Archive for the ‘Commuting’ Category

BREAKING: BART strike averted

BART management and union representatives announced just after 7 pm this evening that the BART strike that had been planned for midnight tonight has been called off.

A tentative agreement between BART and the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) has been reached that must be voted on by union members within a week or so. In the meantime, BART will run as normally scheduled this week.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, and others were present at the announcement.

Local coverage:
- SF Gate
- KCBS radio

BART strike likely on Monday

strikersTalks between Bay Area Rapid Transit management and unions broke down today, leading to the likelihood of a strike as early as Monday. Giving a 72-hour notice to the public as required by law, union leaders announced a strike would begin early on Monday morning.

Go to 511.org for the latest information, along with help planning your commute if the system shuts down. You can also follow the action on Twitter with the #bartstrike hashtag.

A BART strike could completely shut down the system, or it could run at a vastly reduced schedule with trains operated by management. Read this LA Times article about the 1997 strike, which shut down the system. In 2005, another strike threatened, but was averted, and commuters were relieved.

The strike is the result of the Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents station agents and train drivers, rejecting BART contract proposals and voting to authorize a strike, after which the other two unions at BART announced they would honor the ATU picket line. The breakdown in negotiations came after representatives of all three unions had reached a tentative agreement with BART on July 31.

Actually this is probably the best possible time for a BART strike. UC Berkeley summer school ends tomorrow. Twenty percent of people are on vacation, plus another ten or fifteen percent are unemployed in the first place. The Giants begin an 11-game road series tomorrow. It seems there will be little reason to cross the bay at all — so tomorrow, go to work, get your laptop, and stay home next week.

However, CalTrans plans to shut the Bay Bridge over Labor Day weekend. BART had been planning to run trains 24 hrs a day that weekend to make up for the closure. If the BART strike lasts into Labor Day weekend, the result could be a real nightmare.

What do you do on public transit? Nothing… or something?

Macarthur BART, photo by Robert Schwandl

Local photographer Thomas Hawk made a very interesting post on his website today, reporting his “unscientific survey” of what commuters were doing on his 9 a.m. BART train from MacArthur to Embarcadero this morning. He didn’t ask anyone what they were doing, relying on his own observations. Most people were “doing nothing,” he found; others he broke down into “other” and into several categories of reading. See his post for the stats.

I love the idea of noticing what others are doing, and recording it unobtrusively and reporting it. It sounds a bit creepy when put that way, but there’s nothing wrong with doing so in a public space. I’d love to see people do this exact thing from time to time: walk the length of a bus or train and compile the same stats, or different ones. It’s just as valuable and interesting to report on skirt lengths, how many people smell, or the number of people wearing glasses.

That said, it’s interesting that Hawk happened to sort his survey by media consumption, and that he expresses surprise that “so many of the people on BART were simply doing nothing (this included sleeping as well).” Of course, BART, and public transit in general, is a great place to read. I’ve sometimes gotten on a BART train and ridden all the way to the end of the line and back just to have a comfortable reading experience uninterrupted by phones, people I know, my cats, or trips to the refrigerator. But those who were sitting quietly “doing nothing” may have relished the chance to do so as much as the people who were devouring media. As someone who sits in front of a computer all day and, often, much of the evening, I find it nice to have a time where I can’t do so — this includes driving, going to the ballgame or the symphony, and yes, “doing nothing.”

By the way, I just noticed that BART has a page on its website where it collects blog and Twitter posts about BART.

Just because it’s from Milan, do we have to take it?

Modern tram (real!) in Milan. Flickr photo by <A hREF="http://is.gd/sMMT">martin97</A>uk

I was literally startled when I saw this photo on a post on Streetsblog, a transit and urban planning-oriented site, showing a modern tram plying the streets of Milan, Italy. At first I thought it had to be photoshopped, but no, it’s real.

Streetsblog suggests using these monsters during commute times. I can’t imagine it helping. While you could load hundreds more passengers onto those long trains, what would happen to the streets crossing Market, given the sometimes short blocks between intersections? Imagine one of those things stretching back from Third St. all the way back to Second, completely blocking the Montgomery > New Montgomery intersection, which is one of only two ways to exit the Financial District during rush hour. Oy!

