Editor, Daily Nexus,
C.K. Hickey’s opinion piece (“Golden State Blues: Obsession With Cars Hinders BART,” Daily Nexus, May 4) is soooo 20th century! I look to today’s college students to be innovators, but when I read or hear someone say something like, “The problem is that we’re incurably, helplessly, head-over-heels in love with cars,” it sounds like something I might have heard over a new-fangled transistor radio in the 1950s. Saying we’re in love with cars is like saying an addict is in love with crack. Gas prices are high. Congestion is intolerable. Global warming is real and 40,000 people a year are killed by cars. And urban space is devoured by auto uses. Nevertheless, Hickey seems to be saying, “I’ve got to have more” – sounds like the essence of romantic love to me.
The fact that BART serves only four of the nine Bay Area counties, handling one of nine commute trips seems pretty impressive to me. When I first became involved in Bay Area transit 30 years ago, BART was carrying 150,000 daily riders. Today, it’s pushing 350,000. The system I worked for, Caltrain, carried about 14,000 a day then. It carries nearly triple that now. And in that same amount of time, the state of California, unofficial home of this so-called automobile love affair, has created a network of intercity passenger trains that is second to none in the country, with a resulting ridership boom that has been unstoppable. Corridors such as LA-Santa Barbara-San Luis Obispo were non-existent back then. Today they are some of Amtrak’s best performers – nationwide. Looks to me as if, in a growing number of cases, the automobile’s been jilted.
We’re looking for the next generation to carry the dream forward. Back in the’70s when we got started, it was mod and cool and groovy to be transit advocates, but unlike these terms, we knew the transit cause would still be relevant in the 21st century. Tell Hickey to enter a 12-step program to lose his auto “love affair.” Have him use his “higher power” to write a “Dear John” letter to his car and join us in the cause. He won’t be sorry.