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Archive for September, 2007

Tracy to Livermore in five minutes


What if high-speed rail went through the Altamont Pass a teeny bit, and then stopped?

Sounds silly at first blush, but you have to bear with me here.

I heard about this at Wednesday’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission meeting, when a speaker critical of the area’s first comprehensive regional rail plan noted that Scott Haggerty, an Alameda County Supervisor who represents the county on the commission, had his own high-speed rail plan.

One could say, and one would be very sensible to do so, that the time for proposing new bullet train routes has passed. The California High-Speed Rail Authority is in the throes of an environmental impact process pitting the 100-percent Altamont Pass option against the Pacheco Pass options. The routes have been debated for years, the authority is getting a fifth of what it asked for in the state budget and a lack of resolve at this point might be akin to being the lame wildebeest as the lions are closing in.

But sometimes a wildebeest has to Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, September 27th, 2007
Under: Altamont Commuter Express, BART, connectivity, driving, high-speed rail, parking, rail, Transit vs. driving | 24 Comments »

hello, Nancy? about my Commuter Check …

capitol-subway.jpgFrom the time I first had the option of  using public trans- portation to get to work, I’ve eagerly taken advantage of Commuter Check.

That was, until my company decided to stop subsidizing the program with about $33 of the maximum $110 per month that the federal tax code allows commuters to spend, tax-free, on transit fares.

I’m sure they had their reasons, and I won’t quibble with them. One of the side-effects of that change was to make everybody re-apply for Commuter Check if they wanted to get the pre-tax advantage even if there wouldn’t be any subsidy.

I’m not very good at applying for anything, so my Commuter Checks stopped coming as our office moved to 1.7 miles from the nearest BART station and Amtrak station and I started doing a lot more driving. I’m not blaming the lost benefit on my change in commuting habits, but I looked around recently and decided I’d better get back on the wagon, as it were. When the papers go through our HR department, I’ll be getting my $105 worth of Commuter Checks in exchange for my $55 pre-tax contribution. Not a bad deal.

But it could be a lot better, at no expense Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, September 25th, 2007
Under: Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), driving, Funding, parking, Transit vs. driving | 1 Comment »

TransLink: it’s no FasTrak

TransLink, the universal transit fare system that just launched, after two decades worth of development, service on AC Transit and Golden Gate Transit buses, has clearly had its share of problems.

I mean, they’re trying to integrate 26 different transit systems, some of which have trouble keeping things together within a single agency.

Now they’ve got the thing up and running, and Eric Schatmeier of Alameda raises yet another point for the system to worry about: Statements.

Here’s part of his e-mail to me:

I, too, have been a Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, September 21st, 2007
Under: 511, AC Transit, Buses, Fare systems, technology | 15 Comments »

taking the commuting out of telecommuting


We love to complain about traffic congestion, or I wouldn’t have written today’s story about the Texas Transportation Institute‘s latest study showing the Bay Area with more time and fuel wasted than anyplace in the U.S. except the seething autopolis down south.

One thing that often comes up in discussions about how to deal with the problem is telecommuting.

It’s like riding a bicycle to work. It would be really helpful if a significant number of people did it, but they don’t anywhere except where people can’t afford cars, trucks and SUVs.

Well, telecommuting isn’t exactly like that. It doesn’t make you Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, September 19th, 2007
Under: Bay Bridge, Environment, telecommuting | 1 Comment »

don’t let driving distract you

As my son’s primary driving instructor, I had to say it:

“One hand on the wheel! How are you going to make phone calls, style your hair and eat breakfast without a free hand?”

Ok, so it wasn’t that bad, but I did have to train him to drive one-handed so he could operate the turn signal without weaving when hand No. 2 broke its grip.

Then, just this week while I was taking time off to make up for working all last weekend on the Bay Bridge closure story, my 18-year-old who’s taking his driver’s test Monday had to ask:

“Um, Dad? How are you Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, September 14th, 2007
Under: driving, Safety | 4 Comments »

a convenient distortion

Some might argue that one shouldn’t waste the time of day to such things, but I saw this I couldn’t help but wonder, “Do they really think people buy this stuff anymore?”

I’m referring to the latest warning from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, decrying a Vermont federal judge’s ruling that states can independently regulate greenhouse gas emissions. This has huge implications for California, of course, because this state is once again ahead of the curve — in no small part because of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, September 13th, 2007
Under: driving, Environment, fuel, Misc. Transportation, Safety, technology | 2 Comments »

the real change on the Bay Bridge


Throughout last weekend and the week before, I was constantly shaking off attempts to write anything about FasTrak changes on the Bay Bridge.

Why? Because it’s boring. Moving a 6,700-ton slab of earthquake-stressed concrete two stories in the air is a lot more compelling. At any other time, I would have been all over the FasTrak story.

It’s not just that I had better things to do. It’s that it’s difficult to look at that map and say what’s so different about it. They’ve moved some lanes around, they’ve added one and they’ve made the approach lanes longer by 2,000 feet.

The latter change I think most regulars will agree is a big improvement. I’m a Carquinez user myself, and I was positively bubbling Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, September 6th, 2007
Under: 511, art, Bay Bridge, Bridges, Caltrans, driving, Freeways, Funding, maps, tolls | No Comments »

Caltrans’ finest two hours


What a difference a weekend makes. Who said Caltrans was risk-averse? They daren’t say it to Will Kempton’s face tomorrow at 5 p.m., or maybe 4 p.m., to quote contractor C.C. Myers, the “patron saint of Bay Area Commuters.”

After being on my feet for 10 hours watching and listening to the demolition of the Yerba Buena Island Viaduct and having to file an unsatisfying story saying that job had gotten slightly bogged down, I had to stay for a few more hours to see if something else was going to happen.

It really wansn’t as spontaneous as all that, to be honest. I had my sleeping bag and pillow in the back of the family Toyota, and was looking for a chance to hop a Caltrans shuttle across the closed and severed Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, September 3rd, 2007
Under: Bay Bridge, Bridges, Caltrans | 1 Comment »