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spare the hair day

By enelson
Monday, April 30th, 2007 at 3:10 pm in BART, Buses, driving, Environment, ferries, Freeway collapse, Freeways, Funding, parking, rail, Safety, Smart Lanes, tolls, Transit vs. driving.

sunday-demolition-by-dean-coppola-contra-costa-times.jpgWhile free public transportation offered on Spare the Air days was an experiment in social engineering with mixed results (10 percent jump in ridership, but disappointing smog prevention for the high cost), this afternoon we are about to see a much more compelling combination of carrot and stick getting cars off the roads.

It’s the sort of scenario that transit advocates dream of: Make it more painful to drive and less painful to ride BART, buses and ferries. No free parking downtown for commuters, variable tolls (a.k.a, congestion pricing) for every segment of freeway.

Except that thanks to a mishap with a gasoline tanker and a collapsed freeway ramp in the middle of the MacArthur Maze, we get an even better stick than pay parking: Fear of unbearable congestion.

I’m no expert, but I’d say that’s one of the factors that forces so many New Yorkers onto the subways, buses and commuter trains. It’s just to painful to drive, and then you have to pay tolls and parking.

We’ll see how it goes this afternoon. If people see that driving is not so bad, they’ll go back to their cars in great numbers and learn their lesson later this week. I’m betting that enough fear was generated yesterday to get us through today without the kind of traffic armageddon that some have predicted.

But it’s early, and in an hour or so, those who didn’t heed the warnings, or thought enough people would do it for them, could be pulling their hair out and wishing they had taken BART.

Place your bets now.  

Sunday demolition photo by Dean Coppola, Contra Costa Times.

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2 Responses to “spare the hair day”

  1. david vartanoff Says:

    No, Erik, New Yorkers use transit because it works well–like the subway runs 24/7 comes frequently, goes many places and is cheap. $76 rents you the entire city bus/subway system for the month–could you even PARK a car for that in a downtown lot?

  2. Capricious Commuter Says:

    Sorry, David. As much as people want to believe that good transit will get people out of their cars, I’m aware of plenty of research that says otherwise. Yes, a good system will attract more riders. But it’s been shown in nations with great transit systems that when people can drive, they will. In the developing world, especially, transit is exensive because that’s the only way many people have of getting around. But once those people’s incomes rise and they can afford cars, they buy them and drive them. Here in the USA, we’ve got the money and we’ve got the roads. Adding cheap, reliable transit to that mix will give people a safety valve (as it has done in the Bay Area these last two days), but it will not make the majority of American commuters decide to go car-less if driving is a viable option.

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