TriMet scores grant to study the world’s best bike + transit ideas

TriMet bus with rack

One possibility: a system for tracking
bike rack capacity on buses.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

TriMet is a few months away from what its lead bike planner called a “pretty major” year-long review of the ways its transit system interacts with bikes.

“This effort will really help us in future years to make sure that we’re prioritizing the right projects at the right locations,” Active Transportation Planner Jeff Owen said in an interview Tuesday.

A $108,000 state grant awarded in August and $19,000 from TriMet will let the regional transit agency hire a consultant to gather best practices from around the world and make recommendations to TriMet about bike parking, how best to carry bikes on trains and buses, how to build transit lines with bike access in mind and other issues.

“We can’t think of everything ourselves, and outside ideas are really beneficial and powerful,” Owen said. “A lot of it might be things that we’re aware of, of course, but they could really bring some new ideas and creative thinking into it.”

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For example, Owen said some transit systems are experimenting with ways to let people waiting for a bus know if its front rack has room for bikes. Or the study might suggest ways for TriMet to reduce the space bikes take up on its system. The consultant will also use a stakeholder advisory group, open houses and possibly an online effort to gather feedback from bike users about their own issues with TriMet.

The process starts in July 2015 and will wrap up in June 2016. The grant comes from the state’s transportation and growth management program, a partnership between the Oregon Department of Transportation and the Department of Land Conservation and Development.

Owen said he’s working with ODOT to write the consultants’ assignment and is open to ideas about what it could consider.

“We’re still finalizing the scope,” he said.

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Gerald Fittipaldi
Gerald Fittipaldi
7 years ago

The first thing that comes to mind is replacing TriMet’s two-bike bus racks with racks that can hold three bikes. They’ve done this in Seattle.

Spiffy
Spiffy
7 years ago

I can’t recall ever seeing a bus with less than a foot of space to spare when turning… but there are a lot of routes I haven’t ridden…

they already have impossible routes where they either can’t make the turn when there are other vehicles (where the 72 makes a right from Flavel to 72nd, changing lanes out of turn-only lanes in rush-hour traffic, etc) or their turns are completely illegal (left turn into a right lane in many locations)…

Gerald Fittipaldi
Gerald Fittipaldi
7 years ago

I’d like to see further study on this. I imagine some of the problems of tight turning radii could be solved by putting in advance stop bars at signalized intersections (lots of other cities do this) to prevent cars from “being in the way” of turning buses. If there are parked cars that are currently allowed to park super close to an intersection, this could be solved with curbed bulbouts (which a three-bike rack might overlap, but wouldn’t hit).

tridork
tridork
7 years ago

1) curbed bulbs/extensions create other problems for buses and also create pinch points between buses and bikes

2) A bus that required cars to constantly reverse due to non-adherence to advanced stop bars would only add to the amount of time needed to complete a run.

k1ndun
k1ndun
7 years ago

I have a heavy city bike that I can’t safely lift onto / off of the hooks on MAX. And no matter how I angle it on the floor, I block people getting on and off. So… Would love to see some sort of on-the-floor option for bikes.

Spiffy
Spiffy
7 years ago
Reply to  k1ndun

I never hang my bike on the hooks… it’s just long enough that on the old MAX hooks the rear dyno light on the fender may scrape on the floor… the newer hooks are higher so that’s not the problem… but my wide comfy handlebars bang on the MAX doors when the train hits bumps… plus I risk tweaking my rear light when hefting it on/off, and I have to ask people to move on a crowded train to give lots of room to unhook it…

I just stand with it at an angle under the bike hook… and I never have to rush to get it unhooked or ask people to move so I can get it down…

Chris Anderson
7 years ago

I would love to have an option for putting my Bullitt on the MAX. That would open up a whole new set of possibilities for my family to explore Gresham, Milwaukie, and Beaverton.

TJ
TJ
7 years ago
Reply to  Chris Anderson

You seem sincere in your defining much of what Max as to offer young bike explorers.

You left-off Hillsboro, which (without sarcasm) does open up bike camping options for your fam. Gresham via Max to the Historic Hwy as well.

Chris Anderson
7 years ago
Reply to  TJ

I’m 100% sincere. Typically when I go to those places we use a car sharing service. It does the trick, but the whole family would enjoy it more if it didn’t involve being carbound, and I think we’d have a better time at our destination also. Sorry about leaving off Hillsboro — the only places the MAX really takes us these days is the airport and the zoo. If we had transportation options available at other stops, we’d probably use it more. Cargo bike rental would do the trick just fine.

Spiffy
Spiffy
7 years ago
Reply to  TJ

one of the reasons I haven’t tried bike camping is because I’d want to take MAX to the end of the line like everybody else but my kid doesn’t have his own bike which means that it’s a real pain to travel on the max with our bike and trail-a-bike combo…

jeff bernards
jeff bernards
7 years ago
Reply to  Chris Anderson

get an electric assist, you’ll be amazed how far you can explore.

