The confluence of forces that make San Francisco great:

I don’t care what people say about the crazy homeless people in SF. They all hate these bigots [protesting against newly-married couples] and started picking fights with all of them because they had nothing better to do and nothing to lose if they got arrested for assault/battery. It was awesomely amusing.

Meanwhile on I-80, the Freeway Blogger asks passing drivers “If you think telling kids there’s no Santa Claus is hard?”

“Try telling them there’s no North Pole.”

And in discussion today, it occurred to me that even a substantial increase in public transit ridership might not cut congestion that much. Which is a failing of public transit more than anything else. The Bay area would benefit from more subways, more buses, and more ways to get people from their homes to existing public transit. Because if you have to drive to the BART station, you’ve got a pretty major problem. If you have to drive from BART to your final destination, too, it just isn’t worth it. More on that anon.


  1. #1 FastLane
    June 19, 2008

    Josh, I lived in Hamburg, Germany (as a contractor) in 2002-2003. The public transportation system there is inexpensive, fairly efficient (rush hour can get crowded), and I imagine based on the participation, it takes a huge load off the still extensive traffic congestion.

    An effective (local) public transportation system needs a few key things to make it viable enough to really make a difference.

    1) Access to most places with less than a 5 minute walk. This means that typical subway/bus stops are less than 1/2 mile spread. Hamburg had a combination of subways (mostly) and buses.
    2) An effective way to combine different forms of commuting. For instance, all of the subways allowed for bicycles to be carried on the train. Many cities have started doing something similar with their buses. Even if they provide for a way to drive to a major hub, if it’s away from major traffic, it is a reasonable alternative.

    The US is too large to ever have an effective nationwide public transport (unlike smaller countries where high speed train is a viable alternative to flying), but if we would actually invest in the infrastructure, many of the current congestion problems and pollution could potentially be dramatically reduced.

    The problem is that it’s such a long term thing. It take at least a decade, more like two to three, to really build the infrastructure and see the cultural shift to make public transport an effective alternative to driving.