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Archive for February, 2008

airport security pass needs clarification


As I fretted over the finishing touches to my opus on the Tao of freeway ramp metering lights for Sunday’s papers, I got an e-mail from Clear, the company that promises a sort of FasTrak version of airport security.

Funny thing about this phenomenon. The media loves these guys, although I’m not sure people truly understand what’s offered by Clear, now at 12 airports including San Francisco International and San Jose’s Mineta International, and Clear’s smaller competitors, who operate at only Reno and Jacksonville.

The news release, which was quickly followed by a copy conveyed by my editor asking me to do a short article about it, announced that Clear had opened an enrollment counter at Oakland International in anticipation of opening its Clear Lanes toward the end of March.

It sounds like a great Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, February 29th, 2008
Under: air travel, Security | 8 Comments »

the government deserves more credit

OK, so I was hasty after all. Seems that my last post did not give enough credit to the Bush Administration’s attempts to help improve intercity passenger rail. I suspect its efforts have more to do with Transportation Secretary Mary Peters’ pragmatic approach to funding, i.e., we can do more with less if we channel more into public transportation.

Today I got another note from the Federal Rail Administration, which falls under USDoT’s umbrella:

I saw your blog entry.  I am glad my message was of use to you.  Your main point seems to be that $30 million is not enough.  We agree.  As I wrote in my email cover message to you, the Bush Administration had requested $100 million for this grant program for the current FY08 budget, but Congress Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, February 25th, 2008
Under: Amtrak, Caltrans, Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), Funding, rail, Transit vs. driving | 4 Comments »

the government is here to help


This morning I arrived to find a phone message from the Federal Railroad Administration. Seems someone in Washington had seen my story about California’s intercity rail services lobbying state government for more money.

What I might find helpful, the message said, was that the FRA had announced on Tuesday that it had started a new program to do just what the operators of the Auburn-to-San Jose Capitol Corridor and two other state-subsidized operators were looking for.

By helpful, I’m guessing he meant, you missed this, buddy, and should have Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, February 22nd, 2008
Under: Altamont Commuter Express, Amtrak, Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), Freeways, Funding, rail, Transit vs. driving | 5 Comments »

the TSA’s new blog: fits nicely in quart bag

evolution-of-security2.bmpFirst, I feel compelled to say that any government agency as big in the hearts of its countrymen as the Trans-portation Security Administration deserves some points for actively seeking feedback.

And there is no more free-flowing an arena for that as the blogosphere.

So behold: The Evolution of Security.

Just the thought of the TSA doing a blog made me and countless others chuckle. Here’s but one example of its ripeness for exploitation, from Steve Johnson’s “Hypertext” column-blog in the Chicago Tribune:

4. The use of the term “evolution” in the blog’s title does not constitute endorsement by the TSA or this administration of the concept of evolution, generally. TSA believes it may Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, February 20th, 2008
Under: air travel, Security | 2 Comments »

security comes down to earth


While it doesn’t seem to excite much passion around these parts, I’ve been particularly interested in transportation security, especially after spending a good deal of time in the Holy Land back when a bus would blow up just about every other month.

While Israel doesn’t have a railroad system, it does have a line running north and south linking its coastal cities. When I was there, you couldn’t board a train without going having your bags checked and your body wanded with a metal detector.

Thus, when I saw a video put out by the California High Speed Rail Authority touting the $40 billion system’s advantages, I was a little confused. One of them, we are told, is that you won’t have to Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, February 19th, 2008
Under: Amtrak, Buses, high-speed rail, Security, Transit vs. driving | No Comments »

burning bridges at Caltrans


Normally, when Caltrans talks about safety, I’m inclined to take what they say at face value. But when they start messing with my compagni di biciclette, I have to wonder.

Thus it was this week when I heard that Caltrans District 4 Director Bijan Sartipi explained to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission that a bike lane across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge was, in a word, impossibile.


It’s too dangerous. Cars might run into the moveable concrete barrier separating the bikes and pedestrians from traffic lanes and they might bounce back into the other traffic lane, creating worse accidents.

I can see that. As a matter of fact, this morning on my way down I-80 in Albany, I not only put my anti-lock brakes to the test when traffic suddenly went Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, February 15th, 2008
Under: Bay Bridge, Bicycling, Bridges, Caltrans, driving, Environment, Freeways, Funding, Retrofitting, Safety, tolls | 6 Comments »

hobos riding the rails

mmm-free-lunch.jpgNews flash from the California Transit Association:

SACRAMENTO — Less than two weeks after a Superior Court judge ruled that a $409 million diversion of public transit funding in the current state budget was illegal, the Senate Budget Committee last night re-instated the cuts by re-configuring the law on which the judge’s decision was based.  Public transit advocates blasted the move as a deliberate end-run around the court’s decision.

“We argued that the cuts were illegal, and, on that portion, the judge agreed with us,” said Joshua Shaw, Executive Director of the California Transit Association and primary plaintiff in the suit.  “So, rather than work with us to implement the judge’s decision, it looks like the Governor and the Legislature have instead decided to thumb their noses at the court.”

The Senate Budget Committee action was echoed today by the Assembly Budget Committee as part of the Extraordinary Session process of addressing mid-year reductions in the state spending plan.  The matter is expected to be taken up by both houses of the legislature during special floor sessions on Friday.

 So, um, the state legislature can raid Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, February 14th, 2008
Under: Amtrak, Caltrain, Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), rail | 3 Comments »

clairvoyant traffic reports?


I get a fair number of calls from people with wacky stories or ideas, like the guy who called the other day and thought that BART’s computers were under the control of evil hackers. I wanted to tell him that evil hackers only subvert sophisticated, post-1990s software.

Today I got a call from somebody whom I could believe, although I have no solid foundation to do so or not. Still, what he said makes sense and I’ll let that be the blog’s verification standard for today.

As so often happens with these calls, he’d gotten my number from a story, this one about a U.C. Berkeley test on I-880 of a real-time traffic reporting system that relies on cell phones with GPS. It’s a tidy little concept: No sensors except the satellites for the Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, February 12th, 2008
Under: 511, BART, Caltrans, driving, Freeways, technology | No Comments »

bullet trains for everybody!


Having been inordinately busy of late, I’ve let moss grow on the blog. You may be forgiven for moving on with your lives.

But if you’re reading these words, you had faith and came back and I thank you.

It’s kinda like high-speed rail. You gotta have faith.

Either that, or a stop in your Central Valley burg.

I can blog about this because I frankly wasn’t paying attention when it came up before the High-Speed Rail Authority board as they met in Sacramento yesterday. I was there to learn about further maneuvering by Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, February 7th, 2008
Under: Funding, high-speed rail, rail | 3 Comments »

higher-speed trains? what a crock!


Today was a big day for high-speed rail in the Bay Area, what with representatives of Japan’s nearly half-century-old Shinkansen network in San Francisco to talk about how they made it all work.

“It was excellent,” said Judge Quentin Kopp, chairman of the California High-Speed Rail Authority board. “Those Japanese go all out. That was well-done.”

The presentation went all the way back to the early 1960s, when the system started and opened in time for the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Now the system has over 1,500 miles operating.

It’s enough to make California HSR supporters misty-eyed.

While we were on the subject, I asked the judge if he’d seen Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, February 1st, 2008
Under: high-speed rail | 4 Comments »