GTTA gives us somewhere to put our bikes

Over the weekend, the GTTA (yes, that's a real link to their website) announced a short term plan to improve transit use in Toronto and the surrounding area. The main features of the plan are additional train coaches, increased track capacity and new buses (including double deckers, which will be good, if not a little strange, to see here).

On the cycling front, the plan includes bike lockers throughout the GTA and racks on buses. The press release indicates the racks will be on municipal buses.

Bicycle Promotion Initiatives
-----------------------------
$2.1 million to $3.2 million for safe/secure bike storage

Installation of 1,000 new safe, secure, weather-proof bicycle storage
spaces at strategic locations across the GO Transit inter-regional
network, to compliment current bicycle storage initiatives by GO
Transit and the City of Toronto, City of Burlington, and City of
Hamilton.

$1.0 million to $1.8 million for expanded bike/bus rack program

In a move toward the goal of 100 per cent bicycle accessibility for
all bus routes, bicycle-carrying devices will be installed on 1,000
new-order and existing municipal transit vehicles.

It's encouraging that cyclists are at least being considered by the GTTA. It must be apparent to them that people cycling to the train stations would ease GO's big parking problem.

There are two related items missing in this announcement that I hope the GTTA will start to consider. People living in the suburban areas served by the GO trains still have to deal with cycling on some of the most unfriendly streets around. If the GTTA can get involved in municipal bus issues, it should also be able to contribute to municipal bike routes, even if it is just to get people to a train station.

Also, a bike rack on a municipal bus serves a purpose, but I would guess that a far more popular bike rack would be on a GO bus traveling between cities. Most people can't ride a bike from Newmarket to downtown Toronto, but might like to ride to and from the train stations.

While I'm not quite clear on the "authority" of the GTTA, it doesn't hurt to see them mentioning cyclists. In the suburban areas, where so little is done to make cycling easier, this could be a positive first step, albeit small. For real changes, the next steps must include that majority of cyclists who aren't paying a bus or a train fare.

Comments

Ottawa has recently tested some double-decker buses.

I'd love to see bike racks on GO buses. But apparently there are some kind of regulations that prevent inter-city buses from having exterior racks. Even opening up the luggage bays to bicycles would be a good start.

Improved bike parking and other facilities near GO stations is a step in the right direction. Many GO stations and bus park'n'rides are in pretty aweful locations for cyclists.

While I understand the need to not have full-sized bikes on rush hour transit, it seems if the GTTA could establish a standard -- like a carry-on standard -- for folding bikes, it would really open up the intermodal option.

If I knew I could buy a folding bike and be able to take it with me on rush hour transit, it would certainly open up the bike commuting option for a lot of people (and the footprint of jobs I could bike commute to!).

Right now the regulations in this area are a bit murky!

As far as I know, you can bring just about any folding bike onto TTC at any time. Just fold it up! I don't think anybody would give you any trouble for it, ever - but if they do, just buy a bag for the folding bike and put the bike in the bag. Voila - you're carrying a "bag" with you, not a "bike".

And yes, I would really really love to see some sort of way to put bikes on GO buses. I know they are allowed on trains outside of rush hours. But the only place I ever travel to by GO Transit is Milton, and there are NO trains to/from Milton outside of rush hour....

Transport for London is well-organized. They run the tube and London buses, but they're also responsible for developing cycling lanes and other facilities.

I think giving one organization (say the GTAA) the mandate for promoting all transport non-auto transport would make smart, integrated transport solutions more common.

Iain,
For a Canadian example, Translink takes care of all forms of transportation in the Vancouver area. Roads, transit, cycling, ferries, etc...

http://www.translink.bc.ca/

Getting the province to change the regulation on inter-city buses would be a good place for the GTTA to step in. I guess their concern is about something going wrong at high speed, but I would think that positive experience with municipal buses should help.

And I can't imagine why throwing a bike in the luggage hold would be bad. If they were concerned about grease, they could just have large bags handy at the bus stations.

