Monday, December 20, 2010

Clipper Card for Kids: They're not Making this Easy

You can't get a Youth Clipper Card online (because anyone could pretend they're a kid, I suppose--just like you can't get Youth BART tickets in stations, because TVM's can't see you). In San Mateo County, you have to go to SamTrans HQ in San Carlos.

Since Wini and I are both on vacation today, we went over to fill out the form, etc. We distracted Nathan by giving him a brochure about busses.

The catch is, you need to bring photo ID (drivers license (!), school ID, passport...), which we hadn't. Guess we'll try again after Christmas.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Biking in the Rain

It's not very far from my house to the station, so I went for it. I brought an extra pair of socks, and put them on at work. Being generally a bit damp from the rain is not so bad, but if your socks are wet, you'll be miserable all day. Another trick: I put my shoes under my desk by the "warm air vent" at the back of my computer, and they were dry in no time.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Woohoo! Weekend Baby Bullets Begin Jan 1st!

Here's the schedule, and here's a story and list of things to do at each stop posted by Green Caltrain.

This is a case of CalTrain listening to its riders--and rider/bloggers! (I first mentioned the idea here (and I emailed them too) back in 2009). Props especially to Murph who went to JPB meetings and got them to pay attention and actually do it.

A weekend trip from RWC to 4th & King will take 35 mins on a bullet instead of 55 mins on a local. For outings with kids, I think that pushes us into "Dad's taking us on the train" territory, vs "Dad's making us ride the train"... Should be fun.

It's officially just an experiment. Hopefully it'll run long enough so that we get some warm weather, where recreational ridership should really take off.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Pedestrian Tunnel at Santa Clara

I meant to get on the 9:18 SB at Redwood City but mistook the 9:12 for it, and the 9:12 skips past Mountain View. (This situation always makes me think of this book). I ended up having to catch a train back from Santa Clara. Not a long wait, and made less annoying by the fact that I ran into fellow CalTrain-rider/biker/blogger Murph. I also got to get a look at the progress on the Santa Clara pedestrian underpass project:

This project is exactly parallel to what was done at Cal Ave a few years ago: in the original arrangement, to board a NB train you have to cross the SB tracks and stand on a narrow platform between the tracks. A tunnel is being built from the station (in the nominally west side) to a full-width northbound platform. This will improve safety and remove a constraint against southbound trains passing through when northbound trains are at the station. This will also allow ACE, which gave up on dealing with this complexity and has for several years just run it's trains past without stopping, to start serving this stop again.

Annoyingly, the tunnel does not appear to be going all the way under all the tracks, to the nominally east side (geographically northeast). Here's a Google maps view of the area:

View Larger Map There are a few workplaces over there. In the past I've seen people trespass across the tracks, but fencing seems to have been beefed up. The only legal way to get there is a via long detour to a road overpass several blocks away. Tunneling all the way through, and providing station access on the other side of the tracks, could also take several minutes off of the schedule of VTA's #10 SJC airport flyer bus:

All that crazy looping around on the south (nominally west) side of the tracks could be dropped, and the bus could stop more or less where that gray circle is.

Granted, extending the tunnel under the tracks would involve coordination of CalTrain, the UP, and future plans for BART and HSR, and anyone who expects that level of cooperation in US transit planning is clearly operating under the assumption that Proposition 19 has already passed.

I also noticed this odd stencil on a piece of rail:

Must be a story there.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The World's First Game of Scroggle

Ended in a tie.

Scroggle is like Scrabble played with Boggle blocks. You can flip over blocks already on the board to put a different letter up if you need to, to make a new word, as long as everything left facing up makes a word. I made a rule that you can only flip a block to use a side that's currently visible, just so there's no incentive to pick up every block to see what letters are hidden.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

RWC Council Meeting

The council had delegated several members as a subcommittee to investigate whether to join Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and Atherton in suing the CAHSRA. The subcommittee recommended not doing this, and taking a more cooperative approach.

When I got my turn to speak, I made an impromptu change to the effect of "I came to urge Redwood City to take a collaborative rather than a confrontational approach to resolving its issues with the High Speed Rail Authority, but now I'll have to change that and say I commend the City for taking a collaborative approach..." which elicited a friendly chuckle.

My overall takeaway is that the RWC council is adamantly opposed to elevated tracks (I am not, but I didn't make that point), but is very much in favor of high speed rail (for reasons of economic development and safety--and some of them mentioned that they were quite keen on using it). They are openly skeptical about whether cities to the south would actually support HSR under any conditions, and are more interested in collaborating with San Mateo and Burlingame (in fact, a Burlingame councilmember was visiting and spoke a bit on the subject).

