Friday, October 26th, 2007 at 8:01 pm in BART, Bicycling, Buses, Carpooling, connectivity, driving, Environment, Freeways, fuel, Funding, parking, Planning, technology, tolls, Transit vs. driving.
Hmm. Maybe. Sounds good. How?
You can take BART to work.
Not me. Don’t live near a BART station and the BART lots are always full when I drive to one.
You can take the bus to BART.
No. The bus stop is too far from my house. I’d spend 20 minutes just walking there. Then I have to wait for the bus. By that time, I could be at work already.
You could ride your bike to BART.
It’s hilly where I live. I’d get all sweaty. And besides, BART doesn’t allow me to take my bike during rush hour. Any other ideas?
Yes. Keep driving and pay a carbon tax of 23 cents a gallon, pay a rush-hour toll to get into the city and a peak-hour parking surcharge when you get to work.
But I’d be paying, what, five times a mile what I do now to drive?
Yep. But you’d be helping to improve the transportation network so other people can carpool or ride BART, commuter trains, buses and their bikes to work more easily.
And thus I’d be fighting global warming?
That’s a fine plan you’ve got there, but I’ve got friends who drive solo, too.
Oh, like, 70 percent of Bay Area commuters.
But don’t they want to fight global warming?
Yes, but they also want to get to work in 20 minutes instead of waiting for the bus.
So they’ll just pay more.
They don’t want to pay more.
Isn’t that selfish?
Hello? This is Ah-MER-ih-ca?
This could be the tenor of the conversation that started today at the Metropolitan Transportation Commission/Association of Bay Area Governments conferene conference on transportation.
Hundreds of area transportation officials, transit advocates and environmentalists gathered to hear a bold new plan to fight global warming in a way that would put the Bay Area way out in front of the rest of the state, to say nothing of the rest of the nation.
It’s not just about charging drivers. It’s also about high-occupancy toll lanes, which you don’t have to use or pay the extra toll if you don’t want to or can’t afford it.
The concept also envisions freeways that operate much more efficiently, using more and better metering lights and other state-of-the-art traffic management methods. That’s supposed to cut way back on emissions from cars, trucks and SUVs that now inch along during rush hour.
And it’s about land use: The MTC is going to dole out $10 million, for starters, to selected communities where it wants to focus more compact, transit-friendly growth. It’s not much, but it will help those communities do their urban planning. After that, more money might help realize those plans.
But the political reality here is that the overwhelming majority of Bay Area residents drive to work, alone.
The idea will be especially unpopular in outlying counties that start with S. I mean, Solano County voters wouldn’t even pass a sales tax to fix their freeways. Imagine how they’d feel about something aimed at improving public transit they could never see themselves riding.
But San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, the event’s lunchtime keynoter, may have hinted at the magic bullet that could bring a lot of this about:
“We don’t need to ask permission from our federal representatives to do this _ or even from our regional representatives.”
As it happens, the federal government and the Bush Administration couldn’t be happier with the congestion and parking charges San Francisco is planning. Federal transportation funds have nearly dried up, and somebody’s got to pay for future maintenance and improvements.
But most critical is that the people in the urban core, in Oakland, in San Jose, in Berkeley and other commuter destinations, will be far more likely to make the painful changes unilaterally.
Commuters from Fairfield, Gilroy and Tracy would then have the involuntary honor of sacrificing for the sake of the polar bears and Maldive islanders.