SF Chronicle Article
A valet service for bicyclists who commute on Caltrain will get an official welcome Wednesday in yet another acknowledgement by Bay Area transportation officials that pedal-power has arrived as a viable alternative to the private automobile.
The service, located at Fourth and Townsend streets next door to the Caltrain Station in San Francisco's South of Market neighborhood, offers free and secure bike parking for rail commuters.
It's a perfect setup for people such as Amandeep Jawa, a 38-year-old software engineer who lives in San Francisco and commutes to Cupertino. On occasion, he has been bumped from a train because the limited spaces on-board reserved for bicycles has hit capacity and he is faced with waiting for the next train or leaving his bike behind.
"With the bike station, I have a place to leave it and don't have to worry about it getting stolen," he said.
The bike station, funded by public transit agencies and operated by a private company, Warm Planet Bikes, has been in quiet operation on a limited basis since July, with around 70 to 80 people parking their bikes there every day.
Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, said the effort is a good example of how government can make it easier for people to get out of their cars by allowing people to "combine biking and transit to get around the region in a healthy, sustainable and convenient way."
On Wednesday, officials will hold a celebratory ribbon-cutting and hope to bring attention to the service, which has room to accommodate 130 bikes for people who ride the train between San Francisco and the Peninsula. For a fee, people also can get their bikes tuned up and repaired at the site, a 1,600 square-foot structure, and shop for bike gear.
"I stopped by this morning to pump up my tires," said Marc Brandt, a 48-year-old resident of San Francisco's Nob Hill neighborhood who usually takes his folding bike with him when he heads on the train to his job at a shipping company in Millbrae.
Caltrain was one of the first train operators in the nation to accommodate bicyclists, but the demand often exceeds capacity and people with bikes routinely are bumped, particularly during the most popular commute-hour runs.
"We just don't have the capacity for everybody," said Caltrain spokesman Jonah Weinberg.
The newer trains have room for only 16 bikes; the older ones for 32.
Caltrain now has about 2,300 bike boardings a day. The stations with the most commuters are San Francisco's at Fourth and King, Palo Alto, Mountain View, Redwood City and San Jose's Diridon.
Weinberg said capacity for bikes won't be increasing any time soon, but that Caltrain does hope to make the stations more accommodating to cyclists by improving bike-parking security, placing bike parking closer to where people get on and off the trains and upgrading bike racks and lockers.
The planning and construction of the new San Francisco bike station, a joint project of Caltrain, the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, the regional Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, took six years and cost $800,000. It has a three-year operating budget of $339,000.