Part of the Bay Area News Group

Archive for May, 2009

Hold your nose and open your wallet for higher BART fares

BART Board member Joel Keller called it a “hold you nose” kind of vote when his board agreed yesterday to become the latest transit agency to raise fares in the midst of a recession.

The message from the board: Don’t hate us. We hate doing this to you as much you will hate paying for it. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, May 29th, 2009
Under: BART, Fare systems, Misc. Transportation, parking, rail | 11 Comments »

TransLink II: Don’t hold your breath

First of all, the Queen would like to thank all the transit geeks who responded to her initial post about TransLink. In particular, Rebecca Saltzman, author of Oakland Living, an awesome blog that often discusses transit, came through like a trouper, even posing for a photo as she hopped aboard the bus and flashed her TransLink card. The photo, and Rebecca’s quote, will run in reporter Janis Mara’s story about TransLink in the Contra Costa Times sometime in the next week.

Also thanks to Scott Mace, who commented about BART’s e-wallet in the Queen’s initial TransLink post. Scott, seems like the dang e-wallet, which you pointed out would be a pain to commuters, might be a necessary evil in getting BART on board with TransLink (assuming that ever happens).  For an awesome analysis of the reasons BART has hesitated to hook up with TransLink, read this post in Underground Science.

When a commuter buys a ticket for $20, obviously he or she usually doesn’t immediately spend $20 on tickets, and the amount that remains in BART’s bank account is known as “the float,” Underground Science’s author, former MTC employee Garlynn Woodsong informs us.

Turns out that the e-wallet was the solution to that, BART director Tom Radulovich told Janis Mara as she researched her story.

Incidentally, SFist composed the best headline in the history of the world in a post about the subject, “It’s time to take TransLink out behind the barn and shoot it.”

Meanwhile, do you guyz think BART will ever embrace TransLink? Saltzman seems cautiously optimistic.

(Photo: didbygraham on flickr.)

Posted on Thursday, May 21st, 2009
Under: Misc. Transportation | 4 Comments »

Does your commute suck? Then post here


In honor of National Bike to Work Day, a group called Transportation for America has created a truly awesome Web site, Go there to howl, scream, groan, growl and vent over your sucky commute, whether it’s getting stuck in the creep-and-bleep or the held hostage by the vagaries of BART. Since it’s a national site, you have a chance to hear about commute horrors elsewhere, as this post attests: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Sunday, May 17th, 2009
Under: Misc. Transportation | 8 Comments »

A bike commute on the back roads, deer and all

The highlight of my bike to work this week was encountering a mother deer and her two fawns crossing Danville Boulevard in front of me near Singing Hill Road in Alamo.

Here was this deer ambling across the well-traveled old highway during the morning commute. She seemed to know that either cars down the road would stop for her or that someone on a bicycyle was not a threat. I shooed her on. She walked off the road into some brush and disappeared down an embankment leading to the Walnut Creek channel.

It was a taste of nature while commuting by bicycle on the backroads of Contra Costa County. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, May 14th, 2009
Under: Bicycling, driving, Environment, Misc. Transportation | 1 Comment »

TransLink to become reality?

Bay Area commuters may soon be able to hop on BART in Pleasant Hill, jump aboard a Muni bus at the Embarcadero station, transfer to Caltrain and zoom to work in San Jose, all on the same prepaid card.

Well, maybe. BART announced Friday that the TransLink card passed lab and tests and is “expected” to be available to its riders by this summer. Up until now, only AC Transit, Golden Gate bus, Golden Gate ferry and Muni accepted the card.

This would seem to be great news – the most important component of Bay Area commuting finally becoming part of the TransLink network – but it could be a bit premature to start celebrating.

The project has suffered from delays since it first came under discussion in 1993. Back in early 2007, the revered founder of this blog, Erik Nelson, announced that the long-awaited TransLink card had finally made its debut in the Bay Area, on AC Transit and Golden Gate Transit.

The card was supposed to be available on all the Bay Area’s transit systems by 2001. Oakland resident Garlynn Woodsong gives an engaging account of why it has taken so long on his Underground Science blog.

Still, BART says the card should be available by this summer, which would presumably force them to make it happen by September. Well, readers, are you ready to run out and buy one of those green cards right away? If not, why not? And if you might be willing to share your thoughts with Reporter Janis Mara about the subject, her know either via a comment here or at She is writing a story about TransLink.

