We've always been fond of Gary Richards, aka San Jose's "Mr. Roadshow." His latest inspiration was to ask how many San Francisco Bay Area transportation officials actually practiced what they preached: Did they use buses, bicycles, green or alt-fuel cars, or even their own two feet to get to work and back?

Richards admits he was skeptical when he set out. He didn't believe many of them would "eat their own dogfood," to use the popular Silicon Valley phrase for using the products or service your company builds. But he was wrong.

Of 42 Bay Area transportation leaders, 15 took mass transit, bicycled, or rode in van-pools four or five days a week. Six more did so one to three days a week, and 12 of them drove hybrids (yes, we know, each might have been a Cadillac Escalade Hybrid--but somehow we doubt it). That's a total of 33. Just eight of them drive alone in cars or SUVs, mostly due to unpredictable family schedules.

In quotes from various of the leaders surveyed, many turn out to be very, very green indeed. Longtime San Jose transportation macher Rod Diridon now owns a Toyota Prius, but only after he and his wife each drove GM EV1 electric vehicles (and he'd also converted his Porsche 914 to electricity as well). San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed listed himself as a "proud Prius owner." And Yoriko Kishimoto, who's on the board of the Valley Transportation Authority, even responsed to Richards' inquiry while riding to a meeting on a San Francisco Muni bus.

Richards is one of the most consistently popular columnists in the San Jose Mercury News, covering the reasons behind tough commutes, local traffic tieups, changes to metering lights, California's always-strapped road repair budgets, and much more. He's a devoted Prius owner and advocate (well, he lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, c'mon!) and has devoted columns to Prius pros and cons. 

Richards' other stunts have included spending one week driving at exactly the speed limit--and counting how often he got flipped off or menaced--and asking readers what they thought about higher gas taxes to encourage smaller cars: The cons frequently battle the pros for weeks.

Oh, so you're probably wondering about that photo with the gun? Richards was spoofing Jack Bauer of the TV show '24' in an article on 24 traffic issues. (24 ... get it?) Many, many, many people didn't get the joke, though thankfully a few did--and told the rest to calm down.

[PHOTO: San Jose Mercury News]