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 »
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.
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 »
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.
News 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.
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 »
I recently discovered that we progressive Californians are on a race into the future of high-speed rail travel.
Versus North Africa.
Yes, the tech-savvy nation of Morocco is planning to build its own high-speed rail line connecting Casablanca with Tangier:
“The project cost is estimated at 20 billion dirhams and will cut the journey between the two cities to two hours and 10 minutes instead of five hours and 45 minutes currently,” (Transport Minister) Karim Ghellab told reporters.
The high-speed train line would carry 8 million passengers a year after it starts in 2013, he added.
That time difference almost sounds like the Bay Area to L.A., car vs. our own HSR (which does not, I’m told, stand for “highly suspect ridership”).
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.
I was delighted to see that our very own news organization did a story on construction workers commuting from places like Fresno (weekly) and Chico (daily) into San Francisco to help build One Rincon Hill and other monuments to the divide between Bay Area haves and have-much-less-than-it-costs-to-live-heres.
“There’s no one north of Santa Rosa,” said the new father, who keeps a picture of his 7-month-old daughter on the inside of his hard hat. Saenz owns a house outside Healdsburg, 70 miles Read the rest of this entry »