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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Gary Gee vs. Scott Haggerty and SF Taxi Medallions

Bold ideas for Bay Area public transit are getting a lot of looks today. In Matier and Ross, you have BART Police Chief Gary Gee calling for an end to free rides on Spare the Air Days except for morning communters. Gee is mad that Spare the Air works, by which I mean more people ride BART, many of whom do so instead of driving. Apparently, some 2%'ers were causing trouble due to Gee's lack of protection and so he wants to end the whole program -- instead of doing his job. This line cracked me up:

The capper for the BART cops was when two young men from San Francisco were arrested July 17 just moments after they allegedly broke into a car in the parking lot of the Castro Valley station. An investigation linked the pair to as many as 10 burglaries at the Castro Valley, Dublin/Pleasanton and San Leandro stations, Gee said.

When police asked them where they had parked their own car, the two said they hadn't driven to the East Bay. They had taken BART for free.
In the last three years, there have been a total of 9 Spare the Air days, but the "capper" for why Gee wants to end the program involves suspects who are tied to 10 burglaries. Could it be that breaking into cars at the Castro Valley station actually yields a gain greater than the $4.10 it costs for a BART ride from downtown San Francisco? If not, should Gee really be worried by criminals who would ride on BART for 40 minutes to steal less than the cost of their ticket? With BART a major terrorist target, shouldn't the BART Chief worry about securing parking lots all of the time?

On the other end of the bold transit ideas spectrum are Alameda Supervisor Scott Haggerty and SF Supervisor Tom Ammiano who want to look into free transit. Considerring that Spare the Air Days have proven people will park their cars when given the economic incentive of free transit, this is something that should warrent some more discussion. I mean, right now people will ride BART during Spare the Air Days despite all of the crazy kids, think what the result would be if Gary Gee could do a good job protecting riders.

Also, over at The Wall, Marvin Destin has a great, in-depth look at the screwed up economics governing the Taxi Cab industry in San Francisco along with some bold ideas for reform. Since the Heidi Machan episode should result in serious paybacks from reformers, this piece is a great look at some of the ideas that might be put into play. My view is that the Taxi Commission made a fatal mistake in not allowing Machan to enforce the existing rules, a worse mistake by firing her, and now the political situation is ripe for fundamental reform that the free-loaders should fear far more than an enforcement of existing law.

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