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TriMet looks to add more bike capacity to WES

Posted by on February 19th, 2009 at 11:25 am

The WES has newly designed
hooks, but fewer of them.
(Photo: Jim Parsons)

TriMet’s new Westside Express (WES) commuter service officially opened at the end of January to big celebrations, but people that showed up to ride the train with their bikes in tow, quickly found that the WES has less — as in, less hooks for bikes.

Max Campos rode the train on opening day and he was immediately concerned that the WES comes equipped with just two bike hooks per car instead of the four that exist in other trains in the MAX system. After he rode home on the WES, Campos wrote on the Shift email list, “I’m concerned about this….On the train ride back both hooks in my car were full and I thought ‘oh god, and the thing isn’t even open yet!'”

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Fortunately, TriMet is aware of the problem and they are currently looking into solutions to accomodate more bicycles on WES trains.

At the outset of their Board Meeting last night, TriMet’s executive director of operations Steve Banta brought up the issue. Max Campos was at the meeting and posted a video of the exchange that was taken by Jason McHuff, who was at the meeting.

In the video, Banta tells the Board and TriMet GM Fred Hansen that,

“What we’re looking at is to be able to increase the area in which we can secure a bike and still meet the FRA (Federal Railroad administration) standard of a bike being secured. One of our thoughts was in the area for wheelchairs there’s a stanchion where we could put bungee cords on to be able to strap a bike to if the area wasn’t being used….. the other thing we’re going to look at is to determine if there’s any other place inside the cabin of the train where we could put a stanchion to be able to strap bikes to.

These are issues that came up after the first week of operation and we’re in the infancy of trying to solve them.”

Fred Hansen responded to Banta and said there are no requirements about whether a bike needs to be “absolutely secure”. “We have hooks,” he said, “…if those are full, people can put bikes other places, stand next to them, etc…”

Hansen went on to say,

“…on the issue of the FRA, they actually require any object that could be move/fly/hit someone has to be secured. That’s why there’s a different set of requirements for how bikes are secured on commuter rail versus on the MAX system.”

WES falls under the FRA’s jurisdiction (and therefore is more highly regulated), whereas the MAX light rail system does not.

Accommodating riders with bikes has been a thorn in the side of TriMet for some time now. It has become clear that they want to focus on park and ride, instead of adding capacity for bikes. They are, after all, in the business of moving people, not moving bicycles. It will be interesting to see if they add new facilities on their trains for bikes, or if they encourage park and ride, or…?

We have a contact into TriMet and others for more information and we will keep you posted on any developments.

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23 Comments
  • Avatar
    chuck February 19, 2009 at 11:30 am

    TriMet doesn’t care about bike people!

    sorry, just had to get that out of my system. 😛

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    K'Tesh February 19, 2009 at 11:37 am

    Just a FYI… In the photo, my bike wasn’t hung properly… I didn’t realize that first time that the wheel is
    sandwiched between the rails seen just to the right of it.

    I’m still not sure that someone with a Mountain Bike with the massive tires that I’ve seen on some of them would be able to even use the hooks as they are so small, and the space so narrow.

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    Jebus February 19, 2009 at 11:58 am

    I fit my mtb on the hooks on the max once, but it was a tight fit with the knobby mtb tires. I haven’t been on the WES yet so … are they smaller hooks or are they the same as on the other max cars?

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    Shane February 19, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    I saw a guy with a MTB on WES having trouble getting his bike out of the rake.

    TriMet may be in the business of moving people, but they don’t cover every road or if they do, it is not on a timely schedule. Bikes allow more people to use public transportation.

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    Steve G February 19, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    TriMet doesn’t care about bike people?

    They were among the first transit agencies nationwide to put racks on every bus and train.

    The real problem is that allowing unlimited bikes on MAX or WES makes little more sense than Amtrak’s “car train”:

    http://on-track-on-line.com/autotrain-tips.shtml

    Like an Amtrak rider with a car, a transit rider with a bike takes up significantly more space than a walk-on passenger, and when space is limited, they’re going to do what any sane person/business would do: either charge extra to bring a bike (as Amtrak does for cars), or limit the bikes. They’re SUPPOSED to maximize their ridership and/or revenue. They’re not supposed to accommodate every bike rider if it means fewer people can get on board. In fact, it would be irresponsible to do so.

    TriMet is probably planning to do what most major transit agencies in the world do: establish good, safe, covered and monitored places for people to leave their bikes on the platform (e.g. in a keycard-accessible bike cage?) before they board. If that means that some people will have to have two (probably inexpensive…) bikes — one at each end of their daily commute — so be it.

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    chuck February 19, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    Steve:

    my comment was 90% joking. my tag disappeared after I posted the message.

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    chuck February 19, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    nevermind. my nerd humor is being lost thanks to wordpress.

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    Steve G February 19, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    Sorry. Didn’t catch the irony. I’m a bit slow sometimes.

    Given all of our rail infrastructure, TriMet seems really slow in offering cool/user friendly bike storage facilities.

