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Archive for the 'Amtrak' Category

on and off-track

embaradero-ac-transit-jackknife-by-susan-bohan2.JPG 

News item:

OAKLAND _ A Capitol Corridor commuter train struck a car near the Jack London Square Amtrak station Monday evening, prompting an AC Transit bus to illegally pass railroad crossing gates and become jackknifed on the tracks.

Several trains were delayed, the worst an hour and fifteen minutes on the train that hit the car, which made an illegal turn in front of the train, an Amtrak spokeswoman said.

Oakland police said the driver of the car was not seriously injured and refused medical attention. No other injuries were reported.

Trying my level best to maintain my journalistic objectivity, I tried to imagine how this incident could have been the railroad’s fault.

First, there’s the whole Embarcadero issue. Here’s a street that also serves as something like a half-mile of railroad. It’s like the mother of all railroad crossings. Each intersection is gated, but the gates could be open when you enter the street, but close while you’re still driving along it.

I was on an AC Transit bus that came up to that very same intersection where the car was thrown off the tracks. The lights started flashing, and the driver Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, March 14th, 2008
Under: AC Transit, Amtrak, Bicycling, Buses, Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), connectivity, driving, rail, Safety, traffic signals, Transit vs. driving | 2 Comments »

the government deserves more credit

OK, so I was hasty after all. Seems that my last post did not give enough credit to the Bush Administration’s attempts to help improve intercity passenger rail. I suspect its efforts have more to do with Transportation Secretary Mary Peters’ pragmatic approach to funding, i.e., we can do more with less if we channel more into public transportation.

Today I got another note from the Federal Rail Administration, which falls under USDoT’s umbrella:

I saw your blog entry.  I am glad my message was of use to you.  Your main point seems to be that $30 million is not enough.  We agree.  As I wrote in my email cover message to you, the Bush Administration had requested $100 million for this grant program for the current FY08 budget, but Congress Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, February 25th, 2008
Under: Amtrak, Caltrans, Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), Funding, rail, Transit vs. driving | 4 Comments »

the government is here to help

capitol-corridor-in-oakland-by-laura-oda.jpg

This morning I arrived to find a phone message from the Federal Railroad Administration. Seems someone in Washington had seen my story about California’s intercity rail services lobbying state government for more money.

What I might find helpful, the message said, was that the FRA had announced on Tuesday that it had started a new program to do just what the operators of the Auburn-to-San Jose Capitol Corridor and two other state-subsidized operators were looking for.

By helpful, I’m guessing he meant, you missed this, buddy, and should have Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, February 22nd, 2008
Under: Altamont Commuter Express, Amtrak, Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), Freeways, Funding, rail, Transit vs. driving | 5 Comments »

security comes down to earth

madird-bombing-video.jpg

While it doesn’t seem to excite much passion around these parts, I’ve been particularly interested in transportation security, especially after spending a good deal of time in the Holy Land back when a bus would blow up just about every other month.

While Israel doesn’t have a railroad system, it does have a line running north and south linking its coastal cities. When I was there, you couldn’t board a train without going having your bags checked and your body wanded with a metal detector.

Thus, when I saw a video put out by the California High Speed Rail Authority touting the $40 billion system’s advantages, I was a little confused. One of them, we are told, is that you won’t have to Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, February 19th, 2008
Under: Amtrak, Buses, high-speed rail, Security, Transit vs. driving | No Comments »

hobos riding the rails

mmm-free-lunch.jpgNews flash from the California Transit Association:

SACRAMENTO — Less than two weeks after a Superior Court judge ruled that a $409 million diversion of public transit funding in the current state budget was illegal, the Senate Budget Committee last night re-instated the cuts by re-configuring the law on which the judge’s decision was based.  Public transit advocates blasted the move as a deliberate end-run around the court’s decision.

“We argued that the cuts were illegal, and, on that portion, the judge agreed with us,” said Joshua Shaw, Executive Director of the California Transit Association and primary plaintiff in the suit.  “So, rather than work with us to implement the judge’s decision, it looks like the Governor and the Legislature have instead decided to thumb their noses at the court.”

The Senate Budget Committee action was echoed today by the Assembly Budget Committee as part of the Extraordinary Session process of addressing mid-year reductions in the state spending plan.  The matter is expected to be taken up by both houses of the legislature during special floor sessions on Friday.

