Hop on the bus, Gus…or light rail now, as the case may be

Gus Fischer

February 23, 2015

Buy the ticket, take the ride.  
― Hunter S. Thompson

Gus Fischer, AIA, LEED AP, is a Partner with Dreyfuss + Blackford and this is how he rolls…

That old Paul Simon song will probably be forever stuck in my head. It topped the charts in 1976 when I was a freshly minted teenager and it always seemed there was some kid hollering out those lyrics as my best friend Lee and I boarded our neighborhood school bus. Those were the days. Although the school bus is no longer an option for me, transit still is.

My current preferred method of mass transit is light rail. It stops on 39th Street just a short distance from the Dreyfuss + Blackford office. I will admit that the “ride” in is really convenient. At the other end of the line, though, the station is a little longer distance from my home. But since necessity is the mother of invention, I often employ my bike – or even my longboard – to help speed up that “last mile”. Yes, that’s how I roll. How do you?

A report in USA Today states that the average American’s commute to work is 25 minutes each way. If you do the math, that’s 20o hours a year spent commuting. A few places in California are double that; higher than 50 minutes each way. Besides the time spent in the car, there’s the cost associated with driving and maintaining your vehicle. And if time and money weren’t enough of a motivator, how about your health?

In researching this topic, I discovered that blood pressure spikes, high cholesterol and increased anxiety are all side effects of commuting…and those are only a few on the list. Air quality is suffering and so are local economies. I have experienced firsthand the many benefits of transit, but this information made it even more evident: we all need to support public transit in our communities.

Several Northern California agencies are leading the way in this quest for efficient, quality transit choices. San Joaquin County has been undergoing a robust expansion of the regional transit bus system. This led to the need for a modern, efficient bus maintenance facility. San Joaquin Regional Transit District (RTD) enlisted Dreyfuss + Blackford to design their new maintenance facility which will house all repair services for a fleet of 100 vehicles, as well as staff and driver’s facilities and administrative support.

These improvements will directly benefit customers by lowering operating costs while providing cleaner, better maintained buses. Through this increased efficiency, RTD says it should be able to increase services on the street, create 900+ new jobs and introduce new long-term jobs made possible by reduced maintenance and operation costs.

And the good news for residents of San Joaquin County doesn’t stop here. Last week it was announced that San Joaquin RTD won a competitive $4.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to purchase five Proterra battery-powered electric buses and a charging station. RTD plans to add the zero-emission buses and charging station to expand service and increase capacity at the Stockton Downtown Transit Center.

Over in Richmond, the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District (AC Transit) is adding to their service by renovating the maintenance yard there so it can be reactivated. This is just one of many upgrades planned for this special purpose, public transit district providing mass transit services over a 364-square-mile area of the East Bay. Dreyfuss + Blackford is assisting AC Transit with their efforts to serve area residents better by providing safe, reliable transit facilities – key to keeping California (and Californians) moving.

Although transit is only one component of our transportation system, it seems a necessity rather than a luxury. The Caltrans Statewide Transit Strategic Plan reports that by 2020, California will add about ten million people; by 2050 the population could reach 70 million. Meanwhile, a significant percentage of the population will be elderly or disabled. The good news? Other agencies across the state are also moving forward on commuter rail, light rail, bus and modern streetcar projects, including efforts in Sacramento to build a 3.3-mile streetcar line.

336_SacramentoStreetcar_DA_093_01_Courtesy of NC3DRendering courtesy of NC3D

I am blessed to have options for my commute and riding light rail is a nice change of pace. It allows me to prepare my mind for the day ahead, get in a little reading and definitely get more exercise. Yes, the personal benefits are great; but mass transit also improves our cities by reducing traffic congestion and commute times, reducing energy consumption, providing essential transportation for those who can’t drive or don’t have automobiles and opening up educational, economic and other opportunities to disadvantaged residents.

From our personal health to the health of our local communities – the Association of Public Transit Agencies (APTA) forecasts a four-fold economic return on investment for every dollar spent on public transportation – public transit adds value…and gives me an opportunity to ride my longboard while humming an old favorite tune.

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