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Archive for the 'air travel' Category

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 »

Hey BART, can you float me to the airport?

BART may consider old and new technology — buses, cable cars, and a floating train held up by magnetic forces — as options for a long-waited service to carry train riders to the Oakland International Airport directly from BART’s Coliseum station.

BART is going back to the drawing board for an airport connector project because its $386 million elevated tramway plan has hit a dead end.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, December 9th, 2008
Under: air travel, BART, light rail, rail | 8 Comments »

happy trails

One of the nice things about doing a blog is that it can travel with you wherever you might end up.

I have a pen-pal, if I may use an anachronism, who ran an airport security consulting business in the Midwest and previously worked as a manager at both SFO and OAK airports. He did an excellent blog on that and other airport management matters.

He still does, even though he’s now working in Afghanistan.

Alas, the Capricious Commuter doesn’t have that choice. Even if this wasn’t a newspaper-based blog, my next home (hint: My pen-pal and I will finally get to meet face-to-face) would be a silly place from which to stir up discussion about transportation in the Bay Area.

As many of you may have heard, the newspaper business is doing a little better than Afghanistan. Nobody’s getting blown up and I’m confident that most of my 29 colleagues who got layoff notices last week will get jobs in some facet of the modern information industry.

At my request, over the last several days, union and management reps worked out a deal for me to leave our newspaper group and one of the 29 could keep her job. No one on either side asked me to do this nor hinted that I should. I merely concluded that it was a good reason to head for the door sooner than I might have otherwise.

Perhaps someone here, or a group of people concerned about transportation and gas prices and the like, will keep the blog going. That would make me happy indeed, knowing that I’d started something that didn’t stop when I left the room.

Whatever happens, I’ve really enjoyed doing the blog and I’ve really enjoyed reading your comments and sparring with some of you on the great issues of transportation around here.

As I’ve said before, transportation is more than just wheels and heels. It’s what links us and makes our civilization possible (along with, say, food and water, which are also important).

Those issues cross a lot of boundaries, as my recent stories on a federal rule proposal that threatens to cut off public transit that takes kids to school in both Oakland and Minot, North Dakota.

The issues of poverty and race come up whenever I hear people talking about whether our society should invest billions in steel-wheeled mass transit systems such as BART or save our millions to bring better bus service to the poorer and largely black and Hispanic populations that don’t have cars.

And of course there’s business, economics and government, which play into discussions on how we ended up so car-and-SUV-dependent in the first place. Developers want to build sprawl because it sells, they exert huge pressures on local governments that control land use. And the state government, which might in some parallel universe be inclined to control sprawl, can’t tell the local governments what to do with the land they control.

And ever since coal-fired steam train passengers had to hold their breath while chuffing through tunnels, environmental and transportation issues have gone hand-in-hand.

And of course some may conclude that all of these things are a function of people like me.

I, after all, wanted a house with a yard but not in unaffordable Orinda or crime-plagued Oakland. Plus, in a two-income family, I ended up living closer to my wife’s work in Sacramento. Thus I ended up with a 74-mile commute from my quiet enclave in the Central Valley. I try to take the train as much as possible, but it’s quicker to drive.

But my wife no longer works in Sacramento, chasing after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger with a skinny notebook and a pen. She’s instead scrambling over the rocks and dust of Afghanistan with a long furry microphone interviewing those who live with war and those who are sworn to prosecute it.

As a result of these recent newspaper troubles, and the fact that our son is now old enough to fend for himself, I’ve decided to join my wife overseas. I may freelance or get a full-time job; it’s unclear at this point.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll start a blog.

Posted on Wednesday, July 9th, 2008
Under: AC Transit, air travel, Amtrak, BART, driving, Environment, fuel, Planning, rail, Security, transit equity, Transit vs. driving, walking | 23 Comments »

airport security pass needs clarification


As I fretted over the finishing touches to my opus on the Tao of freeway ramp metering lights for Sunday’s papers, I got an e-mail from Clear, the company that promises a sort of FasTrak version of airport security.

Funny thing about this phenomenon. The media loves these guys, although I’m not sure people truly understand what’s offered by Clear, now at 12 airports including San Francisco International and San Jose’s Mineta International, and Clear’s smaller competitors, who operate at only Reno and Jacksonville.

