In September 2020, SEPTA’s bike policy was amended to allow bikes on trains during peak hours because of low ridership during the pandemic. This policy allowed residents to create a multi-modal network of transportation that otherwise wasn’t available in “pre-pandemic” time. In December 2021, that amendment was rescinded and bicycle access has since been limited to non-peak hours on Regional Rail, subways and the High Speed line.
With ridership still not above 50%, we ask that SEPTA reconsider returning to the pandemic policy and allow bicycles to be brought onto SEPTA trains and cars during peak hours. SEPTA updated their bike policy in December of 2021 with ridership less than 50% compared to the pre-covid baseline in April of 2019. SEPTA’s current policy of turning away riders who need multi-modes of transportation doesn’t make sense at this current time of low ridership.
Though the Regional Rail, Broad Street Line and the Norristown High Speed Line ridership is right below 50%,the Market Frankford Line has higher ridership during peak hours. Because that is the case, we believe that maintaining the current limited access bike policy on only MFL trains would be the safest and most convenient option for users.
SEPTA Forward, the authority’s strategic plan, outlines 3 goals that support this request, in particular goal 2: provide an intuitive experience and goal 3: deliver a seamless transit network. Having users guess at which times of day, or which modes a bike can be incorporated into their trip misses the mark on providing service that is predictable, and a seamless experience from door to door.
We believe that the peak hour rule of thumb is outdated. SEPTA already recognizes that the way they think about service in a post-pandemic way should change – the 5 day/week peak hour commuter may never return completely – so designing service around this cohort does not make sense in the same way it used to (according to the Advocacy Forum Meeting held on 5/25/22 with Liz Smith). The bike policy should reflect this thinking, too. Customers at all times of day should be able to integrate sustainable modes of transportation in a predictable – and respectful – way. For example, it was always the case that if a person with a disability needs to use the space taken up by a bicycle that the bicycle should move or exit the train, and that policy should remain in place. Bikes can and should continue to be incorporated into rail travel as long as there continues to be room to accommodate them, and so far ridership data shows that there is ample room.
In summary, We ask that SEPTA update their Bike Policy to allow bikes during all hours on all regional rail trains, BSL trains, and NHSL trains. When ridership returns to pre pandemic rates, we recommend that SEPTA conduct a broad public comment process to solicit feedback on how the policy should change. We note that the Metropolitan Transit Authority permits bikes on its system at all times and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority also allows bikes at all times unless a conductor decides that a coach is too crowded. In summary, SEPTA’s bike access policy should be more flexible, be updated to reflect post pandemic commuting patterns and should facilitate 24/7 multi-modal travel.