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Major L.A. study shows importance of bike-transit connection

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

New study shows bike-transit
connection is vital for riders
and for the planet.
(Photo © J. Maus)

A new study published this week by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority provides key insights into the integration of bikes and rail transit.

The study could have important implications for TriMet, an agency that has struggled to find enough capacity for bikes on trains and that is actively building bicycle park and ride facilities at transit stations.

The report from L.A., Bicycle-Rail Trip Analysis and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Focused Study, found that quality bike access on trains is crucial to a significant portion of daily riders and that rail transit systems that successfully encourage bike access (both at stations and on trains) can result in major reductions in auto use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The study utilized bike trip data gathered through surveys at 19 stations along Metro’s Orange Line, which runs 13 miles from North Hollywood west to Canoga Park. Researchers used the survey and trip data to extrapolate daily and annual bike trips at all stations in the Metro Rail network and then calculated annual reductions in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and GHG reductions.

Some of the interesting insights found in the study include:

  • Approximately 1,195,000 bicyclists would use the Metro Rail system annually (1.3% of all trips)
  • Bicycle-rail trips would replace approximately 322,000 motor vehicle trips and reduce 3.96 million vehicle miles traveled each year, offsetting approximately 2,152 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) annually. This would be equivalent to taking 422 motor vehicles off the road.
  • Bicyclists are universally using the Metro Rail system, with bicyclists reporting starting or ending their rail trip at 71 out of 73 Metro Rail stations surveyed.
  • Over a quarter (27 percent) of bicycle-rail trips replace a motor vehicle trip.
  • In terms of getting to or from the station, twelve percent of bicycle trips replaced motor vehicle trips
  • On average, 13 bicyclists per hour—one bicyclist every five minutes—enters or exits a Metro train during the weekday morning or weekday evening peak periods. An average of 10 bicyclists per hour – one every six minutes – enters or exits a Metro train during the weekend midday period.
  • 13 percent of bicyclists would not make their trip if they couldn’t bicycle and take the train.
  • Respondents are more transit dependent than the general population, with 11 percent of respondents stating that they “rarely” have access to a motor vehicle and over a third of respondents (37 percent) stating that they “never” have access to a motor vehicle.
  • In Los Angeles County, 9.4% of households do not have access to a motor vehicle.
  • Survey respondents overwhelmingly said that being allowed to take their bike on the train influenced their decision to travel by bike and rail. Of the 477 people who responded to the question, 65 percent chose “allowed to take bike on train” as a factor that influenced their decision.
  • Respondents with access to a motor vehicle are more likely than those without access to a motor vehicle to cite “allowed to take bike on train,” “no car parking at station,” “bike lockers at station,” and “have to pay for car parking at station” as factors that influenced their decision to bicycle.
  • Women are much less likely to bicycle to a Metro Rail station than men.

Bicycle use is growing in the Portland region as is our rail transit network. As TriMet and PBOT continue to plan for a less car-centric future, these lessons from Los Angeles could prove very valuable.

Download the 80-page study here (PDF).

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