Electric Caltrain

While Caltrain’s staff had been recommending that its new electric trains not include any bathrooms, a move which could have added additional seats to each train and saved on capital and ongoing maintenance costs, the voice of (some) pissed off riders appears to have been heard.

Tomorrow, Caltrain’s Board of Directors is slated to adopt a resolution to include “one Americans with Disabilities Act restroom per six-car [Electric] train” and “undertake an associated effort to explore installation of additional restroom facilities at stations.”

At the same time, and despite the fact that the number of riders with bikes in tow has been growing faster than overall ridership (which has increased nearly 150 percent over the past decade), the aforementioned resolution will maintain the current ratio of one onboard bike space for every nine seats and direct staff to “undertake a parallel effort to modernize wayside bike facilities.”

The Bicycle Coalition had been asking for an increase in onboard bike capacity to one bike per every six seats.

36 thoughts on “New Caltrains Will Have Bathrooms, But No Increase For Onboard Bikes”
  1. one ADA bathroom *per train*? talk about a pointless compromise … (1) now every Tom, Dick and buzzed Harry is going to amble up and down the train (e.g., after Giants games) trying to get to the bathroom… have fun squeezing past folks on those SRO aisles!, and (2) so if you’re in a wheelchair (or otherwise mobility restricted) in any other car, you’re s.o.l.


  2. I regularly ride Caltrain with a bike myself and on occasion can’t get on the train due to crowding, but getting rid of all the restrooms, on a train line where the longest ride is 2 hrs and 22 minutes, was the wrong way to solve the problem. Much better to find $ run more trains, which the planned electrification and other upgrades, if I remember correctly, will at least make technically possible.

    1. I agree, if they want to increase bike capacity they should do so by running more trains with more frequent service.

    2. The longest ride may be that long, but that’s a ride that almost no one takes. The median ride is less than 40 minutes, and the average is less than an hour.

    3. That 2:20 ride goes to Gilroy along a segment not planned for electrification. Gilroy trains will continue to run with the existing diesel gear including bathrooms. At least you won’t need to hold it over two hours. Chop an hour off of that anxiety.

  3. It seemed silly to me to increase bike capacity on trains – bikes should be stored in lockers at stations, there is a lot more room there than on a train. Most people don’t bring fancy bikes on caltrain anyway. With expanded bay area bike share coming soon, that should make it easier for someone to only use their bike from home to station and back, and use a shared bike to get to work and back.

    1. What about those that do not live or work in direct proximity to a station and prefer to cover that distance by bike?

    2. Wrong. I live close to a Caltrain station but work four miles from one. I’m not about to leave my bike – my only means of personal transportation in the city, mind you – in a locker at a station that’s 20 miles from where I live. And there’s no bike share at the Caltrain near where I work.

      1. Well, yes and no. How valuable is that? You could get another bike to leave there– a four mile ride doesn’t need much more than a $100 Walmart special. If the cost of carrying the bike was $6 a day, or $120 a month, that would be a pretty easy choice.

  4. I know this may seem utterly stupid and, oh, I don’t know, practical, but why not just keep track (ahem) of how crowded the bike cars are on each particular run throughout the day and just add additional bike cars to the runs with more cyclists?

    Is the problem here that this “railroad” can’t handle the concept of coupling and uncoupling cars?

    1. Great idea but won’t work well with how Caltrain is configured. Each set of train cars simply reverses direction at SF and SJ, There’s neither time nor space to reconfigure the trainset. If northbound train #1 which has a high demand for bikes becomes southbound #2 which has few bikes then those spaces go to waste.

      But maybe the biggest factor is that any train with a high demand for bikes also has a high demand for everyone else and visa versa. Well targeted, more frequent service would spread out the load and make it better all around. Like how about just extending the morning bullets another hour? C’mon, coders are just fine sleeping in and working late. There’s more than just bankers on Caltrain these days.

        1. Up until a few months ago all trains were five cars long. But now we have a few six car trains to ease crowding. And yes, those differing consists also suffer from the “flipback forced coupling” phenomenon I described above. But at least the capacity change is a net positive rather than a zero-sum of trading off seats for bike racks.

