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Metro proposes quintupling bicycle access mode share

Metro has completed its study of pedestrian and bicycle access to Metrorail stations. The recommendations include an aggressive yet important goal of tripling the percentage of riders who arrive by bicycle by 2020 and quintupling it by 2030.

Bikes outside Columbia Heights Metro. Photo from WMATA.

In 2007, 0.7% of Metrorail riders arrived by bicycle. Metro's ridership is growing, but adding parking capacity is extremely expensive or completely infeasible, and increasing the ability for riders to walk and bike to stations can help Metro grow most efficiently.

You can discuss bicycle and pedestrian access with Metro planners tonight at a public session hosted by the Riders' Advisory Council, 6:30 pm at Metro HQ.

Already, walking and biking is growing faster than other modes. Metrorail ridership in the AM peak grew 11% from 2002-2007, but the numbers of pedestrians grew 18% and bicyclists 60%. Metro wants to make continued growth an official goal and set targets of 2.1% for 2020 and 3.5% for 2030.

The station with the most cyclists each day is East Falls Church, with 92 out of 2,709 boardings in the AM peak; the station with the highest percentage of cyclists is Medical Center, with 7.1% (all 2007 numbers). The station with the most pedestrians is Dupont Circle, with 3,686 out of 4,410 riders arriving on foot, while the highest percentage is at Mt. Vernon Square, encompassing 90% of the 1,084 riders in 2007 (before substantial development in the area). Court House comes in second in total trips on foot and third in percentage.

While walking almost entirely depends on the number of housing units or jobs within a short distance of the station, bicycling has the potential to replace a number of short auto trips to Metro parking lots, freeing up spaces for other people to drive to the station without having to build more parking.

Secure bike cage. Photo from WMATA.
Parking garages cost Metro $30,000 per space to build, while a secure bike cage costs only $1,000 per space, and bike racks cost far less. Therefore, increasing bicycling for riders who live 1-3 miles from stations is the cheapest and best way to improve access for those riders.

In a survey, 67% of riders said they would consider bicycling and 55% would consider walking. The distance from home to the station was the top factor barring walking or biking, but #2 was "uncomfortable crossing conditions at intersections" and #3 was "high traffic volume and speed." 25% of the respondents said they drive instead of walking or biking because they "do not know a safe walking or biking route."

Also, there is not enough bike parking, as we've discussed many times. 58% said the bike parking facilities were inadequate at the station near home and 71% said they were inadequate near work (for those who might bike from the station to work and leave a bike overnight.)

The study also suggests moving some of the bike lockers from stations where they are not being rented to other stations where there is demand. According to the study, only 10 of 48 lockers at Largo Town Center are rented out, 4 of 24 at Prince George's Plaza, and 43 of 61 at Shady Grove, while all 12 are full at Braddock Road, all 16 at Forest Glen, 19 of 20 at Eastern Market, and 26 of 30 at Grosvenor.

The study doesn't say when this data was collected or whether it accounts for the recent hike in bike locker fees to $200/year. It would also be worth investigating whether to roll back that increase at stations with low utilization.

Specific bike parking recommendations also include:

    Type III racks. Photo from WMATA.
  • Replace "Type III" bike racks, the ones that look like medieval torture devices, with the "inverted U" style of racks
  • Cover existing parking at Ballston, College Park, Huntington and West Hyattsville
  • Move parking inside the station but outside the faregates at College Park, Huntington, Fort Totten and New York Avenue (which will make Geoff Hatchard very happy)
  • Add bike racks at Braddock Road, Greenbelt, Grosvenor, Landover, Medical Center, New Carrollton, Potomac Avenue, Prince George's Plaza, Rosslyn, and West Hyattsville

    Modular bikestation. Photo from WMATA.
  • Add modular bike parking, basically covered bike parking rooms that can be easily dropped into an area, at Ballston, Braddock Road, College Park, Dunn Loring, East Falls Church, Fort Totten, Prince George's Plaza, Silver Spring, Takoma, Vienna, West Hyattsville and Woodley Park
  • Add an enclosed bike station at College Park, Crystal City, Eastern Market or Navy Yard, Foggy Bottom, Medical Center, New York Avenue, Silver Spring, Shady Grove, Vienna and West Hyattsville
To reach the goal of 2.1% by 2020 and 3.5% by 2030, Metro would have to add 3,000 new spaces by 2020 and 8,322 by 2030.

