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Bikes, Trains, and not Automobiles


I've lived all over the country and world, my background is in International Affairs, Political Science, and Economics, and I'm a Chicago boy born and bred.

I've talked in the past about encouraging more bikers to commute to work, but I've failed to integrate one type of bike commuter; the type that only bikes for part of their commute.  Many people live too far from work to bike the entire distance and instead need to incorporate both their bike and the train as a means of getting to the office.  The Metra and the CTA say they are bike-friendly, but let's fact it, they really aren't.  In this post I will discuss a few ways that both the CTA and Metra can improve the commute for their distance commuters.

I've taken my bike on the Metra once and will never do it again, just as I've taken my bike on the El and hope to never do that again.  On the Metra, you can't take your bike on during commuter hours (which defeats the purpose), and there is only a small space where all bikes on board have to bungee down their bikes together.  On the El, you also can't take bikes on during commuter hours, and while there aren't specific places for bikes to go, other passengers are sure to tell you where the bike shouldn't go (which is pretty much everywhere).  Metra Bike Policy.  CTA Bike Policy.

I understand why we can't take our bikes on the train during commuter hours, but there has to be a solution.  One solution is to follow the lead of Caltrain (the Metra's equivalent in the Bay Area); they have an entire train car dedicated to bikes:

It's true that having a car without people will not make the profit of a car with people, but the idea itself encourages bikers and customers.  It speaks to those people in the suburbs or in Roger's Park, and says, "We want your business, so we'll do what we can to get you on board. Plus, we support lowering our carbon footprint."  I think it would be great if both the CTA and Metra created a bike-car, although, it seems much more feasible for the Metra.

Another idea is to make more room for bikes on each train car.  Portland's Max, which is most similar to the El, has hooks to hang bikes, and has a much more accepting policty towards bikes on board:  

With the massive un-acceptance of bikes on trains in Chicago, many people have boycotted the thought of bringing their bikes on board.  This encourages people to drive or to take a taxi to the train station, or as far as work.

The Trimet in Portland makes the first step, and provies bike lockers at train stations.  This is an easy solution for the CTA and Metra, who are lacking in this department.  I have a nice bike, and would never leave it unattended at a train station during the entire workday, but I would splurge for a covered bike locker.  At the bare minimum, Chicago's train stations need better security at their designated bike parking locations.  I understand that the CTA and Metra have little money right now, and therefore are unlikely to spend what they do have on a small percentage of their riders, those with bikes.  But it's the little things like fixing bike policies and encouraging every type of commuter, that encourages more riders and more business in the long run.



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