Facility says agency should help subsidize service used by scores 

click to enlarge Bike riders fear the closure of Warm Planet's bike storage facility. - MIKE KOOZMIN/SPECIAL TO THE SF EXAMINER
  • Mike Koozmin/Special to The SF Examiner
  • Bike riders fear the closure of Warm Planet's bike storage facility.

Commuters who ride their bikes to Caltrain’s Fourth and King station are nervous that a much-appreciated cycling storage facility could be shuttered due to a lack of funds.

Since 2007, cyclists have been able to park their two-wheelers for free at the Warm Planet bike facility on Townsend Street.

Customers have lauded the facility, saying it’s cheaper than storage lockers and less stressful than trying to get a coveted spot on the limited number of Caltrain cars that let bikes onboard.

“I try and ride my bike to Caltrain as much as possible, and without Warm Planet, I would definitely considering modifying my commute choices,” commuter Nate Gilmore said. “You don’t have to worry about your bike getting stolen or having to drag it onto the train. It’s the ideal situation.”

However, the popularity of the program is related to its possible undoing. Although local grant funding helped pay for construction of the facility and a small share of its operating costs, the center was intended to be supported through revenue from its retail store, which shares a location with the storage room.

As the number of cyclists using the facility has increased — it was designed for 100 bikes, but now
handles up to 170 a day — Warm Planet has been forced to pare down its retail operations, making the program untenable, said the company’s president, Kash, who only goes by one name.

Kash is adamant that the facility continues to emphasize its bike storage as an effort to draw more cyclists to Caltrain. He does not want to charge cyclists storage fees because he fears that would discourage biking. As a result, he said, the center cannot run without an annual operating subsidy.

However, Caltrain rejected Warm Planet’s request for such a subsidy in October, citing a lack of funds. Now there are fears Warm Planet will not be able to pay for its operations, although Kash said he would run the program until “he’s homeless.”

He declined to specify how much Warm Planet would need annually to maintain its operations.

Hopefully for cyclists, a deal may be in the works to fund the facility. Kash said he is negotiating with a group on potential deals for the center, and he’s hopeful that a resolution will be reached. Caltrain spokesman Christine Dunn said the agency plans to make an announcement about the facility later this week.

Kash said that ideally he could secure enough funding to expand the facility to draw even more cyclists to Warm Planet.

“Parking lots are subsidized all the time,” Kash said. “There should be the same opportunities for a form of transportation that is much less harmful to the earth.”


Warm Planet site

$250,000: Grant funds for construction of Warm Planet facility

$50,000: Available grant funds for additional improvements

100: Maximum number of available space for bikes under original facility design

140-160: Average number of bikes using the space each day

170: Maximum number of bikes available in redesigned space

Source: Caltrain, Warm Planet

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Will Reisman

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