Back Online With Some Random Thoughts…

The Really Big Project I was working on is pretty much complete, so I can go back to regular writing. I can’t really talk about it just yet, but soon, all will be revealed. I hate to be a blogger cloak and dagger type, but it’ll all make sense soon enough.
Anyway, I took a trip to Burlingame today, and while doing so thought a little bit about all the crazy stuff that’s been going on here, elsewhere and so on. One thing that’s always been an issue is the fact that if you live in San Francisco, but work elsewhere (i.e. San Mateo County, Santa Clara County, etc.) is that once you leave San Francisco, you really don’t have a lot of options to get where you’re going , unless you have a car. And, with Caltrain’s latest announcement that it will be killing most of its service (which will make for a lot of fun at Giants games), it’s just going to get worse.
For example, today I wanted to take Caltrain to Burlingame station, and meet my family there, instead of having them pick me up at the BART station. But, because of a) the Sunday schedule and cuts to service on Muni, and b) Caltrain’s already abbreviated schedule, I realized there would be a good chance I’d get to Caltrain late, and miss Easter. So I opted for the 44 to Glen Park BART, but that meant annoying my brother to pick me up.
Now yes, there is a SamTrans stop there and yes, it theoretically could take me right to his place, but the problem with that is that SamTrans on a Sunday is almost non existent. I’d end up waiting at least 45 minutes, if not longer, and if it wasn’t raining, I’d normally just walk the 2 miles and not even bother. I was lucky that someone could pick me up and all, and I did get there pretty quickly from Glen Park. (and as always I wish I could take a time machine back to the time when they f*cked up BART and/or killed the Interurban and shown them the horrors and wasted money to fix their blunder and come back to an easy way to get to the peninsula, but, alas, no such luck. It’s the 21st century WHERE IS MY TIME MACHINE?)
The point is not to talk about my one stupid ride on BART to Burlingame, but to point out that once you leave San Francisco, “mass transit” simply isn’t viable for a lot of people who don’t work near Caltrain, or have the luxury of taking a Bauer private coach, or one provided by an employer. That means more people will either have to move closer to their jobs (so not easy in a tough economy) or just get a car and make 280 and 101 a parking lot. And, it wasn’t that long ago that this didn’t have to be a potential day-killer made up of transit f*ck ups, either. (Although, that whole “if you don’t live near Caltrain” issue for many workers wouldn’t go away. But at least you could take Caltrain to the Giants game and have a beer on the way up.)
It’s just silly to think that we can pour way more cars on already crappy freeways (and oh yeah that gas tax that allocated 80% of money to roads? GONE) and somehow think that’s going to be “fast” or whatever. With no reasonable way to get to where they need to, though, that is going to happen, and for many people I know, it already has.
If I was paid more, perhaps as much as some overpriced legislator, Supervisor, Governor, Mayor, transit boss dude, or whatever, I’d spend some time figuring out a grand complex solution or something. But I’m not. And sad to say, we are paying a lot of money for a lot of people who allegedly do this sort of thing as part of their job, and well, instead they don’t.
Have fun on 101. Bring an iPad with you. It’s not like you’ll be moving that fast (if at all) to cause any harm, and you can at least look cool while you’re taking 3 hours to get to Palo Alto.
PS: No transit drama, I got a ride home because I got a filing cabinet (happy Easter). But driving on 280 sucked royally with all the rain and such, so we took an alternate route home. I really don’t miss driving up and down 280 and 101, that’s for sure. But then again, carrying a filing cabinet on BART probably isn’t a wise idea.

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9 Responses to Back Online With Some Random Thoughts…

  1. @makfan says:

    I do work close enough to Caltrain, but if they kill off everything but commute-hour service, Caltrain will lose all of my business and I’ll be one of those cars clogging 280. I’m simply not going to put myself in a position where I have to choose between finishing something my boss wants and making the last train of the service day. The alternative is a horribly long light rail trip to Milpitas followed by an express bus to Fremont BART. It will take nearly twice as long. At least I work at home 2-3 days per week. Also, some of my work days are followed by an evening Sharks game. I pretty much would have to drive on those days anyway. Ugh, this all just stucks. Wait till the next earthquake takes out a bridge for a while and we have no transit left.

