Bicycle connections to transit service are a growing component of the METRO transit system ridership.The overall growth of cycling and expansion of bicycle infrastructure in the METRO Service Area means developing strategies and recommendations to improve the integration between cycling and transit is critical to continued growth and expanding ridership for METRO.
To support METRO in improving bicycle access to the transit system, the METRO Bike and Ride Access and Implementation Plan studied existing system users, key factors driving users to access transit by bicycle, current barriers to access, and developed recommendations that capitalize on opportunities to improve access to the transit system by bicycle. Finally, it lays out strategies, funding sources, partnerships and priorities in order to make the recommendations reality.
Qualitative outreach, including focus groups with users, public meetings, online outreach and group rides, as well as quantitative statistical analysis of bicycle boarding activity by route was used to understand what factors contributed to trips by bicycle and transit, resulting in the most comprehensive understanding of obstacles and opportunities to date. Key factors, including proximity to major bicycle facilities, proximity to jobs and population, and access to high quality transit services, were identified as essential in order to target improvements to transit locations with the greatest opportunities for impact.
Thirty-one transit centers, Park & Ride stations and rail stations were identified for improvements through the research-based analysis detailed above and efforts were made to understand the decision making process from the rider perspective, which ultimately drives user behavior:
- Why should I bike to transit for this trip?
- Where should I connect to the transit network?
- What will I do with my bike once I get to transit?
- Is there a safe and easy route to reach transit and my destination?
To answer these questions, a framework of four key principles was developed; they include: (1) communicate the value of cyclists using the transit system and where the system can be accessed, (2) integrate bicycles into the transit system through parking, on-vehicle accommodations and bike share, (3) connect cyclists to high value transit nodes where they can access useful transit service and transit nodes to nearby destinations, and (4) implement projects that connect the bicycle and transit networks and partnerships with other organizations and agencies.
The twenty recommendations include programs – such as an internal Bicycle Working Group and bicycle-oriented branding – policies – for example, revisiting peak-hour restrictions to bicycles on rail and improved data collection – and projects – including infrastructural connections between the thirty-one identified stations and transit centers and nearby destinations and long-term bicycle parking at Park & Ride facilities.
Finally, the study examines how METRO should approach bicycle access at future improvements, whether they are new transit centers or rail stations, service changes, or changes in job or population density in the service area itself. Tools were developed for METRO’s planners to evaluate the desirability and effectiveness of potential bicycle improvements for years to come.
Through this unique project, Houston’s METRO recognized the growing symbiotic relationship between transit and bicycle systems. Deep and substantive quantitative research was matched with a real concern for the ways in which users actually experience the system and the reasons they choose to do so. Finally, recognizing the unique aspects of METRO’s implementation opportunities, namely the fact that they seldom own the right-of-way on which physical improvements are to occur, the study leveraged the programs, policy and partnerships that will be necessary for implementation.
Location: Houston/ Harris County, TX
Scale: 1285 Square Miles
Client: Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO)
View the final report here.