Institutional change needed to shift car-centric patterns

3 Jun

Though I haven’t owned a car for more than two years, this Car Free Challenge week has made me even more attuned to my travel patterns and how car-centric Oakland is.

Yesterday, I had jury duty. After waiting for a few hours and panicking when the judge said the trial would last 3-4 weeks, I found out that the trial had been canceled because they had reached a negotiation.

But as I waited, I was surprised by how car-focused the Oakland courthouse is. My summons told me which garage to park in. When I arrived, there were instructions on the wall, which included a sign indicating where to pick up parking validation. During the instruction period, the courthouse employee explained the parking validation process further and then explained how we could get mileage reimbursed and again pointed us to the forms.

Never once was I given instructions about how to get to the courthouse by bus, even though it’s just a block from the 72/72M/72R bus stop. Never was I told where I could park a bike. Never was I offered reimbursement for my bus fare.

Changing driving and transportation habits one person at a time via the Car Free Challenge is great, but I don’t think we’ll see a huge shift until our institutions shift their habits. The courthouse needs to review its practices, the City of Oakland needs to stop doling out free parking to hundreds of employees, and employers must offer incentives to use alternative means of transportation. Those changes may be slow to come, but once they’re implemented, I’m confident we’ll see a major shift away from cars and towards transit, biking, and walking.

9 Responses to “Institutional change needed to shift car-centric patterns”

  1. A June 3, 2010 at 9:06 am #

    Mention any of that to someone who works at the courthouse? I wonder if you could have gotten your bus ticket reimbursed.

    • Becks June 3, 2010 at 9:20 am #

      No I didn’t. Maybe I should have mentioned it, though I’d be shocked if they would have reimbursed me. It’s less about me getting reimbursed (I have a monthly bus pass anyway), and more about the institutional policy that focuses on cars as the only way to get anywhere.

      • A June 3, 2010 at 10:20 am #

        Agreed. This seems like a pretty easy thing to change though, and even though it’s a drop in the bucket of car-centric culture, the more little easy things that are changed, the easier it’ll be to eventually change the big difficult things.

  2. Naomi Schiff June 3, 2010 at 9:30 am #

    Some counties definitely do notify jurors of public transit access, and some provide bus passes or discounts. (I once worked on the arcane task of helping some counties with their jury notices.)It would be a good subject to raise with Superior Court and with AC Transit. I’d think Chris Peeples might be a good person to approach, as he is an attorney and might know whom to speak to about this.

    • Becks June 3, 2010 at 9:52 am #

      That’s a good idea Naomi. I’ll shoot him an email.

  3. Dan Wood June 3, 2010 at 11:57 am #

    Great point Rebecca — I biked to jury duty a couple of years ago and I was able to find bike racks in the museum parking lot next door, or of course tied up to a parking meter.

    It really irks me when any institution or business (or person, e.g. in a party invitation) only gives driving directions. For that matter, it might be cool to suggest (or even facilitate) carpooling, if public transportation is not an option.

    I think that for getting the county institutions on board with fixing this, maybe the county supervisors would be good to contact.

  4. Ralph June 3, 2010 at 3:08 pm #

    My current summons for Superior Ct lays out my BART options and a number to call for bus and AC Transit routes. I can understand not offering bus directions as there are just too many variables.

    Regarding parking, the summons states, “Parking is limited and public transportation is encouraged.”

    Regarding reimbursement, I am only speculating but I suspect that part of the reason it doesn’t come up has to with the out of pocket costs. If you still are required to pay some portion of the parking, it is quite possible that the transit fare is probably still going to be less. So you basically save the delta between the transit fare and the cost to park.

    If I recall correctly, some courts do reimburse on a means tests.

  5. June 3, 2010 at 9:32 pm #

    All we need is fuel that correctly reflects its actual cost ie removing subsidies, taxing it appropriately and charging for its detrimental effects to our environment and health

    Once fuel is appropriately expensive, everything else will fall in to place

  6. Karen Smulevitz June 4, 2010 at 7:05 am #

    Last year when I signed up to attend a Climate Change Conference, I was emailed a parking pass and driving directions! I brought this “concept contradiction” to the organizers’ attention, and was promised that for future events, transit options would be included.

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