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Bikes & Light Rail

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Old 10-28-04, 07:06 AM
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Dahon.Steve
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Bikes & Light Rail

Bicycling magazine had a small feature on bicycles and lightrail (Caltrain) that was amusing. It's amazing how many cyclists use this system compared to the one I use every day. (Hudson Bergen Lightrail)

I was amazed at all the bicycle stacked close together inside that train and they actually have to turn away riders because of the overflow! I've been a advocate of Lightrail for years and it's 100 times better than the bus in that ALL systems can handle bikes. Not so with the bus. The lightrail really opens huge doors for the cyclist and we need to become advocates of these commuter rail lines.

www.lightrailnow.com

From the article:
The average daily rount-trip car commute in San Francisco Bay Area is 32 miles, too far for most people to pedal each day. But what happens when transit agencies get to use a word bike advocates love - intermodal - by encouraging people to ride their bikes to train stations and then giving them a secure place to leave their rides or even allowing them to bring their bikes onto special cars reserved just for bicycles and their riders? You get Caltains's BikeTrain!

This hit me hard because my bike was vandalized at the lightrail station last night. There is no secure parking so the vandals took my quick release handles but left the bike alone. I'll still take my bike to the station but now I'm looking at bringing the folder inside the train instead of leaving it outside.
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Old 10-28-04, 10:07 AM
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I used to ride the light rail every day, until i moved closer to work. But now that I'm into riding more, i wish I still lived farther!

The light rail system here is good for bikes. There's 4 bike holders per car, and if those are full you can just stand in the entryway with your bike. I used to see a lot of people with bikes on light rail. Everything from a commuter that took caltrain from San Mateo to san jose then light rail to his destination, to a transvestite riding a beach cruiser, to a guy riding a bmx with flat tires.

Even though the light rail is good for bikes, it sucks for commuting. I think it was the design. It seems that it was made thinking that everybody would ride from outskirts of town to downtown. So if that's what you're doing it's great. I've used it many times to go to sharks games, sabercats games and just out to the bars. But what sucks is if your destination is on the other side of downtown. The trains slow down to 3mph in some places, have to wait for stoplights and just generall lag. If it were above or below ground downtown, it'd be a lot better, but I'll be that option was too expensive.

Anyway, I like lightrail and public transit in general, but especially my bike. Whatever keeps me out of the car keeps me happy.
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Old 10-31-04, 12:52 AM
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The light rail in Portland, OR, called MAX, has hooks from which to hang the front tire, and the rear tire slides in to a slot. The bike hangs vertical. This link shows how it's done. http://www.trimet.org/guide/bikesonmax.htm

Pretty cool!
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Old 10-31-04, 01:13 AM
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The problem with modern lightrail in the US is that in many places, the concept was abandoned and paved over (literally). In Europe, where they have been maintained, the system works very well. But here in the US, they are usually poorly planned and take up a lot of road real estate simply because everyone's afraid that drivers won't know how to deal with sharing the roadway with them... and for the most part, they're correct.
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Old 10-31-04, 10:09 AM
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San Jose's implementation was pretty good, give the LR it's own dedicated segction of the road (the center of both directions), making it hard to block, and only bothers drivers when it's making a turn (it stops for red lights).

Now, the build quality of these trains are questionable, but that's beside the point.
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Old 10-31-04, 11:31 AM
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I would give one or two of my favorite toes to be able to enjoy the benefit of something like this...alas, my job is in the middle of nowhere. 34 miles round trip...nothing to most of the people here, but I just started commuting at the beginning of summer, and had to sit a lot of it out, due to incredibly high amounts of rain, so I haven't really toughened up to the ride enough to do it more than twice a week. Being able to take some kind of mass transit part way would rock...
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Old 10-31-04, 11:38 AM
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Originally Posted by rog
34 miles round trip...nothing to most of the people here
I don't think anyone anywhere thinks 34 miles a day five days a week is "nothing". Good job on doing it even twice a week. Before you'll know it you'll be doing five days a week and looking for ways to get even more miles in.
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Old 10-31-04, 02:11 PM
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Originally Posted by catatonic
San Jose's implementation was pretty good, give the LR it's own dedicated segction of the road (the center of both directions), making it hard to block, and only bothers drivers when it's making a turn (it stops for red lights).
You may disagree with me but that's where I see light rail fail. All that room for segregation and such just eats up a lot of valuable space. I know why it was done but I think it just go further to prove that planners have it in their head to keep the roadways clear of all traffic except automobile traffic. And no, I don't have a better solution other than to somehow educate drivers better.
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Old 10-31-04, 03:22 PM
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The problem I see is light rail is slow enough as it is...its exactly as fast as me on a bike...and that's sad.

