Losing the bus that allowed me to go carless

25 May

Update: Take action to save the 1R & AC Transit service!

I’ve known about the looming AC Transit cuts for more than a month now, but I haven’t had the capacity to come to terms with what they’re going to mean for the system and for me. I took some time over the weekend to think about it so that I could figure out what I’m going to say at the public hearing on Wednesday evening, and no matter what the Board ends up doing, it’s going to be devastating.

The last round of service reductions was done so deliberately, over such a long period of time, and with so much public comment that it makes this round seem all the much more blunt. I’m not going to go into the details of the possible cuts because Eric did an excellent job of summarizing them at Transbay Blog last month. If you’re an AC Transit rider, please read that post.

Any of the cuts will have a huge effect on the system and I know that I’ll personally be affected by these cuts. All of the services being considered for cuts are hugely important. But what is personally troubling me so much is that I might lose the bus service that allowed me to get rid of my car.

Three years ago, AC Transit began rapid service on the 1 line, which made it so I could get to work on many days just as fast as I could when driving. In July of 2007, I wrote this glowing assessment of a trip on the 1R:

Yesterday morning, I was already running late at 9:30 to make it to work by 10:00 a.m. and my boss calls. Her internet is down and she needs me to look up directions for her and tell her where and when all her appointments are for the day. Once I’m done with that, it was 9:45. So I run out my door and catch the bus at Telegraph and 59th at 9:48. We speed down Telegraph, hitting few lights (we have priority!) and stopping at just 4 stops. I get off at 14th and Telegraph, walk a few blocks and up 4 flights of stairs and arrive at my office at 10:03.

If you don’t ride the bus, let me just tell you that this is FAST! Back in the days of the 40 line, that same trip, with waiting and walking, would take me at least a half hour and usually more…

I’m not quite at the point of getting rid of my car completely, but my new bus line is pushing me in that direction…

Just 5 months later, I gave my car away. Though the 1R is still not as reliable as I’d like it to be, it allowed me to almost always be on time without a backup, even when I needed to get to work early and quickly.

Now I’m trying to imagine what my carless life will be like if the Board decides to cut the 1R North of downtown Oakland, which is one of the many possible cuts they’re considering. I would have to leave much earlier for work every morning. If I barely missed a bus, I’d surely be very late. I could no longer meet my fiance in Berkeley every once in a while for lunch. I’d have to cancel my twice a month breakfasts in Berkeley with my colleague. And I’d probably be a lot less spontaneous with after work plans, knowing how long it will take to get home.

Paired with some of the other cuts, like decreased late night service, my transit life will be greatly altered. Though I’m unlikely to go out and buy a car, I’ll probably use taxis more and sign up for City CarShare or Zip Car.

I’m sure that I’m not the only one who whose life would be altered, as the double length 1R buses I ride five days a week are nearly always more than halfway full. Students, seniors, mothers with children, business people, and just about every type of person you could imagine depend on this bus line to get them quickly to their destinations. Reverting back to a non-rapid bus would be a shock to all North Oakland and Berkeley 1R riders.

I don’t know what cuts I would make if I had the incredibly difficult task that the Board has in front of them. None of this will be easy, and I can’t expect my bus access to be prioritized over that of anyone else. But the thought of losing the bus that allowed me to go carless is simply devastating, and I’m going to beg the directors not to cut it.

If you’re a bus rider, be sure to attend the public hearing tomorrow to weigh in on the cuts, as I’m sure they’ll be affecting you too. Hearings will be held at 2pm and 6pm in the AC Transit 2nd Floor Board Room, 1600 Franklin Street.


44 Responses to “Losing the bus that allowed me to go carless”

  1. len raphael May 25, 2010 at 7:34 am #

    explain to this non transit wonk why even if ACT had only a fraction of a good basis for pushing the now onhold BRT, why can’t they justify continuing the RT on Tele? even in a non articulated mode?

    • Becks May 25, 2010 at 8:21 am #

      There are rumors that ACT might be putting the part of BRT North of downtown Oakland on hold altogether and just moving forward with the International segment so this would actually fit well with that rumor.

