Harvest Century September 22nd

TriMet grapples with bike capacity issues

Posted by on May 29th, 2008 at 12:23 pm

bikes on max-1

Bikes and people squeeze
onto a MAX train.
(Photos © J. Maus)

As reported yesterday, TriMet is working to improve the bike hooks on their MAX trains. However, if you’re like many people who take a bike onboard (especially during peak hours), the bigger problem is that there are just aren’t enough hooks available.

If you’re waiting for more bike capacity or more hooks, don’t hold your breath — all signs point to no increased bike capacity on MAX in the foreseeable future.

TriMet recently bought new MAX trains and the design offers more seats (eight more per train), more rider capacity (space for 36 more passengers) but has the same number of bike hooks (eight) as existing trains (a “train” is two joined MAX vehicles). Below is a rendering of the new trains (which are slated to arrive this fall):

The scarcity of bike hooks has inspired some riders to make their own.

A homemade bike hook.
(Photo: Mark Allyn)

SE Portland resident and artist Mark Allyn — who commutes everyday to Hillsboro — made his own hook by welding a few spoons together. I’ve heard other reports of people using straps to fasten their wheels to the bar in the bike hook area.

Unfortunately for these do-it-yourselfers, TriMet’s bike programs intern Colin Maher (read more about him here) says that’s not allowed.

Because of safety concerns, Maher says TriMet can’t allow customers to hang a second bike in the bike hook area. “I’ve seen people use their own strap to hang a second bike,” says Maher, “and the result I’ve observed is that the handlebars of the second bike extend almost to the center pole and block the aisle.”

Maher suggests people who bring bikes on MAX take a look at the Bikes on Max section of the TriMet website (or watch this TriMet TV episode) where their official policy states:

“Bikes must be suspended from the hook, one per space. If all the hooks are taken, you may use an area displaying the wheelchair symbol when there are no senior or disabled passengers present who need to use the area…One bike may be placed against the door of the operator’s cab on cars with stairs if the cab is not in use.”

A lack of space for bikes on MAX trains is likely to only get worse as TriMet’s ridership numbers skyrocket and more people look to multi-modal transportation solutions instead of driving their cars.

In August 2007, TriMet conducted research to learn more about their customers who bring bikes on MAX. The survey (a final report is due out later this month) made it clear to TriMet that there are bike capacity issues.

Results of their study (which included an online survey, hand counts, and an on-board surveys) showed that 3.8% of passengers brought bikes on board — that’s an estimated average of 2,100 bike-on-MAX trips every weekday.

bikes on max-2

From 4-6:00pm on the northbound Yellow Line, TriMet researchers counted an average of five bikes per car — that’s one more than capacity (and that number doesn’t take into account how many people decided not to board with a bike because the train was too full).

Eric Hesse, a strategic planning analyst for TriMet said at the January meeting of the Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee that, “The conclusions of this survey suggest that people are using MAX [with their bikes] because it makes their trip possible.”

When asked to give reasons why they took their bike on MAX, 77% of the survey’s respondents said their trip was “too far to bike only” and 76% said they needed their bike to reach their final destination.

The notes from that January meeting state that the results of the survey, “demonstrate a need to accommodate bikes on board,” and that the ability to do so, “expands TriMet’s ability to get more people to use the system.”

Further complicating the issue for TriMet is that 42% of respondents said if they couldn’t bring their bike on MAX during rush-hour they’d otherwise drive a car (the highest percentage of any alternative) and 76% said they would not be willing to leave their bike at a covered, secured parking area at the MAX station.

At the BAC meeting last January, Hesse acknowledged that “we have seen the need to accommodate as much [bike] capacity as we can.”

So, how does TriMet plan to do that (since their new trains don’t have any more hooks)?

On the bus with my folder.

At this point, TriMet says they’ll delve further into their survey data and be on the lookout for other good ideas. One possibility that is being discussed is a program to encourage customers to ride folding bikes. The city of Santa Cruz, California offers a discount of $200 toward the purchase of a foldable bike (upon completion of a bike safety class) as part of their Foldable Bikes on Buses Incentive Program.

Maher, with TriMet’s bike program, says he’s “excited” to create partnerships with the bike industry and promote and encourage folding bikes, “not as the solution,” he says, “but as a great option for commuters that regularly encounter crowded trains or buses.”

Bike capacity on buses faces similar hurdles for riders and for TriMet staff. Some have called for the use of three-bike racks (currently all TriMet buses have a two-bike rack), but Maher says that option is not looking good.

He says they’ve looked into the three-bike design and that it’s not all its cracked up to be. Maher says that in other cities, some bikes have fallen off three-bike racks and that the larger racks are that block the bus’ headlights. Most importantly, he says, they make the buses too long and unable to maneuver around each other at busy transit centers.

As TriMet grapples with high fuel prices, increased ridership, and an increased demand for taking bikes on their trains and buses, it looks like customers who bike will have to schedule trips during off-peak hours (if you can), wait for the next train (or bus), get a foldable bike (but make sure it doesn’t block the aisles!), or just ride all the way to their destination.


Do you have any ideas for how TriMet can add bike capacity? What has been your experience taking your bike onboard?

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87 Comments
  • Avatar
    Coaster May 29, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    We have it so rough! Too many bikes on Public transit? I love this town.

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    John May 29, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    The numbers of bikes on Max in this article seem low to me

    \”From 4-6:00pm on the northbound Yellow Line, TriMet researchers counted an average of five bikes per car — that’s one more than capacity (and that number doesn’t take into account how many people decided not to board with a bike because the train was too full).\”

    I typically see 5 bikes in the half of the car I\’m in, that\’s 10 bikes per car. And I\’ve also frequently seen 10-12 bikes in half the car (4-6 by the hooks and another 4-6 in the handicapped area). And this is from Beaverton to Hillsboro which is my normal commute.
    I don\’t even bother to consider busses as an option. Either the rack is full or I can get there faster by bike anyway, which is especially true at rush hour when the busses make more stops and are stuck in traffic.

