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Archive for the 'tolls' Category

Does Bay Area need to strengthen two more bridges?

When Bay Area bridge need to be made stronger to withstand big earthquakes, drivers usually end up paying higher bridge tolls to cover the big bills.

So brace for a new study due out today to advise whether whether the Dumbarton and Antioch bridges need expensive seismic upgrades.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, December 17th, 2008
Under: Bridges, Caltrans, driving, Retrofitting, tolls | No Comments »

riding the wave

This week was a disharmonious convergence of most things I love about transportation in the Bay Area.

There was Spare the Air, which refused to be discredited as it died with a “yee-ha!” yesterday, racking up nearly 400,000 BART rides in one day, which happened to be the day after I blogged about what a futile gesture the final day of “Spare the Air” free transit was going to be.

As I watch the glare of the lights over the Coliseum, I can safely assume that more A’s fans will take BART home than in any previous year. No matter how much they complain about fares, they know that gas is more expensive. There may even be one or two fans who have already seen their personal scales tip in favor of selling their only Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, June 20th, 2008
Under: BART, Bridges, Buses, Caltrain, driving, Environment, Fare systems, fuel, Funding, global warming, rail, tolls, Transit vs. driving | 7 Comments »

enjoy your free ride while it lasts

While I’ve spent much of this week on the blog bickering over high-speed rail funding, I’ve noticed a thread emerge that speaks to all forms of transportation, especially the ubiquitous solo vehicle commute.

Time and time again, public transportation advocates, who are fighting for nickles and dimes in Sacramento in these days of $15 billion budget holes, tell me that driving isn’t free. Roads and highways aren’t free.

Yes, even freeways aren’t free.

Every year, state and local governments pay billions of dollars for the upkeep of our roads and highways. You know that guy in the Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, May 22nd, 2008
Under: Carpooling, casual carpools, driving, Freeways, fuel, Funding, global warming, parking, tolls, Transit vs. driving | 4 Comments »

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 »

the next big thing in transportation

i-880-high-st-bridge-loses-another-chunk-18-jan-08.jpg

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 »

Marin County, the toll rings for thee

doyle-drive.jpgIt’s really funny how things that make perfect sense to a roomful of bureaucrats make no sense whatsoever to most other people. I’m supposed to to bridge that gap, so to speak, because my job involves studying the logic of the bureaucrats and translating it into the vulgar language of Noah Webster.

Today I noticed that our free-spirited sister paper, the Marin Independent Journal, had a column that cuts to the very core of that disconnect.

Here’s the bureaucrat’s logic:

1. We don’t have enough money to pay for our existing infrastructure, to say nothing of building new infrastructure.

2. We need to get more people to ride public transit, to take the pressure off clogged freeways and cut back on air pollution (CO2, particulates and that old-timey favorites, NOx and SOx).

3. The easier and cheaper it is for people to Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, December 17th, 2007
Under: Golden Gate Bridge, tolls, Transit vs. driving | 9 Comments »

you can’t get here from here

511-transit-planner.bmp

As anyone who reads this blog should know, I love to complain about my long commute, about the 80-minute drive (in good traffic) and the 2 1/2-hour bike-train alternative.

If only I could have moved to Oakland or Berkeley, my life would be better, the lament goes.

But I recently learned that even people smack in the middle of the Bay Area can have an equally crappy commute, at least where public transit is concerned.

Lucinda, one of my colleagues here in Oakland, came up to me the other day and told me she could be asked to run another newspaper in our group while its editor was incapacitated. The San Mateo County Times is located in the city of that name, and by car, it’s less than a half-hour from her home in Alameda.

But she wasn’t too keen on Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, November 30th, 2007
Under: 511, AC Transit, BART, Bicycling, Buses, Caltrain, Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), driving, Environment, tolls, Transit vs. driving | 18 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 »

critical of the masses

bike-lane-in-china-from-norisons2005.jpg

When I got invited to share my wisdom about Bay Area transportation this morning on KQED radio’s “Forumprogram, I though maybe I’d hear from listeners about my aligning San Francisco with the Bush Administration.

The outrage, I imagined, at the thought that the epicenter of all things progressive could be the running dog for U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters’ crusade to make drivers pay through the nose for causing congestion. I mean, really.

But no, no one wanted to pillory me for such a suggestion, not even Steve Heminger, executive director of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, who told me Tuesday that not everything happens because of politics.

He was, by the way, the only Bay Area transportation official I’ve ever seen hug a member Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, October 17th, 2007
Under: Bicycling, Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), connectivity, driving, fuel, Funding, parking, tolls | 2 Comments »