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Seattle Transit Blog: People with bikes ride Metro buses FREE during Bike Week

Anyone with a bicycle boarding a King County Metro bus between May 14 and 18 will ride for free, Seattle Transit Blog reports. The promotion also applies to Sound Transit buses operated by Metro (540, 542, 545, 550, 554, 555, 556 and 560).

Details are coming soon, STB says, but this sounds like a brilliant promotion on Metro’s part. Thousands of people load their bikes onto the front of Metro buses every day. And it’s no wonder — the bike/bus combo is extremely powerful. For many trips, it is simply the fastest way to get around (especially when using the express buses).

Using Bike Week — which culminates with Bike to Work Day May 18 — as a way to hook more people on the bike/bus combo is a brilliant way to increase ridership in the long-term. My biggest worry is that it will be harder to find an open spot on the front of the bus with more people using it, which would be an awesome problem for us to have.

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10 responses to “Seattle Transit Blog: People with bikes ride Metro buses FREE during Bike Week”

  1. Brilliant except for everyone who rides to a hill only to wait for a bus with a full rack…

  2. Taking bikes on transit doesn’t scale. Three bike racks on the front of a bus is probably about the most bike-to-passenger ratio any busy transit system can reasonably expect (trains will be no help here — in peak hours no sane transit system allows bikes in trains because they take too much space and are hard to control), and when the weather is nice it’s just barely enough. Throw in this ridiculous promotion that defies basic economics and it really won’t be enough (watch anyone that wants a free bus ride schlep a bike along for their trip — what a hassle).

    Good bike parking at major transit nodes does scale to high levels of cycling and transit use (this is known because it’s what the Dutch do). But we don’t have it. Good means it has to be public, space-efficient, covered, and secure (which means security cameras or something — that makes sense if the parking is dense and well-used). This isn’t hard or expensive. But transit nodes here have a private bike locker scheme (too expensive and space-inefficient to scale up, requires a commitment which is a barrier to popularity), and then uncovered bike racks (unacceptable security and rain protection for leaving a bike all day).

    1. Devin

      I have to say something on the note about Dutch bike parking at train stations, having experienced it:

      A.) There is usually more bike parking than car parking

      B.) people don’t really need to take much transit because they can realistically ride everywhere.

      C.) It’s the Netherlands. Those ideas are feasable there. There’s no need for trams really either, but they have a ton. Same for buses. There’s no need for GVB trains either, but they have them. No one even really rides the Amsterdam Metro (yeah, they have a subway too.) You can bike everywhere – literally everywhere – but they have choices in place.

      In the car-centric United States, we have to take other approaches. Integrating bikes and transit is great. Mixing trips makes things really easy for some people and adding room on trains is useful. Places like San Francisco have abismal integration. No streetcars or metro trains allow bikes. Some BART trains do, but only some, and the ones that don’t allow bikes still have cyclists on them. Barely any Muni buses allow bikes. SF, much like us, has a challenging topography at times and also gaps in infrastructure. Some people aren’t comfortable with riding on 15th or on Eastlake or on Madision etc and providing rack space on each bus is a nice perk. This is a great way to advertise this service. Especially since Metro and ST are really great about equipping every bus and train with bike storage.

      We’d all like the US to be like the Netherlands, but we are different and we are making strides.

      1. Why should Muni trains allow bikes? Muni trains are packed pretty often. I’m from Chicago, and you can’t take a bike on the L or Metra pretty often. You just won’t fit.

        In Seattle, with our comparatively small number of cyclists and transit users we’re already hitting the capacity limit of accommodating bikes on our major express transit routes.