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    Roma May 29, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    Here\’s an idea – instead of putting it on the bus, ride it! 🙂

    I can see how there will be more options for the Max to address this issue, but I don\’t see how they\’re going to get more space on a bus.

    I think it\’s going to come down to a choice between riding your bike to your destination, or locking it at a transit center or somewhere and getting on the bus without it.

    I think I\’m a little bias as I\’d rather get up an hour early and ride 20 miles to work than set foot on a bus. It has less to do with my dislike of the bus and more to do with my love of riding my bike. But I do loathe the bus.

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    itripn May 29, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    I occasionally ride Yellow (used to ride it often) with my bike. I will not board if the existing hooks are occupied. It is very irritating when cyclists do.

    I have seen everything from bikes tipping over on other passengers to bikes getting grease stains on other passengers clothing.

    People may think (I do) Tri-met needs more bike capacity, but that doesn\’t give us the right to cram our bikes onto a full train.

    Thoughtless, imho.

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    Ashley May 29, 2008 at 12:51 pm

    It\’s hard not to be frustrated that even though bike capacity is a visibile problem (i.e. just watch the trains during peak hours), it wasn\’t taken into consideration AT ALL in the resign on the train. Only now, when the survey has been completed and looked at on the surface….ALTHOUGH WAIT! It has to be \’delved into\’ first…just to make sure…we really NEED more bike space.

    I\’ll try to reserve my annoyance, but seriously?!

    The folding bike incentive is interesting, I know that for myself I\’d rather bike the whole way than do that, but I can see how a lot of folks would be into it.

    Still pondering…

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    Allison May 29, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    \”Folding bikes\”?

    Folding bikes are super cool, but a new Brompton from Clever Cycles is over $2k. You can get cheaper Bike Fridays, but few people can/will spend that kind of money just so they can take the bike on the bus or max.

    No, I\’m pretty sure they\’re going to continue driving. And don\’t quote math at me how you\’d spend less in a year on gas if you biked everywhere – that\’s how how people on the brink of bicycle commuting are going to see it. They\’re going to see \”fill up today for $50 or buy a $2000 bicycle\”

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    Mmann May 29, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    The big picture is that with some creativity and flexibility, this problem could be solved. Is there the will to do so on the part of Trimet? They certainly don\’t stand to make more money by allowing more space for bikes. I noticed they are planning a fee increase. Does that have to go through an approval process? How about holding up the fee increase until Trimet can address this issue in a satisfactory way?

    Combine this issue with the recent post about PDX making the top 5 bike theft list, (another solvable problem if the police cracked down on bike theft/fencing with more force) and there\’s a couple opportunities to make Portland more bike friendly that don\’t involve big expensive infrastructure, just attention and creativity.

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    Allison May 29, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    Well, Tri-met\’s primary motive isn\’t profit – the fare contributes to their budget but it\’s not the full budget and they have to provide a service to keep the people in Salem happy.

    And I think, yes, they will get more fares if more bicyclists can ride – as long as it\’s not crowding out other riders (which is, I think, the concern and a real concern – one bicyclist not driving is not morally superior to 5 or so pedestrians not driving).

    Fares are going up because it takes fuel to make a bus go. They do not split fares for MAX and Bus (and in most cases, people think that\’s a pretty convenient thing, that your transfer takes you anywhere in the system) but it means they have to take in more money to keep purchasing deisel. It\’s still a much smaller increase that motorists are paying to fill their gas tanks.

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    Metropoliscyles May 29, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    Dahon has 20\” wheel folding bikes for $400-500. Not as nice as Brompton or Bike Friday, but more than good enough for a commuter.

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    Dusty May 29, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    I ride from Fairview (Gresham) to Portland everyday for work. I started out pedalling the 20 mile commute everyday, but after a while (and wear on my bike) it becomes necessary to take a break.

    So, I bought a Dahon folding bike, and now I ride Max on and off, and I love it. To me, there is no clear cut solution to the Max/Bike issues here, there is only a need for individual change (because honestly, are YOU going to sit and wait for public transit to change, or are you going to make a change?)

    Be more flexible, hey?

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    Paul May 29, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    Maybe TriMet should get into the bicycle rental/sharing business like Deutsche Bahn does. Get off a train and take a bike.

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    toddistic May 29, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    creative idea: run more trains! GASP!

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    lance May 29, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    Regarding bikes on the MAX, I’ve wondered if you offset the aisle way from the center of the car to one side, removed the full height pole with the handholds, and ran the plexiglass partition across where the center aisle way is now, if there would be enough room for 3 official bike hooks in lieu of the one by each door that the cars have now. That might be a small bore way to gain a little extra bike capacity. Beyond that, I don’t see any good ways of getting more dedicated bike capacity. What might (or might not, I have not idea what kind of safety regs, ADA regs, etc that Trimet needs to deal with) be doable is to remove all of the hooks, seats, partitions, etc. between the stairs and where the car hinges in the middle and make that a general free for all space that could be occupied by bikes, wheelchairs, strollers, bags full of used cans, or whatever else people want to carry on. You could then fit a few more seats on the other half of the car where the wheelchair space and bike hooks would have been. You could also fit a lot of people standing in the open area which would be nice for times like Blazers games or parades when the MAX really gets full.

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    Greg May 29, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    The sad thing is that even the new WES (commuter rail system to Wilsonville) will be limitted to only 4 bike space per train every 30 minutes. Sure wish Trimet would figure this stuff out!

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    Paul May 29, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    A naive question – why do most folks put bikes on the train? Especially on the Yellow Line, that is a short line with relatively flat terrain. It seems a bike would be faster. Is it weather? Hills from the westside? Would more bike lockers at stations work?

    Just trying to get a handle on what riders combine transit with bikes. I\’ve only used buses and because something broke off the bike.

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    Nancy May 29, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    What about a bike car only during peak periods?? If you build it, they will come!