      However, the ultimate reason they’re even considering this is because they are in the midst of a terrible budget crisis and none of the options they’re considering are appealing. I have no idea at this point what the Board will decide so it’s possible that cutting the 1R is at the top of their lists or that it is dead on arrival. We’ll know more soon.

    • V Smoothe May 25, 2010 at 8:34 am #

      It isn’t a question of whether it can be justified or not. If you read the post explaining the options for service cuts, you can see that pretty much everything is on the table at this point. Two of the proposals focus on cutting less productive service, and one spreads the cuts out across the board.

      • artemis May 25, 2010 at 2:31 pm #

        I thought it was interesting that it’s not just the 1R that’s getting cut off in DTO, but the 1 as well, which means Downtown Berkeley ends up back on the 40 instead. I ride the 1R to Berkeley regularly in the winter, and they’re not cutting that line for lack of riders—during commute hours, at least, that bus is packed. I can’t help but think this is a precursor to truncating the BRT proposal in DTO as well, and maybe even just frustrated ACT planners giving Berkeley what they asked for—no more rapid buses. It’s frustrating that North Oakland had to get caught up in this too—I’d love to see the BRT at least reach the city border, even if it can’t extend into Berkeley. I have to think there are enough riders in North Oakland/Rockridge/Temescal headed into DTO to support service there…

        But I love the 1R, and plan to write in its defense as well. But yeah—like most other transit agencies right now, ACT is pretty much screwed. Please call your Senators and ask them to support the emergency transit funding bill introduced by eight Senators (none of them ours…) today!

  2. Wes May 25, 2010 at 9:20 am #

    I recently lost my 8:00 PM bus that had allowed me to go from San Francisco to Union city. This means I get off work, go directly to the bus at 6:00, do not pass go, do not pay $200 for a haircut /nice dinner /toys at the mall. It sucks that they want to keep people who don’t want to drive every day to the crappy, overcrowded, no parking BART system (Dear Union City, thanks for the $60 ticket when I specifically ASKED your guy if it was okay if I left my car there overnight.)

    I mean, if they don’t want working class people like us to spend money in their towns, sure, keep cutting our transit services. We’ll stay home and horde our money.

  3. A May 25, 2010 at 1:20 pm #

    Bicycle? I live in North Oakland and work in SF, and got rid of my car a year ago.

    • Becks May 25, 2010 at 1:21 pm #

      I’m terrified of biking in Oakland, especially down Telegraph, which is the most direct route for me. I’d be more likely to move closer to work so I could walk then to start biking to work.

      • A May 25, 2010 at 3:29 pm #

        Yeah, biking down Telegraph between like 48th and 59th really sucks, frickin huge potholes there. But Webster and Shafter and all the other residential roads are fine, the frequent stop signs means that cars try to stay off of them for any meaningful distances.

        I don’t know what your route is but there’s certainly a way to do it relatively quickly while avoiding nasty roads and hills. Riding through traffic takes a little courage and forethought and bike handling skills but it’s nothing you can’t get under your belt in a month or so.

        It might even be tougher to ride across the playa than across Oakland, what with the dustsand and awesome sights and trying not to run into attractive people all around you!

        Depending on exactly what you need to be wearing for work, though, the change of clothes and shoes probably isn’t necessary. You won’t be showing up to work drenched with sweat, and unless you’re wearing stripper heels you can probably ride with whatever shoes you want.

        (MLK, now that’s bad to ride on. I’ll take San Pablo or Broadway or Telegraph over MLK any day.)

        • Becks May 25, 2010 at 3:40 pm #

          I definitely don’t wear stripper heels, but I do wear heels (some of which are pretty high) every day. I’m having a hard time picturing myself biking in heels, but I guess I’d give it a try.

          Though the playa is sometimes rough to ride, the worst thing that will happen is a spill onto the playa, which can be quite painful but the worst outcome is cuts and bruises. The few cars and buses that are out there drive very slowly (10 mph or slower) and I’ve never heard of a serious playa bike-automobile collision.

