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Dana Buntrock, chair, Center for Japanese Studies | November 2, 2009

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.


  1. Wouldn’t simply lowering the cost of living closer to the city be assuming that the urban lifestyle can be forced upon people? The reason why people live around the bay is not simply because it is too costly to live in the city or because the education system in the city is inadequate; it is often because they prefer the quieter, spacious lifestyle that suburbs offer. You used Danville as an example-Danville is a very expensive city to live in. Surely Danville residents that choose to commute to the city on a daily basis are not choosing to live in Danville solely due to the cost of living; they probably choose to do so because Danville is a very quiet, very safe, bedroom community.

    Of course, this is not to say that BART is not accessible to those who live in Danville. In fact, if they were so focused on avoiding traffic, I believe they could save time, or at least save a day’s worth of stress, by using Park & Ride services.

    But yes, it is important that the city improves its education system. But in relation to public transportation, I am not so certain I agree that there is a link.

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