Editor, Manteca Bulletin
Everything I read (and experience) about public transportation sends my memory back to the San Francisco Bay Area of my growing up years. As I recall all the varied transportation available in that era was privately owned. There was the Key System and Greyhound Bus, the railroad (which I think was still privately owned as this is before Amtrak), and the ferry system — and a car if you had one. In San Francisco itself it was possible to easily move around the city by rail (key system and regular train), electric bus and bus or a large car that was known as ‘the jitney’ - much easier than by car if walking was no problem for you.
I always loved to visit ‘The City’ — with or without parental approval —and my friends and I used each form of transport available. Sometimes, it was just fun to get on a bus and go wherever it went to explore the city, oh, did I mention that public transport was comparably safe? The forms of transport were clean and efficient and affordable to a young teenage girl with an allowance that had to stretch over a month. But the best way to get to San Francisco was by electric rail from Oakland to San Francisco. It was so scenic that it could be a destination in itself. We would take a bus from Richmond to Oakland and walk to the rail stop. The train traveled the south side of the lower level of the bridge; it was raised high enough that you could look all over the south bay. This was during the Korean War and so the bay was full of ships of varying styles. After the sun went down, the lights on the bay were beautiful.
On our travels by car, my husband and I have driven on privately owned toll roads — at that time, they were well-kept roads and the land on either side and in between the lanes was nicely landscaped. Every so often, there was a rest stop on most of them and sometimes an overpass (available from both traveling directions) with rest room facilities and a restaurant. Everything was kept very clean and the roads were also in very good condition. With the exception of the entrance to NY State, every toll road toll booth operator was polite and full of information — and affordable. My experience with our Bay Area toll roads are the exact opposite and I am very aware of the cost of living and inflation. When public funds are used for transportation needs, the pot is virtually bottomless and monies are sometimes surreptitiously used for projects other than what they were collected for. Privately run anything has to keep their clientele or lose their business. Graft is not nearly as common as in government as they have obviously basically become the only provider of transport — including the bridges. Taxes collected for maybe every form of transport are used for things other than what they were collected for.
I have not heard an outcry for an electric train in the valley —has anyone? But, it is going to be a reality. How much would this cost compared to the old privately-owned electric trains of the bay area including fulfilling needs for transport? We still haven’t optimized the BART system, it is not kept clean or safe, overtime appears to be something the workers can manipulate for their own gain and I have yet to walk into a clean BART restroom. There is not sufficient parking and catching BART in downtown SF to the East Bay at almost any time, means an over-loaded train and difficult for the elderly as the federally set-aside seats for elders are always full and standing room only.
Drive 580 to Livermore during or near rush hour. Some commuters have effectively turned the dirt roadside into an additional lane and a continuous lane of traffic passes on that side, off the freeway at the exit part way up Altamont Pass which returns onto the freeway which is what they do. That slows everyone behind them up as they push themselves into the line of traffic moving forward. I very rarely see a Highway Patrol car. This is a dangerous thing to do as it causes traffic to back up and slow down. It is as impolite as crowding in line at a grocery store and possibly a cause for road rage at times.
I believe we need to get back to entrepreneurship and away from dependency on government which means the government gets to choose your transportation choices as well as the cost to you; they get to tax you to pay for something you may or may not use — and how is traffic these days? It is coming here and sooner than we think.