With bike share coming, can single-stop buses become viable?

As an infrequent--but aspiring--bicycle commuter living at the top of a hill (Capitol Hill) and working at the bottom of one (University of Washington), I've long dreamed of a way to bike to work without having to deal with the difficult, sweaty ride back home. Call me lazy if you like, or try to convince me that if I just got used to it I wouldn't mind so much, but the fact is that if I could ride my bike to work without having to deal with the hassle of taking it back on the bus I'd be much more likely to ride regularly. And I sincerely doubt that I'm alone.

About a year ago I was thinking of possible solutions to this and came up with the idea for a "Bike Bus" (honk honk), a vehicle operated either privately or publicly that could carry both people and their bikes from low points in the city to the high ones (e.g., UW to 15th & John at Capitol Hill and 65th and Roosevelt in Ravenna, or Pioneer Square to Queen Anne and First Hill), allowing them to easily ride on a flat or level path to their destinations once they got off the bus. This Bike Bus would have the added benefit of being much faster than the regular bus: it would only stop at the low point for pickup and the high point for drop-off, with two, one, or even zero stops in between. We could ride our bikes to work or school, get home without being drenched in sweat, and get a faster trip home than usual to boot! There'd also probably be quite a few bus riders who found this convenient, like a super-express version of their normal bus commute. Win-win-win-win!

This idea had some flaws. Operating privately would be incredibly difficult without some kind of agreement with Metro, for one, due to so many people (myself included) expecting their ORCA card to cover all transportation expenses. I already pay a monthly fee for the pass, why would I want to pay extra money just for this little convenience? There's also the logistical issue of how you actually carry so many bikes from one place to another. Do you get something like what's currently found on the front of buses, but bigger and pulled behind on wheels instead? A trailer with places to secure it inside? Find a way to get all the bikes inside the bus? None of these sound like very good ideas to me.  In fact, Jarrett Walker at Human Transit just wrote an article about the geometric impossibility of fitting more than a few bikes on a bus, among other things.

But the biggest problem by far is frequency. The locations where a Bike Bus would be useful already have 10-minute or less headways during peak hours, and the people who use those intermediate stops on the regular bus wouldn't be too happy to increase their headways to squeeze in some Bike Buses. After all, the bikers can still use any bus they want, but people who live somewhere in between are still stuck with the regular bus. And without a frequency approaching that of existing service (it could presumably be a little less frequent since the trip itself is faster), this simply won't be appealing to anyone. I couldn't come up with a workable solution to this problem, and combined with the other issues I just decided to drop the idea altogether. Oh well.

Enter bikeshare. Suddenly we don't need to worry about carrying everyone's bikes from point A to point B because there are already plenty stored at both. Since Puget Sound Bike Share is a non-profit we can hope that they'll be coordinating with KC Metro, and I'd be ecstatic if they integrated ORCA cards into the payment system. I know some of the guys at Seattle Transit Blog are big proponents of more and better distribution of ORCA cards, and bike share stations seem like a perfect place to dispense them from.

Frequency is still the big problem, but with bike share I think we get one step closer to closing the gap on this. Specifically, one complication with bike share is that inputs and outputs at specific docking stations are never exactly the same, so the operator has to employ people to truck bikes from overburdened stations to those with openings. Why not do double duty and pick up some people while you're at it? The vehicle could be a large-ish shuttle with a trailer behind for storing bikes, and once the driver has picked up the bikes they need from the area they could pick up passengers from a designated area and whisk them off to their destination. On the way back down the hill the driver can drop off the bikes where they're needed, then repeat. Frankly I have no idea how many employees a bike share operator would need to perform this function in a system of 2,200 bikes (the amount planned after all phases have been implemented), but it'd probably be several at least, and with a subsidy by KC Metro that could be increased since the passenger side of their activities would certainly cut into their bike relocation time.

I realize this is kind of an off-the-wall idea and far from completely worked out, but I think it's a good starting point for thinking about how we can a) encourage more people to use transit and get around on their own two feet (or wheels) more; and b) how we can make the best use of bike share when it comes. Much has already been said about how our infrastructure needs to improve for bike share to be safe and successful, but maybe we should also consider what we can do on the operational side to promote synergy between our transit system and bike share. I encourage any ideas related to the "Bike Bus" concept as well as any unrelated thoughts about how we might improve transit operation once bike share hits the street.