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Sunday, November 29 2015 @ 08:43 AM UTC

Why MARC doesn't allow most bikes

Mass TransitBy Michael Dresser

There was a lot of discussion on the Getting There blog last week about MARC and bicycles, with some readers questioning why the Maryland Transit Administration isn't more open to bringing the two-wheelers on board. I suggested that bringing bicycles aboard the trains could pose a safety hazard. Now we're getting the official version from Henry M. Kay, the MTA's deputy administrator for planning and engineering (at right in 2005 Sun photo).

Here's his explanation of MTA's policy:

When MTA tuned up its bike policies a decade ago we took a close look at MARC with the idea of making it as bike-friendly as Light Rail and Metro (since then the buses were also equipped with racks). Commuter railroads are very diverse in terms of their ridership, equipment, stations and operating environments so what might work on one system won’t work on another. As you correctly identify, our challenge is crowding on peak period trains and the safety issues associated with unsecured and protruding objects. The Penn Line in particular is the fastest commuter railroad in the nation so strict safety standards are in place.

Our solution was a vertical bike rack mounted to the side of each passenger coach. The bike storage area would be separated from the rest of the car by a partition. Our design was tested at the Federal Railroad Administration’s facility in Colorado. However, since it would have meant the loss of two rows of seats in each car we ultimately decided not to proceed. Adding a dedicated car for bikes is not an option for us because we are short on mid-day and overnight storage space. Under our current policy you can bring a bike on board if it can be folded and stowed out of the aisle. Otherwise, we have racks and lockers available at many stations. We are installing more when we receive requests. Here’s a link to a comprehensive description of our policies: <a href=""></a>;

From what I know of MARC's capacity issues, taking space away from passengers to provide secure bike storage would provoke a commuter revolt. I'm going with the MTA on this one.
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