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Councilors propose dedicated Blue Line car for bicyclists

Edwards

City Councilors Lydia Edwards (East Boston, Charlestown, North End) and Michelle Wu (at large) say they want to get the T to set aside one car on every Blue Line train for bicyclists who would ride their bikes to work downtown, if only there were a way to get them across Boston Harbor.

The council agreed to let them hold a hearing to discuss a possible bike pilot on the Blue Line after Edwards said that one of the biggest frustrations of East Boston bike owners is the inability to ride it to work unless they work north of the neighborhood, at a time when East Boston roads are increasingly clogged by car commuters.

She added that the company that wants to build a giant development at Suffolk Downs is proposing a massive infrastructure for bicyclists, which will only end in frustration if its users can't go any further than Maverick Square.

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Great idea!

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but to be frank, and I say this as someone who would 100% take advantage of this: prior to the pandemic, it wasn’t uncommon for the Blue Line to be an absolute shitshow by the time it hit Maverick during the morning rush. And with literally hundreds of new units being built (or proposed and likely to happen) in Jeffries Point as you read this, it’s not going to get any better.

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Will there be enough bicycle users to justify alotting an entire Blue Line car for them, especially during rush hour?

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At the very least, a pilot would make sense to test demand.

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Yes, it would be nice to have a bike-only car. But, it would also be nice to have Blue Line trains that are wider, longer, and can actually fit all the people waiting on the platform at Maverick.

Until the latter happens (i.e. never), it makes no sense to implement the former.

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So is one car going to be set aside ONLY for bikes? If that's the case, then this makes no sense. You're going to take an already crowded 6 car train and squeeze passengers onto 5 cars?
If they're going to share the one car with other passengers, than wouldn't it make more sense to spread the bikes among all the cars instead of squeezing all bikes on one car?

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If only there were some other way bikes could be transported around... hmmmmm...

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If you set aside a car for bikes, you take out all the seats. More room for bikes without blocking other passengers from getting on and off. And non-bike using passengers will avoid the car with no seats if they know to expect it.

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To have a shuttle train that just goes back and forth between State and Maverick? This is in addition to existing service.

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I'd hope after all the track work in is done.

If I recall, and Im sure I will be corrected. There's cross over tracks just beyond Maverick (outbound toward Airport). I think this was one of the things they fixed or are fixing this year.. the tracks around maverick.

And there's another at Airport but again until Orient Heights (yard). I think the crossing at Airport is more modern and preferred by the T. Still a local train from airport to Govt Center isnt a bad thing either (for airport travelers)

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Trains crossing-back at Airport or Maverick block the main line in both directions while they are crossing back, it would actually cause more harm than good from delays in travel time.

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but would be awesome.

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I was thinking a water taxi for bikes

But a great idea would be adapt a paddle boat in a way that you could take any bike, snap it in, and use your bike to power the paddle boat across the harbor.

Just make it a 'bike paddle boat' service where it (and the borrowed life savers) would need to be returned to either spot on the harbor.

(not saying having a car on the blue line is a bad idea.. but its amazing that we live next to the water yet other than some inner harbor ferries that have low ridership and water taxis.. we dont use it or promote it much)

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in Amsterdam, the bicycle fare is € 1.80. There are concessionary and
long term reductions. Moving bicycles out of the passenger cars is attractive
but, it removes a car from regular usage. A bicycle is the ultimate single occupancy
vehicle and, on transit more than doubles the space occupied by the passenger.
So, the bicycle car has its capacity halved. In most of Europe, the solution is
to provide extensive storage at the key station(s), Maverick? East Boston is more dense and
better served by transit than most places. No one has to drive (or ride bicycle)
unless they want to. East Boston is also not a Bicycle hot spot.
On April 27, 2016 between 7AM and 6PM 17 bicycles passed the intersection of
Bennington & Saratoga Streets. During that same period there were 1333
pedestrians and 25619 motor vehicles.

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Key consideration in those metrics is that it's really difficult to bike from Eastie to the rest of Boston. It wouldn't flip the numbers but if there was a way to get from Eastie to Boston via bicycle those numbers would be a lot higher.

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Why not let people bring bikes on, for an extra fare? That makes loads of sense to me. It's not prohibitive, but at the same time it forces the the cycling passenger to offset the impact of doubling the space they take up in the vehicle.

