Archive for the ‘Transit’ Category

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

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

Modern tram (real!) in Milan. Flickr photo by martin97uk

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.

The train to Portland and back

Hidden in recent stimulus bills were $$$ not only for the California bullet train but also funding for the Coast Starlight, Amtrak’s long-distance passenger train between Seattle and Los Angeles. The Coast Starlight passes through the Bay Area via Sacramento, Davis, Martinez, Emeryville, Oakland, San Jose, and thereby southward. (map)

I just returned from a weekend jaunt to Portland and back on the Coast Starlight, and it was a smooth, convenient ride coming and going. The highlight had to be the snowy portion over the Cascades in Oregon yesterday between Eugene and Klamath Falls, with endless vistas of Ponderosa Pine trees covered with thick gobs of snow that had fallen that morning. (Just like in this picture.) Neither the loudmouthed cowboys in the dome car nor a weird family of 20 with matching customized aqua-blue t-shirts were able to spoil the ride.

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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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 – 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:
and the bicycle car More information on how you can participate and provide Caltrain updates to the Twitter account is here:

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 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. 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.

Honest but pathetic drunk attempts to make amends

Here’s an early contender for Missed Connections post of the week:

To the taxi driver that I didn’t pay on Tuesday night — very sorry

Very, very sorry about not paying you after you drove me. I had lost my wallet and, as you know, was too drunk to function. Once I went inside to find you some money, I passed out. I feel really bad about not paying you, so if you see this, please contact me and I will get you what I owe you. Be sure to mention where you took me, so I know that it’s really you.

Again, very sorry.

If that was her Tuesday night, I wonder what her New Year’s Eve was like.

Cockpit view of landing at SFO


Over on Laughing Squid, Todd Lappin found this amazing video from the cockpit of a Virgin Atlantic flight in a 747 as they fly in and land at SFO. It’s full of all kinds of knob turning and checklist checking, as well as amazing views.

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.

Election 1935: Vote Yes on the Subway

Greg Dewar over at The N-Judah Chronicles has written a post that just can’t be improved, so I’m going to quote it in full:

Blast from the Past: The ORIGINAL Plan to Build a Market St. Tunnel – in 1935!

I have an RSS reader full of wonderful news and blogs, and one that never fails to provide the transit pr0n is The Overhead Wire, which reports on transity goodness from around the country.

Thanks to the good people at TOW, I caught this YouTube video of the first proposal to build a Market Street subway system. It is interesting to watch and see SF as the “City That Knows How,” a city that built things and made things happen (as opposed to now, where it’s the City That Knows How To Bitch).

It’s also interesting to see the argument for bus service (also called “trackless trolleys”) which were touted as a way to speed things up. If you’ve ever been stuck on a herky-jerky janky bus, you know that didn’t quite work out as planned.

Anyway, check out the video, and hat tip to The Overhead Wire!

The newsreel, in all its historically-rich awesomeness, can be viewed on The N-Judah Chronicles or here on YouTube. Of course, the proposition failed, as would others. BART construction under Market Street eventually began in 1970, and the Muni subway opened in 1978. Thanks, Greg!

‘Temporary Transbay Terminal’ will be a block farther from Market St.

Map showing present TransBay Terminal and Temporary Transbay Terminal

Map showing present TransBay Terminal and Temporary Transbay Terminal

The Transbay Joint Powers Authority, charged with replacing the present Transbay Terminal with a new, intermodal terminal possibly including a bullet train terminus, has revealed plans to relocate operations to a “Temporary Transbay Terminal” one block farther south and a block and a half east, to a spot bounded by Howard, Main, Folsom and Beale Streets. Click the thumbnail for a graphic showing the present terminal and the temporary new location.

The present Transbay Terminal primarily serves AC Transit buses for East bay commuters; Greyhound also has its San Francisco terminal there. Both these services will move to the temporary location.

Judging from drawings showing “prospective” appearance, the temporary terminal will be a circle of bus shelters with a few planters. The temporary terminal will displace a large parking lot whose customers are urged to consider alternatives, including not driving into the city at all. The parking lot will close Oct. 31, 2008 for construction of the temporary affair.

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