Archive for the ‘cars’ Category

Public transportation 2.1

I was inspired by Tara’s post, Public Transportation 2.0, to add more than a comment.

When I was in Bangalore in 2007, I was struck by the utility of the ubiquitous motorized rickshaws, known locally as autocabs or just autos:

Any visitor to Asia has seen these things, since they’re in every Asian city. And they are cheap and they are everywhere. When I mentioned them to one of the panjandrums of the Bay Area public transportation scene, the executive director of one of the NGOs that lobbies for transportation policy, he was dismissive. “Oh, the tuk-tuks,” he said. “They clog up the streets, and they pollute. That’s not what we need. We need commuter rail that goes everywhere.”

Oh, fine, Mr. Bay Area Transit Boss! So I’m on my way to work in the morning. Never mind how I get to the BART station; I take a train across the bay to, say, Ashby. Now that I have alighted at your gigantor 1970s-era concrete monster BART station, I need to get to work, 2.3 miles away. It’s too far to walk. I could wait 20 minutes for a bus, and then that bus would take 20 minutes to poke along for the two miles, making my trip to work take over an hour… And that’s why I drive every day instead.

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Breaking: BART to San Jose may pass after all

Update to the story below as of 1720h PST: The San Jose Mercury News is reporting that with 9800 ballots remaining, Measure B has passed the 66.67 percent mark.

The ballot initiative to fund a BART extension to San Jose may have squeaked by, KNTV was reporting this afternoon. Though initial balloting showed the measure falling short of the required two-thirds majority, mail-in ballots are turning the tide.

With 17,000 of 42,000 mail-in ballots still to be counted, the vote to fund the 22-mile BART extension with a 1/8-cent Santa Clara County sales tax was 66.61 percent yes; the measure, like any tax increase in California since the 1978 passage of Proposition 13, requires at least a 66.67 percent yes vote.

If the Bart-to-San Jose tax passes, it would complete a surprising trifecta of voter support for mass transit projects at a time when local and state budgets are tight. Earlier this month, voters in Marin and Sonoma Counties passed a rail initiative, and statewide Proposition 1A also passed, kicking off the state’s bullet train project.

Tragedy of the commons, and other clusterfucks

Neighbors of Dolores Park (the park, not the restaurant) are getting grouchy about the large crowds gathering there on nice weekend days. Like the thousand fans of The Breakfast Club, shown last weekend, or the crowds of gay sunbathers from up the hill.

Worlds collide in the 13.7 acre swath of green on the border between the Castro and Mission Districts and directly across the street from Mission High School.

Speaking of crowd scenes, UC Berkeley journalism professor and prolific magazine journalist Cynthia Gorney has a piece in tomorrow’s NYT Magazine about merging at freeway lane reductions, a subject near and dear to anyone who has approached the Bay Bridge on 101 in San Francisco or driven through the Caldicott Tunnel. The latter clusterfuck provides her main example. She writes about “sidezoomers” versus the benefits of feeling virtuous while choosing to wait in the “lineup” of cars that are already in the correct lane. The online version has many nifty multimedia graphics.

Stupid idea of the year

Supervisor Chris Daly wants to close Market Street to all but mass transit traffic.

As I wrote in May, that idea has failed in city after city. In Chicago, State Street — “that great street” — utterly died when they tried it there. They re-opened the street to all traffic a few years ago, and the street is recovering.

Market Street isn’t some quaint pedestrian mall like Boulder’s Pearl Street, and it never will be. It’s a living artery in a major city. Daly’s plan would be an economic and social disaster.

Smart(er) Parking in the Future

Parking Meter
[Photo by Nate Enyedi for Wikipedia.]

A few years ago, the Port of San Francisco wanted to study parking-use patterns at a third of the 950 meters it controls along the Embarcadero, using a technology developed by the SF-based Streetline Networks Inc. — little sensors glued to the street that transmit a wireless signal to a central database when a parking space is occupied or vacated. Now SFMTA has picked up the idea for another purpose: to (hopefully) make free spaces easier to find on the fly, by transmitting the data to a service you will apparently be able to subscribe to, according to this NPR story. (An iPhone app, perhaps? Maybe by the time it’s ready Apple will be done hosing their own servers.) The same sensors will be capable of monitoring the speed of traffic past the spaces, and that data will be transmitted as well. SFMTA intends to analyze the data they collect from this network, and based on that, they will set policies to adjust the price of parking in response to demand, aiming for a vacancy rate of 15%. (Expect a glacial pace on that, with lots of legislative bickering once it comes down to choosing actual prices. Dynamic server-to-meter price adjustments are a distant dream.) Reportedly San Francisco is the first city to reach this stage with the technology.

(Unrelated, but the question occurs to me: why do I have to rely upon the New York Times and NPR to bring me local news of this potential significance? And then the Chronicle wonders why they’re losing money.)

Breaking: Golden Gate Bridge shut by crash

The Golden Gate Bridge was closed in both directions following a head-on crash that happened around 3:15 pm.

Update 5:05 pm: Lanes have just reopened. Nevertheless: Check traffic conditions before heading that way.

Following the jump, the gory details.

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Open Letters Upon Close Calls

Cyclist
Dear Mr. Business Suit in White Lexus,

I was the cyclist on Embarcadero, in the bike lane, when you almost hit me. I thought you were drunk- but you were on a cell phone.

I wanted to catch up with you at a stop sign- and tell you to get off your effen phone before you kill someone, but you managed to dash off waving your big fat Lexus butt around the car lane. Who knows, maybe it’s not the cell phone- you just don’t know how to steer. Maybe you had two martinis at lunch. Maybe you just hate people exercising on a beautiful winter day, bitter about your own entrapment in a career you detest, setting out on a two hour commute to your home in Alviso. I don’t know, I just know that seeing a stretch of white paint on a 1-ton car an inch from your handlebars is terrifying.

Thank you,

Someone That Now Understands Why Cyclists Have Attitude

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