Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Redwood City to Mountain View--Via Fremont!

I ascended the Dumbarton Bridge by bike again, and pushed on to the other side.

Looking down, I noticed that the eastern stub of the original highway bridge is open as as a fishing pier.

On the Fremont side of the bridge, the bike path goes past baylands and sloughs.

What looked at first like an old-fashioned riverboat turned out to be a dredger, I think.

The bike path connects with Thornton Blvd. I passed this interesting agricultural remnant, which I think was once a pump house with a water tank on top.

Thornton leads almost directly to Fremont Centerville Station.

At Centerville Station, you can get on both Amtrak Capitol Corridor and Altamont Commuter Express trains. If you're heading south, either one will take you to Santa Clara/Great America (not the same place as the Santa Clara CalTrain station). There's a vending machine for Amtrak tickets in the station's waiting room, but for ACE tickets, go to the Depot Cafe in the other end of the station.

I was waiting for an Amtrak train, but I checked out the cafe because I needed some coffee. It was pretty good and their breakfast menu looked allright, too.

Centerville is an interesting area, with nice old small-town downtown type brick buildings, many filled with middle eastern businesses. This is the heart of Fremont's "Little Kabul".

The station has a webcam which you can view at, which caught this picture of Mr 295bus checking a schedule.

The train was punctual, lead by some unexpected motive power. Hey, buddy, wasn't expecting to run into you over here!

A CalTrain engine was coupled in front of the usual Amtrak California one. Probably it was on its way back from maintenance at Sacramento.

The run from Fremont to San Jose is more scenic than you'd expect to see from a commuter train. There's a mountain of salt,

and the ghost town of Drawbridge.

The VTA's light rail passes right over the Great America train station, but it's not totally clear how you're supposed to get between them. I think you're supposed to climb up a spiral staircase and walk a block east--since I had a bike, I went a different way, and rode several blocks west, to the VTA Great America station. I'm pretty sure now that that's the long way!

After a few minutes, a light rail train came along.

It was surprisingly crowded. I had to stand. Perhaps business is picking up?

This has been my most roundabout commute yet, but definitely the most fun!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

I Feel like I've Entered a Parallel Universe

I just discovered the MetroRider.Elhay.Net blog, and recommended it. Seems like transit riders have to put up with a lot of the same crap down there too.

Mark my words, though: I expect that in 20 years Bay Areans will say, "I wish we had good public transit like they have in LA".

A skeptical, car-oriented culture may actually be a healthier environment for transit to develop, since there it needs to continually prove itself by actually moving people, rather than being seen as inherently good (passenger trains are only good for the environment when people ride them, folks!) or as a point of civic pride.

The Record Man

Is a decent, hole-in-the wall little record shop in Redwood City, a block south of Sequoia Station on El Camino.

You can find them online at

Their web site makes them sound like one of those shops for the "vinyl sounds better" crowd, but in fact they had plenty of CD's, a few of which I bought on the way to the station yesterday.

I hope that in light of this plug, they won't mind me linking to this image, which might also help you find the store!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Betrayed Again

First, the Democrats joined up with the Gov to sell us on "infrastructure" <cough>highway</cough> bonds, an investment in and indebted, smoggy future for the next generation of Californians.

Now, in the midst of budget wranglings, they are preparing to give up $1.3 billion in operating funds for public transit, after months of assurances that this gas-tax revenue was safe.

As you may have deduced from this blog, I am results-oriented. Being "theoretically" in favor of public transit doesn't do us riders any good.

So that's it. I'm not voting for any of you guys until you actually earn it. It's Green all the way, baby! Don't tell me I'm throwing my vote away--what good does it do me if the people I vote for win, and do nothing for me?

And I'm still pretty mad about NAFTA, "don't ask, don't tell", the war, and the rest of it too.

I can't be quite as mad at the Governator, because (a) I already know he's a dumbass Republican, and (b) I didn't vote for him. But he better stop calling himself an freakin' environmentalist!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Half Way to Fremont

On my occasional bayside rides to Mountain View, the Dumbarton Bridge has always beckoned, promising to up my mundane ride to work into something more like an adventure.

This morning I decided to make a practice run, and went to the top and back. It was not as hard as I expected. It's a long climb, but not very steep. Lately I've been trying to keep my bike in it's top gear (better workout), and I was surprised that I didn't have to break my self-imposed no-downshifting moratorium.

The bridge has a pretty decent bike lane, divided from traffic by a low concrete wall. It's a pretty good view at the top--you can see all the way from downtown SF to downtown SJ. I made a 360° photostitched panorama:

(Click for full size image)

The current Hwy 84 birdge is neither the first nor the only Dumbarton crossing. Off to the south you can see a railway bridge, with a central swing span, out of service since the 80's but hopefully someday to serve a new Dumbarton Commuter Rail Corridor. The Hetch-Hetchy pipeline also crosses the bay here, carried almost all the way across on bridges, then diving under the floor of the bay to cross the very middle.

