Archive for the ‘Commuting’ Category

Where is everybody?

I just drove back to town after a week in the suburbs of Portland. Driving down from 505 to I-80 to the Bay Bridge between 7:00 and 7:30 on a Saturday night, I expected the usual congestion in Berkeley and backup at the bridge toll plaza. Nothing! The drive was smooth as butter, with exactly 1 car in line in front of me at the tolls.

Could be because of Burning Man, or all the local Democrats that went to Denver for the Democratic Convention are taking a long weekend, or maybe that whole staycashun thing is catching on. But the Bay Bridge sure was easy tonight.

Who’s going to space?

Wired magazine has a hilarious and fascinating piece on training for space tourists, those wealthy former businessmen who cashed out companies and thus have $30 million to blow on a year in training and a week in space on the shuttle. (One of the men profiled in the piece — and they’re always men — refers to himself using the ghastly neologism “thrillionaire.”) As a Russian press liaison says about the attitude toward these dilletantes: “People say it is better to send monkey.”

Then there’s the old-fashioned way: earn it. Not the money, but the job. Meet Megan McArthur, Ph.D. (pictured at right), who went to high school in Mountain View and whose parents live in San Jose. McArthur will be blasting off in October to operate the Big Robot Arm — I’m sure it has a less colorful NASA-like acronym — on a mission to refurbish the Hubble Space Telescope.

Proposed Muni route changes: Bryant Street’s out of luck

Courtesy SFist — which provided a huge public service by untangling the stupidity of Muni publishing dozens of proposed route changes on dozens of separate PDFs — here are all the proposed changes to Muni routes posted to SFist’s Flickr set. SFist rules today.

Among the several radical changes:

  • Bryant Street is totally out of luck. No more service in the Mission District or South of Market. That means that if you wanted to take a bus to or from the Hall of Justice — like if your car was towed and you wanted to get it back — you have to catch a bus on Folsom and then walk two blocks.

More changes after the jump

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.)

Another Treasure Island Music Fest

While the idea of getting on the Treasure Island shuttle kept me away last year (who would want to go to a place that doesn’t even have a grocery store when there is so much wonder cityside?), I was excited to see the lineup for this year’s music festival. September will bring Justice, my favorite Canadians Tegan & Sara, and the somewhat dark sounding and delicious Okkervil River. Consider me in line at AT&T park.

Bullet Train hits Snag in LA/SF/SD Route

Pacific Union has withheld their “Right of Way” over key segments of the LA/SF corridor that the Bullet Train would traverse. They claim safety issues as the reason.


From the LA Times last week:

Officials at Union Pacific railroad recently told the California High Speed Rail Authority that they have safety and operational concerns about running a bullet train close to lumbering freight trains.

“Just look at what happened in L.A. a few years ago,” said Scott Moore, a Union Pacific vice president, citing the 2005 crash of a Metrolink passenger train that killed 11 and hampered rail operations.

“Those accidents happen.”

This is kind of a big roadblock from what I’ve gathered. And if you’re motivated, for or against, drop them a line here.

Here is a sample trip:

  • SF to LA
  • Distance: 432 Miles
  • CO2/Saved per trip: 324 lbs
  • Travel Time: 2hrs, 38 mins.
  • Estimated Cost: Train $55, Car $86, Air $120

Poll and linkage

Petition for Google to add bike routes to maps

I’m betting anything that this is already underway, but if you are interested, may as well let your voice be heard on the matter.

Sign the petition!

To: Google, and the Google Maps team
We would like a ‘Bike There’ feature added to Google Maps – to go with the current ‘Drive There’ and ‘Take Public Transit’ options. The feature would take into account actual bicycle lanes from the locality being mapped, and it would automatically plan a route for a bicyclist, possibly even providing the cyclist options for either the most direct route, or the most bicycle-friendly (safest) route. The Google Maps-based third party site, (, provides these features for two metro areas – Portland, Oregon and Madison, Wisconsin, and there are countless other mapping initiatives around the world aimed at accomplishing the same goal. We hope that Google will consider building this feature into the core Google Maps service.

There are many reasons why this feature would be a wonderful edition to Google Maps. Among them, some of the most influential would be to:
* Make bicycling safer for millions of bicyclists around the world.
* Empower world citizens to better adapt their lifestyles to face the challenges of global climate change.
* Help Google realize its core mission of ‘organizing the world’s information and making it universally accessible and useful.’

By implementing the ‘Take Public Transit’ option, Google and the Google Maps team have shown themselves to be concerned and capable world citizens; a ‘Bike There’ feature addition to Google Maps would be the ultimate statement in support of sustainable development.

For more information on this feature request please visit the Google Maps ‘Bike There’ website (

Thank you, Google and the Google Maps team! And thank you, petitioners, for joining us in attempting to realize this very important goal!

The Undersigned

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