Pair of studies released on use of bikes to access Orange Line and Metro Rail

A Metro rider loads his bike on the Orange Line. Photo by Nate Baird, via Flickr.

Metro staff on Monday issued two interesting studies that attempt for the first time to quantify how many people are using bikes to access the Orange Line busway and Metro Rail. The studies also try to estimate the amount of greenhouse gases not being emitted because of people using bikes to reach Metro.

Here are the links: Orange Line study, Metro Rail study and a summary of both in a Metro staff report to the agency’s Board of Directors.

[UPDATE, 2:15 p.m. Please read the rest of this post, but also please leave a comment with any suggestions for Metro about helping cyclists get around].

The studies aren’t perfect — they’re based on surveys that had some limitations. But the studies are significant because in the past there hasn’t been any kind of real numbers on the relationship between bikes and Metro bus and rail service. The info the agency had was either anecdotal or very broad — estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau on the number of people who commute by bike in L.A. County.

The studies offer a mixed bag of good and bad news. On the plus side, over the course of a year, there are more than a million boardings by cyclists on Metro Rail. On the minus side, the amount of greenhouse gases spared by people pedaling to Metro instead of driving all the way to work are paltry compared to the overall number of vehicles on the road.

On both counts, there seems to be room for improvement. I don’t think cities around Los Angeles County have done much to help cyclists access the Orange Line or Metro Rail. Metro staff writes that there seems to be enough cyclists out there to warrant spending money on bike facilities to help people access Metro and further reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

A few highlights taken from the studies:

•Approximately 1.2 million boardings on Metro Rail annually are by bicyclists (representing 1.3 percent of all annual rail trips).

•Bicycle-rail trips replace approximately 322,000 motor vehicle trips and reduce 3.96 million vehicle miles traveled each year, offsetting approximately 2,152 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) annually.  This would be equivalent to taking 422 motor vehicles off the road.
•Men greatly outnumber women when it comes to using bikes to reach Metro.
•Bicyclists are universally using the Metro Rail system, with bicyclists report starting or ending their rail trip at 71 out of 73 Metro Rail stations surveyed.

•Over a quarter (27 percent) of bicycle-rail trips replace a motor vehicle trip. 

•In terms of getting to or from the station, twelve percent of bicycle trips replaced motor vehicle trips.

•On average, 13 bicyclists per hour — one bicyclist every five minutes — enters or exits a Metro train during the weekday morning or weekday evening peak periods.  An average of 10 bicyclists per hour – one every six minutes – enters or exits a Metro train during the weekend midday period; and

•On average, bicyclists traveled 2.2 miles to access train travel (within the typical bicycling catchment area of a train station).  Bicyclists taking the bus travel an average of 4.9 miles to access a train station.

•Counts suggest that an estimated 535 bicyclists ride the Metro Orange Line bus each weekday. Compared to driving alone, it is estimated that bicyclists who use the Metro Orange Line bus collectively reduce their VMT between 274 miles and 2,074 miles each weekday, depending on the type of trip being replaced. The 772 bicyclists who use the Metro Orange Line Bike Path without using the Metro Orange Line bus collectively result in an estimated reduction of 2,621 miles per weekday in VMT.

•Based on the results of this study, bicyclists who use the Metro Orange Line bus and bicyclists who use the Metro Orange Line Bike Path may be reducing between 371 and 602 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) per year. The mode shift generated by the Metro Orange Line bus and its integrated Metro Orange Line Bike Path is potentially removing the equivalent of about 79 to 118 automobiles from the road annually.

•The area in which cyclists can comfortably reach Orange Line stations is 13 times larger than that for pedestrians.
What do you think about this? Good news or bad or do you feel the studies raise other questions that need to be answered? Leave a comment please.

13 replies

  1. When the bus only holds 2 bikes, you can’t rely on it as a mode of transportation if you have a bike. If the bus you need to catch already has 2 bikes, you have to wait. That wait can be as long as 45min depending on the bus. The next bus might have all its bikes spots full too.

  2. Hi Steve! As a bicyclist who uses Metro, one severe limitation that I’ve noticed are the two-slot bike racks in front of each bus that, more often than not these days, are in use by the time a bus shows up at my stop. I’m then forced to wait for another bus or make alternate plans.