 So, um, the state legislature can raid Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, February 14th, 2008
Under: Amtrak, Caltrain, Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), rail | 3 Comments »

another view of rail crossing deaths

rr-crossing-tips.gif

Sometimes the most interesting things you find out about something is when you’ve finished writing the story.

Today I got an e-mail from someone who had read my story on the Union Pacific Railroad installing cameras in its locomotives to record railroad  crossing and “trespasser” deaths and lesser accidents and near-misses.

If you saw the story, you might have seen the black-and-white images of a train almost plowing into a big hopper truck, then missing it by what appeared to be a couple feet.

The person who e-mailed me, whom I don’t Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, January 30th, 2008
Under: Amtrak, rail, Safety | 9 Comments »

railing against the darkness in Sacramento

wet-capitol-light-rail.jpgOnce again, I feel compelled to share my mis- fortunes at the expense of revealing my stupidity. I have to believe that there are others who regularly miss buses and have to drive an extra 15 miles to retrieve a forgotten mobile phone.

Perhaps it was my punishment for doubting that high-speed rail would ever be built in my lifetime. Perhaps it was what I deserve for not believing that people will all switch to public transit if only it were more convenient.

Or perhaps it was ignoring the sign in front of the Sacramento parking garage that said it closed at 7 p.m.

So I was in a hurry to get to the High-Speed Rail Authority board meeting where the board decided not to decide, thus deciding on a South Bay route for high-speed rail, which will improve the lives of millions of Californians and will be coming Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, December 20th, 2007
Under: AC Transit, Amtrak, BART, Bicycling, Buses, Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), connectivity, driving, Fare systems, high-speed rail, light rail, parking, rail, taxicabs, Transit vs. driving | No Comments »

it’s ok. Oakland’s got enough bullets.


In the end, while every other major population center in the state is to be served by the mythical beast known as high-speed rail, Oakland is stuck with actual rail.

And it’s all Jerry Brown’s fault.

Yes, it was our newly minted attorney general who gave the California High-Speed Rail Authority the legal opinion that they didn’t need to actually vote to deep-six the idea of running their 200 mph (recently downgraded by 20 mph) trains past Tracy, Livermore, Dublin, Pleasanton and those other communities that suffer from a gross lack of transportation alternatives.

It’s not really Jerry Brown, or even the attorney on his staff who actually figured out the legal niceties that dictated the HSRA board’s lack of action. This decade-in-the-making battle was over three years ago, when the board made its initial decision to go with the Pacheco Pass.

It was the East Bay against San Francisco and San Jose, and that’s a tough battle to win. But since then, it’s become clear that Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, December 19th, 2007
Under: Altamont Commuter Express, Amtrak, BART, Caltrain, connectivity, Environment, Funding, high-speed rail, Planning | 2 Comments »

transit rage


I have to start by saying that our own personal vehicles bring out the worst in us. We’re in control. We’re anonymous. Those other faceless operators are trying to get ahead of us and we hate them for it.

But public transportation is different. We must face our fellow commuters, sans glass or metal dividers. We are known. On my train, the conductor sees my name when he checks my ticket. Amtrak knows more about me than Facebook.

But our vulnerability to schedules, reliability and our dependence on the system can take its toll on our psyches and behavior.

Or maybe it’s just me.

Two incidents of late have forced me to look deeply into the mirror and wonder if I need to get in touch with my Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, December 7th, 2007
Under: Amtrak, BART, Bicycling, Buses, Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), connectivity, driving, Safety, Transit vs. driving | 8 Comments »

some good things about transit

i-880-in-the-rain.jpgAfter getting the most vigorous response to date for my Nov. 30 post, I shouldn’t dwell too much on the positive aspects of taking public transit.

But I believe in fairness, and today was a good day for transit; at least it was for this and a few thousand other commuters.

I made it to the train station with five minutes to spare and had the wisdom to avoid taking my bicycle because of the wet forecast. That left me with the dilemma of how to get the last 1.7 miles from the Oakland Coliseum Amtrak station to work on Oakport Street.

No worries, the 98 bus was there, waiting for me. It left about five minutes later, leaving some leeway in case the Capitol Corridor had been late. I made it to work in good time, which is more than I can say of Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, December 6th, 2007
Under: 511, AC Transit, Altamont Commuter Express, Amtrak, Bicycling, Buses, Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), connectivity, driving, Fare systems, Freeways, Misc. Transportation, rail, technology, Transit vs. driving | 16 Comments »