During the summer of 2022, members of UTRU’s Board of Directors started to notice more bikes appearing on buses, light rail, and commuter rail – specifically on the Utah Transit Authority’s (UTA) network.
With this in mind, the board wanted to know if this was a reality, isolated to their locations, or part of a larger trend. As such, on August 9th, UTRU released a “Bikes On Transit” survey asking the public to provide answers to various questions related to bikes on the transit networks across the state.
The survey was open for 4 weeks and the full anonymized dataset can be found here.
Below is a summary of the results, along with policy suggestions.
In all, UTRU received 67 individual responses to the survey. Of those 63 primarily used UTA while 4 reported using the Cache Valley Transit District (CVTA). As people could make multiple selections, a total of 153 “modes” of transportation were used by these respondants, with the most popular being Light Rail (46 reporting, 30%), Fixed Route Buses (43 reporting, 28%), and Commuter Rail (35 reporting, 22%) on UTA (CVTA only offers bus routes). These responses do differ from UTA’s data for actual ridership with Light Rail accounting for 32% of trips, Bus accounting for 49%, and Commuter Rail accounting for 11% of trips in August according to UTA’s Ridership Dashboard.
70% of respondents reported using a bike as part of their transit mix, with just under 48% saying that they started using a bike as part of their transit planning in the last year. With this in mind, just over half of respondents (51%) reported that they had seen a “somewhat” or “dramatic “increase in bike ridership, with 49% reporting that they have not seen a change; no one responded by stating that they had seen a reduction.
The information we collected related to safely and easily accessing bike infrastructure was enlightening. Two-thirds of those who responded did not feel that there was enough space dedicated to bikes on transit while 54% reported that they did not feel their transit agencies made the rules and safety requirements around bikes clear either at all (41%) or just on certain modes of transit (13%).
Complaints related to rules/safety largely focused on ambiguity about which bike racks people could or could not lock their bikes to on FrontRunner (bikes can not be locked in front of emergency exits, but people report that determining these spaces is difficult), and frustration between some bus operators allowing bikes on buses when the racks on the front of the bus are full while others do not allow this activity. Respondants also complained about getting a bike on and off the TRAX Blue Line (which uses an older model car that requires people to climb a set of stairs to access the seating area), and difficulty hanging bikes on the racks provided on newer TRAX train cars.
In all, 51% of those who responded did not feel that they knew how to safely secure a bike while using a mode of transit with an even split of 25% saying they didn’t know how to do it at all, while 25% said it depended on the mode of transit.
When asked why people do or do not use a bike, the most common generalized response (25%) was that the use of a bicycle helps individuals complete the first/last mile of their trip while 16% responded that they use a bike because bus infrastructure was lacking in their community and the bike provided options to them. The third most common response at 12% was that the use (or non-use) of a bike was related to convenience. In all, we can generally conclude that 53% of respondents do or don’t use bikes because of a general lack of other mass-transit infrastructure. Also worth noting was that 11% of comments included a comment that bike infrastructure was insufficient to meet their needs, either by the transit agency (lack of bike racks or space, for example) or by other agencies such as cities (inadequate or no bike lanes were cited).
Finally, when asked to provide any additional comments, the most common response (57%) from respondents focused on the fact that bike infrastructure was specifically lacking for the transit agency, while 33% of the respondents expressed a desire for an action that could be resolved with greater rider/agency training and policy clarification.
Based on the findings of the Bikes On Transit survey, UTRU recommends the following actions for Utah’s transit agencies with a particular emphasis focused towards UTA:
- Clarify the policy/procedure for situations when there is an excess number of bikes compared to the number of racks on the mode of transit (i.e. can they be brought on the bus? what if the bus is already full? Can bikes be placed between on non-table seats on FrontRunner? Can this be done on non-bike cars?) and decimate this information to staff and riders.
- Clearly mark zones where bikes can and can not be locked on FrontRunner. People appear to not always be aware that they have placed their locked bike in front of an emergency window exit. This could be achieved through signage and/or floor marking tape.
- People expressed anxiety and confusion specifically around the bike racks on buses. People are confused about how to properly use them, concerned that their bike might fall off because of this confusion, and feel anxious about holding up the bus. We recommend investigating how other transit agencies manage bikes on buses and investigate how they alleviate these concerns. Signage may be helpful or a change in hardware may be beneficial.
- Placing a greater focus on installing bike racks at stops.
- Providing a variety of bike racks on Light and Commuter Rail. A combination of hanging and traditional racks would allow those strong enough to hang bikes to do so, freeing up space for those who are more comfortable/able to use the more traditional style of rack.
- Where possible, convert the seats of buses with high bike ridership to have internal overflow racks instead. If necessary, the driver can assist in securing as they would for a person with a wheelchair.
- Increase the frequency of service on routes with high bike ridership so that the concern and anxiety related to bike overflow is reduced.
- Increase coverage of bus and rail service to address first/last mile concerns.
- Identify inadequate or non-existent bike routes used to access transit and work with local, regional, and state governments to increase safe and convenient bike access.
- Discontinue the use of the Siemens SD-100 and SD-160 trains on the TRAX Blue Line in favor of the Siemens S70 or other low-floor models to allow for easier transfer between the station and car.
- Add an additional bike-specific car on FrontRunner, particularly during peak times.
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