  2. Greg says:

    @makfan: TOTALLY. One thing that the Caltrain schedule is not great at to begin with is anyone who has to work late. I used to work in South SF (pre-BART station) and if I wanted to take it, it would have been ok, just a very long walk through the industrial part of SSF to the office. The only problem was that during busy season, I often worked until 11pm or midnight, so taking the train wasn’t an option.
    Also, the Sharks/Giants situation is another. There is not enough parking space near either venue to accommodate more cars. Plus it’s nice not having to worry about finding a stupid parking space and just enjoy the game. Plus the whole no drinking and driving thing, the apparent stabbing of The Earth all these cars are supposedly doing…and so on…remember all of this when some douche politician talks about how green friendly they are because they drive a Prius.

  3. @makfan says:

    I should have said that the whole reason I started taking Caltrain regularly was how much it sucked driving to work in the rain. One particularly bad morning I drove from SF to my office in Los Gatos and it took me nearly 2 hours. They were amazed I even tried driving in, but that was a job that didn’t allow telecommuting and I was freelancing – so no show, no pay. This happened just a few months before baby bullet service began. I ended up opting to leave a beater car overnight at the train station because the last few miles from the station to my office took forever without a car.
    Standing at an unsheltered bus stop for 30 minutes sucks, too, but doesn’t raise my blood pressure like driving in a bad storm does.

  4. MrEricSir says:

    On the flip side, now is a great time to invest in parking lots. If you own a parking lot, let’s say near the Giants stadium, you can charge as much as you want and people will still pay. They don’t have a choice. $50 an hour? No problem!

  5. @makfan says:

    By the way, I really wish I understood how the JPB can be talking about moving ahead with the electrification project at the same time it is talking about cutting out most of its service? This is so typical of government BS – we can afford the money to build a fancy new project, but too bad, we can’t afford to operate and maintain what we already have. It is absolutely maddening and I feel powerless to do anything about it. No business would survive building a new plant that would then sit empty while the existing plants crumbled.
    I’m not a crazy right-winger that thinks government is completely evil, but they could stand to learn a few lessons from the business world. Sometimes you have to put the brakes on new projects and focus on what is already up and running. Of course, business don’t have to pass laws to change allocation of their funds..they can just have a BOD meeting and be done with it.

  6. Greg says:

    @makfan: Eric at Transbay Blog has a really great post about Caltrain, and why it’s being hurt worse than other agencies, due mostly to the fact it has no dedicated funding at all.
    That makes it especially hard for it to do any reasonable planning when other agencies can simply decide to take away their money, without any warning. Plus, whenever you delay a major project like the electrification, you ALWAYS make it cost more in the future.
    Public works projects can’t operate exactly the same as profit-run businesses that sell a product or service. Because of laws restricting what they can and can’t do, and the increasing cost of things like land (this is why the BART extension to San Mateo County cost way more than it would have in the 70s), you can’t always just say “stop” and pick up later when things get better. It will never work like that.

  7. @makfan says:

    @Greg, thanks, off to do some more reading.

  8. anonymouse says:

    Have you read the Caltrain electrification report? They have their sources of funding listed… including $400 million labeled as coming from “funding gap”. So, no, their capital budget really isn’t doing any better than the operating one.

  9. Bob Davis says:

    The Time Machine/Atavachron/Tardis, or “Let’s Do the Time Warp Again.”: When you’re done going back to the 1940’s to ride the #40 line down to Bvrlingame or San Mateo, I’d like to book a session to go back to 1940 and ride the Pacific Electric (with a digital camera disguised as a Kodak box camera). Then I’d ride the SP Daylight up to SF, take the streetcars to the new Transbay Terminal, and ride the Sacramento Northern, the SP Red Electrics and the Key System. Hey, as long as were smoking the pipe full of old journal packings, let’s take a BIG hit!

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