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Another case of people who don't take the Blue Line or the T in general wanting to implement an unrealistic idea. Noble maybe, but entirely unrealistic. Have you ever SEEN the Blue Line at rush hour? There is not even close to enough room for people as it is, and now they want to set aside an entire car for a handful of people with bikes? Completely unworkable. Incidentally it's always evening rush hour on the Blue Line northbound starting at 4:30 PM or so. There may be a little lull around 7:30-ish, but after that it's packed to the gills until closing. And people want to set aside cars? Bad, bad idea.

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could be for everyone, including bicyclists.

You can currently bring bikes on Red, Orange and Blue Line subway cars, except for during rush hours. On the Red and Orange Lines, you could conceivably ride your bike to your destination during rush hour, but that's harder to do (crossing the Harbor) on the Blue Line.

Instead of designating one particular subway car, just allow it on all cars, as long as space is available. Grocery carts and SUV baby strollers take up almost the same amount of space.

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Because God forbid human beings who rely on the T need to transport groceries and have babies that get in the way of your precious-self.

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Another option: Use jersey barriers to convert one lane of the Sumner or Callahan tunnel into a two-way bicycle/pedestrian path.

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Will never and should never happen. Also will cyclist be required to pay a toll?

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In the grander scheme of things, they are both a part of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, an agency the Boston City Council has exactly zero oversight over.

If Wu wants to deal with issues with state agencies, she should have run for state rep or Senate this year. Or, maybe she's grandstanding.

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Lynn, for instance, successfully lobbied for the T to reduce its commuter rail fare to $2.40, at least as a pilot program.

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But the T cares more about what state officials say than what city officials say. Power of the purse and whatnot.

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I've heard urban legends of someone riding a bicycle though the Sumner.

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Far less frequent since the exit from the Sumner, which used to dump directly onto city streets, was rebuilt as part of the Big Dig.

For awhile, the big magnet for daring cyclists was the O'Neill Tunnel. At one point, there were reports about once every two weeks of someone riding through there.

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You don't say. Well that's the council in general, however she seems to be the biggest offender of the bunch.

Also, if cyclists have access to a toll road, they better be required to pay said toll.

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Michelle Wu grandstanding? What planet are you from?

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Obviously it will never happen. Not because it's a state road, but because it's a terrible and wasteful idea.

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the one time New York City area highway and bridge czar, once said:

A tunnel is nothing more than a tiled vehicular bathroom smelling faintly of monoxide

As one who rode MBTA buses through both the Sumner and Callahan Tunnels five days a week from the late 1970s to the early 1990s, I can attest to the validity of that statement.

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Robert Moses's work was racist and destroyed numerous neighborhoods in New York. Let's definitely listen to his advice.

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The guy who rode in un-air conditioned buses very slowly through the tunnels twice a day for years when he points out that a mile long vehicular tunnel doesn’t have the best air quality.

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I'd need to do some searching before calling Robert Moses racist. He destroyed lots of neighborhoods. I'd be more prepared to believe he hated everyone (except car manufacturers).

...and there's a substantial probability that the Robert Moses answer to this question would be to rip up the rails and replace the Blue line with another highway.

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Robert Caro's The Power Broker

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Oh, yes - he was into power.
The one time I can think of that he got
outpowered was the Brooklyn-Battery Bridge. The War Department told him to pound sand.

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instead of a tunnel. But it was President Roosevelt, reportedly at the urging of his wife, that ultimately told Moses to pound sand.

The other time Moses didn't get his way was in the 1960s, when his proposals for a Mid-Manhattan Expressway and a Lower Manhattan Expressway were squashed.

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Interesting. I don't recall hearing of any Eleanor angle to it. What was her interest?

The angle that had the ball in the War Department's court, if I recall correctly, was that Brooklyn Navy Yard was a critical asset and that building a bridge (an additional bridge, that is) between the Navy Yard and open water that would be too much of a risk of being targeted & blocking the channel.

...or that was the story they put out, anyway...

