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City does not provide adequate alternative transportation

Ching Lam Berkeley
Tuesday April 09, 2002



According to Anthony Downs in his article Causes of Recent Increases in Traffic Congestion, to reduce traffic congestion requires either decreasing the benefits of automobile ownership or increasing that of the alternative options. By imposing charges on the already limited parking and issuing parking tickets frequently, Berkeley does a good job in discouraging driving. However, the city fails to provide adequate alternatives for people who are willing to get rid of their cars. 

Riding bike is one option to travel around in Berkeley, but bike lanes are often absent. Bicycles attempting to share the narrow, side-parked road with other cars results in dangerous situations and the slowing down of traffic due to yielding. Indeed, riding bike would be a desirable traveling option if it were safer. 

To reduce automobile travel, John Levy in his book Contemporary Urban Planning states that public transit needs to be improved. (p194) The scheduled frequency of buses in Berkeley ranges from every 15 to 30 minutes during weekdays. Nonetheless, to totally replace the use of automobile, transit service needs to be more frequent and reliable than what we have right now. Sparse distribution of bus-stop, long traveling time and unreliable schedule obstruct people from giving up driving. 

Some people, like Levy, might argue that public transportation is far from self-sustaining. Levy believes that for it to run properly requires a population density of at least two thousand persons per square mile. (p194) It is understandable that the city cannot provide better public transit due to the lack of users. However, if the city decides to restrict its growth and reduce automobile ownership at the same time, it needs to be more affordable and self-sufficient. Supermarkets for everyday need should be located within walking or short bus-taking distance in the residential area in Berkeley. 

Berkeley’s transportation planning needs to re-think in the direction of providing more and better alternative modes other than driving. Taking away citizens’ privilege to drive without giving them a substitutable traveling option is totally unjust. Penalty alone is not enough to make people to give up driving unless they have a comparable option. I sincerely hope the City of Berkeley can make wise use with their income from issuing parking tickets. 


Ching Lam