In the metropolitan Toronto region of Ontario, planners and transit agencies have a good problem on their hands.
In the region covered by Metrolinx, ridership has seen a 5 to 7 percent increase annually and $16 billion is being spent on new capital projects, such as a new 26-kilometer light rail line across Toronto. But with increasing service and increasing demand for transit comes a new issue Metrolinx and other agencies must overcome — connecting transit riders to transit.
“One of our big challenges that had to be included with the Go train project is having really thoughtful planning to really integrate it seamlessly,” said Daniel Haufschild, director of policy and planning for Metrolinx. “That’s both with the commuter rail side and working to link access to stations.”
Transit agencies and regional planners are looking for more ways to accommodate transit riders who don’t live near stops or stations through a variety of first and last mile planning efforts.
Since 2009, Metrolinx has installed more than 40 bike lockers at eight Go stations as part of a pilot program with the city of Toronto and Metrolinx/Go Transit; provided secure bike facilities at Go stations in Hamilton and Burlington; added bike racks to the front of all Go buses; provided a dedicated train coach for bikes on the Niagara Falls summer Go Train service, known as the Toronto-Niagara Greenbelt Express; equipped local transit agency buses with an external bike rack, and installed permanent, secure and sheltered bicycle parking facilities at strategic locations by way of the BikeLinx program; and worked to link municipal bike lanes to stations.
But more efforts are still needed to connect transit users with transit.
“We’ve worked with our regional municipalities on making special bike paths to stations and we just recently finished a major pedestrian bridge running over one of our major — what you call in the states an interstate, but we just call the 401 — to connect to the station,” Haufschild said. “It’s both improving the stations and tying them together with the downtowns and parking.”
Using personal bicycles to access transit is becoming more popular as transit agencies have placed bicycle racks on the fronts of buses so cyclists can take their bike with them when they use the bus. However, the racks have become so popular that some agencies are having bike capacity issues.
Derek Sanden, vice president of sales and marketing of Sportworks, said that the company has been grappling with the issue for quite some time because potential bus riders with bikes are waiting longer at stops because the racks are full when a bus arrives. He said new racks can support up to three bikes in the front of the bus, but it has been a challenge to come up with a rack that can fit more bicycles while addressing safety issues. In order to add additional capacity, Sanden said wall-mounted racks are now being installed in buses in an effort to stow more bicycles.
“I can tell you pretty candidly that three bikes is the most you’re going to see on the fronts of vehicles,” he said. “There’s no other way to put more bikes in front of a vehicle because safety and things like that.”
Sanden said research shows bike locker demand is declining while agencies, city planners, businesses and colleges are turning to ascetically pleasing bike racks that can be placed either inside or outside of buildings and fit anywhere from two to 12 bicycles at a time.
“All the designs we come up with are designed to meet [Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professional] rules; they kind of set the golden rule for what makes a good and safe rack,” he said. “We’re not just creating these things in a vacuum. We’re following the golden rules set by this group.”
Richard Hartger, president and CEO of CycleSafe, said bicycle lockers have been a popular option for transit agencies looking to supply ample parking for bike riders to transit because of their security, size and the fact they don’t require larger facilities where multiple bikes are put in place.