By Will Reisman, @WillReisman

Cyclists load their bikes into Caltrain's bike car.
Cyclists load their bikes into Caltrain’s bike car.

Over the last half-decade, Caltrain has recorded unprecedented ridership growth, with average weekday ridership counts now topping more than 60,000 passengers. That increase has coincided with an even bigger growth in the percentage of passengers who take their bikes on Caltrain. As of February 2015, about 6,200 passengers were bringing their bikes onboard the train every weekday.

While cycling has proven to be an effective commute choice for passengers looking to make “first- or last- mile” connections between their workplaces and homes and Caltrain’s stations, capacity issues are putting an increasing strain on the bikes on board system. Despite Caltrain dedicating two train cars and up to 80 spots per train to onboard bike space, the supply is still sometimes unable to meet demand. Caltrain is addressing this challenge by continuing to maintain and grow its accommodation of bikes onboard the train, but the rail agency is also exploring ways to encourage bike access by providing more robust bike parking options for commuters at stations.

Those efforts are being buoyed by a $134,123 state grant recently awarded to Caltrain for a Bike Parking Management Plan. The study will focus on expanding and improving the system of “wayside” bike parking offered at Caltrain’s 32 stations and will use surveys and focus groups to identify the needs of bicyclists and the factors that influence them to take their bikes on board the train rather than park at a station.

The study will also consider the operation, maintenance and administration of Caltrain’s current and planned bicycle parking facilities and will provide recommendations to help the parking system better serve customers in an efficient and financially sustainable manner. Finally, the study will lay the groundwork for the ongoing expansion of the parking system by defining clear performance measures, goals and targets for Caltrain’s wayside bicycle amenities.

“We are excited to work with Caltrain to create more secure and attractive bike parking at stations for the ever-increasing number of people who bike to or from Caltrain,” said Shiloh Ballard, President and Executive Director of Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition. “This study will help grow bicycle access and contribute toward a cost-effective, environmentally-friendly, and healthy transportation option to access Caltrain.”

Caltrain’s roomy train cars offer bike storage options matched by few of the nation’s other regional commuter rail lines but the total amount of space onboard the train is limited. The Bike Parking Management study will support continued growth in the number of passengers using a bike to access the Caltrain system by complementing the successful on board program with an improved variety of wayside alternatives for cyclists to store their two-wheelers throughout the rail network.

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