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Archive for July, 2006

driving away the terrorists

When it comes to transit terrorism, the Bay Area, and, for that matter, most of America, can count itself pretty safe.

For the explanation, I defer to Peter Haas, education director of the Mineta Transportation Institute in San Jose. Haas’ expert opinion was being offered to news outlets in the Bay

India train bombing-Aijaz Rahi-AP.jpg

Area this week in the wake of the horrific commuter train bombings in India.

Photo by Aijaz Rahi – AP

“In the abstract sense, we’re just as vulnerable. We’ve learned, and it is fairly apparent, that transit properties are vulnerable,” Haas says, while air travel is much more secure because airports are easier to seal off and police.

“Public transportation is a fairly open system, and therefore Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, July 13th, 2006
Under: BART, Buses, driving, rail, Security, Transit vs. driving | No Comments »

clean air, brought to you by big oil

No Fare BART gates-jay solmonson.JPG

Jay Solmonson – STAFF

Tomorrow the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s Administration Committee will very likely approve a plan that will extend this summer’s smog-day free transit program. They can do this thanks to high fuel prices, which increased gasoline sales tax receipts much more than sales tax for everything else.

Whenever that happens, state law says the surplus should go not to enrich the state’s general fund, but to boost transit in the state. It doesn’t always work that way, but this year the governor and the legislature agreed to allow the gas tax “spillover” to trickle into the appropriate pockets, which meant a $37 million windfall for Bay Area buses, trains and ferries.

So we got lucky, this time. The Bay Area burned up  Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, July 11th, 2006
Under: Environment, Funding, Transit vs. driving | No Comments »

will your boss make you snap?

Ron Lewis – STAFF

prices w car 347-gal.jpgCall it critical mass. Personally, I like what the economists call it, the “elasticity conversion point.”

It’s the point at which people’s inelastic demand starts to stretch. Demand for something like, say, gasoline, is basically fixed, or inelastic, because we, as American commuters, cannot envision our world without our cars close at hand. So gasoline and things like housing and bread will always be immunized against the rules of supply and demand.

Just as I watch for the day when people will stop buying houses for $700,000, I also have my eyes peeled for the day when commuters decide to alter their gasoline consumption. It’s kind of like we’re the camel, and the extra dimes we spend on a gallon of gas are the straws on our back.

While I don’t put much stock in one news story as absolute proof of a larger trend (I should know), I see them as signs or crop circles. One or two might just mean someone is trying to plant an idea in our heads, but hundreds of them at the same time means its time to put on the tin foil.

Exhibit A is an AP story published in our newspapers about employer transit help like Commuter Check. It says that employers are putting more money into them, and employees are scooping up that money in droves.

What I found most interesting, however, was this sentence from the story:

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, July 10th, 2006
Under: Funding, Transit vs. driving | No Comments »

rage against the system

Have you ever rode BART and sat next to someone who was blubbering romantic mush on his cell phone for all to hear?

Sit next to a pathological nose-picker?

Been upset by the fact that when you need to see when the next train is coming, there’s a notice about Rita Moreno?

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Mathew Sumner – STAFF

Well, fixing those problems may be out of your control, but there’s a great place to vent about this on the web, even in Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, July 7th, 2006
Under: BART | No Comments »

railway to the 20th Century

Marin rail.jpgIt was gratifying to read that Marin (and Sonoma, for that matter) County might have a chance of building bona fide mass transit as early as three years from now.

What’s even more amazing is that it’s taken so long to get to this point. Ever since it was decided, back in the hippie days, that Marin couldn’t get BART, the place must have been crying out for an alternative to the almighty Volvo. I wasn’t here, so correct me if I’m wrong.

But now voters in the two counties have a chance to pass a modest sales tax in November that will give people an alternative to  the anguish of the 101, perhaps followed by a relaxing ferry ride for those who can afford it.

It’s a pity that voters have to choose between a regressive tax (the only thing that’s Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, July 6th, 2006
Under: connectivity, Freeways, Funding, rail | 2 Comments »

Fiscal year blues

I recently bought my Capitol Corridor Amtrak ticket for this month and should not have been surprised that it went up $14 to $269. Seems like a lot of money, doesn’t it? It does to me, too, especially when I add the $80 or so that I spend on BART.

But, to quote my favorite rail rider rep, it’s not going to get me back into my car.


With gas prices at $3 and up, its still going to cost me about $300 in gas for the month if I drive, plus $66 in tolls. Now that $17 savings is multiplied by Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, July 5th, 2006
Under: Altamont Commuter Express, BART, Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), driving, Transit vs. driving | 2 Comments »