Recently I was riding my regular commute on the 53, and the driver turned down two passengers with bikes. He simply said “you can’t bring it on the bus.” One passenger he turned down was waiting at the very last stop before the bus went downtown and started dropping everyone off, even though there were still empty seats. The previous week, I was on a 53 with a different driver and more passengers, and the bus safely brought four bikes into downtown.
I know and understand Metro Transit’s policy, that bikes-on-the-bus are at the driver’s discretion. Nevertheless, Metro Transit should do more to accommodate people commuting with bikes in order to facilitate multimodal transportation. The current policy winds up being arbitrary—someone considering a multimodal trip doesn’t know whether the driver is going to prevent them from boarding, making it impossible to reliably plan such a trip. This discourages ridership, and probably beyond just the one planned trip. It can make a regular, reliable, multimodal commuting plan impossible.
Here are some suggestions:
(1) Require drivers to track how many passengers with bikes they turned down, and whether the bus was standing room only when they did it. Unless Metro Transit collects information about this problem it can never be properly recognized or addressed. With this information, Metro Transit can begin to understand which routes have insufficient bike capacity, and act to mitigate the problem, rather than continue to ignore it.
(2) Better train drivers how and under what circumstances passengers can safely carry a bike onto a bus. My bus today was not full and, if any bus is capable of doing so, could have safely carried those passengers and their bikes. The criteria for when a bike should be permitted need to be better defined. It’s not clear to me what criteria would prevent a bike from being safely carried on when the bus is not standing-room-only.
(3) Put drivers comfortable with bikes on routes with bikers. Judging by how my driver reacted to people seeking to carry their bikes on, it was a de facto “no bikes on the bus, ever” policy. He probably shouldn’t be driving a route that has insufficient bike capacity.
Accepting that the driver is the first and last word on whether someone can carry their bike on the bus, Metro Transit should make at least some effort to match drivers comfortable with carrying bikes safely to the routes where people are apt to bring more bikes than can fit on the front rack. Metro Transit is in a position to know which drivers will be accommodating and which drivers will not, whether that is a function of training or driver mindset, and using that as a factor in their route assignments. The poor riders who show up at a bus stop hoping to take a bus ride don’t know whether or not they’re going to win the lottery until the bus shows up.
(4) Equip buses to carry more bikes, run more buses, or otherwise make the possibility of riding with a bike more easy to predict and plan for. These solutions vary in expense and practicality, but they are other ways to solve this problem—and more buses obviously solves other problems as well.
I just ask that something be done, because the status quo is maddening.