SMART seeks input on bike parking planned at train stations
In the not-too-distant future, the phrase “bike-to-train” will be introduced to the North Coast lexicon for the first time.
But as the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit Authority ramps up for the start of passenger service later this year, there are concerns whether the rail agency has enough parking for those who will get to and from stations on two wheels.
Under current plans, SMART will offer parking for up to 100 bikes along the entire 43-mile route extending from north Santa Rosa to downtown San Rafael. Each of the 10 train stations will have five inverted “U-racks,” with each rack accommodating two bikes, a total of 10 bikes per station.
SMART released a draft plan about 10 days ago outlining the need for additional bike parking. But some SMART board members, as well as cycling advocates, fear those proposed upgrades won’t happen in time to meet initial demand.
“We feel that it’s critically important that what’s proposed in the investment plan is on the ground at the start of train service,” said Alisha O’Loughlin, executive director of the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition.
David Rabbitt, a Sonoma County supervisor and SMART board member, shared that sentiment.
“I think this is one thing I’d rather see them provide more of, not less,” he said. “This is relatively cheap parking as compared to automobile parking. God knows, we don’t have enough automobile parking. Let’s at least make sure we have enough bike parking.”
Jeanne Belding, a SMART spokeswoman, confirmed current plans call for passenger service to debut with the 100 bike parking spaces already accounted for in station designs. She said SMART is open to installing additional bike parking before the start date, subject to public feedback on needs and funding availability.
In a 2014 phone survey, 9 percent of respondents who are planning to use SMART for their morning commutes said they plan to bike to and from stations. The majority — 51 percent — said they planned to arrive by driving alone in their own vehicle.
SMART projects a total daily ridership of 3,070 passengers and about 300 on each weekend day.
To date, the rail agency has identified 331 parking places for vehicles along the rail line. In Sonoma County, 108 spots will be available in Rohnert Park and 66 in Cotati. None has been identified for stations in Petaluma or Santa Rosa.
Belding said on-street parking will be available near some stations and more parking may become available as new development emerges around stations.
Rabbitt said no matter how people access stations, the experience should be “seamless and offer the best customer experience possible from day one.”
SMART’s “Stations’ Bicycle Parking Investment Plan” is intended to provide a framework for defining bike parking supply “at the outset of rail services.”
The report recommends more parking for bicycles be made available at each of the 10 train stations, and that such parking include a range of options, including U-racks and longer-term storage lockers and high-capacity shelters.
For instance, at the downtown Petaluma station, which SMART projects will see the highest use of any station in Sonoma County, the bike report recommends adding 26 U-racks and eight to 12 lockers.