Monthly Archives: January 2010

Bridge Jumpers in 2009

It’s that time of year again, where we (and by “we,” I mean “The Marin County Coroner’s Office”) tally up the number of jumpers from the World’s Leading Suicide Magnet, YOUR GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE!

A drumroll please….

If you chose 31, congratulations! You win a year’s supply of Rice-a-Roni – The San Francisco Treat *ding* ding*. Yes, 31 successfully took the plunge in 2009 (That’s one every 11 days!), and another 77 managed to screw it up (like everything else in their miserable lives) and got stopped by staff. (Another year without a local Lai Jiansheng “helping” anyone.)

So what about the $50 million net that was approved back in aught-eight? Well, that’s still in limbo, since the Bridge District has forbid local money to be used for the nets, and now the Bridge Rail Foundation is trying to get federal funds.

Is 31 a lot? The Pro-Net folks would no doubt saying something vacuous like “Even a single jumper is one too many,” but let’s look the numbers. 31 is 72% more than then average since the bridge opened in 1937, but is that number really meaningful? The Bay Area’s population has been steadily increasing, so what about the “success” rate? There are over 7 million people in the Bay Area today. In 1940 there was less than 2 million. Perhaps if we want more informative numbers, we should look at this instead in terms of suicides per capita.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the number of jumpers per decade, but
the SF Examiner, provided a helpful table of the number of jumpers over the last eight years, that show that every year was “above average.”

UPDATE: Tue Jan 26 00:23:45 PST 2010
I realized that I did have the number of “splash hits” each year that the bridge opened, thanks to the Chron. The Chron’s count differs slightly from the Examiner’s, but not enough to matter. (The Chron counts one more in both 2002 and 2004.) Coupling this with Bay Area population stats, I calculated the GGB Suicides Per Capita.

While I haven’t bothered to do any sort of significance testing, it appears that for the last 30 years, the number of successful suicides has remained constant after controlling for population. In fact, it appears pretty much constant for 4 of the last 5 decades. So just as I suspected, the “above average” statement is a bit misleading.

If anyone wants to look at the numbers, I’m posting a CSV of the numbers.

Bay Bridge Arcology

With the Bay Bridge, seemingly always in the news*, the question is becoming, what to do with the old eastern span? (You remember the eastern span, don’t you?) Current plans are to simply demolish it, but architects Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello has proposed something different. They wants to convert it into a housing and a park.

He calls his proposal, “The Bay Line,” is a combination of the Florence’s Ponte Vecchio and New York’s High Line. The upper deck would be converted into a greenway, while the lower deck (originally designed for freight trains) would contain commercial and residential spaces. Since the deck can support much weight than a typical home, additional space can be hung directly underneath the bridge.

Rael’s graduate studio, have come up with other similar ideas, but they’re all essentially the same thing.

It’s an interesting idea, but I do have some concerns. First, there’s going to be another earthquake. There just will be. So why would you want to be suspended a couple of hundred feet above the water, in a box that has been bolted onto a structure that is over 70 years, that is literally falling apart. (Well at least it’s not as bad as the old Cape Girardeau bridge. Yet.) Rael points out most of the damage back in 1989 was on the approach, not the cantilevers, but I still have my doubts. My other concern is that it’s right next to new bridge. Which means, you’re living right next to a freeway, and that’s got to ruin your view.

But really, I’d just be happy if they name the eastern span the “Emperor Norton I Span”, but Oaklanders are such killjoys.

*Nifty closeups of the recent repairs.