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wrote about the issue in her newspaper column My Day after being made aware of it by people in Lower Manhattan about it.

https://www2.gwu.edu/~erpapers/myday/displaydoc.cfm?_y=1939&_f=md055232

As for the War Department's arguments against the bridge, they actually had limited merit in this case, because vessels going to and from the Brooklyn Navy Yard already had to pass under the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges.

BTW, I have a family connection to the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. My Uncle Bob, who lived in Manhattan his entire adult life (except for a stint in the Navy), was one of the lead divers who set the precast tubes used for the tunnel.

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though that was not likely part of the debate back then at all.

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But all NYC bridges built in that era, including the Triborough and George Washington bridges included pedestrian walkways as part of the design.

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Moses eventually stamped out that design feature for the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge (and the pedestrian walkways were removed from the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge during a renovation/widening, and I guess the Throgs Neck (started in the late 50s like the VZN) never had them).
The Port Authority of NY & NJ now has shared-use paths on two of their three Staten Island crossings - the renovated Bayonne Bridge and the replacement Goethals Bridge.

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the Verrazano and Throgs Neck bridges were specifically designed to serve limited access highways.

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I'd need to do some searching before calling Robert Moses racist.

Google "low bridges southern state parkway".

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I've been a passenger (and later driver) on the Southern State Highway for 48 years (and the other Long Island parkways and the LIE, too), having family in that Suffolk County. Believe me, I'm quite aware of the "keeping trucks away from family leisure motoring" and other tropes that conveniently also precluded commuter buses, making cars more necessary.
(edit) ...and the whole white-flight, suburbia, socio-economic racial dynamic that's tied to it.

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Ironically, Moses' parkway and car-first focus for Long Island must have contributed to the survival of the Long Island Railroad. If he hadn't precluded having more long-distance commuter-bus routes, ridership on the moribund LIRR would have been even worse. Instead, most of it survives (as part of the MTA).

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Expect for rush hour. Unless during peak hours the car is open to anyone and resembles the red line cattle car concept.

I know cyclist can be self important _____. However, no way your keeping people without bikes out of the car during rush hour.

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...bicyclists can go in any car during rush hour.

See how this works?

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And now you want rules to prohibit passengers with no bikes from riding certain trains. The T can't enforce no smoking, no sleeping, no drinking, no vandalism. Can anyone tell me what rules the T actually enforces.

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I've been on one too many Orange Line trains during rush hour when the operator yelled "no bikes!" to no avail - the guy got on anyways.

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You want an MBTA cop to come running and do a flying tackle any time somebody nods off or lights a cigarette on the platform, what a joke. Forget "enforcement". Engineer compliance instead. Clean the damn stations. Staff them with helpful and friendly people. Maintain the equipment. Run service on time. More rent a cops not gonna help anything

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like the "High Capacity Big Red" cars on the Red Line. Cyclists could have priority for this car but they wouldn't need to be the only people in it.

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If only Boston had some kind of bike share program so that people could bike to the Blue Line, leave the bike there, then pick up a bike when they get off the Blue Line at their destination. They could call it "Blue Line Bikes" or something like that.

Hey, we can dream.

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There are two BlueBikes stations right next to the Maverick stop, also three right near Government Center!

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there was a bike share program that had racks outside of everyone's houses so they could ride to/from the train station...

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This is not a good idea. As others have mentioned, the Blue Line is already beyond capacity at rush hour and this would only make it worse by removing ~16% of the capacity. There is a reason that bikes are banned at rush hour. The whole idea of transit is to fit more people in less space and this would be the complete opposite of that.

"She added that the company that wants to build a giant development at Suffolk Downs is proposing a massive infrastructure for bicyclists, which will only end in frustration if its users can't go any further than Maverick Square."

This seems like an odd comment to throw in - so what she is proposing is that all non-Bikers have to suffer so that bikers from a future development can be satisfied?

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We should copy Amsterdam and have ferries that cross the channel all day everyday. Instead of taking a bicycle onto an already cramped train you could take the ferry instead.

Just speaking for myself, if we had such a ferry I'd bike to Eastie a lot more than I do now which is zero times.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=gS1sfkzw-Ic

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.... from points in Amsterdam to Nord Amsterdam. I take it often. When I don’t use it there is bridge with wide cycle lanes further up river that takes about the same amount of time as the ferry. The bridge connects with another similar bridge. They both cross parts of the river that are wider than crossing from Eastie to Charlestown.

