Opinion, Berkeley Blogs

Bridge closure shows benefits in redundancy

By Robert Cervero

Redundancy -- e.g., simultaneous operation of BART, Bay Bridge, AC Transit transbay services, ferries -- is sometimes criticized as wasteful but in times when a lifeline bridge like the Bay Bridge suddenly closes (along with the occasional potentially crippling transit strike) -- having backup transportation systems provides incalculable benefits.  There was a classic study of the benefits of redundancy on the Bay Bridge corridor -- by retired UCB economics professor Ted Keeler -- that quantified the net positive societal benefits of redundancy (some 30 years ago).  I think the bay-closure episode also underscores the importance of tapping one of the Bay Area's great yet largely untapped resources  -- the sparkling bay in the center of the region -- as a channelway for moving masses -- e.g., ferries and catamarans, as done in ferry-friendly settings like Vancouver BC, Sydney, NJ-NY.  Such a strategy argues for steering more future growth around ferry terminals (e.g., the 10,000 housing units in downtown Oakland as championed by Jerry Brown) and importantly improving ground access connections between freeways and ferry ports (which are now awful, partly because trucks delivering containers have chewed up many of the roads serving the Bay Area ports). Earlier plans to bridge the bay between roughly the Oakland and San Francisco airports also need to be dusted off based on this and no doubt future experiences that will unexpectedly and just as joltingly substantially curtail transbay access