Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The impending BART strike and the growth of light rail

For those of you not blessed enough to currently reside in the Bay Area, you may not be aware that there are some major labor negotiations going on between BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) and the union workers who operate the trains. It has managed to cool down a bit over the last few weeks, but the threat still looms in the air, particularly for transportation organizations that have to create solutions NOW to make up for the havoc that will be created if the strike ever takes place. It's not only a matter of thousands of commuters suddenly being either placed on the freeways or having no method of reaching their place of employment - oh no, that's too easy. Transportation agencies are having to deal with all kinds of strike-related issues that may or may not drop at any moment, including things like where to move bus stops now that BART premises could be blocked. It's a headache and frankly, it's almost disgusting. I find it clear evidence of lunacy that anyone could expect a raise in this economic climate, and especially given the outrageous benefits that a BART worker already receives. Yeah dude, fight for the cause, but maybe next year - you should probably just be glad you have a job.

Sorry for the sidenote. My point here is that I wonder what will happen if the U.S. ever decides to rely on methods of transportation like light rail. If we had the kind of national line network that President Obama has expressed interest in, a strike like this one could shut down the entire country. It could shut down the whole state, in California's case. This isn't a freeway system; the trains can't operate themselves. And it's also not a purely private endeavor, which means there is really no choice regarding the trains like there could be in the event of an airline strike. Would investing in light rail be a danger to our economy? And what's more, could it be a danger to our national security? What would happen if the country's main method of transportation (potentially) were to be stopped somehow?

Something to think about: could we make our light rail not only the greenest form of transportation in the country as well as the most advanced transportation technology, but also make it strike-proof? Think there's any way to prepare for that?

** In the meantime, if you're trying to find a way around the BART strike, check out (for Alameda county) or (Contra Costa county).

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