Until better crossings are created, the Blue Line car for bikes and other large wheeled means of transport is a good idea.

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Agreed that bikes on blue line is a good idea in lieu of anything else, but a ferry would be an even better option.

A bridge would be great though I've read it would have to be an immensely tall bridge to allow the boats, particularly tankers, that go through the channel to get under.

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Even if the Tobin hypothetically had a sidewalk added, very few cyclists would ever use it because of the substantial climb. The descent would be scary, too.

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The real reason it's a bad idea is that it would never be enforced.

It would be announced. There would be maybe a week or two (if that) where a guard or attendant stands on the platform and explains which car is for bikes, and once they're gone, the pedestrian commuters will ignore it and get onto the "bike car" whenever they feel like it, whether the other cars are full or not. "Why should I have to walk thirty feet when there's a perfectly good car right here?"

With a crowd of typical Massholes blocking the door and refusing to move, that will make it difficult to get onto the train with a bike, fights would probably break out, and after a month or two, nobody will even remember that there was once a "bike car" program.

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Great idea, meta should have thought about this idea decades ago.

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I don't know if they're still in use (not on the Red Line often anymore), but they had a couple "Big Red" branded cars that had no seats, standing room only. This format seems ideal for bikes, but there's no sense in making it "bike only".

Why not make a "Big Blue" style car on each train set, and add a "Bike Car" decal by each door? It makes it clear that it's intentionally designed for cyclists? Non-bike commuters are still welcome to it, there's no policing required, but it gives cyclists a car that's far easier to use (+ can fit more people than a traditional car otherwise, albeit only for those able-bodied enough for a standing room only car).

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Or else the T would have ordered seat-less cars as part of the full Orange/Red fleet replacement. At the very least, if the experiment worked well, the T would have done additional modifications to its existing cars -- the one-time labor cost can't be much more than the long-term cost of maintaining the seats. (I imagine that certain RL riders were not impressed with standing all the way from Quincy Center to Kendall...)

Still, I can see this working on the Blue Line: usually, the most crowded section is Maverick-Gov't Center, and that takes less than 10 minutes.

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on an already overcrowded line.

Unless they added another car to the train. But if they could do that, why haven't they done that already for the overcrowding?

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The train can only be as long as the shortest platform on the line.

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Other cities do the "no exit from the last two cars at XXX station" thing.

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But I think the platform was extended some time in the last couple of decades, making the announcement unnecessary. It was one of the few places where you might actually need to open the doors between cars.

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The IRT 1 train used to do the tight loop and short platform at South Ferry to end the downtown run and begin the uptown run. They built a new station complex after September 11th, which has the 1 on a straight-in terminal track setup (and more directly connected to the BMT Whitehall station). Apparently the loop track layout still exists - they had to go back to using that for a couple of years when there was severe damage to the new station during Sandy.
---
I forget whether it's South Ferry or the Times Square stop on the 42nd St Shuttle (or both) where the actual stop is on a tight enough curve that they have extender ramps that power out from the platform to the train doorsills.

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PATH's Exchange Place Station in Jersey City - The WB platform (trains coming from World Trade Center) was long enough for eight-car trains, but the line split for Newark and Hoboken is at the immediate west end of the platform. The Newark track curved slightly left, and the end of the platform had a matching curve. The Hoboken track ran straight (and eventually branched right), so the lead car of an 8-car train had no platform access.
They were talking about changing that years ago - I don't know if they got to it yet.

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I don't think most if any platforms can fit 7 or 8 car trains. The T had to do a lot of work to expand Aquarium and other stations to fit 6 cars instead of 4.

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Has anyone from the council done any liaison with the T management?

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Restoring the Orient Heights/Bowdoin extras {Route 948, operated rush hours off-and-on since the 1960s; now just three weekday "pull-out" trips, including the first daily westbound} should have been done concurrently with terminating most North Shore bus service at Wonderland back in September of 2019.

Instead we endure{d} the hot mess of increased transfers from the bus system + a giant park-and-ride facility at Wonderland swamping the Blue Line. No one bothered to pick up the damn phone and give Blue Line Operations a heads-up.