Local governments would also have to do their part. The study doesn't identify all the bike lanes, curb ramps, signals and other improvements that are needed, but does show some examples of good and bad station accessibility. College Park has a great sign directing people to campus from the station, while West Hyattsville has a confusing M-NCPPC sign for getting to Chillum Road.

Wayfinding signs at College Park (left) and West Hyattsville (right). Photos from WMATA.

Pedestrians have made their own pathways to get to crosswalks at College Park, Rhode Island Avenue, Vienna and more. Braddock Road, Rhode Island Avenue, and many others have substandard sidewalks limiting pedestrian accessibility. At Vienna, a bike and pedestrian bridge is out of service but has no signs to explain what detour to take or when the bridge will be fixed. The list goes on.

Poor accessibility at Rhode Island Avenue (left) and Braddock Road (right). Photos from WMATA.

Besides expanding bike parking, there are a number of specific process recommendations. Some interesting ones include:

  • Require a pedestrian and bicycle access study and a multimodal circulation study for joint development projects
  • Create guidelines for design and placement of bike parking
  • Have Metro participate in local jurisdictions' bike and pedestrian advisory committees
  • Add a Bike Program Manager position at Metro
  • Make sure station managers, maintenance personnel, and others know Metro's policies concerning bike and ped access
  • Create station area plans in partnership with local jurisdictions
  • Get bus and rail routes into Google Maps/Google Transit (thanks planners!)
The Riders' Advisory Council Long-Term Projects Committee, which I chair, will be hearing more about these plans and discussing them with Metro planners. All members of the public are welcome to participate and ask questions during RAC committee meetings. The meeting is 6:30 pm at Metro's HQ, 600 5th St NW (between Gallery Place and Judiciary Square), in the committee room training room on the lobby level (left right and then right after security).
David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


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David, will you or someone else be live-tweeting the meeting tonight? Can't make it due to two other transportation meetings (one being BikeWalk Alexandria).

by Froggie on Dec 6, 2010 12:11 pm • linkreport

This is great, but there are two words I don't see.

1. Bikesharing. No brainer.
2. Buses -- granted this wasn't the purpose of the report. But there are a lot of opportunities there.

The other issue, of course, is bike theft and how to make metrorail stations more secure locations for bike parking.

by charlie on Dec 6, 2010 12:25 pm • linkreport

They need to provide better bike access to some stations if they want to do this. Shady Grove station is questionable at the moment.

by Matt R on Dec 6, 2010 12:27 pm • linkreport

Tonight's meeting is actually across the lobby in the Training Room. Right and then right after security; look for the "Transit Accessibility Center" sign.

by John Pasek on Dec 6, 2010 12:39 pm • linkreport

No mention of White Flint which is trying to be a new model for accessability.

by Michele on Dec 6, 2010 12:49 pm • linkreport

I (stupidly) biked to the Huntington station the other week after a long ride on the Mount Vernon Trail.

Suffice it to say, that station is not designed for pedestrians or cyclists. Poor access all around, both on the roads leading to the station, and the footpaths around the station itself.

Also, will somebody at WMATA please humor IMGoph, and fix the racks at the NY Ave Station for once and for all?

by andrew on Dec 6, 2010 12:50 pm • linkreport

@ Michele

The plan document doesn't address issues specific to each station. A station typology was developed that divided the 86 stations into nine different station types from the point of view of bike access. The plan was developed around those typologies, with station specifics provided for one station illustrative of each category. Follow on planning will address station specifics.

by nat on Dec 6, 2010 12:55 pm • linkreport

What seems completely at odds with this proposal is what has to be regarded as punitive price increases for bike lockers. I want to ride my bicycle (queue Queen), but due to its expense and my fears, I want and have been using a locker for some $70 odd dollars a year. This was a good compromise from free but dangerous. But $200 ++ is plain and simply punishment for riding my bike. Quite simply I will stop when that time comes. And much like the reduction in riders due to fare increases, I predict a drop-off in riders that don't have access to safe and reasonably priced places to keep their bikes. Metro has their head up their arses again on this now with evidence that price increases due to do what they plan. Riding my bike to Metro is not worth losing my bike. It's also not worth $200 ++ to keep it safe per year. It's robbery. I'll keep my money and walk - or Drive (and park in a non-WMATA lot).

