John Swann used to commute regularly by bike from Davis to his job in Sacramento – but he’d often get a ride home.
“It’s a tough commute,” said the semi-retired Swann, who left a software job two years ago and now owns an electric-bicycle business in Davis.
Looking for a way to get people out of their cars and reduce what can easily be a 40-mile round trip between the cities, he collaborated with other Davis business owners and the Yolo County Visitors Bureau.
The result was Bak2Sac, which offers a free Amtrak Capitol Corridor ticket to those who ride two wheels into the city to return to Sacramento. The goal is to boost tourism and decrease traffic and parking demands. Bak2Sac started July 15 and runs until Dec. 19. Six downtown businesses are participating, but organizers hope to add more. Program organizers hope Bak2Sac will be successful enough to bring back next spring.
The businesses, which include restaurants and bike shops, distribute the vouchers to visiting bicyclists, who turn them in at the Davis Amtrak station and receive a train ticket. During a May pilot program, 55 people used the vouchers.
“A lot of people don’t think about taking the bike one direction and the train the other, but some of us are familiar and do that fairly frequently,” said Bak2Sac collaborator Ken Bradford, who owns Ken’s Bike-Ski-Board in Davis.
Bradford and Swann initially investigated the possibility of the program and then took their idea to Alan Humason, executive director of the Yolo County Visitors Bureau. The pilot program was brought together with the help of Jim Allison, manager of planning for the Amtrak Capitol Corridor. which gains by filling otherwise empty train cars, Swann said.
“The relationship between Davis and Sacramento is unique as far as bicycles go,” Allison said.
The bike ride from Sacramento to Davis is nearly 14 miles from Tower Bridge . The only direct bike route between Sacramento and Davis is a path that runs alongside Interstate 80 across the Yolo Causeway. Bradford and Swann hope increased bike traffic might bring some improvements.
“We would like to see a wider bike lane or even a new bike path on the other side of the railroad tracks,” Bradford said.
Amtrak sells the tickets to the program at a discount, with restrictions on what time riders can take trains back to Sacramento. During the week, free return trips to Sacramento start at 7 p.m. On weekends, the free rides start at noon.
“On the weekends, I would definitely make use of that program,” said Sacramento resident Linda Barrera.
Rhonda Gruska, owner of Monticello Seasonal Cuisine in Davis, said her hyperlocal business is a perfect fit for the program. Gruska’s restaurant uses food from its own farm in Yolo County.
“Davis is known for a lot of healthy habits – like bicycling – and we’re a really healthy restaurant,” Gruska said. “It’s a great fit with bicycling.”
Nina Gatewood, owner of Haute Again Consignment, said she hopes the program attracts new visitors to Davis.
“They can learn more about downtown and what downtown has to offer,” Gatewood said.View Bak2Sac in a larger map