          Especially considering the couple deaths of bicyclists in the past month in Oakland, I’m terrified of having a serious accident. Oddly, that never used to stop me from driving on highways, sometimes way too fast, though that of course was much more dangerous.

        • A May 25, 2010 at 5:00 pm #

          OK so the heels might be an issue. I’ve seen people riding in ’em before but it doesn’t look very comfortable…

          FWIW, I believe that when you account for the increasing number of cyclists every year, the rate of bicycle accidents is actually going down.

    • dto510 May 25, 2010 at 2:00 pm #

      The bike route downtown isn’t on Telegraph, it’s on Shafter and Webster – much safer and more pleasant. But I hear you about the 1R, it is a great bus, I will email the Board about saving it.

      • Becks May 25, 2010 at 2:02 pm #

        It’s nice to talk about that theoretically, but in reality, I’d have to take a large street like Telegraph to get to that route from my apartment. Also, I’m guessing there’s a good reason that you don’t bike in Oakland either 🙂

        Thanks for emailing the Board! I’ve gotten a few people to commit to that today.

        • artemis May 25, 2010 at 2:46 pm #

          The bike route down Shafter really isn’t so bad. I’m not an especially brave biker either—I hate biking on busy roads—but you can actually get to Shafter super easily from your place without dealing with Telegraph at all—just head down one of the numbered residential streets to Colby, and then you take Colby to Forest to Shafter (a straight shot all on residential streets, with a light to get you safely across traffic at Claremont). If you ever want to try it out some weekend, I’m happy to ride with you! (I ride that route the other way during the week, and see many more bikes than cars along it during the commute.)

        • Becks May 25, 2010 at 2:51 pm #

          Maybe I’ll take you up on that some day, definitely sometime after our wedding when I’ll hopefully have time to get my bike un-playafied from last year’s Burning Man excursion. Actually, maybe since this will be the first year in a very long time that I’m not going to Burning Man, I’ll bike around Oakland instead that week since that’s the only week of the year I ever ride a bike.

  4. Ralph May 25, 2010 at 1:29 pm #

    Biking Telegraph is not bad. Broadway, MLK and San Pablo on the other hand not so much.

    And now that it seems like someone is starting to enforce the posted speed limit on Telegraph, you may even arrive at your destination faster than auto traffic

    • Becks May 25, 2010 at 1:32 pm #

      People can tell me again and again that it’s not so bad, but I’m still going to be terrified. I’ll stick to busing and walking, which feel much safer.

      Also, there are other barriers to biking, like having to carry around a change of close and shoes and dealing with bikes getting stolen.

  5. len raphael May 25, 2010 at 3:35 pm #

    B, a million years ago in the 60’s i used to bike from south brooklyn to downtown manhattan every summer for three years running.

    my biking now is limited to shafter between 49th and MacArthur with my pit.

    Part of it is the timidity of age, but part of is too many riders i know who’ve been hit by vehicles or hit potholes. Helmets can only do so much as i was told once by a guy who ran a chain of brain/spine damage rehab centers.

  6. Myles Blackwood May 25, 2010 at 3:40 pm #

    I’m not sure how I happened upon this page exactly, but I am glad that I did.

    That said, after reading over your post here I determined that we must live very very close to one another, as i also catch the 59th and Telegraph 1R- when I need to get to work in the afternoons.

    My only real thought on the matter is one of practicality. Why is ACT considering dropping the 1R when, in reality, the 1 line is the route to drop? Imagine- you stop every 6 blocks, and you get to where you need to go faster.

    Perhaps we should all send a letter of concern to the tune of that effect? Drop the 1, not the 1R.

    But, that’s just my $0.02.

    Happy bussing whatever this decision means!

    • Becks May 25, 2010 at 3:44 pm #

      Glad you did stumble onto this post, and that’s not a bad suggestion.

      Since several people now have mentioned wanting to contact the ACT directors, here are their email addresses:


    • Ralph May 25, 2010 at 9:55 pm #

      Myles, on the face dropping the 1 seems more logical. I thought about that early today but something tells me that the seniors and infirmed will be all over that like a fatman on birthday cake.

