As I drove around collecting pie, wine and flowers to bring to someone else’s Thanksgiving dinner, I happened to cross over Interstate 80 and witness the endless stream of humanity stuck in stop-and-go holiday traffic.
It reminded me that I’d chanced upon a news release from Metro Networks, a traffic reporting company, on the top 10 worst holiday traffic nightmares.
Believe it or not, it actually elicited warm fuzzies as it conjured up some ghosts-of-Christmases-past spent on more than one of the freeways on the list.
Like eggnog or jelly donuts, it seems that holiday traffic jams have become such traditions that the thought of them can actually elicit joy.
After being called a traitor to bicycling earlier this week, I got to thinking: What we commuters need is a little comfort.
That’s partly why 70 percent of Bay Area commuters drive solo. It’s more comfortable to be enclosed in your own vehicle, to be able to choose the radio station, to chomp noisily on that breakfast burrito and to engage in ghastly personal grooming habits that even members of your nuclear family wouldn’t tolerate.
Not to belabor a single e-mail, but this bicyclist named John who heard me on KQED’s Forum program had a point:
Sure it’s `scary.’ The point, obviously, is to make it not scary. That’s why the other cities have things like colored bike lanes, protected Read the rest of this entry »
When I got invited to share my wisdom about Bay Area transportation this morning on KQED radio’s “Forum” program, I though maybe I’d hear from listeners about my aligning San Francisco with the Bush Administration.
The outrage, I imagined, at the thought that the epicenter of all things progressive could be the running dog for U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters’ crusade to make drivers pay through the nose for causing congestion. I mean, really.
But no, no one wanted to pillory me for such a suggestion, not even Steve Heminger, executive director of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, who told me Tuesday that not everything happens because of politics.
From the time I first had the option of using public trans- portation to get to work, I’ve eagerly taken advantage of Commuter Check.
That was, until my company decided to stop subsidizing the program with about $33 of the maximum $110 per month that the federal tax code allows commuters to spend, tax-free, on transit fares.
I’m sure they had their reasons, and I won’t quibble with them. One of the side-effects of that change was to make everybody re-apply for Commuter Check if they wanted to get the pre-tax advantage even if there wouldn’t be any subsidy.
I’m not very good at applying for anything, so my Commuter Checks stopped coming as our office moved to 1.7 miles from the nearest BART station and Amtrak station and I started doing a lot more driving. I’m not blaming the lost benefit on my change in commuting habits, but I looked around recently and decided I’d better get back on the wagon, as it were. When the papers go through our HR department, I’ll be getting my $105 worth of Commuter Checks in exchange for my $55 pre-tax contribution. Not a bad deal.
My apologies for disappearing for yet another hiatus. Last week I moved from a rental to the house we bought. It was supposed to have been Berkeley, from which I would have had what many would consider a normal commute to our large white office building near Oakland Coliseum.
Alas, my son signed up for biochemistry. That was my undoing.
Everybody’s been saying that Monday drivers were scared onto BART and other public transit, and that later in the week we’d see people getting back into their cars and creating gridlock on all those alternate routes through the streets of Oakland, Berkeley and Emeryville.
Even so, Tuesday turned out OK. Enough people were still doing the smart thing and riding transit.
Today I don’t see things going so well. Not because it’s later in the week, and people are thinking: “I can take my car this time and it won’t create a huge problem, because all those other drivers are being Read the rest of this entry »