Turns out this was a one-shot deal. I just heard from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission that there won’t be any more free transit after today.
I know this will be an outrage to many transit supporters, but I wonder if the transportation hierarchy doesn’t have a point about putting the money to better uses.
This is not Spare the Air. We’re not trying to convince people to take transit when they have no other reason to. They have a very good reason to pay their money and take their seat.
What we don’t have is the capacity to carry all of these people. Only 10 percent of Bay Area commuters take transit on average. Even so, peak-hour BART trains are still packed.
If this money can get more buses, organize more carpools, fuel more ferries or run more trains, it might do a lot more to keep things moving than today’s free-for-all.
That being said, it would still be nice to have free transit. The fact is, the money that’s already supposed to go to public transit via tax formula will have to be dragged kicking and screaming out of Sacramento.
Interestingly, UC Berkeley’s PR folks sent out an e-mail hawking some of their experts, including Alexander Skabardonis, director of the California
Partners for Advanced Transit and Highways:
Skabardonis notes that the true effects of the freeway collapse on Bay Area traffic will not be clear from Monday’s commute. “The media did a great job scaring people off from driving through the area, and then there are the people who took advantage of the one-day free transit offer, so the commute on Monday was not really representative,” he said. “Later in the week we may get a better understanding of the true impacts on transit and traffic.”
The other downside of free transit, which is especially relevant when commuters are squeezed, is that it attracts joy riders, people who wouldn’t have been going anywhere to begin with. One thing we don’t need on BART right now is extra bodies.