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MBTA Board Updates: Poftak Apologizes for Banning Bikes ‘Rather Abruptly’ on Commuter Rail

A bicycle storage car on the Cape Flyer train. Courtesy of the MBTA.

A bicycle storage car on the Cape Flyer train. Courtesy of the MBTA.

During the pandemic, while the T's regional rail trains were running with only 10 to 20 percent of their pre-pandemic passenger volumes, the agency temporarily suspended a policy that prohibited bikes on rush-hour trains in an effort to entice riders back to the service.

On Oct. 11, though, with little advance notice that left some riders in the lurch, that policy ended. As it was before the pandemic, bikes are not allowed on trains traveling toward Boston between 6:30 and 10 am, or on trains that depart Boston between 3:30 and 7 pm.

"We are seeing as ridership has increased the issue is, you have our riders with bikes, but we have riders with disabilities and wheeled mobility devices, and there is limited space, particularly on platforms where the accessible path of boarding is at the first car in the train," explained MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak at Thursday's MBTA board meeting.

Poftak added "I do concede that we brought the policy back rather abruptly and without an appropriate period of notice, so I do apologize for that." He also promised that "we are planning for a future that allows for greater accommodation for bikes, and also stations that accommodate more multi-modal commuting."

In an accompanying presentation slide noted that peer transit systems have "vehicle fleets and stations designed to accommodate riders with bikes," including dedicated bike cars and universal high-level boarding platforms, which allow riders to bring wheeled mobility devices, carts, or bikes directly onto the train without negotiating stairs or lifts.

Poftak also said "we're looking at the possibility of some pilot programs where we could allow bikes on parts of the system," but for now, the rush-hour bike prohibition will remain in place.

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