Thursday & Friday’s rides – July 29 & 30 – And some numbers after the first tolling month


THURSDAY – VALLEJO CARPOOL
Knowing that the sun will eventually beat back the fog later today and that it will warm up – a little – keeps me going while I stand shivering in this morning’s short line. It’s been a dilemma how to dress each day. A heavy coat is too hot to wear home in the late afternoon, but it sure feels good in the morning. Warm scarves have become my daily accessory. I pass up the first ride – a sporty 2 seat Mercedes, S-500, I think. Too small, too fast, not safe. The next ride is also a Mercedes – a large comfy and safer C-240. No heat in the car, but I’ll survive. I pay my dollar, the other passenger pays $1.25, so this morning’s ride costs our driver a quarter in tolls. Hey, he’s got a Mercedes – he can handle it, right?

FRIDAY – VALLEJO CARPOOL
Another long line of cars and I am in a Toyota Corolla. I and the rear passenger hand over our toll contribution, which is graciously received. A very stylish driver with a great hair cut, who actually looks terrific in her Friday jeans! I mention the construction work going on by the Vallejo Ferry Terminal (new parking structure plus re-modeled Ferry terminal building) and that starts a lively conversation that lasts the entire commute – about Vallejo and its future. She’s a former San Franciscan, who moved to Vallejo several years ago, where she bought a home. “I couldn’t afford to buy in the City.” However, she’s come to realize that her commute expense has made it more expensive to NOT live in San Francisco. “But I could never have bought a house there, and that’s the trade-off.” She’s excited about the potential in Vallejo. Especially, she says, after a conversation she had with a recent casual carpool rider. “He was amazing! He had so many great ideas and actually knew how they could be implemented.” These included, among many other things, corporate headquarters on Mare Island and a light rail connection from Vallejo to BART. She encouraged him to run for office and we agreed that anyone with that kind of visionary energy has an obligation to put it into action. A great ride.

THE NUMBERS ARE IN – 12,000 FEWER CARPOOLERS
Both the Chronicle and Examiner carried front page stories yesterday (Thursday, July 29, 2010) with the latest data on the new bridge toll. The numbers were compared to last July’s traffic and this year there were over 12,000 fewer daily carpoolers on ALL the bay area toll bridges. On the Bay Bridge, the number dropped by 5,350, a 29% decrease from the same time last year. Total traffic also decreased from last year by 3,531 vehicles a day, an 8 1/2% decrease. It looks like some carpoolers may have switched to BART – there were about 1,500 more BART morning commuters in July. Less traffic also meant that the maximum delay on the bridge dropped from 19 minutes to 10 minutes.

These numbers undoubtedly reflect the traditionally light traffic during the summer, as well as job loss. The unemployment rate in California is 12.3%, just below Nevada (14.2% and Michigan 13.2%) and in San Francisco, unemployment is up to 10.5%, almost a 1 percent increase from last year.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission is happy with the numbers, and calls the new tolls a success. “We’re raising revenue and seeing decreased congestion”, Steve Heminger, executive director of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission told the Chronicle.

Having fewer people carpooling doesn’t seem like a success story to me, but I guess it depends on your perspective. We’ll see how wonderful it is to have fewer people carpooling come September and more cars on the road.

Find a warm spot to enjoy the weekend. Back on Monday. CG

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