    That they’re often full is a sign of increased use of the system by cyclists, of course, but it’s frustrating if you’re bicyclist No. 3.

    What plans are afoot to deal with this? Can four-slot (or more?) racks be retrofitted? You can’t put bikes on the sides, top, or behind in trailers, so what’s left? Without a solution, the two-slot racks represent a real barrier to increased bike use on the buses.

  3. I would use the 733 if it had more bike racks – from Fairfax to Western but they are always full. The Orange line has three racks sometimes but if your bike is heavy and you have to load in back when there is a bike in front it’s easier just to ride home.

    Plus the other place i worked at was only a 10 minute walk from Greenline Aviation, no point in bringing a bike with the crowds and confusing.

  4. Bikes plan a huge role in solving the last mile problem.

    But the bike capacity issuesof only two or three bikes per bus (a big problem especially on popular Rapid lines like the 720) are all the more severe with the Orange Line. While many bikes can be brought on board each Metro Rail train, that’s not the case with the Orange Line, given that it’s a bus with bikes only allowed on the racks.

    I’ve seen and experienced times when it’s severely hard for people to get a slot on the Orange Line to carry their bike.

  5. As others have mentioned, you can only fit very few bicycles per each bus’ bike rack and it’s a first come first serve basis. The more bicyclists on the road, the more competition there is to get that rack space. There is no guarantee that the next bus will have an empty bike rack either.

    What this study also fails to address is the “down time” of buses waiting for bicyclists to set up/put down their bikes from the rack. Remember, wait times also adds up to cost that doesn’t show up in the books.

  6. I’m not surprised to see the conversation about the bike racks — it’s clearly a feature that quickly suffers from its own success. I understand there are limitations on the capacity of the racks and how they impact the effective lengths of the buses, though, which has repercussions in stop sizing, sequencing at layovers and in busy areas (multiple buses waiting for one stop) and other areas. I hope Metro can do something to address this persistent debate.

    What struck me with the study results is the statement that (only) 13 riders per hour board Metro Rail during peak periods. I’m regularly one of those 13 riders, and when I get on the red line at the North Hollywood or 7th Street stations I routinely see three or even four bikes per car on the train I ride. This would give the average more like 13-plus per train, which with a train every 10 minutes at peak would translate to more like 78 rider-bikers per hour. Maybe by digging into the numbers I can find an explanation for this.

  7. I commute from Canoga Park to Burbank on a daily basis using the Metro Orange Line. Luckily, I’m close to Warner Center so the bike rack in the morning usually only has a bike or two on the rack by the time it reaches me. I feel bad for anyone passed De Soto, because it fills up quickly.

    On my way home, I hop on the Orange Line in North Hollywood, but I often have to wait at least 1 or 2 buses because there is a line of bicyclists. If i’m let aboard with my bike, I usually hold it vertically next to 5 other bikers or so… complicating each stop when people are trying to exit.

    I agree with a majority of the posts that say you should expand the bike racks to fit more than 2 or 3 bikes… If you can’t put racks on the sides or back of the bus, get a larger rack in the front.

    On top of being late to work on multiple occasions because of the lack of bike rack space, I also recently received a $250 ticket from an officer for drinking my water bottle on the Canoga station platform. After proving to the officer that I only had water in my reusable aluminum water bottle mounted on my bike, he still insisted on writing me a ticket… although i was obviously sweaty from a 20 minute bike ride.

    I keep hearing that the metro is trying to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging bikers to ride the metro, but my experience has been extremely discouraging.

  8. Daily for the past 3 months I been riding the red line from N.Hollywood to union station,then a bus from there to El Monte,and pedal for 6 miles to get to work,but the few times that I was forced to be late because the 2 bike slots on the bus were taken I just feel like driving the 47 miles like I did for 12 years.
    The metro rail figure of an average 13 bicyclists per hour has to be way off,every afternoon I ride the red line from LA to N.Hollywood and at least 4or5 bicylists come in and out of the car I ride.

  9. More people will use their bikes in conjunction with the Metro if there was more room on the trains and extra bike racks on the buses. Durinng the times when most people commute to work there is simply no space to manuver a bike. An extra car with the seats removed added to the trains during peak hours will entice riders to use their bikes.

  10. it would also help if people would not have giant heavy thick bikes. .

    i am very happy with my new but used lighter thin hybrid bike. $130 on CL