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Archive for May, 2008

enjoy your free ride while it lasts

While I’ve spent much of this week on the blog bickering over high-speed rail funding, I’ve noticed a thread emerge that speaks to all forms of transportation, especially the ubiquitous solo vehicle commute.

Time and time again, public transportation advocates, who are fighting for nickles and dimes in Sacramento in these days of $15 billion budget holes, tell me that driving isn’t free. Roads and highways aren’t free.

Yes, even freeways aren’t free.

Every year, state and local governments pay billions of dollars for the upkeep of our roads and highways. You know that guy in the Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, May 22nd, 2008
Under: Carpooling, casual carpools, driving, Freeways, fuel, Funding, global warming, parking, tolls, Transit vs. driving | 4 Comments »

high-speed rail – `separate’ from financial crisis?


Because there aren’t many people around who oppose high-speed rail, I’m finding myself cast in the disagreeable position of honorary naysayer for the program. Most people, myself included, think it would do the state some good to have a way to get from north to south on whatever energy source we’ve developed over the next two decades.

But most people also understand that there are limits to all the good things we can buy or build. I’d really benefit (as would the climate) from buying a house in Orinda, and lousy market notwithstanding, I can’t afford it to the point that I’m sure even Countrywide wouldn’t extend me credit for such a dwelling.

I’m not saying California can’t Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, May 21st, 2008
Under: Funding, global warming, high-speed rail, Misc. Transportation, rail | 16 Comments »

‘transportation’ vs. transit

One of the ways that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s financial folks justify diverting fuel tax receipts that would otherwise be spent on public transit is using it for “transportation,” rather than “transit.”

That means that at a time when $4-a-gallon-gas is driving commuters toward buses, trains and ferries along with driving up the so-called “spillover” fund close to $900 million, this money is being budgeted for school buses and buses and vans that serve regional social service centers.

Make no mistake, these are things that would normally be funded out of the general fund, which is something like $15 billion short without such diversions and other schemes like borrowing against the state lottery or (now here’s a crazy, Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, May 20th, 2008
Under: AC Transit, BART, Buses, Funding, global warming, transit equity | No Comments »

the warm, fuzzy politics of bike-to-work


My Bike-to-Work Day started out really well this year, at least on a personal level.

Last year, I was a total fraud, driving the Honda Civic with the bike shoved in the back so I could use it as a prop to blend in. It’s not easy to get from Point A to B to C in the space of two hours and still report on this thing when you have to pedal a good distance.

But this morning I got off the train at Emeryville at 7:15 a.m., did some reporting at the Civic Center, and managed to get to Oakland City Hall quick enough to spend some quality time with the city’s most notable cyclists.

And a funny thing happened on my way to shrink my carbon footprint.

The traditional bike-to-work story is somewhat fluffy, but Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, May 15th, 2008
Under: Bay Bridge, Bicycling, Bridges, Caltrans, Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), driving, global warming, Retrofitting, Transit vs. driving | 5 Comments »

high-speed rail through a child’s eyes


No sooner than I heard that inland temperatures were headed for triple digits, I’m sitting on the Capitol Corridor in Emeryville and the train is overrun with rugrats. Moms, dads, boys and girls are feverishly power-walking up and down the aisle looking for six seats together.

Summer’s arriving early, it seems.

One youngster, perhaps 9 or 10, insisted that he choose where to sit: “Car ONE,” he nearly shouted, as he dragged the hand of a thirty-something woman. “Car ONE!”

After riding the train for two years, I should know right away what that means, but I guessed correctly. He wanted to be in the car that had a view of the engine.

I knew this even before I asked a conductor, because this entreaty sparked a powerful memory from my childhood. I remembered riding a train, perhaps more than one, and being captivated by the sight of the locomotive at the front-end of the train. It so happens that this train is being Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, May 12th, 2008
Under: Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), Environment, global warming, high-speed rail, rail | 15 Comments »

and this time, we mean it (about transit money)

On Tuesday, May 20, the Oakland-based Transportation and Land Use Coalition will join transit and environmental advocates in Sacramento for a day of lobbying.

The central message is that if ever there were a time to not suck the life out of gasoline sales tax receipts that state law earmarks for public transit, this is it.

This view is shared by a lot of people who don’t collect a per diem for hanging out in the Capitol Building, such as Bay Area transportation officials, people who worry about global warming and people who don’t own cars.

But this year, things appear to be different from last year, when that stash of transit money, swelled from rising gas prices, was too tempting a Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, May 9th, 2008
Under: Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), driving, Environment, fuel, Funding, Transit vs. driving | 2 Comments »

and now: Lexus lane transit offsets


At least once a weekend, I like to go to a local sit-down eatery and enjoy a copy of the Times. New York, LA, Contra Costa, it doesn’t matter. This Saturday, it was the LA version over shawarma at a Palestinian-run diner.

As much as I try to stay away from transportation stories on my days off, the op-ed piece by Metropolitan Transportation Agency chief Roger Snoble and Caltrans LA area director jumped out at me. Not the least because the last time I heard Snoble’s name, it was when outgoing Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez demanded his head on a platter for allegedly failing to fight hard enough for freight corridors bond money from the California Transportation Commission.

This was about another way of collecting money for transportation, with the advantage of not costing interest and, according to Snoble and Caltrans, a proven way of reducing congestion. It’s what they call “HOT,” or high-occupancy toll lanes around here, with the FasTrak-paid toll raised or lowered to keep traffic moving:

This isn’t some untested Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, May 5th, 2008
Under: Misc. Transportation | 2 Comments »

unalienable right to drink and drive?

lohan-ad.bmpI was struggling today to think of something to blog about, but thanks to the American Beverage Institute, I’m golden, like the translucent hue of a fine German lager.

I’m so used to receiving notices of the California Highway Patrol’s latest DUI crackdown, interspersed with the odd release on the governor’s highway safety conference or Mothers Against Drunk Driving effort to curb teen drinking that I found today’s e-mail from ABI quite, shall we say, refreshing.

Reading a header that made reference to something being “good for Lindsay Lohan,” I almost sent it to spam-heaven, but then I realized it was about ignition Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, May 2nd, 2008
Under: driving, Safety, technology | 4 Comments »