The 71-year-old mayor is trading in his 2001 Volvo for an AC Transit pass and a sturdy pair of walking shoes.
“I’m trying to reduce my carbon footprint to the absolute minimum,” he said. “I figure, if I really want to go someplace I can just rent a car.”
Bates’ long farewell to the Volvo began about a year ago, when he started walking to work as a way to lose weight and stay in shape. The 18-minute trek from his home in South Berkeley to City Hall was so invigorating he started walking everywhere he could – to Berkeley Bowl, the BART station, city council meetings.
This is a pretty awesome example being set by a mayor. Now I could take this opportunity to rag on Mayor Dellums for being the least green mayor in the Bay Area, since the Chronicle mentioned he’s chauffeured around in a town car that gets 19 miles per gallon, but fortunately, there’s more to commend Bates for.
When it comes to transit, Bates does not just lead by example, but leads legislatively as well. In February, he was the only member of the MTC to vote against using stimulus funds for the wasteful Oakland Airport Connector. He knew that this project was not the best use of MTC funds and could better be used by local transit agencies, like AC Transit and Muni, which have been forced to raise fares and cut service due to shrinking tax revenues and the state cutting funding.
Bates has also been a leader on the Bus Rapid Transit Policy Steering Committee, made up of reps from AC Transit, Berkeley, Oakland, and San Leandro. While Kriss Worthington, Berkeley’s other rep on the committee, has tried his best to tie up the project by making it contingent on unrelated projects, like a universal pass, Bates has tried his best to move the project forward. He is strongly committed to BRT, even though this makes him unpopular with a vocal minority in Berkeley that wants to kill the project.
And now Bates has taken his transit activism into the personal realm by getting rid of his car. I hope his continued committment to transit will inspire others to take up this cause.