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motoring pain vs. transit pleasure

By enelson
Tuesday, May 30th, 2006 at 6:44 pm in Transit vs. driving.

I got a raft of e-mails and calls on the pain story, (“What will it take … to get us out of our cars?”) which ran on Memorial Day. Most of those readers like pleasure over pain, and the rest find our system of public transit to be a pain.

The most interesting response wasn’t even from the Bay Area:

Your question-title should really be, “What will it take to make alternative transportation more effective, more practical, more liberal, more reliable, more producible, more convenient, less expensive, etc., so that private cars are less attractive?”

Seems anything with a “green” label is more expensive and less tenable than conventional private transportation.

Why does it appear that policymakers and environmental leaders assume the masses must be punished out of their cars? Why do they seem to believe dis-incentives are stronger than positive incentives? Could it be the cards they hold have little promise?

I’d love to ride public transport to and from work every day, but given my rural address, just imagine the hellish taxes I’d be paying for that opportunity. Meanwhile, “smart” growth and force-pleasing don’t reflect the liberty we Americans take for granted.

The freedom and liberty to live where I want and face the punishment of long commutes and high gasoline prices may seem (exhorbitant) to you, but it’s simply the cost of being American to the rest of us. Only when environmentalists put down the mirrors and extinguish their smoking lanterns, and make their ideas palatable and affordable, will Americans decide it’s a good idea to stop driving their cars.


Ardmore, AL

The freedom and liberty to live in Ardmore, Alabama, is a powerful thing. I wish I had the freedom to live in Pleasanton without paying $700,000 for a house (about one-seventh of what you could expect to pay in Ardmore).

Another reader, who hails from Hayward, told me on the phone this morning that we need to plow more money into transit:

We’re just way behind when it comes to public trainsit. Its just not convenient … Get on bart during the busy hours. It’s standing room only, they don’t want to add more cars.”

He also sung the praises of Europe, which has its transit act together, thanks to gas tax revenues. I’m not sure either of us really knew where Europeans spend their gas tax revenues. I do know, however that BART, which is looking forward to a new budget that’s not as stretched as in recent years, IS, in fact, planning to add more cars to its trains.

My favorite comment was short and sweet:

Mass transit is a great idea. I am retired and out of the commute mix but as I remember, the times that I attempted to use mass transit, it was extremely slow and grossly inefficient.

A bit harsh, but you could find many to agree with its sentiment. After three years in LA and three years in New York, I’ll remain neutral.

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2 Responses to “motoring pain vs. transit pleasure”

  1. Brian Stanke Says:

    How about development? Cities force developers to provide bundled parking (that seems “free”) with every home, office, and story but rarely care about transit access or even walkability. The sad truth is California and the US are build around the car because that is what the law demands. Functional compact cities like San Francisco, New York, Boston, or those European cities everyone likes at visit are ILLEGAL to build here in the US. No, the only thing we can build here is LA or Fremont.

    You got the question wrong, people are forced by law to use a car, unless they can afford the priviledge of living in downtown SF or Manhattan. The question is when are we coming to allow people to walk and take transit by allowing development that is building around walking and transit. Currently such a thing is illegal.

  2. Brian Peoples Says:

    When we focous on the “demand” side of mass transit, a solution will become more visible to us. We need to stop creating the “supply” side of mass transit – which results in inefficient services. Give the money to the users and let them decide what type of mass transit works. Look at California Assembly bill AB2128. To understand this philosophy, all we need to do is look at the history of public housing. In 1973, Nixon enacted Section 8 HUD housing – rather than giving the money to the landlords, the money was “funnelled” through the tenants – with the tenants giving 30% more money. As a result, the low-income residents could go to the general housing market and the state no longer had to own and operate public housing. This lowered cost to the state and allowed low-income residents to live where they wanted.

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