The benefits of public transportation are well documented. It reduces traffic congestion and results in far less pollution and greenhouse gases than cars driving by individual drivers. It also uses less fuel thus reducing our dependence upon fossil fuel today. But it has other benefits such as a worry free commuting not having to fight traffic and is a safer mode of transportation since accidents in buses result in fewer serious injuries than cars. Countries with well designed public transportation system have very regular and frequent pickups and fast commutes with fewer cars and traffic congestion. That is lacking here in much of the U.S. because our gasoline tax is among the lowest of nations with well-developed public transportation. Gasoline tax is typically $0.20 per gallon vs. other countries which is around $2.00 per gallon. Thus we have relatively little money going into public transportation.
I’ve put much thought into how to make Public Transportation more popular in Cupertino. There are at least a couple of reasons that Public Transportation has failed here:
- We are too affluent and our tolerance for discomfort in traveling is quite low so we value the luxury and privacy of our cars more than public transportation whereas lower income people are more inclined towards the lower cost and freedom from fighting traffic congestion of public transportation;
- The “first and last mile” – our urban sprawls make it difficult for public transportation to pick us up conveniently close to our houses (first mile) and deliver us conveniently to where we work (last mile) because companies are spread out all over Silicon Valley. It is that “first and last mile” to and from transit hubs that discourages people from using public transportation.
I have a different take on the issue of public transportation than other people. I propose that the city make free all VTA transportation in the city of Cupertino. Even people living in affluent areas like a good hassle free deal. This would mean that anyone taking a bus here simply has to step onto the bus and get off wherever they want, even outside of the city with no hassle. Thus people working here would pay to catch the bus to work from out-of-town to Cupertino but would be able to return home free thus incentivizing them to take a bus since half their fare is paid for by the city. And it would make shopping very convenient to residents. It would mean residents could take the bus to Caltrain and pay for the return trip cutting the fare in half and simplifying the fast and no hassle boarding the bus in Cupertino.
Cupertino would make a deal with VTA to pay them the fare box money that would at least make running each bus feasible for them. Then for example if they run a bus down Bubb Rd. or some other road we would pay them by the same criterion. This way we guarantee them a minimum fare regardless if the bus has people or not. That makes it possible for the city to ask for more buses to cover certain areas and the free fare would incentive’s more people to use the bus.
But where would the city get money from? Maybe some of it could come from Building Impact Fees levied on developers as part of the price of building here and as a part of the business tax for businesses here since it could bring in more customers. A long-term benefit of free buses to businesses is that it may help not fill up their parking lots with people driving their car eventually allowing smaller parking lots and more room for more business buildings.
At least Cupertino could try this as an experiment on a temporary basis for a 2-3 month period to see how many people would be willing to use public transportation. The city could work a deal with VTA to add service on certain streets not currently served as part of the experiment. If ridership is high then the city could extend the free service or do more experiments.
Most public transportation have accommodations for those wanting to take their bicycle. For example most VTA buses have bicycle racks in front of the bus. This helps the problem of the last mile where many public transit does not pick people up close enough to home nor drop them off close enough to work or other destinations.