« Back to Archive

Seeking input: Cycling and transit, or cycling vs. transit

I am reading a study that looks at "Cycling Transit Users" in Philadelphia and San Francisco. It looks at both "rack and roll" type users, and people who cycle to/from transit but do not actually take their bikes on the bus/trolley/Incline/train. When I imagine applying the questions, and the findings, to the Pittsburgh situation, I get hung up on questions that seem to relate mostly to travel times, and travel time differentials. In my case, I can bike to work in about an hour. I can walk to transit, and take that in, and it takes about 56 minutes. Or I can BIKE to transit (saving myself 15 minutes of walking) which is most efficient of all (time wise). But from a time perspective, there is no true incentive to bike. That is not true in all areas of the City. There are definitely areas where cycling is faster than transit, and areas where cycling to a faster transit service line (a busway, for example) converts a local bus option to an express option. At least that is what my intuition tells me. I'd like to do a little beta testing of this theory. Can you provide me with some ideas of locations from which you find cycling (or a combination of cycling and transit) to be faster than transit alone? I'd also be interested in hearing ideas on where it is feasible (or nearly feasible) to bike to a transit station or "node" but to which most users currently drive. I think the example that comes to mind here is Carnegie Station on the West Busway. No good cycle access, but within a community that would seem to be appropriate for cycling. I don't know exactly what I plan to do with this information, but it's an information nugget that I've been meaning to mine for a while now. This study just inspired me to consider it a little harder. Thanks for your thoughts and suggestions! Link to Study:
2014-01-27 12:24:00
"Can you provide me with some ideas of locations from which you find cycling (or a combination of cycling and transit) to be faster than transit alone?" South Oakland to Downtown, depending on location. Via transit, one would use the 65, but would likely have to hoof it to Blvd of the Allies and wherever one was going Downtown. Riding in positing good conditions and depending on if I feel like pushing it, anywhere from 15 - 25 minutes down Bates, EFT, Downtown. 99% it just doesn't make any sense to take Port Authority. Though I thought about it today and may do it tomorrow.
2014-01-27 12:35:45
I think biking is almost always same or faster. Stops just inflate travel time so much. So I really hardly ever ride the bus. But it's still "and" for me. I'd still ride without the bus, but I probably wouldn't do it year round. Mechanical issues suck, but they suck a lot more in the cold. Weather taking a turn for the worse becomes much more consequential when it's cold, and having a bail option means you can at least set out without worrying about an hour by hour forecast. I'm also trying to sell a guy on the idea of biking down from squirrel hill, racking it back. I think bike+bus is a gateway drug to bike+bike (and bus only when you really need it). Another guy I actually proposed the opposite to since he was concerned about how he'd come into work looking disheveled. Others may just prefer the bus but want to bike at either end to save time and/or to get to a more express type route. I think it takes all kinds.
2014-01-27 13:13:30
As a general statement, I think biking would beat transit when more than one bus is involved because it is unlikely that the timing works out that you get off one bus and onto another one without a substantial wait, even if the busway is involved. Options for Baldwin to Pitt commute: By bus: first I have a little over a mile walk to the bus stop (20 minutes); a bus trip into downtown via the 51 bus (+20 minutes); a transfer to any bus headed out to Oakland (+15 minutes); then another walk from Forbes or Fifth to the office (5-10 minutes). Add in the waiting for the bus to show up and it ends up being close to an hour and a half and almost as much exercise as if I had just biked. Even if the (scheduled) timing works out and I can transfer to a 54 bus in Southside the whole trip is still close to an hour. And there is the added anxiety of a bus not showing up or other traffic delays that would cause one to be late. By bike: it takes me 35 minutes by bike door-to-door. I like the spandex so add 10-15 minutes for a wardrobe change. It’s still way faster than the fastest bus service. As an added anecdote: During the evening rush hour I will almost always beat the bus up 18th street. It won’t pass me back until I am well into Carrick, if it ever passes me at all.