The news release, which was quickly followed by a copy conveyed by my editor asking me to do a short article about it, announced that Clear had opened an enrollment counter at Oakland International in anticipation of opening its Clear Lanes toward the end of March.

It sounds like a great Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, February 29th, 2008
Under: air travel, Security | 8 Comments »

the TSA’s new blog: fits nicely in quart bag

evolution-of-security2.bmpFirst, I feel compelled to say that any government agency as big in the hearts of its countrymen as the Trans-portation Security Administration deserves some points for actively seeking feedback.

And there is no more free-flowing an arena for that as the blogosphere.

So behold: The Evolution of Security.

Just the thought of the TSA doing a blog made me and countless others chuckle. Here’s but one example of its ripeness for exploitation, from Steve Johnson’s “Hypertext” column-blog in the Chicago Tribune:

4. The use of the term “evolution” in the blog’s title does not constitute endorsement by the TSA or this administration of the concept of evolution, generally. TSA believes it may Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, February 20th, 2008
Under: air travel, Security | 2 Comments »

the horror: AC Transit’s jet lag


When I called attention to another local news outlet’s story on AC Transit’s love affair with Belgian-made Van Hool buses a week ago, I said I would be waiting impatiently to read this week’s sequel.

Looks like the East Bay Express’ Bob Gammon saved the best for last. This week’s story gives AC Transit officials a lot more to explain, and it certainly left me wishing I had done all that digging through the bus agency’s records.

While I enjoyed reading last week’s story, it didn’t convince me that these buses had dragged down the entire agency nearly as much as the drop in Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, January 31st, 2008
Under: 511, AC Transit, air travel, Buses, Funding, transit equity | 9 Comments »

storm, what storm?

Item 1: I’m going on vacation. No blog posts until Jan. 16 or so.

Item 2: I’m flying out of SFO this evening, and I’m hoping that howling I hear outside subsides enough for my plane to take off.

Catch up with you later…

Posted on Friday, January 4th, 2008
Under: air travel | 3 Comments »

cars and SUVs only 28 percent of greenhouse gases?

tailpipe.gifI hesitate to call attention to someone else’s correction, particularly because I’ve had two of my own in short order. For a journalist, that’s enough to keep you up at night.

Still, we learn from our mistakes, and even fatal mistakes can teach others, to paraphrase Al Franken.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s spokespeople provided a teachable moment for me when they quoted their boss saying:

“With motor vehicles contributing to roughly 40 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, it is imperative that we be granted the fuel waiver from the federal government.”

The occasion was today’s decision in Fresno by U.S. District Court Judge Anthony Ishii that California has the power to regulate tailpipe emissions for cars and light trucks, a category that includes SUV’s.

The governor has championed the Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, December 12th, 2007
Under: air travel, driving, Environment, rail, trucks | 15 Comments »

disservice vs. dissing the service at the airport

war-demonstrators.jpg At the risk of beating a dead horse, I decided to post this chapter-and- verse analysis of the alleged disrespect paid to Marines who spent their two-hour layover on the tarmac of Oakland International Airport Sept. 27. It’s by Steve Irwin (not to be confused with the late Crocodile Hunter), an airport security consultant and former U.S. Air Force member who used to work at Oakland. He keeps up a website on aviation security and other matters at

The recent PR disaster at OAK could have been easily resolved by airport management with just three simple Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, October 19th, 2007
Under: air travel, Security | 1 Comment »

just turn left at the airport

oak-terminal.jpgThis morning I received one of the biggest responses ever to any story I’ve written in the Bay Area. Unfortunately, the story had little to do with transportation and nothing to do with commuting.

A half-dozen vitriolic e-mails from readers from Virginia to Washington State, one electronic query from a staffer of one member of Congress and a phone call from another representative’s representative.

Still, journalists like to know that their “content,” as I now like to call it (because most people get it for free. Some day, I will be standing at an intersection with a cardboard sign saying, “will provide content for food.”), is being read by the widest audience possible.

The story, in cased you missed it, was about a planeload of troops fresh from Iraq on their way to Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, October 3rd, 2007
Under: air travel, other | 4 Comments »