Greenies are always encouraging people to abandon their cars and opt for alternative, group transportation, such as buses, trains, carpools, etc. In the San Francisco Bay Area, one of those alternative forms of transportation is the ferry.
Up in Marin, if they use the ferry, drivers can avoid endless traffic jams over the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco, not to mention the hellacious driving conditions in downtown San Francisco. They’re also insulated from the problem of parking in San Francisco, where parking is is either prohibitively expensive or, if you’re not willing to bankrupt yourself, nonexistent. So, as I said, the ferry is a wonderful and beautiful (really beautiful, as you traverse blue waters, watch seals playing, pass by Angel Island, travel between the two bridges, and watch the SF skyline emerge) way to keep your car off the road and, presumably, to limit its spillage of those nasty greenhouse gases.
Of course, the more people who get this message — driving bad, alternative transportation good — the more people who will line up to take that alternative transportation. And, reality being what it is, the way to get to the alternative transportation source is to drive there. That’s why the ferry plaza at Marin’s Larkspur Landing, which is the main stop for journeys in San Francisco, is having some problems:
The district is wrestling with how to accommodate a growing number of ferry patrons. Each weekday, the Larkspur terminal is packed with 2,000 cars parked in stalls, auxiliary lots and even on sidewalks and in bicycle lanes.
“We are bursting at the seams,” said district Engineer Denis Mulligan, who addressed the Building and Operating Committee on Thursday.
The obvious solution for this problem, one that will continue to encourage fewer drivers on Marin’s highways and San Francisco’s streets, is more parking, and that’s precisely what the district wants to create:
The district plans a two-phase parking plan to add more spaces.
With $12.8 million in federal funding in hand, the district will spend $1.4 million to create another 200 spaces by reconfiguring the lot. Bike lanes and disability access also will be improved. That work is slated to start in summer and be done by December.
The district also wants to build a parking garage at the terminal in the existing lot, a concept considered in 1999 but dropped when ridership softened.
But in recent years the trend has been strongly upward, with ridership growing 5 percent to 10 percent annually this decade. With more riders expected in coming years, officials say more parking is needed.
The system will see a new $12 million high-speed ferry, which will hold 499 passengers, plying the bay from Larkspur to San Francisco by early 2009. Additionally, the Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit is looking to get commuter rail approved by voters in November, and a terminus is planned near the ferry terminal.
You’d think that the environmentalists would be delighted. They have been demanding for years that the Bay Area infrastructure be rejiggered to accommodate alternative transportations and they’ve been haranguing drivers for years to drop off their solo cars and travel in packs. But showing that there really is no way to make an environmentalist happy, short of reverting to a completely preindustrial era, the environmentalists are not happy at all:
But the Sierra Club letter to the district from chairman Doug Wilson of Mill Valley said more parking would be the wrong approach.
“We believe strongly that, in this era of AB 32 (addressing global warming) and major concern about climate change, we should not undertake projects that encourage auto use, thereby increasing greenhouse gas emissions,” he wrote.
Bridge officials counter that having a parking lot puts drivers on the ferry and takes them off the roads.
The Sierra Club suggested the federal funding, which will pay for more than half of the garage, should instead be used for shuttle service to the ferries. But bridge officials said the federal money can only be spent on parking.
“It is very heavily regulated money,” said Celia Kupersmith, district general manager. “It’s not available to be spent on anything but the parking garage.”
Shuttles to the terminal have been tried by the district in past years, but have failed to generate strong ridership. Marin transportation advocate David Shonbrunn said the shuttle system was doomed from the start.
“The shuttles failed because of the vicious competition the district itself provided by having free parking at the terminal,” said Shonbrunn, who is calling for paid parking at the lot.
I assume you caught, as I did, the fact that the Sierra Club’s demands actually depress, rather than increase ferry usage. This leads one to conclude that the environmentalists don’t have that much of an interest in solutions that work. They’ve get a template that they stick to — no new buildings, no cars, shuttles, etc. — and they’ll apply that template to any situation, no matter how counterproductive.
I am blessed to live in a very beautiful part of the world. It’s a wealthy community and has been able to enjoy the luxury of open spaces (a luxury that drives up the price of homes). In that past, Marin, and to its aesthetic benefit, Marin has indulged the Sierra Club. However, when the Sierra Club starts doing things that not only inconvenience people who are trying to abide by Sierra Club principles, but also makes demands that run counter to the Club’s own goals, you have to wonder how long liberal Marin-ites are going to be forgiving of the Sierra Club’s ever more strident demands.