Chris Anderson
7 years ago
Reply to  jeff bernards

I’ve got BionX on my Bullitt, but I refuse to ride on highway shoulders with my kids in the box. (Went to Sauvie’s Island once via Hwy 30, won’t be doing that again.) But I think once I’m at the end of the line there are some fun places I can get on quiet roads.

mikeybikey
mikeybikey
7 years ago

OVFiets. done.

Joseph E
Joseph E
7 years ago
Reply to  mikeybikey

“OV Fiets is a pilot project in the Netherlands that started in 2002, aiming at making the bicycle a part of the public transport system. Currently there are 180 rail stations and 50 other public transport locations where OV Fiets rental facilities have been set up that provide fast and easy access to rental bikes, which can be used as extension of the (rail) trip.”

This would be a great to start of all the end-of-line stations and at places that have Bike parking facilities already (Hillsboro, Gresham, Beaverton, Sunset TC, Expo, Milwaukie, Clackamas, the Airport, Union Station and PSU); tourists could have very easy places to rent a bike for the day or week. Later there could also be stations added a busy bus transit centers, WES stations and other MAX and Amtrak stations in the Metro area.

Kiel Johnson / Go By Bike
kiel johnson
7 years ago

Portland has the best transit bike parking solution already, the bike valet under the tram!

I hope they will look at that and how for several times less than building a park and ride you can have a bike repair shop/free bike rental station for transit users/and a full service secure bike valet

Brian
Brian
7 years ago

I was just thinking about this yesterday. I believe more people would use a bike/MAX combo if bringing bikes on trains was easier and more dependable. It is hard to plan a commute using multi-modes if one of the modes may be “full.”

GlowBoy
GlowBoy
7 years ago
Reply to  Brian

Agreed, bike spots on MAX trains are already beyond full enough to act as a deterrent to a lot of people.

One thing TriMet could do would be to better accommodate folding bikes, which take up less space than conventional bikes – but still take up some space. One problem is that the hooks where you hang conventional bikes are close enough to the wall that even most folding bikes (Bromptons being a notable exception) are just a tad too wide to fit in the space between a hanging bike and the wall, at least not without risk of touching. As a folding bike owner I can tell you from experience that some of my fellow cyclists do NOT want anyone or anything touching their precious rides.

Another solution will be to add more trains – MAX is definitely overcrowded a lot of the time, even for passengers on foot. Increasing frequency would of course improve the quality of the service too. But of course adding train runs is very expensive and will only marginally help the situation for cyclists.

Maybe what we need is a dedicated bike shuttle – a 10-12 passenger van pulling a trailer would do the job – to schlep cyclists over the West Hills. For me this is one of those “here’s what I’d do to improve the world if I won the lottery” things.

By the way, I’ve mostly given up even trying to bring my folding bike on MAX. The morning trains are rarely crowded enough for me to need it, and the evening trains are still too crowded. So for the last few months I’ve just been bringing my full-sized bike (which is faster and more fun to ride) on the morning train and then biking all the way home in the evening. I’m also newly exploring the option to just ride downtown and park my bike in one of the garages there, and walking on the train without my bike (which is an option since I work near a station).

Brian
Brian
7 years ago
Reply to  GlowBoy

For these reasons (and I love the climb through the park in the morning), I never use the MAX from NE Portland out to 185th. I either ride all the way or I drive. It is just too damn crowded and I don’t want to deal with the dirty looks and having to squeeze by people with a dirty bike. If there was a dedicated “bike priority” train with appropriate seating/bike storage, I would probably opt for the train during the gnarlier Winter weather rather than drive.

Edwards
Edwards
7 years ago
Reply to  GlowBoy

What about adding a car to each train that is “bike only” and/or “standing room only (to accommodate bikes when needed)
That’s what Amtrak does down in socal between San Diego and LA they have a train car for “luggage and/or bikes only”

Dave Thomson
Dave Thomson
7 years ago
Reply to  Edwards

Train length cannot exceed a downtown block, and station platforms are only two cars long.

Chris
Chris
7 years ago

Cargo bikes? Never going to happen. Nor should it. That’s like putting a train on a train. Lets make room for Smart cars while we’re at it…

Edwards
Edwards
7 years ago
Reply to  Chris

Sorry but no! its “all for one and one for all” we don’t leave a soldier behind! Especially someone who traded in their mini van for a cargo bike!

JAT in Seattle
JAT in Seattle
7 years ago
Reply to  Edwards

Oh be reasonable. I can barely get my regular bike on the Seattle racks if one of the previously loaded bikes has a milk crate lashed to its rear rack.
Engineering is generally a set of compromises; I’m sure Tri-Met could acquire racks that could accommodate Cargo Bikes, but not ones that could be maneuvered though a tight intersection, and could probably only afford to buy seven of them.

Spiffy
Spiffy
7 years ago
Reply to  paikiala

I’ll only leave my bike to travel if it’s secure… none of those bike parking solutions are secure… the likelihood of it being gone when I return means that I take my bike everywhere with me…

so the parking needs to either be locked in a secure cage or have a live attendant…

paikiala
paikiala
7 years ago

What if Tri-Met funded bike-share? It’s akin to self service transit.

dan
dan
7 years ago

Side note: whatever happened to Portland’s articulated buses?

