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Archive for the 'transit equity' Category

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 »

there’s no such thing as free parking

There is very little that is free in this world, and that is especially true of parking. Somebody had to build the structure, somebody had to pay off the loan and somebody has to pay to clean and police the place as long as it’s in use.

A new 1,547-space parking garage opened in Pleasant Hill June 30, next to the existing garage and ostensibly a substitute for surface parking that will be developed into a “transit village.”

Parking is free there, but that may soon be remedied.

I’ve always straddled the fence on the issue of parking at BART stations. On the one hand, hardcore transit advocates don’t Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, July 3rd, 2008
Under: AC Transit, BART, driving, Environment, fuel, Funding, parking, rail, transit equity, Transit vs. driving | 18 Comments »

‘transportation’ vs. transit

One of the ways that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s financial folks justify diverting fuel tax receipts that would otherwise be spent on public transit is using it for “transportation,” rather than “transit.”

That means that at a time when $4-a-gallon-gas is driving commuters toward buses, trains and ferries along with driving up the so-called “spillover” fund close to $900 million, this money is being budgeted for school buses and buses and vans that serve regional social service centers.

Make no mistake, these are things that would normally be funded out of the general fund, which is something like $15 billion short without such diversions and other schemes like borrowing against the state lottery or (now here’s a crazy, Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, May 20th, 2008
Under: AC Transit, BART, Buses, Funding, global warming, transit equity | No 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 »

the horror: AC Transit’s jet lag

the-far-flung-east-bay.jpg

When I called attention to another local news outlet’s story on AC Transit’s love affair with Belgian-made Van Hool buses a week ago, I said I would be waiting impatiently to read this week’s sequel.

Looks like the East Bay Express’ Bob Gammon saved the best for last. This week’s story gives AC Transit officials a lot more to explain, and it certainly left me wishing I had done all that digging through the bus agency’s records.

While I enjoyed reading last week’s story, it didn’t convince me that these buses had dragged down the entire agency nearly as much as the drop in Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, January 31st, 2008
Under: 511, AC Transit, air travel, Buses, Funding, transit equity | 9 Comments »

don’t let new BART card master you

take-a-card.jpgWhen it comes to consumer credit, I’m not unique among Americans. I see, I want, I buy, I pay interest.

I understand that credit is expensive, that saving is good and borrowing can get you into trouble. That’s why credit cards are reserved for those impulse purchases that you can’t pay for NOW, but just need to stretch those dollars until the end of your billing cycle.

Along comes the end of the billing cycle, and whaddaya know? There’s rent, there’s that wireless bill or car payment (By the way, car notes simply aren’t Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, July 19th, 2007
Under: BART, Fare systems, Funding, rail, transit equity | 2 Comments »

end of the line for budget fight

tracksend2.jpgThrough the good offices of conscientious colleagues, I received four copies of a news release reminding people that the fight over public transit, er, “transportation,” funding is still raging in Sacramento:

OAKLAND, CA, July 5, 2007: A group of 43 Alameda and Contra Costa county elected officials today sent a letter to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger urging him to restore $1.3 billion in transit funds in this year’s state budget. The letter includes strong objections to proposed public transit funding cuts that would adversely impact East Bay residents, regional air quality, and the local economy.

That’s all very touching, but according to the governor’s Finance Department, a bunch of Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, July 5th, 2007
Under: Buses, Funding, rail, transit equity | 4 Comments »

poverty and the suburbs: a short commute

Oh, the arrogance of deprivation.

Or at least of those who advocate for the poor and the downtrodden and those who claim to know something about people who live in one neighborhood or another.east-coco.jpg

I can get away with saying this because I belong to the latter group. It was only Tuesday night that I put a snarky little “but” in one of my stories when referring to eBART as a project that would serve the Bay Area’s “urban core.”

eBART, you see, will Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, June 29th, 2007
Under: BART, Buses, Funding, rail, transit equity | 13 Comments »

10 things I learned in a year by the Bay

arriving-at-platform.jpgOn March 20, 2006, I arrived in Oakland to set myself up as an expert on Bay Area transportation. I’m still working on that, but I’ve learned a few things since then.

The first lesson, after living and working in the wilds of Central Maryland, remote Long Island and Southern California, was learning just what Bay Area commuters had to complain about.

I mean, this place has a mass transit system like no other west of the Mississippi, freeways that don’t back up at midnight and commuter trains that run after 7 p.m. Not to mention, its denizens make their homes in tight valleys that make perfect little transportation corridors, like, you know, the Livermore Valley.

Ok, so I had a lot to learn about Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, March 20th, 2007
Under: 511, AC Transit, BART, Bay Bridge, Buses, Caltrain, Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), Carpooling, connectivity, driving, Environment, Fare systems, ferries, Freeways, Funding, parking, rail, Retrofitting, Safety, tolls, transit equity, Transit vs. driving | 1 Comment »

in bondage to expensive rail projects

bus-driver.jpg The question today (and every day, it seems) is: What do we want from our public transportation? Do we want an alternatve to driving for people who can afford cars? Do we want to provide mobility for people who can’t afford cars? Do we want fast, invisible mass transit as an engine of economic development?

For some folks, it boils down to spending money on buses for the less fortunate or spending money Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, March 8th, 2007
Under: AC Transit, BART, Buses, Caltrain, Funding, rail, transit equity | No Comments »