Monday, August 29, 2011

NJ TRANSIT "bikes on trains" access policy takes a major step backwards

Maybe NJ Transit should change that to, "The Way To Go Without Your Bicycle."

While other transit agencies are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to greatly expand bicycle access to their trains, NJ Transit has quietly changed its policy regarding bicycles on trains that will severely limit those wishing to take there bicycles with them on their next trip.  Without any outreach or notification to bicycle advocacy organizations, NJ Transit is now restricting bicycle access to all of its stations that do not have a high-level platform, including the key Hoboken Terminal.  That ends up putting nearly half of NJ Transit's 163 commuter rail train stations out of reach for cyclists looking to take their bikes.  On some lines, a majority of stations are off-limits!    The new restrictive part of its bicycle access policy is as follows:
Cyclists and Segway users can only board or alight trains at a station with a high-level or mini high-level platform. For safety reasons, cyclists are not permitted to board or alight trains at a low-level platform, including Hoboken Terminal.
Oddly enough the following language still appears in the policy:
Cyclists or Segway users must be able to lift their bicycle or Segway up and down stairs while boarding and detraining rail cars.
The complete updated train access policy can be found here.

However, language found in updated train schedules is bit more vague leaving many cyclists confused. That language makes it sound like the use of high-level platform stations is optional and only recommended.
Bicyclists must board the train using a door marked with the symbol of accessibility, which in most cases are center doors requiring high-level platforms. For this reason, bicyclists should travel only to/from accessible stations, as indicated on the stick map.
This new policy also does not make a distinction between full-sized, standard frame bicycles and folding bikes.  As such it brings to question whether or not this policy is in violation of New Jersey Law 27:25-5a. Collapsible bicycles permitted on NJT passenger trains, that requires that owners of collapsible (folding) bicycles be allowed access to trains at all times.  This law states:
New Jersey Transit Corporation shall not, at any time, prohibit any person transporting a collapsible bicycle from passing or repassing upon any of the corporation's railroads operating rail passenger service.
WalkBikeJersey has heard of several accounts of people being denied access to trains at stations that have only low-level platforms.  There is even a story of a judge being denied access to a train on the Raritan Valley Line that he used to use with his bike to access his job at a correctional agency in Hunterdon County.  He now is forced to use his car instead.

WalkBikeJersey will be sure to follow this story in the future and will also make sure that it becomes a topic of discussion at the upcoming NJ Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee which is next week on Thursday, September 8th.


Anonymous said...

Very sorry to hear this, Andy. Septa hasn't changed much lately, but they still restrict bicycles to folding-only during peak and limit regular bikes to the handicap section (if available) all other. This despite a large bicycle access decal next to each car door.

WWBPA said...

Andy, thanks for this, and the WWBPA will help spread the word. Let us know what happens next and what we can do.

Andrew J. Besold said...

Hi Frank,

Yes, but SEPTA has mostly low-level stations and there are no restrictions there. NJ TRANSIT is otherwise such a great system but they remain clueless to the potential of bicycles augmenting their system.

Cattio said...

Well that is seriously disappointing! Why is NJT doing so much to discourage bike travel?


Anonymous said...

this really really sucks!

Bob E said...

Yeah, that does suck. Well, I might as well give up my hope that NJ Transit will ever have something along the lines of MBTA's Bike Coach:

Anonymous said...

Was there a public comment period on this policy change? Have they made a press released justifying this? They can't complain about inconveniencing highly used trains, since bikes were already banned during the main commuter periods.

Chris said...

That is discouraging! One of the best things about having a folding bike is that I can take it on the train with me - I hope that the new policy does not supersede the old one about folding bikes - and that the whole thing gets changed anyway. What does platform height have to do with it anyway?

Neil said...

A friend of mine was just told that conductors on the High Bridge line are going to have to start enforcing this. (A conductor at least was able to give him a heads-up.) He's got five miles on that end. His only options now are to buy a folding bike or get a beater to lock up at the station. Or walk five miles each way.

Unknown said...

This is great information. Well not that it's good that they limit who can bring bikes on. It was just very informative. I have been bring my bikes on the trains and metro's for a while. Now that I am looking for jobs in NJ I guess I may have to find other ways to get around. Thanks so much for this information.