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Archive for March, 2008

a sad bit of seismic history

The e-mail gave me sort of a jolt this morning. I’m usually happy to hear from readers; first, it’s reassuring to know that they still exist; second, I appreciate feedback on my work and thirdly, I often learn something new.

This wasn’t new, but it was startling both in content and tone. Greg Wright, who had read this week’s update on Bay Bridge construction, wrote this:

Why does the media continue to report that a woman was killed when a section of the Bay Bridge fell during the Loma Prieta earthquake? The woman died because she Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, March 28th, 2008
Under: Misc. Transportation | No Comments »

silver bullet for high-speed rail measure?

So, while I was blithely blathering Friday about CalPIRG and their campaign to promote California’s high-speed rail plan, the Sacramento Beebullet-train-and-mt-fuji.jpg

was getting the real scoop on the future of our improbable love affair with 200+ mph bullet trains:

Democratic lawmakers have agreed to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s request to include public-private partnerships for a high-speed train that could travel from either San Francisco or Sacramento to Los Angeles in 2 1/2 hours.

Supporters of the high-speed “bullet” train are hoping the changes will ensure that a $10 billion Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, March 24th, 2008
Under: Altamont Commuter Express, Amtrak, Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), Environment, Funding, high-speed rail, rail, Transit vs. driving | 12 Comments »

high-speed hijinks

You know people are getting excited about high-speed rail when legislators from Palm Desert are turning up in Japan, as I learned in an editorial from the Desert Sun (

Sen. Jim Battin, R-Palm Desert, and Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia, R-Cathedral City, are part of a delegation visiting Japan over the Legislature’s spring break this week. They are using campaign funds _ not public money _ to pay for the trip.

We’re having a hard time seeing how a trip to Japan will make them better state lawmakers or benefit their constituents.

That difficulty comes from the fact that Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, March 21st, 2008
Under: Misc. Transportation | 16 Comments »

for whom the cell tolls

News item:

ANDERSON _ A 29-year-old woman who was walking on railroad tracks while talking on her cell phone is recovering after being struck by a freight train.

The conductor of the Union Pacific train told authorities that Melinda Champion was talking on her phone when the train hit her from behind on Wednesday.

What’s going on with railroad crossings lately? Every time I turn around, I’m reminded of the unfortunate confluence of pedestrian and rail traffic. I know more people get killed at crosswalks, but trains are so much more dramatic.

Posted on Thursday, March 20th, 2008
Under: Misc. Transportation | No Comments »

taking back the streets with Caltrans

After nearly two years of blogging about transportation, I had to create a really obvious category just now: Walking.

Clearly, I haven’t written about this enough, if at all.

Remember walking? It’s how we Baby Boomers used to get to school, or to the bus stop.

But that was a different time, a time when there were Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, March 18th, 2008
Under: Bicycling, Caltrans, walking | 8 Comments »

the transit imperative


Today’s yawner e-mail comes from the Capitol Corridor:

OAKLAND, CALIF., March 17, 2008 — The Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (CCJPA) has announced the highest annual ridership in the history of the Capitol Corridor service. “The February statistics from Amtrak show that our 12-month ridership total hit 1,523,630 passengers last month,” said CCJPA Managing Director Eugene Skoropowski. “This ridership beat our previous threshold that we broke in January when 1,503,210 riders boarded our trains.”

My point is not to belittle the fine work of Luna Salaver, the Corridor’s new spokesperson. It’s just that setting records on public transit systems these days seems Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, March 17th, 2008
Under: Amtrak, BART, Caltrain, Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), Environment, fuel, parking, Transit vs. driving | 11 Comments »

on and off-track


News item:

OAKLAND _ A Capitol Corridor commuter train struck a car near the Jack London Square Amtrak station Monday evening, prompting an AC Transit bus to illegally pass railroad crossing gates and become jackknifed on the tracks.

Several trains were delayed, the worst an hour and fifteen minutes on the train that hit the car, which made an illegal turn in front of the train, an Amtrak spokeswoman said.

Oakland police said the driver of the car was not seriously injured and refused medical attention. No other injuries were reported.

Trying my level best to maintain my journalistic objectivity, I tried to imagine how this incident could have been the railroad’s fault.

First, there’s the whole Embarcadero issue. Here’s a street that also serves as something like a half-mile of railroad. It’s like the mother of all railroad crossings. Each intersection is gated, but the gates could be open when you enter the street, but close while you’re still driving along it.

I was on an AC Transit bus that came up to that very same intersection where the car was thrown off the tracks. The lights started flashing, and the driver Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, March 14th, 2008
Under: AC Transit, Amtrak, Bicycling, Buses, Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), connectivity, driving, rail, Safety, traffic signals, Transit vs. driving | 2 Comments »

that sleep of death

bayou-canot-amtrak-disaster.jpg When I heard that the sheriff’s deputy who killed two bicyclists on Sunday told people he’d fallen asleep, I’m sure I wasn’t alone in being reminded of personal experiences of drowsy driving.

To start with, there’s right now. I’m jet-lagged from last week’s vacation (thus explaining the stale blog) and will probably drive home tonight.

I can think of too many instances of leaning forward, clutching the steering wheel, eyes bugging out, munching on grotesquely spiced snack foods to keep from dozing.

“Stop and get a motel room,” my wife would tell me over the mobile. “Don’t be fatally cheap.” She has special standing on this point, having lost her dad to “that sleep of death,” to Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, March 11th, 2008
Under: Bicycling, driving, Environment, Misc. Transportation, Safety | 6 Comments »