Progress is measured in so many ways: Technological, political, ethical, financial and so on.
For the Bay Area Rapid Transit system, I’m thinking riders have progress narrowed down to two categories: The progress of the particular train they’re on, which is generally pretty reliable, and the progress toward serving new territory. There are other areas, such as fares, which seem to progress upward and the many aspects that are quite minor compared to, “Are we on time?” and “Is this thing going to arrive in Livermore in my lifetime?”
Chief among those secondary concerns, I’ll wager, is parking. There are a lot of people out in the ‘burbs who badly want more cheap, convenient parking so they can jump on the train and cruise into the Bay Area’s urban core without the anguish of stop-and-go traffic.
I know this, because I’ve trolled the lot at Pleasant Hill after 9:15 a.m. looking for spaces. It took 20 minutes and made me feel stupid for imagining that someone might be leaving at that time of the morning.
Some would argue, including some ex-BART board members, that people should connect to BARt using other forms of transit, such as their local bus system, etc. Problem is, not all of us have that option, especially if we’re coming (as I am) from beyond the reach of such services.
The only other option is to drive all the way, and I’ll say it again: Do you really want all those people driving all the way to the Bay Bridge? Even if I didn’t have the occasional need to use it, I personally think that parking thousands upon thousands of cars in the hinterlands is far preferable to inviting them down to park in the middle of Interstate 580.
So now there’s progress, with BART breaking ground for a new parking garage at the Dublin/Pleasanton Station.
Scheduled for completion in the spring of 2008, the new garage will have 1,513 spaces, which might gladden the hearts of all those car-bound commuters, yearning to swell the ranks of transit commuters and give their nerves a rest.
But alas, this is another type of progress. The parking structure is not adding any spaces. It’s only making room for new development. In parking terms, it’s a wash.
The progress here is that it will be the start of 1,800 new homes, “convenient shopping and a plush hotel,” to quote the press release.
The theory is that people living in this transit-oriented development will be so convenient to BART tha they will just HAVE to use it.
I have to admit, I might be inclined to buy a place there. The idea of walking out the front door and hopping on BART is quite appealing, at least more so than my current 67-mile drive or 2-hour rail/bike trek.
The problem with the transit advocacy line that people ought to move closer to work or transit is that so many people are from 2-income households (I’m raising my hand here.). The odds that your life partner will be working in the same general vacinity as you are low. The odds that you can both live near the same city’s transit line are better, however.
In my case, my wife works in an entirely different metropolitan area, and that’s where we moved when we came to Northern California. Now my kid is going to school there, so I’m stuck, even though my spouse is taking a new job on another continent.
It takes a lot of ingredients to make this soup we call the Bay Area. It will take a lot of imagination — including such ideas as the Dublin Transit Center — as well as parking spaces to cook it up right.