One of the more interesting details of last week’s Rainier Station Open House was the “bike cage” planned for the entrance. Rainier Station (regardless of its ultimate name) will have space for 20 bikes in cages on opening day, with space reserved to accommodate 12 more. Regular racks and lockers will accommodate a further 20 (eventually 28).

The video above may give you an idea what it’s about, but here’s the basic flow. A bicyclist obtains a smart card (Sound Transit hasn’t selected a vendor or a technology for this) that provides her access to the cage and represents whatever cash account is necessary to pay for it. She then uses her lock to secure it to the apparatus inside and leaves.

The bike cage is far more compact than lockers while providing more security and protection from the elements than a rack. The transparent fencing is a safety feature allowing people to see what is going on inside. There will also be closed-circuit television cameras for added security.

Sound Transit didn’t respond to my question about whether or not we’ll see these at other stations before 2023.

A video about Boston’s implementation this (which I gather is farther from Sound Transit’s vision than the one above) is below the fold.

Alewife Station’s Bike Cage: Cambridge, Mass. from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

39 Replies to “Sound Transit Rolling Out Bike Cages”

  1. After being bombarded by the many irritating design choices (or, more to the point, continued products of ST’s still-broken design-think) revealed in yesterday’s post, the announcement of a true bike cage at Rainier station is a nice slice of redemption.

    This is such an improvement over the reserved-for-one-patron (read: empty) bike lockers of recent memory. And Rainier station couldn’t possibly be a better place for it, with major bike thoroughfares dead-ending into the rail line from multiple directions.

    The only question is: why so small? The Beaverton link claims their bike cage holds 76, and even that sounds conservative for a 9-to-5 commuter-oriented facility. The Alewife cages hold 300, and they are busy all the time.

    Just as transit only works if you can rely on it, a facility such as this will only work if you can expect it to be available when you get there. At a capacity of 32, I fear this will not be the case.

    1. I actually agree with you here on the bike shelters d.p. (the old shelters suck, these ones are better, and there should be more of them).

      I wonder if there could be a private solution off site at some point like they have in Tokyo to address additional demand when it exceeds what little space they will have at the station.

      At least ST allows bikes to be brought on the trains, but that also is extremely limited in capacity, and competes with suitcases for those bound for the airport.

      1. The 76-bike cage in the Beaverton video is pretty darn compact. It can’t even fathom why ST would invest in all of the security infrastructure if the bike-holding portion of the cage will be barely bigger than an outhouse!

        It’s not as if there’s a dearth of space by the 23rd station “portal”.

      2. It’s also not as if an 150-cage costs much more money than a 20-bike cage. The security infrastructure is like 50% of the cost. Why squander your economies of scale every chance you get?

    2. One other question — for all the millions spent on *free* multi-story parking palaces at suburban Sound Transit stations, what’s the policy basis for making bicyclists pay for cage space?

      Are cyclists less desirable transit users?

      Do motorists contribute some greater value by parking than cyclists do?

      1. Haha, also cyclists can freely use bike racks on buses and bike space in trains, both limited resources that were fairly cheap to provide initially but would be difficult to expand… but will probably have to pay for cage space, which is hardly unlimited and requires some initial outlay, but should scale really well.

        As a cyclist that does a bus/bike commute a few times a month, I don’t mind the idea of paying for my parking, but I think the incentives should be in order. Maybe we’ll get it right for cyclists eventually, and then apply the thinking to car parking.

        Also we should put one of these things up by the Montlake Flyer Stop. Only much bigger. And we should do it yesterday. It doesn’t matter that the Flyer Stop is (stupidly) going away, or that the whole overpass is going to be rebuilt (assuming WSDOT finds a pile of cash) — it should be possible to take apart the cage and reassemble it in a new location. After the Flyer Stop goes that area will still be an important place for people to bike to buses between northern and eastern Seattle and the eastside, and bus-rack capacity through there will be decimated when the Flyer stop closes. In fact, the most important time to have it available is during the construction when traffic capacity is constrained and transit service is disrupted.

