Opinion: Californians’ Transportation Choices Should Be Left to Them—Not Bureaucrats

Opinion By Kerry Jackson : capoliticalreview – excerpt

Last month, the Los Angeles Times reported that the Metro system “is hemorrhaging bus riders.” The news was presented as, if not a crisis, at least an urgent matter that needs to be promptly addressed. Yet that’s hardly the case.

It’s troubling, we’re supposed to infer, that “passengers have fled” public transportation “for more convenient options — mostly, driving.” According to the Times headline writer, this bloody mess is “worsening traffic and hurting climate goals.”

“The bus exodus poses a serious threat to California’s ambitious climate and transportation goals,” says the Times. “Reducing traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions will be next to impossible, experts say, unless more people start taking public transit.”…

While infuriating, it’s not surprising. Officials have openly telegraphed their desire to separate Californians from their automobiles. Media reports about “bold” plans “to wean Californians from cars,” efforts to “to inconvenience people out of their cars,” and using the law to “reshape urban lifestyles” are not uncommon.

Californians, though, who are probably more responsible for the country’s car culture than the residents of any other state — in the early 1920s, Los Angelenos were four times more likely to own a car than the average American — like their automobiles. The independence factor cannot be easily swept away…(more)

One riders’s story leaves no doubt as to why riders who can are getting off the bus…

Knowing my interest in the subject, my friend called me to complain about her ride on the 27 Muni line. The closest stop to her home is moving up the street. And I do mean up the street as there is a little rise in elevation, and this means she will have to plan on a 10 minute walk to the bus.. She talked to the said the driver about the lack of notice and to her surprise he was equally upset because the drives were told some stops are going away, but not which ones are being eliminated.

SFMTA gives them maps with all the stops but there is on indication on those maps of which stops are being cut. They are supposed to figure it out for themselves and he was mad. He said the purpose for stop removal is to speed up the buses, something we have know all along, but, who cares about fast buses? No one asked the riders whether they want faster buses or more bus stops. Can someone post a poll to give the riders a chance to voice their opinion?

The other thing that is flawed with the system is the Clipper cards. They don’t always work and tourists haven’t a clue a to how to gas the bus with a card. Some get free rides because the drivers can’t wait around for them to figure it out. That would really slow the buses down and they get dinged for slowing down.

Supposedly SFMTA is spending 30 million dollars to upgrade the Clipper system that will be obsolete soon. My friend who can’t drive, just got her card after months of waiting for it. Now she is frustrated again. She is hoping by getting her story out others will come forward and complain.

Our comments: People are not cogs in a machine we are human beings with thousands of different needs and expectations. SFMTA does not treat us like humans. They treat us like programable computers who can be manipulated by city policy and priority wonks who trying to force us into their mold. They should design a public transit system that fits humans instead of trying to force people to fit into their programs if they want people to choose the Muni.

Some people who work on the transit system understand the reason people choose to avoid public transit, but, they still think they know better than the pubic that is choosing to drive. Read the below article written by a city planner who sort of gets it.


A City Planner Makes a Case for Rethinking Public Consultation

By Warren Logan : city lab – excerpt

Warren Logan, a Bay Area transportation planner, has new ideas about how to truly engage diverse communities in city planning. Hint: It starts with listening.

A woman with a cane stood facing the corner of a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station. She was blind, and trying to make her way out through an exit. But the gate wasn’t where she thought it would be.

Warren Logan, an Oakland-based transit policymaker, approached her and asked if she needed help. She told him that she was headed to the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impairedcenter. After years of traveling into and out of San Francisco, she’d gotten the commute there down to a science. Hop onto the fifth car. Get out at Civic Center station. Turn left. Take an escalator up. Walk three feet to the left, and through the gate. But this time, she’d followed the path, and gotten stuck in a corner… (more)

More comments: Imagine that? A public servant listening to the public instead of preaching to them. Instead of hiring 55 PR personnel to SELL the latest SFMTA program, the staff should attend Dale Carnegie classes or some other customer service training program. Someone needs to learn that “the customer is always right” and a happy satisfied customer is a repeat customer.

This story illustrates how individual a problem can be and how many people do not fit the mold our transit service personnel are trying to fit us into. There are many physical limitations that are abundant in our population, poor or less than perfect eyesight is one of them. Color blindness is rather common and does not fit the criteria of the people who are designing our streets.

There is a comfort in routine that is not honored by a constantly changing transit system. If there is anything the SFMTA could do to alleviate the need for constant change, such as keeping bus stop where they are, for the blind and others who are less capable, and for the non-impaired who appreciate consistency, they might get a faster growing ridership. The constant backslapping and press releases are annoying and useless tools that have lost all credibility with the public.

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