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Archive for the 'Bridges' Category

FasTrak takes its toll on bridge jobs

Carquinez toll booths

My colleague Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at the Vallejo Times-Herald did a nice times-they-are-a-changin’ story on toll takers this weekend:

Since the advent of FasTrak, Bay Area bridge toll taking positions have been cut by 46 and another 20 will vanish in the next five years, (Caltrans spokesman Bob) Haus said. In 2002, there were 372 full-and part-time toll collectors, Haus said, and 326 today.

Like so many other jobs, theirs have been taken by new technology, namely FasTrak RFID technology that the Bay Area Toll Authority, a.k.a. the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, is trying to boost these days.

There are now about 725,000 FasTrak accounts, said Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Bay Area Toll Authority spokesman John Goodman.

No toll takers lost their jobs as a direct result of FasTrak, since most job reductions came through attrition and voluntary transfers, Haus said.

That reminded me of a conversation I had with an MTC official on the question that inevitably comes up when encouraging FasTrak use comes up: Why don’t you just give FasTrak users a discount?

He told me that raising tolls would require Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, December 26th, 2007
Under: Bridges, driving, Funding, tolls | 7 Comments »

for whom the debt tolls


In his first report on the California’s indebtedness, state treasurer Bill Lockyer’s graphic artist elicited a few chuckles at the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, a.k.a the Bay Area Toll Authority.

The Debt Affordability Report has a lovely picture of hands holding binoculars, the right lens containing the Bay Bridge’s $1 billion skyway section and the left fitted with the $1.43 billion Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, October 1st, 2007
Under: Bay Bridge, Bridges, Caltrans, driving, Funding, Retrofitting, Safety, tolls | No Comments »

the real change on the Bay Bridge


Throughout last weekend and the week before, I was constantly shaking off attempts to write anything about FasTrak changes on the Bay Bridge.

Why? Because it’s boring. Moving a 6,700-ton slab of earthquake-stressed concrete two stories in the air is a lot more compelling. At any other time, I would have been all over the FasTrak story.

It’s not just that I had better things to do. It’s that it’s difficult to look at that map and say what’s so different about it. They’ve moved some lanes around, they’ve added one and they’ve made the approach lanes longer by 2,000 feet.

The latter change I think most regulars will agree is a big improvement. I’m a Carquinez user myself, and I was positively bubbling Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, September 6th, 2007
Under: 511, art, Bay Bridge, Bridges, Caltrans, driving, Freeways, Funding, maps, tolls | No Comments »

Caltrans’ finest two hours


What a difference a weekend makes. Who said Caltrans was risk-averse? They daren’t say it to Will Kempton’s face tomorrow at 5 p.m., or maybe 4 p.m., to quote contractor C.C. Myers, the “patron saint of Bay Area Commuters.”

After being on my feet for 10 hours watching and listening to the demolition of the Yerba Buena Island Viaduct and having to file an unsatisfying story saying that job had gotten slightly bogged down, I had to stay for a few more hours to see if something else was going to happen.

It really wansn’t as spontaneous as all that, to be honest. I had my sleeping bag and pillow in the back of the family Toyota, and was looking for a chance to hop a Caltrans shuttle across the closed and severed Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, September 3rd, 2007
Under: Bay Bridge, Bridges, Caltrans | 1 Comment »


never-get-to-work-sign.jpg I hate making commitments. Never mind that I’ve been married for 19 years and four months, I just don’t like to say yes to something and then find out that something else is more pressing and disappoint someone.

Still, I found myself exiting the Montgomery St. BART/Muni station this afternoon, doing the “talk to the hand” gesture to someone who was trying to hand me a leaflet of some sort. I felt slightly guilty, having once handed out leaflets myself back when I was a starving student.

I had committed to sit on a panel discussing transportation in California. That I would be invited to share my opinion about something I know very little about was sure to be an ego boost, so I jumped at the chance. Accepting the $175 stipend (to cover one’s expenses… BART fare, $5, parking, $6, lost speaking engagement fees, $164… hmm… that works out perfectly) was regrettably Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, August 30th, 2007
Under: BART, Bay Bridge, Bridges, Caltrans, connectivity, driving, Freeway collapse, Freeways, Retrofitting | No Comments »

ok, i’ll say it: stay home on Labor Day weekend


We journalists are fond of disseminating news, or information that is new or previously unknown.

But today I’m going to tell nearly every one of you something that we’ve known for some months now, on the theory that one or two of you will be backing out of your caves on Labor Day weekend with the intention of driving somewhere.

Just to get your attention, I’ll put it the way Caltrans does on its variable message signs on all routes leading into the Bay Area:

The Bay Bridge is closed.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, August 17th, 2007
Under: 511, AC Transit, BART, Bay Bridge, Bridges, Buses, Caltrans, connectivity, driving, ferries, Freeways, Funding, Retrofitting, Safety, Transit vs. driving | 7 Comments »

tag! you’re tolled!

I was giddy with excitement last night when I went through the Carquinez Bridge toll plaza and realized that Saturday there’d be one extra FasTrak-only lane and that that stupid no-lane approach would be changed to a 3,000-foot FasTrak-only lane.

For those of you unfamiliar with the way of ETC (electronic toll collection), using the FasTrak lanes at the Carquinez often involves crossing a white line, as if you weren’t supposed to use FasTrak.

I guessed that the reasoning behind it was something like, “if you have an electronic toll tag, you must know where you’re going,” and “if you’re a tourist and paying cash, you ought to be scared Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, August 10th, 2007
Under: 511, Bridges, driving, Freeways, Funding, tolls | 2 Comments »

gold and silver we have none, have we none …

I wanted to believe that the collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis would spark a renaissance in infrastructure maintenance.

 To any causal observer, it has. There are bills in Congress, inspections by Caltrans and panel discussiosn on the radio talking about this terrible problem of how our highways, bridges, levees and aqueducts are so badly looked after that a major bridge can pitch commuters into the Mississippi during rush hour.

Silly me.

It isn’t the first time a big bridge has collapsed, and legislatures have been spurred to action, boldly proclaiming their Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, August 8th, 2007
Under: Bridges, Caltrans, driving, Freeways, Funding, Safety, tolls | 3 Comments »

giving in to gephyrophobia


I must confess that I’m one of those people who is both fascinated and frightened by bridges.

Maybe it’s my acrophobia, although in my defense I must say it’s not exactly against human nature to fear falling from a high place, prehistoric cliff dwellers notwithstanding.

Then again, there’s the fact that I’m a relative newbie to the Bay Area, so I don’t think about all those years of living here without a major earthquake. When I cross the Bay Bridge, I think about the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, the 50-foot bridge deck that came loose and the upper deck of the Cypress Structure that crushed Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, August 3rd, 2007
Under: Bay Bridge, Bridges, Safety, Smart Lanes, tolls | No Comments »