Alameda Point: just thinking about it

With the discussion of Alameda Point heating back up, thought this recent interview with UC Berkeley Professor Robert Cervero was interesting. Cervero is one of the leading researchers of transportation and development (and studiers of real life examples of such things), he’s helping to define the actual effects of land use and transportation as they actually interact. A snippet of the interview:

Q: So you’re saying our system doesn’t work?
A:  It’s not to say that our system is broken; a lot of people like the freedom and individualism of the private car. But I think the difference you find in Europe is that people do own cars, they’re just not enslaved to them for any and every trip. They’re much more judicious and selective when they use the car or don’t. So if you live in a place like Stockholm or Copenhagen, if you go into the central city, everybody takes transit. Stockbrokers, day workers, school kids, everyone. But for regional destination trips, shopping, sports events, or if you’re making a late-night trip or doing big volume shopping they drive. For a weekend excursion they drive. So they are not anti-car, but the cities are designed so that transit is a respectable option for many.

Of course, if he were to say such things in Alameda, some would call him an idiot, a smart-growth zealot, a car-hater, etc. I guess he’s lucky he works in Berkeley.

7 comments for “Alameda Point: just thinking about it

  1. Edmundo Delmundo
    April 6, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    Euros…what do they know? ;)

    I would also suspect that European transit agencies don’t do silly things like RAISE RATES during rush hour to provide “incentive” for commuters to take earlier or later trains.

    Public transit in Europe is so convenient; unlike public transit here where the customer is considered the enemy.

  2. David Kirwin
    April 6, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    “he’s helping to define the actual effects of land use and transportation as they actually interact”

    (I wish we had a realist in Alameda working with the developers.)

    Perhaps he could review the differences as well as the commonalities. Europe has more options than hoping more people will take the bus, which is the essential element of the SunCal Transportation Plan.

    We silly people sorta expect the city Transportation Commission to be looking out for our mobility, not just trying to stick us on busses for which we have neither the time nor inclination to use.
    .
    Too bad members of our Transportation Commission such as yourself and Krueger are TOD zealots. Too bad you are supposed to be working for Alameda which lacks the modalities of “T” for TOD.

    Perhaps if we had BART, and trains, subways and trollys, and real transit hubs (where buses, trains, u-bahns, etc, intersect, not just calling a bus stop a ‘transit hub’) your ideas would have merit.

    But alas, this is Alameda, the island city virtually at the end of the road. Alameda itself will never be a ‘transit hub’ thus can never support TOD. So please, as your duty on the TC to protect our citizen’s transportation.

    The #1 modality for the 75% or more Alamedans who work is the SOV going across the estuary. Like it or not, it is your duty to protect the ability of our workers to get to and from work with the transportation modality of choice. – The people’s choice, not yours.

  3. April 7, 2009 at 7:19 am

    The “T” in TOD stands for more than just mechanized forms of transportation, things that Alameda and Alamedans have at their fingertips. Like walking and cycling.

    The limited number of times I’ve been to major European cities I have found public transportation to be convenient, but then again, I was on vacation and therefore not in a hurry so maybe my experience is blurried by that.

  4. dave
    April 7, 2009 at 8:47 am

    Major European cities generally do have pretty good transit alternatives, but the farther one goes out (and tourists rarely see the burbs) they start to get pretty car dependent. And in any case, anyone who has ever driven in the hellish traffic of major European cities would be amused to hear that “everybody takes transit. Stockbrokers, day workers, school kids, everyone.”

    In other words, it’s a lot like the Bay Area: pretty good transit to urban core, though not enough to eliminate gridlock entirely, but options away from the core are wanting. It’s a lot closer to the Air Conditioned Nightmare than Wonks w/ Eurail Passes are willing to believe.

  5. Michael Krueger
    April 9, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    When Cevero writes that “everybody” and “everyone” takes transit, I believe he means “every segment of society,” not “every single person.” In American cities, it’s frequently assumed that with the possible exception of a tiny handful of environmental wackos, the only people who take transit are those who can’t afford a car or are unable to drive. Transit use is often considered a mark of low income and social status.

    As Cevero points out, this is not the case in many European cities, where transit is considered acceptable and even desirable by people of all incomes and levels of social status, by people who do have other choices. It’s seen as an essential city service to be used by all, just as we view fire and police protection and road maintenance.

    Obviously, even cities with the best transit systems in the world still have traffic congestion; I’m not aware of a single city where everybody takes transit. However, in a city with excellent transit, bicycling, and walking options, the people caught in that automobile traffic congestion represent a much smaller percentage of the population than they do in a typical U.S. city. Having more convenient transportation choices may not eliminate traffic congestion, but it allows people to maintain their personal mobility despite vehicular congestion.

  6. April 12, 2009 at 9:07 am

    Does any unbiased organization have a site unveiling both the positives and negatives of the Suncal plan?

  7. April 14, 2009 at 10:37 pm

    I beg to differ with Mr. Kirwin. IMHO, the Transportation Commission’s job is to recommend sound, effective transportation policies to the City Council, and they have done just that. More power to them, and to the Council that has adopted their recommendations.

    Just because 75% of Alamedans want to do “X” does not mean that “X” should be encouraged or allowed to continue if it is a counterproductive behavior. The price of carbon-based fuel is still rising overall and the relative utility of driving a single-occupancy vehicle anywhere and everywhere is diminishing rapidly. It is about time for more rational behaviors to take root and replace the auto-based insanity we have been dreaming in for 70 years.

    But even granting that the TC should “protect the ability of our workers” to drive one to a car, it cannot do so past our borders. Alameda does not control Alamedans’ access to 880, the Bay Bridge, or even to Chinatown, so all we gain is our “freedom” to sit in the tubes ad nauseum in traffic jams. How “smart” is that?

    Are we not “smarter” if we adopt transportation strategies and modes (like transit and cycling) that will help us actually get to our destinations?

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