I proposed that the city should have a design competition to let local people propose ways that HSR could be fit into the community. If this ever comes about it would be a way for those of us who are in favor of non-tunnelled/affordable alignments to try to make the case that elevated tracks are not necessary the dystopian nightmare that they have been portrayed as.

A reporter from the Daily Post took my name. The Post is notoriously anti-HSR, but it will be interesting to see how all this is written up (and if they mention me).

In other news:

  • The city is fighting to put an expanded county jail somewhere other than downtown RWC.
  • There was a report about the recent plane crash and sewage spill in Redwood Shores.
  • A delegation of library employees came to complain about layoffs and the use of long term contractors instead of hiring regular staff.
  • The Port of RWC is holding an open house, aka PortFest this Saturday. The Marine Science institute will be open, and a Ferry will be on display.
  • CaƱada College is hosting an Arts and Olive Festival.

Monday, September 27, 2010

RWC City Council Discussing HSR Tonight

Here is the agenda for the council's meeting tonight.

The agenda item of interest is:

City Participation in Lawsuit Challenging Latest High-Speed Rail Authority EIR (Environmental Impact Report).

I don't know if the council is seriously considering joining this lawsuit. RWC hasn't had the type of NIMBY hysteria they have down in PA.

I also don't know if the council is looking for public comment, since this meeting has not been much publicized. However, I plan on giving themselves.

My main points will be (1) to remind them of the benefits of improved transit and grade separation to RWC, (2) to urge them not to take an obstructionist "tunnel or nothing" stance, and (3) to suggest that they work through the CalTrain board, which represents the peninsula, after all, to iron out issues they have with the HSRA.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Ralston Ave Bike/Ped Overpass

Redwood Shores is a big chunk of urban San Mateo County that's basically inaccessible without a car--the two access points, Holly St in San and Ralston Ave, essentially turn into freeway interchanges when they cross the 101, and either biking in the shoulder or trying to walk or ride on the sidewalk places you in front of people in cars getting up to, or slowing down form (as late as possible), freeway speed.

I did see some adventurous soul doing it on a unicycle once. What can you say? It's a free country!

This inaccessibility is particularly annoying since major employment centers, like Oracle and Electronic Arts, are within easy biking distance from the Belmont and San Carlos CalTrain stations.

Lately I've noticed some construction in the 101 median just north of Ralston, and with some poking around, discovered that a bike/ped overpass is in the works. Here's a piece of a map from the Belmont city website (which is here, but be warned I had to turn off noscript and every pop-up and security blocker my browser had to look at the content!).

I don't have any practical need to bike to Shores, but this will connect with a lot bayside trails that would be a fun ride.

I wish RWC would build something like this at Whipple.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Knight's Tour Puzzle: perl on CalTrain

I wrote this on the ride home. I makes Knight's Tour Puzzles. This is a puzzle with a grid of letters, encoding a message that you discover by moving from square to square as a knight would in chess, never hitting the same square twice.

#!/usr/local/bin/perl -w
use strict;
my $usage = " ROWS COLS MESSAGE\n";
die $usage unless @ARGV == 3;

    my( $numrows, $numcols, $message ) = @ARGV;

    my @letters = split //, $message;
    die "length of $message = ",scalar(@letters)," must be ",
      if @letters != $numrows * $numcols;

    # store grid in hash; $grid->{"0,0"} = "x";
    my $grid = {};

    # starting position.  use upper left corner.  could randomize
    my $row = 0;
    my $col = 0;

    # recursively look for solutions
    trypath( $grid, \@letters, $numrows, $numcols, $row, $col );

# look for a path
sub trypath {
    my( $gridref, $lettersref, $numrows, $numcols, $row, $col ) = @_;

    # make local copy of grid, letters-to-do list
    my $grid = { %$gridref };
    my $letters = [ @$lettersref ];

    # remove 1st letter from letter list.  store in a square
    $grid->{"$row,$col"} = shift @$letters;

    # if no more letters, print solution
    if( !@$letters ) {
        printgrid( $grid, $numrows, $numcols );

    # otherwise try possible next moves
    } else {

        # find possible next moves
        foreach (
          grep {
            # square under consideration actually on the grid
            $_->[0] >= 0
            && $_->[0] < $numrows
            && $_->[1] >= 0
            && $_->[1] < $numcols
            # no letter on it yet
            && !defined $grid->{"$_->[0],$_->[1]"}
          # possible knight's moves
          [ $row-1, $col-2 ],
          [ $row-1, $col+2 ],
          [ $row+1, $col-2 ],
          [ $row+1, $col+2 ],
          [ $row-2, $col-1 ],
          [ $row-2, $col+1 ],
          [ $row+2, $col-1 ],
          [ $row+2, $col+1 ] ) {
            # try it
            trypath( $grid, $letters, $numrows, $numcols, $_->[0], $_->[1] );

