So those of you with an eye on Twitter will have noticed I took the train up to San Francisco for a movie yesterday. On the train, I was thinking about something I spend a lot of time thinking about but a new thought occurred to me.
So, no one in the Bay Area takes public transportation. A fair amount of people take the train, but nobody takes buses unless they live in San Francisco, and then they complain about being late and getting stabbed all the time. People in the Bay Area also spend a lot of time complaining about how nobody takes public transportation, despite the area’s environmentalist credentials. Fine, old news, the blame lies squarely on the cities driving people and businesses out, fine whatever.
Except! I dunno about down here but there’s a very fine railway museum in Revelstoke, British Columbia, which takes on an a journey through the history of Canadian rail travel. At the beginning one marvels at the fine china and gold-plated tea spoons, and then there’s a sign that in the 1970s first class rail was abolished because of the usual 1970s-Candian-socialist earnestness about leveling the classes. So of course nobody took trains anymore. It was as if the government shut down the cruise operators and made them run ferry ships instead, with plastic vinyl seats and over-priced stale muffins instead of the karaoke and buffets.
So what does that have to do with Bay Area transit? There’s no first class bus system, of course. Ah hah! But there is! See, in a practical, intelligent world, the bus companies would run express buses between key residential neighborhoods in the city and the main corporate campuses in the Peninsula and South Bay, and would probably make money doing so. But they don’t, probably because liberals would puke all over that idea, and make them make regular stops every two blocks so cleaning ladies can get to their minimum-wage jobs. Except there IS a first class bus sytem: Every one of the companies down here: Google, Apple, Yahoo!, etc, all run private shuttles between key residential neighborhoods in the cities and their campuses. Buses with wireless access and leather seats.
There have been a few snafus with school buses and private schools and I don’t know how applicable they’d be here as precedent, but what if (and I don’t put this past anyone) some overly-earnest politician decided that this was grossly unfair and made the companies let the cleaning ladies use their shuttles? Or shut down the shuttles altogether to protect their public transit companies? Or called it a first-class transit system which was unfair and taxed it to death? Firstly: Could that happen (I suppose the Commerce Clause makes anything possible but even on the state level)? And secondly: What do we suppose would happen to San Francisco if it did?