Electric squid, metal gorilla

I enjoyed MetroRiderLA’s series of posts on transit in the Bay Area.

My most-used system: Caltrain

Best line:

The January 17 journey on Train 362 was very fast.
Then again, this trip didn’t cover anything south of Millbrae. Had
there been more time, this 10-part miniseries would have been a Greek
epic, with the transit odyssey including entries on the Santa Clara
Valley Transportation Authority’s bus and barren light rail and the
ruins of the once vast samTrans duchy. Any transit agency rebellious
enough to begin its name without capitalization is worth a write-up.

The system I hate to love: BART

This is a really excellent analysis of the pros and cons of BART. A few excerpts:

BART focuses its primary trunk service on San Francisco, with it
forming the head of a squid. The four endpoints on the east side of
the Tube form its tentacles, with a secondary trunk formed through

In the East Bay, this squid service also took on the characteristics
of a gorilla. It was very burdensome to maintain both San Francisco-
like train and bus service. BART had something that AC Transit
didn’t: funding primacy.

When counties buy in to BART by joining the district, they take on
the responsibilities of funding both their construction and and
operations within their jurisdictions. This solved the problem of
the who’s-subsidizing-whom issue, but there was always a threat of a
county chiseling its obligation. So the BART service obligations were
the first to be paid. It sounded like a fiscally upright arrangement.

The burden would then fall on bus riders. Since BART only had to
be concerned with its trains and would get first dibs on money, it
didn’t have to worry about local bus service. AC Transit bore the
brunt of service cuts, even though there was very heavy demand for
local East Bay bus service….

The Bay Area’s biggest loser has to be samTrans. San Mateo County bet
it all on a massive BART extension and watched it backfire bad. San
Mateo opted out of being a charter member of the BART district, but
it still got service as far as Daly City, on the northern edge of the
county line, and then Colma, the city where the dead outnumber the
living. The line kept creeping southward, going in as far as Millbrae
and San Francisco International Airport. The county paid for these
extensions by pawning samTrans service. The massive service expansion
southward proved to be a colossal failure. Airport ridership had been
abysmal, plus BART was largely duplicating the service of the more
culturally ingrained Caltrain commuter rail service. The saddest part
of all: samTrans lost more bus riders than BART gained rail riders.

Now the squid-gorilla is coming after Santa Clara County, with a
long-term vision of forming a ring around the Bay. The Valley
Transportation Authority is grappling with paying for an excessively
expensive BART extension, all while being infamous for having an
extensive but unproductive light rail network. It also already has
service along both sides of the bay by the more antiquated technology
known as conventional rail. BART would be astronomically expensive,
redundant and if light rail has been any indication … Santa Clara
County should know what the First Rule of Holes is.

Just yesterday I was reading an editorial that used San Mateo County BART as a success story. <game show eeeeennnnnnnt>

I haven’t read the whole series but I suspect it’s worth reading.

In the meantime, tonight I’m off to Sunnyvale City Hall to tell the City Council that that all road users deserve safe accommodation.

More later: I’m planning a letter to the Menlo Park City Council telling them I think they have their heads in the sand (or somewhere else, perhaps) if they really think opposing high-speed rail on the Peninsula is a good plan.

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