sub printgrid {
    my( $grid, $numrows, $numcols ) = @_;
    for( my $row = 0; $row < $numrows; ++$row ) {
        for( my $col = 0; $col < $numcols; ++$col ) {
            print $grid->{"$row,$col"} || "_", " ";
        print "\n";
    print "\n";

Some sample results:

i i u k i 
b e l a n 
n s d k i 
s e e a r 
s s t b s

y e o e c m h 
o i a m c s o 
t u c k l o y

CS people have worked out interesting and more efficient solutions to this problem, but this script is fine for generating puzzles small enough for a human to actually solve.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Asleep on the KX

Nathan & I made a trip up to the City last night. I have a gut feeling for how long a train trip he finds fun, and RWC->SF is a little longer than that, so we "zipped" up to Hillsdale. Actually we hit traffic. Hillsdale Blvd itself was clogged enough that when the station was in sight, we just parked (it's kind of surprising you can park on Hillsdale, but it is actually a residential street, albeit a pretty sucky one).

There was some trouble on the line last night but the upshot was that we got on a train that should have passed Hillsdale before we got there, but it was an express too, so whatevs. It was insanely crowded though. CalTrain staff at SF station could have done a better job clearing people impatiently waiting to get on a train out of the way of people trying to get off, though.

King St, the street that goes from the station to the bay via the Ballpark, has a series of plaques memorializing the the language of San Francisco's original Ohlone inhabitants via select vocabulary items. Here is Nate on the plaque for shinniishmin, "boy":

There's a 9/11 memorial in front of the Giants Stadium.

South Beach Park is just past the baseball stadium, and has a small but cool playground. It has an up-and-downy spiral thing that Nathan likes to walk on:

You can see it better from the air!

View Larger Map

It also has an old fashioned kid-power merry-go-round.

We made our way downtown on the N, and alighted at Embarcadero. They've put up some amusing posters since I was last down there:

We rode F line a stop or two. It was a short ride, but Nathan's first. He was looking a bit tired by this point!

Bye-bye trolley!

We got of at 1st St, and went to the former Transbay terminal, future HSR station site, and got on a SamTrans KX bus back to Hillsdale (the stop was right where we'd left the car). Nathan was pretty much instantly asleep. So were about half the other passengers.

The KX takes the freeway, so in the late evening, at least, it gets you back to the peninsula pretty fast. It is a good answer to the perpetual problem that if you take CalTrain for an evening trip to San Francisco, it's tricky to take Muni back to the station without either allowing gobs of extra time or running the risk of a just-less-than-an-hour wait for a train if you miss the one you want. The KX also runs a ways down Mission so you can get on at more convenient/nicer locations than the transbay terminal, in front of the Metreon for example.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Obama's Labor Day Infrastructure Speech

A few notes on this widely-quoted bit:

Over the next six years we are going to rebuild 150,000 miles of our roads--enough to circle the world six times. Were going to lay and maintain 4,000 miles of our railways--enough to stretch coast to coast. Were going to restore 150 miles of runways and advance a next-generation air-traffic control system to reduce flight-times and delays for American travelers.

A few things I like here:

  • I'm glad he's talking about highway maintenance rather than expansion. We have enough roads!
  • This is the first time I can remember a US president talking about railways.

Regardless of whether or how much of $50 billion actually gets spent, these are both hopeful signs that in the future, "infrastructure investment" will be more than a code for "build more freeways so we can turn more farmland into suburbs".

Saturday, September 04, 2010

To Laureola Park by Bike

Nathan and I biked from our house to Laureola Park in San Carlos. This is a nice park for little kids; we know it well because years ago Wini went to a preschool that met in a building in it.

Nathan had fun on slides, swings, etc. I had an odd, only-in-Silicon-Valley encounter, when I asked someone wearing a Jelli shirt if he worked there, since I know someone who does. It turned out he didn't work there, he was an investor. He asked who I knew and I told him, mentioning that she was a former colleague of mine a Tellme. He recognized the name, at least--and said he was a good friend of Tellme's founder.

As long as I live somewhere where I'm going to randomly run into VC's at parks, I think I really ought to keep some business ideas in the back of my head ready to pitch to them.

