Monday, June 11, 2012

NJT Ruling - Low Platform Access Restored. Weekend Access Restricted. Did we really gain anything?

As expected the NJ TRANSIT Board of Directors reversed its restriction on bicycles at low platform train stations. The decision came out of the findings of a bicycle policy committee that looked at bike access. The findings were released to the public several weeks ago and bicyclists were encouraged to show their support for the findings. In a single vote bike access was restored to more than half of the NJ TRANSIT rail stations.

That open transparent process (and the feel good cooperation) was negated by the second recommendation - A back room add-on that appeared for a vote with little public notice, NJ TRANSIT announced new weekend restrictions for bikes. Trains that destine for New York Penn Station between 9 and 12 AM and Trains that depart NY Penn between 5 and 8 PM will no longer allow bicycles. Note that trains that start and terminate at Hoboken and Newark are not subject to the weekend restrictions. We can thank NJ TRANSIT board member Regina Egea for making the new rule slightly less onerous. She successfully moved to shave off two hours of weekend restrictions.

For a look at the complete draft policy (with original hours) see page 28 of the NJ Transit Board Meeting draft agenda.  

The crazy quilt of NJ TRANSIT Bike on rail rules can make an attractive pair of Christmas Stockings

There was clearly no science applied to the new restrictions, instead the board deferred to the antiquated rules of New York's MTA, which have changed little since their creation in the 1980's. On an average weekday 276,459 trips are taken on NJ TRANSIT trains. On Saturdays the ridership decreases by 65% TO 95,420 trips and on Sunday that number is just 75,418 or a 72% decrease in ridership.

As experienced bike on rail users know conductors already have the latitude to restrict bikes on trains and they are not afraid to turn passengers with bicycles away if the train is crowded. 

And so the crazy quilt of New Jersey Transit bike rules acquires another patch right next to:
  • No bikes on Major Holidays
  • No bikes on the day before all Holidays
  • No bikes on the day after Thanksgiving
  • No bikes on the eves of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur
  • Bikes are allowed at all times on the Atlantic City Rail Line
A complete overhaul of NJ TRANSIT's bike on rail rules needs to formulated with a complete streets/universal access approach. The ultimate goal should be to design equipment, stations, and access routes that will allow seamless travel between all modes. NJ TRANSIT should work with the many resources available to them, such as the talented folks at the Voorhees Transportation Center to formulate a long term bicycle access plan.

In the meantime plan your trips accordingly and keep a copy of the rules in your pocket or on a smartphone.


Frank Warnock said...

I am really sorry about this. Bike Policy on SEPTA trains isn't much better, despite years of trying. And the conductors can be ignorant and rude about it. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Andy, you have done an amazing job. We need to make you president of "changing NJ transit rules against bikes."
After you finish with NJ, I elect you to move on to NY and change that god-awful place, as the trains there also restrict bicycles on holidays and weekends, which MAKES NO SENSE AT ALL! that's when people USE their bicycles! We need you! Good job.

Anonymous said...

Aren't the weekend restrictions a reflection of those weekend hours now being "rush hours" (and a testament to the popularity & vitality of NJTRail)?

Andrew J. Besold said...

Thanks Jen for the kind words but I couldn't have done it without John's help.

And yes, despite a 47% rate hike several years ago on off-peak trains, weekend trains are fairly popular but they often run with the first two train cars closed.