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Answer’s not either/or

Tuesday November 27, 2001


In you weekend edition, you had a letter and two stories related to Berkeley’s transportation problems. The letter of Steve Geller suggest that the issue is black or white, with no grays whatsoever, ie, it’s either buses or parking. One should definitely promote public transportation, but they are not the whole solution. Berkeley has rightly encouraged public transportation, but we still have large buses, that are inefficient, run mostly empty, spew large amounts of diesel fumes into the air, run infrequently, are expensive, and slow traffic. Moreover, as pointed out on page 5 of the same paper as Geller’s letter appears, the headline “Berkeley’s bus riders, city getting left out in the rain,” regarding the lack of bus shelters. Maybe people don’t want to stand in the rain or cold waiting 30 minutes or more for a bus. 

Geller sarcastically suggests that people who come to the YMCA for exercise are “too delicate to get on a bus.” Maybe it could be that some may be women concerned for their safety, who do not want to walk to, eait for, or take public transportation at night. Or maybe its a hardy, non delicate parent with several children,who just wants to take his kids for a family swim. 

Geller also suggests that the only people who want adequate parking are “people who run downtown enterprises (who) see a dwindling number of customers,” i.e., greedy businessmen. What about the school teachers at Berkeley High, Vista, etc., or those that work for the city, including the police, and city council (all of whom have reserved parking spaces available to them), and what about the employees that work in the library, restaurants, stores. We now have a situation were many people can not afford to live in Berkeley due to the high rents and cost of real estate. Some are forced to live in areas were taking buses to work would be a major inconvenience in both time and money. 

Finally, the third story was “Holiday shoppers flock to Fourth St.” The story states shoppers from around the Bay Area “chose Berkeley’s Fourth Street shopping district as their primary destination.” If that’s so, the question is why would shoppers go to Fourth Street and not to downtown Berkeley which has a BART station, and many more buses? Perhaps the answer appears in the same story.  

“The area’s free parking lot was filled to capacity around noon, with several cars queued up and ready to pounce on any space that became available. The nearby Spenger’s lot, which charges by the hour, was doing brisk business.” Perhaps the idea of carrying multiple heavy bags filled with Xmas presents to a bus stop, waiting, perhaps in the rain, until a bus arrives, holding them on your lap for one or more bus rides, and then carrying them to their home, did not appeal to everyone. Maybe some of the people need to drive because they are elderly, sick, or disabled. 

The city can’t stick its head in the sand and pretend that the automobile will disappear. We all want better mass transportation, fewer and cleaner cars and diesel buses, and cleaner air. But forcing people to drive around looking for parking isn’t going to force them to use the mass transportation that we have now and will have for the forseeable future. 

David M. Weitzman