      2. for all the millions spent on *free* multi-story parking palaces at suburban Sound Transit stations, what’s the policy basis for making bicyclists pay for cage space?


      3. @al diamond

        Yes they should have put a cage up at Montlake when the tolls when in effect as a mitigation to low income folks. Since you cannot bike across the bridge, it makes biking pretty much impossible. You can try to get a spot on the bus, but the bike racks start filling up at *6AM* and you have to get in line–not feasible if you do not have a 90-minute flexible start time!

        My husband is a contractor at Microsoft, and he was SOL until he found out he could ride a shuttle despite not being an employee. This is a special case for the bridge shuttle that pulls a trailer full of bike racks.

        Come to think of it, Microsoft should have paid for the cage instead of running the shuttle all these years! They could have partnered in exchange for some of the spots being reserved for employees.

      4. For me, the primary purpose of the shuttle is to get my bike across the lake in the morning on days when I want to ride it all the way home, around the Burke Gilman, in the afternoon. Unfortunately, a rack wouldn’t serve that purpose all too well.

        That being said, it should also be noted that the MS bike shuttle is about 10 minute slower than the 542 and 545, due to its getting stuck in traffic on surface streets around Microsoft as it meanders to its unloading spot. I always try the 545 and 542 first and only go to the shuttle if I’m forced to because the racks are all full on the regular buses.

    3. I asked about the inclusion of several old style bike lockers, which take up more space. I was told that patrons want a choice in security levels. Sigh… An access controlled cage with video surveillance is not secure enough? Dear ST: Please look up “Economies of scale” and then go back to the drawing board. Upsize the bike cage and ditch the bike lockers. (Which, perversely, at $50 a year will cost less to rent than the bike cage spots, assuming ST adopts Metro’s $.05 per hour charge)

    1. I really hope Visa/MasterCard find a way that I can use my existing debit/credit cards as ORCA, Car2Go, ZipCar, Bike Share, etc… readers. Why are we using any “smartcards” at all? They contain the exact same info that is already on the bank cards next to them in my wallet? The only thing they do is increase costs for the agencies/companies that are using them through card issuance, card distribution, processing, admin, and bank account validation/updates.

      Kill the costly dumbcards already and follow Uber and others into a world of efficient payment options.

      1. Credit cards charge fees on every transaction, which would increase the price we pay for transit trips. There’s also a level of protection from fraud/theft in having our ORCA separate from our bank account or credit card.

      2. “Credit cards charge fees on every transaction, which would increase the price we pay for transit trips.”

        After working on retail transaction fees for many many years I can actually promise the addition transaction fee would be more than offset by cost savings associated to removing the overhead and operations of the ORCA system.

        If people still have concerns with fraud/theft they can go into pretty much any retail store in Seattle and pick up a pre-paid debit card, which is much easier than finding and loading an ORCA card.

      3. @Southeasterner: I’m not an expert on this; maybe you know more. My understanding is that credit/debit card processing standards prohibit vendors from storing credit/debit card numbers for obvious security reasons. In order to keep track of transfers/passes we’d need some other sort of identifying system, right? And the payment system would have to have a fast, reliable network connection at all times to process a whole line of people tapping NFC cards while boarding a bus without storing numbers.

        Of course, we could just install off-board payment at every popular bus stop to speed up boarding lines. And there’s no reason passes have to be tapped on each boarding (no great reason, at least — passenger-count data is good enough to estimate ridership and split revenue) or even incorporated into the cash payment system — there are more efficient payment systems than ours that still have physical passes with no electronics in them at all.

    2. The hedging is probably because if ST ever offers smartcard/app alternatives to ORCA, it should do it across the board rather than something unique to bike rentals. But that means deciding to do it, choosing a vendor, and paying for it, all things which aren’t going to happen this year. But East Link’s opening is 10 years away so there may be movement on alternative smartcards by then. There’s also the issue of when the ORCA vendor’s contract comes up for renewal, and whether the transit agencies keep the technology or replace it with something that’s less expensive and more flexible.

