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great day to drive

By enelson
Tuesday, February 13th, 2007 at 8:07 pm in AC Transit, Altamont Commuter Express, BART, Bicycling, Caltrain, Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), Carpooling, casual carpools, connectivity, driving, parking, rail, Safety, Transit vs. driving.


I was gratified to see that the Metropolitan Transportation Commission had launched a new service called Predict-a-trip. If you’re planning to drive from Fairfield to San Jose, this collection of algorithms at will use the collective experience of FasTrak electronic toll tag users to estimate how long your trip will take using several different routes. You can also ask it for current driving times, just like you can when you dial 511 on your mobile phone.

Just what we need, another tool to make driving easier.

I say that because today I gave up on public transportation.

See, normally common sense would have dictated that this morning, with my son leaving on a Model United Nations trip this week and requiring his dad to drop off dry cleaning after 7:30 a.m., I would naturally choose to drive the 67 miles to work.

But noooo, Mr. I Love The Train decided to load the bike in the back of the car, speed to the cleaners, drop off my son’s pants and fly down the freeway one exit to get to the parking garage, shove three $1 bills into a little metal slot with one of those metal dollar-bill shovers, get the bike out of the back and pedal three blocks to the train station (the free parking AT the station is usually filled up by 6:20 a.m., so it’s no use to me).

Then I find out that my Capitol Corridor train’s locomotive is busted somewhere east of Sacramento, and the estimated delay is 60 minutes plus, with the smart money on 2 1/2 hours. There are still a few people waiting by the tracks, so I pedal over to tell them to abandon hope.

“I guess I’m driving after all,” says one incredulous commuter in a suit and tie. A fellow bicyclist, decked out more appropriately in Lycra, shakes his head and looks eastward down the tracks, bewildered.

So I drive back home, drop off the bike, run by the gas station and think, darn, I could have offered to carpool with those guys. A perfect opportunity, and we still lacked the initiative. No wonder Susan Gluss has such a hard job.

Then I’m flying down I-80, listening to the radio and hearing that Caltrain has just hit and killed its second pedestrian of the year. Delays are expected to be an hour or so.

I wonder how the ACE train is doing today. Surely something is working.

Not BART. A BART train broke down at the Downtown Berkeley Station, had to be emptied of its passengers and towed to Richmond, causing either 4 to 5 minute delays or 45-minute delays. I listened to a BART news recording and couldn’t tell. (8:17 p.m. UPDATE: According to celebrity BART spokesman Linton Johnson, people who were stuck behind the disabled train had to wait 45 minutes to get unstuck). 

Who knows how the buses were doing this morning? I dare not ask.

So when you do your Predict-a-Trip on for Feb. 13, 2008, I’m guessing it will tell you that driving was the right choice.


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4 Responses to “great day to drive”

  1. Mike Says:

    This is my last week of long commuting, and I can’t wait. I’m a regular on Caltrain. I rode train 314, the one behind train 312 which was involved in the accident. I got off at Mountain View, glad that it had happened farther down the tracks. We were the last train into Mt. View for quite a while, as I understand it.

    I saw the body on the tracks as I drove the last few miles to my office. Emergency crews were just arriving, so the body was not yet covered. It was not a pleasant way to start the day.

    On the trip home tonight, there was a problem with the train in front of us, so we were late, which meant shoveling down my dinner so I could make an 8 pm meeting.

    I love the train too, but the delays are getting very old.

  2. Capricious Commuter Says:

    Mike, I’m sorry you had to see that, not to mention put up with the delays. I’m curious: Did you leave your car at work and then take Caltrain home? That’s something I’d like to do, if there were a safe parking lot for it. Ours isn’t even safe during the day, so I’ve had to reduce my comprehensive/glass insurance coverage deductable to zero.

  3. Mike Says:

    Yes, I park overnight at a Caltrain lot. I have done so for quite some time and not had a problem. It’s an old car with over 250K miles and I don’t leave anything in it.

    More delays tonight as my favorite work late Caltrain that is always on time (even early into SF) had a mechanical problem. 31 minutes late.

  4. Capricious Commuter Says:

    I hear you. Today the Cap Corridor had free pastries and coffee on my train, announcing that it was to help compensate for yesterday’s delay of close to 90 minutes. Today’s train arrived in Oakland 15 minutes late, but we’ve come to expect that, especially with Union Pacific replacing railroad ties through next week. Next time, I’m hoping for free fruit (some of us are trying to live past 50) and milk, for those of us who are java-intolerant.

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