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    todd May 29, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    Hey Allison #5, Bromptons start around $1K at Clever Cycles, not $2K — most popular configs are ~$1.3K. Not chump change, but still a fine value (disclosure: commercial interest, but i ride them too). Dahon makes some decent folders at much lower prices; see Coventry Cycle Works.

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    Vance May 29, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    I\’ve never been much of a fan of mass-transit. It\’s one of the reasons I ride in the first place. When I say, \”…not a fan…\”, I only mean for me personally, as a user. Love the mass-transit as a concept. Just being clear. Support it all the way. But there is a different take. If you are riding out of an environmental commitment, it bears considering that buses and trains use resources that could be saved by sticking strictly to the cycle. To me, it\’s a bit like biking for the enviro, only to throw my recyclables into the garbage. Plus, maybe a citizen who CAN\’T bike, for whatever reason, then gets my seat, savvy?

    Only until we can get cleaner \’tricklicity for them trains, that is! Then you can count me in!

    Glad to see this is a priority for Tri-Met. That\’s a, \”My how times have changed.\”, thing any way you cut it.

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    Blue commute May 29, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    I\’m a fan of bike rentals at Max stations. We could use bike rental stations all over the city, but seeing bike rentals work in other cities makes me wonder why it isn\’t here yet?!

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    peejay May 29, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    Paul:

    I use the Red or Blue Max line from Goose Hollow to Sunset TC every morning and the reverse every evening. My commute involves 3 miles of biking at one end and 3.5 miles at the other end. I\’m in decent shape, but if I had to pedal up over the hill every day, I don\’t think I\’d be all that pleasant to be around at work. My commute requires both my bike and the train. (I agree that it makes less sense on the Yellow line, but people may have their own reasons.)

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    JDL May 29, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    I put my bike on the train for the segment of my commute – through the West Hills tunnel – where the train moves me faster than I can pedal. I commute from my home in inner NE PDX to my job in Hillsboro. If I bike all the way, it takes me 80-90 minutes each way. Without a bike, walk-bus-MAX-walk takes me 90 minutes. My bike-MAX-bike trip takes 50-60 minutes. I need my bike at both ends of the train ride so lockers at stations don\’t help me at all.

    I\’ve seen as many as 20 bikes on a single MAX car. Riders are creative at stuffing bikes in. Anything goes as long as bikes don\’t block the aisles and yield to wheelchairs.

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    Paul Souders May 29, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    I had friends in Antwerp (in \’96) who kept bikes at both ends of the line (they rode an intercity train that didn\’t allow bikes). I think this might be a more common pattern in places where bikes are much cheaper and seen as interchangeable basic transportation.

    My friends suffered frequent bike thefts, especially on the downtown end where the bikes sat outside all night. There were always bikes (probably stolen) for sale around Centraal station. They often found themselves buying the same bikes again, usually for less than $10 … \”oh I remember this blue bike, I should buy it again.\” In actual practice it was kind of a hybrid of bike rentals and yellowbikes.

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    Tom May 29, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    I\’m with #19 & 20 above. It\’s a little difficult to ride over the Hills then work a 12.5 hour shift on my feet as a nurse…it just isn\’t going to happen. I guess I could use a bike box at the west end, but I work nights and am not too keen on leaving my bike overnight…even if it \”secured\”.

    How about special bike trains between Beaverton TC and Goose Hollow during rush hour? That\’s where the majority of folks are riding MAX between, from my observations.

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    Paolo May 29, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    Most people I see ride the MAX have very cheap bikes, in very bad conditions. The folding bike idea is just a joke, even for the regular commuter it would make no sense to get a new bike so he can ride the train and plus do they really save space? Are they more MAX friendly? I have a folding tandem I should try to see how it works on the MAX I guess.

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    jeff May 29, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    Busses too; I\’ve been turned away from the #96 (Downtown to Tualatin) a few times now with my bike. Though it wasn\’t much of a problem in the winter, when I really needed the bus as part of my commute. Once though, the driver let me carry it on and sit with it.

    This is a tough problem to solve for sure, but worth the effort if we want to recruit more long distance commuters (10+ miles each way).

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    Tbird May 29, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    Folding bikes, no need for a hook, just fold and board.

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    Bicycledave May 29, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    I think bikes at both ends of the commute are fairly common in Europe. When we were in England we sat next to a nice guy on a crowded commuter train from Bath headed South. So crowded that we sat on the floor between trains next to the bathrooms. He told us he used to carry his bike on, but after having to wait for the next train too many times he bought an inexpensive used bike to keep at the work end of his commute.

    Excellent bike parking facilities at each station would definitely make this more palatable. A Paris-like bike rental program would be another option for a bike at one end.

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    crossit May 29, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    As for \’why bikes on the yellow line\’… Peeps in the Couv commute to the end of the line there. Some times it takes an hour, just to get there. So it sounds like a common theme is that the trains often play part 2, of a ride, max, ride commute.

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    E May 29, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    I put my bike on the Yellow Line. I\’m not fast or fit enough to ride the whole way, esp. in the afternoon when it\’s warm – which is exactly when that train is most bike-crowded, so clearly I\’m not alone. And most of those other bike people look like me – decent bikes and gear but nothing fancy, reasonably good health but not hard-core athletes.

    It bothers me that Trimet didn\’t even TRY, given the demand is clearly there. I guess there\’s nothing in it for them. But I also see \”too many bikes\” as a good problem to have. And I certainly don\’t HAVE to put my bike on the MAX. There are lots of choices between downtown and NoPo – unlike that Goose Hollow-Sunset stretch, where MAX is really the only good option for many.

    I don\’t see either folding bikes or bike lockers as a solution by themselves. Bike lockers could be combined with bike rentals – I could leave my bike in a locker at one end, pick up a rental at the other and drop it off near my office. I still wouldn\’t have my bike for after work stuff though. Easiest for me is to quit riding and just do the ped/bus/max thing – but what fun would that be?

    😀

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    Andy May 29, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    Looking at the big picture, the problem ins\’t that people going from their homes in Portland to the jobs in Hillsboro can\’t get their bikes on public transit, the problem is that our communities are designed in such a way that people who live in Portland work in Hillsboro. I\’m not blaming individuals here. It\’s the way our culture is structured.