-dj

GO says: "Bicycles are not allowed on wheelchair-accessible train cars or on GO Buses (on the buses, a folding bicycle in a proper carrying case can be put in the underfloor luggage compartment if the bus has one)."

From: http://www.gotransit.com/PUBLIC/faq/default.htm#Bicycles

I guess one would need to check which kind of bus they were taking before they departed with a folder.

I'd like to see some sort of rack on VIVA buses here in York, as the stops are less frequent than the YRT. It would open up more commuting possibilities.

Regarding the GO rules -- exactly. Not exactly encouraging one to try bringing a folding bike! You'd need to pre-determine if the particular bus you were going to take could accomodate you.

Imagine a world where GO encouraged people to bring along a folding bike. Jeepers, they could even sell GO-branded folding bikes if they wanted to. I could easily ride a folder to a GO station, take the train and get off and bike to my destination. It would radically widen the places I could commute without driving. And it wouldn't require GO to do much other than figure out how big a "package" could be accomodated in current equipment. Isn't that the sort of thinking we should be expecting from publicly-funded transit organizations?

One note to add about that....

You can only use the underfloor luggage compartments during rush hour if you're getting on or off at the ENDS of the bus line (e.g. Union Station and Hamilton GO). During non-rush hours, you should be OK.
http://www.gotransit.com/PUBLIC/faq/default.htm#Baggage,%2...
(Hmmm...that doesn't explain it very well....)

I once brought my folder on a GO bus from Union to Hamilton. It was in a bag, and I just chucked it in the luggage compartment before boarding.

I've brought various bikes on the trains without any problems. Except for once, taking my folder on the GO train in Hamilton at 6:something in the morning at rush hour. The ticket agent said I wouldn't be allowed to do that, even with the bike in a bag. A GO employee on the platform said the same, but I pleaded and explained that the bike will be bagged. He obliged and jokingly said, "OK, as long as it fits in your pocket". I guess I could have still been fined if a transit cop / inspector came by while I was on the train.

A smaller folder, like a Brompton or Bike Friday Tikit might make the whole thing a bit easier, smoother, and stealth-like.

I tried to bring a folding Raleigh Twenty on a GO bus once from Union to Markham. I wanted to cycle the 3 km from the GO stop to my destination rather than bother my friends I was visiting to pick me up or have a long walk. The bus driver refused to let me take it on. I made the mistake of not bagging it although it still would probably have looked suspiciously bike like. (the 20 does not fold that compactly) I tried clarifying the rules with the driver and he basically said NEVER can a bike be brought on a bus not even in a bag/box/whatever. This bus had underfloor compartments and almost no passengers had luggage to go there.

After much belligerence and because it was raining he said I could take my bike on the bus "just this once". I don't think the bus got wrecked :) (the reason he said that bikes were not allowed)

I think this is a huge issue ... intermodal forms of transport (ride to the train, carry your bike on the train, ride to your destination) offer an excellent alternative to car-based trips for commuting.

Even a casual cyclist could ride 3 - 5 miles to pick up transit, extending the distance they could comfortable travel and potentially reducing time consuming transit connections.

The trick is finding a way to make intermodal practical when transit commissions have no extra money. Racks are great optics, but they cost money to implement and can only accomodate a few bikes.

If there was a way to accomodate folding bikes (the smallest of which seem to take up about as much space as a large courier bag), there wouldn't be a huge cost to the transit folks and everyone would know what the rules are. I'd buy a new folding bike if I knew I could take it on any transit, any time! Still cheaper than a second car.

This looks like "low hanging fruit" to me, but maybe it's more difficult to implement that I imagine!

For about a year now, I was able to take a dahon folder on the Go Stouffville line on and off. On my way to work this morning, one of the engineers tapped my shoulder and told me that no bikes were allowed and I'd be ticketed $125 if I didn't get off at the next stop.

I promptly got off at the next stop and made my 23km ride to downtown. Thinking back, I should have tried to convince him to let me stay on the train to union but I think he was a bit miffed at me for not being able to hear him make an announcement to get me off the train earlier as I had my headphones on.