Laureola Park is next to San Carlos CalTrain, so Nate and I headed over at train time, and rode one stop home to RWC. I was hoping for a new train (aka, "bomb set") since low floor entry would certainly simplify the task of getting on with bike + toddler, but we got an old/gallery train and made do.

Jelli rocks, btw!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Atrophy instead of Amputation for CalTrain

CalTrain appears headed towards a budget-balancing solution based on reducing off-peak weekday service, rather than killing weekend service or trains to Gilroy.

Here's their announcement, and here's a more detailed description, and here's the specific proposed schedule changes (PDF).

As someone who uses both the late morning train on the chopping block and weekend service, I guess I'm OK with this. I have enjoyed the "W@H, show up when you want to" dot-com lifestyle from time-to-time, but I can let that go to keep my weekend jaunts with Nathan!

As to Gilroy service: it's a long way to Gilroy and ridership has been low ever since the 101 was widened. This is not to say that it should be abandoned, but it's really a separate undertaking from CalTrain's core SF<->SJ service. CalTrain should ask Santa Clara county to kick down a little extra to keep it going.

(But it does seem like the part of CalTrain between Tamien and Blossom Hill, at the south edge of SJ, could be considered part of the core system, and should be kept, even though it currently only gets served by trains going to/from Gilroy, and gets no weekend/off-hours/countercommute service at all).

Dropping Gilroy would put a kibosh on Monterey Count's plans to extend CalTrain to Salinas, although I haven't heard anything about this for quite some time anyway. During the housing bubble, there were no doubt people leapfrogging past Gilroy to cheaper digs in Salinas, but these days probably not so much. From the perspective of Bay Area residents, it would be nice to see this come to fruition in conjunction with Monterey county's proposed coastal (diesel) light rail, since together they'd make it possible to get to Monterey by train.

Anyhoo--the other part of CalTrain's proposed budget solution is another increase in fares. Regular riders don't complain to much about fares; overall, it's still a pretty good deal for commuting. Casual ridership might dip a bit. At $5+ a pop buying tickets for a whole family starts to get pretty pricey, and I'm sure that's cutting into ridership of the weekend trains that CalTrain is fighting to keep running.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Is There a Quiet Pro-HSR Majority in the Peninsula?

I think there is. Anyway, I claimed to represent them in this letter printed in yesterday's Daily News:

Residents for High-speed Rail

I was disturbed to read in your newspaper that the Redwood City City Council is considering adopting a position opposing high-speed rail ("Cities get ready to battle over bullet train," Aug. 12).

I'd like to remind them that when us Redwood City voters were asked our opinion of the project at the polls, we gave it a thumbs up -- and point out that opponents of change are good at making noise far disproportionate to their numbers.

Nor do they let facts get in the way of their arguments when it comes to spreading their fear to others. Claims that high-speed trains will roar through the Peninsula as loud as jets and leave a wasteland in their wake are simply fantasies, not so different from the "death panels" and "socialism" alleged as the consequences of health care reform by its opponents.

In the real world, Redwood City residents -- even ones like me who will see elevated or grade-level tracks from our front doors -- still support high-speed rail because:

  • We have family in Southern California and are equally sick of airport security and "the 5."
  • We ride Caltrain to work and want to see it survive to run faster and more frequent electric trains. (And those who drive on the 101 to work should be concerned about what will happen to their commute if Caltrain fails and we are forced to join them.)
  • We cross the tracks daily by car or foot or bike, and are a little nervous every time -- and more so when our kids cross them.
  • And finally, a selfish point but one worth making: We're looking forward to proximity to good transit giving a boost to the value of our homes.

So remember that you are pledged to represent all of Redwood City, and keep in mind the quiet majority who expect you to rationally look out for the city's best interests.

We should stop being so quiet.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Clipper Cards at Mtn View

They (I presume the MTA) are handing out free clipper cards at Mtn View station this morning.

The Clipper Card (which was called TransLink up until about a week before its official debut) is a new cashless way to pay your fare on most Bay Area transit agencies. Think of it as FasTrak for public transit.

This should make life a little simpler for anyone making trips involving more than one transit system. I would certainly recommend picking up a Clipper Card if you ever transfer between CalTrain and BART at Millbrae, for example--you may actually make some close connections that you would otherwise miss while fumbling for change and buying another ticket.

