MTA to introduce bike car to weekend MARC service

Full-sized bikes will be allowed on some MARC trains starting this weekend

Riders on select weekend MARC trains will be able to bring full-sized bikes aboard with them for the first time starting on Saturday, according to the Maryland Transit Administration.

The agency's new "bike car" — capable of accommodating 16 full-sized bikes — will only be available on certain weekend Penn Line trains. Riders will notice a "bike symbol" next to those trains on MARC schedules moving forward, the MTA is expected to announce Friday.

"MARC passengers and bicycle enthusiasts have been asking for a bike car for years, and we are thrilled to launch this new service for our customers," said MTA Administrator Robert Smith in a statement. "A designated bike car will help us attract more MARC passengers and increase tourism opportunities for Washington, D.C., Baltimore and all stops in between."

The new bike car is a refurbished single-level car that was taken out of regular service as the system has introduced newer multi-level commuter cars.

Foldable or collapsible bikes are allowed already on weekday MARC trains on the Penn, Camden and Brunswick lines. Riders will not have to pay any additional fees to bring their bikes aboard the new car.

Depending on customer demand for the new bike car, the MTA said a second car may be added next year, also to weekend Penn Line trains.

The addition of the bike car falls short of the service expansion for bicyclists that some advocates have called on the MTA to provide for years, including on weekday trains to facilitate easier commutes between stations and riders' places of work and residences.

Still, some advocates applauded the addition of the car as a step in the right direction.

"The bike community has lobbied for more bicycle access to trains for years, and MTA listened," said Nate Evans, executive director of advocacy group Bike Maryland, in a statement. "We are thrilled to see this come to fruition. You will see some very busy trains in the spring and summer because allowing bikes will boost bike tourism in the region."

The addition of the bike car comes about a year after the MARC weekend service was first introduced. The MTA said ridership on weekends has grown steadily, from about 4,000 riders its first weekend in December 2013 to about 6,000 riders last weekend.

krector@baltsun.com

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