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Archive for August, 2007

Caltharsis

never-get-to-work-sign.jpg I hate making commitments. Never mind that I’ve been married for 19 years and four months, I just don’t like to say yes to something and then find out that something else is more pressing and disappoint someone.

Still, I found myself exiting the Montgomery St. BART/Muni station this afternoon, doing the “talk to the hand” gesture to someone who was trying to hand me a leaflet of some sort. I felt slightly guilty, having once handed out leaflets myself back when I was a starving student.

I had committed to sit on a panel discussing transportation in California. That I would be invited to share my opinion about something I know very little about was sure to be an ego boost, so I jumped at the chance. Accepting the $175 stipend (to cover one’s expenses… BART fare, $5, parking, $6, lost speaking engagement fees, $164… hmm… that works out perfectly) was regrettably Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, August 30th, 2007
Under: BART, Bay Bridge, Bridges, Caltrans, connectivity, driving, Freeway collapse, Freeways, Retrofitting | No Comments »

yeah. stay home. you got a problem with that?

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My favorite transportation spokesperson of the week award goes to Mary Currie, who represents, and I mean that in the fondest if not slightly gang-style sense of the word, this area’s premiere landmark.

Yes, while transportation entities throughout the area — Caltrans in particular — have been avoiding my favorite recommended response to Friday’s three-day closure of the Bay Bridge, she has brazenly included it on her list.

Recommendation No. 1:

Avoid Traffic Delays in the Highway 101 Corridor in Marin County by Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, August 27th, 2007
Under: Misc. Transportation | 4 Comments »

my rail plan: abandon all hope

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Focused as I have been on the Bay Bridge (Did you hear? It’s to be closed Labor Day weekend), I’ve felt guilty all week that I haven’t paid much attention to the Bay Area’s Regional Rail Plan that was put before the public Aug. 15 by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, BART, Caltrain and the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

So I called several people that know something about it, including the author of the legislation that made the plan possible, and I must say it wasn’t much better than when those hasty Web reports came out saying that Harry Potter had been eaten by Voldemort.

The short version is that any meaningful improvement in our regional rail network, including BART, Caltrain, Capitol Corridor, ACE and the San Joaquins, would cost so much that there’s no Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, August 24th, 2007
Under: Misc. Transportation | 6 Comments »

the sky is not falling

gov-in-la-subway.jpgSo we have a state budget, assuming the governor agrees to sign it.

Very few people are surprised that transit money from the fuel-tax “spillover,” which was flush with cash because of rising gas prices, got raided to pay for other stuff.

I noticed a few things, however. One, that all the warnings about fire and brimstone, dogs and cats living together were somewhat subdued after the Senate’s last required Republican holdout finally agreed to cave.

At BART, there might still be Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007
Under: Misc. Transportation | 2 Comments »

ok, i’ll say it: stay home on Labor Day weekend

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We journalists are fond of disseminating news, or information that is new or previously unknown.

But today I’m going to tell nearly every one of you something that we’ve known for some months now, on the theory that one or two of you will be backing out of your caves on Labor Day weekend with the intention of driving somewhere.

Just to get your attention, I’ll put it the way Caltrans does on its variable message signs on all routes leading into the Bay Area:

The Bay Bridge is closed.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, August 17th, 2007
Under: 511, AC Transit, BART, Bay Bridge, Bridges, Buses, Caltrans, connectivity, driving, ferries, Freeways, Funding, Retrofitting, Safety, Transit vs. driving | 7 Comments »

transit crazy: the $60 bus transfer from LA

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Some people like BART. Some people like AC Transit buses. Some people like buses to the exclusion of rail. Still others hate rail and believe that urban bus transit the only way to know one’s true humanity.

Then there’s the guy that AC Transit director Chris Peeples turned me onto, a Cal Poly prof by the name of Ralph E. Shaffer who writes op-ed pieces for papers down south.

I couldn’t find the one that Peeples sent me via e-mail, but I’m guessing it’s going to run soon in the Daily News of LA, because he makes a reference to a paper of that name.

Anyway, he talks about a renaissance of bus companies in California:

Encouraged by government subsidizes  at the fare box, regional transportation districts have  sprouted up in recent years. Dozens of cities,  counties and special districts run buses. A careful  examination of their schedules reveals that an intrepid bus  rider could travel from the Mexican border to the Bay Area without Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, August 14th, 2007
Under: AC Transit, Buses, connectivity | 1 Comment »

tag! you’re tolled!

I was giddy with excitement last night when I went through the Carquinez Bridge toll plaza and realized that Saturday there’d be one extra FasTrak-only lane and that that stupid no-lane approach would be changed to a 3,000-foot FasTrak-only lane.

For those of you unfamiliar with the way of ETC (electronic toll collection), using the FasTrak lanes at the Carquinez often involves crossing a white line, as if you weren’t supposed to use FasTrak.

I guessed that the reasoning behind it was something like, “if you have an electronic toll tag, you must know where you’re going,” and “if you’re a tourist and paying cash, you ought to be scared Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, August 10th, 2007
Under: 511, Bridges, driving, Freeways, Funding, tolls | 2 Comments »

gold and silver we have none, have we none …


I wanted to believe that the collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis would spark a renaissance in infrastructure maintenance.

 To any causal observer, it has. There are bills in Congress, inspections by Caltrans and panel discussiosn on the radio talking about this terrible problem of how our highways, bridges, levees and aqueducts are so badly looked after that a major bridge can pitch commuters into the Mississippi during rush hour.

Silly me.

It isn’t the first time a big bridge has collapsed, and legislatures have been spurred to action, boldly proclaiming their Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, August 8th, 2007
Under: Bridges, Caltrans, driving, Freeways, Funding, Safety, tolls | 3 Comments »

giving in to gephyrophobia

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I must confess that I’m one of those people who is both fascinated and frightened by bridges.

Maybe it’s my acrophobia, although in my defense I must say it’s not exactly against human nature to fear falling from a high place, prehistoric cliff dwellers notwithstanding.

Then again, there’s the fact that I’m a relative newbie to the Bay Area, so I don’t think about all those years of living here without a major earthquake. When I cross the Bay Bridge, I think about the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, the 50-foot bridge deck that came loose and the upper deck of the Cypress Structure that crushed Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, August 3rd, 2007
Under: Bay Bridge, Bridges, Safety, Smart Lanes, tolls | No Comments »