The value of multi-modal trips

In transit lingo, “multi-modal” trips are those that use different modes to get to a destination. A common version is bike to bus/subway/rail, either taking the bike on the vehicle or locking it before one gets on. Today I had a wonderful trip that was multi-modal by accident.

The “out” trip was planned as multi-modal: I live in Berkeley and had a mid-day meeting in Redwood City. These cities are on opposites sides of the San Francisco Bay, and I decided that I would take two trains (BART subway and CalTrain diesel passenger/commute train) and ride the short distances between destinations and stations. I left home and rode five blocks to my local BART station, where I brought my bike on board and held it while sitting. Not too uncomfortable, not too crowded. When I arrived in SF, I got off at the first station (swiping my “Clipper” “smart-card”), then rode about eight blocks to the CalTrain station. I swiped my Clipper card while waiting, then when the train boarded I got on one of the two bike trains–these trains are specially equipped with bike rack space on the bottom level (the trains have two levels of seating). There were plenty of bungee cords at each bike rack,  and I bungeed my bike to the rack and chose a seat upstairs where I could keep an eye on my bike.

Getting off the train in Redwood City, I almost forgot to swipe my card, but there had been enough reminders on the train that I think it had been embedded in my brain and I remembered just as I was about to ride off. Good thing: They charge you the maximum amount when you “tag on” and give you a refund when you “tag off.” I got $8 back 🙂

My ride was about eight blocks to my meeting. We had a good meeting (what would you expect from a bunch of physics educators?), but it went a bit longer than expected (what would you expect from a bunch of physics educators?). So I started about an hour later than I had planned.

My return trip was not planned as multi-modal. I planned on a 50 mile bike ride home.

Dirt road along levee
Dirt road along levee in East Bay; Dumbarton Bridge on right in background.

Although my destination was north, I had to back-track a couple miles to make it to the Dumbarton Bridge (our only E/W bridge across the bay that has a bike lane). The bike lane is wide enough for two bikes to pass comfortably, and has a “Jersy barrier” between it and the traffic. A bit loud, but a  nice ride none the less.

On the other side of the bridge,  I ventured onto a bike route from Google Maps that I had not taken before. It turned out to be a dirt road, along a levee that separates the bay from the abandoned salt evaporation ponds (now nature conservancy areas). It was nice to be in the midst of our megalopolis yet still feel away from it all. I have a 7″ Android tablet (Samsung Galaxy Tab) that has GPS and Google Maps, which helped me believe I was on the right course.

Three pelicans in the protected waters.
Three pelicans in the protected waters.

After about 30 miles, I had made it to Hayward and realized it was getting later than I wanted, and that I was more tired than I wanted. Luckily, the BART line runs up the East Bay, and after about three miles “inland,” I arrived at the Hayward BART station. This was in the midst of rush hour, but BART revised their bike rules several years ago (or was that a decade or more ago), and restricted bikes only on the most crowded trains. The Richmond/Fremont line, which includes Hayward and Berkeley, has no restrictions on bicycles, so I was able to board the train and zip home.

I thank my local train/subway agencies for the forward thinking to provide reasonable bicycle access on the trains. My trip would not have been possible without them, and I would have been limited to public transit without the bicycle portion.


One Reply to “The value of multi-modal trips”

  1. Makes me home sick. I love biking and want to do this freely when I get back. They say that California is losing ground economically, but, it wouldn’t be so bad if people would step out of the common mode of transportation “Car’s”.

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