Federal legislation could doom bike access on public transit

When EBBC sought regulatory relief to allow 3 bikes per bike rack on buses, advocates had to travel no farther than Sacramento. But if the Obama Administrations gets its way, EBBC advocates will have to start traveling cross-country to deal with Washington, DC bureaucrats.

That is because Transportation Secretary Ray La Hood wants to implement Federal take-over of public transit safety regulations. Because the FRA has done such a marvelous job in regulating intercity rail, the Secretary wants to replicate that bureaucracy at the FTA – even to the point of Federal control over local bus operations.

Safety considerations always play a large role when cyclists seek greater access to public transit systems. Until now, organizations only had to deal with local operators, and (in rare cases) State legislators and regulatory agencies. If Secretary La Hood is successful, this new policy is sure to add an entirely new, byzantine layer of bureaucracy that advocates will have to penetrate.

While it is nice to think that Federal mandates may force operators to increase bike access, the reality is more likely to be the opposite. On FRA-regulated Amtrak services, bikes are only allowed in baggage cars, packed in a box, and to be unloaded only at staffed stations, On FRA-regulated Caltrain, bikes must be secured in dedicated bike cars, attached to racks. When Portland’s WES commuter rail service ran out of bike space, the FRA rules made it difficult to implement simple changes to the car configuration. Do we want to give FTA similar power over our local BART and bus service?