<rant>IMHO this is a fairly small benefit for 10+ years development and $150 million (actual transit systems have been built for less $150 million, albeit not around here). With actual leadership we could have instituted a region-wide fare zone system and actually made riding transit more convenient. What we got is basically a high-tech duct-tape solution to a broken system.</rant>

Anyway, here's what you get in the free Clipper Card package:

There's a card with a code on it. You also get a sleeve to store it in, and a box of mints--the implication being, I guess, that if you're on a crowded train, your fellow passengers may appreciate you eating one!

The physical card was free but I presume I need to load some $$$ on it to use it. You can do that at various ticket machines, various stores, or online. Here's a map. If you do it online, you can set it up to automatically reload, like FasTrak. If you want to do it in person, there are only a few select locations that have add-value machines. I think you're really really supposed to do it online.

If you live in the Peninsula or Silicon Valley, note that SamTrans and VTA do not support Clipper (probably because they didn't want to spend millions of dollars on new ticket machines). It could be useful if you make irregular or random trips on CalTrain. Here's the instructions. If you are a regular rider, it strikes me as a little awkward, especially if want to use Clipper as a paperless monthly pass. My employer provides Go passes (thanks, Microsoft!) so it's moot for me.

If you want to pick up a Clipper Card generally, you can apply for one online or get one at local Wallgreens, who appear to be the main "real world" distributors.

One final note: one definite advantage of the Clipper Card is that if you get the "youth version", kids can use it and will automatically be charged only the youth fare. This is particularly useful for BART, which theoretically has discount youth fares, but does not sell youth tickets in stations (because a ticket machine has no idea if you're a kid or not; I have always ended up paying full fare for my daughter on BART).

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Stanford Campus Bike Shop

I noticed a few days ago that riding my bike seemed to have gotten a little harder. At first I attributed this having eaten cake the night before. On closer inspection of my bike I discovered that my rear wheel was rubbing on the brake pads, alternatively on the left side and on the right, indicating slight potato-chipping.

I have a spoke wrench, and set out to adjust my wheel myself, but discovered that I had a more serious problem, a missing spoke. This is more than I wanted to take on, so I started checking Yelp for places to get a bike fixed.

This area is full of excellent bike shops, but they have a tendency to cater to the Silicon Valley bike snob type, so I was a little wary of how much this simple, but potentially time consuming, repair job might run.

Based on comments in the Yelp review like "This is THE place to get a commuter bike serviced" I decided to give the Stanford Campus Bike Shop a try. They had it done that afternoon (new spoke and re-trued), and charged $26; I don't know what it would cost elsewhere, but not bad for a job that would probably be a full day's work for me, during which I would no doubt teach the kids some unintended new vocabulary.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Trail Extensions in Mountain View

From the Mountain View Voice (via Cyclelicio.Us):

City approves $14 million for new trail crossings

The City Council approved highway over-crossings for the Stevens Creek and Permanente Creek trails on Tuesday.

The council voted 5-2 in favor of extending the Stevens Creek trail over Highway 85, with council members Laura Macias and Jac Siegel opposed.

The city will now take bids from construction companies for the project, which largely consists of a new pedestrian bridge over Highway 85 from the trail's southernmost point, Sleeper Avenue.

Siegel and Macias urged the city to wait until October for news about $4 million in federal funds requested by Anna Eshoo's office for the project. City staff urged the council to move forward with the project anyway, saying that the federal funding was uncertain and could delay the project for a year. They added that construction costs are currently low and could increase soon, and the project is already fully funded from various sources, including $1.25 million in Shoreline property taxes, $2 million in park funds and $800,000 in grants.

The city had originally hoped construction could begin to Dale-Heatherstone by April of this year. The city now hopes to obtain permits from Caltrans by August.

The next extension of the trail makes its way to Mountain View High School where another bridge crosses back over Highway 85. It is likely to be more difficult as portions of the trail go through private property, requiring easements from owners or eminent domain. City staff hope Eshoo's $4 million funding request can be interpreted broadly enough to help pay for it.

Permanente Creek Trail extended

Also Tuesday, the council approved a $9 million extension of the Permanente Creek Trail over Highway 101 and under Old Middlefield Way. The pedestrian bridge and tunnel will connect an existing trail from Shoreline Park and Google's campus to residential neighborhoods on the south side of Highway 101.

The council voted 6-1 in favor of the project with member Laura Macias opposed. Macias said she was wary of the project because it was coming in at "three times the original cost" of $3 million. City staff said the cost increase occurred when the tunnel under Old Middlefield Way was added to the project in order to protect pedestrians from cars speeding off Highway 101.

Council members cited the need to provide more connections to and from the North Bayshore area, where limited access causes traffic problems on Shoreline Boulevard and Rengstorff Avenue.