by Biker on Dec 6, 2010 1:03 pm • linkreport

@andrew As a Huntington resident, I have to somewhat disagree with you. To be fair, I haven't tried accessing via the south entrance (off Kings Hwy), but I've never had a problem getting in and out via walking or bike. Biking conditions along Huntington Ave itself are worse than trying to get in/out of the station.

by Froggie on Dec 6, 2010 1:32 pm • linkreport

I've lived at both West Hyattsville and Braddock Road.

It really does seem odd that there are only 12 lockers at Braddock. I'm not surprised that they're all full. That part of Alexandria is quite hospitable to cycling and it is middle to upper income.

I disagree with Alpert's comments regarding pedestrian accessibility at Braddock. Pedestrian accessibility to the station in general is good. The sidewalks are just fine and traffic speed at rush hour is pretty slow. I recognize the wall in the picture, and I think it's not part of the station where pedestrians come in.

West Hyattsville is a low income area. Bike racks that are free to users and that can be monitored by station personnel are a good idea. The current racks are a bit far from the station manager's position. When I asked the station manager how safe it was to lock a bike up there, he said it wasn't safe. However, I have a feeling that many residents would be unable to afford paying to lock a bike up at a covered station. Any solution for West Hyattsville has to balance both cost and safety.

Additionally, the roads around the West Hyattsville station are unsafe for most cyclists, especially at rush hour. Hyattsville in general is a very car-centric suburb. The multi-use trail is safe, of course. I was cycling to work at Union Station from around West H, and I would detour through the neighborhood, some distance from the Metro station.

Regarding Biker's comment, I think that Metro should focus on mass bike storage solutions, like the covered lots and modular parking solutions that the post mentioned. The individual lots don't serve the majority of users. I would be loathe to pay $200/year to park, of course, and I am also uncertain if that increase was justifiable. However, most people don't ride bikes worth more than $1,000 to the station. The individual lockers serve that market - and my bike, for the record, is worth way more than $1k. For the mass market, we just need a large amount of storage that is cheap for users (preferably free) and that is secure.

by Weiwen Ng on Dec 6, 2010 1:34 pm • linkreport

The bike lockers should be done away with. These are a set-aside that currently benefit a tiny number of people, and are not even remotely scaleable -- there's no practical implementation of them in this format to serve more than a handful of people at each station.

That said, I really can't believe anyone would complain about paying $200 a year for a bike locker. This is a reserved, secure, covered spot for your bike at a cost of one dollar per weekday.

That's about as big a bargain as you're going to find anywhere. Griping about it is pretty much the definition of looking a gift horse in the mouth.

by Jamie on Dec 6, 2010 2:03 pm • linkreport

How Can we get M-NCPPC on-board w/ metros goal and get them to open the bike trail after dark, which right now includes morning and evening rush? In the photo illustrating poor signage it states, "Park [bike trail] closed at dark".

@Weiwen-disagree with statement that roads in W.Hyville are bad for biking to/from W.H. stn. Some roads are horrible; Queens Chpl, Ager & Chillum. Most in City of H.V. are okay. E.g City just completed redo of Hamilton St. to be more ped and bike friendly w/ bulb-outs and bike lanes. Also I find that drivers are really good (compared to area norms) about stopping at the Q.C. crossing.

Not everyone riding to the W.H. stn. would shun covered secure bike parking due to cost (not counting the $200 lockers). But a covered, secure, shared space certainly has current demand. It should be made available and expand when demand increases.

if employers offered parity for bike parking benefits to car parking then some people could get the $200/yr. locker as a work bene. Can regional govt's do more to facilitate that?

by Tina on Dec 6, 2010 2:18 pm • linkreport

@Jamie: They benefit a tiny number of people that pay for the use of the lockers (including me). The $200 a year is more than it costs to purchase, install and maintain the lockers and the program. Should we really get rid of it if it doesn't cost the system anything except a little sidewalk space?