It's a bit frustrating to think that we live in a city that's so backwards. And here I am trying to do my bit by driving less. Kinda defeats the purpose of having a folder now. Feeling a bit hopeless as there doesn't seem to be any changes soon to allow folders on Go Trains.

Wil, was the bike in a bag?

Do you have any hint as to what was different today compared to an entire year of travel with the bike?

-dj

-dj

That's total discrimination. If you had a giant hockey bag or gold clubs would they boot you off the train? I think not.

Hey, GO get with the 21 century!

Btw, next time you're on the train grab their latest newsletter touting how bike friendly they are
...

Darren, I don't have a bag for my Dahon. I am guessing that someone must have pressed the yellow strip and reported the bike. I also took a later train than usual.

Just checked their FAQ and it looks like during rush hour, luggage isn't really permitted with the mention of "non-rush hour trains". http://www.gotransit.com/public/en/faq/default.htm#Baggage.... Maybe bagging it might not even guarantee safe passage.

I read on another site that someone else had a similar incident and emailed Go transit on their customer service page about the final verdict on folding bikes on trains. I am really curious about what their response might be.

Maybe I should just suck it up and ride enough to be able to commute the entire way on the bike and skip the GO all together. =)

I've taken a real interest in this as we are looking to move out of the city and take advantage of the developing "transit communities" building up around GO stations.

If I could buy and take a folder on GO, the whole thing becomes even more attractive as GO would become the only transit component of my commute. That makes the commute easier, probably quicker and a whole lot more attractive.

GO prohibits bikes on any rush hour train. I figured you could argue a folder in a bag isn't a bike anymore, it's a bag (of which the contents are none of anybodies business). Turns out GO also prohibits oversize bags/packages during rush hour. Since they don't define "oversize" there is not way to ensure a folder in a bag won't be a problem during rush hour.

I may run the non-Go components (it would get a workout in), but having the bike with me would open up other options and would be preferable.

I decided to leave the folder at work until I get the official word from GO on whether folding bicycles are allows on trains or if riders taking them on board would be threatened with a fine or get off at the next stop (it turns out the fine is $150, not $125).

Tino, thanks for you post - in a way, I am glad you had a bit of rage in your post. In the initial moments when I was standing alone with my folder at an empty train station watching the train depart - I was a bit angry but decided that I should make the best of the situation and enjoy the longer than usual ride to work. Besides, I think the GO engineering was just doing his job.

I was also feeling a bit embarrassed, through the 3 years that I've been on the GO, I've never seen anyone actually get kicked off. I honestly never thought that I would experience this first hand for bringing my folding bicycle on board, saving them that precious parking spot where there are plans to construct a multi-level lot - trying to do something good, trying to break away from stereotype of being so car-dependent while living in the suburbs.

I believe that one day, people living in the suburbs around Toronto can find a way to give up their cars for a flexible multimodial commute to work. For this reason, I am considering taking action on a suggestion from a fellow GO rider and write a letter to GO Transit and also forward a copy to the Toronto Star - hopefully, public awareness might be a strong enough incentive for the GO to clarify and update their policy of what is actually considered a bike and what is allowed on their trains without causing too much inconvenience to other riders.

One of my co-workers thought this incident was funny enough to include in his donation to support me for the Ride for Heart. "In memory of Wil's ability to take his folding bike on the GO train"...

https://www.kintera.org/faf/donorReg/donorPledge.asp?ieven...

Cheers!

While I am one who appreciates the use of discretion, I think that a very clear policy on this issue is better. I don't think that it is fair to GO's clients (which I am sometimes) for them to be dropped off at some random station between their departure point and their destination without some really, really good cause; I don't think that carrying "luggage" is that reason.

But that's me. I think that GO's mission was to move people, and people usually need to bring some "stuff" with them. I don't think that it is GO's job to strand people -- that paid thier fair -- in some limbo partway between here and there because they happened to have brough some luggage. I'd rather see people turned away before they got on board than be abandoned at some random station enroute.

That said, I also think that you would be wise to get a bag for you folding bike so that it "looks" more like luggage, and less like a bike. ;-)