        Mixed-mode commutes can be really useful but if we want them to grow we have to accommodate them in a way that scales, which means not putting your little vehicle inside a big vehicle, and instead leaving your little vehicle at the station. We have lots of urban transit nodes with express transit service (typically these have scant bike parking that is still more than they have car parking) that would be great sites for quality bike parking like that at Dutch train stations (probably small installations at first). Any Link station (many have extra space that’s not usable for much else); downtown Seattle; the Montlake Flyer Stop; I-5/NE 45th (tons of express service out to Snohomish County, for people that work there); Bellevue TC; maybe even Lynnwood TC or Mountlake Terrace. Lots of people put their bikes on the bus when they work close to a frequent transit line. We should give these people appealing options to park their bikes on the home side of the trip, so the bus racks are open for people that really need them.

    2. Tom Fucoloro

      I look at bikes on transit as a gateway drug to a bike share network. I agree, it doesn’t scale. That’s why bike share is so brilliant. No need to move the bike on a transit so long as you know there will be a bike waiting for you at the end.

      But for now, bikes on transit is what we’ve got, and we might as well promote the idea until we get that bike share network.

      1. I’m not sure what bike share is good for. I’m honestly not sure I’d ever use one. That doesn’t make them useless for everyone, but…

        You arrive somewhere on transit and you’re going some place for a short enough time that a shared bike is affordable (that is, not to work). The place you are is dense enough and has enough nearby destinations to support a bike share (it’s not a suburban P&R with lousy connecting transit service). The place you’re going is far enough that messing with a clunky bike is superior to walking (which is free), but close enough that messing with a bike is superior to taking a connecting bus (also free most of the time). That doesn’t really describe many of my trips. Maybe that’s because Seattle’s urban neighborhoods have such slow transit that you might as well bike the whole way…

        Anyway, a good chunk of trips start at home, and often the best leg of the journey for biking is from home to rapid transit. Therefore, a need for proper bike parking at rapid transit hubs seems obvious.

      2. Tom Fucoloro

        Seattle has a transit system that is very serisouly centered around one big hub: Downtown. Then there are a couple high density satellite hubs (U District, downtown Bellevue) and then smaller hubs (Fremont, W Seattle Junction, Ballard, Capitol Hill, etc).

        The way I see bike share being most useful is to have bike share heavily downtown and near those high density areas that are well connected to the transit network. So if you arrive in any of those spots by transit, you can use bike share to complete the “last mile” of the trip that transit is not very good at filling.

        For those who don’t live within the range of the bike share hubs, I think riding your own bike to a transit center and parking it like you describe is the solution. The majority of those trips will end within these bike share areas, and bike share can get you to your destination.

        King County is set up perfectly for bike share, especially the downtown core of Seattle. Put some safe bikeways there and the system can flourish (assuming we find a good solution to the helmet law problem, but that’s a different discussion).

    3. Devin

      It sounds like you may like the idea of bike sharing? The one thing that I see as a downside to parking at one station and then getting on a train/bus in Seattle is that some trips don’t end immediately next to where you want to be. In that instance, taking a train or bus to a hub and then riding the rest of the way would be great. I believe that would actually be pretty nice for some folks because they wouldn’t even have to purchase their own bikes. Until that happens though, it’s still very nice to have the option to bring your bike to the end of a line and then continue on after that.

  3. Lucee

    As a regular bike commuter, sounds like a nightmare coming up for me. There are only 3 spots, after all, on these buses. I don’t mind sharing, but I’m not happy about waiting for the next bus when I’m on my way to work.

  4. Gary

    The better solution for bike/bus is the ultra compact folding bike. There are a couple of companies that make compact fast folding bikes, Brompton, Bike Friday, Dahon, coupled with a fiber chain & internal hub to cut down the grease on clothes problem. There are two major problems. First cost, these bikes are not cheap. Second when wet, they are still a mess from road grime. The Bike Friday has a quick cover/bag that should work. Lastly those internal hubs are a pain to service (according to my local bike shop.)

    But owning your own bike solves both the last mile and the first mile and the secure parking problem. Just bag it up and bring it inside the office.

    But if my commute was a mixed route, I’d seriously consider this as an option.

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