I was disappointed with the increase from $70 to $200 but I ended up renewing anyway. There's no bike share station at my work, and I can't leave a bike locked up overnight in DC without half of my bike parts being missing within a week.

by Michael Perkins on Dec 6, 2010 2:27 pm • linkreport

@Jamie, Many people ride to save money. With an old bike worth<$200 it hardly seems worth the price of a locker.

Are all the lockers in covered areas? If not then in pouring rain you're still exposed getting your bike in and out of the locker.

by Tina on Dec 6, 2010 2:27 pm • linkreport

Michael Pekins use of the locker makes most sense to me. I would pay for it for that use. (to leave it overnight). But I would still prefer the locker itself to be in a covered area so I wouldn't be rained on getting it in and out, rearranging my belongings and clothing for the change in mode, checking my ph. etc..

by Tina on Dec 6, 2010 2:32 pm • linkreport

I really doubt that the lockers cost less than $200 a year to purchase, install and maintain for their life, but that's not really important.

They don't scale. Unless demand is so low that a dozen of them at any station is going to be enough to serve all the people you expect to bike, they are a gimmick and nothing more.

@Tina, with an old bike worth less than $200 why would you bother with a locker in the first place?

The question is still, who do they serve, and the answer is, hardly anyone.

I did a quick count of the lockers at each metro station from Metro's web site, and there are about 1,000 in the whole system. An average of 20 per metro station.

1,000 lockers. 800,000 metro trips every day.

You do the math.

From this post it seems clear that it's very difficult to actually get one, which means demand exceeds supply.

First, it's just common sense to raise the price of a resource in that situation. But remember, we're trying to dramatically increase the number of people biking to metro aren't we?

Already there aren't enough lockers. I doubt most metro stations have a ton of space around them to install acres of these things. Another solution is needed.

by Jamie on Dec 6, 2010 2:39 pm • linkreport

I already covered the cost of bike lockers to their fee and to the cost of providing auto spaces here.

by Michael Perkins on Dec 6, 2010 3:17 pm • linkreport

Technically, Perkins, if your bike gets stripped in a week if it safe to leave overnight.

In assuming the modular space at etc would come from a parking space. And those might be scarce if redevelopment happens. Might be better to have it included in the developer wish list

by Charlie on Dec 6, 2010 3:32 pm • linkreport

Your cost analysis only included the actual purchase price of the locker. You forgot: installation, regular maintenance (e.g. painting), repair or replacement costs if they are vandalized or otherwise need service, and administration costs of the program.

But still I think it's a pointless argument to make, unless you're just trying to figure out if Metro covers their costs. It's all peanuts in the big picture because the numbers are so small.

The question of whether it's a good deal or not has nothing to do with how much it costs each year for Metro to provide them, it's how much it's worth to people. Assuming that demand still exceeds supply, then it's clearly a good deal.

If demand does not exceed supply, then one must really question how much we should invest in developing better bike storage facilities. If you can't even sell 1,000 at $200 a year, which is $200,000 a year, how on earth can you possibly justify building things like the $4 million transit center at union station? That's just one facility that serves one station.

If covered storage is not even worth a dollar a day to more than 1,000 people then I can't say that number would change a lot if it were free (at least as far as daily commuters at a single station are concerned). Considering you're probably about to pay $10 for your round trip Metro fare after you park your bike, that seems like a pretty good indicator of how much it's worth to people.

This is why I think it's a bad solution for serving anything more than a niche. If we want bike to metro to be something other than that, then the solution needs to be more scalable, and also easier for end-users.

I am sure that most people would rather be able to bike to a metro station and have covered, secure parking that does not require an annual subscription. Why can't these things be designed in a covered area, in a more space-efficient way (I mean, a bike is only about 18" wide), and using a SmartTrip card or something that can lock and unlock any locker that you use only for the day? Like a high-tech "train station locker."

The whole "annual rental" thing just seems like it creates a huge barrier for most people who might otherwise use such a facility.

by Jamie on Dec 6, 2010 3:32 pm • linkreport

Metro is worried about bikes when there are many access problems for disabled people to get to the stations that seems like a bigger concern than bikes.

What percentage of people that travel to specific metro stations ride bikes at all?