The Zone 1A pilot for Lynn shall be a {intentionally designed} failure as NONE of the connecting bus routes are coordinated with the trains. MBTA railroad ridership has declined to a point that there are now more pigeons than humans at North Station during rush hours.

As to the bike car... Seats could be removed akin to the "Big Red" cars 01802 and 01803. But how many of the 94 Blue Line cars get retrofitted? What happens if the Yardmaster cannot guarantee enough bike cars due to too many being in the shop for repairs and inspection? Does the Yardmaster make up trains such that the bike car{s} are in the middle of the train? Making it the last car is fruitless as you have a full loop at one end of the line; but scissors crossovers at Wonderland.

The MBTA is headed towards a 1981-esque financial collapse next year. Now is not the time to ask for this, with drastic systemwide cuts looming.

/END RANT/

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would a bridge need to be? Take some money from the oversized northern avenue bridge (shrink it). Or maybe a draw bridge.

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it should be from Charlestown to Chelsea. Because there used to be one there, before the Tobin was built.

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Seems like they're both fucked geographically now.

Build some pedestrian way from Long Wharf to Piers Park.
And then just staple some path underneath the Tobin across the Mystic.

I'll take my $3.5 million planning fee via venmo, thanks.

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How about providing more convenient, secure parking for bikes at outlying Blue Line stations and corresponding"transfer tickets" to extra hubway racks downtown?

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If you have a membership or even daily pass, you don’t need a transfer on with Blue Bikes. In fact, if you are opting of a longer ride, your best thing (at least back in the day) is to break the ride up by docking a bike, then taking a new bike (or the same bike, but technically a new ride). Holding on to a Blue Bike for 20 or 30 minutes while on the T could cost you money.

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I was talking about facilitating/enticing people to ride their own bikes (if they don't live near a bluebike rack) to secure parking/storage at outlying Blue Line stations, riding the Blue Line as a pedestrian, then pick up a blue bike downtown.

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What a stupid idea!
Bikes taking up an entire Blue Line Car when all the cars are filled at rush hour is a huge waste of space that commuters need. Adding more bike racks at stations makes more sense or bicycle riders can continue to ride through Chelsea and Everett.

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Always allowed, even at rush hour when fully folded. Great for a smile from astonished onlookers every time you fold and unfold.

https://us.brompton.com/
https://usa.dahon.com/
https://www.ternbicycles.com/us/

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There's enormously less clunky ways of doing this than turning over an entire bike car. All the newer commuter rail bi-level cars have 2 wall-mount bike racks doubling as wheelchair berths by each set of vestibule doors. They're so easy to miss most riders pass them upon boarding without ever knowing they're there unless one happens to be in-use. Rapid transit cars worldwide have been available for order with the same option for years now. . .

Bombardier LRV on Minneapolis light rail:
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/a0/Hiawatha_Line-...

Japanese subway car (heavy-rail like Blue/Red/Orange):
https://hips.hearstapps.com/hmg-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/images/1/japanese-...

The Minneapolis example is wall-mounted, the Japanese example seatback-mounted. Blue Line cars being narrower than average, the seatback-mounted method is lower-profile and would keep riders from getting bonked by handlebars while moving around in the aisles. As you can see from both renders these are combo wheelchair + bike berths just like the T does on commuter rail. All subway cars here already have the wheelchair berths at minimum 2 per every car. So you just target those pre-existing berths for retrofit installations of bike racks and turn them into dual-purpose wheelchair + bike berths. Wheelchairs obviously get priority, but since there are already 2 berths per car and there aren't many total wheelchair patrons there'll almost never be a situation where there's an occupancy conflict over one of the car's accessible berths.

That's it. We can easily retrofit using the wheelchair seat cutouts we already have. No need to make a big production out of it like cannibalizing seating (a la the "Big Red" cars on Red Line) on cars that have to be very carefully portioned across the schedule, or force someone carrying a bike on-platform to awkwardly race from one end to the other because the bike car might be Car #1 going one direction but Car #6 going the other and lack any natural train-to-train consistency. Keep it simple, low-profile, universal, and easily retrofittable to the accessibility berths we already have.

TLDR;...Councillors need to ride commuter rail more often and see what real on-vehicle bike accommodations are supposed to look like. This is so totally doable by thinking smarter, not bigger/harder.

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