2014-01-27 13:29:38
There's no question that for my commute, biking and biking + transit work. Transit alone would not work. I commute from Squirrel Hill to Monroeville, on the 67. I live about a mile from the bus stop, and so wouldn't consider the bus if I didn't have a bike (and a rack on the bus). With the bike + bus option, the trip to Monroeville is about half an hour faster than if I ride my bike alone. And it works in weather when I don't want to ride my bike a long distance, as well as being a lot easier. I can read a book on the bus. Monroeville is actually an attractive destination for the bike + bus rider in any case -- there are lots of stores, of course, and you could take the bus out and then ride between the places you needed to shop, then take the bus back.
2014-01-27 13:33:18
Here's my situation, I hope it helps: Until about a month ago, I lived in Regent Square and worked in Monroeville. I could bike from door to door in about 1 h. If I did not bike, I could take the P71 from my apartment to the East Busway, and then catch the P12 to a stop about 1.2 mi from work. This arrangement all hinged on my ability to catch the P71 and transfer to the P12. According to their schedules (when I still used them), I had about 3 min from the time the P71 let me off to catch the P12. There were days when I missed the P12 because one or both buses was off schedule by a few minutes. When everything went smoothly, the total time busing and walking was about 1 h. If I used my bike in the mornings, I could ride directly to the busway and catch the P12. Using the rack on the bus meant I saved about 10 min c.f. leaving my bike at the busway. The total commute time when taking my bike on the bus was about 45 min. My other option to get to work was to catch the 67. It shares a few stops with the P12, but its route is about 20 min longer. If I used the P71 to get to the 67 route, my total commute was about 1.25 h. If I used my bike to get to the 67, the commute was about 1 h. I should also point out that eliminating the P71 from my morning commute saved me some bus fare. Nowadays, I live a stone's throw from the busway in Wilkinsburg so I catch the P12 in morning, take my bike with me on the bus, and then bike home in the evening. The commute to work is about 45 min, and the trek home is about 55 min.
2014-01-27 13:46:10
I said it before, but all busway stations need to have bike corrals, as well as a few bike racks near major public transit transfer points. Major T stations should have these as well. Maybe even bike-lockers for rent on a monthly basis at these locations. I think this could have an impact on how many people use these in a multi-modal capacity.
2014-01-27 14:02:02
One more anecdote: From time to time, I used to spend the night on the north side and then have to commute to Monroeville in the morning. Starting near the Aviary, I would simply bike to the start of the East Busway downtown and catch the P12. Total commute time was about 60 min if I took my bike with me, 70 min if I were to leave it at the bus station, and probably 80-90 min if I were to try it all by bus (catching the P12). My other option was to catch the 67 from downtown, but that would have meant a 70 min bus ride according to the PAT schedule so I never tried it. I assume it would have been 1.5 h overall, taking my bike on the bus. When I made the ride from Monroeville to north side, it was always about 1.6 h.
2014-01-27 14:02:46
Sorry if this is basically a repeat. Cycling from Squirrel Hill to Oakland/Downtown/NSide/Etc is faster than transit during peak hours always. Buses are slowed by traffic and worse, often pass you by because they are full. However, transit BACK to Squirrel Hill can be faster if you're coming from Downtown, by at least 15 min. For obvious topographic reasons.
2014-01-27 14:24:22
The number of stops taken by the overwhelming majority of buses seems absolutely ridiculous to me. The stops inflate travel time so much and in so doing both make bus service so much slower and the wait for the bus so much longer. This in turn greatly diminishes the value of the service. I say this independent of the biking option and as someone who has a bus stop right next to my home (that basically nobody uses). But if I did want to take the bus it's ridiculous for 15-40 people wait 30 seconds (slowdown, stop, accelerate again) for me because I was unwilling to take a three or four minute walk to Wightman Street. Of course, you need to serve those who can't walk longer distances, too. But I think you can have some criteria and get a specially printed card or something else that's easily checked. Once that's in place, yeah, absolutely THEY should be able to get off and on at all current stops. Others, wait your turn for the benefit of your fellow riders and they'll do the same for you! There's even more potential to weighting things toward the express service with biking since that, per the terminology of the paper summary, increases the catch area of each stop. But modeshare has to be high before it's worth dedicating any of the fleet toward our use cases directly.
2014-01-27 14:39:08
I work in Oakland. I lived for a year in Lower Lawrenceville, near the Health Dept; I would sometimes see the 54 go by as I left my house, pass it on Liberty in Bloomfield, and see it go by as I locked up at my building. I live now in Central LV, near the Boys & Girls Club; it takes me about the same 20 minutes to ride in as it would to take the 93. BTW, since I'm privileged enough to have a somewhat flexible schedule, I usually ride after rush hour, so traffic isn't (as much of) a concern...