    Working within the reality that we have, I agree with Nancy\’s idea of having a bike-only car. I suggest that one train an hour, and two an hour during peak hours, could have one car designed to hold only bikes. Yes, this would require running more trains. That\’s going to happen anyway. A bike-only car could probably hold around 30 bikes.

    Which brings me to the issue of how much under capacity they really are. For every bicyclist who crams their bike onto a car that already has four other bikes on one end, I would bet there are five more bicyclists who don\’t consider MAX an option because it is so consistently over capacity. Taking surveys on the train won\’t reveal this. And for every bicyclist who doesn\’t consider bike-MAX a workable combination, there may be two non-cyclists who are non-cyclists because they don\’t consider it to be an option.

    Finally, on folding bikes, Dahon makes a folder that sells for $170. If you gave me a $200 incentive, I\’d probably buy one. 🙂

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    Jeff P May 29, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    Re: Folding Bikes

    Two people in our office have and use them; one of those dual commutes using the Tri-Met bus to/through his neighborhood to avoid a hill or two. He has been refused access to the bus on a few occasions because a particular driver doesn\’t let him board with his Dahon [regardless of the number of people on the bus].

    He won\’t comment to Tri-Met because the next bus will let him board no issues.

    I say – just ride; that\’s what bikes are for.

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    AdamR May 29, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    Would it be feasible for each MAX train to include 1 car that is designed primarily for bikes. For example, could one car be reconfigured to allocate an entire half of the car for bike hooks, with the other half for passenger seating. Cyclists just board the cycle-friendly car, and normal riders board a normal car. Then the aggregate capacity of each train for bikes goes up to something like 40 or 50 bikes or something like that.

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    Jerrod May 29, 2008 at 3:01 pm

    1- I put an Electra Amsterdam on the MAX from Goose Hollow to Sunset TC everyday; it\’s too long for the hook, so I HAVE to put it somewhere else.

    2- If I didn\’t use my bike with the MAX, I would rarely use Trimet. WAYYYY too slow.

    3- For the most part, people should not put their bikes on the MAX when only traveling downtown. You can go 219 times faster just riding your bike.

    4- Putting the bike on the Yellow line saves a lot of time if you\’re going to Delta Park or the Expo center or something, but if you\’re going somewhere closer and it\’s not coming for over 8 minutes, riding is faster. For me, it\’s all about speed and efficiency.

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    Dillon May 29, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    I don\’t think Tri-Met is obligated to make more room for bikes. Its just not a very good use of space. I\’d rather see a train car that can carry say 50 people instead of 20 people and 20 bikes.

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    Tbird May 29, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    Andy- Santa Cruz Co. has recently introduced an incentive program for annual pass holders to get up to $300 ( I think) back on the purchase of a folder.
    I think Tri-Met is considering doing this…

    As far as a bus driver refusing access to the bus with a folder, well, there\’s one in every crowd.
    Still, as for the train, I see folders as the most viable option.

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    Brad May 29, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    Simple solution: REMOVE SEATS.

    There is no good reason why at least half of each MAX car cannot be Bikes / Standing Room. Keep enough seats for the elderly and infirm. Keep an area for wheelchairs or strollers like the current set-up. The current number of seats actually creates less space, comfort, and safety for MAX riders. Check out the poor souls that have to cram themselves on at Sunset Transit each day during the morning rush. It\’s a contortionist show for those without bikes and the trains are just going to get more crowded as gas prices go up.

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    Allison May 29, 2008 at 4:03 pm

    Dillion:

    \”obligated\”? No. Should they? That\’s a completely different question.

    We need to decide what the goal is and how best to reach it – if the goal is fewer cars on the road, increasing bike capacity on MAX (as long is it didn\’t decrease non-bike boardings) would do that.

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    GLV May 29, 2008 at 4:16 pm

    \”It bothers me that Trimet didn\’t even TRY…\”

    Oh come on. A more bike-friendly rail system in this country you will not find.

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    Allison May 29, 2008 at 4:26 pm

    AdamR #32

    The short answer is no. We\’re not talking about MAX cars that are half empty – we\’re talking at full capacity during peak hours. The non-peak hours aren\’t really a problem because the surplus bikes have standing room (even if it\’s less than optimal).

    We don\’t have the standing room to give up to those bikes.

    Yellow line, I think, it a bit different. I don\’t know how often it goes at capacity, but when I ride it it\’s most certainly *not* at capacity but the bike hooks are full and there\’s usually a few surplus bikes, too.

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    Allison May 29, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    GLV:

    Your point is well taken, but I don\’t think comparing Portland to other cities is helpful – we can be so much more.

    Trimet\’s serving a big bike constituency. The facilities ought to reflect that.

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    Dabby May 29, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    First of all,

    A comment above blatantly states that \”Tri-met\’s primary motive isn\’t profit – the fare contributes to their budget but it\’s not the full budget and they have to provide a service to keep the people in Salem happy.\”

    If this was the the case (which it isn\’t) we would not have problems with overly crowded trains, bike storage, broken ticket machines etc. We would not have drivers so concerned with time frames and ridership that they will jeopardize the lives of cyclists and pedestrians alike. For that matter they would not employ at all, or would immediately and publicly review and fire or reprimand any driver that has, now or in the past, shown a single bit of disdain towards a vulnerable road user, whether this disdain was discovered through work ethic, or in statements to Tri Met or other drivers.

    Tri Met is not about keeping the people in Portland happy. Tri Met is about fares, money and schedules, above and beyond the wants, needs, and safety of the public it is supposed to serve.

    Also, it is horribly sad that, after designing and ordering a load of new trains (at like 7 million a car or something? I forget the number, I read it a while back), Tri Met\’s only real solution to this obvious problem is for people to switch to folding bikes.

    How ludicrous is that?

