Bay Area commuters often have few options

January 8, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Public transit riders are all too aware of the hikes in fees and cuts in service around the Bay Area, but what kind of impact is it really having?

Rick Mann would like to be able to take public transit to work in Sunnyvale from his home in Milpitas.

"It doesn't work out because where I am here and where I need to go in Sunnyvale doesn't really have direct public transit routes," Mann said.

So he gets in his car and drives 12 minutes to work.

"I expect that it would probably take about an hour to take public transit," he said.

He is not alone -- more and more people are doing the same thing.

"Pretty much most people working anywhere other than downtown San Francisco, it's now cheaper and faster to drive a car," Bay Area News Group reporter Mike Rosenberg said.

Rosenberg has been digging through transportation data for months.

"We found that the effects of this situation go far beyond the transit riders themselves, but the drivers, there's going to be more traffic on roadways," he said.

Rosenberg says public transit cuts are largely to blame for increased traffic on Bay Area highways. At the same time, those who have no choice but to take public transit are paying the price.

"What we've been hearing is that some people are going to have to cut back on other essentials like grocery bills and utilities and pay these fare hikes because they have no alternative," he said.

For commuters like Mann it's not the cost, but the time saved from behind the wheel that is most valuable.

"That time would be mine so to speak, I could either read, catch up on a little work or take a nap," Mann said.

But with service increases unlikely anytime soon he will have to spend that time driving instead.

Written and produced by Ken Miguel