Caltrain says a pilot program that aims to improve on-time performance by allowing bike commuters to board ahead of other passengers is working -- and that it will expand the program next month.
The Peninsula transit agency launched the "Bikes Board First" pilot last month, targeting San Francisco-bound trains during the morning rush hour at three stations: Mountain View, Palo Alto and Redwood City.
In a presentation prepared for Thursday's meeting of Caltrain's Bicycle Advisory Committee, the agency says the program produced a marked improvement at two of the three pilot stations.
Average "dwell times" -- the period trains spent idling during station stops -- dropped a cumulative 2 minutes for eight Mountain View runs.
Caltrain spokesman Dan Lieberman described Mountain View as a "bike-intensive station" prone to longer delays than the other stations in the pilot. The dwell time on one usually slow-boarding run, the northbound 8:04 a.m. train, dropped from 2 minutes and 16 seconds to an average of 1 minute and 4 seconds.
The improvement at Redwood City was less dramatic -- a cumulative 26-second cut in dwell times for nine trains. And the overall dwell time for 10 runs measured at Palo Alto actually increased by a total of 17 seconds.
"In general, it seems like a positive direction trend and one we want to keep going," Lieberman said.
To do that, the agency will expand the Bikes Board First pilot to northbound trains at Sunnyvale and Hillsdale stations and to southbound trains at San Francisco's 22nd Street station. The program is scheduled to begin at the three stations June 11.
Like the first round of the Bikes Board First effort, agency employees will be on hand at the three new locations to try to make sure cyclists have first crack at arriving trains.
No boarding help will be on hand at Mountain View, Palo Alto and Redwood City, Lieberman said.
"We're hoping that the cultural shift has sunk in," he said. "We will revisit that depending on how it goes. Hopefully people have gotten the message and that will stick."
Caltrain says bicycle commuters account for about 6,000 trips every weekday -- about 10 percent of its daily ridership.