For the last 3 weeks I’ve been working on site for a client in the East Bay, which has meant not only taking Muni every single day, but also connecting with BART in downtown. I’d blocked out of my memory just what a slow, counterintuitive managed system BART is, but here it is, back again! Woo hoo!
Both MUNI and BART are in the midst of inventing new ways to screw up. Now, you’d think in the midst of some of the highest gas prices yet, when commuters in and out of the urban and suburban areas are feeling a real pinch, that the transit agencies would use this to show people a cheaper, faster, better way to get to work. In the process they’d boost ridership, and they’d be forced to find ways to be more efficient so as to do the job of transit, right?
Wrong, wrong, wrong.
That’s because the agencies don’t give a tinker’s cuss about moving people around in a timely fashion, or providing a service that works. No, the people that run these things are devoted to the agency itself, and protecting that entity’s money, perks, and of course, well paying gigs for executives.
Here’s an example of Just How Stupid BART really is. In Lafayette, where I commute to every day, they are imposing a parking fee for the first time on commuters (of which there are many). How much? A dollar! Yes, A DOLLAR.
They had all sorts of well dressed bureaucrats at the station each day, explaining the buck fee. They had all sorts of reasons, of course but there was some logic that was missing. In this case I had to wonder, taking a mere dollar from each person seems to be an easy call to “get more money.”
But when you consider that one has to collect the money, move the money, count the money, punish those that don’t pay the money, account for the money, move the money into the bank, and run the many people it’s going to take to do this at all the BART stations, you start to realize just how stupid this is.
By the time you take out the overhead, you’ve created a royal pain in the ass for the people you allegedly want to get out of their cars and into BART. You’ve created a system that’s expensive and requires lots of expensive labor (ever try and cut a BART worker’s salary?) And most of all, instead of capitalizing on higher gas prices to show people a better way, BART has created another reason why people think Mass Transit sucks, and why they don’t vote for it.
Muni fares no better – while spending lots on big pay for execs, it apparently can’t get the brainiacs together to find long term stable sources of money , and better ways to make the system work. Instead it continues the death spiral of more cuts to service, higher fares, and of course, plaintive cries of “having no money” – and not realizing that it’s got a chance to sell a system to a gas-weary public if it just freakin’ worked.
And don’t get me started on how none of these folks work together….that’s a rant for another day.
The irony in all of this is that my brother told me the other day a radio station had a contest – one guy went from Concord to SF via BART, the other via car. The guy on BART got their first, and for much cheaper once you factored in garage parking, gas, and the hassle of the toll plaza. You’d think BART would be putting this on every billboard it could pay for to try and boost ridership, right?
That might mean less money for executive benefits, or for all those nice people talking up that $1 fare. Good job, BART!