My view of the world, how I navigate it, and the decisions I make are based on the impact on my daughter in the future. It has been that way since she was born 10+ years ago. My views on politics, social justice, and the environment are based on the axiom that “every action reacts.” Therefore, at least regarding sustainability, I am diligent about protecting the environment and having as small a carbon footprint as possible. To that end, I recycle, compost, and buy only the necessary things. I have not owned a car for close to a decade. This has not been easy, but it has worked and has saved us a lot of money, stress, and feeling good about it and independent. However, going back to my daughter, we recently identified a perfect middle school for her across town near Fort Mason. Since we live on the south slope of Bernal Heights, bicycling and mass transit are challenging. Not impossible, but not easy either.
When we decided on the school, the biggest and probably only “con” in the “pros and cons” list was its location and, therefore, the distance to us. I kept envisioning a long ride every day to the school, with just two of us, in a car built for five and returning home with just me over the next six to seven years because the high school is also over there. I saw my last carless decade be rendered meaningless by the anticipated carbon footprint I will now create. Does this sound extreme? Maybe to some, but I feel that the waste we create today will be passed on to the next generations. That said, I did not want to choose a school for my daughter just based on its proximity to our home. A good education for her is also important.
After the decision was made and we started shopping for cars, I tried to find ways to mitigate the situation and have come up with some potential options: 1) there is an opportunity to carpool with other families along the way, which means that I can take two to four other kids on the way to school to drop them off, and then back from school at the end of the day; 2) since I am a consultant and work from home, I can find a place near her to school where I can work and eliminate two trips: the ride back home with just me in the car, and the ride back to school to pick her up at the end of the day; 3) I can put my bike on a bike rack, leave the car near her school, cycle home and then back when it is time to pick her up, which I feasible, but a bit time consuming; 4) make it a point to use public transit at least a couple of days a week; and 5) keep pushing for a better transit system for San Francisco.
As it is, I do believe we have better transit options than most cities in the U.S. However, the improvement could be made. After having lived in Europe for many years, I believe we can still do better at moving people around and having them depend less and less on their cars. As great as the train systems are as they traverse Market Street and other corridors, there are still large sections of San Francisco, which are greatly underserved. And even though a fast, efficient transit connection between south Bernal and Fort Mason will not happen by the time my daughter graduates from high school, her children may reap the benefits of the work we start now.