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Archive for June, 2006

Interstates creaking with age at 50

Transportation California, a nonprofit that promotes “sound transportation policies,” i.e., pavement = contracts and jobs for the business and labor entities that belong to TC, sent out a press release today marking the actual day that President Eisenhower signed the bill that created the Interstate Highway system 50 years ago.


The group says the sytem is the “ultimate Baby Boomer” and like others of its generation, it needs an increasing level of care. It also saves 550 lives a year (compared to, say, just using two-lane, oncoming-traffic type roads) and reaps $2,766 a year in economic benefits for each Californian:

But the benefits are now eroding because California has been unable to Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, June 29th, 2006
Under: Misc. Transportation | 2 Comments »

to infinity! and beyond!

In the midst of Sacramento’s efforts to save the prison system, get the state budget passed, boost the infrastructure bond and avoid Phil Angelides, the legislature and governor took a few moments out to affirm that high-speed rail is the absolute slowest mode of travel between government and the voters.

This leg of a very long journey began four years ago, when the legislature approved a $10 billion bond measure that was to go before the voters on the November, 2004 ballot.
Then came Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s bond measure to dig the state out of its massive revenue shortfall, which today’s windfall will help pay off early. That bond measure prompted the delay Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, June 27th, 2006
Under: Environment, Funding, high-speed rail, transit equity | 1 Comment »

warming up to free transit

In writing a postmortem on three days of free transit provided by the $7.5 million Spare the Air Program, a largely federally funded anti-smog program, I found an interesting reticence to embrace this utopian ideal.

Instead of free transit, the area leaders seem more intent on charging commuters more, albeit for noble ends.

There’s congestion pricing. In one form, it would allow people who are in a hurry and willing to spend maybe $7 to get past a traffic jam. The idea is being incorporated into the “Smart Lanes,” a.k.a., “HOT lanes,’’ for high-occupancy/toll lanes.

In another form, it might someday make anyone who wants to drive into San Francisco pay a fee – just as Londoners have done for several years.


Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, who represents the county on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, saw the three Spare the Air Days as a beacon to a future that Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, June 26th, 2006
Under: Misc. Transportation | 1 Comment »

a world without fares


What a week it’s been.

When I got off BART at Richmond last night, I went up to the station’s booth, looked into the window and said, “I’ve lost my ticket.”

The attendant gave me a slightly puzzled look and said, “What you want me to do about it?”

“I’m kidding.”

Suddenly, 48 hours of pent-up stress released from for her, it seemed, as she feigned an exclamation of rage, ran out of her booth, motioned me over to the barrier and proceed to mock-choke me.

“It seems like everybody and their grandmother is coming out from under rocks for this,” she laughed.


It was, of course, the back-to-back Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Saturday, June 24th, 2006
Under: BART, Environment, Funding, Transit vs. driving | 1 Comment »

spare me!


I thought I had plenty to complain about commuting until today’s Spare the Air Day.

I know that everyone has their own commuting horror stories, but I alway find that mine are the most compelling for the simple reason that all this stuff happened to me.

My Sacrifice Myself for the Air Day began with the Capitol Corridor Amtrak train out of the Central Valley, which was late. No shock here. Arriving in Richmond, I found myself reaching, Pavlov-style, for my BART farecard, only to see the “Do not pay” stickers covering the slots. I thought: You wrote this story, idiot.


Then came the normal breathless race up the escalator, to the sound of “four-car Fremont train now boarding.” I climbed faster, finding the train at the very end of the platform, too far for me or any of my Amtrak-mates to reach in the 10 seconds before it closed Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, June 22nd, 2006
Under: BART, Buses, Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), connectivity, Environment | 2 Comments »

who’s carrying the weight?

After reading an editorial about the 50th Anniversary of the Interstate Highway System and its state of disrepair, reader Ann S. wonders who pays for the upkeep:

When I used to do that kind of traveling, there was always a big thing over the highway and it said, Weigh Station Ahead, and the trucks had to stop and pay some money on the grounds that they were heavy and the weight was crumbling the highway. My question is, do they still do that, make pay trucks pay according to weight, because the weight is what’s crumbling the highways as described in your opinion piece June 18.

weigh station2.gif
I called Ann, who explained that at age 74, she doesn’t get out much, but excepted my eyewitness account of the continued Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, June 21st, 2006
Under: Freeways, Funding, Safety, trucks | 2 Comments »

Floating an old idea in New York

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has come up with a novel idea to reduce congestion at city airports, reports the AP:


Spruce Goose.jpg

A licensed pilot, Bloomberg envisions Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, June 19th, 2006
Under: Misc. Transportation | No Comments »

Wine, jazz and proletarian transit


I always knew my life would make a fine film or art exhibit.

Perhaps the jury’s still out on that, but one of my recent passions, bus transit, has been discovered as a cultural treasure trove by City Space, a Berkeley-based “cultural organization dedicated to exploring the built environment through events and exhibitions in a wide range of disciplines, including design, visual art, cultural landscape research, and film.’’

Opening at 8 p.m. tonight with a jazz band at The Levin Brothers Warehouse, 2255 3rd St. between 19th and 20th Streets in San Francisco, the “Get on the Bus” exhibition will feature Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, June 16th, 2006
Under: AC Transit, Buses, transit equity | 1 Comment »

“it is a practice likely to cease”

I received an interesting bit of e-mail today with the clever subject line, “Double-Decked Capriciousness?”

Reader John G. took issue with my story about the 50th anniversary of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway System, in which I attempted to put the freeway system into perspective with the help of Rod Diridon, executive director of the Mineta Transportation Institute:

“The real crisis we’re facing is that coming in and out of our metropolitan areas,” he said. Interstates are “all built out to the sound walls,” and solutions like double decking aren’t viable after the deadly collapse of Interstate 880 in he 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake.

I-880 collapse.jpg

“We will need every bit of highway capacity that we can get our hands on … but at the same time, the population is going to double by 2040 and we’re never going to be able to sustain the trip requirements on available highways.”

John defended the double-deckers thusly:

The 280 extension immediately north of US 101 in San
Francisco is a seismically-sound double-decked freeway
with modern box girders, etc. Even the much less sound double-decked Central Freeway didn’t Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, June 15th, 2006
Under: Freeways, Funding, Retrofitting, Safety | No Comments »

supply and The Man

I was locking up my bicycle at the train station this morning when I got a call that would clue me in on the whole gasoline-price conspiracy.

It was my son, and he’d forgotten the printout of the revised French poem he was supposed to turn in this morning. His voice was a hoarse, desperate, whisper. It was clear that Mom shouldn’t be involved, or else there’d be major groveling involved.


It was also clear that I wasn’t getting on Amtrak, and my teenager ought to be thanking the commuting gods that the Honda Civic happened to be parked in front of my house, and not in Oakland.

So what’s this got to do with gas prices? Well, riding the Capitol Corridor, I don’t tend to dwell Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, June 13th, 2006
Under: Misc. Transportation | No Comments »