This is a response to a comment from an Mission Local article covering the BART candidate forum.
If we’re serious about providing mass transit for most people in the Bay Area, rail is not an option. The systemic problems with rail make it too expensive and inflexible to serve the majority of the Bay population.
You can see the symptoms everywhere in BART.
These problems with rail are not unique to the BART system. They stem from the systemic properties of rail. The big ones are.
To draw a parallel to the computer industry, rails are essentially hard wired. Before software, the logic of computers had to physically wired. To change even the smallest part of the logic, nearly the whole computer had to be redesigned. This was expensive and slow. Then software was invented so that changing the computer logic only required typing. Today, massively complex math can be done with only a few lines of code.
To change a rail system, you must physically rewire it by laying down new tracks.
I agree that some things (like calculus) invented before dial up internet don’t need to be improved. However, I’d argue that even spoons, forks and plates are improved by burritos and other increasingly popular utensil-less foods.
Knowing that any significant change to BART will take 10+ years, we need to plan for the technological advances over that time. We don’t want to have a ribbon cutting ceremony with trains that are already decades out of date. I don’t know if self driving electric BUSES will be the best fit for mass transit, but it certainly seems headed in that direction.
Thanks to limited public and private funding, there have been major advances in self driving capabilities and electric car performance. Now, private companies, including most major car companies, are investing billions of dollars every year to develop both self driving electric car technology. We can only expect the innovation in these fields to increase.
A self driving electric bus system also solves many of the systemic problems that plague rail.
So if we’re serious about providing mass transit for MOST of the bay area, we need to start thinking in a new paradigm. It’s obvious from the “Better BART” plan its associated bond that BART leadership is still thinking under the old paradigm.
Personally, I think BART has the opportunity to create the world's best transit system in 20 years. This system would be one that where the majority of people the Bay Area to not need a car to access. World leaders would come ride it to get ideas for their own countries. This is not impossible, but would require vision and political will.
Regardless, BART riders and taxpayers, should hold BART to a higher expectations.
This post attempts to simplify BART and the bond required to cover its maintenance costs into a situation individuals are more familiar with, a car and loan.
Every year, you've done all the required maintenance to keep it running and even make it nicer. You've changed its oil, replaced the seats, generally kept it in reliable condition. But now maintenance is getting more expensive and things like the motor just might stop working. You can't miss work because your car doesn't work. You need to do something.
You call your mechanic and share your worries. She has done a great job through the years keeping your car running and you trust her. She says their are three options.
This example with the car are similar to the situation we face with BART. The times match when BART was constructed (1972). The costs of buying and repairing the car are proportional to the original cost to construct BART ($9.3 Billion in 2016 dollars), the estimated cost to maintain BART (>$10 Billion over the next 10 years). Determining the cost of replacing BART with a better system will be the topic of the next post.
I hope this was helpful to get an intuitive sense of the decision the BART Board and voters get to make in November. Should we continue to maintain our Lincoln or should we upgrade with the times.
I do support the 2016 BART bond but we need directors who know how to build a transit system that won't need another bond in 10 years.
What you'll find.
This blog is a raw dump of information about how to create the worlds best mass transit system in the Bay Area.