Friday, September 26, 2008

Did Anyone Ask the Students?

After months of negotiation, Norfolk VA's abuilding light rail system has agreed to move a planned station farther from Norfolk State University:

The new NSU location will be on the west side of Brambleton and not the east side. It costs more because it will extend over Brambleton Avenue, requiring heavier-duty material and more complicated construction, HRT Vice President Jayne Whitney said. The station could not be moved beyond Brambleton because of a bend in the track, she said.

NSU officials requested the change because they feared for students' security with a mass-transit stop so close to campus. Michael Townes, HRT CEO and president, said the request was accommodated because "they're a partner in this project."


However, the new site poses a different kind of safety worry, said Corey Hill, chief of public transportation for the state.

Students will now have to cross busy Brambleton Avenue to get to class. Hill said he fears they will dash across six lanes of traffic instead of walking a block to the nearest intersection.

In a similar vein, in Minneapolis, the University of Minnesota has been fighting tooth and nail to keep a Hiawatha LRT extension off of a street that runs through their campus.

It shouldn't come as any surprise to anyone who's been to college that university administrators really don't care about the convenience of students.

But it is disheartening that transit systems can be so skewed by their demands. As usual, actual transit users get no respect, even from the people who plan transit systems.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Imagine What We Could Do With $700 Billion

Imagine if we just let the individuals and banks who made bad investments suffer the consequences of their mistakes, stopped throwing good (public) money after bad (private), and invested $700bn in public works.

Naturally, I'd advocate:

  • Transit
  • Low interest loans for transit-friendly development

Imagine the jobs that would be created, and what it would do for our economy!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Crapped on Again!

For the third year in a row, our state government has worked out its budget problems at the expense of public transit riders.

I swear, in American society, crackhead transgender welfare queens get more respect than we do. We seriously need to work on getting some respect.

Here's an idea: did you know that there is a campaign to recall Gov Schwarzenegger? Sure, it was started by people who no connection to or interest in public transit (the prison guard union, who are pissed about getting a paycut).

But suppose we started collecting signatures. Suppose we started going around with clipboards, at stations, on trains and busses--and encouraged transit passengers to use this as an opportunity to vent.

In terms of removing our crappy governor, the campaign might be a non-starter--but it would have the a powerful psychological effect on state leadership: transit passengers are getting organized, and politicians need to start giving us some respect.

Monday, September 15, 2008

CalTrain Violated an Unwritten Rule!

That rule being that, even if there isn't room to get your bike on an express, there's always plenty on the slow-as-heck locals. Not tonight--the 5:03 NB @ Mountain View was a Bombardier set with one bike car, with room to take two bikes, out of five of us waiting (I was the last to arrive).

The next train wasn't til 5:37. I biked up to El Camino and waited for a 522 Rapid, which after 10 or so minutes, arrived. The rapid is definitely faster than the regular 22, but given that the 5:37 is an express, I probably should have just gotten out my current literary diversion and waited at the station.

I met up with my family in Menlo Park, where we went to dinner at Jason's Cafe, which has recently replaced Brix. Add this place to the list recommended transit-accessible eateries (from MP CalTrain, walk around the Foster's Freeze).

Wash Me!

I guess nobody really needs to look out of these engine-room windows on CalTrain's locomotives, but somebody was up there to notice the dirt!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Accident Avoidance

Is there a reasonable compromise between a the safety of 100% grade-separated, passenger-only railway system like BART, and the affordability and practicality of a commuter rail system like LA's MetroLink, where passenger trains can, and unfortunately every couple of years do, collide with freight trains?

The most recent accident seems to be the result of error on the MetroLink engineer's part.

Clearly we need more foolproof ways of keeping trains safe that relying on humans to see signals. The technology to do this is not new. Many transit systems (like the Key Route) had ways of stopping trains automatically in the first half of the 20th century.

It seems like some sort of device to stop trains (or at least sound an alarm) based on GPS and/or wireless connections to central dispatching could be added to existing locomotive fleets cheaply and easily.