Metro-North Makes Its M-7 Train Cars More Bike-Friendly

metro_north_bike_hook.jpg

The Metro-North Railroad’s M-7 train cars now offer special accommodations for passengers traveling with bicycles, the MTA announced yesterday. The railroad is just testing this out for now, so if you’re a Metro-North rider, management wants to know what you think of the new bike hooks. From the press release:

The railroad is seeking feedback from the cycling community on the
hooks – their ease of use, placement, etc. Metro-North has established
an e-mail address to which people can send comments about the bike
mount: surveys@mnr.org. The intent is to increase safety, convenience
and sustainable mobility for all customers.

One potential issue that might come up: The bike hooks are located in the space reserved for disabled riders…

The hooks are located in the area designated for wheelchairs, which
will continue to have first priority in this space. Prominent signs
will specify that cyclists must remove bicycles if the area is needed
for a customer in a wheelchair. Feedback on the proposal also is being
sought from wheel chair users.

Photo: Frank English/MTA Metro-North Railroad.

  • Peter Flint

    Points to the MTA for trying something new, but I’m betting that not every rider, especially smaller ones with less upper body strength, will be able to lift their bikes to the hooks.

    Perhaps some sort of hook that grabs the wheel at floor level and then slides up the wall to hang the bike might be better.

  • gecko

    nice! hopefully, won’t be nearly enough space.

  • oscar

    i’d rather have a dedicated car or two for bikes, strollers, large carts, etc
    maybe a seatless car …this design seem like it will cause angst between passengers

  • Disabled people are, by now, used to getting the short end of the stick on public transportation. It’s great that they are thinking about cyclists. Truly great. But the day to day realities of demanding space for yourself (have you ever seen the “Priority Seating” signs on the subway? Neither have most people) are hard enough without this sort of thing.

  • gary fisher

    what lines do the M-7 trains run on? are they on all lines? I always ride in the orange seated ones going to New Haven. Will it be likely I will be able to hang my bike up when traveling to Connecticut?

  • Kudos to Metro North for the effort, but I can only imagine these will get used on nearly empty trains. There will be plenty of passengers who’ll insist on the jump seat vs. having to sit in the middle seat on the three-abreast side of the car.

  • t

    I would encourage everyone to email Metro North with positive comments and thanks for taking this important first step. Given the animus directed at cyclists, I can easily see a few haters steamrolling this effort if it’s not countered with a lot of positive feedback.

  • It’s great that they are thinking about cyclists. Truly great. But the day to day realities of demanding space for yourself (have you ever seen the “Priority Seating” signs on the subway? Neither have most people) are hard enough without this sort of thing.

    I don’t see how the addition of bike hooks makes legitimate this problem any worse. If anything, it makes it better: a non-disabled person can sit in a priority seat when a disabled person needs it, completely (or pretending to be) oblivious to the fact, whereas a cyclist is already using an obviously reserved area, and is much more likely to feel socially pressured into giving it up.

  • J

    These look very nice. NJ Transit is also good bike storage areas on the ends of each car on their new double-decker trains. The handicapped areas have fold-down seats at the platform level (you don’t need to take your bike up any stairs). You do need to bring your own bungee cords, though. You can fit a ton of bikes there, and storage was easy and comfortable. Kudos to NJ Transit and Metro-North.

  • gary fisher

    Anyone have the answer to my earlier question about where these M-7 trains are? I have seen them from across the platform but never ridden one myself.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “I would encourage everyone to email Metro North with positive comments and thanks for taking this important first step.”

    I think I’ll do so, and here is a practical application.

    The historic Poughkeepsie railroad bridge across the Hudson River will be reopened for pedestrians/bicycles/rollerskaters this September. I’m looking forward to going up there to walk or ride over it.

    Do I drive and walk, or take the train? Driving would mean I could combine the walk over the bridge with picking some apples, but what about parking?

    If the M7s were running, however, perhaps my wife or child and I could take the train to Poughkeepsie and ride over the bridge and to some other places in the area as well.

  • P

    The M7s run on the Harlem and Hudson lines of Metro North and most LIRR lines. The New Haven Line is supposed to be getting new M8 cars in the next few years.

  • Shemp

    Larry, you can already take bikes on Metro-North trains provided it’s off-peak, meaning all the time on weekends. I find it’s best to approach the conductor as you board and say “where to do you want me (us).” The M7 trains, pre-hooks, already have a few cars each with decent open space for luggage and wheelchairs. On older cars they will find you a spot.

    Rules of access are here: http://www.mta.info/bike/

  • James

    This is a great step in the right direction, but what’s not clear is if there will be any change to the no full size bikes at rush hour policy. THAT would truly be huge.

  • nice. i will use it as soon as i can, and send a pic of my happy bike to metro-north.

  • DingDong

    The M-7s cannot run to Connecticut (they use only third-rail power and the New Haven line uses cantenary). However, Metro North is trying this out thanks to the impressive and tireless organizing efforts of Richard Stowe and others to get bicycle storage on the new M-8 rail cars that will soon be running on the New Haven line.

  • Michael Steiner

    Larry, you won’t find M7s (or M8) thaaat quickly up to Poughkeepsie as afaik North of Croton there is no third rail (or catenary). However, the old cars on the Hudson cars are actually perfect for bike transport as the they have plenty of space next to the restrooms, much better than the M7s.

    Regarding rush hour, it might be useful that they would change to a more flexible policy like on the subway (e.g., room if space). However, expecting MTA to provide enough rolling stock/space that you could reasonably expect to take your bike (regularly) on rush hour trains sounds to me a bit utopian (or rather misplaced priorities). And i say that as somebody who takes my (folding) bicycle every day on a train …

    In any case, i laud MTA for the hooks which seems a flexible and cost-effective solution. I’m surprised, though, that they manage only two of them in that space.

  • Shemp

    James is right that the main question here is whether the hooks trump the no-bikes-at-rush-hour rule. S’blog, any hope of follow-up reporting on that?

  • We will follow up with MTA on the rush hour question and let you know.

  • Hello!! NJ TRANSIT?!?!
    Are you paying attention?? Why does my one bike need to take up 5 seats when, if I could store it vertically, it would displace only one?

    As for needing to vacate the this area with you bike if a customer in a wheelchair needs it; well I’ve probably taken my bike on NJ TRANSIT trains close to 100 times now and I’ve never had to move to accommodate a wheelchair user. In fact I’ve never even seen a wheelchair user even use NJ TRANSIT. I have seen visually impaired rider several times.

    I have moved my bike on one or two occasions for passengers with baby strollers but I never had to exit the train.

    PS – How much do these hooks cost?? $100 each installed? When a single train car cost way north of one million, this is pocket change!

  • Gargamel Tralfaz

    I think these are a good idea. Heck, even if they end up not adopting it system wide, at least they are trying.

    I have been riding Metro North/NJ transit for 17 years. I have only seen a wheelchair user board once, at Harriman Station on the Main/Port Jervis Line about four years ago.

  • DingDong

    Comment on the rush hour policy: yes, Metro North probably won’t have enough space at rush hour for bikes on trains departing or leaving Grand Central – but plenty of people take Metro North to other destinations at rush hour – say from New Haven to Bridgeport, Westport to Stamford, somewhere in New York to White Plains etc. etc. And those are precisely the kinds of destinations with poor public transportation but relatively short distances where bikes would be most useful.

  • vnm

    Andy B: NJ Transit already has hook-based vertical bike storage on the RiverLINE light rail between Trenton and Camden. I’m sure they’re aware of the concept.

    DingDong, as it stands now, I am pretty sure that rush-hour travel for the stations you mentioned, and even to or from Grand Central Terminal and 125th Street, is allowed in the off-peak direction. Only the peak-direction trains have the restriction, unless I’m wrong. Even so, I’m not sure I’d like to take a bike into Grand Central Terminal at the height of morning rush hour, or out of it in the evening rush hour, even if it is allowed. You would be going against a flood tide of humanity.

    Imagine the confusion, anger and non-compliance that would arise from the following conductor’s announcement: “Now arriving at Stamford. After Stamford, this train runs express to Harlem-125th Street & Grand Central Terminal only. For all local stops between Stamford and New York, change for the local train across the platform. Anyone going to Grand Central or 125th, stay on this train, unless you have a bike with you. All bicyclists must exit the train at Stamford. If you wish to continue on your trip with you bike, you can wait for four hours for the off-peak train.”

  • JP

    Peter Flint,

    If one holds the bike correctly, by the headset and the front wheel, it only has to be lifted three or four inches from the floor. This is far easier than getting luggage up in those overhead racks, and odds are better that a cyclist knows how to use a hook.

    JP

  • Michael Steiner

    DingDong, i think you underestimate how crowded trains also can get in reverse-commute direction during rush hour, also outside Manhattan. E.g., lots of people board in Fordham the White Plains bound trains. Yes, it is not as packed as inbound but in many of these trains an ordinary bicycle would be quite a bit of an inconvenience, from a boarding, detraining and getting in the way perspective, all of this would also have an impact on on-time performance. Hence, i honestly cannot see it as a (reliable) rush hour commute option — for that you should get a folding bicycle which works perfectly — and at most for irregular trips where you can also live with having to potentially wait for the next train because the conductor rightfully would not let you board.

  • Michael Steiner

    As an aside to my last post: as mentioned in my first post a bit more flexibility might certainly be possible. However, getting this flexibility without making the rules very complex might not be that easy. In general, the Metro-North conductors are very accommodating and are not thaaat strict in enforcement, in particular, if they see that you try the best to get out of the way and alike. E.g., in the 6 years i commute daily on MN, there were a few days my folder was broken and i had to resort to a “normal” bike and i never had problems, despite the rules….

  • Michael Steiner

    vnm, reverse commute trains are now also peak .. (this changed a few years a ago with the drastic increase of reverse commuters)

  • vnm

    Michael, you are correct. I just remembered as well. It’s on-peak in both directions during the morning rush hour.

  • vnm,

    Actually NJ TRANSIT needs a good reminder.

    The RiverLINE in south Jersey is a DBOM operation (Design, Build, Operate, Maintain). It is cooperation between Bechtel and Bombardier which DBOMs the RiverLINE for NJ TRANSIT. The trains were designed and built by Stadler Rail AG in Switzerland where the idea of accommodating bicycles on trains is as second nature as ADA requirements are (supposed to be) here. Naturally the trains came equipped with easy to use vertical bicycle racks that only displace two seats when fully occupied with 3 bicycles.

    Several years later NJ TRANSIT orders 279 (now 329) Multi-level vehicles (MLV) at a rough cost of $1.4 million each. There is absolutely no equipment in these brand new cars specifically to accommodate bicycles. There aren’t even stickers on the outside of the doors to indicate where bicycles should board as is the western international standard elsewhere (the RiverLINE cars have these). When I ride these otherwise wonderful MLV cars with my bicycle, I must flip up 5 jump seats! People have had to stand because my bike was taking up those seats. With vertical storage like that pictured in this blog entry, there is no reason why my one bike shouldn’t displace no more than one seat.

    So yes, NJ TRANSIT needs to pay attention and wake up.

  • Streetsman

    Wait you may have to ask someone to give up their seat in order to store your bike? That’s going to go over well…

  • DingDong

    Michael, I understand your concerns and I definitely agree that the rule has to be a simple one. But I’m not talking about reverse commuting out of Manhattan but rather intra-Connecticut travel on Metro North for instance.

    I think in Connecticut it would be simple to have a rule: bikes are allowed, if there is space, on all trains say east of Stamford. (For those knowledgeable of other Metro North lines, I’m sure there are equivalent stations). This would allow New Haven to Bridgeport commuters to go to work by bike — or those going from Stamford to New Haven at rush hour (currently totally empty train but bikes not allowed).

    It’s true that some trains are already crowded with GCT-bound commuters by Stamford, but many of those don’t even stop in Stamford and I think there would not be much of a problem as bike-commuters would quickly figure out which trains are crowded and which aren’t and not take the former.

  • Michael Steiner

    DingDong, for the Harlem Line White Plains might work as boundary for something you propose, at least for outbound trains (as mentioned in my first post the bronx and lower westchester has quite some reverse commute traffic).

    However, reflecting on my experience on riding in Westchester County, bike access on trains is probably the least of the problems for a better integration of cyclists into the transport mix. While i do see a few bikes locked at train station, i hardly ever meet another cyclist on my daily commutes. This in turn is not surprising and rather unrelated to train access: the road infrastructure is pretty bike-unfriendly, e.g., the few bike trails are mostly useless for commuting and riding on the many (hard to avoid) four-lane roads without shoulders with lots of speeding cars is not necessarily for the faint of heart.

    So to me a much more important policy push would be try to increase bicycle friendly roads and bike storage at train stations (not too much of that exists right now and the few bikes are mostly just locked to various fences). My guess is that the potential home-to-train station cyclists are a far larger target segment than the end-to-end cyclists; this would be at least match my experience in europe). But alas i realize that will be a difficult change contrary to lots of past development …

  • Home-to-train is great too. We’re working on that as well:

    http://newhavenindependent.org/archives/2008/09/pclear_cycling.php

  • billyjames

    Just between us kids, MetroNorth makes Caltrain look really good. It’s the line that runs from San Francisco to San Jose. Go to
    http://www.caltrain.com/info_bicycles.html Images at
    http://tinyurl.com/7aqhby

    It’s a work in progress, with lots of cyclists getting bumped during peak hours particularly since gas prices shot up. But do thank yourpowers that be and help them make things better.

  • jj
  • Steve

    In this day and age, would’nt it make sense to have a car or two specifically for bikes. Run it once in the morning, all local stops from New Haven to Grand Central, during rush hour. Run it back in the evening at rush hour as well. I mean, there’s a bar car that has 0 positives. And I believe just about anyone who had the opportunity to take a bike on the train, at rush hour, would pay a bit more for the permit to offset the cost of building bike specific trains. I could see one side of the train with the bike hangers and the other side a subway type bench.

  • It would be great if eventually, Metro North could have designated bike cars like San Francisco/Northern California’s Caltrain:

    http://bicycling.511.org/images/btwd08/239.jpg

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  • Yvonne15944

    I am going to be traveling with my 6 year old son who is in a wheel chair. When we board the train when the wheel chair is hooked up where do I sit?is there at seat right next to where my son would be sitting in his wheel chair?

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