Monday, August 4, 2008

The Tipping Point

On Saturday night, I trekked out to the Mission to see my friend's band play. What with the coming apocalypse and all, I decided to take BART rather than drive. Round trip fare was $6.90. With gas being over $4 a gallon, and the $4 bridge toll, driving would have cost me $8. So I saved about $1.

I also sometimes go out to Fremont to visit the homies. The BART fare out there and back is $7.10. My Toyota Corolla would burn about $8 worth of gas on that trip. So mass transit wins again.

What I'm wondering is, shouldn't this be some sort of crucial tipping point? If we're all rational actors, as economists like to think, shouldn't people be flocking to public transportation in droves now that individual fares are competitive with the cost of driving? Much ado is made about the point sometime off in the future when wind or solar power costs less than coal to use. Shouldn't this be the same thing?

I will say this: I no longer feel like a wild-eyed altruistic/masochistic goody-goody when I take BART. I'm just doing what's cheapest and most practical. Thank God for little things.


Erik said...

It's easy to figure out the tipping point in terms of just monetary costs. The harder part is the unquantifiable costs. Some people are perfectly willing to pay $10 in gas for a trip that would cost $5 on BART because driving means they can come and go when they want and don't have to interact with the more diverse elements of BART's clientele.

Crimson said...

Yes, I totally agree that there are other considerations people make besides monetary ones. It's just a mental calculation I make whenever I take BART, to help me determine whether I feel like a sucker or not.

At least BART is usually almost as fast as driving (depending on where you're headed, of course), and the trains are pretty nice. I was gonna save my rant about buses for a later post, but here's a preview: they suck.

jennconspiracy said...

I echo the sentiment that it's more than straight monetary costs in terms of gas vs. fares.

Let's not forget how much cheaper it is to take BART or pay $50 for a taxi (after BART stops running around midnight and you don't feel like spending an hour to get to Transbay to get dropped off at Grand to wait for another bus) than it is to get a DUI.

Russell said...

In Atlanta, you'd pay $13 dollars a week and ride the busses and trains "all you want." In New York, $25 dollars will get you the same thing. I can go on and on. In those cities, you can make "stops," then continue on your trip. Once you get off of the train you can transfer to the busses for "zero" extra dollars. We have no passes, no free stops. If your destination is walking distance from a station, you're good, but here, we have to pay all over again to ride the bus. People in the Bay Area are suckers. BART is massively overpriced. No one even questions it here. BART actually charges for parking. Lunacy. They're supposed to be encouraging people to ride.

Even in Los Angeles, a weekly Metro Pass is $17 dollars for unlimited bus and train rides. I frequently have to pay for AC Transit to pay for BART to pay for Muni from Oakland to S.F. Nobody ever questions the stupidity of that here. Why?

Transportation here in the Bay Area is second to none in my opinion. Why BART isn't in San Jose and Marin is more lunacy, but otherwise it's fine, just overpriced and expensive.