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Archive for the 'Security' Category

BART going to the dogs? Search drill at PH station

The Pleasant Hill BART station will have some unusual four-legged visitors Monday night: search and rescue dogs practicing their skills in a drill. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, January 16th, 2012
Under: BART, Security | No 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 »

airport security pass needs clarification


As I fretted over the finishing touches to my opus on the Tao of freeway ramp metering lights for Sunday’s papers, I got an e-mail from Clear, the company that promises a sort of FasTrak version of airport security.

Funny thing about this phenomenon. The media loves these guys, although I’m not sure people truly understand what’s offered by Clear, now at 12 airports including San Francisco International and San Jose’s Mineta International, and Clear’s smaller competitors, who operate at only Reno and Jacksonville.

The news release, which was quickly followed by a copy conveyed by my editor asking me to do a short article about it, announced that Clear had opened an enrollment counter at Oakland International in anticipation of opening its Clear Lanes toward the end of March.

It sounds like a great Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, February 29th, 2008
Under: air travel, Security | 8 Comments »

the TSA’s new blog: fits nicely in quart bag

evolution-of-security2.bmpFirst, I feel compelled to say that any government agency as big in the hearts of its countrymen as the Trans-portation Security Administration deserves some points for actively seeking feedback.

And there is no more free-flowing an arena for that as the blogosphere.

So behold: The Evolution of Security.

Just the thought of the TSA doing a blog made me and countless others chuckle. Here’s but one example of its ripeness for exploitation, from Steve Johnson’s “Hypertext” column-blog in the Chicago Tribune:

4. The use of the term “evolution” in the blog’s title does not constitute endorsement by the TSA or this administration of the concept of evolution, generally. TSA believes it may Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, February 20th, 2008
Under: air travel, Security | 2 Comments »

security comes down to earth


While it doesn’t seem to excite much passion around these parts, I’ve been particularly interested in transportation security, especially after spending a good deal of time in the Holy Land back when a bus would blow up just about every other month.

While Israel doesn’t have a railroad system, it does have a line running north and south linking its coastal cities. When I was there, you couldn’t board a train without going having your bags checked and your body wanded with a metal detector.

Thus, when I saw a video put out by the California High Speed Rail Authority touting the $40 billion system’s advantages, I was a little confused. One of them, we are told, is that you won’t have to Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, February 19th, 2008
Under: Amtrak, Buses, high-speed rail, Security, Transit vs. driving | No Comments »

disservice vs. dissing the service at the airport

war-demonstrators.jpg At the risk of beating a dead horse, I decided to post this chapter-and- verse analysis of the alleged disrespect paid to Marines who spent their two-hour layover on the tarmac of Oakland International Airport Sept. 27. It’s by Steve Irwin (not to be confused with the late Crocodile Hunter), an airport security consultant and former U.S. Air Force member who used to work at Oakland. He keeps up a website on aviation security and other matters at

The recent PR disaster at OAK could have been easily resolved by airport management with just three simple Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, October 19th, 2007
Under: air travel, Security | 1 Comment »

Big Brother is my co-pilot


The news out of Washington today is that our very own Caltrans, Metropolitan Transportation Commission and University of California, Berkeley, researchers are joining forces to monitor the movements of all vehicles in the United States.

That’s one way of looking at it.

The government has Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, May 31st, 2007
Under: 511, Caltrans, driving, Freeways, Funding, maps, Security, technology | 1 Comment »

Googling down the highway

google-street-view.bmpLet me begin by saying that I continually strive to be as objective as possible about everything. Ken Lay had his reasons and so did Pinochet, thus there are two sides to almost every issue.

I will even give Google some credit where credit’s due, even though they suck the very essence of those who subsist on creating intellectual property, robotically repackage it and sell it to advertisers who once helped pay for my child’s health insurance.

Today I found more evidence of why the search engine I can’t live with or without is becoming the new Microsoft.

I was looking up something on Google Maps, as I do obsessively, and noticed a new button, “Street View,” which I dutifully clicked on.

Blue outlines ran along MacArthur Boulevard in East Oakland and a little orange board-game pawn appeared on the map with a little balloon saying, “Drag me Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, May 29th, 2007
Under: driving, maps, parking, Safety, Security, technology | No Comments »

sipping unleaded at the CAFE

For those of you who are tired of hearing about the Maze collapse, here’s a little something out of Washington to chew on: A press release I received today from the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

It’s anticipating the unthinkable: Congress might actually force carmakers to improve fuel economy standards for the first time since I got my driver’s license:

Washington, D.C., May 3, 2007 — Members of the Senate will hear testimony today on the effects of the federal government’s fuel economy regulations, but will likely fail to address one of the program’s most glaring flaws: its deadly effect on safety.

While the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation hears Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, May 3rd, 2007
Under: driving, Environment, Freeways, Safety, Security | 5 Comments »

The great train mugging

looking-out-front-of-cap-corridor2.jpgSorry the blog has been idle, at least as far as my efforts are concerned. I had jury duty last week and will again starting April 30, so please be patient.

You may have heard about the Capitol Corridor incident in which an engineer was severely beaten by thugs on the train tracks just outside of Sacramento, but I receieved an e-mail with a full account of the incident from Gene Skoropowski, who runs the Corridor:

[Monday] evening we had perhaps the most Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Sunday, April 22nd, 2007
Under: Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), rail, Safety, Security | 4 Comments »