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Archive for October, 2012

Cities are for cars, not restaurants. At least, that is what some LA Nimbys seem to believe:

According to the Beverly Wilshire Homes Association, Gold’s restaurant needs to obtain four more parking spaces in order to operate legally, which Gold’s team says will $12,000. The homeowners association is after Eva and other local restaurants because they take up parking in the area. In the case of Eva, their purchased, secured spaces are 1,000 feet from the restaurant instead of the required 750 feet, so the restaurant has to purchase some new spots or they’ll lose their liquor license.

Something is really wrong with the zoning code when free parking is a condition for holding a liquor license.

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Tunnel Trespassing

90 minutes seems an awful long time to extract a trespasser from a BART tunnel:

BART service through the Transbay Tube has been restored after it was shut down Sunday evening for about an hour-and-a-half after surveillance cameras showed someone walking into the tunnel beneath the bay.

According to BART spokesman Jim Allison, a man “in normal attire walking casually” was spotted entering the tube from the Embarcadero station at about 6:46 p.m. BART immediately shut down the Transbay Tube and sent a train full of police officers inside. They found and arrested a person at 7:44 p.m., he said. Lt. Tyrone Forte said he was found about half way between Embarcadero station and West Oakland station.

The tube is outfitted with surveillance cameras and other security devices aimed at protecting it against terrorists, vandals or someone deciding to take a stroll. BART reopened the tube just in time for the end of the San Francisco Giants game, which was expected to send crowds of fans heading home from AT&T Park.

Aside from the security implications, this kind of thing isn’t fun for the passengers — i.e. being stuck in a dark tunnel without ventilation for over an hour. It isn’t an isolated occurrence either. For example, on the day of the World Cup, a trespasser entered the Oakland Wye, also causing 90 minute delays (and yeah, I’m still pissed about missing the game).

I’ve never seen any other urban metro system this susceptible to delays caused by intruders. Not sure if the problem is the lackadaisical police response, or the lack of redundancy…

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Ouch. San Mateo voters love the idea of electrification, just not the high-speed rail part.

CHSRA has totally poisoned the well.

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Seen This Bad Movie Before

The Pixar film “Cars” has this great scene, where we learn the sad history of small-town Radiator Springs. You probably remember it: the new interstate highway gets built, and all the shop owners expect it to bring lots of new customers. Instead the interstate causes all the traffic — and customers — to bypasses the town altogether. The town’s economy is decimated.

Radiator Springs may be a fictional place, but the story is all too real. And it gets repeated over and over again: Transportation agencies build new highway bypasses  to “solve” traffic congestion on Main St.. The local business community at first welcomes the new highway, only to realize when it is too late that the bypass sucks the lifeblood out of downtown.

The latest case is Lincoln, California (population 42,000). Two days ago, a new bypass was opened around the city. The $325 million, 12-mile bypass will take some 40,000 cars around the city. It is Placer County’s most expensive transportation project ever. Eventually, the bypass will be widened to 4-lanes and made into a full-fledged freeway.

So how is the local business community responding to the new bypass, and lost business?

While interstates, elevated freeways and bypasses have been blamed for the economic decline of many a small-town Main Street, merchants and officials in the financially struggling city of Lincoln say they are excited to have their downtown back.

“It’s the best thing that has happened to Lincoln in years,” said Terrence Dorsey, who runs an investment business in the back of his wife’s clothing boutique on G Street, which takes the existing Highway 65 through town.

Well ok, but what about the experts at the world-renowned Mineta Transporation Institute? Surely they recognize the problem:

Transportation experts say a new bypass isn’t always the death knell for main streets. Reducing traffic creates an opportunity for a more people-friendly downtown, said Rod Diridon Sr., executive director of the Mineta Transportation Institute.

A 2006 study commissioned by the state Transportation Department agreed with Diridon’s assessment, finding that a bypass can lead to increased downtown business activity and other benefits.

Serious question: Has Rod Diridon ever been right about anything?

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Multimodal My Ass

BART riders can’t use their Clipper “smart” cards on the AirBART shuttle because….

Regional transit officials say they sympathize with tired travelers who just want to use their cards, climb on the bus and catch their flights. But bureaucratic squabbles and abstruse coding make that unlikely ever to happen.

“Of course, it would be ever so much easier if a traveler headed to or from the airport could use a Clipper card,” said John Goodwin, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which oversees Clipper cards. “It would make things a lot easier, a lot more customer-friendly.”

But don’t expect anything to change, Goodwin said.

Doing that would require a lot more (computer) code to be written and would require a lot more money to be spent,” Goodwin said. In short, programmers would have to rewrite the BART fare program to run on a card reader designed for a bus. The original BART code can’t simply be loaded on a different type of reader, Goodwin said. He couldn’t give an estimate of how much it would cost.

So basically, BART can’t get reimbursed for Clipper trips that involve a bus? That is some unbelievably retarded programming. No doubt the persons in charge will get shit-canned, right?

 

 

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If only my BART commute were this stimulating.

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What Would the FDA Do?

The NY Times had a nice article on the trend away from bicycle helmet promotions. There are, of course, the usual anecdotal “how a helmet saved my life” stories, to which the author had a great reply:

Before you hit the comment button and tell me that you know someone whose life was probably saved by a bike helmet, I know someone, too. I also know someone who believes his life was saved by getting a blood test for prostate specific antigen, detecting prostate cancer. But is that sense of salvation actually justified, for the individual or society?

He is referring to recent studies which suggest PSA testing does more harm than good. That is not a bad analogy. Like the PSA test, helmet protections may seem good in lab tests, but the real world data says they do more harm than good.

Or to put another way: if the FDA were to regulate helmets as a medical device (and why not, given the supposed public health benefits), then it is unlikely the FDA would ever grant regulatory approval.

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