Jason McHuff
7 years ago

Yes, that’s basically what happened. They did last for 17 years, but had serious design and mechanical issues, didn’t handle well in snow/ice, it was felt the capacity wasn’t needed most of the time, and they came from Hungary, so getting parts was especially difficult due to foreign affairs.

Andrew N
Andrew N
7 years ago

Surely this “pretty major” study (which will sit nicely on the shelf next to the mildewy Bike Plan) will reveal Trimet’s wisdom and long-term vision in not allowing bicycle access on the new Orange Line flyover in order to save 4 million dollars out of a $1.5 billion project…

Emily G
Emily G
7 years ago

Really hope they’ll study bike lane bypasses that go behind bus stops, and make them standard. Maybe Williams would be less confusing and messy if Trimet hadn’t taken that option off the table at the beginning.

Spiffy
Spiffy
7 years ago
Reply to  Emily G

I’d just like it if drivers pulled up flush with the curb at stops so they weren’t hanging out into the bike lane…

put all stops after intersections so that the approach is always clear… this would also help the problem of thinking people are trying to cross the street when all they’re doing is looking down the street for their bus…

AL M (@AlYourPalster)
7 years ago

I’m sorry but in the #1 biking city in the USA the transit agency needs to find a way to have buses carry 3 bikes. Or at the very least relax the ban on carrying them in the bus.
When I used to drive over there it was a huge problem and I let people bring them in all the time. It’s not dangerous at all.

jeff bernards
jeff bernards
7 years ago

Get an electric assist bike, it’s faster and more fun than MAX or the Bus. It makes you more independent and free than waiting around for a maybe empty bike rack.

GlowBoy
GlowBoy
7 years ago
Reply to  jeff bernards

I have considered the e-bike option, Jeff. Going to explore the leave-the-bike-downtown option for a couple months and see how that works out, and if it doesn’t then I may finally buy a Clean Republic kit.

jeff bernards
jeff bernards
7 years ago
Reply to  jeff bernards

The E-Bike also has a lower carbon- footprint than either the bus or MAX.

Andyc of Linnton
Andyc of Linnton
7 years ago

I always assume the racks are full. If not, bonus. If so, well, I just waited half an hour in the rain for no reason.
I want to re-record that “Chillaxin’ on the MAX” song but with lyrics updated for 2014.
“Trimet, just-a-just forget it. Transportation that won’t get you ’round town! Leave your bikes at home, be in bed by nine. You ain’t going far if you don’t live off a MAX line.”

Peejay
Peejay
7 years ago

The scope of the project should cover the relationship of bus stops and bike lanes as well, and the prevailing sentiment of TriMet that it’s better to throw bikes into car traffic to avoid the possibility of people on bike and foot crossing paths. This runs counter to the choices made by all great transit cities.

Oh, and two more words that need to be said:

Streetcar tracks.

danny
danny
7 years ago

Here’s a suggestion for ways that buses can better “interact” with bikes — bus drivers could refrain from running over cyclists. Probably the closest I have ever come to literally being run over was by a TriMet bus in the wrong lane, and I have had many other unpleasant interactions with buses. Perhaps TriMet could train its drivers to view people on bikes as something more than merely an annoyance or obstacle.

Edwards
Edwards
7 years ago

I can think of about ten ways to add plenty of bike carrying capacity to buses and Max/street cars

Buses:
Hang bikes on the side of the bus by the top tube, you only add the width of an average handle bar to the width of the bus, easily get 8 bikes on the right side of a bus. The arms fold up when not in use.

Buses:
hang bikes from the wheel vertically on the back of the bus, easily 4 bikes.

Max trains:
add another car to the train that has no seats and fold down wall arms that you hang a bike by the top tube allowing standing room when not in use and tons of bike capacity. Every other train could have this car.

Buses with kneeling capability and wheel chair access doors:
take out a 3 rows of seats on one side and add folding arms to hang bikes by top tube, should be able to get at least 4 bikes on that way.

paikiala
paikiala
7 years ago
Reply to  Edwards

As previously stated, trains cannot be longer than one city block, otherwise they would block intersections. two sets of cars equals one block.

Dwaine Dibbly
Dwaine Dibbly
7 years ago

How about some research into how to make Max tracks safer for cyclists to cross?

Brian
Brian
7 years ago

True, if they no longer operated. That isn’t reasonable. The buses and trains will continue to operate, whether I take them or not. The building, shipping, and maintenance of a new bicycle will create a new carbon footprint.

Brian
Brian
7 years ago
Reply to  Brian

Dang. Meant to reply to jeff bernards above.

jeff bernards
jeff bernards
7 years ago
Reply to  Brian

i got the message, so we shouldn’t invest in solar and wind energy based on your analysis?

gerald schuldt
gerald schuldt
7 years ago

ADD one or more of the following to bus routes requiring a larger rack to accommodate a third bike position: a regrettably dirty and non visible rack or trailer to the back of the bus, Add additional buses to routes during peak hours, draft a Tri-met/Federal grant designed to subsidize regular bus users to buy folding bikes/bromptons that fit on their laps for their intermodal commutes.