Part of the Bay Area News Group

Archive for the 'Planning' Category

Metropolitan Transportation Commission votes to leave Oakland for San Francisco

The agency that oversees transportation funding and planning in the Bay Area has decided to leave Oakland for a new regional government headquarters in San Francisco. Oakland political leaders aren’t happy with the 12-2 vote by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, July 28th, 2011
Under: Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Planning | No Comments »

Traffic congestion eases but for how long?

A new report confirms that traffic congestion in America’s cities eased in 2007, disrupting a long trend of steadily worsening traffic.

It’s no surprise. High gas prices in the last half of 2007 discouraged some from driving as much. With the recession throwing more people out of work, we can expect the trend to continue for a while longer. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, July 8th, 2009
Under: driving, Planning | No 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 www.bart.gov.cars/, 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  www.bart.gov.cars/ to submit your ideas to the transit agency.

  

   

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

transportation at the crossing gate

neglected rails

For those of you patient enough to wonder what’s become of me, I was on vacation last week, digging up my yard and rearranging my house to meet my wife’s exacting domestic standards. As for this week, I blame the elections and their abject lack of transportation issues, unless you count Props 98 and 99 and the importance of eminent domain land takings in the construction of new infrastracture projects.

There isn’t, however, much call for taking land for infrastructure projects. In spite of the $20 billion transportation bond measure (Prop 1B) passed in 2006, this state and nation continue to suffer from a lack of enough freeway lanes, airport runways and other things that could help us get around.

I spotted an interesting AP story today talking about one of the most neglected forms of transportation infrastructure, even though we seem to want it more than ever as we anticipate $7-a-gallon gas:

While the nation’s attention is focused on air travel congestion and the high cost of fuel for highway driving, a crisis is developing under the radar for another form of transportation — Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, June 4th, 2008
Under: Altamont Commuter Express, Amtrak, BART, Caltrain, Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), high-speed rail, Planning, rail, Transit vs. driving | 8 Comments »

they threw away the Key


NOTE: “Goodbye to the Key Route System” Video provided by Bob Franklin, BART director and music video director. Vocals by Mel Leroy, lyrics by Judith Offer with Joyce Whitelaw on piano and Lynn Parker on drums.

A week ago, I prompted people to wax nostalgic about the Key System on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of its death. I still find it curious in this day of controversial transit subsidies that a private urban transit system could survive for the first half the last century. Maybe it’s because it was built and operated by a developer and, as transit and smart-growth devotees now preach, housing, business and transit need to be compatible.

Some of you wanted to talk about just that: The kind of housing density that helps transit work, starting with apartments and condominiums. Looking back at development pre-World War II, when the Key System was thriving, it tended to be much denser. Then the GIs came home with spending money, bought cars and the era of the white- Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, April 25th, 2008
Under: AC Transit, Buses, Planning, transit equity, Transit vs. driving | 18 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 »

Your commute ain’t like Elvis’

commuter-elvis-3.jpgI 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.

In the piece by Anrica Deb, one of our student correspondents from the U.C. Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, I found my doppleganger of sorts in an ironworker named Elvis, a.k.a. John Saenz:

“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 »

Posted on Monday, November 26th, 2007
Under: Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), connectivity, driving, ferries, Freeways, Planning, Transit vs. driving | No Comments »

shot in the arm for bullet train thru Altamont

bullet-train.jpg Just when it seemed the establishment was solidly behind the Pacheco Pass through largely undeveloped parts of Santa Clara County, along comes our new member of Congress to once again buck the conventional wisdom.

Now it’s not a major departure for one who represents long-suffering Tracy commuters who must slog daily down I-580 or endure the twists, turns and delays of the ACE commuter choo-choo.

But then Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, is not your average Congressman. He defied the Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, November 8th, 2007
Under: Altamont Commuter Express, Amtrak, BART, Buses, driving, Freeways, high-speed rail, Planning, rail | 11 Comments »

so you wanna fight global warming, eh?

polar-bear-lanes.bmpYou want to stop global warming?

Hmm. Maybe. Sounds good. How?

You can take BART to work.

Not me. Don’t live near a BART station and the BART lots are always full when I drive to one.

You can take the bus to BART.

No. The bus stop is too far from my house. I’d spend 20 minutes just walking there. Then I have to wait for the bus. By that time, I could be at work already.

You could ride your bike to BART.

It’s hilly where I live. I’d get all sweaty. And besides, BART doesn’t allow me to take my bike during rush hour. Any other ideas?

Yes. Keep driving and pay a carbon tax of 23 cents a gallon, pay a rush-hour toll to get into the city and a peak-hour parking surcharge when you get to work.

But I’d be paying, what, five times Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, October 26th, 2007
Under: BART, Bicycling, Buses, Carpooling, connectivity, driving, Environment, Freeways, fuel, Funding, parking, Planning, technology, tolls, Transit vs. driving | 14 Comments »