Photo: Metropolitan Transportation Commission.


Posted on Monday, May 11th, 2009
Under: Misc. Transportation | 16 Comments »

Name that highway: Boatwright proposed for honor

A state senator and former Concord mayor wants to name a portion of Interstate 680 after a retired state senator who also served as Concord mayor.

The man proposed for the honor: Daniel Boatwright.

The man proposing the honor: Mark DeSaulnier. The Concord Democrat in the state Senate has proposed legislation to affix the Boatwright name to the stretch of I-680 between the Benicia-Martinez Bridge and Highway 24 in Contra Costa County. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Sunday, May 10th, 2009
Under: Caltrans, driving, Freeways | No Comments »

Steering BART toward train car of future?

When a family buys a new car, the mom, the dad, and each of the kids typically wants a say on the model, sound system, upholstery and other features.

When BART buys new cars, it’s got some 360,000 daily riders to think about – a mobile village of varying tastes, needs and politics. 

Are you tired of conservative blue seat colors? Are there too few seats for long rides? Not enough space to get in trains in rush hour? Is more space needed for bicycles and wheelchairs? How about televisions on trains? Do the floors and seats smell like overused sleeping bags because they soak up grime and odors? 

The rapid transit system is trying to find out what BART riders really want in the design of the train car of the future. BART is preparing to order up to 700 cars to replace its aging fleet of cars. 

The BART Board gave and got samples of the design concerns Thursday in a special workshop to unveil some alternative conceptual models for the $3.4 billion car order.

Under some options, BART cars would have a third door, fewer seats and more standing room to carry more passengers and unload them faster. This is a big plus for increasing BART’s people-carrying capacity in a growing region, but a potential bummer for travelers who get stuck standing on a long ride from the suburbs.

“We can’t make them stand that long,” said Gail Murray, a BART board member from Walnut Creek. “That’s my bottom line.”

The long distance riders, she said, supply most of BART’s fare revenue money under a fare structure that charges more for longer trips. 

Despite the recession that has cut into BART’s passenger growth this year, some trains still are very crowded during rush hour. The crowding will only worsen in the decades to come as the region’s population increases, BART planners say.

Positioning of seats is another design concern. Most BART seats face forward or back, but positioning more seats to face sideways would open up more standing room to handle more passengers.

To improve comfort for standing passengers, BART proposes to look at installing poles in the center of cars with cushioned pads for people to lean against. This concept is borrowed from London’s subway.

In other thoughts from board members, Murray said she wants to do replace the “staid” blue seat colors for “21st century” colors. Lynette Sweet of San Francisco wants stain resistant, easily cleaned seat and floor material to preserve her dream that BART cars some day may permit drinking beverages from leak-resistant containers.

BART has posted drawings of alternative models at, as well as offering viewers a chance to submit comments.

One BART rider from San Ramon who read my story about the train design called me up to express his priorities.

Quieter cars, clearer public address announcements, and easier to clean seats and floors are on Moises  

Ostrovsky’s list.

“You can hear the public address announcements, but you can’t understand them,” Ostrovsky told me earlier today.

His ideas reflect what many BART riders say in surveys.  In the new trains, train arrival announcements will be automated for the most part, BART officials say, and there may be lighted maps on walls to show train locations and stops. 

So what are your ideas for the train car design? Let us know below, and visit to submit your ideas to the transit agency.



Posted on Friday, May 8th, 2009
Under: BART, Misc. Transportation, Planning, rail, Safety | 6 Comments »

Secret speed trap tipoff

If you’re driving down the highway pedal to the metal and a vehicle approaching from the other direction flashes its headlights, what does this mean? BazookaJoe, a frequent contributor to this newspaper’s forums, gives the inside scoop in this discussion thread: You’re approaching a speed trap.

Astonishingly, at least to the Queen, bazookajoe then goes on to upbraid his fellow motorist for saving him from an almost-certain traffic ticket, saying, “Thanks for nothing Mr. White Truck driver!”

Or maybe this is all a big joke on bazookajoe’s part?

Photo: frozenchipmunk on flickr.

Posted on Thursday, May 7th, 2009
Under: Misc. Transportation | No Comments »