The steady inexorable extension of the Stevens Creek Trail is cool--I could have used this once a few years ago trying to bike back from Cupertino to Mtn View (no convenient surface streets parallel the 85; also, the store I was looking for in Cupertino had moved to Campbell, and it rained--still better than being stuck in a car, though!).

The Permanente Creek trail is short and pricey, but will make a useful link between central Mtn View and the Shorelike Park/Googleplex area.

View Permanente Creek Trail Extension in a larger map

It will also allow a nice loop ride from downtown Mtn View (where I work)--out to Shoreline Park via the Stevens Creek Trail, back via Permanente, or vice versa.

Anyway, good for Mtn View. Up here in the mid peninsula, it'd be great if RWC/San Carlos/Belmont were to copy this idea and give us some safe bike/ped routes over the 101 too.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Up to the City with Nathan

Nathan & I rode up to SF on CalTrain. It was a game night last night, so things were pretty crazy, but he doesn't seem to mind crowds. For this type of outing I have an elastic strap to tether our wrists together. Yeah, it's more or less a baby-leash, but in this sort of situation he actually gets more freedom this way, because otherwise I'd just have to carry him!

We had dinner at the Panera across the street from the station, which is a nice place to watch streetcars.

We strolled past the busy ballpark to the playground at South Beach Park, which is a good one for little kids; it has a rider-powered merry-go-round, which are rare these days.

We visited Borders (bought Nate a new book), and noted but didn't have time to visit a new FroYo place, before heading back to the station.

It'll be nice to get CalTrain extended downtown someday, but in the meantime at least there's a few things to do within walking distance of 4th & King.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

San Mateo County Proposing VLF Fee--Tell them to Fund Transit--Write Today!

From the Green CalTrain blog I read that San Mateo County is planning a $10 VLF (car registration) fee for November's ballot. The mixture of transportation areas to be funded is still open, and will be discussed at a meeting tonight. Per the GCT link above, you can email your comments to Richard Napier,

Here's what I wrote:

Dear Mr Napier

I am writing you in support of the proposed VLF fee which would fund transportation in San Mateo County.

I am also writing to urge that as much of this be dedicated to transit funding as possible.

Conventional wisdom will tell you that since driving is the most popular form of commuting, that a transportation tax weighted towards roads is the only one the public will vote for.

Conventional wisdom turns out to be wrong. Note that many regional counties, such as Marin and Monterrey, have repeatedly voted down roads-only tax initiatives.

Farther afield, Seattle Area residents voted down a 50/50 roads/transit initiative, and a year later, voted in a transit only one.

I think San Mateo County residents are also smart enough to realize that auto-centric transportation has reached the "end of the road", and would favor a VLF fee targeted towards SamTrans and CalTrain. Road-related projects have merit too, but we should focus on community-enhancing initiatives such as the El Camino Grand Boulevard, safe routes for kids to walk to school, and filling in gaps in our bike route network--rather than pouring more money into the bottomless pit of highway widening and pot-hole repair.


Nicholas Kibre, PhD

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

You Can Go Anywhere On a Bike

I'm not sure where Wini was planning to go next...

We are just back from a week at Pinecrest, which is a good place to turn kids loose on bikes. (You can't go around the lake, however).

We also rode along part of the Sugar Pine Rail/Trail, visited historic Columbia historic state park (where Nathan had fun in a gold-rush bowling alley), and rode the Sierra Ry at Railtown 1897.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Tunnel or Nothing?

There's a sign on a building across the street from the San Mateo CalTrain station that says "Tunnel or Nothing--Don't Let High Speed Rail Ruin Downtown San Mateo".

Aside the odd fact this this sign is on a dingy little light industrial business (you're worried about ruining the view from your garage?), I'd like to point out that "or nothing" means the status quo, at-grade crossings with frequent incidents like tonight's:

From the Examiner:

Pedestrian killed by Caltrain in San Mateo

Bay City News
June 15, 2010

SAN MATEO — A female pedestrian was killed by a Caltrain in San Mateo on Monday evening, an agency spokeswoman said.

The person was struck by southbound Caltrain No. 266 at about 5:15 p.m. on the tracks north of the Hayward Park station, spokeswoman Christine Dunn said. It is the sixth fatality on Caltrain tracks this year, after 19 in 2009.

None of the 143 passengers aboard the train were injured.

Around 7 p.m., Caltrain said trains were running full speed, but were delayed about 60 minutes in both directions. Trains were expected to be back on schedule by 7:45 p.m.

