinate as appropriate a ‘bicycle response’ where it can with policies and funding in partnership with others.

My first picture shows a small part of the Waterloo Station Cycle for Hire location in the foreground (more on this in a bit). In the background are the unsecured double decker bicycle racks at the station with many of those being the second bicycles stored (note it was raining – it is London – am I surprised?) for those who have a first bicycle at their other station.

The next picture is the London Bridge Tube Station where Hannah showed me a location of secure bicycle storage inside, co-joined with a bicycle shop.

The shop and storage site are on property owned by National Rail so with a plan to better utilize the London Bridge Tube Station, the shop and storage area will soon be subject to a change and it is not known how this precious real estate can be used to restore this service to those who rely upon it for their bicycle-train journeys. Clearly at rail stations on the Capitol Corridor, we don’t have the scale for this type of operation but you never know what a clever businessperson may do at a place like Davis or Sacramento.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Logging those Miles in May

May 9, 2012

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Logging those Miles in May

May is bicycle month (the weather has been very cooperative) and I am a proud participant in the Sacramento area’s “May Is Bike Month,” (www.mayisbikemonth.com) where I am logging my miles. They only count miles in the Sacramento metropolitan area so my usual daily train/bike commute which involves travel in Oakland does not count (bummer); but those miles I log riding back from Davis to Sacramento and from home in Sacramento to the train station certainly do!

The only difference with the month of May versus my usual bicycle-oriented lifestyle is that I actually log my miles in via their website interface. Kudos to their web folks for making it so easy! Fact is my decision to live in Sacramento (starting in 2006) was very highly influenced by the Capitol Corridor and the use of a bicycle. Living and working in close proximity of the respective Sacramento and Oakland train stations fit exactly with some bonus bicycle riding I could get by getting off in Davis and riding back to Sacramento. I have two very challenging bicycle rides each year that I train for and I have found the bicycle/train combo with the Davis to Sacramento ride keeps me better trained to enjoy those two challenging rides.  Sure, my commute means I purchase monthly tickets but with a bicycle, I can certainly avoid paying parking fees in Sacramento.

The other distinction about May being the ‘bicycle month’ is that the bicycling community grows just a bit more. This sense of community is definitely strong among bicyclists and I think that it extends to the Capitol Corridor travel with new folks on the train who bring their bicycles along, if just for this month. I am usually on train 523 in the morning and I have noticed it is a tad more crowded with bicycles. I know there are trains out there which are even busier (hello train 524)! Regardless of which train you ride, communication within the train/bicycle user community about proper storage methods under the new program is hopefully as high as ever too. This bike/train community includes the conductors who can sometimes be put in the unfortunate position of drawing public attention to a crowded car with bicycles or calling on the intercom to find the owner of a bicycle that is stored improperly. I have not seen too many of the red tags the conductors are placing on improperly stored bicycle in this educational phase which I consider a good sign. If you do get tagged by a conductor, one of the best first steps is to go to the website (capitolcorridor.org/bikes) and see what suggestions might help you avoid that in the future. Plus, I urge you to talk to your fellow bike using train rider within the community (this includes the conductors). To successfully maintain the privilege of taking our bicycles on the train, it DOES take a community effort.

Bicycles involve one of many the many task areas we at the CCJPA are juggling with now. Because I am a bicyclist and train rider, I have the fortune of blending my personal and professional life in a unique way and thus this blog. Speaking of other tasks, as project lead for Capitol Corridor’s Wi-Fi initiative, I will soon speak at an international conference on Wi-Fi on trains. I am taking this ideal opportunity to research and experience what other train operators are doing in regards to their bicycle/train interactions. My next blog may well be from the field looking at bicycle programs on an entirely different scale, but with similar challenges thus extending that concept of community to our peers across the pond.

Bicycle Access Program

April 10, 2012

Welcome to Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority’s (CCJPA) very first  Bicycle Blog entry! If you want to know about bikes on board the Capitol Corridor, you’ve hit the right web page. Launching CCJPA’s official bike blog coincides with the first phase of our  Bicycle Access Program. This blog will be updated at least once a month on issues we need to convey, but honestly many of our bike topics will depend on what’s going on with you.

Jim Allison, Manager of Planning at CCJPA, will be our primary bike blogger, but we intend to feature guest writers from time to time. And since Jim Allison is actually writing this, I will stop referring to myself in the third person because that just gets confusing to everyone.

Some background about why I’ll be the primary bike blogger: I moved from San Francisco to Sacramento in 2006 fully knowing I could reside in Sacramento and regularly ride the Capitol Corridor train with my bicycle to get to/from our CCJPA offices in Oakland (BTW – I am also a regular purchaser of the monthly passes). I ride my bicycle for my commute, I train for and complete (usually) long supported bicycle rides. I use a bicycle when I cart my kids around or pick up groceries. I pretty much ‘get’ the marriage of two wheels to steel wheels. To sustain this union I am circling back to topic #1 for this first blog entry—the launch of our new Bicycle Access Program.

It took over three years to get to this milestone. In late 2008, it was clear then that the use of bicycles with Capitol Corridor service was growing with the rise of gasoline prices and as a weekday rider, I started to see more and more riders who brought or used their bicycles to get to/from the train. It became apparent that Capitol Corridor service was challenged to keep pace with the increasing bicycle storage demand. As a “planner” I knew we had to find a solution. This meant working with CCJPA staff to implement a convenient online survey tool to get insight into how bicycles are used with the Capitol Corridor service. I thank all of those survey respondents who filled in their bicycle trip details from those surveys held in January/February 2011.

From that point, we began working with the owner of the rolling stock (Caltrans Rail Division) and Amtrak (our service operator) to do what we could to meet the demand. We convened a bicycle-working group, which included three actual train riders familiar with bicycle and on-board bicycle storage issues (kudos go to those volunteers and our partners too!) and instigated some immediate changes and worked on the suggestions that evolved into…our 2012 Bicycle Access Program.

Our program is launching on April 10, 2012 with the first phase being an educational phase for the conductors and those of you who may be bringing your bicycle on the train (or even leaving it at a station). We have put the details of the program on our webpage so I won’t repeat them in depth here but in short, there are two aspects – Securing and Storing. I will write more soon but in the meantime, please mind the two “S’s!”