  2. Bike cages at Mt. Baker Station and/or Beacon Hill station would be good additions and could be easily constructed in the otherwise useless plazas.

    Even better, Caltrain’s Palo Alto Station has a bike cage and repair shop. Drop your bike off in the morning, get it fixed, ride home. Be cool to see that at UW Station since it’s along the Gilman.

    1. I agree. I see potential for this sort of thing at the Husky Stadium station. It is on the Burke, as you said. It also has huge lots that sit (largely) empty. Some of that is used by the hospital staff, but you could easily carve out plenty of space to put in lots of bike facilities there.

      1. The problem is it’s all UW property and the UW sees no reason to give up a couple of parking spaces for a bike cage that will primarily benefit downtown commuters who have no affiliation with the university. UW students themselves, will have better places to park their bikes and won’t be using the cages next to the Link station.

        It’s the same reason why the construction site around the station is going to revert back to parking (which will be half-empty whenever there’s not a football game), rather than bus layover space for the transit hub the station should have been.

  3. “A bicyclist obtains a smart card”

    I know there are probably fifty contractual and expense related reasons why it won’t happen, but why in world wouldn’t that be your Orca card? The last thing I need is another smart card in my wallet.

    1. You mean you aren’t excited about having yet another pass card in your wallet that is linked to your bank account? You don’t think it makes sense to have multiple cards in your wallet that have the exact same bank information as one or two of your credit/debit cards that are already in your wallet?

      I would say transit is a few decades behind in payment technology but then you go to Hong Kong, Singapore, or Germany and realize it’s US transit that is a few decades behind in payment technology. Not like a city that is home to Microsoft and Amazon could figure out how to make electronic payment more efficient or standardized…

    2. My guess is that it is for security reasons. People are pushing for anonymous, prepaid ORCA cards. I have no idea if these are available yet, but once we have them, then no one knows who you are. With this card, you will have a record of who entered when, as well as (hopefully) some video surveillance. Basically, it makes it much harder to steal a bike.

      1. How about only registered ORCA cards can open the cage, *and* a current, valid pass on the ORCA card waives the cage fee?

      2. You need either controlled access or a human attendant to keep bikes from disappearing. Attendants are expensive, so I like Josh’s idea.

        I see no reason to make bicyclists pay for parking when it’s Sound Transit’s policy that motorists never pay for parking.

    3. It would be hilarious if these SmartCards end up interfering with Orca cards in your wallet, the way Car2Go cards (and Washington D.C. SmarTrip cards) do.

  4. With the addition of a simple “Of”, the headline becomes a zen koan:

    “Sound Transit Rolling Out Of Bike Cages”

    But why? And how did Sound Transit get there in the first place?

    And most importantly, especially for a transit agency, To where?

  5. I live in Japan, about 70 miles north of Tokyo. Parking my bike next to the station is a piece of cake. There are two parking areas: for monthly parking customers and for short term users. If I park for less than four hours it’s free. Over that it’s 100 yen up to 24 hours. (about a buck) There is no roof, but it’s fenced and there are racks to chain to. The facility is manned from 6am-12pm. They attach a time punched tag to your bike upon entry and then charge according to time expired. The lot is locked at night and well lit. It is in an area that has a lot of pedestrian traffic and next to a police substation. Security is not an issue, price is reasonable. After reading this article the whole system just seemed undersized and overly complicated. Why do we make these systems so clunky and hard to use?

    1. Japan is willing to pay for a human attendant at the bike facility, so simply chaining the bike is sufficient to keep it there all day.

      Sound Transit is not willing to pay for a human attendant, so a locked room with some sort of controlled-access strategy is necessary to keep the bikes from being instantly stolen.

      1. It’s all in the scalability. When you have hundreds of people plopping down a dollar a day, the money to pay a human attendant doesn’t seem like a big deal. When you have just 20-50 people paying a dollar a day, the labor expense of a human attendant is a much bigger deal.

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