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Archive for May, 2006

AC Transit and the reverse commute thing

Wow. I had no idea how incredibly Byzantine our transportation funding system could be until I had a sit-down with Randy “The Man” Rentschler at the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

You know that federal program that was supposed to fund reverse commuting? Well, a reverse commute is what lower-income folks often do to get to service-oriented jobs in the suburbs.

It all goes back to that nagging equity issue, over which a group of bus-rider advocates is suing the MTC in federal court.

AC Transit wins.bmp
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Posted on Wednesday, May 31st, 2006
Under: AC Transit, BART, Buses, Funding, transit equity | No Comments »

motoring pain vs. transit pleasure

I got a raft of e-mails and calls on the pain story, (“What will it take … to get us out of our cars?”) which ran on Memorial Day. Most of those readers like pleasure over pain, and the rest find our system of public transit to be a pain.

The most interesting response wasn’t even from the Bay Area:

Your question-title should really be, “What will it take to make alternative transportation more effective, more practical, more liberal, more reliable, more producible, more convenient, less expensive, etc., so that private cars are less attractive?”
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Posted on Tuesday, May 30th, 2006
Under: Transit vs. driving | 2 Comments »

memorial day for whom?

You may hate insurance companies, but they do put out some fun statistics. GMAC Insurance released the results of its “National Drivers Test” just in time for Memorial Day. I can’t vouch for the study’s accuracy, but the findings don’t, unfortunately, defy common knowledge.

One in 11 drivers wouldn’t pass their driver’s test if they had to take it again. That’s the first national finding. California drivers moved way up to 14th place in the quality of its drivers this year. Similarly satisfying was finding almost the entire East Coast at the bottom of the list, in order: Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, the District of Columbia and last and certainly least, Rhode Island in 51st place.

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Posted on Friday, May 26th, 2006
Under: Safety | No Comments »

The Man responds

Thanks to Janny Castillo of BOSS (spelled out in previous entry), we now have some historical perspective from which to view the recent vote 3-1 vote by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors urging the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to provide equitable funding to transit for low-income and minority riders (i.e., buses) and better-off and whiter riders (rail).

And thanks to MTC spokesman Randy Rentschler, we now have another side of a many-faceted gem of an issue.

It’s not that the MTC, or for that matter commissioner and Alameda Supervisor Scott Haggerty, don’t agree with the principle of equal treatment of all forms of transportation. It’s the lawsuits that force them into an adversarial stance when it comes to adopting principles such as those set down by the county supes.
Bus-rail justice.bmp
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Posted on Thursday, May 25th, 2006
Under: BART, Buses, Caltrain, transit equity | 2 Comments »

A little background, please

In response to my story about Alameda County Supervisors resolving that AC Transit wasn’t getting its fair share of funding from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which favored capital-intensive rail services BART and Caltrain favored by richer and whiter riders, I received this e-mail:

To Mr. Nelson,

The Alameda Supervisors (Keith) Carson, (Alice) Lai-Bitker and (Gail) Steele deserve a lot
of credit. On Monday, they adopted a resolution calling on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to give AC Transit its fair share of public funds. (“Supervisors say bus service is shortchanged,” May 24.) The County now joins over 30 elected officials in the East
Bay-including the city councils of Oakland, Richmond and Berkeley-in calling for equity for low-income bus riders.

It was not surprising that Sup. Scott Haggerty was the only one to vote “no” on Board President Keith Carson’s resolution. As an MTC Commissioner, Mr. Haggerty’s “no” vote two months ago helped kill a motion by Tom Ammiano to adopt a set of four Equity Principles proposed by MTC’s minority advisory committee. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, May 25th, 2006
Under: AC Transit, BART, Buses, Caltrain, transit equity | No Comments »

rubber revolution

At the Alameda County Board of Supervisors today, I was treated to one of the many movements that makes transportation reporting so interesting.

Somewhere between the New York City subway and the Bay Bridge, buses became the symbol of socioeconomic stratification. Buses are for poor people of color. Trains are for higher-income whites.

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Posted on Tuesday, May 23rd, 2006
Under: AC Transit, BART, Caltrain, transit equity | 4 Comments »

delay is in the details

In an effort to bring seemingly heartless transit bureaucracies closer to the riders, I post the following query from a reader. He told me that on May 11 he experienced the “worst BART delay ever.” I asked him for details, which arrived today and I’ve shortened a bit.

I was at the Powell station. I can’t remember as clearly now, but there
was a clear delay with some train ahead on the line … The train I
usually get on arrived finally and we got on, but it didn’t move. Then
they made an announcement that there was a train stuck at Montgomery. At
first our driver (either Richmond or Pitt/BP) said there was a slight
delay, then he comes on later and says it’ll be a 15-minute delay, then he
comes on and says he has no idea how long it’ll be.

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Posted on Monday, May 22nd, 2006
Under: BART | 1 Comment »

putting on bikeface

If I hadn’t been so exhausted from lack of sleep, I would have stayed awake last night, haunted by my guilty conscience.

I confess. I’m a Bike to Work Day fraud. nobikes.gif

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Posted on Friday, May 19th, 2006
Under: Bicycling, connectivity | 4 Comments »

coming to Santa Clara: rail transit to East Bay

In the rush of transportation news today, not to mention an opus I’m doing for Sunday that kept me up most of the night, I missed a press release from Union Pacific, which owns the tracks that Amtrak is under contract to run the multi-county Capitol Corridor commuter rail service.
Cap Corr platform.jpg



OMAHA, Neb., May 17, 2006  Union Pacific Railroad is spending $10.1 million
this year on track improvements between Oakland and Newark, Calif.
Upon completion of the project, crews will have removed and installed 48,500
ties; spread 23,656 tons of rock ballast to ensure a stable roadbed; replaced
the surfaces at 95 road crossings, and replaced 2,400 ft. of rail in various
curves on the line. Work began on these projects in January and is scheduled
to be completed by mid-July.

These improvements are part of the $1.5 billion Union Pacific is planning to
spend in 2006 to maintain its track across its more than 32,400-mile system.

That’s all well and good, but the improvements of most interest to Bay Area commuters are the extra set of tracks that UP is installing on behalf of Capitol Corridor.

When the project is done, the agency will start running extra trains from Oakland to San Jose and stop running those ennervating Amtrak buses that take twice as long and are just as slow on the 880 as my Honda Civic.

Posted on Wednesday, May 17th, 2006
Under: Capitol Corridor (Amtrak) | 1 Comment »

kneel to the commuting gods!

In all of commuterdom, there is no single group quite so god-like as those who pedal to work or school.
Consider the facts: Bicycle advocates representing a scant 37,000 of the Bay Area’s several million commuters managed to get a bike lane hung from the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge. If you don’t believe me, just look out from your SUV at the new concrete skyway the next time you’re crossing the rickety old steel eastern span. It’s that skinny slab on brackets hanging off the side, not far from the little ledges built for the cormorants, which will be displaced from their niches on the old bridge.
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Posted on Monday, May 15th, 2006
Under: Bicycling | 4 Comments »