Thursday, December 18, 2003

Tonight I attended a BART planning meeting. BART is Bay Area Rapid Transit, the regional commuter train/subway and very heavily utilized. The Pleasant Hill BART station sits between a residential and commercial neighborhood and there is a plan to provide a shortcut from my neighborhood, through the neighborhood next to the station to make it easier, safer, and faster for pedestrians and cyclists to get to the station. There's also a plan to build a large retail complex at the station and to connect this shortcut to other multi-use bike trails in the area. There are 4 potential routes for the shortcut and the meeting was to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each route.


The residents in the shortcut neighborhood showed up mostly to complain and whine about how this plan would create fire hazards, ruin their little community, destroy their property values, and invite homeless people to camp in their backyards. Everybody on potential route A insisted that potential routes B and C were far superior - and yada yada yada. Everyone in this neighborhood knew when they bought their houses that this was potentially going to happen and BART has property and easements on both sides of the track so BART can build a path whether the residents like it or not but of course wants to do it in the way that benefits the most people and inconveniences the fewest.

One lady said that cyclists should just take the existing roads because her kids did it for years - then later mentioned that one of her kids was hit by a car doing just that!

One guy said first that no one would use the trail so it's a waste of money - then later said if the trail were built "thousands of people" would be biking and walking through his back yard!

And then there was "Jean". Jean brought a picture of a homeless guy "with his bicycle!" camping under a bridge nearby and surrounded by junk people had dumped there. She said that's what would happen in her backyard if the trail were to go through. She refused to believe that there was any difference between a secluded area under a bridge and a bike path.

There was a contingent of cyclists attending also and we discussed how the shortcut would be used and what safety improvements would be necessary. Some representatives from the park district and local police were also there to confirm that homeless people don't camp out on trails, and that crime is very rare on trails. There was unfortunately a woman murdered on a trail in my city about 6 months ago and one of the police officers mentioned that but kept it in perspective.

At the next meeting in mid-January we will probably be selecting which route will be recommended to BART and the county development committee but whether or not it actually gets built will depend on a lot of other issues like funding and parallel projects.