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paradise regained

By enelson
Tuesday, July 18th, 2006 at 10:11 am in BART, Funding, Transit vs. driving.

 Photo by Josh Birnbaum – STAFF

BART crowd - Josh Birnbaum - x26spar3.jpgAs if by some miracle, the great cogs of the bureaucracy that is the Metropolitan Transportation Commission managed to turn fast enough to get three more days of free transit funded for controlling smog.

And when I caught my free BART ride on the way home tonight, I could tell. Never have I seen the Richmond train so packed at 6:50 p.m. And while there were the usual miscreants and out-of-school teen-agers enjoying free rides, it was clear that the bulk of these new riders were also on their way home from work.

BART’s hand counts this morning led them to estimate that 26,000 more people than usual rode the subway – and 8-percent increase that brought the estimated total riders for the day to 349,000, not including late-night partiers. I’d like to be on hand for a late-night rider survey – or would I?

So, after the high of 33,000 extra riders who came onboard for the first Spare the Air Day June 22 and subsequent boosts of 16,000 on June 23 and 28,0000 on June 26, BART head-counters are saying they’ve squeezed 103,000 more riders into their already cramped carriages.

And that’s just BART. The guy who runs the City of Alameda’s two ferry services, whom I interviewed because the city balked at doing a fourth Spare the Air Day on short notice, complained that  his boats were swamped with passengers during the first three. Hiring extra boats and crew cost them $4,000 a day, which explains why the MTC has to subsidize them so much.

The point, however, is that people responded to the free rides, and hopefully will figure out that even when they have to pay for transit, it will save money and headaches. It will certainly cause different headaches, and on the Alameda ferries the argument was that you can’t give neophyte riders such an unpleasant experience that they won’t come back.

The mere fact that only two operators out of 25 decided not to offer free service says volumes about what the MTC and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District went through to pull this off. It took a lot of people by surprise, not the least of whom were the transit operators.

Air district spokeswoman Luna Salaver said she had to make “69 phone calls, because it was very difficult to get operators on the first round Sunday.’’ She says she made a special effort to call ferry operators realizing at 5 p.m. Sunday that Alameda had left the district a voice mail message that it would not be showing up for the game.

And then there were the little things, such as the lack of special blue easy-to-peel-off “no fare’’ stickers for BART to put over its gates and for bus operators to cover their fare boxes. BART apparently printed their own paper cards to tape over the gates. I noticed that they took care to mention which agencies were paying for the free transit.

“In some cases, it might have been a piece of duct tape over a fare slot,’’ said MTC spokesman John Goodman.

However they  did it, it happened, and the fact that it did allowed the Bay Area give the nation a glimpse of a path out of its enslavement to fossil fuels and the automobile. makeshift FREE tags - by Erik N Nelson.jpg


Photo by CC

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2 Responses to “paradise regained”

  1. Robert Kelley Says:

    I think your title of “Paradise regained” is apt, if your idea of paradise is an Eastern European socialist haven. Passing up the BART fares from 320,000 paying passengers in order to get 26,000 additional riders is appalling. It’s not free rides. It rides paid for by hard-working tax payers. The MTC continues to spend dramatically more than it receives in fares, grants, and taxes. Check out the financial statements in their online summary: even though the tax subsidies continue to climb, the MTC is spending well over 20% more than they receive. That can’t go on.

    The next time you are driving anywhere in southern Alameda County and you see a bus, count the number of passengers. The average number of passengers is hovering under 4. The average bus (made by Van Hool) seats well over 120. Let us remember that less than 4 years ago, the MTC purchased nearly 200 new buses at well over $350,000 per bus. Not to count the 3 “environmentally safe” buses at about $5 MILLION each. Wonderful. Now we have 200 buses chewing up gas across Alameda County with 115 open seats each. Instead of having 10 person vans that cost a fraction of this amount, and could even show up more often. But never mind. The exuberant writer of this blog who writes for the ANG papers is giddy with the expansion of bigger and bigger state government, on the backs of businesses and individuals who have to pay more and more to maintain it.

    The average household in Union City pays over $10,000 a year in property taxes now. The sales tax is 8.75%, the highest in the nation. State income tax on income over $40,000 is now 9.75%. Each gallon of gasoline is taxed about 60 cents at the pump. Soda has an additional tax of 5 cent a can. Is there any wonder that _working_ Californians have been leaving the state since 1999? California has become a net exporter of its own citizens. Lucky for the influx of indigent aliens, so that there are “needy” people for the self-sustaining big government programs.

    As the former Planning Commissioner for Union City, I faced a barrage of businesses that kept coming to city meetings to complain that their local business was suffering while their branches elsewhere in the state, and in other states, continued to prosper. The anti-business, pro-centralized government plans are working well. Eventually, the centralized control over school, health care, transportation, and employment will be nearly complete. Or, of course, you could just move to Mugabe’s Zimbabwe or Chavez’s Venezuela and enjoy the prosperity there.

  2. David Says:

    What a sourpuss this guy Kelley is! Clearly he doesn’t enjoy being in the free-thinking Bay Area….

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