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.








It DOES Take a Village

May 22, 2012

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton popularized the old African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child,” which increased awareness about the need to be involved in our communities. Once again the Capitol Corridor will be a part of a multi-regional “village” to help “Fight Hunger One Stop at a Time.”  From June 1 through June 15 we will host collection bins at our staffed stations to collect food for families in need in the eight counties we serve. The public may also help fight hunger by donating online on the food bank websites.

The beginning of summer is a critical time to replenish food banks. During the school year many children in need are served meals at school, but they lose that resource when classes break for summer. We want to fight hunger by asking our passengers and the communities along our corridor to donate nutritious, nonperishable food items (peanut butter in plastic jars, rice, beans, healthy cereals, canned vegetables and fruit) at the collection bins at our stations.

This year, Amtrak, Amtrak California, Caltrain, the Solano Transportation Authority, Sacramento Regional Transit and Union Pacific are joining the Fight Hunger campaign. The help of our partners makes our 2012 campaign the biggest rail-related food drive in California, if not the nation!

Riding Capitol Corridor to a Bike-Friendly Event?

To help accommodate passengers who bring bikes on board, we are reaching out to the bike community.  We want to do our best to have room for bike groups traveling to bike-friendly events on our corridor.  If you know of this type of event and are planning to attend with your bike please contact us at least three weeks before you travel with us.  We’d like to know well in advance how many bicyclists to expect to determine the best train equipment combination.  If you’re traveling in a group, you may want to take advantage of Capitol Corridor’s group travel (21-day advance notice required) program.

We want everyone to have a positive, safe train experience.  Giving us a heads up on those events where you predict folks will bring bikes on board will help us achieve this goal.

New Santa Clara Stop for Capitol Corridor Trains

Good news for travelers heading to and from Silicon Valley!   On May 21, 2012 the Capitol Corridor added service to Caltrain’s Santa Clara/University Station (station code SCC).  This new stop is located at 1001 Railroad Avenue in Santa Clara. It provides convenient access to Santa Clara University, San Jose’s Mineta Airport and a seamless connection to Caltrain and ACE train services.  By adding the Caltrain Santa Clara/University Station to our route, we are now providing a green connection to four international airports and five universities!

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.