This week was a disharmonious convergence of most things I love about transportation in the Bay Area.
There was Spare the Air, which refused to be discredited as it died with a “yee-ha!” yesterday, racking up nearly 400,000 BART rides in one day, which happened to be the day after I blogged about what a futile gesture the final day of “Spare the Air” free transit was going to be.
As I watch the glare of the lights over the Coliseum, I can safely assume that more A’s fans will take BART home than in any previous year. No matter how much they complain about fares, they know that gas is more expensive. There may even be one or two fans who have already seen their personal scales tip in favor of selling their only car and relying on transit and rental cars.
BART spokesman Linton “Honest” Johnson told me the Spare-the-Air triumph was a “double-edged sword.
“Because you realize that more people who are looking for more alternatives to driving, but you also realize that you have a governor who is proposing to take up to $15 million dollars away from BART … I don’t see how he can be the `green governor’ if he keeps taking away money for transit.”
I started my week noticing that my chain of newspapers had joined a still faint but growing chorus of Californians who don’t think that the state’s currently configured high-speed rail enterprise is sliced bread. I found it slightly disturbing to see information from one of my stories bolstering the conclusion that the 700-mile, 200-plus-mph system was the “Boondoggle Express.”
But the story was based on the release of a report by a Senate committee last week that raised all kinds of unanswered questions, the same ones I’ve been raising and catching flak for. The proponents of HSR were ready at the barricades, however, and I was treated to an amazing off-the-record character assassination to bolster their case.
The sad thing was that it wasn’t the only example of that I got to hear within a few days, and that was also disturbing. The other one had to do with the Caldecott Tunnel, and the less said about that the better.
On Tuesday, there was TransLink, now that we’re talking about expensive, drawn-out processes. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission is giving out 1,900 of the data chip cards to residents of transit-oriented developments, or at least apartment buildings on bus routes, which seemed to strain the definition a bit.
I also questioned whether giving the passes out at senior homes, one of which hosted the press conference, would win over that many converts to transit. The last time I checked, transportation officials and advocates up and down the East Bay were telling me that our older residents are often transit-dependent. Not that they shouldn’t have every advantage when it comes to transit, but I’m thinking giving BART passes to yuppies in loft conversions might go a bit further toward your basic TOD/transit symbiosis.
I also discovered that the long-awaited arrival of TransLink on BART, Muni and Caltrain, thus making it widely relevant, is not happening this spring. “This year,” I was told.
All these fine programs to get people out of their cars. TODs, free transit, cheap transit. One of you suggested that rather than free transit, we could really get people out of their cars by doubling bridge tolls. My thought was that we’ve already doubled the toll on every bridge, highway and cul-de-sac.