Immediately adjacent to each end of the current highway bridge are stub ends of a earlier bridge, which was low and level and had a moveable span in the middle like the railway bridge. They look as though they were open as fishing piers once, but seem to be gated off now. Here's the western stub.

As I came back down the bridge, another biker staring up gave me a big smile. I think I'm passing some kind of threshold into hard-core-dom here.

As I continued my usual bayside route to Mountain View, it started to rain. In July? Whatever.

Local kids seem to have found some interesting alternative routes.

Guess I won't be quite that adventureous!

Along the Stevens Creek trail, I found a few blackberries, which were appreciated. I made sure to keep the bike away from the thorns this time.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Happy 4th! Part I

We kicked off the holiday on the 3rd with a trip to the San Jose Children's Discovery Museum. Balancing practicality and transitfandom, we drove to the "Metro Center" station and rode the VTA the rest of the way--which turned out also to be fortuitous, since the CDM's own parking lot was closed for the day (we got off at the Children's Discovery Museum station. If you do this trip, note that Santa-Terese-bound trains stop at the CDM station, but Winchester-bound trains don't--but if a Winchester train comes first, get on anyway, and get off at the SJ Convention Center, the last stop before the lines split; it's only about a block away).

There was do-it-yourself facepainting.

We checked out science exhibits,

and the ever-popular bubble-basement.

There's a room of changing exhibits, and currently it's all about Clifford the Big Red Dog. Kids can bee fish and chip (and fruit?) cooks,

or deliver letters around Birdwell Island.

I climbed into the stagecoach. Stagecoaches are a form of public transportation, right? It's research!

Besides, I have a feeling this particular stagecoach may have been on display in a Wells Fargo branch in my neighborhood about 30 years ago.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Wanna Rip Someone a New One?

The Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission is the agency responsible for "Planning, financing and coordinating transportation for the nine-conty San Francisco Bay Area". Its reason for being is that the federal government requires some such agency to exist, not beholden to any one government, to propose the most effective and most equitable use of federal transportation funds.

The feds would like to know how good a job the MTC is doing. Since I signed up for something sometime, I just received this email:

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) are reviewing the Bay Area's transportation planning process carried out by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and its partner agencies. To provide the public with an opportunity to comment, the two federal agencies are sponsoring a public meeting:

Date: Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Time: 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Location: Joseph P. Bort MetroCenter, Dahms Auditorium, 101 8th Street, Oakland, (across from the Lake Merritt BART station)

Oral and written comments may be presented at the meeting. Written comments also can be sent via e-mail to or by regular mail to:

Jean Mazur
FHWA California Division
650 Capitol, Suite 4-100
Sacramento, CA 95814


Ted Matley
FTA Region IX
201 Mission Street, Suite 1650
San Francisco, CA 94105

Public comments will be accepted through Friday, August 17, 2007.

Please call MTC Public Information at (510) 817-5757 to request special assistance, such as an interpreter, at the meeting.

Thank you,
MTC Public Information

You might or might not care enough to blow an evening at some boring meeting--but it wouldn't take long to drop them an email with your opinion of how well organized, or not, you think Bay Area transit is.

So how do I think the MTC is doing? A few things to consider:

Pick two random points in the Bay Area. Try to get between them on public transit. How many tickets will you have to buy? Will the connections be coordinated, or you will blow half an hour at each transfer point. Is their even a map you can look at to figure out a route?

If the MTC were doing its job, you would neither need to know nor care what agencies operate what routes.

Are the MTC's favored projects of the past and future cost effective and fair? Or does the MTC just rubber-stamp the pet projects of political elites? Consider the cases of Muni's T-Third light rail line ($648 million, slower than the bus it replaced, but a fulfillment of Willie Brown's wheelin' and dealin'), and BART to San Jose ($6 billion for 17 miles, only eligible for federal funding because our local congressional delegation specifically exempted it from the FTA's cost-effectiveness rules, but the centerpiece of SJ Mayor Gonzales's hopeful "legacy").

Meanwhile, CalTrain's downtown extension never quite seems to make it to the MTC's funding A-list, since CalTrain is the unloved stepchild of Bay Area transit.

Friday, July 13, 2007


A bit tangental, I suppose. But transportation links to biking which is a form of exercise which leads into health so I might as well talk about cooking once in a while, right?

Well, Mom was out, so we decided to make biscuits. We started with Nature's Path flax-plus pancake mix (yeah, I'm on a diet but I still get to eat pancakes). Add milk and eggbeaters or equivalent.


Glop onto a cookie sheet after spraying with nonstick stuff, bake, 10 mins or so. They look good!

Apply jam.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

One Way not to get Lost onPublic Transit

Permanent and effective!

Since it's in Süddeutsche Zeitung, I presume that's Munich.

Das schmertzt means that hurts!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Landscaping Schmandscaping!

Nature finds her way through, inexorably, in the most hostile environments--see, for example, these California Poppies growing in a totally unlandscaped patch of earth between the CalTrain and VTA Light Rail stations in Mountain View.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


A YouTube link, showing a very stupid driver, some nice improvisation by Muni, and lamenting the as-usual poor backup by the City: