The coin toss landed on . . . Chiloe

So we were dithering on our last day in Santiago whether to go to Mendoza (back in Argentina, 6 hours by bus) or Chiloe. We ended up on an overnight bus (Hangover 3 for the 4th time) to Puerto Montt, and then rented a car to ferry over and drive around Chiloe island. Chiloe is famous for its sixteen UNESCO designated heritage churches made of wood. It’s got good shellfish, and fish. There are also lots of farms with cattle, sheep, pigs, and it’s very green and lush.

It’s been sunny and warm, which is great for touring around, but it’s also a little unusual, since Chiloe is characteristically known for its rain and fog. In fact I’m almost a little disappointed that I don’t get to experience the wet, damp and cold.  (Rather like going to Guilin and seeing it under sunny clear skies, instead of the mist like the stereotypical Chinese ink paintings.)

Every women on Chiloe seems to know how to knit: lots of sheep providing lots of wool, but the designs could do with some updating. If they knitted poncho or sweaters with churches on them,  that would be more appealing to tourists like us!

Lovely Ritas
They have these meter maids here in Chile, even in small towns like Ancud and Punta Arenas.  I guess it helps with employment. They hang around every few blocks, dressed in dark jumpsuits embellished with florescent yellow or orange safety accents.
Where/when you park on street, they punch into their hand held gadget, and print out a timed slip which they place under your windshield wiper. When you come back to your car to leave, you take the slip and pay the meter maid.
So you never run out of time on the parking meter and thus you don’t parking tickets for overstaying your paid time. And I guess if the meter maid doesn’t come to your car until X minutes after you arrive, you get those minutes free (the equivalent of getting someone else’s leftover paid time on an American parking meter.)
But I wonder how many people drive off without paying if they don’t see a meter maid to give money to? We were very honest; when we walked to back to our car, we asked to meter maid to come.

ทำบุญ (making merit) for Christmas: Since we’re not home and thus not caught up in the mad bustle of getting X’mas presents for folks; the only ‘giving’ (which is better than receiving, of course) we can do is giving rides to people. We have a rental car that’s a four-seater. Gas is expensive here. Might as well ammortize the mpg.  Chiloe is very rural in the sense that it’s not densely populated, and bus service is very infrequent. So as we’ve driven along country roads to check out the churches in small villages, we’ve stopped to people a ride home. It’s selective: the city slickers in us go by gut feeling to pick up people who seem harmless, like the family of 3: dad, mom and 5 year-old daughter. Or a farm laborer lugging three tanks. Or a mother on her way back home from a shopping trip in big-town Castro, weighed down with bags.

It’s also a proactive karmic safeguard: I worry about the car breaking down or getting stuck. A lot of these  rural roads in Chiloe are not paved, simply graded; and some are quite steep. We’ve had a couple of close calls going uphill on stick shift without enough traction. Thank goodness it’s been sunny and dry, and not rainy and muddy.

If I don’t post anything before then, Merry Xmas and Happy New Year to whomever is left of this blog’s readership!

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Chile is the midpoint between California, Switzerland and Boston

It’s a rare treat to meet up and spend time with family/friends while travelling for such an extended period. We got a double dose of socializing in two days when we met up with my cousin Matthias in Valparaiso for lunch last Friday. Then we spent the weekend hanging out with Loutz and his friend Matt in Santiago.

Matthias is one of my cousins in Switzerland, who happened to be doing a study abroad program in Valparaiso. We hadn’t seen each other in over ten years; the last time being our cousin Jason’s wedding in So Cal over 10 years ago. He took us to lunch at a very Chilean place that had good empanadas, but only after 6 PM. We had very good tomaticon (a tomato, beef and bean stew) instead.

Loutz of ice cream fame was doing a bike trip around central /south Chile with his buddy Matt from North Carolina. (Apparently, Dave and Matt, who’ve known each other since college, do a bike trip abroad every couple of years.) So we arranged to meet up in Santiago, which was great, because we hadn’t seen Loutz since 2009 when we went to visit him in Boston.

Better yet, Loutz had been to Santiago 6 years ago, so he was able to be our tour guide.  Even better, Loutz is a transportation planner, so we were able to geek talk, which I haven’t done in a long time. Like discussing . . . .

Santiago vs Buenos Aires: Metro system comparison:

  • Price per ride: US$1 vs. $US 0.35
  • Smartcard name: Bip! vs. Sube
  • Able to ride on negative balance: No vs. Yes
  • Cleanliness: Santiago
  • Age: Buenos Aires  (100 yrs old)

OTHER ODDS AND ENDS

Christmas decorations: We’ve seen some Christmas trees festooned with lights in building lobbies, etc, but Christmas decorations seems more low key here. We could count on one hand the number of homes with outdoor Christmas lights. I think that’s because energy costs are so expensive. The most common small Christmas decoration we’ve seen is a Santa climbing up a rope ladder to get in through a building window. That makes sense, since there are almost no chimneys around here!

Long Bean Slivers: A sandwich universally contains some sort of meat and some sort of vegetable. Back home, the vegetable component is usually sliced tomatoes and lettuce. I usually find it underwhelming. Tomatoes in the winter are tasteless: I used to wonder why they couldn’t be substituted with a slice of orange instead. Lettuce has very little nutritional content, and is insubstantial.

In Chile,  you get sandwiches at fuentes (or fuentes de soda), literally a “(soda) fountain”.  The common fixings in sandwiches are sliced tomatoes, mashed avocado, chucrut/sauerkraut, and slivers of cooked  green beans, which are still green/not overcooked. I really like the green bean slivers, there’s more texture, taste and nutritional value to them than lettuce.  They also remind me of my step-mom, who used to put them in noodle soup when I was growing up, although she would cut them in short twigs, rather than slivers. I wonder why Chileans cut the green beans in long slivers, that would seem to take more effort and knife skills.

Chileans are also very big on mayonnaise in their sandwiches, less you think them all health-nuts. When we went to our first fuente today: Fuente Alemana across the street from where we were staying, we thought the glop was melted cheese. But there was a sign on the wall “Our mayonnaise is made with pasteurized eggs.”

The sandwiches here are so enormous that you have to eat them with a fork and knife. At Fuente Alemana, they didn’t bother offering french fries or any other potato product as an accompaniment. Very tasty, rather old-school with a long lunch counter like Apple Pan in LA, but very spick and span.

Dandelions: I’ve mentioned the llao llao, which are very unusual orange fruit-looking fungus which grown on tree trunks in Patagonia/Tierra del Fuego. They looked so wonderfully exotic to me, that it shock to see another plant so familiar: dandelions. I wonder if they came with the European immigrants, or if they were indigenous to the New World. And if so, did dandelions first appear in North or South America? They were all over the trails in Tierra del Fuego park outside Ushuaia. Of course you’re not supposed to pick the flora in national parks, but if I were hungry and scavenging young dandelions leaves for salad along the trail, wouldn’t I actually be doing a good deed of weed eradication?

Seafood and fruit vs. beef and ice cream. In Argentina, it was all about the steaks and helado. In Chile, to my relief, good seafood is everywhere, and relatively good value for price. Most of it is fish (white) and conger eel and lots of bivalves like mussels, clams, razor clams, and some abalone/geoduck. Most salmon is farmed. Scallops are called ostiones, which confused us, since that refers to oysters in Mexican Spanish. But they are really good here. I missed erizo (sea urchin) season, which is a pity, because I’d love to know how they prepare it here.  There are two types of crabs: king crabs (centolla) and jaibe (stone crabs.) I don’t eat king crabs in California, because they are usually frozen from Alaska.  But here, they are fresh, and very tasty, and better yet, they are usually served peeled. Still, my palate is tuned to Dungeness. There’s not a lot of shrimp (most are labeled Ecuadorian).  I tried to convince my parents to come travel for a bit with us in South America, but they were intimidated by the distance. I think if I told them how good the seafood is here, they’d be more willing to come. The preparation styles are relatively simple as well, which lets the 鮮 (sweet/fresh) flavor of the seafood shine through. Lightly cooked in their own juices, with some aromatics (onion perhaps), lemon juice, and a dusting of chopped parsley, cilantro.

There’s not as much ice cream here, but since it’s summer here, there’s good stone fruit like strawberries, cherries, peaches,  apricots and pears. It’s easier to find jugo naturales (fresh fruit juice) here, than in Argentina.

A lo pobre: A common style of food presentation is some sort of meat or seafood, served with french fries, sauteed onions and topped with a fried egg.  We’re very happy to find it in Chile, as it tastes great with fried fish. I wish it was as easy to find at home.

Reading vs. speaking Spanish: We’ve picked up a fair amount of survival Spanish, at least for reading menus. In some cases, even when there are English versions of the menu available, we prefer to read the Spanish version, since some restaurants simply applied Google Translate and came out with dish names so mangled, it would take us much longer to figure out what they meant in English. “A lo pobre” comes out as “at the poor.”  “Media luna” is literally “half moon”, which is a croissant.

The other thing I like doing is when we’re hanging out at a cafe (really, travelling life is just like life at home in some respects) is to read the local magazines (glossy pages of fashion, ooh!) and the newspaper (it’s good to get a sense of what goes on in real life for people who are living here, as opposed to just passing through.) And usually there is something that is relevant to our travel as well.

I can generally get the gist of newspaper articles, since a lot of the vocabulary is similar to English. But occasionally it backfires, as people might ask me something in Spanish, like “can I have that paper when you are done,” and then my response is a confused look of incomprehension. They’re probably thinking “why doesn’t she understand what I said, when she must know Spanish, since she’s able to read a Spanish newspaper?”

Interesting things can be gleaned from advertisements. Like credit card payments and discounts. Maybe I’ll get around to discussing that next time, but I need to go to sleep now.

Transported on a Sunday

WARNING: This is full-on transportation geekdom, so it may be boring to people who work in the real world . . .

The only thing I knew Bogota was that its mayor Enrique Penalosa had started ciclovia  , and for that he was a rock star in the transportation planning world. Top of my to-do list in Bogota was to check out ciclovia.

We schlepped south to La Calendaria by taxi to go to a bike rental shop, and picked up a couple of beaters. (Poor Joe, he would end up with sore thumbs and hands because the handlebars were really uncomfortable for him.)

Avenida/Carrera 7 is one of the main arteries that is part of ciclovia. running north-south along the foot of the mountains. We decided to bike end-to-end, which ended up giving us very comprehensive look at the diversity of neighbourhoods: working class, then political cultural core of the Presidential, Congress, and Playa Bolivar, an older downtown (reminiscent of downtown San Jose around Santa Clara St.), then a financial district with spiffy Class A space type taller buildings, and a posh residential district, and then Usaquen (an neighbourhood of colonial buildings turned into upscale restaurants, which features a flea market of street vendors on Sundays.) But throughout the route there were a good mix of people.  Fathers pushing daughters on bikes, teaching them how to ride. Women jogging in lululemonesque outfits, iphone earbuds to tune out the world. Guys in sporty bikes and spandex and helmets. Teenage boys on wheelies.  Knots of friends and family walking 4 abreast. People walking dogs. One young man was walking a pig (he attracted lots of attention, and people taking his photo).  Actually in this mix it was hard to bike fast, because people would space themselves out every which way: pedestrians would walk on the left, etc. There’s lots of amenities along the way: bike stands to fix flats, vendors selling drinks, fruit and snacks. Didn’t see porta-potties, I guess you’d have to find a café or a public one somewhere.

If we had planned/known better, we would have ploughed straight to Usaquen to Restaurant Abasto, which we spotted the previous day. Unfortunately, we detoured to Parque 93 and lunched at an Andre Carne de Res Express, which was good, but they have multiple branches. Abasto, it turns out, was not open for dinner on Sundays. (It seems to be typically Columbian that restaurants don’t open for dinner on Sundays, the way many nicer end restaurants don’t open for lunch on Saturdays!)

For all that Bogota has good bikeway infrastructure, they don’t have a lot of bike racks. I wasn’t sure how OK it would be to lock up our bikes whenever we stopped, both in terms of permission and theft. We were provided with a very cheap cable and key-padlock. But since the bikes were so cheap, maybe the thieves would not have been tempted by them.

By the time we were done poking around the flea market Ciclovia was over (it only runs from 7 AM to 2 PM, and even then, some stretches of Avenida 7, they only close the southbound direction lanes, so on the other side of the median, you’re getting the pollution fumes from the north bound motor traffic! We biked back south (we had to return our bikes!) along the bike path on Avenida 11. It’s another arterial but they put a bike path in the sidewalk, and for the most part, it’s got curb cuts, although steeper than current ADA standards. The annoyance of biking there is inhaling the fumes though:  the local buses puff out impressive black clouds through the tail pipes. Still there’s a good system of bike paths to get your around the city, and they were well marked on the decent and free map we got from tourist info.

We decided to go home via TransMilenio: the bus rapid transit system, which was well marked on the map. It’s a very difficult system to navigate though (even for a transportation planner. It reminds me of Marcella R telling me that the ticket vending machines for Chicago being hard to navigate.)  You pay the fare at a ticket agent, who hands you a plastic card (unless you have a high/added value fare card like Octopus or Clipper.)  Interestingly, even with 2 people, you get one card, so I would insert it into the fare gate, it would spit out and I would hand it to Joe, who would feed it, whereupon it got retained by the faregate. Smart. Peak hour fare is 1700 pesos for adults, off peak is 1400 pesos. Although on the Sunday evening we rode it, it was as packed as weekday commute hours, and we were so squeezed, we couldn’t move forward or backwards to allow people to board or get off. (That was alarming, I was worried about vulnerability to pickpockets.

Full disclosure: We never completed a single TransMilenio ride according to our intended origin/destination! (Rather embarrassing.) We got so lost! Even with people helping us! (And people were really helpful, voluntarily going out of our way to ask if we needed help!)

On the map Transmilenio showed up as lines A through G, so I thought it would be like the NY subway system with routes named accordingly but when you got onto the platform, there were routes numbers like B89 and G2, which didn’t correspond to the map at all. We did find a map/schedule, which laid out the bus routes and stops for weekdays, weekends, peak hours, etc. It’s also complicated by skip-stop service (rather like Caltrain, where some trains only make limited stops.) And even with stops where we figured we needed to get off and catch the bus going in the opposite direction, it turned out you couldn’t. You have to get back on the bus and go one more stop in order to ‘u-turn’. Oh well, our lifeline was, we could always get off and catch a cab, sine they’re cheap.

DRIVING: I got an international driver’s license before I left home, thinking we might rent a car to drive around Patagonia (Chile and Argentina.) Little did I know I would make use of it so soon. We’d gone to Carolina’s uncle’s birthday party at her grandmother’s house. It was a lot of fun, eating birthday cake (crowned not by a mere candle, but a sparkler [fireworks]), home-made empanadas, and drinking lots beer. It’s very handy in Columbia, domicilio (home delivery service), includes an option to have some guy deliver a plastic crate of 30 bottles of Poker beer, which he will come pick up later. We played charades (actually Cranium, known as Genio in Spanish) with Carolina’s cousins and aunts. There were cultural-specific questions on salsa and merengue, which Joe and I were completely useless in helping answer. We were very jolly, ‘”We are the Champions,” we sand, everytime we scored a point. The other team sang “Bad Boys” when they scored. The party ended early by Columbian standards, and while Carolina and Mike weren’t too blotto, they decided to risk being pulled over and having their driver’s license AND car confiscated. Especially since it was her brother’s car and he’s trying to sell it. So by default I was the designated driver. . .

Fortunately, it wasn’t far away, the Columbians drive on the same side of the street as Americans, and I know how to drive stick shift. It was raining, and the streets aren’t very-lit, so Carolina and Mike had to spot me not only for directions, but “avoid the potholes!” Too late, I hit the biggest one of that 2-mile drive. Oops, a bit of pressure, since I didn’t want to decrease the car’s resale value, so I had to drive slow and carefully. Now I know why people around here drive erratically but in the same pattern: to avoid potholes. They were really hard to see, especially since my eyes have gotten older. We got home OK, and then Caro took over again, because you have to back into this very narrow parking space. I was not up to it.

Taksim Square

Urban planning and political/social will mutually spotlighting each other in Istanbul. In the NYT today . . .

I hope Taksim Square gets to stay the way it is right now and doesn’t get too sanitized. I’m still upset that the Star Ferry Terminal in Central got torn down and ticky-tackily ‘replaced/rebuilt’ in a new location, to accommodate IFC. I miss that landmark from my childhood. Did they really need another new shiny office/hotel/retail complex in HK right there?! Couldn’t they have reclaimed land somewhere else?! The charming patina of age is irreplaceable, except by time.

To be the second opinion when you doubt your spouse

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It had been about 20 years since I last talked to her. She sounded the same, but I had forgotten her particular diction, prefacing each question with an insistent “Celia!” as if she was interrupting me talking to someone else at a cocktail party, even if it was solely she and I on the phone.

 

I’d just visited Nancy’s sister in Brussels a couple of weeks ago, and she was planning to visit Brussels for the first time later this summer. So she called me to compare notes.  What airlines, what city to fly into, etc. Nancy had never traveled abrd, so her concerns were understandable. It reminded me of what it would feel like to be in the shoes of a newbie traveler; I’ve traveled so much that I’m quite jaded, and take much about it for granted.

 

But the more we talked, the more I realized this wasn’t so much a research call, as a quest for reassurance.  Her husband had done his research, but she didn’t quite seem to trust his homework.

 

I smiled wryly when the lightbulb flickered on. I’ve done the same thing to Joe. “You don’t believe when I tell you something, but when someone offers you the same advice, you simply accept it unquestioningly!” Touché. It felt a bit awkward. Not only was I probably going to be the subject of Nancy’s husband’s “See I told you so,” indignation, but when the dispute stemmed from someone doing travel research and planning, I felt more guilty, even as an disinterested bystander.

 

“Oh, Nancy actually doesn’t want to go,” said Nancy’s cousin who had provided my phone number to Nancy. “She’s scared and intimidated by traveling.” 

Again, to be in the shoes of someone who . . . doesn’t want to travel. I can’t quite understand it, but I acknowledge that it takes all sorts to make up the diversity of the human race, and that would include people have the resources, but not the desire to travel.

 

I’ve been kind of worried that I’m losing my ability to feel joy and wonder while traveling. On this most recent trip (which included the visit to Nancy’s sister to Brussels), I felt like it took me way too long regain my travel ‘sea-legs’. I kept getting lost, which was shock to my innate ability to navigate by instinct or by map or landmarks. I didn’t take enough photos. I was stressed out and impatient. I had slackened off on trip planning arrangements, which meant I paid a bit more than I needed to for train tickets, and subjected poor Joe and Biker to the unnecessary burden of biking 80 km on 3-speed bicycles, instead of 7 speed ones; and rushed to White Hart Lane straight from the airport, only to find out that match had been moved to the next day.

 

But it was OK, by the end I’d mostly come around. I ate jellied eels, and swam in the Serpentine, where I lasted ten strokes before fizzing out like a melting cube of champagne  (It was about 30 degrees F outdoors. At least it was five strokes longer than I lasted in Crater Lake.)  We Velibed along the Seine.  I didn’t get to put my name down as ‘Albert Heijn’ when wait-listing for a restaurant table in Amsterdam, but at least I remembered to take a photo of the chocolate- and rainbow-colored sprinkles which I discovered that the Dutch sprinkle on toast as part of their nutritionally complete breakfast (After all cold cuts, cheese and bread can only get you so far)!

 

The small ‘aha’ moment of the sprinkles was as exciting to me as the first whiff of skunk was to Biker’s 9-year-old son three weeks later, as we were driving along the Central California coast. “Let’s roll down the windows, I want to smell more skunk!” (They don’t have skunks in Thailand, where they live.)

 

It’s wonderful to see kids amazed by the first time they smell skunk  and relive that moment from your childhood; it’s an incredible relief that as an adult I haven’t completely lost that capacity for being amazed by the little things you only learn about when you travel. If Nancy goes, I hope she finds out that you are never too old to discover the joy of travel.

Annoyance tax

There was an interesting article in the NYT Sunday magazine the other week with a punchily titled “A Tax on Annoying Behavior?’ The premise was “What if we could impose a tax or fine on certain negative externalities to discourage people from generating those externalities. With such a tax, “. . . we would probably do less [of those damaging things] if we had to pay for them.”

It’s a theme that I daydream/fantasize about, often. I suspect many people do as well, even if their pet-peeve externalities are different from mine.

(There already are ‘taxes’ on externalities, but in some cases the revenues don’t cover the actual costs, or cannot be applied to directly to mitigate the cost of damages. Or in many cases, there is no practical way to collect the tax.)

A couple of my fantasy taxes/fines (transportation-related, of course) are:

1) Bike carcasses on locked up on bike racks:
Where there are clusters of bike racks, you often see bikes locked up to racks amputated of parts: front wheels, rear wheels, frames. Some deadbeat owners never return to retrieve/unlock the bike carcasses, as I call them, from the racks. Their lack of responsibility in unlocking and removing bike carcasses really annoys me. The owners should be fined.

Externality 1: As the unused/abandoned bike takes up a useful bike parking space, it is a waste of public resources. It’s also a nuisance, as it may reinforce the impression on bike thieves that the area is vulnerable for easy pickings.

Externality 2: Extra work is imposed on maintenance folks who should, but rarely, forcibly break the locks to remove the carcasses. Yes, it’s probably a hassle to have to come by car to take the bike away, since it can’t be ridden. Yes, it’s probably easier, or even cheaper to buy a new bike than to buy and install missing parts. But this is littering writ large!

A fine should be imposed on owners of locked up bike carcasses who do not remove their bikes from the racks within a reasonable time period, say 3 weeks. The financial fine should be substantial enough to motivate the owner to respond quickly. (In theory, if bike registration were mandatory just as it is for cars, all owners would be traceable, and the fine could be sent by mail.) An additional incentive would be to provide a rebate for owners who do remove their bikes upon notice, scaled to their promptness in doing so.

Plus some good could still be salvaged from those bike carcasses: by donating them to worthy fix-and-donate bike non-profits; there’s at least one in any urban area. My local favourite, Bike Exchange, is run by Jack Miller and Dave Fork, two of the coolest pedallers I know.

2) Fines for drivers who cause incidents/accidents which generate congestion:

You’re free-flowing on a freeway when traffic unexpectedly slows down. Some car has caused an incident, and the rest of the passer-by traffic is slowing down for (a) safety: in case the driver or responders are standing around; and/or (b) curiosity: what kind of car (s), and what type of driver(s) were involved? How gruesome was it? Humans can’t resist looking at crash scenes.

Whether the incident was an avoidable one (i.e., negligent driver at fault), or “unavoidable” (i.e., unexpected mechanic malfunction), the fact remains: the incident caused a traffic jam. Other people who were driving along were inconvenienced; they were forced to travel slower than they should, and expected to have to. Extra fuel wasted, increased pollution, wasted time are all externalities. The driver(s) who caused the incident should be charged a fine for causing the congestion (externality). The fine would be based on the vehicle-hours of delay generated, which can be calculated and/or measured based on the volume cars driving by in the vicinity and the decrease in speed relative to before the incident.

The prospect of such a fine should influence drivers to be more careful to avoid causing incidents and the attendant congestion. The revenues from these fines would be used for operational improvements for the roadways (i.e. more communication to drivers to enable them to avoid downstream congestion caused by a incident, etc.)

I wouldn’t mind some sort of social fine either: highlighting the embarrassment or shame of the at-fault driver for literally causing a scene that so many passers-by are slowing down to stare at. That should also change the driver(s)’ behaviour to drive more safely. Maybe it would be in the form of an indelible ink bomb on the car (like those used for money stolen from banks)?! (I personally impose my form of this by staring pointedly at the culprit driver as I drive by, although s/he is totally unaware of it. But it helps me vent a tiny bit of my frustration with the unexpected traffic jam.)

If you’re wondering if annoyance taxes exist in real-life, see below:

Cigarette tax
Do cigarette taxes really cover the cost of treating lung cancers, and laundering the smell that clings to clothes and furnishings? What about the externality of the yucky whiff of a lit cigarette that drifts towards me from the pedestrian in front of me? If only I could collect a penny from him as the fine for the annoyance he has caused me, as I overtake him in order to be upstream of his smoke – the annoyance tax.

Congestion pricing
There’s two versions: (1) the option for solo-drivers to pay to drive in the Express/HOT lanes instead of the mixed-flow lane traffics, since traffic in HOT/HOV lanes generally moves faster during peak periods (Bay Area freeways); or (2) to drive into/within in a CBD (Singapore, London.) You can either see it as a tax on the act of causing congestion: if you don’t want to pay, then don’t add to the congestion by driving at that time/place. It can also be seen as elitist: you can pay for the privilege of using the faster lane. This is the more common perception, hence the nickname ‘Lexus lane.’ Some claim that it is unfair to low-income drivers, who can ill-afford the fees.

In either case, the fee is intended to discourage demand of the road capacity and thus reduce crowding. There are alternatives though: drive at a different time, i.e. at off-peak hours (when there’s no or lower fees), a different route (which could be a longer distance, but has more capacity/less congestion), or best of all take transit, walk, or bike. Carpooling is an option for the Bay Area – you can drive on the HOT lanes and bridges and avoid paying if you have 2 or more in your vehicle. (3 people for the Bay Bridge.)

I have no problem with this kind of fee. But irrationally I hate the two-tier security check queues at airports, where people who have are traveling business or first class tickets (or paid for pre-screened security clearance programs) get priority to bypass the queue and go through first, and leave the rest of the passengers feeling like second-class citizens, fuming with frustration at how inordinately slow the regular queue is processing. Even though it’s no different conceptually from automobile congestion pricing!