If it had to share the road, it would be slowed down even further. The real answer are subways, but subways are quite the rarity over here.
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Old 11-01-04, 04:31 AM
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I live in a city where all we have is buses. I'm not sure that light rail is even in the planning for the next 20 years for my city. As it is, they're working dilligently on improving the bus system as it is. They've added bike racks to nearly every bus in the city and now they're working on a downtown transit point with a covered waiting area and such. I personally like the idea of intermodal transportation and use it when possible. They plan on increasing frequency along major corridors as well.
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Old 11-01-04, 06:01 PM
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The Santa Clara County (San Jose, CA, and surrounding cities) Transit Authority (VTA) did really well by putting it down the middle of the freeways. Unfortunately, they decided to route the LRT right by the two VTA offices downtown and on First Street. Along highways 85 and 87, the LRT does a good job of moving people quickly. Unfortunately, it bogs down when on city streets. It makes too many stops, has to stop at every signal, and cannot achieve any speed.

When I lived alongside the LRT, and worked near First and Trimble, I took the train from South San Jose all the way to downtown. Depending on how I felt, I'd either get off the train and catch up to the train just leaving downtown, or I'd ride the whole way to the office, because I could beat the train.

Perhaps they have synchronized the schedule to better account for the traffic lights, and it moves faster now. I don't know, since I don't commute in that corridor anymore.
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Old 11-01-04, 07:12 PM
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in the actual downtown area, up to japantown, it's slower than all heck. I have no clue where south you have to be to have it go fast, but from the Paseo de San Antonio stop to the japantown stop I cna usually beat the train if I start moving when it does and dont stop. This is at about a 20-22mph pace, and it give me enough time to slam a redbull when I get to the station.

I agree with how craptastic the speed is in that area, the rest of it tehy move pretty fast now, spirinting and using aggressive braking (most of which i complained about....as yoda would say....to stop you need lock wheels not Uhrrrrr.
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Old 11-02-04, 12:50 AM
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That almost seems to defeat the purpose of using the light rail system... if it's THAT much slower than every other mode of transportation, why use it? I'd seriously rather bike commute than deal with such a slow light rail. I understand that it still serves the purpose of giving people an alternative to driving, but a car would be a ton faster.
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Old 11-02-04, 02:17 AM
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My point exactly with the San Diego Metro Trolley. The "orange" line going from Santee to downtown takes around 40 minutes to make it's trip. Considering it takes 5-10 minutes to get to the train and board it, then another 10 minutes or so to get to work once I get off the train, it's less than a 5 minute difference between riding the whole distance and riding the train and part distance. By car your looking at 25 minutes, to over an hour depending on traffic. The train is usually pretty empty, since it really isn't convienent to use. To think they spend almost half the budget on the trolley and busses around here instead of adding freeways/lanes. People won't use the trolley/light rail unless it's convienent, and in San Diego, it's not convient. Current proposition that is up tomorrow wants to continue a half cent sales tax which goes to run empty busses and trains.

I usually save the trolley for rainy days.
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Old 11-02-04, 02:45 PM
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Originally Posted by cryogenic
That almost seems to defeat the purpose of using the light rail system... if it's THAT much slower than every other mode of transportation, why use it? I'd seriously rather bike commute than deal with such a slow light rail. I understand that it still serves the purpose of giving people an alternative to driving, but a car would be a ton faster.
The lightrail may not be faster than a speeding bullet but it will average about 18 mph in the city. You're not going to go much faster in a car or a bicycle. I used to bike commute into downtown but the lightrail was just as fast and far more comfortable. You can use a car but parking downtown will set you back about $18 bucks a day and I didn't take into account gas and depreciation.
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Old 11-02-04, 02:49 PM
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Originally Posted by catatonic
The problem I see is light rail is slow enough as it is...its exactly as fast as me on a bike...and that's sad.

