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Archive for the 'Misc. Transportation' Category

Does your commute suck? Then post here


In honor of National Bike to Work Day, a group called Transportation for America has created a truly awesome Web site, Go there to howl, scream, groan, growl and vent over your sucky commute, whether it’s getting stuck in the creep-and-bleep or the held hostage by the vagaries of BART. Since it’s a national site, you have a chance to hear about commute horrors elsewhere, as this post attests: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Sunday, May 17th, 2009
Under: Misc. Transportation | 8 Comments »

A bike commute on the back roads, deer and all

The highlight of my bike to work this week was encountering a mother deer and her two fawns crossing Danville Boulevard in front of me near Singing Hill Road in Alamo.

Here was this deer ambling across the well-traveled old highway during the morning commute. She seemed to know that either cars down the road would stop for her or that someone on a bicycyle was not a threat. I shooed her on. She walked off the road into some brush and disappeared down an embankment leading to the Walnut Creek channel.

It was a taste of nature while commuting by bicycle on the backroads of Contra Costa County. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, May 14th, 2009
Under: Bicycling, driving, Environment, Misc. Transportation | 1 Comment »

TransLink to become reality?

Bay Area commuters may soon be able to hop on BART in Pleasant Hill, jump aboard a Muni bus at the Embarcadero station, transfer to Caltrain and zoom to work in San Jose, all on the same prepaid card.

Well, maybe. BART announced Friday that the TransLink card passed lab and tests and is “expected” to be available to its riders by this summer. Up until now, only AC Transit, Golden Gate bus, Golden Gate ferry and Muni accepted the card.

This would seem to be great news – the most important component of Bay Area commuting finally becoming part of the TransLink network – but it could be a bit premature to start celebrating.

The project has suffered from delays since it first came under discussion in 1993. Back in early 2007, the revered founder of this blog, Erik Nelson, announced that the long-awaited TransLink card had finally made its debut in the Bay Area, on AC Transit and Golden Gate Transit.

The card was supposed to be available on all the Bay Area’s transit systems by 2001. Oakland resident Garlynn Woodsong gives an engaging account of why it has taken so long on his Underground Science blog.

Still, BART says the card should be available by this summer, which would presumably force them to make it happen by September. Well, readers, are you ready to run out and buy one of those green cards right away? If not, why not? And if you might be willing to share your thoughts with Reporter Janis Mara about the subject, her know either via a comment here or at She is writing a story about TransLink.

Photo: Metropolitan Transportation Commission.


Posted on Monday, May 11th, 2009
Under: Misc. Transportation | 16 Comments »

Steering BART toward train car of future?

When a family buys a new car, the mom, the dad, and each of the kids typically wants a say on the model, sound system, upholstery and other features.

When BART buys new cars, it’s got some 360,000 daily riders to think about – a mobile village of varying tastes, needs and politics. 

Are you tired of conservative blue seat colors? Are there too few seats for long rides? Not enough space to get in trains in rush hour? Is more space needed for bicycles and wheelchairs? How about televisions on trains? Do the floors and seats smell like overused sleeping bags because they soak up grime and odors? 

The rapid transit system is trying to find out what BART riders really want in the design of the train car of the future. BART is preparing to order up to 700 cars to replace its aging fleet of cars. 

The BART Board gave and got samples of the design concerns Thursday in a special workshop to unveil some alternative conceptual models for the $3.4 billion car order.

Under some options, BART cars would have a third door, fewer seats and more standing room to carry more passengers and unload them faster. This is a big plus for increasing BART’s people-carrying capacity in a growing region, but a potential bummer for travelers who get stuck standing on a long ride from the suburbs.

“We can’t make them stand that long,” said Gail Murray, a BART board member from Walnut Creek. “That’s my bottom line.”

The long distance riders, she said, supply most of BART’s fare revenue money under a fare structure that charges more for longer trips. 

Despite the recession that has cut into BART’s passenger growth this year, some trains still are very crowded during rush hour. The crowding will only worsen in the decades to come as the region’s population increases, BART planners say.

Positioning of seats is another design concern. Most BART seats face forward or back, but positioning more seats to face sideways would open up more standing room to handle more passengers.

To improve comfort for standing passengers, BART proposes to look at installing poles in the center of cars with cushioned pads for people to lean against. This concept is borrowed from London’s subway.

In other thoughts from board members, Murray said she wants to do replace the “staid” blue seat colors for “21st century” colors. Lynette Sweet of San Francisco wants stain resistant, easily cleaned seat and floor material to preserve her dream that BART cars some day may permit drinking beverages from leak-resistant containers.

BART has posted drawings of alternative models at, as well as offering viewers a chance to submit comments.

