Bikes outside Columbia Heights Metro. Photo from WMATA.

Metro has completed its study of pedestrian and bicycle access to Metrorail stations. The recommendations include an aggressive yet important goal of tripling the percentage of riders who arrive by bicycle by 2020 and quintupling it by 2030.

In 2007, 0.7% of Metrorail riders arrived by bicycle. Metro’s ridership is growing, but adding parking capacity is extremely expensive or completely infeasible, and increasing the ability for riders to walk and bike to stations can help Metro grow most efficiently.

You can discuss bicycle and pedestrian access with Metro planners tonight at a public session hosted by the Riders’ Advisory Council, 6:30 pm at Metro HQ.

Already, walking and biking is growing faster than other modes. Metrorail ridership in the AM peak grew 11% from 2002-2007, but the numbers of pedestrians grew 18% and bicyclists 60%. Metro wants to make continued growth an official goal and set targets of 2.1% for 2020 and 3.5% for 2030.

The station with the most cyclists each day is East Falls Church, with 92 out of 2,709 boardings in the AM peak; the station with the highest percentage of cyclists is Medical Center, with 7.1% (all 2007 numbers). The station with the most pedestrians is Dupont Circle, with 3,686 out of 4,410 riders arriving on foot, while the highest percentage is at Mt. Vernon Square, encompassing 90% of the 1,084 riders in 2007 (before substantial development in the area). Court House comes in second in total trips on foot and third in percentage.

While walking almost entirely depends on the number of housing units or jobs within a short distance of the station, bicycling has the potential to replace a number of short auto trips to Metro parking lots, freeing up spaces for other people to drive to the station without having to build more parking.

Secure bike cage. Photo from WMATA.

Parking garages cost Metro $30,000 per space to build, while a secure bike cage costs only $1,000 per space, and bike racks cost far less. Therefore, increasing bicycling for riders who live 1-3 miles from stations is the cheapest and best way to improve access for those riders.

In a survey, 67% of riders said they would consider bicycling and 55% would consider walking. The distance from home to the station was the top factor barring walking or biking, but #2 was “uncomfortable crossing conditions at intersections” and #3 was “high traffic volume and speed.” 25% of the respondents said they drive instead of walking or biking because they “do not know a safe walking or biking route.”

Also, there is not enough bike parking, as we’ve discussed many times. 58% said the bike parking facilities were inadequate at the station near home and 71% said they were inadequate near work (for those who might bike from the station to work and leave a bike overnight.)

The study also suggests moving some of the bike lockers from stations where they are not being rented to other stations where there is demand. According to the study, only 10 of 48 lockers at Largo Town Center are rented out, 4 of 24 at Prince George’s Plaza, and 43 of 61 at Shady Grove, while all 12 are full at Braddock Road, all 16 at Forest Glen, 19 of 20 at Eastern Market, and 26 of 30 at Grosvenor.

The study doesn’t say when this data was collected or whether it accounts for the recent hike in bike locker fees to $200/year. It would also be worth investigating whether to roll back that increase at stations with low utilization.

Specific bike parking recommendations also include:

    Type III racks. Photo from WMATA.

  • Replace “Type III” bike racks, the ones that look like medieval torture devices, with the “inverted U” style of racks
  • Cover existing parking at Ballston, College Park, Huntington and West Hyattsville
  • Move parking inside the station but outside the faregates at College Park, Huntington, Fort Totten and New York Avenue (which will make Geoff Hatchard very happy)
  • Add bike racks at Braddock Road, Greenbelt, Grosvenor, Landover, Medical Center, New Carrollton, Potomac Avenue, Prince George’s Plaza, Rosslyn, and West Hyattsville

    Modular bikestation. Photo from WMATA.

  • Add modular bike parking, basically covered bike parking rooms that can be easily dropped into an area, at Ballston, Braddock Road, College Park, Dunn Loring, East Falls Church, Fort Totten, Prince George’s Plaza, Silver Spring, Takoma, Vienna, West Hyattsville and Woodley Park
  • Add an enclosed bike station at College Park, Crystal City, Eastern Market or Navy Yard, Foggy Bottom, Medical Center, New York Avenue, Silver Spring, Shady Grove, Vienna and West Hyattsville

To reach the goal of 2.1% by 2020 and 3.5% by 2030, Metro would have to add 3,000 new spaces by 2020 and 8,322 by 2030.

Local governments would also have to do their part. The study doesn’t identify all the bike lanes, curb ramps, signals and other improvements that are needed, but does show some examples of good and bad station accessibility. College Park has a great sign directing people to campus from the station, while West Hyattsville has a confusing M-NCPPC sign for getting to Chillum Road.

Wayfinding signs at College Park (left) and West Hyattsville (right). Photos from WMATA.

Pedestrians have made their own pathways to get to crosswalks at College Park, Rhode Island Avenue, Vienna and more. Braddock Road, Rhode Island Avenue, and many others have substandard sidewalks limiting pedestrian accessibility. At Vienna, a bike and pedestrian bridge is out of service but has no signs to explain what detour to take or when the bridge will be fixed. The list goes on.

Poor accessibility at Rhode Island Avenue (left) and Braddock Road (right). Photos from WMATA.

Besides expanding bike parking, there are a number of specific process recommendations. Some interesting ones include:

  • Require a pedestrian and bicycle access study and a multimodal circulation study for joint development projects
  • Create guidelines for design and placement of bike parking
  • Have Metro participate in local jurisdictions’ bike and pedestrian advisory committees
  • Add a Bike Program Manager position at Metro
  • Make sure station managers, maintenance personnel, and others know Metro’s policies concerning bike and ped access
  • Create station area plans in partnership with local jurisdictions
  • Get bus and rail routes into Google Maps/Google Transit (thanks planners!)

The Riders’ Advisory Council Long-Term Projects Committee, which I chair, will be hearing more about these plans and discussing them with Metro planners. All members of the public are welcome to participate and ask questions during RAC committee meetings. The meeting is 6:30 pm at Metro’s HQ, 600 5th St NW (between Gallery Place and Judiciary Square), in the committee room training room on the lobby level (left right and then right after security).

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Sustainable Transportation (DCST). He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions in his GGWash posts are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.