If it had to share the road, it would be slowed down even further. The real answer are subways, but subways are quite the rarity over here.
A New York City subway travels about 22 mph. Some express lines are faster but speed is not what lightrail or subways are all about. The lightrail is capable of speeds in excess of 50MPH.
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Old 11-02-04, 03:05 PM
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Bikes are NOT allowed on Light Rail in Calgary, Alberta between 6:30-9:00am or from 3:00-600pm.
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Old 11-02-04, 03:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve
The lightrail may not be faster than a speeding bullet but it will average about 18 mph in the city. You're not going to go much faster in a car or a bicycle. I used to bike commute into downtown but the lightrail was just as fast and far more comfortable. You can use a car but parking downtown will set you back about $18 bucks a day and I didn't take into account gas and depreciation.
It depends on the city you're talking about. In San Jose, it is, indeed, "craptastic" when running on city streets. South of downtown, it occupies the median of a freeway, and it moves very quickly, going up to 60 mph between stations. Downtown, it averages about 5mph. Outside downtown on city streets, it probably averages 15 mph, given all the signals and stations. It was poorly planned and executed.
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Old 11-02-04, 03:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Wulfheir
Bikes are NOT allowed on Light Rail in Calgary, Alberta between 6:30-9:00am or from 3:00-600pm.
Weak!
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Old 11-02-04, 03:40 PM
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Mark W..comments about San Diego trolley neglects the coastal commuter rail line called "The Coaster." Bike space is less than the Bicycling Mag's presentation of the Bay Areas' but still bikes are plentiful on the Coaster...Never seen it like as in the Bicycling story..Still, it is a convenient way to move north south and has lots of bike subscribers...
I like to think bike/light rail really meets our future transportation needs. w/o mass tranist support- I doubt I would ever vote to approve gasoline sales taxes when that question is presented to me. As it was just today in the San Diego county-wide tax proposition.

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Old 11-02-04, 11:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve
A New York City subway travels about 22 mph. Some express lines are faster but speed is not what lightrail or subways are all about. The lightrail is capable of speeds in excess of 50MPH.
I somewhat agree....no lightrail train should be as slow as this one is in the downtown area though...you have to see it to understand....3 mins for one block anyone?

Subways can be so slow since they have very few stops outside of stations...no redlights means better average speed over time....thus faster.

Right now, due to poor line placement, lightrail here has to play the double footed pedal to the metal game to have an acceptable time...today I nearly fell over twice from the driver either locking the wheels on hard braking, or accelrating as hard as possible suddenly.

All they need is more intelligent layout to ensure a higher average speed, which means less stopping for redlights and such. If they gave it priority for the traffic lights, that would solve their speed issues right there...nobody would be able to keep up with it....oh and quit putting downtown stops so close together....we dont need 4 stations in a 5 block stretch....paseo de san antonio is a worthless stop, considering the santa clara stop is one block north of it...let it die.
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Old 11-03-04, 06:37 PM
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Where I live transit has become a *lot* more bike friendly in the last few years. The new light rail line (the River Line) can hold 6 bikes per car - there is either 1 or 2 cars. Most of the line is "grade-seperated" which means the tracks & street are seperate. But in Camden's downtown, they made it run on the street, with traffic lights. Plus they set an arbitrary speed limit of 25 mph on the streets. For those here with concerns of trains stopping at red lights - if anyone here wants, they can push for "signal preemption" which means the trains, upon hitting a beam of light, or hit a certain piece of track, will cause the signals to change, "pre-empting" the timing of the signals.

The buses all here have either racks in the front of the bus, or are allowed in the under compartment. bikes are also allowed all the time on the subway here. The general top speed of "light rail" and "subway" is generally 60 mph. For "commuter rail" (ie; Coaster) the speeds are usually higher - upto 90 mph.

Bicycles & trains...perfect together!
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Old 11-04-04, 01:02 AM
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wow... sounds like Philly is working hard on alternative forms of transportation... I wonder what Philly's ridership stats are for its light rail & bus system. How much do they charge to ride?
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Old 11-04-04, 01:23 AM
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I was reading today..Midland, Texas..Used to be home of Mobil Oil and Others..Well, this "Tall City" as known, North Texas University petroleum Institute says Midland will be out of oil within 20 years..Midland is now increasingly service job oriented and big salaries are going, going, ++++.
So, my point...Big cities now investing into light rail and with a new commuter system...They will be the cities of the future - when the rest of us look at freeways unusuable because gas is beyond the reach of consumers...
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Old 11-04-04, 05:08 AM
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Originally Posted by cyclezealot
Mark W..comments about San Diego trolley neglects the coastal commuter rail line called "The Coaster." Bike space is less than the Bicycling Mag's presentation of the Bay Areas' but still bikes are plentiful on the Coaster...Never seen it like as in the Bicycling story..Still, it is a convenient way to move north south and has lots of bike subscribers...
I like to think bike/light rail really meets our future transportation needs. w/o mass tranist support- I doubt I would ever vote to approve gasoline sales taxes when that question is presented to me. As it was just today in the San Diego county-wide tax proposition.

I'm east county, not north. The Trolley saves me about 5 minutes over riding the full distance. There's no real bike space on it either. You basically have 1 bike at each end of the car. Lately I've been riding the trolley in, and riding home. 200 mile weeks were starting to wear on me.
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