The pandemic and California‘s shelter-in-place rules initially resulted in empty highways, buses, trains and ferries.
The decline in the suburbia-to-central-city commute reached a low in the spring. Since June, the vehicle traffic count is beginning to rebound, but to what ultimate extent remains unknown. Transit ridership remains low, perhaps due to fears of infection.
Vehicle traffic on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge is currently about 75% of its pre-epidemic flow. I chose to analyze days mid-week as typical weekday commutes. Thursday, July 30 saw 33,663 cars, trucks and buses headed across the bridge’s upper deck westbound to Marin. Compare that to a Wednesday exactly a year earlier. In 2019 on July 30, 43,184 vehicles made the westbound trek. That’s a 22% decrease in one-way trips. Weekend usage declined by 25%.
The bridge crossing San Pablo Bay includes a controversial bike lane that opened just last November, making a year-to-year comparison premature.
Caltrans indicates that on average weekdays in July there were 180 “trips” on the bridge’s bikeway. Presuming most cyclists make a round trip and thus take two “trips” each day, that total represents 90 bike commuters. Even if bike crossings double in the post-pandemic world, it’s hardly the explosion in two-wheel pedal and e-bike commuting that regional planners and bike advocates expected.
Weekend recreational cycling is marginally higher than weekday bike commuting. An average Saturday or Sunday sees 519 transbay bikeway “trips” on the windy 5.5-mile span.
Even if Richmond-San Rafael Bridge bike ridership doubles after a COVID-19 vaccine is developed, a $20 to $30 million bike lane for even 200 daily commuters is a gross misallocation of resources. How much better to have spent those millions on completing the north-south Greenway between San Rafael and Novato? Perhaps that’s why the Marin County Bicycle Coalition never formally “endorsed” the concept.
Cycling activists, particularly in the East Bay, are consumed by the “build it and they will come” mantra. Their claim is substantial numbers of riders will commute long distances across windy bay bridges.
By hyping the commuting aspect of trans-bay cycling and pedestrian paths, biking proponents and their Metropolitan Transportation Commission allies diverted millions to a folly. It would have been better to allocate those scarce resources for more practical inter-county bikeways and — heaven forbid — highway improvements to decrease pollution-belching congestion.
One aspect of the scheme involving Ken Casey, the Professional Financial Investors and Professional Investors Security Fund was Casey’s effort to build credibility due to his association with and contributions to prominent North Marin political figures.
I’ve previously reported that PFI lent $11,000 to Supervisor Judy Arnold for her successful 2018 reelection campaign. The loan almost certainly came from Casey’s investors and not from the disgraced financier personally. Of that debt, $5,000 was paid back to PFI before Casey’s fatal May heart attack.
Arnold’s most recent campaign finance disclosure reveals on June 30, 2020, PFI forgave the remaining $6,000 owed by the supervisor. Given that Marin’s Ponzi schemer unexpectedly died on May 6; I asked Arnold exactly who “forgave” the debt. She replied Casey did the deed before he passed away. In addition, PFI/PISF donated $13,264 cash to Arnold.
Casey was focused on Novato-centered candidates. From PISF, District Attorney Lori Frugoli got from $2,500 cash and a $25,000 still-unpaid loan. In 2017, PISF gave the Novato Chamber of Commerce’s PAC $10,000 expressly for Denise Athas’ council election and another $10,000 in 2019 designated for council candidates Amy Peele and Susan Wernick. In addition, Peele’s committee obtained $5,000 from PISF.
These donations were all legal.
In the spirit of aiding Casey’s mostly Marin-residing defrauded investors, the above candidates might consider returning funds donated or lent by PFI/PISF to Casey’s bankruptcy trustee to assist in reimbursing swindled investors for their losses.