Wouldn't it be better to check out the surrounding areas to see which areas have the most people who ride bikes by looking at the data for the area such as age, health and geography?

I have never seen a person ride a bike to some metro stations or in the area around some metro stations in the past 25 years.

Perhaps it is only a small percentage of the population that ride bikes for more than just fun. Riding bikes to get to stations is not that popular compared to walking/in-wheelchair or taking the bus and those should be the priorities

by kk on Dec 6, 2010 3:56 pm • linkreport

@Jamie: these lockers don't require painting or much maintenance. I called a little while ago about some pretty large holes in the lockers at eastern market and it looks like they came out with some fiberglass mesh and bondo to patch it. They didn't sand or repaint, just covered up the holes where people were shoving their garbage.

by Michael Perkins on Dec 6, 2010 4:01 pm • linkreport

@MP, cool. WMATA maintains the lockers like I used to maintain my car in order to pass the DC "safety inspection."

Anyway I'm really not trying to fixate on the costs. The issue is scalability. If it were easy to just keep adding these things, and demand was there, then wouldn't they?

But the goal is to get people off the road, and make it easier to park your bike at the metro, not to figure out exactly how much to charge for something that is only used by 1,000 people. Wouldn't a system that did not require a subscription be attractive to many more people than the current system?

Of course as someone else alluded to there's a bigger problem then just Metro: many suburban metro stations have horrible bike accessibility, if anyone who lives out there is especially likely to want to bike to metro in the first place.

This is, from the perspective of where people would like to have better bike parking at metros, I suspect the demand is a lot greater at stations where it's probably physically much more difficult to build them (e.g. closer in, less suburban stations). I doubt there are a ton of people who live 3 miles from Shady Grove station and want to bike there... but there could be a lot living a couple miles from Takoma Park.

by Jamie on Dec 6, 2010 4:11 pm • linkreport

I really appreciate that they are addressing the accessibility issue for people who want to bike to metro stations.

I bike to and from Union Station all the time. But there is no safe way to get in and out of that station. Competition with and the congestion of taxis, buses, cars, and pedestrians really makes that area dangerous and unwelcoming for bikers.

The recent addition of covered bike parking and extra bike racks at Union Station is a good start - but I really think a dedicated bike lane needs to be put to encourage more bikers.

by Jen on Dec 6, 2010 4:26 pm • linkreport

Good on Metro for doing this. Sounds like a good plan.

As someone else mentioned, bikesharing is conspicuously absent and a no-brainer.

How hard would it be to buy more bike lockers and install them? Clearly there's demand at some stations. Is space the issue? Can the lockers be stacked vertically?

by Gavin on Dec 6, 2010 4:38 pm • linkreport

Any chance of comment on the big-picture policy being presented to the Board of quintupling bike access share by 2030 as a framing policy within which the particular issues raised here -- pricing, lockers versus racks verus the need-to-be-renamed "cages", parking versus bike sharing, trails versus on-road markings, bike & ped access and ADA accessibility issues, etc -- would be evaluated and programmed over time? Is the proposed policy a good thing?

-- Also, wanted to point folks to, where there's a related post and further opportunity for comment....

by nat on Dec 6, 2010 4:39 pm • linkreport

Metro needs to look at areas inside the paid area for bicycle racks. The design of some stations leave large areas that are not needed for pedestrian flow and are in sight of the station manager. I looked and believe this is true at Eastern Market (to the right of the kiosk when entering the station, opposite the addfare machine), East Falls Church (both sides of the escalators, ground level), and Clarendon (to the right after entering the faregates).

Placing bicycle racks there would not require permanent installation and would offer covered parking that is vandalism resistant at a fairly low cost.

by Michael Perkins on Dec 6, 2010 5:54 pm • linkreport I recall, that's exactly what Geoff suggested for New York Ave.

It could also easily be done at Huntington at the north entrance (Huntington Ave).

by Froggie on Dec 7, 2010 10:19 am • linkreport

The #1 reason I don't ride my bike and park at Metro is security. I don't feel wholly confident that my bike will be there when I return. Granted, I haven't had anything happen to my bike yet (knock on wood) but I've heard way too many bad stories.

by Rob on Dec 7, 2010 2:16 pm • linkreport

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