Ironically, San Francisco already has several streetcars from Milan — the orange “Peter Witt” jobs that still have Italian placards and warnings on the interior. Frankly they’re a lot of fun to ride. I’d save that long, modern tram for, maybe, the T line.

New Harrison St. offramp to open Monday

CalTrans will reopen a brand-new Harrison St. offramp from the Bay Bridge to the South Beach district at 5:00 a.m. Monday morning, three and a half years after the original exit closed in 2005. For drivers new to the area, the exit is a left exit off the bridge, half a mile before the left-hand Fifth St. exit.

The new ramp is another milestone in the multi-year project to earthquake-retrofit the bridge, the biggest piece of which will replace the eastern span (the part between Yerba Buena Island and Oakland) with a new suspension structure due to open, oh, seven or eight years from now.

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.

Read more

Public Transportation 2.0

The Bay Area is is known as the hub for bleeding edge technology, and now public transportation is taking advantage of it. Bart, Muni and Caltrain have easy to use online services to find your way around the city and keep up-to-date on the latest travel alerts.

Bart is now on Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/sfbart providing the latest train delays and other interesting Bart news from and for commuters. You can get the updates directly to your phone through text messages. In addition, the account also responds to your questions. Recently I was having some problems with my Bart cards de-magnetizing and complained about the process to get a refund. The SFBart Twitter account promptly responded with some advice.

Here’s an example of a useful and timely update from SFBart: “There is a 15-20 minute delay at Embarcadero in the Daly City / SFO /Millbrae direction due to an equipment problem on a train.”

SF Bart is also getting into the community spirit and has a funny and somewhat unofficial blog where you can see what commuters are up to.

Caltrain is taking an even more progressive community approach by allowing its passengers to provide updates to the Caltrain Twitter accounts: http://www.twitter.com/caltrain
and the bicycle car http://twitter.com/bikecar. More information on how you can participate and provide Caltrain updates to the Twitter account is here: http://cow.org/c/about

If you don’t have a Twitter account, maybe now is the time to sign up or you can subscribe to the RSS feed off those pages.

Muni takes advantage of NextBus, a site that tells you when your bus will arrive via the website, Mobile Internet or SMS alerts.

If you want an easy way to plan your trips using public transportation, try out 511.org. Type in your start and ending address and the time you want to depart or arrive, and it will give you options using Bart, Muni and Caltrain.

511.org has a list of other useful services such as Dadnab which is text messaging service that plans your trips on city transit.

With all of these new fangled ways to plan out your trip using public transportation that make getting around the Bay Area that much easier, who needs a car?

Ferry terminal for South City’s Oyster Point

Oyster Point [map] in South San Francisco on a hazy Sunday morning. The San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission has approved ferry service from Oakland to Oyster Point; service could begin as early as late 2010.

The new route is only one of several planned, using new, greener vessels, in an expansion of commute options in the next few years. (Did you know there was something called the Water Emergency Transportation Authority [WETA]?) See all the proposed routes.

Protest Prop 8 on Market Street this Friday

Last night some 2,000 people came out to City Hall to hold a candlelight vigil and protest the passage of Proposition 8. Susie Cagle at Curbed predicts this is just the beginning, and she’s right. You can take part in the next major protest this Friday. Word here. The plan is to meet above the Civic Center BART station (Market and 7th) at 5:30 PM, then march down Market street to Castro Street, down to 18th, and then back along 18th to Mission Dolores Park. The bigger the turnout, the better.

Golden Gate Bridge toll goes to $6 cash Tuesday

Tomorrow the toll to cross the Golden Gate Bridge goes to $6 cash, $5 for FasTrak. Don’t get caught short.

The Golden Gate Bridge District, which is not managed by the Calif. Dept. of Transportation or CalTrans, sets its own tolls. The fare to cross CalTrans bridges in the Bay Area, including the Bay Bridge, remains at $4.

If you’re new in town and don’t understand which bridges we mean, here are the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges. Flickr photo by user brothergrimm.

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