Designing a workable transportation system as an alternative to driving everywhere in town is a bit of a daunting challenge here in Cupertino. Its urban sprawl creates public transportation design nightmares because of the complex mazes of small interconnecting streets leading randomly in every direction designed for cars and privacy. The vast majority of residential homes are located in these tangled webs of streets and dead ends impossible for public transit to feasibly service. This makes it very difficult to design an effective commuter system to serve Cupertino residents since most live somewhere within these mazes some distance from possible transit stops along major streets.
One proposal is to have many small minibuses that citizens can call or use applications to pick them up to take them to these transit stops or nearby destinations. But who is going to finance and run such a fleet? It isn’t going to be as cheap as larger transit buses on routine routes. Others propose Uber-like services to do this. But this is costly and is not optimal for reducing vehicular traffic or pollution since these services utilize energy-consuming vehicles and are part of the traffic stream, not much different from residents driving themselves unless people largely Uberpool.
But these two ideas are only extensions of driving a car and do not break the cultural mold of motorized vehicular transportation. We need more out of the box ideas that directly solve this urbanized boxed-in culture we have locked ourselves into. Our city was designed for an urban population of 20,000 who drove cars, not a city of 60,000 and growing with increasing traffic congestion. How do we get ourselves out of this motorized rut with some practical and growth sustainable ideas for transportation? Cars simply take up too much space to drive and park and use too much energy and result in many accident fatalities.
The challenge is how to design a transportation system that is relatively inexpensive, does not require much space, and is green yet solves the most challenging part of this puzzle, getting resident from their homes to public transportation. I have actually proposed a solution in parts of other posts. Promoting more bicycle riding is one of the objectives of this blog and poses such a solution. It is relatively inexpensive, quite doable in our geography where the weather is outstanding compared to most other places where biking is popular such as in parts of Europe and such places as Portland Oregon. Most of the city is fairly flat except at its western extremes. So there is no reason why people could not bike to a transit stop, park their bike in a bicycle locker or bicycle rack and take a bus or even place their bike on a bike rack that buses carry, then go to their destinations. No need to contact a minibus or Uber car and pay money. Simply hop on your bike then hop on a bus.
Another option is for the city to provide inexpensive free bicycles like eBay and Apple does for their employees. Residents can take a bike home with them, ride it to a bus stop, park the bike and not have to worry about it being stolen, take the bus, then on the return trip pick up another bike at the bus stop and ride it home. Buying a lot of bikes (10,000) would be cheaper than buying a fleet of minibuses and there would be little ongoing expenses. Bicycles can also be ridden directly to nearby (5 mi.) destinations. Bicycles after all take up far less space to ride and park and cost virtually nothing to maintain and ride and cost little in infrastructure maintenance. They are the greenest form of transportation consuming zero energy and producing zero emissions. There is really nothing novel about bicycles being a major form of transportation. Denmark, Norway, and Sweden have been doing this for decades. Portland Oregon and Davis is doing it today. So why couldn’t we? We must get out of the rut of thinking that the only way to get anywhere is by car, minibus, or public transit.
But the best thing about biking is its health benefits. Bike riding exercises ones muscles, heart, and lungs. It burns calories that are responsible for putting on weight. It also controls cholesterol which is used during exercise and makes you feel more fit and healthier. It is a good way to relieve stress from a day at work by getting more blood to your brain. It is low impact so better for your knees than jogging and gets you further. You can actually get a natural high from biking if you push yourself and you can go somewhere doing it absolutely free, unlike paying to going to the gym and biking to nowhere. Of course our streets must first be made to feel safe for all ages to bike before such things can happen.