Thursday, July 20, 2006

What Spare the Air Day means to a few people I know

Another Spare the Air Day....kind of scary how many we've had the past few weeks....I never realized air quality in the Bay Area could get so horrible. Even if ridership on Spare the Air days doesn't exceed expectation, the campaign is at the very least educational for many of us who know little about the affects of weather have on air quality.

While Spare the Air day is supposed to encourage drivers to take public transportation, I know a few people who think of it in a totally different and twisted manner. They prefer to drive on Spare the Air days because they can get to work faster on the emptier roads and avoid over-crowded trains. They report that the toll plaza is emptier, the parking lots at work and streets are less crowded, their door to door drive time is actually shorter than taking public transport. So why bother...they say.

I think to change these people's poor attitudes, CalTrans (or whatever organization manages the bridges) should charge an extra $5 (ore more since Bay Area drivers may not think much of five bucks) for bridge toll on Spare the Air Days. I also think more companies should proactively partake in Spare the Air days by distributing exact bus/BART routes for employees...or even better, they should charter vans or buses to pick-up employees from stations or bus stops, if there is no direct route to the office by public transport.

Then again, for my selfish reasons, I don't want the trains to become more crowded than they already are. It's not like BART will increase the number of trains in operation to accommodate a significant rise in ridership on Spare the Air days.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

BART does run longer trains on Spare the Air days.

bartmusings said...

Good to know, thanks. Do you know if they run more frequently though to help get through the peak times?

Anonymous said...

The schedule is the same, but the annual report calls for one additional peak service train (on the yellow line). Probably leaving Civic Center around 5:27 PM (plus or minus). The morning part should be somewhere between 7 and 8 AM.

My guess is that will happen starting Sept 11, or Feb 12.

A new crossover switch is being built between Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill. When that is done, look for peak service on the yellow line to be about every five minutes. One of the challenges of the peak service is finding a place to park the trains during midday. Daly City yard is pretty small, and Millbrae is far away (along with the control system hassles around SFO). But, if four or five trainsets can zip between Pleasant Hill and 24th street, some of those trainsets can spend the midday in (large) Concord yard.

There is talk of trains that "start" at Bayfair and Lafayette, so patrons farther down the line can get a seat. (They really don't start midline, they just run out of service, until those stations).

ConcordCommuter said...

At first I had mixed feelings about the free rides for Spare the Air day. It seemed that the free days during June seemed to draw out all sorts of people who had no idea about proper BART etiquette, and the evening train would be filled with people who decided to take a sightseeing or shopping excursion into the city. But it seems that the novelty has warn off, and while there is still an increase in the number of people on the trains, they seem to be pretty savvy for the most part (stand right, wait for people to exit the train before entering, etc..).

I also consider the fact that I have saved a total of nearly $60 in the past 2 months thanks to these Spare the Air days.

I like the idea of surcharging the Bay Bridge and other venues on days such as this, so long as the additional revenue goes to fund additional transit options. Honestly, I think the ultimate best solution will be variable-rate tolling-- say you pay $10 to cross the bridge at peak commute hour, but only $1 to cross it during the off hours. I think people would pay much more attention to the options of transit and variable work schedules.

dndgirl said...

I totally agree with concordcommuter about variable toll rates on the bridges. I only use the bridge on the weekends anyway :) I recently got a FasTrak transponder to avoid the long wait -- haven't had a chance to use it yet but I'm hopeful...

ihartsf said...

A Spare the Air peak-pricing surcharge on bridges would send the right economic signals and avoid the "taking advantage of less traffic" problem. If they could set it up so that it offset the free transit, that would be perfect. Of course, those coming in from the Peninsula would still skip out on paying.

As far as worrying about irregular BARTers and their lack of etiquette, I find my regular commuters pretty lacking already (bum-rushing the doors from the platform; not moving into the train when it's crowded; blocking the door when it's crowded; bag on the seat when the train is full; etc.). Having commuted for a few years on the Green Line in Boston, however, taking BART is still akin to a Carnival Cruise.

Anonymous said...

Higher bridge tolls on Spare the Air days to offset the cost of free public transit is a great idea! I hope someone who reads this can figure out a way to get that done...

Anonymous said...

You can't punish those who have no choice but to drive to work because they work in the middle of nowhere. It would take me over 2.5 hours each way to take public transportation. I don't think it's fair for me and others like me to pay higher toll.

Anonymous said...

doesn't the primary incentive of reducing fares on spare the air days tell us something? it seems to say that bart fares are too high in the first place. and, further, that bart just isn't doing its job of providing public transportaion at a reasonably low-cost. saying that bart is better than driving because it is less expensive is just a rationalization. at the current rate, it won't be long before only those with high-paying jobs and those whose employers subsidize their commute (and again, why should this even be necessary?) will be able to ride bart regularly. bart is supposed to be public transportation so more public funding should be in the mix. bart needs to do away with over-priced employees and its various extraneous projects, and focus on its basic purpose.