      • Myles Blackwood May 26, 2010 at 1:36 pm #

        Agreed Ralph, they probably would.

        However, they would also have the exact same equal access to the only line available to those *not* within their groups either…. which puts them right back at square one with equal access.



        Thanks for those email address. I just sent my letter and mentioned your thought as a part of it.

        here it is:

        Denizens of Oakland and representatives of ACTransit.

        Sadly, I am unable to attend either of the 2 meetings being held today in regards to the proposed cuts to various lines throughout the City of Oakland. Therefore, I am writing this email in an effort to voice my opinion about the very bus-line route which I use with certain frequency.

        According to sources announced to the Public by your offices, I have discovered that the Berkeley-Oakland 1R route is being proposed for discontinuation of service. To me, and a variety of other individuals who have spoken publicly about this issue, it would be a disservice to those who utilize the timely and swift delivery that this particular route provides each of us.

        With that, I am asking you to seriously consider NOT dropping the 1R line.

        As a counter measure to help with any off-set it may cause, however, I am also proposing that your do consider dropping the 1, in its stead.

        While my proposal my be a bit naive in its breadth and full understanding of how these decisions are made, I feel that it would provide a greater service to the people who travel along the 1 and 1R route with minimal impact of dis-service to a bus which stops at each and every street corner between Berkeley and Oakland.

        While I do understand that there may be potential for there to be some backlash from, say, the people who fall under the protection of the ADA and perhaps some of the senior citizens who may sometime use the line, I do not feel that requiring people to walk the distance (typically about 6 blocks from stop to stop) is too much to ask for in an effort to maintain efficiency for ALL citizens.

        Further, I think that AC-Transit were to encourage people to utilize the covered bus stops which the 1R route typically stops at, then it could potentially be spun as an additional service to those who use it- rather than something that is taken away from them in the name of convenience of walking only a single block instead of three.

        With that, please take in to consideration my words, thoughts and suggestions in regards to keeping the 1R bus route. I use it almost daily, and rely upon its speediness in an effort to get the most out of my day.

        Thank you kindly for your consideration to this matter.


        Myles Blackwood
        Oakland Resident and 1R route bus rider.


        447 62nd Street
        Oakland, CA 94609

        • Ralph May 26, 2010 at 2:21 pm #

          Myles, 6 Blocks doesn’t seem like a lot, but the “on average 4 blocks” had council siding with seniors on BRT. The question you need to ask is do you want your 87 y.o grandmother with an arthritic hip and weak heart walking 6 blks to the nearest stop.

          I am not heavily vested one way or the other but when I travel Muni, I prefer the express busses. Obviously riders see some value in these busses or transit agencies would not offer them. Raise the fare.

          Some might object to the fare increase, but these riders still have the option of the lower price local so they have not lost anything.

  7. Mark May 26, 2010 at 11:06 am #

    I favor turning Telegraph and Shattuck into one way streets from their intersection in Oakland to Bancroft in Berkeley. Devote half of each street to bicycle lanes and create a major intercity bike thorughfare.Time the traffic lights for an optimal biking speed.

    At the Oakland end, heading south from the Shattuck/Telegraph intersection, devote a full lane in each direction on Telegraph to bicycles, all the way to where it intersects with Broadway.

    Until we start optimizing our streets around alternatives to cars, cars will continue to dominate. If it were faster and safer to travel by bike than by car, others might follow Beck’s lead and dump their cars. It works elsewhere — why not here?

    • Myles Blackwood May 26, 2010 at 1:39 pm #

      Mark, (and Beck)

      I totally love the idea.

      I’ve got some pull (emphasis: very, very, very little pull) with a few people in City Hall, seeing how it is that I just started to work there and all…

      Who do I call to make this happen?

      Seriously. Just let me know who the people are, and I can lobby internally to the best of my abilities.


