Bay Area: Fresh Thinking Needed!

On December 16, 2021 writer, analyst and world-acclaimed transportation consultant Alan Pisarski, in a discussion with BATWG members, suggested five ways in which the transit agencies should alter their programs because of COVID and the resulting societal changes.

From his remarks it was clear that Pisarski thought the dogged determination of some local and regional agencies to proceed assuming that everything would soon “get back to “normal” was most unwise. His recommendations were valid then and remain so today. Here they are:

First he recommended a “moratorium on all expansion-based transportation investment”.

Next, he recommended that the focus be on restoring and modernizing existing systems.

Third, he recommended that a high priority be placed upon determining the long-term impact of the work-at-home trend.

Fourth, he called on the transit agencies to be “responsive to the accessibility needs of lower-income populations”. To this end he encouraged the use of buses, vans and jitneys.

Finally, Mr. Pisarski called for a “strong focus on private sector solutions—utilizing disruptive technologies, capable of responding rapidly to evolving traffic patterns.”

Read More Here

When people are asked why they don’t use public transit their first response is often: “because it doesn’t get me to where I want to go”. The response is reasonable. People on the move want to get there quickly and without difficulty. But for those who would prefer not to waste hundreds of hours a year in traffic congestion or spew tons of greenhouse gases into the air, this is a near term problem in need of attention, and one that an increasing number of transit agencies are struggling to address.

As the moderately-priced E-BART system with its super-convenient transfer between BART and E-BART shows, things can work well when projects are prudently planned and take the interests of riders fully into account.

Transit will never, can never, work for everyone everywhere. In spread-out, low density areas, it would be excessively costly to provide enough transit to meet everyone’s needs. In these areas, automobiles are and will remain the primary means of getting around. But when people used to driving or riding in cars enter already backed-up freeways and densely built up urban areas, things get out of hand. In such cases, in order to maintain mobility while at the same time protecting vulnerable communities from the public health, safety and other bad effects of too many motor vehicles, new and innovative approaches are needed.

As Pisarski suggests, MTC and the large transit bureaucracies should buckle down and focus on what’s most needed.

End of April 2023 Newsletter

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