    It should be noted that there is plenty of agreement on that note here in these comments, interestingly enough, some by those who happen to sell folding bikes…

    One last note..

    The bike capacity of a large percentage of Train Trips is cut down by at least half, due to the fact that bicycles are not really allowed on the elevated deck trains. These elevated deck trains make up a large amount of the two car train trips. This fact has not really been referred to in any of the info I have come across, unless I happened to miss it.

    Public transportation my A##.

    Thank you, and have a good day.

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    Dabby May 29, 2008 at 4:31 pm

    Also,

    I implore you to check out the bike hooks on the Hiawatha line in Minneapolis.

    Much, much better design than we could even hope to have.

    http://metrotransit.org/bike/index.asp

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    c May 29, 2008 at 4:39 pm

    The Yellow Line is a boon for casual riders who are fine on the flats but aren\’t up to taking Interstate from bottom to top. Not everyone who bikes is a 20-mile commuter — it\’s a diverse community — but they\’re doing their part to reduce pollution and improve their health. No one should be shamed for using public transit to facilitate their bike commute, and public policy should be that we do whatever we can to encourage and support it.

    I know that other light rail systems feature bike-specific cars, and would love to see Trimet experiment with an all-SRO carriage specially designed to roll bikes on/off. It\’s unfortunate that we\’re so committed as a culture to over-engineering things, because you know that no matter how no-frills such a car would be, the expense will be sufficient to incur at least one strike against it from the start. Honestly, if MAX could tow an old boxcar with a handrail welded around the inside, I\’d be satisfied, but I don\’t see it happening. More\’s the pity.

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    Allison May 29, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    I find the generic enmity towards Trimet a bit puzzling. I had always felt non-car commuters had a sense of camraderie with each other.

    Trimet is a government program and like every government program, it has its ups and down and problems to overcome, but over all it\’s an excellent transit system with one of the highest safety ratings in the country and indeed has set the bar for light rail safety as other cities have begun their own LRT networks.

    I really like the trimet-to-bike multimodal possibilities – my boyfriend and I road the MAX to Gresham TC a few weeks back, biked to Dabney Park, and then bicycled home. This is a trip I\’ve only ever made by car before. Trimet increases my bicycle\’s range, sometimes gets me where I want to go faster than I can on two wheels and the bike gets me the rest of the way faster than my feet.

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    Allison May 29, 2008 at 4:46 pm

    c #43

    SECONDED

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    GLV May 29, 2008 at 4:48 pm

    \”The bike capacity of a large percentage of Train Trips is cut down by at least half, due to…the elevated deck trains.\”

    Not true. The 100 series trains comprise significantly less than half of the fleet, and once the 400s arrive, it will be an even smaller percentage.

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    GLV May 29, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    \”I know that other light rail systems feature bike-specific cars\”

    Where?

    Keep in mind the alphabet-soup regulatory environment TriMet works in. Can\’t get rid of wheelchair spaces…ADA doesn\’t allow it. Can\’t tow around an old box car…it wouldn\’t meet FRA crash/safety requirements. Et cetera.

    Running more trains isn\’t a viable option, either, because a) that costs money, and b) once the Green Line opens, the Steel Bridge bottleneck will be just about at capacity during rush hour.

    The animosity toward TriMet is completely unfounded. We are very lucky we have what we do, given the size of this city. Let\’s not lose sight of that.

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    Dabby May 29, 2008 at 5:14 pm

    GLV,

    You appear to work for Tri Met in some capacity, due to your intimate knowledge of the train numbers, design, etcetera. Not to mention your apparent undying need to defend a obviously flawed transportation system.

    I, on the other hand, have an unbiased eye towards the goings on of Tri Met, and am fully aware that a lot of two car trains include one elevated deck car.

    I was not quoting numbers, I was making an observation, due to actual trains I see.

    The new cars you speak of will do nothing to help this bike problem.

    The new cars will however give Tri Met a good excuse to spend a grotesque amount of funds on equipment not suited to the needs of the public. The same public that Tri Met relies partially upon to continue offering service.

    They will also allow for more rate hikes, under the guise of economy/fuel costs

    Also, to those of you touting a need for a bike only car…

    If Tri Met won\’t take out a couple of seats per car to add more bike storage, what the hell makes you think they are going to produce bike only trains, then give up a whole car at rush hour to pull just bikes?

    Pipe Dreams….

    Wake up and smell the cat food (in your bank account) \”TMBG\”

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    BURR May 29, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    Allison – TriMet is not a government program, it is a corporation.

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    Spencer May 29, 2008 at 5:21 pm

    Sorry if this is a repeat, but I got bored reading at #30.

    Part of the problem is too many seats, poles and partitions. We should go to the english subway model of having the train seats (for the old and elderly) and the other half just open space with hangars from the ceiling that people grasp. This really opens up the space and increases the capacity.

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    Elaine May 29, 2008 at 5:28 pm

    Being able to take bikes on the MAX (and buses) is so helpful for new (bike) riders who aren\’t yet able or willing to do their entire commute by bike. I think that\’s the saddest thing about this issue.

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    GLV May 29, 2008 at 5:29 pm

    I don\’t work for TriMet, dabby. I am, however, a bit of a railhead. It\’s quite simple: each train has a 3-digit serial number painted in several places on the outside of the train. If it starts with a 1 (i.e., \”the 100 series\”), it is part of the original fleet from 1986 (with high level boarding). The 200s came in 1998 when the westside opened, 300s with Interstate, 400s will arrive with the mall/205. See? Easy.

    \”equipment not suited to the needs of the public. The same public that Tri Met relies partially upon to continue offering service.\”

    \”The public\” consists of who? Cyclists like you and me? Or everyone they levy payroll taxes against to pay the vast majority of their day-to day costs? I say the latter, and I think they serve \”the public\” admirably. I don\’t know where your anger comes from (but I wonder that every time you post anything).

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    Dabby May 29, 2008 at 5:56 pm

    The public as in everyone. Everyone.
    Which includes you and me. We are \”All\” the public, whether we ride, drive, walk, or even crawl.

