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Archive for the 'Funding' Category

burning bridges at Caltrans

richmond-bridge-bike-lane2.jpg

Normally, when Caltrans talks about safety, I’m inclined to take what they say at face value. But when they start messing with my compagni di biciclette, I have to wonder.

Thus it was this week when I heard that Caltrans District 4 Director Bijan Sartipi explained to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission that a bike lane across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge was, in a word, impossibile.

Why?

It’s too dangerous. Cars might run into the moveable concrete barrier separating the bikes and pedestrians from traffic lanes and they might bounce back into the other traffic lane, creating worse accidents.

I can see that. As a matter of fact, this morning on my way down I-80 in Albany, I not only put my anti-lock brakes to the test when traffic suddenly went Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, February 15th, 2008
Under: Bay Bridge, Bicycling, Bridges, Caltrans, driving, Environment, Freeways, Funding, Retrofitting, Safety, tolls | 6 Comments »

bullet trains for everybody!

visalia.jpg 

Having been inordinately busy of late, I’ve let moss grow on the blog. You may be forgiven for moving on with your lives.

But if you’re reading these words, you had faith and came back and I thank you.

It’s kinda like high-speed rail. You gotta have faith.

Either that, or a stop in your Central Valley burg.

I can blog about this because I frankly wasn’t paying attention when it came up before the High-Speed Rail Authority board as they met in Sacramento yesterday. I was there to learn about further maneuvering by Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, February 7th, 2008
Under: Funding, high-speed rail, rail | 3 Comments »

the horror: AC Transit’s jet lag

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When I called attention to another local news outlet’s story on AC Transit’s love affair with Belgian-made Van Hool buses a week ago, I said I would be waiting impatiently to read this week’s sequel.

Looks like the East Bay Express’ Bob Gammon saved the best for last. This week’s story gives AC Transit officials a lot more to explain, and it certainly left me wishing I had done all that digging through the bus agency’s records.

While I enjoyed reading last week’s story, it didn’t convince me that these buses had dragged down the entire agency nearly as much as the drop in Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, January 31st, 2008
Under: 511, AC Transit, air travel, Buses, Funding, transit equity | 9 Comments »

the 63% solution


Yesterday I read among the comments to last week’s post on fixing federal transportation funding that the Bay Area spends two-thirds of its transportation money on public transportation while barely one-tenth of commuters actually use it.

Another comment expressed incredulity over that figure, considering how much money it takes to maintain roads and highways, not to mention the $5.7 billion going into replacing the Bay Bridge’s eastern span.

But the immediately apparent bottom line is correct, according to Randy Rentschler, spokesman and lobbyist for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. The commission’s initial framework for its 2030 transportation and growth plan calls for 63 percent of the revenue the Bay Area receives to be spent on public transportation. That’s comparable to Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, January 25th, 2008
Under: BART, Bay Bridge, Bridges, driving, Environment, fuel, Funding, Transit vs. driving | 25 Comments »

Van Hooligans

uncool-van-hool.jpgIt was with some pride that I dissected this week’s East Bay Express cover story on the rise of Belgian-made Van Hool buses at AC Transit. I enjoyed seeing that regular Capricious Commuter commentator David Vartanoff was quoted in the story and that another regular voice on this blog, V Smoothe, had a scathing critique of the story on her own blog, www.abetteroakland.com.

I read Bob Gammon’s story, “The Buses from Hell,” with interest, wanting to know as much as possible about these buses that get some riders and bus drivers so angry they might be provoked to throw something at these vehicles with sleek European styling. He’s won more awards for his work than I’ve submitted entries for, so I knew this would be something good.

I mean, you can’t go wrong when you start a story with, “Pamela Daniels lost her left leg to a Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, January 24th, 2008
Under: AC Transit, Buses, Funding, Safety | 14 Comments »

the next big thing in transportation

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As I sit here high above the Nimitz Freeway, members of my favorite Caltrans maintenance crew are busy patching a 1-by-1-foot hole in the highway’s bridge over High Street.

How appropriate that I just got off the phone with Steve Heminger, who had just flown in from Washington, D.C.

Heminger, who by day is executive director of the Bay Area’s very own Metropolitan Transportation Commission, was tapped in 2005 by Nancy Pelosi to serve on the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission.

That hole in the Nimitz is but one of many such holes in freeways around the nation, and the money to fix them — permanently — is Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, January 18th, 2008
Under: Freeways, fuel, Funding, Safety, tolls | 22 Comments »

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 »

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 »

riding on the Marrakesh Express?

morocco-hsr-pacheco-option.JPGI 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”).

But think of it! Only 20 billion Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, December 4th, 2007
Under: Amtrak, Caltrain, Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), Funding, high-speed rail, rail | 2 Comments »

are we ready to stop driving? right now?

no-vehicles.bmpLast night I watched “The Amazing Mrs. Prichard,” a British television series about a grocery store manager who become prime minister of the UK  because of that longing many of us have for our leaders to use common-sense governance.

As one might expect, much of the drama comes from home-grown logic colliding headlong with the complexities of how things work in the developed world.

In this episode, Mrs. Prichard is frustrated that a G-8 Summit (eight leaders of the world’s economic powers) has come up with nothing concrete to deal with global warming. So after insulting the U.S. president, she proposes her own stab at the problem: On every Wednesday, no one in Britian drives.

I’ve actually seen this happen in a developed country. On Yom Kippur in Israel, 5.5 million citizens Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, November 12th, 2007
Under: BART, Buses, Carpooling, driving, Environment, ferries, Freeways, fuel, Funding, rail, Smart Lanes, telecommuting, Transit vs. driving | 15 Comments »