Monday 27 October 2014

How to find secure bike parking at train stations and save on housing and commute costs

Summary: Most people will not walk more than a kilometre to access public transport so the premium on housing (buying or renting) for transit access drops rapidly after 1km. Yet with a bike, you can easily ride 1-4km quicker than most people's walking journeys to transit. Thus, bikes offer the potential to save considerably on housing costs by living in the 1-4km zone around transit stops. The critical enabler is having secure bike parking at these transit stops. While motorists are often massively subsidised with expensive park-and-ride facilities, cyclists who wish to park at train stations often have non-existent or insufficient parking facilities, so it's important to know where facilities do exist. This post provides guidance on Melbourne's existing secure bike parking ("Parkiteer" cages), current initiatives for building more of them, and how to pressure relevant agencies and officials to implement new or expanded Parkiteer cages where you need them.

CC by 2.0 - Wikimedia Commons

Related Posts:
> See the commuting category of this blog.
Where to park if commuting to Melbourne CBD

1. Living just 1-4km from transit stops eliminates much of the housing cost premiums
- It is common knowledge that living close to transit stops means paying more for housing and some people are prepared to walk up to 2km to catch desirable transit. However, housing cost premiums are based on averages and they typically mean that people prepared to get to transit by bike and live further away from the stop can save substantially on housing costs:
The question of how far people will walk to reach a transit stop has a pretty significant impact on the shape of cities. American urban planners conventionally draw that line at about a half-mile. Some guidelines pull it back to a quarter-mile, while others adjust the distance for bus stops (typically a quarter-mile) and train stations (typically a half-mile), but the consensus holds that no one makes it farther than half a mile that on foot. 
As expected, Nelson and company found that rent premiums decreased farther away from a DART station. A quarter of the premium disappeared after a quarter-mile, half disappeared at about .56 miles, and 75 percent had disappeared by .93 miles.
CityLab: What Does Living 'Close' to Transit Really Mean?
CityLab: What Does Living 'Close' to Transit Really Mean?

- Statistics on how Australians access train stations suggest there is significant potential to benefit by using a bike as few people currently do so:
According to a 2012 Public Transport Victoria survey of train station arrivals, 5000 people arrived by bicycle on a typical weekday compared to 140,000 by car and 412,000 on foot.But despite the scheme’s success, cycling to train stations remains a niche mode of transport.
In fact, a 2010 survey by the Victorian Department of Transport found more than 60 per cent of weekday car trips to train stations were less than three kilometres, and 10 per cent were less than one kilometre.
The Citizen: More cyclists pedal Parkiteers, but most commuters drive to train stations
2. Identifying existing train stations with secure bike parking. Check if spare capacity.
- This isn't something most people think about when deciding where to live but it is essential information if bike + transit commuting is a feasible and advantageous option for you. In Melbourne the secure, undercover bike parking facilities have a distinct name and recognisable form - blue Parkiteer bike cages.

- You simply pay a refundable $50 bond to register for a Parkiteer card that accesses any cage on the network, metropolitan or regional (except any stated as over capacity). Then you can cycle to a listed train station with a Parkiteer bike cage and lock up your bike securely inside the cage - which only other Parkiteer registered users have access to.

- Note that Parkiteer locations on Melbourne's train lines start around 5-7km from the city centre and do not exist at all train stations - they are demand driven and some train lines have only a few stations with significant gaps between them. See: Parkiteer - Locations

Parkiteer - Locations

- Also note that some Parkiteer locations and train lines are at or near maximum capacity with the current bike cages and there may be waiting lists to get access to the existing cages or till new cages are provided.

Parkiteer - Locations

3. Proactive decisions about bike + transit trips and secure bike parking at stations can open up major advantages
- As an example, let's take the Hurstbridge train line which has only two Parkiteer cages, at Heidelberg and Eltham stations. Below you can see how being prepared to cycle just 3km to Heidelberg station opens up a much larger area of practical transit advantages, lower housing costs and more capacity to go car-free or car-lite. Thus, being aware of the most practical and advantageous bike + transit locations is critical to smart decisions on where to live.

1km walking zone compared to 3km biking zone around Heidelberg train station

The necessity of thinking about this before you decide where to live is clear when you consider the alternative scenarios:

(a) Paying a lot more to live within walking distance of a train station.
(b) Living within the ideal biking zone (1-4km) of a station on this line but which doesn't have Parkiteer cages (8 out of 10 stations on the Hurstbridge line currently don't).
(c) Choosing to live just beyond your practical, daily biking range (e.g. 4km) only because you didn't think about cycling as an option and simply assumed you would drive to the station if using it.

4. At Melbourne "Premium" train stations there are limited bike lockers available
- There are also 650 bike lockers available at Melbourne's full service ("premium") train stations. Customers must pay a refundable bond of $100 for new lockers with built-in locks or $50 for lockers requiring the customer to supply a lock. Lockers can be booked for three months at a time, and renewed without paying any additional bond. There are around 650 bike lockers in total. You can find out how many bike lockers a premium station has from the PTV site below.
> Metro Trains: Bike Facilities
> PTV: Stations and Stops

5. Is there non-Parkiteer bike parking at other Melbourne train stations? How secure and weather protected is it?
- There are limited bike racks at some other Melbourne train stations but they aren't very secure (anyone can access them) and I wouldn't recommend regularly parking a bike worth more than $700 at most of them for significant durations like a workday. You can find train stations with bike racks by looking up your relevant stations and checking their bike facility details. For example, at Clifton Hill station there are 11 bike racks with capacity for around 22 bikes.

PTV: Stations and Stops - Clifton Hill

6. How to request new or extended secure, covered bike parking at train stations
- Parkiteer provision is currently aimed to be a service that scales up to meet demand so you primarily need to demonstrate a gap - no bike cage at all or the bike cage is full when you get there. Contact Bicycle Network with the train station, your request and a photo if useful (e.g. a full bike cage). Bicycle Network can then liaise with the Victorian state government to fund and implement a new Parkiteer cage.
Parkiteer contact details

7. How to put pressure on agencies, government and politicians to deliver more secure bike parking and facilities where they're needed
- Secure, covered bike parking is one of those chicken-egg scenarios where demand is only obvious when the facilities exist. You can send the responsible agency, government and politicians your request via social media pointing out that public transport needs sufficient excess facilities for all modes of access and that bike + transit connections are a key part of improving urban areas:
There are plenty of places on the edges of cities that could become more walkable, more urban, and have more of a sense of place. To do that, they need better transit, more amenities, and more residents - which generally means more density. When such a place achieves greater walkability and urbanization, the factors making it so strengthen over time. Yet the reverse also applies, creating a self-reinforcing cycle in either direction.
CityLab: Hey, Streetcar Critics: Stop Making 'Perfect' the Enemy of 'Good'
CityLab: Hey, Streetcar Critics: Stop Making 'Perfect' the Enemy of 'Good'

- It's also useful to connect with the most sympathetic political parties and organisations (even if not currently in power) to leverage common goals, policies and funding. For example, in Melbourne, the Victorian Greens have set out a policy to add 40 new Parkiteer bike cages. These existing commitments are useful ways to connect real human stories that illustrate the need and rationale for government and agencies to act.

Victorian Greens: Secure bike parking at train stations

Further Info:
Melbourne Parkiteer Bike Cages
> Bicycle Network: Parkiteer home

Public Transport Victoria
> Bikes and public transport

The Greens > Victoria
> Secure bike parking at train stations

Human Transit
> Basics: the math of park-and-ride
> Should we plan transit for "bikeability"?

The Citizen: More cyclists pedal Parkiteers, but most commuters drive to train stations