    As a self proclaimed \”railhead\”, I do not doubt that you would think that Tri Met does an admirable job. My friends son, at 4, is a railhead too, and could not imagine anything wrong with anything having to do with a train.

    I however know this is not the case. Yet I would never tell him that, I like that he has that point of view at that young age. Innocence is bliss.

    I will however tell you.

    There are many, many signs that point to this. I should hope that they would be obvious to anyone.

    As to where my anger comes from? It is not anger at all.

    It is called passion and caring for what is going on around us…And not being afraid to point out the obvious.

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    Coaster May 29, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    #30 Andy, I agree with you, the problem lies in the organization of our communities. I would like to add that it also lies with our time schedules. Why does most everyone go to work and goes back home at roughly the same time? I\’ve often felt that if I could work Thursday through Monday, and take Tuesday and Wednesday off, I would avoid all kinds of timing inconviences. I have friends in California who do just that, because of traffic and tolling.

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    Qwendolyn May 29, 2008 at 6:20 pm

    The folding bike solution isn\’t really that great of an idea.

    Those things take up space too. They\’re like a small stroller. They wouldn\’t increase capacity all that much.

    Also, no offense meant to folding bike contingency, but they might just as well hand out t-shirts that say \’dork.\’

    …just kidding.

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    Michael Oman-Reagan May 29, 2008 at 6:29 pm

    This is kind of silly…. on the NYC subway, there are no hooks – you just wheel your bike on and hang out with the other passengers. Getting grease on people? Get a civilized bike with a chain guard. ; )

    Re:
    \”I occasionally ride Yellow (used to ride it often) with my bike. I will not board if the existing hooks are occupied. It is very irritating when cyclists do.

    I have seen everything from bikes tipping over on other passengers to bikes getting grease stains on other passengers clothing.

    People may think (I do) Tri-met needs more bike capacity, but that doesn\’t give us the right to cram our bikes onto a full train.

    Thoughtless, imho.\”

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    Jessica Roberts May 29, 2008 at 7:06 pm

    TriMet trains are increasingly at capacity. Person + bike takes up more room than just a person. (Yes, person + stroller is a different issue…but usually there\’s another little person in the stroller.) I think that TriMet\’s non-biking riders would be justifiably outraged if they removed people spots to increase bike spots. It\’s a real conundrum, and I don\’t envy TriMet (or all the folks who are regularly stranded by trains and buses because the bike racks are full).

    TriMet is over capacity on bikes, the Hawthorne Bridge is over capacity on bikes, I regularly can\’t find bike parking at businesses. It\’s an epidemic these days! Too many bikes! Not really…but more bikes than anyone ever imagined, and more bikes than our current systems can accommodate.

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    nate May 29, 2008 at 7:35 pm

    I have always thought that most of us riding our bikes and taking the MAX would be fine standing during our trip. It would seem that a section of the train where there are 20-40 hooks with no seats would make spacial sense and keep the MAX riders who get easily upset at the accidental handlebar contact in a different section at a safe distance.

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    Bdan May 29, 2008 at 8:57 pm

    @ Dabby
    Tri Met\’s budget comes predominately from the employer payroll tax, not fares. Fares make up less then 50% of Tri Met\’s budget. If you look at it from a budget perspective Tri Met is directly responsible to businesses who pay the majority of the budget. This is why the Max first went downtown and then why it went to Hillsboro. These are where the jobs are. Business pays for mass transit so it connects folks to their jobs. @ Bikes: There is no way to add more hooks, instead creativity will be needed to accommodate more bikes. I personally think the bike rental service is the best solution. You ride your bike to the transit station park it in a secure locker, ride the max, get off ride a rented bike. At the end of the day you ride your bike home. Simple for those who come from Vancouver, or commute to Hillsboro.

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    Dabby May 29, 2008 at 9:02 pm

    I know where Tri Met\’s money comes from by the way.

    Thanks though…

    So, using your explanation, Tri Met is all about money, not public service.
    Thanks for helping make my point…

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    Matthew Denton May 30, 2008 at 12:06 am

    Depending on my mood and weather and how much of a hurry I\’m in, I either ride over the hill from Beaverton to downtown or I take MAX. But MAX cuts ~20 minutes off the trip, so I can\’t blame people for doing it…

    I work in Beaverton and live in North Portland and I\’ve been playing around with going over the hill via Skyline/St Johns Bridge, but I\’m still looking for a good route. Other than the fact that I had to walk part of my route today: the geometry on my bicycle prevents me from climbing steeper than certain grades if I don\’t want to flip over backwards, it was actually a fairly fast trip. And #30, I actually do blame myself for that one, and that is a lot of the reason why I\’m looking for a faster route that doesn\’t require the train, (the other solution is to get a new job or a new house…)

    Until recently there was a \”bicycle only train\” from Beaverton TC to Goose Hollow that ran every 15 minutes. I mean, it wasn\’t marked as such, (it actually had a big red sign that said \”Airport\”,) but if you got on it at Beaverton TC, you\’d notice that about half the people had bicycles. But they started running it all the way to Hillsboro at the very peak of rush hour, so you can\’t count on it having room like you used to, (at least, not for those 1.5 hours of the day.) That said, even now if you look carefully at the schedules, you can normally find a time when there are two trains traveling very close together: Get on the second one, and there is usually room…

    The Yellow line has a capacity problem, and it it caused be the fact that it only runs one car a lot of the time. I\’ve been on it at 9pm, (without my bicycle,) and it was packed. They need to run two car trains there all the time, like they did when they first opened it. Don\’t confuse that with a bike hook problem, it has that too: but they just need to run full length trains.

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    april May 30, 2008 at 6:34 am

    To the guy who wondered why take the max at all:

    When I started bike commuting, I lived in SE Portland and worked in Beaverton. Taking the bus, then the max, then my 20-minute walk, my commute was around two hours each way. When I acquired a bicycle, I rode my bike to the max, and then from the max stop to work. Voila, I cut half an hour from my commute time.