2014-01-27 15:45:21
byogman wrote:The number of stops taken by the overwhelming majority of buses seems absolutely ridiculous to me. The stops inflate travel time so much and in so doing both make bus service so much slower and the wait for the bus so much longer. This in turn greatly diminishes the value of the service.
PAT has been trying to reduce them; it was also one of the major recommendations of the consultant's report that produced the Transit Development Plan a couple years ago. However, when they tried to dump a few less-used T stops last year, they got jumped on, hard, including by the County Exec...
2014-01-27 15:48:10
When I ride home via bus, as I do when the weather is really bad, I always know when I get to my destination, because there are three stops right in a row, in one block. (Between Shady & Murray on Wilkins). Nobody has to walk too far.
2014-01-27 15:53:03
Along S Braddock Ave, there are stops at Forbes, Guthrie, Overton, Hutchinson, and Sanders, i.e. every block for about 5 blocks. At least two of those stops could easily be eliminated, but I'm not sure what that might accomplish given traffic density along that road.
2014-01-27 17:19:03
Cycling and transit, if only because it's important to have a backup option when mechanical issues / weather / health / intoxication / distance / bad road design make biking less than appealing. Even having to bike back up to Squirrel Hill, cycling is more efficient than the bus for pretty much all my trips once you factor in getting to / from the stops (10 minutes walk for me), waiting for the bus, and the likelihood that it doesn't show up or gets stuck in traffic or whatever. A funny story to illustrate this: Biked to a Pirates game, and my bf was really tired and didn't feel like biking home. Being stubborn, I bet a beer on beating him home on my bike. I got stuck in Pirates traffic for a while and then raced like a bat out of hell figuring I was lost, but I beat him by over an hour. I think I got home before a bus even showed up downtown, when they should have been running frequently. If our transit system worked better I would do more combination trips and I could probably save time that way to far places like Lawrenceville, the Strip, the North Side, etc. if I knew the bus would show up on time. But it's not worth the trouble. Biking is more fun in a non-rush non-emergency, and in a rush or emergency I'd rather not trust the transit. Also, having to lock up my bike and take off lights makes walking more convenient for shorter trips.
2014-01-27 17:46:18
I think people overestimate how much time is actually saved by a bus skipping a stop. It's closer to 8 seconds than 30, when I've tried to time it. You can't count all the time for payment and boarding, since the passenger would just be doing the same at the next stop. It's just the time to decelerate and accelerate plus some for the door. I don't have numbers handy for the bus routes that lost stops, but take the Red line, which lost 5 stops between Wood Street and Overbrook Junction (was 26, now 21, inclusive). Before the deletion, it took from 26 to 35 minutes per the schedule. Now it takes from 26 to 34 minutes. (Never more than 30 minutes outbound, and only more than 30 minutes inbound at peak times.) So folks who go the entire route are saving a minute a day sometimes, and folks who lost a stop are getting an extra 5-10 minute walk, sometimes over hills, twice a day. If the average passenger saw an improvement from that, it's very slight. Mostly it was just transferring inconvenience. And that's the T. The time required for a T car to serve a stop is much longer than it is for buses. "three stops right in a row, in one block. (Between Shady & Murray on Wilkins)." Well, it's arguably not really one block. The single stop between Shady and Murray is at Woodland Road, the entrance to Chatham.
2014-01-27 19:07:19
Just a few unqualified, non-substantiated opinions if I may. First, the answer is: Stu. I think bike-share is going to show us things, and in a most-rational world, the bikeshare stations and the PAT layout would optimize multi-modal. Someday. Re: fewer stops, I think that's part of the Downtown-Oakland BRT "solution", although there's so many different definitions of BRT right now, everything's been promised to everybody and nobody's going to lose anything, so... waiting for somebody to say, "if you love your bus stop you can keep it" (sorry) I think the challenge to multi-modal is going to be re-supplying the higher-ground docking stations. I personally thing "they" should hire retired geezers and give them a bike and trailer, to move bikes from the low ground back to the high ground. $10 an hour and pay me to ride a bike. that is all.
