Amtrak is really trying to upstage airlines on complicated boarding procedures:

On the day of your trip, check in with a uniformed Amtrak employee who will verify your ticket, and issue you a boarding pass. You will then be directed to the appropriate boarding area to wait for your train. The earlier you check in, the earlier you’ll be in the boarding process. If you don’t check in, you’ll be among the last to board.

Board with Your Assigned Group
About 30 minutes before departure, a boarding call will be announced and you’ll board with your assigned group.

General boarding for passengers traveling in Coach Class will take place in the Great Hall. There will be signs to direct you to the location of your assigned group. Customers who purchased a $20 Priority Boarding Pass for the Legacy Club will be the first Coach Class group to board.

They also recommend arriving at the station at least 45 minutes before departure, to deal with this nonsense. And “boarding gates” will close 5 minutes before takeoff train departure.


In an action that went largely unnoticed last month, the CHSRA has changed the specifications for platform lengths. Whereas they were originally to be 430 meters (long enough for double trainset), they will now be just 800 feet (243 meters). This will effectively cut the capacity of the system in half.

The memo does allow for longer platforms at shared stations — if other operators are running longer trains. Its effect on the cramped Transbay Terminal is unclear, as Caltrain is only planning for 8-car EMUs.

The decision also affects placement of turnouts and crossovers. So once the track and platforms are locked in concrete, it would be extremely difficult and costly to change later on. Reducing costs of the project is one thing — but this is an example of being penny-wise and pound-foolish.


Double trainset

Back in 2009, SMART came up with a bonehead plan to use custom-design rolling stock — a decision heavily criticized in this blog. And here we are six years later, and they are still struggling to get something working:

On September 7, 2016, SMART was notified by SCOA [Sumitomo Corporation of America] that the failure was due to an underlying design flaw in the engine’s crankshaft. Responding to this news, SMART’s Vehicle Maintenance Superintendent, supported by LTK vehicle engineers, travelled to the Cummins Engine facility in Seymour, Indiana, and on September 14 met with Cummins, carbuilder Nippon Sharyo and SCOA. At the meeting it was agreed that the engines would be rebuilt with a new crankshaft designed for the life of the engine, as soon as possible.

So now all the engines will need to be scrapped, and the train design re-tested. The SMART staff is now (very optimistically I think) saying the line won’t open until at least Spring 2017. The previous opening date was supposed to be the end 2016 (which had already been pushed back 2 years due to other issues).

Remember: the whole rationale for using custom FRA-compliant rolling stock was that it would take “too long” to get regulatory approval for off-the-shelf European DMUs.


No joke. The Governor of Oklahoma has declared October 13th as Oilfield Prayer Day.


(click image to enlarge)

What is the difference between communist and capitalist regimes when it comes to rationing a scarce resource? The answer (as everyone knows) is that capitalism uses market pricing to ration scarce resources, whereas communists will give them away at low cost, causing long queues to form.

Or is it the other way around?

Example from a capitalist country:

The scarcity of BART parking is the top gripe on Mr. Roadshow’s complaint line this year, making it the first time a highway has not held the top spot in the dozen years the “Dirty Dozen” list has been compiled.

BART has tried to ease the parking woes by offering monthly reserved parking permits. Permits guarantee riders a space in a designated reserved “Permit” area, as long as they arrive by 10 a.m. But of the 33 stations with reserved parking, all have waiting lists except for Millbrae and Daly City. That leaves many drivers vying for non-reserved spots, and those fill up early — in Fremont and West Oakland by 6:30 a.m.; at Walnut Creek and Fruitvale by 7 a.m.; at Castro Valley by 7:10 a.m.; and at Colma and South San Francisco by 7:30 a.m.

Example from a communist country:

A record number of bidders totaling 172,205 and a drop in nominal success rate to a historical low of 4.3 percent were seen at the monthly Shanghai car plate auction held today, which for the first time officially adopted a new bidding system promising improved experience.

A total of 7,441 car plates were up for grab among individual car buyers under a price ceiling of 75,200 yuan for the first-round bids, both the same as last month. The lowest winning bid went up 1,000 yuan to 80,000 yuan while the average price increased 921 yuan to 80,020 yuan.

A new bidding rule has been introduced to allow more room for price guessing in the second round. This change means one can bid with fewer restrains, which is believed to calm down the public outcry about not being guaranteed a bidding chance in the last minute when data transmission congestion often spikes and leads to glitches.


Over the past year, Fremont has been busy striping new and improved bike lanes. Many of the projects are quite good, in particular the road-diet on Paseo Padre, and buffered bike lanes to the BART station. But then, they went and did this monstrosity:


Before this right-hook bike-lane went in, the street had just a single right-turn lane. So the new configuration just made things much more dangerous.

Don’t blame Congress, blame bike racks for the lack of research funding for the Zika virus:

When asked why the NIH did not choose to purchase cheaper bike racks, the NIH said the bike shelters are a “long-term investment.”

“The shelters help to protect bicycles from the elements, which in turn, protects the employee’s investment with biking to work and hopefully encourages others to commute by bicycle,” Moss said. “Promotion and support of bicycling as an alternative commuting option is essential for NIH compliance with federal guidelines to promote environmental stewardship and employee health benefits.”

The NIH referred questions about the price of the bike shelters to the company and the NIH Contracting Office.

The NIH has said it has “no money” to fight the Zika virus.

The typical cost for a sheltered bike rack is on the order of $10,000. The NIH purchased two of them.