One BART rider from San Ramon who read my story about the train design called me up to express his priorities.

Quieter cars, clearer public address announcements, and easier to clean seats and floors are on Moises  

Ostrovsky’s list.

“You can hear the public address announcements, but you can’t understand them,” Ostrovsky told me earlier today.

His ideas reflect what many BART riders say in surveys.  In the new trains, train arrival announcements will be automated for the most part, BART officials say, and there may be lighted maps on walls to show train locations and stops. 

So what are your ideas for the train car design? Let us know below, and visit to submit your ideas to the transit agency.



Posted on Friday, May 8th, 2009
Under: BART, Misc. Transportation, Planning, rail, Safety | 6 Comments »

Secret speed trap tipoff

If you’re driving down the highway pedal to the metal and a vehicle approaching from the other direction flashes its headlights, what does this mean? BazookaJoe, a frequent contributor to this newspaper’s forums, gives the inside scoop in this discussion thread: You’re approaching a speed trap.

Astonishingly, at least to the Queen, bazookajoe then goes on to upbraid his fellow motorist for saving him from an almost-certain traffic ticket, saying, “Thanks for nothing Mr. White Truck driver!”

Or maybe this is all a big joke on bazookajoe’s part?

Photo: frozenchipmunk on flickr.

Posted on Thursday, May 7th, 2009
Under: Misc. Transportation | No Comments »

Thursday afternoon update: Traffic Inching Along 880 near Coliseum

Readers, if you’re going somewhere in Oakland near the Coliseum, beware! Traffic is moving at a crawl on northbound Interstate 880 near the Coliseum at this very moment – 1:30 p.m. Thursday afternoon. Debris spilled on 880 near the 16th Avenue exit, according to the California Highway Patrol Web site. Two lanes on northbound 880 are blocked starting at High Street and big rigs are allowed to use westbound Highway 580 to circumvent the jam-up.

According to reports, a load of concrete spilled and tore a hole in the road. Caltrans is repairing the roadway. The tie-up in the northbound lanes is expected to last until around 6:30 p.m.

Southbound traffic looks fine, which should be a mercy for commuters heading home from San Francisco.

As it happens, the Queen is currently working from the Oakland Tribune office and looking down on the traffic jam from the ninth floor. The backup is visible as far as the eye can see. A kind (and well-prepared!) fellow reporter, Cecily Burt, loaned the Queen her binoculars and the Queen was able to spy two empty northbound lanes beginning right after the 16th Street exit.

Posted on Thursday, April 30th, 2009
Under: Misc. Transportation | 1 Comment »

The Caldecott Tunnel: Birth canal to a new coinage


When you think about it, how appropriate: The Caldecott Tunnel, with its maddening backup and attendant Stupid Vehicle Tricks by drivers trying to avoid it, has occasioned the birth of a new traffic term, to wit: Sidezoomers.

Of course, most of you already know about UC Berkeley Professor Cynthia Gorney’s New York Times article in which she used the term to describe people who stay in the two left-hand lanes of Highway 24 approaching the tunnel until they close, then merge back into traffic to enter the tunnel. The piece is now appearing in Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, April 21st, 2009
Under: Misc. Transportation | No Comments »

No More Mr. Nice Guy

BART’s placid and sparsely attended board meetings turned raucous, crowded and long this year after a transit police officer shot to death Oscar Grant III, an unarmed passenger, on New Years

But the BART board appears ready to pull in the reins after one angry protester splattered BART General Manager Dorothy Dugger with red paint last Thursday during a board meeting.  

Board members are talking about enforcing speaker time limits, checking backpacks of people entering the board room, banning displays of banners, and not permitting large groups of people to stand together at the speaker’s podium to make statements. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, April 15th, 2009
Under: BART, Misc. Transportation | 1 Comment »

Can a dinosaur evolve before it’s too late?

You wouldn’t nominate the boss of a major American auto manufacturer as the likeliest person to suggest the nation consider a huge increase in the federal gas tax.

But General Motors CEO Rich Wagoner told reporters earlier this week that a big gas hike might be good for America as an incentive for consumers to save energy by buying hybrids, electrics and other fuel efficient vehicles. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, March 20th, 2009
Under: driving, Environment, fuel, global warming, Misc. Transportation | 1 Comment »

Choosing ‘pleasing names’ for CoCo County streets in 1890

“In Contra Costa there is quite a foreign population, and foreign names are used in some cases,” the San Francisco Pacific Rural Press informed its readers in 1890 as it reported on “the more progressive citizens of Contra Costa County” and their work selecting “pleasing names” for the county’s country roads. The article kindly explains Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, March 4th, 2009
Under: Misc. Transportation | 2 Comments »