    However, that bike (which I still love) is super-heavy (yay for British steel) and I was not used to riding, so just that amount of riding was very tiring for me at first.

    I ride a lighter bike now and only commute a few miles (biking the whole way), but if I have an appointment at Kaiser? I take the yellow line up there. I bike back, though.

    And if I\’m visiting my parents in Beaverton, I still take the max, with my bike.

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    Zagreus May 30, 2008 at 8:02 am

    Response to Jeff P. #31. Your friend should call 238-RIDE regarding the driver who won\’t let him board with the folding bike. Tri-Met allows folding bikes on board–they take less space than a full grocery cart or a baby buggy. The driver may not be aware of this, or if he is aware and chooses to disregard it, management needs to be informed.

    The first time I encountered a folding bike it gave me a brief pause since I had not seen one before, but common sense prevailed and the passenger boarded with his bike with no problems.

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    biker May 30, 2008 at 8:53 am

    This is a very difficult problem that doesn\’t have any simple solutions…hmmm.. I agree with the comment about TriMet getting into the bike sharing business. The major problem with locking your bike up before you board the train is that commuters typically need their bikes on both ends of their trip. Having a bike share program where you take a bike after you get off the train would help this issue.

    As a biker I hate to admit it, but maybe TriMet should increase the fares slightly for those traveling with bicycles. 5 to 10 cents or so wouldn\’t be that much and maybe it would help them cover the cost of more bike friendly rennovations. Like an entire MAX car dedicated to bicycles, similar to how Amtrak currently deals with bikes. Hopefully, when gas prices keep rising a MAX car loaded with bicycles will be a familiar site.

    All and all having to many bikes in the city is a wonderful problem to have and it makes me grateful to live in Portland!!

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    fun fact May 30, 2008 at 8:59 am

    TriMet is not a government program, it is a corporation.

    TriMet, or the Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon, is a Mass Transit District organized under ORS Chapter 267. It is a public entity operated by a board appointed by the governor. It is part of \”the government,\” if you will. It is also a municipal corporation (ORS 267.200), like all cities and other special districts (water districts, fire districts, etc.) It is not a private corporation.

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    Lenny Anderson May 30, 2008 at 11:07 am

    Secure lockers at all MAX stations.
    I have a locker at the Rose Quarter, have had it for several years. I ride there and hop the 85 bus to Swan Island.
    No security issues…I have the key.
    Recently TriMet added two more lockers there…now there are six, but there is room for double that number.
    No locker at your station? Get a \”beater\” and chain it up somewhere; it will be OK.
    More and better lockers can make a big difference.

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    Mike May 30, 2008 at 11:29 am

    Tri-Met is a monopoly and therefore has no competitive incentive to be either more efficient or, accomodating. The most outrageous part of this article was that it seems the decision makers are oblivious to the problems, especially at rush hour. They needed a study to determine that there are more bikes than hooks? Do any of them ride public transit at rush hour? Now they need further study?

    Strip out most of the seating, make one wall of each car bike hooks.

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    Joe May 30, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    Oooh, I like this idea. One wall for standing, one wall for sitting. Or one car per train that has reduced seating and multiple bike hooks.

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    Andrea May 30, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    A foldable bike is a great idea! Now who\’s going to buy one for me? I can pitch in a $200 coupon!

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    TriMetiquette May 30, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    Nice post, Jonathan.

    I\’ve had this happen to my fiancee and I before… there wasn\’t enough space for both of us to get on with our bikes. So we used one hook for two bikes… and that was a bad idea; the bike slipped off once, smacking me in the face.

    This is a major concern

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    Duncan May 31, 2008 at 10:24 am

    at 6\’6\” I can only think that me on a fold bike would look like Homer simpson on that clown bike… you know the one where Crusty says \”burn that bike!\”

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    bikefridaywalter May 31, 2008 at 11:10 am

    $2000 folding bikes? Sure, but if you want a basic one, Bike Friday\’s got options starting at $845. Stock options. That would properly fit someone over 6 foot tall. All that for a handbuilt OREGON-MADE (read: money stays in our own economy) bicycle made by a green company that comes with a lifetime warranty. And if the bus ever breaks down, no matter how long your commute, you can do it in style and comfort.

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    Brad May 31, 2008 at 8:40 pm

    No one hould be forced to buy a folding bike just to use TriMet. TriMet needs to accommodate the growing number of COMMUTERS that use bikes for some parts of their trip.

    How fair is it to make someone earning minimum wage to ditch his current bike and go buy something expensive just to keep a few non-riders happy? That seems to defeat the democratic utility of the bike. Then only the strong or privileged will be riding.

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    namasan June 1, 2008 at 10:50 am

    I absolutely LOVE my Dahon Speed P8 folding bike. I\’ve been using it on the MAX for over a couple years now and have never once seen another folding bike on while riding 🙁 It\’s my only bike and I use it for everything! I even have a folding basket on it. Folds up super easy and quick and easily fits in a car trunk too.

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    Ken June 2, 2008 at 9:41 am

    New occational bike commuter from the couve:

    #43 I like your idea. I pedal about 5 or so hilly miles to the Expo Center to board the Yellow line. Then from the Rose Qtr to my office is another 2 miles on the EB Esplanade. I love the ride but I\’m not to the point where I could do the whole thing in decent time.

    I often wondered if they could put a bike/Stand only car between two regular cars and just let the front and rear entrances extend beyond the platform and lock out the doors during the peak.

    Lastly a gripe about the hooks… I bought a new Kona Smoke 2-9 to commute. The newer 29er wheels make the bike too long for the hook… When the front wheel is hanin\’ the rear wheel is rolling around on the floor. First time in my rear fender folded back on it\’s self!

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    Patrick June 2, 2008 at 6:52 pm

    Gwendolyn @ #56 — Where do you want to meet me and my fixed gear Swift Folder for a race? Loser has to wear a \”DORK\” T-shirt.
    I\’m not worried… 😉

    KEN #76 — tried turning your handlebars 180? Gets the rear wheel up a couple of inches.

