Part of the Bay Area News Group

coping with the “Bay Bridge collapse”

By enelson
Thursday, May 10th, 2007 at 11:11 am in air travel, Bay Bridge, driving, Freeway collapse, Safety, taxicabs, Transit vs. driving.

ludendorf_collapse.jpg

A Caltrans spokesperson mentioned that a journalism student called the other day about a story on the economic impact of the “Bay Bridge collapse” on San Francisco businesses.

The student was politely told that the bridge was still up and running, and that businesses weren’t affected. There will be a quiz later.

You can quibble about the affect of the April 29 MacArthur Maze eastbound I-80-I-580 connector collapse on downtown business on both sides of the Bay, but it does seem that there has been some economic impact from the aforementioned collapse of the Bay Bridge.

Being in the news business, I’m often comparing what people have heard or what people think they heard with what I know to be the actual news.

In the case of the maze collapse, I think it’s safe to say that people who know what the maze is, i.e., the confluence of I-80 Bay Bridge Oakland approaches, the I-880 and the I-580 MacArthur Freeway, understand what’s actually going on.

But for out-of-towners and people who haven’t had a driver’s license for very long (the misinformed student, for example), there’s all kinds of chaos reigning o’er San Francisco and its two suburbs, Oakland and San Jose.

At the Oakland Airport, for example, cabbies are wishing travelers were a little better informed about the Bay Bridge and its health. In the story by Kristin Bender (who incidentally did a bang-up job of locating the cabbie who took the lucky gas tanker driver to the hospital), they’re finding that people don’t realize that you can still get there from here, and apparently are avoiding Oakland for that reason.

I have to confess that the media have certainly had a hand in this mis-impression. When this thing happened, there were a lot of assumptions made about how the collapse would gridlock area traffic.

In short, we were wrong.

Why? We underestimated the flexibility of both commuters and the area’s public transit system. That would be the, oh-gosh-I-was-wrong explanation.

The other reason is, I believe, taking the first reason and running that sucker into the ground, as we media types are wont to do, especially when it involves a big fireball and melting steel. And, um, don’t forget that I was on jury duty last week.

Traffic statistical guru Alan Pisarski put it this way: “On of the first things, as I understand it, was that the traffic volumes were not that great to begin with.”

Ouch. Gasoline inferno? Miraculous escape? Steel bending like hot plastic? Remember?

Photo of Ludendorf Bridge collapse from www.hq.usace.army.mil.

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