Metra on Saturday, Nov. 7, will introduce its first Bike Car, answering the call from bike enthusiasts to have more room for bicycles on its trains. The car can carry 16 bicycles instead of the usual five allowed on Metra’s accessible diesel railcars and will be deployed on the Milwaukee District North Line as part of a pilot program that will last into the spring of 2021.
In addition, beginning on Monday, Nov. 9, Metra will temporarily relax its bikes on trains policy and allow bikes on all trains across all 11 lines. There will still be limits to the number of bicycles allowed and cyclists should be advised there is no guarantee that bikes or e-scooters can be accommodated on an initial or return trip (particularly on rush-hour trains), and crews have the right to refuse bikes or e-scooters in the event of overcrowding or depending on the needs of customers with disabilities.
“We’re committed to being part of a regional transportation network, which includes supporting the cycling community by making Metra an accessible part of their trip,” said Metra CEO/Executive Director Jim Derwinski. “We know this car will be more widely used in warmer months, but we decided to debut it as soon as it was ready because we’re hopeful it will create new options for residents looking for ways to get out of the house in a safe, socially distanced way. We look forward to seeing some of the region’s more dedicated cyclists using this new amenity over the winter and to welcoming everyone else aboard in a few months.”
The Bike Car is easily identified by its blue and grey paint scheme, as well as a large white bicycle decal adjacent to the exterior doors. The car will run on four inbound and four outbound trains during the week and two inbound and two outbound trains on Saturdays. The schedule can be found here. Metra will post alerts to metrarail.com should a service disruption cause the car to be out of service. Metra is prepared to expand the pilot to Sundays once a second car is completed later this year.
Metra chose the Milwaukee District North Line for the pilot because of the number of cyclists and reverse commuters who already use the line. The line is also close to a concentration of forest preserves and trails, such as the North Branch and Skokie trails.
As with Metra’s regular bikes on trains program, bicycles and e-scooters are welcome aboard. Gasoline-powered bicycles or vehicles of any kind are not permitted on any trains. Tricycles, tandems, trailers, bulky attachments or training wheels are also prohibited. Bikes and e-scooters are not to exceed 70 inches and are accommodated on a first-come, first-served basis. Once on board, cyclists and e-scooter users must secure their bike or e-scooter to one of the bike racks with a bungee cord or other device that they must provide.
To accommodate the additional bicycles, Metra crews removed 24 two-passenger seats on one half of the lower level a Pullman car from the late 1960s. Seats remain on the upper level of that side of the car for customers who wish to sit within view of their bike. Metra used in-house resources to design and retrofit the car.
Metra had planned to debut the car earlier in 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed its completion. Ridership on the line remains at a level that will allow the bike car to be put in place while also ensuring riders can socially distance. Over the next few months, Metra will gather feedback from riders and transportation advocates about the bike car.