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Archive for the ‘transit’ Category

Boycott

Cummins, along with other large employers in Indiana, sent a letter to GOP leaders:

Nine of Indiana’s largest employers sent a letter to state GOP leaders Monday asking for immediate action on the controversial religious freedom law. The letter says the companies are “deeply concerned” about the impact the law is having on their employees and the reputation of the state.

Here in California (and probably elsewhere), transit agencies do a sizable business with Cummins. AC Transit, for example, uses Cummins engines in almost every one of its buses. It is not hard to imagine that transit districts will look at a Boycott Indiana policy in its purchasing contracts. Large transit agencies do bus fleet purchases every few years — and Cummins does have competitors that aren’t located in states with Sharia law.

In case there was any doubt about the intent of the Religious Freedom Law.

In case there was any doubt about the intent of the Religious Freedom Law.

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Jim Hartnett

The Caltrain Board Member who wanted to ban bikes entirely from trains and presided over the Board during its most dysfunctional years is now Caltrain’s new General Manager.

Oh, my.

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BART’s Solution to Auto Theft

A new police watchtower looms over the North Berkeley BART parking lot:

SkyWatch

If BART is that worried about auto burglaries, then perhaps they should eliminate the parking lot altogether and put desperately-needed housing there instead.

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ARTIC Disaster

Anaheim’s new ARTIC train station was built on the wrong side of the freeway, putting visitors further away from Disneyland. And whereas the old station had easy access to buses and parking, the new one forces passengers to walk long distances.

It is also a financial disaster:

The bulk of the $185 million ARTIC project cost was paid for by Orange County taxpayers with a special half-percent sales tax known as Measure M2.

But it’s Anaheim’s taxpayers that will shoulder the annual operating and maintenance expenses for ARTIC, which is several times over the cost to run train stations in other nearby cities.

For example, the Irvine train station saw 1,900 boardings a day in fiscal year 2013-14, according to city provided figures. That’s well over twice as many as ARTIC.

The cost to operate and maintain the Irvine train station annually is $485,000.

That cost for ARTIC is expected to be $4.7 million, nearly 10 times what it costs to run the Irvine station.

Oh, and rail ridership at Anaheim is down 32.2% over the past two years.

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If you are planning to board Amtrak buses in San Francisco, be prepared for some insane TSA-style security checks:

Security Check

Upon entering the facility, passengers must show your Amtrak ticket or photo I.D. to the Greyhound Security Staff. Greyhound security will also inspect bags and wand passengers for metal contraband who enter the building. Please allow additional time arriving for this process.

So now you can’t even enter a bus terminal without a security check.

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Heckuva Job Obama

feinburgHaving deep experience in the railroad industry isn’t necessarily a good thing for running the FRA (case in point: Joe Szabo). But an FRA Administrator should at least have some technical or transportation background:

Feinberg has a resume loaded with high-level jobs as a communications specialist and Democratic staffer. She was an assistant to Rahm Emanuel when he was President Barack Obama’s White House chief of staff and later director of communications and corporate strategy at Facebook. She also worked on Capitol Hill for years, as communications director for the House Democratic Caucus and as national press secretary for former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle. Feinberg was formerly married to Dan Pfeiffer, a key White House adviser whose service to the president dates back to Obama’s days as senator from Illinois.

But her executive experience doesn’t include running anything the size and complexity of the FRA, and she does not have much experience with railroads. That’s led some to question whether she’s a good fit to lead an agency widely thought to need an urgent overhaul.

One of the (many) failings of the Bush Administration was its appointment of unqualified political hacks to key positions. People like Michael Brown to run FEMA, or the GOP ideologues who ran the provisional government in Iraq. You would think the Obama Administration would not repeat that kind of mistake.

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Valhalla

The 5 victims in the horrific Metro-North collision in Valhalla will be listed in the official statistics as train fatalities — even though it was an automobile that killed them. Each year, there are tens of thousands of automobile fatalities, but for some reason, the NTSB only investigates crashes involving trains or other mass transit.

Based on previous work by the NTSB, one can expect their report to focus on accident survivability, not accident avoidance. The key question isn’t what role the 3rd rail played, or the design of the road — but why the grade crossing was even there in the first place?

The Commerce St. grade crossing has little traffic, and is located just 1 mile away from grade-separated crossings in both north and south directions. Closing the crossing to motor vehicles is the obvious solution. It would greatly increase safety, with only minor time penalty for motorists.

Metro-North has such a large number of crossings similar to this one that it begs the question as to why they are left open to motor vehicles. A systematic approach to closing minor at-grade crossings that are in close proximity to grade-separated roadways would greatly increase safety, with only minor impact on motor vehicles. Note that crossings could still be left open to bikes/peds, avoiding the “Berlin-Wall” effect. The reason this has not been done is because small inconveniences for motorists takes precedence over the safety of train passengers. Hopefully this latest tragedy will lead to a change in priorities.

And it is not a problem unique to Metro-North. In the SF Bay Area, the Caltrain line has a number of minor at-grade crossings that should be closed to motor vehicles. It is just dumb luck that Caltrain has not experienced a mass casualty event. And when the agency starts using EMU’s, you can be sure the knives will come out if one of those “dangerous” non-compliant trains were involved in a fatal accident.

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