2014-01-27 20:40:05
I live in Squirrel Hill and work in Oakland. I can walk, ride or bus (or even drive!) to work. I'm lucky. Bike is invariably best, for the simple reason that I have complete control over time of departure and I get to leave from my door at both ends. Trip time is not a factor. Unless you work 9-to-5 the Pittsburgh bus system is not all that great. For example, after about 7pm outbound is pretty hopeless unless you happen to travel exactly according to the schedule. The advantage of a bike would be even greater if I worked in South Side, Shadyside or East Liberty (or along the Allegheny somewhere). Can't say about downtown (and its direct routes) but I suspect it's a toss-up.
2014-01-27 21:27:22
I guess it's time I chimed in here. I'm 0.9 mile from a bus stop since they eliminated the Perry Hwy route. It's a 17-minute walk or a 6-minute bike ride. I'd be much happier if there was a place to tie up the bike at the bus stop. When I've bothered, I just cable-locked the old bike to a nearby utility pole. Through 2013, I biked in a lot, but bused the bike home, very often taking the evening 12 McKnight because the last O12 express is about 6:45 p.m. Using the 12 is odd, because it's a 48-minute trip with the bicycle, but a 68-minute trip on foot, due to the odd path the bus takes after Northway Mall outbound. I exit with bike at Northway and bike 1.6 miles. If on foot, I ride to the end of Perrymont and walk the 0.9. I can get the 12 on McKnight, at Northway, or if I think I'm going to miss the inbound 12 at Northway, will bike down to Denny's because the 12 goes up into Ross Park Mall, which takes seven extra minutes. As you can see, it's a complex formula, both inbound and outbound, made even more complex if I choose to bike into West View to catch an 8 Perrysville or a 13 Bellevue, or hike the bike up the steps to get an O1 at the park & ride. Confused yet? It gets better. Or I can say screw it and just ride all the way into town. Timewise, it's not much different from biking over to the 12 at Northway, and faster than walking to a 12 at McKnight Rd. Someday, I'll try to write this up into an algorithm, based on such variables as weather, temperature, amount I'm carrying, the speed I want to get into town, the amount of work I need to get done on the way, ... Throw in the motorcycle to make the setup even more complicated... But it all boils down to: Anything but the car!
2014-01-27 21:47:51
Second part: Places where a bike would help, but not necessarily be a complete solution: * McKees Rocks Bottoms. * Within West View. Seems like there are a lot of stores and small businesses around there, and a lot of streets that don't fit cars very well. * Laurel Gardens part of Ross Twp. It used to have very limited bus service with a couple of stray 11C trips that wiggled through its twisty, narrow streets. But it's so hilly back there, and so far to get out to the main road, that I don't see that as accessible by anything other than a car, really. * Millvale looks like a place a bicycle could be a great tool. Once you get down in the level part of town, riding anywhere is easy. It's just that you have to be part mountain goat to live in any part of the town outside the level area.
2014-01-27 21:54:02
When I worked in Robinson, bus or bike each took about an hour. That was a 14 mile hilly ride, vs 2 buses. When I worked at CMU, I could almost literally take the 67/69 door to door, total distance was a bit over a mile. If I could step on the bus at any time, the bus would probably win by a little, at least on the way home. But, since I had to go to the stop 5 min early in case it was ahead of schedule, or it might be late, in practice biking was faster. For that matter, when I walked, I usually would not get passed by a bus. Now, I don't really have a bus option to work. Sometimes I'll take the 71D from negley to beechwood which cuts out maybe 2/3 of the walk, but it is still faster to bike, and it's only worth doing if I get to the stop and see the bus coming. 28x to the airport is a clear win for the bus :) In general, I think biking and transit take similar amounts of travel time, it's the schedule variability and infrequent headways that makes the bike more attractive.
2014-01-27 22:38:22
My concern is when bike/ bus multi mode attracts more bikes the 2 places on each bus are not going to be enough . I have never had to skip a bus because the rack was full but it is bound to happen !! They need to rent lockers for cheap !!
