Page One

Application for transit czar post

Steve Geller Berkeley
Tuesday August 28, 2001


Good luck to the new “Transportation Czar”. Berkeley has a poor track record for sustaining and retaining transportation professionals. 

Instead of playing off one group against another, we need leadership. 

The goal of creating “efficient, environmentally friendly and economically sound transportation” is worthwhile, but the process of achieving the goal is guaranteed to make a lot of people unhappy. This is because we in Berkeley are inconsistent in what we want. 

We want fewer cars on the road, but we don't want to change our “car first” habits. 

We want safer streets, but some of us don't like having speed laws enforced. 

We want plenty of public transit, and things like UC's class pass, but only for “other people” to use. 

The city government itself sets a bad example. Union contracts require provision of reserved parking spaces. Even the City Council has reserved spaces. 

I think I'll apply for the Transportation Czar job. 

If I had the job, I would: 

• Get rid of all the reserved parking spaces for city staff, except for people who use their cars for work during the day. 

• Block out a smaller number of city-paid parking spaces, near city buildings, for staff to use when they have to come to work hauling baggage. Some spaces could be reserved for large car pools and people with some kinds of disabilities. 

• Set up an Eco-Pass arrangement by which any city staff person who asks for it, would get a bus pass for free. 

• Make an “insurance policy” arrangement with a taxi company, to provide a guaranteed ride home. This policy could be sold cheaply to interested staff. 

• Encourage all Berkeley businesses to follow the city's lead. Give the businesses a reduction in taxes if they implement the plan: Eco-Pass, guaranteed ride and the above parking rules. 

• Get the School District going on the same plan. 

• Make getting on the plan a requirement for nonprofit status. 

• Privatize all the parking lots. 

If downtown businesses want lots of parking, let them form a parking corporation to provide it. No subsidies. 

• Ban on-street parking on College, Telegraph, Euclid and other places where parking clogs traffic. 

• Give AC Transit some kind of bonus if their bus lines run on-time over some period; deduct from the bonus every time they are more than 15 minutes late, or miss a run. 

• Build speed bumps on any street that needs “calming”, but find some way to allow a very slow-moving vehicle to bypass the bump (i.e. not lurch when carrying a disabled person). Ideas include “bypass slots” near the curbs, or diagonal “pass slots” in both lanes. 

• Identify any popular trips that create congestion, but are difficult to take using transit, and either get AC Transit to provide the service, or set up a Berkeley-run shuttle van. 

• Give zoning benefits to “car free office buildings.” These would have minimal parking – only shipping/receiving, salespeople and maybe a few carpool slots. The building would be on a bus line, or the management would operate a shuttle. Zoning benefits could be anything from expedited approval to actual money subsidies. 

• Block off sections of downtown as “car-free pedestrian malls”. Encourage sidewalk shops, cafes and such. A good place to start would be over by the Gaia Building. 

• Promote “transit to the arts” at night, by stationing pleasant young people at the BART station to greet theater patrons, and guide them to the show. After the show, guide people back to BART. 

• Promote transit-oriented patronage of shopping districts like Fourth Street. Tell people to leave their cars in Walnut Creek, ride the BART, then take the 9, 65 or 51 bus down to Fourth Street. Look into jump-starting delivery service for customers who come by transit. 

The list goes on... 

Well, am I hired? 


Steve Geller