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Archive for the 'Transit vs. driving' Category

train in vain

corridor-at-night.jpg 

On my way home last night, I fancied that I was going to blog about the latest bit of transportation research to come out of the Cato Institute, an inside-the-Beltway limited-government think-tank.

I was going to write about the study, Does Rail Transit Save Energy or Reduce Greenhouse Emissions?, as I quaffed a $4.50 micro-brew on the Capitol Corridor. If you know anything about the Cato Institute, you can probably guess what it says: 

Far from protecting the environment, most rail transit lines use more energy per passenger mile, and many generate more greenhouse gases, than the average passenger automobile. Rail transit provides no guarantee that a city will save energy or meet greenhouse gas targets.

While most rail transit uses less energy than buses, rail transit does not operate in a vacuum: transit agencies supplement it with extensive feeder bus operations. Those feeder buses tend to have low ridership, so they have high energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions per passenger mile. The result is that, when new rail transit lines open, the transit systems as a whole can end up consuming more energy, per passenger mile, than they did before.

This will be some comfort to regular readers of this blog, at least those who believe that rail transit, commuter rail in particular, is on par, if you will, with whites-only Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, April 15th, 2008
Under: Amtrak, Bicycling, Buses, Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), Carpooling, connectivity, driving, Environment, fuel, global warming, rail, Transit vs. driving | 14 Comments »

silver bullet for high-speed rail measure?

So, while I was blithely blathering Friday about CalPIRG and their campaign to promote California’s high-speed rail plan, the Sacramento Beebullet-train-and-mt-fuji.jpg

was getting the real scoop on the future of our improbable love affair with 200+ mph bullet trains:

Democratic lawmakers have agreed to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s request to include public-private partnerships for a high-speed train that could travel from either San Francisco or Sacramento to Los Angeles in 2 1/2 hours.

Supporters of the high-speed “bullet” train are hoping the changes will ensure that a $10 billion Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, March 24th, 2008
Under: Altamont Commuter Express, Amtrak, Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), Environment, Funding, high-speed rail, rail, Transit vs. driving | 12 Comments »

the transit imperative

watching-i-80-from-the-corridor.jpg 

Today’s yawner e-mail comes from the Capitol Corridor:

OAKLAND, CALIF., March 17, 2008 — The Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (CCJPA) has announced the highest annual ridership in the history of the Capitol Corridor service. “The February statistics from Amtrak show that our 12-month ridership total hit 1,523,630 passengers last month,” said CCJPA Managing Director Eugene Skoropowski. “This ridership beat our previous threshold that we broke in January when 1,503,210 riders boarded our trains.”

My point is not to belittle the fine work of Luna Salaver, the Corridor’s new spokesperson. It’s just that setting records on public transit systems these days seems Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, March 17th, 2008
Under: Amtrak, BART, Caltrain, Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), Environment, fuel, parking, Transit vs. driving | 11 Comments »

on and off-track

embaradero-ac-transit-jackknife-by-susan-bohan2.JPG 

News item:

OAKLAND _ A Capitol Corridor commuter train struck a car near the Jack London Square Amtrak station Monday evening, prompting an AC Transit bus to illegally pass railroad crossing gates and become jackknifed on the tracks.

Several trains were delayed, the worst an hour and fifteen minutes on the train that hit the car, which made an illegal turn in front of the train, an Amtrak spokeswoman said.

Oakland police said the driver of the car was not seriously injured and refused medical attention. No other injuries were reported.

Trying my level best to maintain my journalistic objectivity, I tried to imagine how this incident could have been the railroad’s fault.

First, there’s the whole Embarcadero issue. Here’s a street that also serves as something like a half-mile of railroad. It’s like the mother of all railroad crossings. Each intersection is gated, but the gates could be open when you enter the street, but close while you’re still driving along it.

