There’s this funny thing that happens when you get into activism on a particular issue. Like when I first started working on medical marijuana, everyone I knew started emailing me articles about medical marijuana. Of course, since I work more than 40 hours a week on the issue, I’d usually already seen these articles long before my friends and family.
So now that everyone knows I’m all about public transit, the same thing is happening. But it’s different this time because sometimes it’s a bit less clear when public transit issues are positive or negative (unlike with medical marijuana, when it’s pretty clear that a DEA raid is a bad thing). So I got some emails and heard some comments about Joyce Roy’s race and how it sounded so great that she was taking on those terrible Van Hool buses (which I love) because my friends had never been on the Van Hools and had been reading too much of the East Bay Express.
But the most problematic phenomenon I’ve come across is that my friends who don’t know much about transit but support it wholeheartedly assume that all transit expansion is good. Unfortunately, it’s just not that simple.
Earlier this month, The Overhead Wire focused on this issue and conducted a poll of its readership, asking what is the worst transit project that is currently being planned. Two of the projects that were nominated are in the Bay Area – Bart to San Jose and the San Francisco Central Subway. Neither of these projects “won” the poll, but combined, they got as many votes as the winner.
Eric has already thoroughly explained why Bart to San Jose makes no sense and has made the case for why the current incarnation of the SF Central Subway is not the best project, so I won’t dwell on that here.
You’re probably wondering at this point why you should care about this, living in Oakland and all, where currently there aren’t any super-expensive or superfluous transit projects being planned. Well, transit money is limited, and these projects will be pulling funds from the same regional, state, and federal funds that the East Bay vies for. This means that every bad transit project in the Bay Area (and to a lesser extent anywhere in the state or nation) endangers transit in Oakland.
dto510 argued last month that Oakland transit is totally screwed, but I don’t think the picture is quite so bleak. After all, BRT is finally moving along, now that we’ve defeated Measure KK in Berkeley. Alameda and Contra Costa County voters also approved Measure VV, which is keeping AC Transit afloat, even in the face of further funding cuts from the state.
Transit advocates have already raised concerns that President-elect Obama wants to sink billions into car-centered road projects, and I share those concerns. But as Obama considers funding massive infrastructure projects, his administration would also do well to remember that not all transit projects are equally beneficial, and some just don’t make any sense at all. That’s something for him to ponder on his train ride to the inauguration.