Written by Sean Jeans Gail
Image courtesy Heb
Caltrans announced November
9 that it has nearly doubled bicycle storage capacity on its San Joaquin and Capitol Corridor trains, enhancing mobility options for Northern Californians looking to escape road congestion and
rising gas prices.
“There’s been a need for additional storage as more and more
people ride bicycles on their commute,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm
Dougherty. “By the end of next year, more than a dozen expanded railcars will
be available for train riders.”
The San Joaquin and
Capitol Corridor routes—which operate
between Bakersfield, Oakland
and Sacramento, and between Auburn
and San Jose, respectively—are
extremely popular services that have seen explosive growth over the past decade. Amtrak California
announced in October that ridership on the San Joaquin route increased
7.2 percent to a record 1.1 million passengers, while the Capital Corridor
passenger counts rose 2.2 percent to a record 1.75 million riders, making them the
5th- and 3rd-ranked routes in Amtrak’s national system.
But this success has brought capacity challenges, especially
for passengers who use bicycles to travel between home to train station to work,
with bikes often spilling in the aisles. Caltrans has taken steps to remedy this
The first expanded railcar serving
Capitol Corridor and San Joaquin passengers
went into service [November 9]. The lower levels of 13 additional railcars will
be converted to increase their bicycle-carrying capacity from three bicycles to
13 bicycles per car, as well as 330 cubic feet of additional luggage storage.
This will increase the average bicycle capacity from 12 bikes per train to 22
bikes per train. Construction on the remaining cars will take approximately
four weeks per car with each one going into service as it is retrofitted.
Five railcars in use in Northern
and Southern California are already equipped
with the new design, and future bi-level cars will also have the extra space.
The problem of getting from the train station to your final
destination—often termed “the last mile problem”—requires integrated,
multi-modal transportation networks. We
tend to focus on traditional instances of this paradigm, such as the passenger who gets off a commuter train and hops on to a subway to get to their office. But improved bicycle and
pedestrian infrastructure is a vital part of the solution to growing transportation
demand in the U.S. Rail planners would be wise to keep this in
mind in their work, and we as advocates must think more broadly about who counts as an ally in the battle for a modern, efficient passenger rail network.