Monday, September 21, 2020

Dear reader, if you live in Pittsburg, chances are you are well-acquainted with a few unshakeable truths. Truth one, you do not work here because unless you own your own business there is nowhere here to work. Truth two, you have to commute somewhere. Truth three, you cannot drive to work, because that way lies a madness of traffic snarl that goes ever on, without end. Truth four, you are left with BART and an endless string of delays in the transit agency’s determination that no commuter should ever arrive anywhere on time. Truth five, and the final truth, is that there is no parking at the Pittsburg/Bay Point BART (with exceptions for those days of complete break-down in services). So, all these truths add up to you, intrepid commuter, needing a work-around for a commute that will take hours on a good day.

 

20160326_120437This brings us to BART’s ‘Kiss and Ride.’ It sounds nice, right? Slightly suggestive, a little sexy, it is a damn cute euphemistic phrase. Like many cute euphemistic phrases, however, it masks a reality that is painful, sticky, and a little gross. BART’s Kiss and Ride is where your spouse, significant other, neighbor, or family member who does not commute, takes you to drop you off. It is a narrow corridor that is generally defined by horns, blocked lanes, and bitter, bitter weeping. There are spaces to park there for a short period, arrayed in diagonal lines to the left as you pull in, but those are apparently coated in tire acid, because no one uses them.

 

Instead, every single car stops in the entrance, or as close thereto as possible, to ensure that no one must walk further than is absolutely necessary to get to or from the trains. This would probably not be an issue if it were an isolated matter, but it is not. Every car follows the same pattern, lined up and spilling out into the roadway leading to the small lot, each person waits and waits for the opportunity to block the entrance and hold up all who follow. For hours in the morning and hours in the evening, the Kiss and Ride lot seems designed to prevent anyone from engaging in either activity.

 

What, then, ought to be done? Fear not, abandoned citizen, the brave souls in the City of Pittsburg government have endeavored to find a solution to these truths, which must be found as there are more and more housing developments springing up all around this town. As I write this, the City is poised to approve yet another Seeno development with nearly 1,300 new homes south of Somersville.  All those new people will have to commute somewhere, as will all the people packed into the new residential developments going up on every corner of Pittsburg. This means worse traffic, even lower odds of ever finding parking in a BART lot, and a Kiss and Ride area that will need to be renamed a Stop and Curse. The City of Pittsburg (“CoP” because, why not?), in search of creative solutions to the problems caused by the bad habit of never saying “no” to a residential developer, created a BART Master Plan for the existing Pittsburg/Bay Point Station to address these very issues. The City defined the potential problems as follows:

 

The Pittsburg/Bay Point BART station was opened in 1996. Since that time, the area around the station has grown into a surface parking lot with 2,000 parking spaces and a five-acre area set aside for bus, passenger loading/unloading and short term parking. As the population has grown east of the station area and with the imminent development of eBART extending the transit line deeper into east Contra Costa County, this enormous and inefficient surface parking lot serves as a symbol of potential growth for the City, the County and the region.

(Source: http://www.ci.pittsburg.ca.us/index.aspx?page=216)

 

Yup, that pretty much nails the issue, CoP, nice one. So, this ominously named ‘Master Plan’ would address the painfully inefficient lot at the station and make use of the vacant land around the station to create a transit hub, a place where shops and restaurants might also be enticed to set up. Most importantly, it would deal with the vast and inefficient parking lot that is a “symbol of potential growth for the City, the County, and the region.” Awesome, couldn’t have said it better myself. The BART Master Plan collected half a million dollars in grants to begin working on an environmental impact report and start the Master Plan to “facilitate the reuse of the vacant and underutilized land into a vibrant, mixed use, transit oriented development.”

 

This would be fantastic news if it were not for one tiny thing. Those grants, and the last update on the Master Plan webpage for this vibrant transit development? That happened in 2009. I am going to let that sink in for a moment as you cast your mind over to that sprawling inefficient symbol of a lot and think of all those brand-spanking new homes that are being built now on some of that same under-utilized land. I think I am not remiss if I interject a question at this point.

 

What the hell happened to the Master Plan? You don’t get to just call something a Master Plan, collect a ton of money to develop it and just forget about it for seven years. That is like seeking donations to build a Hall of Doom, and then just holding scrabble tournaments on folding tables on the build site. It does not work on any level.

 

Well, dear stranded ones, I am given to understand that the CoP, despite seven years of seemingly doing not very much on this Master Plan for the existing station and nearby environs, has cooked up another plan. Rather than using and seeking more grants to develop this vibrant transit development, the City has instead paid millions of dollars to BART, yes, you read that correctly, so that BART could grace us with another station on the new “e-Bart” system, across town. You have no doubt seen the work, clogging up the already stopped traffic on Railroad Ave.

 

Will this e-station help, you may ask, with any of the problems I have mentioned, the problems the CoP presciently foresaw back in 2009? Well, um, no. It will not add another line for commuting or add more trains to the commuter schedule, or repair BART’s aging and neglected infrastructure (how are you liking that shuttle ride to North Concord?). It will not make any of the existing trains less crowded.

 

It will absolutely not, and this is important, have a parking lot.

 

KissRideNope, not a single space. So, everyone who currently has to slog along the 4, or Leland, to try and park for the day in a non-existent space at the current station? They will still have to do so. The lot will still be full all the time, always.

 

No new parking, the CoP has declared in all its wisdom, nothing to be done about the sad symbol of out of control growth at the existing station, and no Master Plan in place. All this new e-station will have, and I hesitate to even write this, is a Kiss and Ride. The new Kiss and Ride will cost the city over another million and a half dollars, and all the problems we have with the current one? Picture that insanity spilling out on to Railroad, blocking the freeway entrances, leaving traffic at a standstill in both directions, making a mockery of the act of kissing itself!

 

Maybe I am seeing all of this in the wrong light, maybe the twisted geniuses of our city council have decided that the only way they can get commercial services to come to Pittsburg is if they prevent anyone from being able to leave. Maybe my comparison of the Master Plan to a Hall of Doom was more on the money than I suspected, and I just cannot see the diabolical greatness of the true Master Plan because I am a fool, a fool I tell you, who laughs at real genius because I cannot comprehend it.

 

Maybe. Or maybe the “kiss” part of a Kiss and Ride is meant to refer to kissing your sanity, your hope, your belief in the fundamental goodness in people goodbye as you throw yourself into an angry, sweating, shoving mob of people who are just trying to get to work. As you run for a broken train, you may console yourself with the realization that the City is spending truckloads of money to create a new symbol, one that solves absolutely none of our existing problems, but will at least create some new ones.

 

And you may well say lengthy delays, crumbling infrastructure, lack of adequate parking, these are more BART problems than CoP problems, and what could the City really be expected to do about those things? To which I would say, good point and well met! But look, the CoP is paying BART millions of dollars for this ridiculous facsimile of a new e-station (I’m guessing the “e” stands for “effigy.”) Couldn’t the City actually seek some solutions to the problems of its citizens for that money? Solutions like improved roads, expanded bike lanes, actually planned out walkable neighborhoods, or maybe some commercial development so that the people packed into the McMansions in the block upon block of 50 Shades of Beige residential neighborhoods would not have to leave the city to get the basic necessities they need to survive? As the CoP is poised to approve yet another development with 1,282 homes, the need for alternative solutions is more pressing than ever.  Or, maybe that money could go into some sort of BART, oh I don’t know, Master Plan, that would at least give us parking, a little commerce, a little bit of a destination, something more than a Kiss and Ride that no one wants or needs and a ramshackle simulacrum of a transit stop. If only the CoP would come up with something like that.

 

~ Zorro