I was on an AC Transit bus that came up to that very same intersection where the car was thrown off the tracks. The lights started flashing, and the driver Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, March 14th, 2008
Under: AC Transit, Amtrak, Bicycling, Buses, Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), connectivity, driving, rail, Safety, traffic signals, Transit vs. driving | 2 Comments »

the government deserves more credit

OK, so I was hasty after all. Seems that my last post did not give enough credit to the Bush Administration’s attempts to help improve intercity passenger rail. I suspect its efforts have more to do with Transportation Secretary Mary Peters’ pragmatic approach to funding, i.e., we can do more with less if we channel more into public transportation.

Today I got another note from the Federal Rail Administration, which falls under USDoT’s umbrella:

I saw your blog entry.  I am glad my message was of use to you.  Your main point seems to be that $30 million is not enough.  We agree.  As I wrote in my email cover message to you, the Bush Administration had requested $100 million for this grant program for the current FY08 budget, but Congress Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, February 25th, 2008
Under: Amtrak, Caltrans, Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), Funding, rail, Transit vs. driving | 4 Comments »

the government is here to help

capitol-corridor-in-oakland-by-laura-oda.jpg

This morning I arrived to find a phone message from the Federal Railroad Administration. Seems someone in Washington had seen my story about California’s intercity rail services lobbying state government for more money.

What I might find helpful, the message said, was that the FRA had announced on Tuesday that it had started a new program to do just what the operators of the Auburn-to-San Jose Capitol Corridor and two other state-subsidized operators were looking for.

By helpful, I’m guessing he meant, you missed this, buddy, and should have Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, February 22nd, 2008
Under: Altamont Commuter Express, Amtrak, Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), Freeways, Funding, rail, Transit vs. driving | 5 Comments »

security comes down to earth

madird-bombing-video.jpg

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 »

the 63% solution


Yesterday I read among the comments to last week’s post on fixing federal transportation funding that the Bay Area spends two-thirds of its transportation money on public transportation while barely one-tenth of commuters actually use it.

Another comment expressed incredulity over that figure, considering how much money it takes to maintain roads and highways, not to mention the $5.7 billion going into replacing the Bay Bridge’s eastern span.

But the immediately apparent bottom line is correct, according to Randy Rentschler, spokesman and lobbyist for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. The commission’s initial framework for its 2030 transportation and growth plan calls for 63 percent of the revenue the Bay Area receives to be spent on public transportation. That’s comparable to Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, January 25th, 2008
Under: BART, Bay Bridge, Bridges, driving, Environment, fuel, Funding, Transit vs. driving | 25 Comments »

2007 was a gas, gas gas … or was it?


Today I accosted several of my colleagues and asked them if they’d miss 2007.

The answer was pretty much “no” all around, with the most convincing story coming from a person who’d bought a house with a sub-prime mortgage.

In the area of transportation, especially in the Bay Area, I’d have to say 2007 was a very Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, December 31st, 2007
Under: BART, Bay Bridge, Buses, driving, Environment, ferries, Freeway collapse, Freeways, fuel, Retrofitting, Safety, Transit vs. driving | 11 Comments »

that’s one small carbon footprint for a man…

i-5-grapevine.jpgThis Christmas, my son decided that the best way to see his grandfather and aunt in San Diego would be to drive. This decision, which I reluctantly seconded after thinking we might take a train/bus combination, had everything to do with the fact that he (along with his parents) wants to get a driver’s license before he reaches the age of 19.

On the way down Saturday, we got as far as Bakersfield before we started talking about why I believed we would  not experience ideal conditions for driving practice that day.

Part of it was the fact that it was a day when the freeways were swollen with holiday traffic, the kind that is light enough to stay moving most of the time, but heavy enough so that backups appear suddenly and often force inattentive motorists to swerve off  the road to avoid rear-end collisions. Most of it was that we weren’t in a very large parking lot with no other cars or lamposts to run into.

“It’s a Catch-22 situation,” he said more than once. I was very impressed with the fact that he had actually Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, December 26th, 2007
Under: driving, Environment, Freeways, other, Transit vs. driving | No Comments »