Rail, power, Peter Coyote, and Bay Area HSR

Rail advocates love to write and say victim-y things about how cars have all the advantages. This is a bit like Donald Trump whining that Indians get all the breaks*. Rail development today is backed and pushed by extremely powerful coalitions of real estate and construction interests, just like highways were a generation ago. And rail coalitions have an additional ace–the coalition includes environmentalists.

The real second-class citizenry in transportation = bus riders. Followed by walkers and bicyclists. But bus riders are treated terribly, by the agencies who are meant to serve them as customers, politicians, and the electorate. People in LA love to complain about the Bus Riders’ Union, but without them, the bus riders who have supported LA’s transit for years would be treated like they matter not at all.

Rail advocates will argue that they want to serve bus riders better by giving them rail. It’s probably an argument that works better in theory than in practice. Rail and bus service have to work together and in tandem for good frequency, geographic coverage, and, ultimately, customer service. When you are focused entirely on building rail, and bus service operates as a mere hey-you, it’s not likely that anybody will take the time to harmonize the transfers and go to the considerable work it takes to serve bus riders well.

Where are the *transit* advocates? Is bus transit is second-class because of its inherent limits as a technology, or is it second class because everybody treats it that way?

Here is a movie of the Transbay Terminal redevelopment, narrated by Peter Coyote. The Transbay is meant to be the terminus of the the HSR for San Francisco. When was the last time a new bus line got a celebrity to narrate? Oh, the money that is going to be made here–and it will happen even without the HSR. You can build and sell anything you build on the peninsula.

I have no objections to making money. But.

I have a friend who bought her loft last year. She got $9,000 in tax credits for it. On a place she was going to buy anyway. That’s bad pubic policy. Just like it’s bad public policy to chuck money at projects like Transbay. Let the developers develop–don’t make them more miserable during the approvals process than necessary–but don’t hand them any public candy, either.

In the end, I doubt the HSR will get into Transbay. It will stop somewhere on the edge of the region and passengers will be expected to transfer to BART or Caltrain.

And that would be fine. The Bay Area has a lot invested in transit. So what if the transfer point to regional rail network occurs in a suburb rather than downtown?

Right now, the board is committed to getting HSR into Transbay. They will get sued a lot, incurring much higher costs than necessary, and then they will settle on a peripheral location.

*Trump once complained that Indian casinos in NY state had an easier time of it than his own casinos did, at least in terms of public approval. Oh, my, how Donald does understand why the caged bird sings. Idiot.