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Archive for June, 2008

meet the new bud, same as the old bud?

It being the day before California Handsfree Day, I was moved to run out of the office down to get a new ear bud to replace my busted three-year-old model. I drove to my friendly neighborhood T-Mobile store, only because that was the only place in the vicinity I could be sure would sell such things.

I don’t really like any cell phone stores. Walking in the front door runs the gamut from salespeople with their backs turned trying to get other people to sign away two years of their lives to a shark tank. They must work on commission, because even when I was looking at measly ear buds priced at $14.99, I was accosted by an extremely helpful sales associate.

“What kind of phone do you have?” she asked.

“Aren’t they pretty universal?” I asked, trying to sound Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, June 30th, 2008
Under: 511, driving, hands-free driving, Safety, technology | No Comments »

has July 1 got your attention yet?

I’m often petitioned by various public relations people anxious to get their firms a little ink, but alas, none of them have revived the old custom of clipping a $50 bill to the press release.

So most of these entreaties go unanswered. Like weeding spam from your e-mail, I can eliminate most of these without even opening them, even though I’m a curious person.

The more clever ones try to entice the reporter with some topical reference, as in, “our company’s products will stop global warming in its tracks,” or, “as Hillary Clinton recently said…” This week I received a true winner from Jennifer Rounds, director of corporate communications for Peter R. Thom & Associates.

The topic was driver distractions, and her Orinda-based company investigates accidents for insurance companies, public defenders and parties to vehicle manufacturer liability lawsuits:

That July 1, 2008, deadline outlawing the use of handheld devices while driving is approaching.  You’ve probably even written about the pluses and minuses of various hands-free models, but is the new legislation all that there is to the story of driver distraction?  No.  Not by a Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, June 27th, 2008
Under: driving, hands-free driving, Safety | 3 Comments »

stimulate me one more time

I think it was last weekend that I got a warning that my balance had reached the low threshold that I’d set for just such a warning. So I checked my account and discovered something else: About five transactions earlier, I’d gotten my federal stimulus check of $600.

It was a sad realization. I had planned all sorts of celebrations for the stimulus. I might have run out to the all-you-can-eat sushi place, sent my son to Marine World or maybe hired someone to keep track of my garden.

But the darn thing just evaporated in my sleep, perhaps serving the purpose of preventing an overdraft. Perhaps the overdraft would have been better. After all, the banking industry needs some Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, June 26th, 2008
Under: driving, fuel, Funding, global warming, Transit vs. driving | 5 Comments »

practicing for July 1

So, the other day my mobile phone ear bud with in-line mic finally fell apart for the last time. I tried popping its perforated plastic cap back on, but apparently the wires were crossed or something and people can’t hear me when I talk.

Or so they tell me.

So today, in preparation for the long-awaited July 1 activation of State Sen. Joe Simitian’s hands-free mobile phone law, I practiced talking on the phone while scanning Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, June 24th, 2008
Under: Misc. Transportation | 10 Comments »

News flash: now it’s an 800-mile bullet train

I was somewhat surprised to see that overnight, California’s high-speed rail enterprise had grown by 100 miles.

Quentin Kopp, chairman of the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s governing board, penned an op-ed in the Sacramento Bee responding to Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, June 23rd, 2008
Under: Altamont Commuter Express, Environment, Funding, global warming, high-speed rail | 13 Comments »

riding the wave

This week was a disharmonious convergence of most things I love about transportation in the Bay Area.

There was Spare the Air, which refused to be discredited as it died with a “yee-ha!” yesterday, racking up nearly 400,000 BART rides in one day, which happened to be the day after I blogged about what a futile gesture the final day of “Spare the Air” free transit was going to be.

As I watch the glare of the lights over the Coliseum, I can safely assume that more A’s fans will take BART home than in any previous year. No matter how much they complain about fares, they know that gas is more expensive. There may even be one or two fans who have already seen their personal scales tip in favor of selling their only Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, June 20th, 2008
Under: BART, Bridges, Buses, Caltrain, driving, Environment, Fare systems, fuel, Funding, global warming, rail, tolls, Transit vs. driving | 7 Comments »

Spare the Air, we hardly knew ye

It seems fitting that tomorrow, what will probably be the area’s last Spare the Air free transit day, is planned to be a public relations, or, if you prefer, consciousness-raising event.

Like so many others in the Bay Area, I was excited about the expanded 2006 free summer transit program aimed at reducing vehicle emissions that cause smog. In fact, “Spare the Air” became synonymous with free transit that summer to the point where I had to constantly remind people that they weren’t the same thing.

Spare the Air will Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, June 18th, 2008
Under: BART, Buses, driving, Environment, ferries, fuel, Funding, Safety, Transit vs. driving | 7 Comments »


This morning I made an amazing discovery: I called 511 and discovered that even though I was in the farthest reaches of Solano County, I could get driving times! For two years, I’ve longed for the use of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s sensors to extend their Big Brother-like gaze to my far-flung section of Interstate 80. I learned that one could, at that moment in time, drive from Dixon to Oakland International Airport in one hour and nine minutes. Woo-hoo!
Just as I was coming to that joyous realization, I noticed some dust being kicked up ahead of me.
Then I noticed a pair of tires flipping into the air, still connected to a smallish green sedan.
In spite of my preoccupation with 511 Driving Times, I was able to hit the brakes and stop quickly without even engaging the antilock system.
My first impulse was to Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, June 17th, 2008
Under: Misc. Transportation | No Comments »

traffic congestion is sooo 2007

After three weeks of on-again-off-again vacation and quality time with my intercontinental marriage, I am back and promise to keep the blog from getting stale. I am also somewhat ashamed that when my colleague next door is writing haikus and quoting Lao-tzu for his blog, I’m doing the sound of one hand clapping.

And as luck would have it, my overflowing e-mail box contained a pitch for me to talk to a company that provides traffic data for navigation services.

It said that San Francisco/Oakland area has the nation’s ?-worst traffic congestion and seemed to imply that this should make me stand up and take notice. (I can’t tell you Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, June 16th, 2008
Under: 511, AC Transit, Altamont Commuter Express, Amtrak, Buses, driving, Environment, Fare systems, Freeways, fuel, global warming, Transit vs. driving | 3 Comments »

good news is no news

It’s not unusual to get press releases from the governor’s office trumpeting the accomplishments of government, but one I received yesterday was especially worrisome.

It said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was announcing $136 million for transit projects statewide, the biggest of which was $36 million for BART’s Station Modernization Program.

Already working on another story, I didn’t relish the idea of picking up another to turn around in one day. But I called around and ascertained that this “story” was just what I initially thought it was: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, June 11th, 2008
Under: fuel, Funding, Transit vs. driving | 2 Comments »