      • artemis May 26, 2010 at 3:24 pm #

        This is a lovely idea, of course, but….have you been following the Berkeley conversations around Telegraph and the BRT?? Residents and businesses there have no interest whatsoever in giving any of the roadway up to other modes, sadly. And the Berkeley Bike Plan doesn’t call for lanes there, either.

        That said, on the Oakland side, the Oakland Bike Plan *does* call for Class 2 bike lanes on both Telegraph and Shattuck (and these exist in some stretches already), so that’s a better battle to fight, if you can dig up some funding sources.

        • mark May 27, 2010 at 8:32 am #

          I haven’t been in town long and no, I haven’t been following those Berkeley conversations. I realize the idea is a pipe dream and not particularly “realistic” but the realistic ideas tend to be watered down by the perceived obstacles. The decisions we make today about these local transportation policies are decisions that lead directly to consequences like the big BP oil spill in the Gulf. It’s so disheartening that so many citizens of our community don’t seem to care. Clinging to four lane roads and battling fuel efficient modes of transportation lead to increased dependence on oil. Change has to start somewhere.

  8. Mark May 26, 2010 at 11:11 am #

    PS — when we switch to bikes instead of busses we don’t run the risk of having our service taken away. Saving the 1R today doesn’t mean we won’t be fighting that battle again next year. Building out a bike friendly infrastructure requires a capital investment, but it doesn’t depend on a continuous stream of operational funding.

  9. Sarah May 26, 2010 at 3:33 pm #

    Listening to the public hearing right now. It’s depressing how many people are saying, “There must be SOME money, SOMEWHERE, that can prevent these cuts.” I like the idea of looking for alternative funding sources, but the agency has to prepare for the likelihood that homeowners will not vote for yet another parcel tax and that MTC will not suddenly change direction and start funding AC Transit fairly.

    My understanding is that the 1R has a significantly lower ridership north of DTO than between DTO and San Leandro, and that’s why it’s on the block. Doesn’t square up with aretemis’s observations, which makes me wonder how they’re counting riders.

    Although it was pretty horribly researched, last week’s East Bay Express article about cutting transbay service raised a good question: what are AC Transit’s priorities? I asked an AC Transit planner about this the other day and found out that entirely cutting Transbay service would save “only” $6 million (that is, about half of the savings projected by these cuts). I’d like to see a full breakdown of the potential savings from cutting this, especially because riders on this line are more likely to be riders of choice rather than riders of necessity.

    Switching to bikes works for some people — I bike almost everywhere myself — but not for everyone, and not for long distances. Bicycle infrastructure in the East Bay is still not good enough to get a lot of riders out there, especially children, seniors and people who are just plain skittish about riding on the road.

  10. len raphael May 26, 2010 at 7:52 pm #

    bikes supplement but can’t handle more than what maybe 10% of the needs of people who rely on buses.

    much sooner than you think you’ll become your mother and father, then grandparents.

    schlepping your kids behind you in a bike trailer with a flag and flashing light. hecka fun for kids but safe?

    commuting to dto in the rain in twilight. just commuting by bike when you move to a job that requires more formal attire without sweaty pits.

    • mark May 26, 2010 at 8:42 pm #

      I’ve been a father for 28 years and becoming a grandfather may not be far off. I commuted to and from Alta Bates from Montclair for a couple of years on a bike, rain or shine. I kept clean clothes at work and changed in the men’s room. Is it a bit of a hassle? Yes. Was it worth it? Absolutely. I was never healthier or happier. (And on many occasions I got home quicker than I could in a car — traffic was just not an issue for me.) I rode past Lake Temescal every day. It was awesome.

      Breaking our addiction to oil is going to mean changing our lifestyles. Perhaps our city will need to adapt so that shopping districts are better integrated into every neighborhood. We may need to find ways to work closer to home.

      Bikes handle significantly more than 10% of the transportation needs of people who live in many places around the world. When we visited Amsterdam we saw first hand how people (many of them significantly older than me) used bikes as a primary form of transportation. It was delightful to see grandparents biking with their grandchildren in a bike seat.

