Monday, April 20, 2009

Berkeley Mayor Takes the Bus

SF Chronicle Comical reporter Carolyn Jones reports that Berkeley mayor Tom Bates has given up his Volvo to ride the bus. The article itself is very uncritical of other local mayors' attempts to greenwash their transportation mode of choice.
Mayor Gavin Newsom rides in a hybrid police car for city business, and on weekends he drives his all-electric Tesla Roadster.

He also rides Muni incognito, disguised in a baseball cap, and walks when he can, said his spokesman Nathan Ballard.

Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed both drive hybrids. Reed traded in his Explorer for a Prius two years ago, and McLaughlin drives a city-owned Honda hybrid.

Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums is chauffeured in a Lincoln Town Car, according to press reports. A 2009 Town Car gets 19 miles to the gallon, according to Edmunds auto guide. -Carolyn Jones

The photo caption, however, get's it right:

And those mayors with hybrids thought they were so green. ... Berkeley's Tom Bates has traded in his car for AC Transit. -SF Chronicle
think if more of our civic leaders actually took Muni (like the 700,000+ people they claim to represent) we would see doomsday scenarios like the one we currently face far less frequently.

The school of thought that sees Muni as a superfluous public service - one that ought to learn the virtue of making do with less - holds too much sway in this town. We hear nearly unanimous agreement that parking meters are underpriced and traffic enforcement is too lax, but when faced with a budget deficit what do we do? Certainly not increase parking meter rates or traffic fines or enforcement. No, we do what we always do: balance the budget on the backs of the politically impotent riders.

If fares go up to $2 per ride, they will be twice what they were in 2003. Can we say the same thing about parking tickets or meter rates? Have we even considered trying to actually collect those meter revenues?

And for all my bellyaching about Muni, AC Transit is even more chronically underfunded. By taking the bus around the East Bay, Mayor Bates is far more likely to appreciate the problems other riders face. That's a great thing.

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