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Bay Area SMART Bike Program to Start Spring 2017 — If There's Enough Parking

The secured parking involves installing a box-like locker that holds up to four bikes. Access is electronically controlled by each user.

(TNS) — A plan showing how secured parking for bicycles would look when the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) begins service in the spring has critics saying there is not enough of it.

The secured parking involves installing a box-like locker that holds up to four bikes. Access is electronically controlled by each user. They are not cheap — each locker costs $20,000.

A bike parking plan reviewed by rail officials Wednesday calls for just 68 spaces over the system. That would include eight spaces, or two lockers, at the Marin Civic Center station and another eight spaces at the downtown San Rafael station. In Novato, the Hamilton station would have four spaces, and the San Marin station would have eight spaces.

Bicycle advocates say that is not enough.

“There will be a bike parking shortage at many, if not all of the stations,” Bjorn Griepenburg, policy and planning director for the Marin County Bicycle Coalition, told the rail board Wednesday.

Marin Supervisor Judy Arnold, chairwoman of the SMART board, said more lockers can be phased in.

“It’s to begin with and it might increase later,” she said.

But with the expectation that some train riders will need a way to get to and from stations, not having more lockers available when the rail service begins is a mistake, said Shirlee Zane, a rail board member and Sonoma County supervisor.

“I don’t understand four spaces, it’s so underwhelming,” she said. “I think that’s ridiculous, honestly. It will not help us with our ridership if we are this cheap. We need to pony up more money.”

The rail board will have an opportunity to do that next month when it determines how much funding to provide for bike parking at the stations.

There are plans for inverted bicycle U-racks and other racks that can accommodate more than 200 bikes across the 10 train stations. But those are designed for short-term parking and there are concerns about theft.

“(Bicyclists) are not going to leave bikes on a bar,” Zane said. “The thefts are so bad right now.”

Said rail agency director Farhad Mansourian: “As we know, bike theft is a major deal,” adding he hopes security cameras could be trained on the racks for added security.

The downtown San Rafael station could benefit from a “high capacity” bike shelter that is outlined in the parking plan. The secured shelter is a structure with an access controlled door that allows people to park and lock their bicycle. The high-capacity shelter can include a series of inverted U-racks, or a double-decked tiered rack.

Recent ridership forecasts estimate about 3,070 daily passengers and 300 on each weekend day. About 9 percent of peak commuters are expected to be bicyclists. San Francisco-based Nelson/Nygaard produced the bicycle parking report for about $100,000, according to SMART officials.

Rail officials will have some time to figure out the bike parking challenge. The start of SMART rail service has been pushed back to spring 2017 due to a potential problem with train engines. SMART officials had hoped to start service before the year was out, but the discovery of a design flaw with the crank shaft in the train engines will require all 14 SMART engines to be rebuilt by the manufacturer. That work will begin this month and last until April.

©2016 The Marin Independent Journal (Novato, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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