      My sister lives in Sweden and she and her husband (with a 2 year old daughter) don’t own a car, and haven’t since they moved to Uppsala 15 years ago. That hasn’t stopped them from living a perfectly happy life. They go everywhere on a bike. If they need to go to Stockholm they take a train. For long trips to the country they rent a car.

      Watch this video: http://hurty.com/roadsforbikes

  11. len raphael May 26, 2010 at 11:08 pm #

    Mark, do people commute by bike in Swedish winters?

    • mark May 27, 2010 at 8:16 am #

      I suppose some do and some don’t. My sister and brother-in-law don’t own a car so their only options for getting around town are busses, bikes, and walking.

      Most urban development in the western United States over the past half century is shaped around a single primary influence — the automobile. We build our cities around roads. Undoing that influence is going to be complicated, possibly even awkward. But doing nothing seems like the least effective solution to our dependence on cars and the fossil fuel they guzzle.

  12. Naomi Schiff May 28, 2010 at 9:36 am #

    I do love bicycles, but my experience years ago of being doored (bike destroyed, luckily no permanent bodily injury, but I couldn’t remember my own phone number, at the time!) at night on Telegraph made me pretty nervous of riding on major streets. And that was when I was younger and more daring! Now, I really don’t know what route I would take. I think we need to save the bus lines somehow.

    I am perplexed by all the hopeful talk of transit-oriented development and zoning occurring simultaneously with cutting back so harshly on transit. The big picture is not making any sense. Yes, I can take the long view, but this seems to be going in the wrong direction.

    • mark May 28, 2010 at 11:12 am #

      If hopeful talk is perplexing, we’re doomed.

      We had dinner with a friend last night. He’s about 80. (Same age as my parents.) He shared a funny story about his ordination and first call as a pastor to a congregation in St. Louis. His father was the bishop and performed the ordination/installation. After the service my friend told about overhearing his father having a conversation with an older member of the congregation. His dad was worried that my friend (his son) might not yet be experienced enough for the demands of leading this congregation. The elderly member said to my friend’s dad, “Don’t worry, he’s too young to know what can’t be done.”

      I wish we were all that young. Or wise enough to be like the elderly man in the story. If we convince ourselves that there’s no use in trying to change the world, we will certainly succeed in changing nothing. Of course it’s disheartening that Berkeley and the merchants/residents of Telegraph and/or Shattuck don’t want those streets to be hospitable to bicyclists. But that status quo has not proven to be ideal. If it were we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

      I’ve always liked Winston Churchill’s line: “I’m an optimist. It does not seem too much use being anything else.”

  13. mark May 28, 2010 at 11:55 am #

    Over at at Fragmentary Evidence there’s a great photo of a bike spotted in Alameda. It would fit right in on a major bike highway between Downtown Oakland and Downtown Berkeley.


  14. Naomi Schiff May 28, 2010 at 12:42 pm #

    What I maybe didn’t make clear: I approve of transit-oriented development. I just can’t understand why we are whacking transit budgets!

  15. Sarah May 28, 2010 at 1:44 pm #

    The revenue streams that fund transit are down across the board — property taxes, sales taxes and farebox. The state has also been raiding transit operating funds for several years now.

    I agree with Naomi that the overall picture makes no sense. Assuming that the economy picks up and we build all this TOD, will people want to give up their cars to move into a condo with .75 parking spaces per unit? Or will they remember what’s been happening to transit in the past few years and decide that it’s not worth the risk? I think we need to fundamentally rethink how we fund transit and make investments so that services aren’t subject to the economic merry-go-round.

    • mark May 28, 2010 at 3:53 pm #

      A good start would be a hefty tax on gasoline that goes directly to transit funding. And by hefty, I mean really hefty. A three or four dollars per gallon at a minimum. I can hear the screaming already about what this would do to the price of consumer goods. It’s true that the cost of an item that is shipped a long distance will be higher, but it also means that locally produced goods will become more competitive. I can also hear complaints that this kind of tax is recessive. That may be true, but a higher gas tax that goes directly to funding public transit might have a significant impact on the quality and availability of transportation.