  5. Caltraining bicyclists, if you want more bike cars it is time to ante up. The number of seats displaced for bicycles is almost exactly one for one. Lobby to pay a double fare for a passenger with bike. You’re not making yourself popular with the bulk of Caltrain passengers with the “but it’s a bike and special!” type of whining. I say this as an occasional but not regular caltrain passenger with bike. Pay your freight.

    Also, Caltrain? Why can’t we have a few standing room only open cars on game nights?

    1. Sounds reasonable. To be fair you’d also need to remove the subsidies for riders who arrive at the station by other means. Market rate parking. Even bus riders lose their little subsidy. Only those who walk to and from Caltrain would be unaffected. Hopefully the aggregate impact doesn’t drive more riders to clog 101.

  6. False equivalence. Caltrain is already subsidised. Currently bike passengers enjoy a double caltrain subsidy, at the expense of other passengers when trains are packed. So removing the bike subsidy does not imply removing other passengers’ subsidy.

    1. By “double subsidy” I meant twice the per-passenger subsidy a single passenger enjoys. The two fare load for the price of one is a bike-only benefit.

    2. Because $50 a month for 300 square feet of centrally-located Peninsula land is a totally unsubsidized price.

        1. If you say so. Well, neither is allowing people to bring bikes on board, unless they’re leaving paying passengers standing on the platform.

    3. I don’t understand your reasoning. It doesn’t matter that caltrain is subsidized. Aside from people who walk to and from the station, riders also get a “last mile” subsidy. For bicyclists that subsidy is in the form of a place on the train for their bike. For motorists, it is the parking place at the station. Alai’s $50/mo case isn’t the greatest subsidy. Hundreds of Caltrain riders get free parking. I’m all for phasing out subsidies but it needs to be done comprehensively and fairly.

      1. Mark, I think the recent updated Caltrain Board decision to dump ALL bathrooms on in favor of more bike storage was not a good issue for the bike crowd to fight. Event on pro bike sites some cyclists are questioning the wisdom of adding more free bike storage on trains instead of much needed seating and restrooms.

        1. The seating I can see, the restrooms thing still baffles me. These are commuter trains, and commuter trains almost everywhere else have no restrooms. Why do we feel the need to reinvent the wheel here? (and almost always in a worse way as far as transit is concerned)

  7. The no-bathroom thing on the train was always nuts. Folks who point at Europe should realize that their stations have functioning bathrooms and the Caltrain stations along the peninsula do not and would be expensive to retrofit.

    As for bicyclists…. some kind of a premium for bringing on a bike would probably fly. Caltrain did a great job of mitigating bumping with two bike-cars per train and should be rewarded for it. Not sure how many coders are on bikes these days though — if you take out out the Google/Apple/FB folks, who back in the day were really well represented among the bikers and who have since disappeared into corporate busses, the folks who remain are probably indeed bankers and their friends.

    1. I’m not a banker, nor am I a Google / Apple / FB type. Fewer sweeping generalizations about people who are not you would be appreciated.

      (FWIW, I’m certainly not against a reasonable premium for bikers, provided free parking at Caltrain stations is also eliminated.)

  8. Bicyclists, be aware… you may get this and that but I have a feeling that soon, you will be asked to license your bikes that are ridden in SF and be charged a license fee. Good luck as you grow older… and cannot manage a bicycle any longer.

  9. Is there a reason they don’t mount bike-racks on the outside of the train sides? Kind of like those racks on the front of MUNI buses.

    1. Probably because: 1) those trains hit 70mph or higher, and a bike falling off the side has a lot more potential to either cause damage or cause delays for other trains, and 2) cyclists taking bikes off the outside of the train would almost certainly add time to each stop, which obviously makes for less efficient service.

      1. Plus close clearances in certain areas (retaining walls, tunnels walls, brush); plus pedestrians standing inside the yellow area along platforms.

  10. Editor, the Caltrain Board voted to dump the bathrooms and increase bike storage capacity. (I saw this decision posted last weekend on Streetsblog )

  11. streetsblog says that bikes won over bathrooms. which is correct?

    are we going to have to pee and poop on the bikes now as a surrogate for bathrooms?

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