Mr. Alan Pisarski is an internationally acclaimed transportation expert. At the October 21st BATWG meeting Pisarski provided an insightful analysis of the short and long term effects of changes on transportation and the economy of metropolitan areas like the Bay Area that have been brought on by COVID, and the resulting demographic and societal changes. During his presentation he stressed the “iffiness” of the data at hand and the consequent high degree of uncertainty inherent in today’s forecasting efforts. From his remarks it was clear that he thought the dogged determination of some local and regional agencies to proceed assuming that everything would soon “get back to “normal” was most unwise.
First, he calls for a “moratorium on all expansion-based transportation investments—for the obvious reasons.” The COVID pandemic is remaking transportation demand, for commuters, households and freight logistics. “While being willing to accept some absolutely clear and verifiable capacity needs, we must place a hold on transportation expansion investments, at least until the dust settles”, he says.
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Second, he calls for “improving the conditions of the existing systems—not just restoring, but modernizing.”
Third, he would place a high priority on determining the long term impact of the work-at-home trend, noting that by 2017 the number of those working at home had already exceeded the number of those riding transit.
Fourth, there should be a focus on “shifting transportation funding to be responsive to the accessibility needs of lower-income populations”. To this end he encourages use of buses, vans and jitneys.
And finally, Mr. Pisarski calls for a “strong focus on private sector solutions—utilizing disruptive technologies capable of [responding rapidly to evolving traffic patterns].”
For a more detailed account of Mr. Pisarski’s well reasoned analysis of what is going on, see https://reason.org/commentary/five-steps-to-guide-transportation-spending-and-planning
$45.5 billion of the federal government’s just passed one trillion dollar infrastructure bill is headed to California, but only $9.45 billion has been earmarked to improve public transit across the State. So Pisarski’s comments are especially timely. Now is not the time to be blindly advancing concepts and projects initiated pre-COVID when conditions were a lot different than they are now.