2014-01-28 06:46:30
When I started paying attention to the bike racks on buses my immediate first reaction was... well that's wrong! The right design wouldn't require you to fold down anything or lift your bike over/around another if a bike is already in there. It would look like a cowcatcher and has the bikes paralleling the direction of travel at least 6, perhaps 8 across. You'd practically roll it on. But until bus service becomes something that's compelling to use with biking (I'd say the 28X maybe in my case, but I've never checked, does the airport have good places to lock up?) rather than something that works well if you get lucky, then I guess we have a sort of matching of demand to iffiness. Maybe as biking gets more popular we won't, or maybe bike/bus is the gateway drug and people graduate to bike and more bike so you don't necessarily get that problem except when a new wave of riders starts trying things out in the spring or early summer. We also don't know how much bikeshare can bite into the need to put bikes on transit. If you have a real integrated system (locations, passes) etc... that seems really if anything more logical for those that are inclined to mix the two regularly.
2014-01-28 07:54:00
It takes me about 1 hour to bike to work, only marginally longer than it takes to drive or bus under normal rush hour conditions, and a difference not worth considering. It takes me at least 1 1/2 hours to bike home, due to terrain and preferred route (dropping 500 feet overall coming in vs. climbing 500 ft. going home). That's 3 times what it would take to drive or twice what it takes to bus. I love it when I am able to bike both ways, but, I have to be willing to get home no earlier than 7:30 or 8:00 pm on those days. And when the weather is uncertain, or when it gets dark at 5:30 pm, the bus racks have made it exponentially more likely that I will at least bike in, and more likely even when it's iffy that I will at least consider biking home. There are even a couple of routes that I can ride part way home and bail on a bus to miss the worst hills or incoming weather. It's hard to express how much the bus rack option has facilitated the frequency of my bike commuting. That, and putting together a brutal dreadnought of a bike that will go through anything. And byogman, the rack system really does work quite well. Even as a retrofit, it is highly functional. One of my bus routes home goes through parts of town where I am actually more comfortable that it is not easier for someone to take the bike off the rack. Sara, your observation about Carnegie is spot on. The community itself is quite bikeable, if people really realized the ease and speed that you can get to town on the busway, it would be an outstanding place for people to go car-light, at least. Crafton as well, that's a great community.
2014-01-28 09:28:03
1. I've had a couple of occasions with a 3rd bike at the bus. It's ok to be gracious (especially if it's a nice day). 2. Buses have enough trouble getting around corners. The current 2-bike extension is probably as much as makes sense. 3. Once bike-share is established you won't need to bring your own bike on the bus. You'll have a bike when you get there (well, as long as it's downtown, for now). Rack demand should be lesser.
2014-01-28 09:40:12
@Ahlir , yes, but more bike parking racks at the originating transit stop!
2014-01-28 10:34:33
Fyi, Carnegie, Crafton, I think even Sheraden stops have quite nice, new, stainless steel coathanger type racks in prominent locations. Sadly underused. On the bright side there are more and more often bikes on the buses.
2014-01-28 11:26:34
I live in the southwest corner of Shadyside. I have 3 bus routes at two different stops within 2 blocks of my house but probably 12 routes at a single stop if I go 3/4 mile into Oakland. My preferred location is Fifth at Tennyson, where there is abundant bike parking by Clapp Hall and I can catch every route turning up Bellefield. When I need to bus into downtown lately, that's what I've been doing. I have also ridden about a mile the other direction up Ellsworth to Negley Station to get on the busway to head downtown or to Wilkinsburg. Walking these distances is obviously quite feasible but biking makes it faster and facilitates running other errands on the way back from the bus stop. If I were living in neighborhoods north of East Liberty (Highland Park, Stanton Heights, Morningside) and needed to get downtown regularly, I might consider biking to East Liberty Station and locking up during the day. Same for parts of Homewood and Point Breeze for Homewood Station.
2014-02-04 01:05:54
I currently live in Mt Lebo, a short walk from a T station, and commute to the South Side. By public transit it takes me about :45 to get to/from work. By bike it takes me about :45 to get into work, and 1:15 to get home. Combined does not save me much on the way in or out, oddly. It only shaves a minute or two off the morning commute, and in the evenings any time savings from taking the T is offset by the fact that I have to wait for one of the later trains, because they're packed solid. So in general a combined transit is only worth it if it's pouring.
2014-02-04 10:46:13