      I also recognize that proposing this sort of tax is the kind of thing that gets elected officials run out of office. It takes vision, creativity, leadership, and guts to govern. It’s the rare public official who has all those qualities. Vision to see where we need to go. Creativity to communicate the goal in a compelling way. Leadership to break down the process into steps and keep everyone on the path. And guts to strike out for the goal even when the naysayers are saying it can’t be done.

      Do Americans want to live in small homes with limited parking? They don’t today. Do they prefer to commute by bus or bike to driving alone in a private car. The vast majority do not. Do they recognize the value of paying taxes that will help shape a society that is livable and hospitable? Many of us consider taxes evil.

      Leadership is not the private domain of elected officials. Citizens can (and often do) lead. Since our elected officials (I’m looking at you, Oakland City Council) seem unwilling or incapable of leading, we’re going to need to take matters into our own hands. You all seem like incredibly bright people. I’d follow your lead if you accept the challenge. I’m talking to you, Becks, Len, Naomi, V, Sarah, Myles, Artemis, Ralph, Wes, A, DTO510 (I hope I didn’t leave anyone out). Surely the WOBO folks would help. And the EBBC. Let’s do something. I think it’s going to require more than trying to convince a bunch of bureaucrats. We need a bigger vision. Bigger goals.

    • Ralph May 28, 2010 at 8:49 pm #

      Sarah, I think you and Naomi are overanalyzing / overthinking the issue.

      In the longrun, people will still want to move to transit oriented developments. Absent significant givebacks, today’s financial crisis requires cuts in service. But that does not change the fact that people desire a certain quality of life that does not include spending a half day in gridlock. People want to live in vibrant walkable communities, that is a longterm trend that shows no sign of changing.

      Also becoming more popular at the car shares. If the car shares in DTO were more convenient to living spaces, I think you would see more people give up the second car.

      All that being said, I do not think any government should be able to take any collected transit tax, fee, or surcharge for non-transit purposes.

  16. Mark May 28, 2010 at 10:25 pm #

    This is a very interesting article related to paying for public transportation.


    It addreses (among other things) the negative externalities of traffic and the real cost to society for each driver who uses a car in the city. The numbers in the article apply to Manhattan but the principles are the same everywhere.

  17. len raphael May 29, 2010 at 12:45 pm #

    mark, am i reading the “benefits” tab of the excel correctly, that in Manhattan the cost of people’s time vastly exceeds the geo envoirmental costs?

    wonder if that excel sheet would be modified to figure how much the population density at which there is break even for status quo.

  18. Mark May 29, 2010 at 3:35 pm #


    If I understand your question, yes, the sheet does say that the value of a person’s time is very high in contrast to the geo environmental costs. Since this spreadsheet is focused on midtown manhattan it’s going to skew that way — people living and working in midtown are very high wage earners and the distance they travel within that zone is relatively short. Those numbers would likely be reversed in rural settings.

    You’re right that these stats can’t be extrapolated directly and applied to less dense cities, but there are some pieces of the big equation that are true anywhere — like the projection that mortality rates drop significantly as a higher percentage of the population transitions to biking and walking. (I liked that the age range he uses for potential cyclists goes up to 75!)

    I thought the

  19. Mark May 29, 2010 at 3:40 pm #

    Oops — I fat fingered my reply above and hit submit before I finished the last sentence.

    I wanted to say that the article does a good job of pointing out the hidden cost of driving cars that we all shoulder — whether we drive or not. That’s an important fact to keep in mind when discussing the cost/benefit of our public transit system and other alternatives to private cars.

  20. len raphael May 29, 2010 at 7:51 pm #

    even in less dense cities such as ours, you’d probably have to add a version of “discounted present value” calculation to the spreadsheet to come up with a net benefit or cost for improving bike and mass transit. ie. it’s likely that until areas densify that the current numbers favor cars, you have to factor in the additional land acquisition and construction costs of waiting for high density, and discount back the external costs generated when that current break even point is reached.

    who can be trusted to rework the model without trying to skew it.

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