"When Caltrain started its bicycle program in 1992, riders were relatively scarce on the San Jose-to-San Francisco commuter line. Officials figured it couldn't hurt to replace some empty seats with bike racks, giving commuters a new, eco-friendly way to get from the train stop to their final destination."
"Fast-forward to 2007: Ridership is soaring amid high gas prices and global warming fears. The bicycle program is a well-established hit, with about one in 15 Caltrain riders bringing their wheels on board, according to a February ridership count."
"It's a success story, to be sure. But there's a hitch: Caltrains are getting so crowded at peak commute hours that not everyone's bike can fit on board. So when a Baby Bullet pulls out of the station, a handful of the rail line's most dedicated customers are left in the cold."
"'It's a tricky situation,' says (Caltrain) spokesman Jonah Weinberg. 'We were one of the first agencies in the country to accommodate bicyclists, and we want to continue to be supportive of them. But at the same time, we're leaving out 100 seats on a train for something like 16 or 32 bikes if it's full.'"
"Compounding the hassle for cyclists is that it's impossible to know in advance the bike capacity of any given train. Some have one bike car, others have two. And some bike cars - the newer, smooth-sided ones - hold 16 bikes, while others hold 32."
"With the newer Bombardier cars slowly replacing the old, corrugated gallery cars, Paul Wendt of Belmont worries that Caltrain's bike capacity is actually decreasing."
"As the San Mateo County representative on Caltrain's citizen Bicycle Advisory Committee, he's pushing for a redesign of the cars to hold more bikes. 'Realistically, I don't think that's in the cards,' he admits."