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.