Monday, June 02, 2008

Behaviorial shifts in Bay Area commutes

Mercury News: 'Large shifts in behavior' during commutes create new problems --
As gas prices climb menacingly toward $5 a gallon, Silicon Valley residents are changing the ways they commute - but some of the new solutions are creating problems of their own.

Elizabeth Finkler of San Jose is leaving her car at home and biking to a bus stop to get to work in Santa Clara.

Aaron's 2006 Masi Speciale Fixed
Trouble is, only two bikes fit in the rack in front of a bus. And one night she was the fifth bicyclist waiting to catch a bus home.

"The driver wouldn't let me on because he already had two bikes on the rack and lots of passengers in the bus," she said. "I ended up speeding over to Scott Boulevard to get another bus and barely made it home for a visitor expected at 7:30."

The problem is more acute on Caltrain, where one in 15 riders wants to bring a bike on board, according to a Caltrain survey. Three in five say they've been bumped from crowded trains at least once in the past year, and one in four former riders who used bikes said being bumped is why they no longer take the train.
Read more in the Mercury News. I especially like this paragraph:
Donna Williams of Sunnyvale and her husband, Jim ... purchased scooters a year ago that get 80 to 90 miles per gallon. They promised their teens they would be careful and not do anything stupid - no lane splitting or riding to the front of a line of cars at a red light.

Some tips to avoid or mitigate some of these hassles:
  • Use a folding bicycle. Folding bikes are generally allowed on any train car and bus at any time. This isn't necessarily a panacea with standing room only on many buses and trains. I see many folding scooters and skateboards on the train and bus these days, too.

  • Bikestation Parking is available at Berkeley BART, Embarcadero BART, and Palo Alto Caltrain. A $20 membership gives access to the Bikestations, though an additional fee applies for bike parking.

    Caltrain Conductor
  • Local shuttles. These free shuttles seem to be a secret to many people, but several shuttles circulate to major employment areas from several Caltrain stations in San Francisco, San Mateo County and Santa Clara County. Many shuttles operated by specific employers are partially funded by public agencies and are free for anybody to use for free. This morning, I walked 15 minutes to my bus stop then took the shuttle to my work from Caltrain. I had to start earlier and got to work later, but that beats missing the train or bus altogether.

  • Take an earlier or later bus or train. This doesn't apply to everybody, but for those with a more flexible schedule you can learn which trains and buses are the least crowded.

  • Use the bikecar notifications on Twitter. Riders note which trains have two bike cars on them.

  • Bike the whole distance, especially if your commute is less than 10 miles or so.

  • Bike part of of the way. I'll often bike the 10 miles from my job in Menlo Park to the Mountain View Caltrain station because I know I won't be bumped from the train in Mountain View.

  • Bike to the bus stop or train station and lock your bike up there. You'll probably want to use a beater bike and secure everything removable (seat posts, saddles, handlebars, pedals, etc). Note also that bike parking is limited at busier stations.

  • Walk. If you work or live just a couple of blocks from the bus stop or train station, it may be less hassle to walk than to bike.
Do you have other tips to help bicycling commuters avoid crowded transit?


SiouxGeonz said...

Folders have gotten pretty reasonable in price, too. I've gotten rather fond of mine.

Jeremy said...

What we really need is a bike lane over the bay bridge. I'd easily ride the whole 14 miles to work every day rather than deal with the multi-modal nonsense I'm putting up with now. It should not take an hour to make a 14 mile trip.

Currently I either have to leave extra early to make sure I have a seat on the bike shuttle, or lock-up at the BART, then I'm stuck walking on the other side.

murphstahoe said...

Don't forget Warm Planet Bicycles at 4th/King Caltrain.

Fritz said...

Thanks Murph - I planned to mention it then completely forgot to include that bike parking option in The City.

Jeremy, you're right; bike options from the East Bay are indeed limited. I've looked into boating across the Bay as part of a commute, but the distance is challenging all those container ships and oil tankers are pretty scary, especially when it's foggy.

murphstahoe said...

Jeremy - you need to get the Casual Carpoolers at Rockridge to have a bike rack line...

Jim G said...

Great post. This type of local bike-centric news-reporting is really useful! Thanks!