SamTrans and BART accepted Caltrain tickets until 7:30 p.m.

Is this seriously a status quo that anyone wants to fight to protect?

Despite the service interruptions (if a train is 60 minutes late, as far as anyone is concerned, it's just the next train), the kids and I had a fun night out to Millbrae for dinner at In-n-out & L&L Hawaiian BBQ (outdoor tables so everyone can get what they want), and en route I introduced Nathan to Randy the ("have a wonderful") Conductor.

Girl Scout Camping, Dad & Nate's Bike Adventure, Pt II

Saturday began cold, but as we ate breakfast, occasional odd gusts of warm air blew down through the trees--a bit of the inland weather (it was hot back home) sneaking over the hills.

By mid-morning it was warm enough that when we moved across the park to the day-use area, the creek was irresistible.

Splash! from Nick Kibre on Vimeo.

The girl scouts got to choose a route for a hike, and the trail along the creek was an easy winner.

Left to our own devices, I racked up the bike and Nathan and I headed down the road towards Pescadero, and stopped at Phipps Farm, where you can pick your own berries. They had olallieberries.

For the bike fans, here's a clear shot showing off Nate's cool new "that's how I roll" shirt!

You pay $3/lb for the berries you take, plus a $3 entrance fee (for anyone over 5), which is reasonable enough when you bring along a little tike on his first trip to a berry farm.

Afterwards we ate a lunch prepared for us by the helpful sandwich crew of troop 16 on a bench out front, and tracked down a nearby geocache.

I'd noticed on the drive in that the lower end of Pescadero Creek Road actually has pretty good bike lanes, so we packed up our pickings in the trunk (which would hopefully stay cool) and rode the last half mile down into town.

It was heating up pretty nicely even on the coastside, so we picked up some refreshments at Archangeli's Market.

We headed back via North St, a quiet back street of Pescadero (though it's basically a two-street town), which had some interesting building like this Catholic church,

and half way back to Pescadero Creek Road we passed this Goat Cheesery,

which looked intriguing, but we only looped around to wave at a friendly black dog resting in the shade out front.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Girl Scout Camping, Dad & Nate's Bike Adventure, Pt I

Firday night the Girls of RWC GS Troop 30016 headed over the hill Memorial County Park for their first ever camping trip, organized by Wini's Mom, with Nathan I tagging along.

We brought a kid-seat equipped bike, and since part of the point of this trip is that the girl scouts learn to do things themselves,

Nathan & I were free to entertain ourselves while they set up tents and made dinner.

We pedalled up a fire road at the back of the campground, which lead to Wurr Road on the hillside over the park. This is a quiet back road that seems reasonable for a ride in the country. We headed west, downnhill, and at the bottom was the hamlet of Loma Mar.

Getting back we had several options. One was to go back the way we came. The other was to go up Pescadero Creek Road to the main entrance of the park. Lots of people rise this road, but it's not ideal--blind curves and in some places, no shoulder. However, there was a dirt path by this part, and we only had to go a little ways to get into an unofficial back entrance to the park.

Are you sure this is the right way Dad?

There are some interesting, marginally maintained (abandoned?) day use areas in the lower eand of the park.

Nathan seemed to enjoy our ride through the forest, chattering away, but towards the end got rather quiet.

It was a big adventure, after all!

A final bike-advocacy note: As much fun as it was finding our own way, wouldn't be it be nice is San Mateo county had a network of certified bike-friendly routes through the hills and south coast, at least to connect each park with a nearby town?

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Another Bike+Train Outing

Taking a break from writing .bat files (aarrrrrggh!) to write about another outing last weekend.

Biked downtown with Nathan in the kiddie seat behind me, locked up the bike, and went to the RWC farmers market. Picked up some apricots; if I take one bite from an apple or a stone fruit, to get it started, Nathan will happily gnaw away at the rest for half an hour.

Then we crossed the street and caught a NB train to Burlingame. Washington Park, Burlingame, gets my vote for best transit-accessible park for small children on the peninsula.

Nathan went straight to a fairly tall play structure and climbed up the stairs--I was mostly concerned with making sure he didn't tumble through a gap in the railing, and suddenly he reached the top of a 10' twisty slide, confidently sat down, pushed himself in, and slid on down. I've never seen him go on a slide that big before. He seemed to have fun but next he decided to go find a more toddler-sized play structure with a shorter slide more to his scale.

After a bit he indicated he was hungry; he did this by finding some other kid's stash of "cheese fishie crackers" and trying to take them. I was "underprovisioned" for food on this trip, so we went across the tracks to downtown Burlingame, and found a bakery.