    I’ve seen a lot of cool bike storage solutions out there, but the best they can come up with seems to be lockers, staple racks and those hideous “bike lids.”

    Maybe they should announce a design competition.

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    El Biciclero February 19, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    I’ll bet WES could more easily (than MAX) support an external rack that might hold more bikes; I’ve seen RVs flying down I-5 with up to six bikes strapped on! I understand MAX can’t really do that because they have so much interaction with street traffic and much tighter space restrictions on the outside of the train. What are the FRA rules on that?

    It would have to allow bikes to be individually locked to it, and would have to hold them securely enough so they couldn’t be dislodged at normal travel speeds.

    The early birds would get the inside hangers and everybody else would have to use the outside rack…

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    Options Guy February 19, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    Bikes and transit, two great tastes that go great together!

    But how much can you have before you get too full? For answers to that question and others, come to (yes Jonathan, you guessed it – )

    The PBOT Bicycle Brown Bag on Thursday, March 19th.

    Colin Maher of TriMet will be talking on “Bikes and Transit – Strategies for Growth”.

    Come and discuss your ideas and concerns – it’s kind of like having your lunch while blogging, but no crumbs get in your keyboard!

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    Paul February 19, 2009 at 7:05 pm

    I’ve taken my bike on the WES a few times now and have been fortunate enough to catch the DMU with the trailer most times, so there have been enough open racks for me. I understand the difficulty involved with providing additional space for bikes on the WES, and agree with previous posters that an external bike trailer or rack would be an acceptable option as long as there is sufficient security for the bikes.

    Also, the WES bike racks do take a little getting used to. I think the hook is actually smaller than the hook on the MAX trains, but what makes it difficult is that the hook itself is on a part of the rack that moves down and in to lock the front wheel of the bike in place.

    All of the people from TriMet that I’ve spoken to seem to be sympathetic to the bike situation, and have been since the first day of operation. It may help to individually express the your need to use your bikes at both ends of your transit trip in order to convince some people that bike lockers are not an acceptable alternative. I believe that they truly would like to accommodate more bikes on the trains, but I hope it doesn’t take very long for them to act on this.

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    John Russell February 19, 2009 at 7:15 pm

    Considering that I doubt the majority of WES riders are walking to their stops, that means that they’re either taking transit or else driving. Last time I checked, car parking spaces were just a tad bit more expensive than bike ones. Just a little bit.

    http://www.cyclelicio.us/2009/02/why-transit-needs-bikes.html

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    Danny February 19, 2009 at 7:15 pm

    Does “any object that could be move/fly/hit someone has to be secured.” include baby strollers? Because in that case, a lot more suburbanites would be upset. Try telling a parent “only two strollers per car so wait for teh next one.” I guess they could always hang the baby on the rack…

    But seriously, the rule sounds vague and is probably only enforced against cyclists and not people with strollers.

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    John Russell February 19, 2009 at 7:24 pm

    Sorry to ruin the rhyme, but it should be “fewer hooks for bikes.”

    There’s a reason why I don’t have a shirt or sticker that says “One less car.” It’s because I’m one car fewer.

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    Jason McHuff February 19, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    Happy to see that my efforts have proven useful. And if I can get my butt together, there’ll be a lot more stuff. For now, you can check out my linked Flickr photos.

    But has anyone argued that TriMet should have known about the bike capacity issues beforehand?

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    Jason McHuff February 19, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    Also, some CORRECTIONS:
    I was the one who filmed it, but Al Margulies (RANTINGS OF A TRIMETBUS DRIVER) posted it. And it was a Board Briefing and it occurred the morning of Wednesday, February 11th.

    And if anyone wishes TriMet would post meeting minutes and item details on the Web, they should contact Executive and Board Administrator, 503-962-4831 or runnionk@trimet.org

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    Anonymous February 19, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    One bit of advice with those WES racks. Use caution with the rear tire strap. I suspect I killed a tube with it the first time I rode. Leave some slack before you tighten it down.

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    Afro Biker February 20, 2009 at 6:33 am

    bike people should pay more since they are taking space with their bikes that could be used for people.

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    GLV February 20, 2009 at 8:36 am

    Could this problem be solved with longer trainsets? Or is this another in the long line of poorly planned Trmet projects, that build platforms for only 2 car trains?

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    Paul February 20, 2009 at 10:18 am

    I asked someone if the stations and platforms could accommodate a third trailer car and was told that they could, but I really don’t think there’s enough room for 3.

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    SkidMark February 20, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    Afro Biker: should obese people pay more than skinny people? They take up more space…

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    Anonymous February 22, 2009 at 1:59 am

    Folding bikes rule the mixed commute.

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    Randy February 27, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    I would pay more for a monthly pass to bring my bike on or for a bike ticket if tri-met retro-fitted some of the max trains to be bike only or 50-50 at most. I realize many people don’t ride bikes so they should not have to pay for transporting them. I also know during peak commute hours if every other train had increased bike capacity that would help everybody out.

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