You know what surprises me about San Francisco?

There are so many problems that can be solved by money, and so much money, and yet the problems have not been solved.

I got to thinking about this after yet another MBTA breakdown last night, waiting on a freezing outdoor platform for an hour while two different trains forgot how to operate, and trolling the knee-jerk “screw transit” crowd on Twitter. Like you do. I warned people that the T was underfunded, and like clockwork someone came out and announced that no, it was just unions and waste. There’s plenty of money in the budget! They’re just paying pensions and stuff.


But here’s the thing: The pension mistakes of the 1970s cannot now be clawed back. What are you going to do to make sure that the trains themselves, now decades past their expected lifespan, are capable of running at all, much less running on time? Have you considered just spending a billion dollars on a new set of trains? I mean, it’s a ton of money, but it’s just money. It exists if the willpower exists. Yeah, sure, it would mean a gas tax increase. You know what’s expensive for drivers? Being stuck in traffic. You know what cuts down on that? Reliable transit. It’s politically difficult because people don’t believe it helps them. But there’s a ton of money out there that can be allocated to solving problems that can be solved by money.

And in San Francisco, the great big pool of money is even bigger and the problems are even more money-related. People are fighting about the bus Google runs for its employees. For crying out loud, Google could buy some goodwill here and just run a free or low-cost bus service for the general public. Or help establish a consortium that companies pay into and which then allows any employee to ride for free? (You could charge $5 or $10 to the general public to make it more palatable). The Route 128 business group does that in Boston and it’s totally uncontroversial. Just a series of shuttles from transit stops to office parks that are not otherwise served. If you call it the Bay Area Commuter Network and abbreviate it BACN you’d even have all the hipsters and knee-jerk ironists on board.

Or Google could buy a few county commissioners – I’m sure they’re available for SOME kind of price – and start persuading everyone to upzone everything from San Jose to Marin. It’d go a long way to alleviating the housing crunch and take the pressure off the roads and pressure for the bus system and so on. It’s an eminently solvable problem. All you need to do, frankly, is throw some damn money at it.

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