In the coming months, VTA will purchase a new fleet of vehicles for the Valley Rapid service that will open in 2014. Among the issues currently being discussed by VTA staff is how to accommodate bicycle storage on the new vehicles. VTA’s current bus fleet features external bicycle racks on the front of the bus that can hold two bicycles, which is the maximum allowed for front racks by state law. The Valley Rapid vehicles would also be equipped with these racks, but is that enough bicycle storage to meet demand?
Cyclists have complained that the racks on VTA buses are often full, forcing them to wait for the next bus in the hope that it will have space for their bicycle. So, what are the options for additional bicycle storage and are they worth the tradeoffs?
Transit agencies in Everett, Washington and Eugene, Oregon have had success with bicycle storage inside their bus rapid transit vehicles. In both cases the transit agencies determined that external bicycle storage was not a viable option so they developed their own internal storage systems. The Swift Bus (Everett, WA) uses angled racks and a tension wheel (YouTube video) to hold bicycles in place and the EmX (Eugene, OR) uses anchored straps of three different lengths and a wheel rack(YouTube video) to keep the bicycles from falling over. Both transit systems require that bicycles are loaded through the rear door where they can be easily and quickly rolled into the racks/straps.
These systems are not without their tradeoffs. Both take up space that otherwise would be used for about six seats. The Swift Bus system is designed such that the rear wheel of stored bicycles partly blocks the aisle—a problem that has been remedied by installing a fold-up bench opposite the racks. When the bench is folded up, the aisle effectively jogs to the side, but at a cost of more seats. The EmX system can lead to double-parking of bikes when the owner of the bicycle anchored to the shortest strap needs to exit the bus before the owners of other bicycles, causing delays.
What do you think? Is the benefit of storing bicycles inside the vehicle worth the cost of seats? Why?