Warm advocacy fuzzies

I don’t do a lot of writing about my advocacy stuff on this blog. If you think the bike-riding stuff is boring, imagine what you would think about stuff that doesn’t even involve riding a bike, but instead involves a lot of meetings and emails and often-tedious government agencies and regulations about bikes, and you’ll see why.

But today, I’m getting a lot of warm advocacy fuzzies for once, and I want to share that joy with the world.

For the last two months I’ve been chairing an SVBC “workgroup” (a small committee of members) on the issue of Caltrain bike accommodation. Basically, there are a limited number of spaces for people to take their bikes on the train to do a multi-modal trip with train+bike, and the spaces are running out. And many people who do this really like doing it, and don’t have other good options, and they were being delayed by 10 minutes to an hour or more, unpredictably, by having to wait for the next train with an available slot. For a long time, Caltrain was resistant to adding more spaces, and cyclists were getting angry and frustrated. A cyclist was arrested due to poor management of a conflict over bumping.

Late last fall, everything came to a head and, as a result of pressure from the community and both bike coalitions (SVBC and SFBC), the Caltrain Joint Powers Board asked Caltrain staff to investigate the possibilities for increases in onboard capacity.

Since then, the workgroup has been brainstorming on ways to improve the system and the amount of capacity, taking input from SVBC members and other cyclists, and meeting with Caltrain staff to express our ideas and concerns. The people on the workgroup have been fantastic to work with — thoughtful, concerned, energetic, and determined to make progress in coming up with feasible ideas for near-term improvements to the situation.

Yesterday at the February 5 Joint Powers Board meeting, staff presented their plan and members and representatives of SVBC and SFBC and the community at large spoke in support of capacity and other system improvements. After staff presentation and lively discussion, the result is that Caltrain is going to increase capacity on its newer, more limited 16-space cars by 50%, and on the older cars (which had 32 spaces) by 25% to 40, a total increase over the day from around 4,000 slots to a little over 5,000. They’re also going to take other measures such as gathering more statistics and formalizing bike input to the agency through a Bicycle Advisory Committee. The JPB also asked Caltrain to try to direct extra bike cars (each train is guaranteed to have 1, but some have 2) to the high-demand trains during the commute hours.

This isn’t everything we hoped for (the workgroup’s position includes a number of other items and a slightly greater increase in capacity), but it is branded as an “interim” solution, and will be revisited. The workgroup will continue to meet with Caltrain staff, and to discuss more ideas for improving the system. It’s a lot more than we had the day before yesterday.

The best thing for me has been seeing the results of our work in print and online (Mercury News, San Mateo Daily Journal, SFGate, SF Examiner), and through emails flying back and forth, commending me, the workgroup, and SVBC for our efforts. I’m but a small cog in this big movement, but it’s very nice to get a few warm fuzzies recognizing the time and effort (and many, many emails) that I’ve committed to the project. And equally nice to throw them back to the workgroup, Caltrain staff, SVBC board and staff, and everyone who cared enough to tell Caltrain that they wanted more.

Caltrain and cycling are my main transportation options, and being able to combine them when I need to is personally very important to me. I’m ecstatic that that’s about to get a little easier.

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