December 12, 1992
BART Board of Directors
800 Madison Street
Oakland, California 94607
Re: BART Parking Construction
What, another letter opposing parking construction? What was wrong with the last five letters? Nothing, except that they were all ignored by BART and the MTC. Obviously, what we have here is not a democracy, but an elected auto-cracy (government by the automobile). Like most government bodies in the Bay Area, BART needs to listen more to its consitituents, and start restoring our quality of life, by helping to eliminate our dependence on the automobile and its relatives.
Please stop the offensive "Dear Passenger" letters that assert that "the added parking capacity of the new garage will benefit all BART passengers using the Walnut Creek Station". Will the whole structure be devoted to bicycle parking? How else could it benefit me? Certainly not by allowing more cars to pollute the air around the station, or get in the way of the buses. Certainly not by spending several thousand dollars on each auto user in order to get them to do us a favor and use BART. Certainly not by ensuring that BART stations are surrounded by a wasteland of concrete whose only function is to store automobiles for 10 hours a day and be even less productive (if possible!) the other 14 hours.
Bicyclists who use the Walnut Creek station are treated to parking which is not safe (witness several bicycle skeletons still locked to your racks), and is not even protected from the rain! There are only a few secure lockers, and several of those get dripped on by water leaking through the station. Of course, bicyclists have to pay to use those lockers, whereas auto users are given free use of spaces that cost about 10-20 times as much! Further insults are forcing bicyclists to use the stairs (have you ever tried carrying a bicycle out of Civic Center Station! in Montreal you are allowed to use the escalators) and to ride only during off-peak hours. Baby carriages, which are quite similar to bicycles, don't get this treatment.
As extreme examples of BART's break with reality, witness Director Joe Fitzpatrick's proposal to provide free valet parking (presumably not available to bicyclists), and Wil Ussery's fantasies about Maglev (which even the Japanese haven't been able to make commercially viable, after decades of research). Like most branches of government, BART could use an injection of fiscal and scientific reality. You could get both by simply opening your ears and minds to the public.
The very least you should do with the parking is charge a realistic fee for its use, and make sure that it is constructed using road funds (since it benefits only auto users), not scarce transit funds. But ideally, the area around the station should be developed with stores, hotels, and other amenities that make better use of the fact that the stations are our most transit-accessible locations. Stations that aren't in the middle of a freeway (and hence noise and pollution)(which, by the way, should be all stations) would make excellent places for schools and universities (whose students commute from all over the Bay Area) to build extra classrooms. Space that is that accessible should receive constant use. Even housing, which sits idle for 10 hours a day, is not a good use of a transit hub. Making the best use of all of our resources is the only way we can reduce the national debt and survive in the world economy. When we consider that our supplies of oil will run out around 2020, laying more asphalt and concrete is clearly unwise.
Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D.
Alliance for a Paving Moratorium
Auto-Free Bay Area