Debunking driving & transportation myths

1 Feb

I read a lot of transportation blogs (there used to be so few, and now there are too many to keep up with!), and over the past few weeks I’ve read several posts that debunk the myth that driving a car is the best way to get around. I ditched my car about a year ago, and maybe these posts will convince you to do the same.

Myth 1 – Cars are faster: 295bus, down in the South Bay, tells a story of opting for his car instead of his bike because it was raining. He thought it would be quicker, but it turned out to take longer.

Myth 2 – Driving is the best way to clear your mind: Readers at The Overhead Wire share their experiences of relaxing while walking and doing deep thinking on the train or bus.

Myth 3 – Widening freeways makes traffic move more quickly: The Pedestrian debunks this myth, explaining that car drivers are actually better off driving on city streets. Freeways are congestion magnets.  This post is followed up by another detailing success stories of removing freeways in the Bay Area.  Anyone up for some freeway removal in Oakland?

Myth 4 – BART sucks: Well, I’m not always a BART defender, but 125 BART employees spent their Saturday cleaning up downtown Oakland, and I can get behind that.

Myth 5 – For business people, driving is the most efficient way to get around: Now that it’s illegal for drivers to text message and to use cell phones without a headset, it’s easier to get work done on the bus or train. And soon, BART will be offering wi-fi access, for a fee. One day, when high speed rail is built, hopefully they’ll offer wi-fi too.

Myth 6 – Public transportation is too heavily subsidized: This couldn’t be much further from the truth. Driving is subsidized much more heavily than public transit is; if the funding was even close to equal, I can only imagine what our transportation systems would look like. Eric details how the funding breaks down in the MTC’s regional transportation plan, and Yonah at The Transport Politic details the breakdown in the federal stimulus bill (which has changed since this post was written, but still heavily favors highways).

Myth 7 – Life would be so much better if there was more free street parking: Debby at Today in Montclair got a parking ticket and wondered whether parking on the streets in Montclair should be free, but her readers respond and argue that it would make much more sense to walk or bike. Debby must have been convinced because she followed up with a post about biking to Montclair Village.

6 Responses to “Debunking driving & transportation myths”

  1. Max Allstadt February 2, 2009 at 10:16 am #

    Re: myth 7.

    NO WAY should parking on Montclair Streets be free.

    Parking tickets are already the most regressive form of funds generation in any city. Poorer people are less likely to have off street parking at home. Poorer neighborhoods have more street sweeping hours. San Pablo Ave is swept EVERY night from 12-3am. In Temescal, Rockridge and on Piedmont Avenue, you can park overnight on the main drag.

    And the real regressive part is that if I get a $40 ticket, that’s 2% of my monthly income. If a modestly well paid lawyer gets the same ticket, it’s 0.2% of his monthly income.

    So no. No free parking in Montclair. It should cost more, and the tickets should cost more too.

  2. dto510 February 2, 2009 at 3:39 pm #

    Current thinking about parking, epitomized by Donald Schoup’s The High Cost of Free Parking, is that, like any other limited resource, it should be priced optimally to ensure its most efficient use. That means making it more expensive. If it’s artificially cheap, then people waste it.

    This makes a lot of sense when you think about it. If street parking is cheaper than garage parking in the same area, then people will waste time/gas and cause congestion by seeking out street parking when structured parking is almost always more convenient. If parking is free or costs less than bus fare, then people will drive instead of walking and will leave their cars parked for longer than necessary, creating a parking shortage.

    I disagree about BART, though. They take most of our regional money (after the huge chunk for freeways). It’s sweet that BART employees are cleaning up downtown, but whatever happened to Public Works? If BART wants to show that they care about the DTO, they should pay OPD’s overtime bill for their protests.

  3. jarichmond February 2, 2009 at 10:28 pm #

    Can you really park overnight on Telegraph? When I lived farther up the street from Temescal, I could have sworn that they had street sweeping overnight at least a couple times a week, but I didn’t have a car for much of that time, so I never really paid attention to it..

    I definitely think walking is the best way to clear the mind. So far through my graduate school career, it’s always worked for me to walk a mile or two to my test just to clear the mind. Driving always just stresses me out, at least driving in our inner urban region.

  4. Max Allstadt February 3, 2009 at 2:30 pm #

    You can park overnight on telegraph some nights. On southern San Pablo, 12am – 3am is a no go every night on both sides.

  5. Marc February 7, 2009 at 8:46 am #

    The Atlantic Monthly’s “Quick Study” column in December points out another myth: shortcuts are faster. Summarizing a paper in Physical Review Letters, they write “When stuck in traffic, drivers self-interestedly seek shortcuts to avoid the most-congested routes and outsmart their peers. But the cumulative effect of such scheming can make the shortcuts useless—and impede the flow of traffic for everyone else. Motorists attempting shortcuts increase overall driving time by up to 30 percent in Boston, 28 percent in New York, and 24 percent in London. Closing roads, even in high-traffic areas, can actually decrease congestion by limiting drivers’ choices and forcing them toward routes that benefit the common good.”


  6. Dave C. February 9, 2009 at 8:34 pm #

    “Anyone up for some freeway removal in Oakland?”

    I am. Speaking of which, I just noticed the plaque identifying I-580 as the “most beautiful urban highway in the U.S.A.” (circa 1966). Unbelievable — I couldn’t resist taking a picture and blogging about it.

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