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What are the benefits of integrating bicycle facilities and transit?

There are many benefits to integrating bicycles and transit for both transit agencies and travelers. Bicycling and public transit are both great transportation options that can reduce congestion, improve air quality, and reduce automobile dependency. When done in conjunction with one another, transportation options and potential destinations abound.

Benefits for bicyclists

Combining transit use and bicycling can provide benefits to cyclists of all levels in a number of ways, including:

  • Providing a contingency plan: Having transit options may give bicyclists an alternative mode home if they experience unexpected difficulties, like a flat tire or bad weather. Having multiple transportation options helps provide assurance to bicycle commuters that they will be able to get to work or get home, even if something unanticipated does happen.
  • Dealing with seasonal weather: Summers in the south and winters in the north can bring extreme weather and unpleasant riding conditions. Bicyclists can ride when weather permits and use transit otherwise. Having multiple options can increase the chance that travelers will use a mode other than a personal vehicle.
  • Enabling bicyclists to go longer distances: Sometimes distance can make bicycling an impractical or impossible transportation choice. In these cases, bicyclists may be able to use transit in conjunction with bicycling to make their trip more manageable.
  • Jumpstarting recreation: Transit may be able to provide the missing link for riders who do not have easy access to recreational riding areas by offering a means for them to reach more desirable places to ride, such as mountain biking trails or greenways. Some areas, like Dallas, Texas and the Puget Sound area in Washington, have begun to highlight transit access to recreational trails and parks.
  • Making it easier for new riders: Sometimes bicycle commuting can be intimidating or physically challenging at first. Combining bicycling with a transit ride can enable new riders or those who are uncomfortable with some sections of their trip to avoid potential barriers, like hills, bridges, or high-traffic roads.

Benefits for transit agencies

By supporting the integration of bicycling and public transportation, transit agencies provide improved service for their riders. In turn, transit agencies may attract new riders or encourage current riders to use transit more frequently. If riders are able to bicycle to transit stops, the catchment area for transit riders increases significantly. According to a survey of bicycle on bus (BOB) riders in Florida, one quarter were new transit riders and 80 percent attributed this change of mode to the bike on bus program (Hagelin, 2005). The integration of bicycling with transit can benefit transit agencies in the following ways:

  • Increases the catchment area for transit riders: Since bicyclists can travel faster than walkers, they can typically travel greater distances without increasing their commute time. Some estimates indicate that transit riders are willing to walk a quarter to a half mile to reach a transit stop, while bicyclists may travel upwards of two miles.
  • Improves the public image and attractiveness of transit: By offering and effectively marketing new services, transit agencies may encourage riders and non-riders alike to think differently about transit service. Enhanced service and new perceptions of public transportation may encourage riders to try transit for the first time or may help retain current riders.
  • Captures different trip purposes: The new services and facilities that a bicycle-transit program offers may encourage riders to use transit for trips that they previously had not. For instance, users may use transit on the weekend or at night for social or recreational activities that use bicycles.
  • Builds partnerships: By enhancing alternative transportation options, transit agencies may build or strengthen relationships with environmental groups, bicycle advocacy groups, and others trying to reduce the environmental impact of transportation, reduce congestion, or decrease automobile dependence.
  • Saves money: Bicycle-transit integration investments can be a relatively inexpensive way for transit agencies to enhance service, improve their public image, and increase ridership.

Related FAQs

References

Hagelin, C. (2005). A return on investment analysis of bikes-on-bus programs. Tampa, FL: National Center for Transit Research. Available at http://www.nctr.usf.edu/pdf/576-05.pdf.