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New research explores cost of bikes/transit integration (Updated)

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

(Photos © J. Maus)

A new report funded by the US Department of Transportation and conducted by the Mineta Transportation Institute, Bicycling Access and Egress to Transit: Informing the Possibilities (PDF), takes an in-depth look at a topic that is very relevant for the Portland region: How to integrate bikes and transit. The study sought to answer the question, “What are the most cost effective strategies likely to generate the largest number of cyclists accessing transit?”

TriMet has grappled with accommodating the increase in users who combine bikes with their trips on MAX light rail for years now. Lately, as MAX ridership has increased and space for bikes on trains has become scarce, TriMet’s focus seems to have shifted toward the park and ride model. They have altered signage near the bike hooks and they have invested in bike and ride facilities at transit centers (some of which are being singled-out for a lack of use).

According to this study, TriMet isn’t alone:

“A core challenge in realizing bicycle and transit integration is that the predominant approach for integrating the two modes in the United States—bicycles aboard the transit vehicle— frequently runs up against capacity restraints (typically two or three bicycles for each bus on a front rack or three to four bicycles per light rail car). While existing transit capacity for bicycles could be adjusted at the margins using this approach (e.g., through incentives, exploiting technology to enhance communication between riders), the opportunity is ripe to consider broader solutions—about which there is a dearth of information.”

Researchers analyzed existing practices and oversaw focus groups in five communities; Boulder/Denver, Colorado; Chicago, Illinois; Ithaca, New York; Portland, Oregon; and Santa Clara County, California.

Specifically, they broke down bike/transit integration approaches to four methods:

(1) “Bike on transit” (transporting the owner’s bicycle aboard – inside or outside – the transit vehicle),
(2) “Bike to transit” (using and parking the owner’s bicycle at a transit access location),
(3) “Shared bike” (sharing a bicycle, which would be based at either the transit access or egress point),
and (4) “Two bikes” (using an owner’s two bicycles at the access and egress location).

In terms of cost-effectiveness, the study found that “bikes TO transit” ranked best overall while the favored method of focus group respondents was “bikes ON transit”.*

The preference to bring bikes along for the transit trip has to do primarily with concerns about security. “Minor adjustments in terms of security could address the current challenge of “Bike ON transit” capacity limitations,” wrote researchers, “and make the less cost effective strategies comparable to “Bike ON transit.””

Learn more about this issue and download the full report here.

*This sentence was originally published incorrectly and has been factually updated. This article’s title has been updated to reflect the change. -J.R.

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