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Archive for December, 2008

Jet Fuel Made From … Jatropha?

As we hover on the cusp of the New Year, here’s a story that might inspire us to consider alternative fuels: Air New Zealand today tested a passenger jet powered partially with oil from a plum-sized fruit known as jatropha, Scientific American reported.

It was the the world’s second commercial flight of a jet on biofuel. Other examples of biofuel include the much-maligned ethanol, made from corn (but you already knew that). Jatropha-based fuel doesn’t have the drawbacks of ethanol, such as driving up the cost of corn, because jatropha is a weed.

So, if Air New Zealand can do it, so can we. Don’t forget, Berkeley actually has a gas station that dispenses biodiesel, fuel made from oil such as that used to crisp fries; the city also has Green Motors, a dealership that sells only electric cars and scooters. Food (and fuel) for thought in 2009.

(Photo: Prashantby on flickr.)

Posted on Tuesday, December 30th, 2008
Under: Environment, fuel, global warming, Misc. Transportation | 1 Comment »

And You Thought BART Was Expensive

Ferries are merry, trains can be a pain, the bus is a plus … and Bay Area residents now have a totally unique transit alternative: the Airship Ventures Zeppelin Eureka.

Airship Ventures has been offering rides in the zeppelin since November, with trips along the coast to San Francisco, Carmel and Big Sur, Kamika Dunlap reported in this paper.

Ticket prices vary based on flight duration and destination – starting at $495 an hour. Don’t let us hear you complaining about BART being expensive ever again! and p.s.: What is the difference between a blimp, a zeppelin and a dirigible?

(Photo: jef poskanzer on flickr.)

Posted on Monday, December 29th, 2008
Under: Misc. Transportation | No Comments »

Riding rail to the airport

BART reminds holiday travelers to consider an increasingly popular option for getting to the airport: take the train and leave your car in long-term parking at a BART station lot.

BART is making 1,360 spaces available at its station parking lots for long-term parking during the Christmas and New Year’s holiday weeks. That’s double the usual number.

Riders can sign up at to buy long-term parking permits for multi-day trips.  Without a permit, BART riders are limited to parking 24 hours in a station. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008
Under: air travel, BART, Buses, parking, rail | 3 Comments »

Should the free ride end for car pools on Bay Area bridges?

Car pooling has worked so well on Bay Area bridges that bridge operators are considering ending the free rides for car pool users during weekday rush hours.

I can hear the rumble of protest brewing among car pool users: “Hey government, we took car pools like you asked, so why penalize us by ending the free ride?” Isn’t that like water districts raising water rates in a drought to offset the loss of revenue from customers using less water? some people might ask.

The issue is likely to reverberate through the halls of the Bay Area Toll Authority – a regional toll collection agency – in the next year as the authority’s board and managers discuss how to pay for $950 million in proposed seismic retrofits for the Antioch and Dumbarton bridges. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, December 17th, 2008
Under: BART, Bay Bridge, Bridges, Carpooling, casual carpools, driving, Freeways, Golden Gate Bridge, Retrofitting, Safety, tolls | 19 Comments »

Does Bay Area need to strengthen two more bridges?

When Bay Area bridge need to be made stronger to withstand big earthquakes, drivers usually end up paying higher bridge tolls to cover the big bills.

So brace for a new study due out today to advise whether whether the Dumbarton and Antioch bridges need expensive seismic upgrades.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, December 17th, 2008
Under: Bridges, Caltrans, driving, Retrofitting, tolls | No Comments »

Sweet treat for BART riders


BERKELEY — Despite stiff fingers from the Tuesday morning cold, Brielle Plump of Oakland managed to tear open the free square of Ghirardelli Chocolate handed to her at the downtown Berkeley BART station.

“Chocolate is good any time of the day,” said the Oakland resident, sliding the peanut butter-milk chocolate combination into her mouth as she waited for a San Francisco train. “It’s very nice of (BART) to recognize that these aren’t easy times in the economy and reach out to their customers.”

Plump and some 50,000 other riders got $1 million worth of free squares and discount coupons, bankrolled by Ghirardelli, as part of BART’s customer appreciation day on Tuesday morning. All seemed appreciative of the gift, though they still had some caveats about the system. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, December 16th, 2008
Under: Misc. Transportation | No Comments »

Public transit rolls full speed ahead in 2008

2008 was a Public Transit Party for the Bay Area. Real estate plummeted, banks crashed and unemployment soared, but BART, Amtrak and AC Transit not only survived but prevailed. Commuters flocked to public transit in record-breaking numbers, and as a final coup, California voters passed passed Prop. 1A for the statewide high-speed rail in November, putting the icing on the cake.

Of course, it wasn’t all roses. Tri Delta Transit cut back on service, as did the County Connection. But hey! In 2008, we learned that BART’s seismic upgrade of the Transbay Tube is going to cost $100 million less than expected. And the parcel tax for AC Transit passed (whether this is a milestone or a millstone is perhaps less than clear). Regardless, we can only hope that 2009 will rock as hard for public transit.

(Video of California High-Speed Trains:


Posted on Monday, December 15th, 2008
Under: Misc. Transportation | 5 Comments »

Sweet BART Commute Coming Up Tuesday

This should sweeten your commute Tuesday, Dec. 16. BART and Ghirardelli Chocolate will give away chocolate squares and coupon cards as a thank-you to 50,000 riders, starting at 6 a.m. It’s healthy – the squares are filled with peanut butter! Well, uhm, relatively healthy. The giveaway, estimated at $1 million, takes place from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. at the Downtown Berkeley, Oakland City Center/12th Street, Embarcadero, Montgomery Street, Powell Street and Civic Center stations. Ghirardelli is donating the goodies. Be there and be square!

Photo: Ghirardelli Chocolate

Posted on Friday, December 12th, 2008
Under: Misc. Transportation | No Comments »

No Texting at the Wheel!

Keep your mind on your driving
Keep your hands on the wheel
Keep your sneaky eyes on the road ahead….
We’re having fun
sitting in the back seat
Kissin’ and a-huggin’ with Fred.

Well, minus the last three lines, Bay Area drivers need to remember that at the beginning of 2009, California drivers must comply with a new state law making it illegal to text message or respond to an email while driving. (I’m sure we all already know that drivers are required by law to use hands-free devices when talking on their cell phones.)

This is good to keep in mind, as the very last thing you want to have happen to you is getting a ticket for texting as you weave through traffic at 3 a.m. Jan. 1 coming home from a night of riotous depravity.

Photo: leezie5 on flickr.

Song: Seven Little Girls (Sitting In The Back Seat)
by Paul Evans & The Curls, 1959

Posted on Thursday, December 11th, 2008
Under: Misc. Transportation | 2 Comments »

Rage on the road: How do we avoid the ghost bikes?

I felt a shiver when I saw Doug Oakley’s front page story and photo today about “ghost bike” memorials to cyclists killed in collisions with cars or trucks.

A recreational cyclist and occasional bike commuter, I like to think of cycling as healthy and refreshing. But reading Oakley’s story reminded me how vulnerable humans on a 25- to 30-pound bicycle are when sharing the roads with a ton or 2-ton vehicle that can squash a rider like a bug.

I’ve seen cyclists do unsafe things like riding on the wrong side of the road.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, December 10th, 2008
Under: Bicycling, driving, Environment, global warming | 3 Comments »