The signals are mixed.
|Accommodate bicycles on trains |
We're supposed to stay off the roads, which most people can agree with, what with $50 fill-ups looking like the norm for a while. That leaves walking, biking or mass transit. That's fine, as far as it goes.
Walking works, if you're not going far. Biking? Fine for some people, and the train works for even more. But combining biking with the train? Not so fast.
Metro-North Railroad doesn't make it easy for the bicycle-inclined, keeping the two-wheelers off peak-hour trains. And when they are allowed, there's no storage to speak of, so riders must stand them in the vestibule, forcing everyone else to walk around them and inviting serious grumbling.
It's not that the peak-hour ban is indefensible. Indeed, with gas prices spiking, transit ridership is up around the country, and there aren't enough seats to go around as it is. Crowded conditions with bicycles to boot makes a less-than-pleasant ride a full-on aggravation.
But there are other ways. In California, for instance, Caltrain service south of San Francisco features front cars with no seats but plenty of bike parking. It shouldn't be hard to find old cars around here that have outlived their usefulness for regular passengers but could be gutted for use by cyclists.
Connecticut is near-impossible to get around without a car, which is why our roads are always clogged, climate change is fast approaching and the air is hard to breathe. To think there's a way out of that trap that the trains won't oblige is hard to understand.
With a new batch of train cars scheduled to start arriving next year, now might be a good time to consider some changes. Helping accommodate bicyclists would be a good start, as well as, of course, listening to the problems of everyday commuters. A gasoline crisis can mean big things for mass transit systems, but it takes preparation to get it right and satisfy all customers, old and new.