AC Transit Rolls Out Higher-Capacity Bike Racks

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By the end of summer, AC Transit plans to have 131 buses that can carry three bikes, as opposed to the two-bike capacity of most of its buses. (Sara Bloomberg/KQED)

Bicyclists in the East Bay may have an easier time using public transportation, thanks to extra-capacity bike racks that AC Transit is installing on its buses.

In 2010, as part of a pilot program, AC Transit began installing racks that can hold three bikes instead of two. Most Bay Area public transit buses, including those operated by Muni and SamTrans, can hold only two bikes.

Out of a total fleet of 575 buses, 35 are currently equipped with the new racks. By the end of summer, AC Transit plans to increase the number to 131 as it rolls out new buses outfitted with the extra-capacity racks.

Robert Prinz, education director at local nonprofit Bike East Bay, said he regularly sees the two-bike racks filled to capacity, and thinks the new racks are a necessary step to making public transportation more accessible to bicyclists.

“Even that one more will make it a lot more feasible for people to be able to rely on that, instead of getting bumped to the next bus because the rack is full,” Prinz said.

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When it began the pilot program in 2010, AC Transit was the first transit agency in California to install higher-capacity bike racks, due to an exemption from a state law.

The exemption was the result of a 2009 bill that AC Transit sponsored, which allowed its buses to carry larger racks, instead of the two-bike racks allowed in the rest of the state. Since then, new legislation has authorized buses throughout California to install the larger racks.

The racks run AC Transit $1,159 each, bringing the total cost of the program to almost $152,000.

Around the Bay Area, other transit agencies are also trying to make their services more bike-friendly.

BART recently introduced a bike valet service at some of its stations and included bike racks in the plans for its new cars.

Muni is piloting three-bike-capacity racks on a handful of its buses, according to Muni spokesman Paul Rose.

“Bikes and transit are a natural combination,” Prinz said. “Anything that we can do to expand capacity for people to take bike and transit combination trips means that we’ll get both more people biking, more people on transit, and out of their cars."