Sunday, August 27, 2006


Today was a crazy and sad day. I went up to San Francisco to participate in a total waste of time. Remind me to not donate to public television for the drivel they put on during pledge week. I volunteered and got some passes to this terrible real estate wealth seminar, I paid nothing for it and I still overpaid. Thankfully, I'm a member of SFMOMA and went across the street and took a docent led tour of the permanent collection and watched a portion of Matt Barney's "Drawing Restraint 9" which also included his partner Bjork. Salvaging a day in the city.

Today was my experiment with public transit, so let's stat it out.

Miles Biked: 10
Miles Trained: 80+
Travel legs: 3

I started off in the morning by riding to catch the train to head to San Francisco, being a local, the trip took me 1 hour 20 minutes. Given that I had all the time of the world it wasn't prohibitive, and the iPod was a godsend. It gave me some serious think time which will include some of the observations going into this lengthy post. Those who know me, know that I have completely fallen in love with the Moleskine brand of notebooks, pornographically expensive but worth it. I was able to study and memorize some observations of a story about Joan Didion, in the NYT.

In short, transit can be a time to think undisturbed. I love planes for the same reason. God forbid they ever let mobiles on flights. I recall using the time in Taipei on my way to class to study. Driving is dead time, you can't do anything but talk and drive. And when all is said and done, more is said than done.

The one thing I did feel constrained is that transit in America inflicts a schedule and a loss of freedom not inhabitated by most of America. My day was suppose to be free, and with a car I'd do what I would do. But because I was at the mercy of the time table, I had to be cognizant of time in a way that I am not usually. I even wore a watch today which saved me at a party to catching the train home before dark. The only exception is cities where transit is regular enough that I do not have to be conscious, I simply go to the station and wait for a reasonable amount of time. Cars remove time in a way that transit in most parts of America does not.

There are two types of people who transit in America, those who can afford it and those who cannot. For one it's a luxury for the other it is a lack of choice. Frightening at rush hour to see the two combine. It may be the only democratic place left in America where citizens are on equal footing. I think of Abby Joseph Cohen and Mayor Bloomberg riding the subway in NYC.

However, despite the power of those two, true wealth is granted to those who can shirk any notion of schedule to meet their whims.

After I got to San Francisco, I hopped on my bike and was able to jet around with impunity and not get killed. If you are looking for a great song in this vein, Amy Correia's "The Bike" is worth listening. She is a song writer. The downside is that you do get a little sweaty which is not appropriate for most gatherings. Of course I could just be too fat and out of shape. Relatively not so. Thing is that it could have taken me 20 minutes to walk or 5 minutes bike ride, the ability to make it from the train to my destination was key.

I later got back on the train to head down South to go to a friend S's going away party as she goes to save the world working on environmental policy. Again, without the bike getting from the train station to my friend T's house would have been unreasonable.

Transit is possible if we have the two figured out:

1) More frequency
2) More ways to get to places once you get to the main hub. We do this for cars to planes.

I was once told that the Paris Metro goal was that there was always a stop within 10 minutes walk.

We need more taxis and more buses to connect people. I would say that city transit should be free and possibly taxed across everyone whether they use it or not. People will still drive for the convenience, but we could raise the quality for everyone else and shift the load and make a difference. This is not well thought out. It has to be economics where we don't think of the cost of transit on a trip by trip basis.



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