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Archive for the 'Safety' Category

Fixing the fix; when will the Bay Bridge reopen?

It was a deja vu experience for news reporters and motorists last night as the Bay Bridge was closed indefinitely to shore up a cracked bridge piece called an eyebar. It turns out that parts of the the Labor Day weekend fix – a giant metal splint – failed and crashed onto the bridge.

Caltrans said this morning it doesn’t know when the fix can be fixed, but officials expect it to be “days at the worst.” Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, October 28th, 2009
Under: Bay Bridge, Bridges, Caltrans, Safety | No Comments »

The BART fix: Can police department change after Grant shooting?

In the saga of BART’s response to the police shooting of unarmed train rider Oscar Grant III, a few things seemed destined to happen.

First, the transit board members said publicy they were sorry about the shooting. This was in early January during the board’s first meeting after passenger-shot videos showed a transit officer shooting Grant in the back as he lay prone on a station platform. The office has since resigned and been charged with murder.

Then yesterday the board promised to fix the transit police department. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, October 2nd, 2009
Under: BART, rail, Safety | No Comments »

Death on the highways: Texting, twittering and calling

The evidence keeps piling up  – along with dead and mangled bodies – that use of electronic communications devices while driving is taking a heavy toll. But it’s not like Americans are going to go back to the days of pulling off the road to make calls from a phone booth.

So what are the best actions for drivers and lawmakers to take to minimize the carnage from use of cell phone calls, texts and tweets on the highways?  Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Saturday, September 26th, 2009
Under: Buses, driving, hands-free driving, Safety, trucks | No Comments »

Ever ridden on the Washington D.C. Metro?

A deadly train collision Monday has put the spotlight on the Washington, D.C. Metro transit system. In happier days, though, many tourists over the years are likely to have fonder memories of riding the BART-like train system in the nation’s Capitol.

If you have traveled on the Metro system, share your experiences below on what it was like.

For my part, I rode the Metro during a visit to Washington D.C. about nine years ago, and found it a clean and comfortable way to get around town and the neighboring suburbs.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009
Under: BART, rail, Safety | 4 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 »

Texting on train headed toward disaster

Anyone who rides a train to work likely will feel a chill down their spine upon reading today’s news stories about the locomotive engineer in control of a commuter train that crashed into a freight train in a Los Angeles suburb last September, killing 25 people and injuring another 135.

The engineer regularly sent cellphone text messages to train buffs while he ran Metrolink trains, and he sometimes allowed teenage train buffs to ride in the cab, and on one occasion, take control of the train, according to new stories based on the text message transcripts.

Talk about taking risks with riders who trust a public transit carrier to get them to their destination safely. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009
Under: BART, rail, Safety | No 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 »

meet the new bud, same as the old bud?

It being the day before California Handsfree Day, I was moved to run out of the office down to get a new ear bud to replace my busted three-year-old model. I drove to my friendly neighborhood T-Mobile store, only because that was the only place in the vicinity I could be sure would sell such things.

I don’t really like any cell phone stores. Walking in the front door runs the gamut from salespeople with their backs turned trying to get other people to sign away two years of their lives to a shark tank. They must work on commission, because even when I was looking at measly ear buds priced at $14.99, I was accosted by an extremely helpful sales associate.

“What kind of phone do you have?” she asked.

“Aren’t they pretty universal?” I asked, trying to sound Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, June 30th, 2008
Under: 511, driving, hands-free driving, Safety, technology | No Comments »