I think the closure of the Bay Bridge has important implications, but it is not a question of a broken public transit system. Students and I were scheduled to see a construction site at San Francisco International Airport Thursday afternoon, roughly 48 hours after the cables acting as a splint on those steel eyebars had snapped. We grabbed bags of hardhats, boarded BART as a group – and an hour later we were at the site, having enjoyed rich conversation along the way. Going home was a simple matter of doing the whole thing in reverse. It was rush-hour; we had seats, as did most of the people around us.
But I will say this – as we passed over the highway headed in to the airport, we could see how badly the cars were backed up, miles away from the San Mateo Bridge and still only about 3:30 in the afternoon. And there is where the nature of the stress on our current public transit systems became evident – if you live in a 19th century town such as Berkeley or San Francisco, you are likely well-served by BART, CalTrans, and/or the ferries. But many of those folks clogging the road to the San Mateo Bridge were headed further afield – long daily commutes to places like Fremont or Danville.
Are you suggesting that our current transit infrastructure be extended into each of these outlying areas? That makes no sense to me. Commuters chose those places because they were cheaper – and that means less money for transit, too. I think that instead of extending out public transit infrastructure, we need to find ways to make it more affordable for everyone to live closer in. We should not so much add structure to sprawling outer suburbs as we should attempt to add affordability and a quality education for all to our inner urban areas.