Nathan found a display of cookies,

and started saying "cookie cookie cookie" (since big sister is a girl scout, this was one of his first words). For an 18-month old, communication should be rewarded, right? He got a cookie, and munched it on the ride home.

We met Mom & Wini at Belmont, where Wini had just finished skating class (at Belmont Iceland, across Old County Road from the station). She's been working up to some serious jumps in the practice harness. We had lunch at U-Buffet across the street, where I ate a small boiled octopus. Kinda rubbery, really, but kids expect dads to do crazy things like eating octopi (or rather optopedes) and I don't want to disappoint.

Errands by Bike with Baby

Every day when I come home from work, Nathan pats his head, which is a roundabout adaptation of the baby sign for "hat" to "bike", because we always wear helmets (aka, "bike hats"), meaning "let's go for a bike ride!"

Going anywhere more than a few blocks with a baby necessitates bringing changing supplies, but with his behind-the-rider baby bike seat, my usual backpack ends up in his face. So when I was at OSH, and saw a handle-bar mounted basket, I snapped it up.

This particular one is detachable--you mount a clip onto the handlebars, and then snap the basket on/off the clip. This is useful not just for taking the basket off when you don't need it; you can also take it off to use for shopping, etc.

So Nathan and I have been running some errands by bike. Here he is on Sunday trying the samples at Trader Joe's:

Seconds later the cup was dumped on the foor. Oh well, the had a stack of napkins, so at least I could clean up after our mess.

Today we went to Lucky, and found this Tillamook Cheese Van in front (license plate Oregon YUM-1):

How could I not post a picture of that?

Sue had put sharp cheddar on our list, and the cute mini-minibus clinched the deal for Tillamook.

Friday, June 04, 2010

A Walk with Nathan

Nathan and I went walking at Bayfront Park in Menlo Park, better known as "the place to go walking by the bay at the end of Marsh Road". Nathan had fun tromping down the road and sniffing flowers.

You can actually walk right in quite legally, but Nathan enjoyed climbing under the gate anyway.

Rocks on the old gravel road are fun, too!

It's also a nice place to ride bikes--there's youre alternative transportation tie-in!

Nice to get some nice outdoorsy weather at last.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Free-Range Kid

My daughter Wini has been itching to get out on her own by bike. The other night she asked if she could bike to Jo-Ann's for supplies for a sewing project, but it was dark out and there's some big streets on the way. Yesterday she asked if she could ride over to her friend's house, over across town in our old neighborhood. I don't think she really realizes how far it is, and there's no really good way to go (not just for kids--I don't really relish riding on Woodside Road myself).

Today it was hot and she wanted to ride downtown and get ice cream. After the usual parental safety lecture we let her go. I had to resist the urge to follow her and make sure she was safe.

She came back from Young's with chocolate on her lips so I guess the trip was a success.

Friday, May 21, 2010

To Do by Transit this Weekend: Maker Faire

The Maker Faire will be at the San Mateo Event Center this weekend. Adam Savage, of Mythbusters fame, will be there. The Event Center is accessible from the Hillsdale CalTrain station--walk north past the former racetrack site--so not right at the station. You could also take a SamTrans bus on El Camino and get of at 25th Ave.

Note that you need to buy tickets in advance--in RWC you can get them at Whole Foods and AAA.

See you there!

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Saving Weekend Trains

It was just about a year ago that CalTrain faced a budget crisis and considered ending weekend train service to balance the books.

CalTrain now faces an even worse crisis and weekend service is on the chopping block again.

What the railway really needs is new, dedicated source of funding, but in the meantime, I'm going to re-post one of my suggestions for cutting the cost of weekend service.

Let's take a look at the current weekend schedule. Trains depart from both ends, on the hour, making all stops, taking 96 mins to make the whole run. Obviously, an hour into that run, two more trains are departing from their respective termini--so there's a total of four trains on the line for most of the day.

The number of simultaneous trains, and their crews, are the key to CalTrain's costs. One way to reduce this would be to simply halve the current service, and operate trains every two hours, so only two trains and crews are needed.

But here's another, IMHO slightly better way of doing it: prune away stops to a "semi bullet" schedule, stopping well-spaced stations (maybe: SF, MB, MS, RWC, PA, MV, SC, SJ), a run that can be made in about 1:15. Run trains at 90 minute intervals. The schedule can be covered by two trains and two crews.

A 90 minute spacing between trains is better than two hours, and for passengers making longer trips (between stations still served, obviously), speed would be improved.