I've been harping on this point for years, perhaps because I have personal experience with it, but Metro needs to allow bikes on sparsely-used reverse commute trains during rush hour.
Currently, full sized bikes are banned during the rush hours of 7-10 a.m. and 4-7 p.m everywhere in every direction. This is an improvement over the older policy of requiring licenses to take your bike on Metro or a no-bikes ban, but Metro is still leaving cyclists out of the system and money on the table.
When I ride from Potomac Avenue to New Carrolton in the morning, my train is so empty that I never have to sit next to anyone. Most of the traffic in that direction got off at Capitol South. Despite all of the available space, if I want to take a full sized bike, I can't. Some cyclists have expressed frustration with the policy that has either driven them to buy a folding bike, just skip Metro and bike the whole way, or drive the whole way. And they're not alone in finding this to be costly, inconvenient and bad policy. When Metro had a public workshop on bicycle facilities at stations, the rush hour restriction was the number one thing people wanted to talk about (even though policy changes were not part of the review).
Metro could develop a more nuanced policy. They could allow cyclists to use only certain stations and only go in certain directions. San Francisco limits the stations and lines (highlighted on the schedule here) bikes can use, but it's not a wholesale ban. They also have a rule that "Bikes are never allowed on crowded trains...Use your best judgment." LA used to allow bikes, but reserved the right to turn cyclists away when trains were crowded. Since then they've decided to always allow bikes, but only on the last car of the train. This is the same policy that Dallas has on its light rail. Certainly, if these systems can do it, Metro can make it work.
Allowing reverse commutes on Metro has become more important than rush-direction commuters, because cyclists coming into the city in the morning can, in most cases, grab a CaBi; thereby negating some of the need to bring a bike along. If Metro upgrades its storage and parking to make it secure as it plans to, it will be easy for someone to bike to a suburban station, ride metro and finish the trip with a CaBi. In the reverse direction that's a bit less convenient, as it would require leaving a bike parked at the suburban station at night and on weekends - which means getting a second bike.
Metro should at least start a pilot program on one line to see if it will work. Try it for a year. See if people cheat (enter at one of the allowed stations and then go the wrong way). Maybe they could have strict enforcement at the first "No Bike" station on the line. For example on the eastern orange line they can place a Metro police officer on the platform who looks for bikes when the train comes in to Capitol South. If she sees one, she pulls the scofflaw off the train, writes them a good $150 ticket and makes them get on a train going the other way. I would have no problem with that. There is a way to make the system work.
This would benefit reverse commute cyclists as well as Metro. Increasing ridership doesn't make Metro money if they have to add more cars or service, but when they fill deadhead space it does. Furthermore, Tony Mendoza, DART's senior manager for consumer programs said this
"All the literature we're reading indicates that if an agency is bicycle-friendly, ridership will grow," Mr. Mendoza said.
My biggest complaint is that they haven't tried and so we don't know what it will do. Maybe this change is ranked too high (I mean the CCT/MBT improvement will help cyclists 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365.25 days a year). I don't know how many users we're talking about. But if it's only a few, then it won't overwhelm the system. If it's a lot, then they're missing out on a lot of business.
While they're at it, on the 4th of July, they should allow bikes on before 5pm.
Photo by Daquella manera