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Archive for the 'driving' Category

Odometer debate: saving earth or saving privacy?

Most of us want to protect our personal privacy and protect the earth from global warming. Can we do both?

An East Bay legislator said she is trying to avoid conflicts between the two goals in her bill that would require California motorists to report their odometer readings during their annual motor vehicle registration. But concerns over privacy are spurring some people to say: Prove it.

The friction emerged last week in a Metropolitan Transportation Commission committee’s 4-2 vote to endorse AB 1135 by Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, March 17th, 2009
Under: driving, Environment, Freeways, fuel, global warming, technology | 2 Comments »

Obama provides recipe for pothole relief

The people who live on bumpy Charles Hill Road in Orinda have something to cheer about because of President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus package.

Orinda - which ranks lowest among Bay Area cities for local road conditions - plans to spend some of its job stimulus money to fix the narrow, winding road where drivers regularly steer around potholes and big cracks.

The condition of Charles Hill Road is not an isolated problem. Cities and counties throughout California are struggling to hold roads together as voters resist tax and fee hikes, and road maintenance funds heavily dependent on sales tax decline as people drive less and buy less. 

“Our street has gone from being really bad, to downright dangerous,” Nancy Katz, a Charles Hill Road resident, wrote in an email. ”From huge and deep potholes that wreck your car, to the fact that we all now try to work around them (so we don’t further wreck our cars) so we drive around them, which has many of us driving in the middle of the street.” Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, February 20th, 2009
Under: BART, Buses, driving, fuel, Funding, Safety | 3 Comments »

Are DUI checkpoints effective?

DUI checkpoints don’t catch a lot of drunken drivers. For example, a Saturday night checkpoint in Martinez that 592 drivers passed through caught just one, according to police. Law enforcement representatives admitted that this is the case in a recent Medianews article, “DUI checkpoints ineffective, group says.” The American Beverage Institute advocates doing away with the checkpoints, saying it would be more efficient to rely on roving patrols.

That article caught the eye of Beverly McAdams of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, who fired off an e-mail to Medianews in response. According to Mcadams, Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, January 6th, 2009
Under: driving, Freeways, Misc. Transportation, Safety | No Comments »

Should the free ride end for car pools on Bay Area bridges?

Car pooling has worked so well on Bay Area bridges that bridge operators are considering ending the free rides for car pool users during weekday rush hours.

I can hear the rumble of protest brewing among car pool users: “Hey government, we took car pools like you asked, so why penalize us by ending the free ride?” Isn’t that like water districts raising water rates in a drought to offset the loss of revenue from customers using less water? some people might ask.

The issue is likely to reverberate through the halls of the Bay Area Toll Authority - a regional toll collection agency – in the next year as the authority’s board and managers discuss how to pay for $950 million in proposed seismic retrofits for the Antioch and Dumbarton bridges. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, December 17th, 2008
Under: BART, Bay Bridge, Bridges, Carpooling, casual carpools, driving, Freeways, Golden Gate Bridge, Retrofitting, Safety, tolls | 19 Comments »

Does Bay Area need to strengthen two more bridges?

When Bay Area bridge need to be made stronger to withstand big earthquakes, drivers usually end up paying higher bridge tolls to cover the big bills.

So brace for a new study due out today to advise whether whether the Dumbarton and Antioch bridges need expensive seismic upgrades.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, December 17th, 2008
Under: Bridges, Caltrans, driving, Retrofitting, tolls | No Comments »

Rage on the road: How do we avoid the ghost bikes?

I felt a shiver when I saw Doug Oakley’s front page story and photo today about “ghost bike” memorials to cyclists killed in collisions with cars or trucks.

A recreational cyclist and occasional bike commuter, I like to think of cycling as healthy and refreshing. But reading Oakley’s story reminded me how vulnerable humans on a 25- to 30-pound bicycle are when sharing the roads with a ton or 2-ton vehicle that can squash a rider like a bug.

I’ve seen cyclists do unsafe things like riding on the wrong side of the road.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, December 10th, 2008
Under: Bicycling, driving, Environment, global warming | 3 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 »

closing the record on high-speed rail

Some of you may be wondering why I went to the California High-Speed Rail Authority board’s final hearing on its environmental impact documents and didn’t write a story. There will be a story, but only when the board votes to approve the final EIR-EIS tomorrow morning at 10 a.m.

Of course, if they vote it down there will also be a story, but improbable tale will be on page 1.

But here’s the scoop on high-speed rail, which I found in a British newspaper article today, which describes the crush of passengers trying to get to Paris through the Eurostar terminal at St Pancras station in London:

The airline industry has been crushed by the price of kerosene and deserted by passengers fed up with delays. After decades of disappointment, false dawns and virtually bankrupt Channel Tunnels, we have finally arrived at the age of the train and the evidence is in the crowd at St Pancras.

Only eight months after Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, July 8th, 2008
Under: driving, Environment, fuel, Funding, global warming, high-speed rail, Transit vs. driving | 13 Comments »

the battle for Proposition 1 begins

Tomorrow I’m planning to cover what is likely to be the last public hearing on the environmental impact documents for the California High-Speed Rail enterprise, or at least the part that connects the San Joaquin Valley “spine” to its Peninsula extremity.

It should be, but I’ll be careful about saying this because of past history, the last word on the whole Alamont Pass-Pacheco Pass debate, which was largely settled in December in favor of a Pacheco Pass route and a stop in Gilroy.

I’m not even sure why anyone needs to go to this thing, so certain is the outcome. On the other hand, the history of journalism is littered with cautionary tales of assumptions that turned out to be wrong.

Today I had a conversation somewhat more illuminating with Adam Mendelsohn, who recently joined the ungainly monikered “Californians for Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, July 7th, 2008
Under: driving, Environment, fuel, Funding, global warming, high-speed rail, rail, Transit vs. driving | 10 Comments »

there’s no such thing as free parking

There is very little that is free in this world, and that is especially true of parking. Somebody had to build the structure, somebody had to pay off the loan and somebody has to pay to clean and police the place as long as it’s in use.

A new 1,547-space parking garage opened in Pleasant Hill June 30, next to the existing garage and ostensibly a substitute for surface parking that will be developed into a “transit village.”

Parking is free there, but that may soon be remedied.

I’ve always straddled the fence on the issue of parking at BART stations. On the one hand, hardcore transit advocates don’t Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, July 3rd, 2008
Under: AC Transit, BART, driving, Environment, fuel, Funding, parking, rail, transit equity, Transit vs. driving | 18 Comments »