Once 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.
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.
After 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 »
As anyone who reads this blog should know, I love to complain about my long commute, about the 80-minute drive (in good traffic) and the 2 1/2-hour bike-train alternative.
If only I could have moved to Oakland or Berkeley, my life would be better, the lament goes.
But I recently learned that even people smack in the middle of the Bay Area can have an equally crappy commute, at least where public transit is concerned.
Lucinda, one of my colleagues here in Oakland, came up to me the other day and told me she could be asked to run another newspaper in our group while its editor was incapacitated. The San Mateo County Times is located in the city of that name, and by car, it’s less than a half-hour from her home in Alameda.
After being called a traitor to bicycling earlier this week, I got to thinking: What we commuters need is a little comfort.
That’s partly why 70 percent of Bay Area commuters drive solo. It’s more comfortable to be enclosed in your own vehicle, to be able to choose the radio station, to chomp noisily on that breakfast burrito and to engage in ghastly personal grooming habits that even members of your nuclear family wouldn’t tolerate.
Not to belabor a single e-mail, but this bicyclist named John who heard me on KQED’s Forum program had a point:
Sure it’s `scary.’ The point, obviously, is to make it not scary. That’s why the other cities have things like colored bike lanes, protected Read the rest of this entry »
When I got invited to share my wisdom about Bay Area transportation this morning on KQED radio’s “Forum” program, I though maybe I’d hear from listeners about my aligning San Francisco with the Bush Administration.
The outrage, I imagined, at the thought that the epicenter of all things progressive could be the running dog for U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters’ crusade to make drivers pay through the nose for causing congestion. I mean, really.
But no, no one wanted to pillory me for such a suggestion, not even Steve Heminger, executive director of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, who told me Tuesday that not everything happens because of politics.
I discovered this week that in addition to adding six miles to my commute by moving our office to another part of Oakland, the company that was kind enough to hire me and continues to show that kindness by paying me every two weeks (Thanks, guys!) is seriously considering deleting its Commuter Check subsidy.
To be fair, I should point out that when I took this job, I knew I would have a long commute, some 67 miles each way, 90 minutes by car and 2 hours by train and bike on a good day. I was Read the rest of this entry »
I’m both fascinated and disturbed by the Critical Mass fiasco last month, in which enraged cyclists descended upon a woman and children in a minivan in the City Across the Bay. Were it on the streets of Sadr City, we could have shrugged it off, but here in the Bay Area, we had to cringe and a parade of letter writers and pundits stood up and announced, “I’m a cyclist, and I condemn such behavior.” Yes, that’s a direct quote, because I am and I do.
But don’t take my word for it, hear it from our feature writer, Candace Murphy, someone who’s pedaled her way around both sides of the Bay for way longer than I’ve been around these parts:
In this business, one does a lot of writing and pontificating on things one has never seen or felt. Take the Bay Bridge — please. When I want to go to the City by the Bay, I nearly always take BART. You avoid having to park and you avoid that bridge.
Yet the week I started this job, I was compelled to write about the bridge I had crossed maybe twice in my entire life. In fact, I did the story about opening the low bid of $1.43 billion for the self-anchored suspension span in Sacramento, where you can cross the most impressive bridge in 30 seconds.
This week I managed to come down from my ivory tower and experience some of the things I’ve written about but never truly understood.