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    Duncan June 3, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    I think that if bikers are willing to pay for the service (of peak hour bikes) then Tri Met should work to make it happen.

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    torrilin June 3, 2008 at 3:33 pm

    Is there a reason why TriMet trains must have only 2 cars? I\’ve ridden on plenty of trains with far more cars in other cities. Even if the stations are small and only allow people to disembark from two cars, it seems to work well.

    Sticking with a car limit penalizes pedestrians just as much as cyclists. It seems very shortsighted to me.

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    Anne June 3, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    You have it a lot better than we do in Chicago. Our CTA (local) trains only allow 2 bikes per car during non-rush hour periods (2-8 car trains, depending on route and time of day). Our Metra trains (longer distance commuter routes) allow 3 bikes per handicap-accessible car (1-4 such cars per train) with longer blackout periods and many blackout days or weekends per year. All CTA (city) and Pace (suburban) buses have racks for 2 bikes on the front, available at all times.

    I got a Dahon Speed folding bike specifically to take on trains (bagged) during rush hour. It\’s worked out great for me.

    I\’m looking forward to checking out Portland next week.

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    Todd Boulanger June 4, 2008 at 12:35 am

    In reply to #79 – There is a small urban design issue why Portland MAX cars are usually 2 cars long…the ~220 ft long blocks in Portland (and Vancouver).

    Policy could adapt:
    – move to double decker trains (Hong Kong)
    – extend platforms across side streets (close side street to cars – bike and pedestianize them)/
    – load in the intersections also (like Philly and older LRT systems do/ did), block side streets
    – subway or El trains/ monorail

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    Todd Boulanger June 4, 2008 at 1:07 am

    Reply to Matthew: The yellow line started out with 2 cars on all trips…but since the cars were running empty (except for me) north of Lombard they moved the new capacity to the Red Line (2 cars)./

    Yes how about a bike car – like the Caltrain train sets (32 bikes per train – pre Baby Bullet car)? Take a soon to retire car out of service and remove 1/2 the seats or convert the seat layout to parallel and flip up to allow bikes, wheelchairs, cargo (like Amsterdam), straphangers to use all the space vs. moving seats. (I think Kiran L. was working on a Berlin style flip up seat/ bike friendly MAX car layout … but it dies when he left Trimet.)

    As for Bromptons…yes you pay a bit more…but it folds so sweat I just slip it under the flip up seat on a bus and no problems. The Strida also is pretty tight if you can handle the steering.

    A mini U lock is another \’spare\’ hook for the MAX.

    For those with long bikes (29ers, Dutch city bikes, Amsterdam Electras) – try hanging your bikes from the rear wheel…not the front. The also protects the rear lamp lense on the fender. It works for me.

    I would skip the Yellow MAX – Vancouver to City Center – if PDOT did two things…fill in all the \’missing\’ bike lanes on Interstate and consider adding a \’bike lift\’ up Overlook. (I do pedal up it or shoot over to Williams Vancouver…less steep grade…but sometimes it is a long day/ full shopping load/girl friend with limited pedaling range/ rain, etc.)

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    Todd Boulanger June 4, 2008 at 1:12 am

    As for on demand bike parking at each end of your transit trip…consider:
    – bikestation (soon to open on Tempe AZ\’s LRT line) http://www.bikestation.org
    – eLocker\’s Bikelink on demand smart card bike lockers. http://www.bikelink.org (In use in Vancouver.)

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    Chilly Willy June 4, 2008 at 10:57 am

    There are fundamental design flaws with the hooks. Aside from wasting space, anyone under 5-8 or with limited technique/upper body strength can\’t get them on the hooks.

    Has anyone else used the light rail in Minneapolis? They seem to have a more effective solution for hanging bikes.

    My limited descriptive capacity doesn\’t do it justice, but it\’s essentially a row of mounts in the middle of the car on both sides, with the wheels facing the outside wall.

    The same setup on a MAX car would sit in the articulation dead zone, so it wouldn\’t work- but a modified version on the ends where one bike now hangs would probably double or triple MAX capacity for bikes and discourage the usual suspects from standing in the area and blocking egress for the rest of the passengers.

    I wish I had time to go to some of these meetings. It doesn\’t seem like Tri-met has studied what works and doesn\’t work on other systems enough.

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    Dabby June 4, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    I posted a link to the Hiawatha line in Minn. on the other Tri Met article…….

    Puts Tri Met to shame.

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    Jenni June 10, 2008 at 8:51 pm

    Ths is great info. I have yet to take a bike on Max. I will certainly be prepared when the comes.

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    can't say,. I'll get in trouble July 7, 2008 at 7:25 am

    I\’d like Tri-met to change their bike inside the bus policy to one where the driver is allowed digression to say whether or not it would be ok to bring one aboard. There are so many routes that have huge, long hills on them, and so many people who don\’t get a bus ride all the way home and need to ride a bike the remainder of the way, and there are a LOT of people who work the swing shift who do not have the opportunity to wait for the next bus because theirs is the LAST bus. There are families that go out for weekend rides and go farther than they expected and the kids get pooped and can\’t make it home, or a bike gets a flat tire, or the batteries on a headlight run out at nighttime. I could go on and on about why people need to bring their bikes on transit.

    I have a suggestion about how to make more room inside the bus for the increasing bike owner population. A lot of the buses have a side facing triplet of seats near the rear door. These seats could be removed and heavy duty rubber straps with hooks on the ends of them could be added. A bike or two or three can be strapped in that area. Simple and out of the way.

    I am glad people are getting out of their cars and riding their bikes and I believe that the transit system should work hard to accommodate them.

    Finally, I\’m a bus operator and I, on several occasions,have let someone bring a bike aboard, for the reasons listed in the first paragraph. I\’ve always made sure that no other passengers were inconvenienced and have said no when I knew my bus would fill up. So if you ever ride my bus and see a bike inside, please don\’t tell on me. I\’m just trying to provide the best transportation service to my public that I can.

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