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Archive for March, 2007

what to do with $12.7 billion


I’ve pretty well covered what Gov. Schwarzenegger is doing with public transportation funding in next year’s (starting in July) state budget, so I won’t re-hash that here.

The question I’m going to nibble at, after enduring six hours of legislative budget subcommittee meetings this week, is what’s going on with the rest of the state’s normal transportation budget.

I’m not talking about the $20 billion Prop 1B transportation bond, which I’ve also spilt considerable ink over. That’s separate, or at least it was until the governor’s fiance people decided to snag Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, March 30th, 2007
Under: Bay Bridge, Caltrans, Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), driving, Freeways, Funding, rail, Retrofitting, Safety, Transit vs. driving | No Comments »

Union Pacific: All fired up

sacto-trestle-fire-ap-photo.jpgToday I wrote a piece on Union Pacific’s miraculous reconstruction of the wooden train trestle in Sacramento that was so well protected by creosote that it went up in flames last March 15 like a book of matches.

This time, they used concrete and steel.

Anyway, read the story on Unfortunately, I found out too late to get into the story the specifics of how opening one of the two tracks will improve service.

For anyone who obsesses over Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, March 27th, 2007
Under: Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), Funding, rail, Safety | No Comments »

BART ticket: $1.40. Roads: Priceless.

streetsmart_1081.jpgJust the other day, I had a chance to pick the brains of Gabriel Roth, author of “Street Smart: Competition, entrepreneurship, and the future of roads.”

This guy is just what public transportation advocates need. They’re always saying that transit subsidies aren’t so bad when you consider the hidden cost of roads and freeways.

Well, Roth wants to lift the veil on those costs, and what’s more, he wants other people to make a profit on them.

“The fact that pricing of roads is poor, and that one has to have better pricing, has been realized for years,” he told me. The idea that roads and highways should be built and maintained using more of a business model of management is also an old idea.

So why Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, March 23rd, 2007
Under: driving, Freeways, Funding, Smart Lanes, tolls, Transit vs. driving | 3 Comments »

train times at Jack London Square

As difficult as it is, I work  very hard to convince myself that the world does not revolve around me. Today that was a little harder, because I learned about a new website that seems designed just to make my life easier.

Several times a week, I’m confronted with the possibility that I will miss Train #544 out of Amtrak’s Jack London Square, a.k.a. C.L. Dellums Station. As the train is late once and a while, I sometimes jump online to see if a delay will save me from waiting another 80 minutes for Train  #546. The problem, however, is that the Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, March 21st, 2007
Under: BART, Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), rail | 4 Comments »

10 things I learned in a year by the Bay

arriving-at-platform.jpgOn March 20, 2006, I arrived in Oakland to set myself up as an expert on Bay Area transportation. I’m still working on that, but I’ve learned a few things since then.

The first lesson, after living and working in the wilds of Central Maryland, remote Long Island and Southern California, was learning just what Bay Area commuters had to complain about.

I mean, this place has a mass transit system like no other west of the Mississippi, freeways that don’t back up at midnight and commuter trains that run after 7 p.m. Not to mention, its denizens make their homes in tight valleys that make perfect little transportation corridors, like, you know, the Livermore Valley.

Ok, so I had a lot to learn about Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, March 20th, 2007
Under: 511, AC Transit, BART, Bay Bridge, Buses, Caltrain, Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), Carpooling, connectivity, driving, Environment, Fare systems, ferries, Freeways, Funding, parking, rail, Retrofitting, Safety, tolls, transit equity, Transit vs. driving | 1 Comment »

YouTube for our tube

tunnel-video-ad-by-me.jpgWith everybody launching and promoting video clip Web sites, it’s hard to get excited about another one. This weekend I saw Ed O’Neill (Al Bundy on “Married with Children“), in a take-off of a Christian Children’s Fund ad, talking about the poor neglected video clips that just need a few moments of your time. All you have to do is click on AOL’s video site.

Although that didn’t grab me, today I learned about Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, March 19th, 2007
Under: art, BART | 1 Comment »

burning desire for the Capitol Corridor


Rooted by half in the frozen tundra of Scandanavian emotional development, I’ll have to admit that sometimes I withhold my love and affection much as one keeps religious fervor in check at a Lutheran worship service.

But the random Ellis Islander half of my upbringing forces the suppressed emotions to the surface every so often, and I’ll lay them bare right here, in front of God and everyone.

I love the Capitol Corridor.

There, I said it.

I know there are those of you who will go on about how inefficient it is to drag megaton double-decker rail cars around with Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, March 16th, 2007
Under: Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), rail | 2 Comments »

there’s art, and there’s BART art

Bill Brand and subway zoetrope art

When I described the new subway-tunnel “videos” as Warhol-esque, I didn’t realize that the flickering successive poster Target ads actually have an artistic precursor in the New York Subway:

Done 27 years ago by an artist named Bill Brand (not to be confused with the esteemed beer blogger of the same name) on an abandoned subway platform near the Manhattan Bridge, the installation featured successive paintings and slits in a wall between the images and passing subway cars. Letting viewers look through slits turned the subway into a very large zoetrope device. I now understand that zoetropes were those round Victorian-Era things with Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, March 15th, 2007
Under: art, BART | 2 Comments »

1.47 gallons for public transit

pumping-gas.jpg Public transportation records, at least for the last half-century, continue to be broken on a regular basis these days. BART had its best Saturday ever this month with the celebration of the Year of the Pig and it seems more and more difficult to find two seats to myself on the train these days (not that I’d ever block the #2 seat — I hate it when people do that on a train that’s getting crowded).

Today I was not surprised to learn that national ridership is up to levels not seen since Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, March 13th, 2007
Under: BART, Bay Bridge, Buses, Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), Carpooling, connectivity, driving, Environment, parking, rail, Transit vs. driving | 3 Comments »

touching a nerve along the I-580 slow lane


Responding to my rather light-hearted story was an angry commuter named David, who I assume commutes on Interstate 580 through the Livermore Valley. He seemed to find Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty‘s angst over 2 p.m. traffic on 580 to show the Metropolitan Transportation Commission member (and this reporter, by extension) to be out of touch:

Did I read your article correctly where you stated that Sup. Haggerty left Oakland at 1:45 expecting to be in Livermore for a 2 PM event, “after leaving Oakland at 1:45″?  Is this guy Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, March 12th, 2007
Under: driving, Freeways, Funding, Planning, Smart Lanes, tolls | No Comments »