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Published Thursday, December 29, 2005, by the Associated Press
Governor, legislature to focus on neglected public works projects
By Steve Lawrence
After a year of sounding like former Republican Gov. Ronald Reagan and
calling for new powers to cut spending, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has
He's begun to sound a bit more like another former California
governor, Democrat Pat Brown, who presided over an era when the state
built freeways, water projects and universities.
"I want to create an infrastructure -- a huge infrastructure -- that
reduces the gridlock of our roads, builds the facilities that our
cities and counties need, speeds up the movement of goods ... and
delivers more energy and water and all the resources that we need to
grow," Schwarzenegger said in a recent speech.
The emphasis on public works projects comes on the heels of voters'
rejection of the four ballot measures the Republican governor
championed in the Nov. 8 special election. That included Proposition
76, which would have capped state spending and given the governor
greater authority to make midyear cuts.
It also comes as Schwarzenegger prepares for re-election saddled with
low approval ratings, particularly among the Democrats and
independents who account for two-thirds of California's registered
"I think he understands he needs to build a record if he is running
for re-election and a legacy if he is not," said Sherry Bebitch Jeffe,
a political scientist at the University of Southern California. "He
has taken a page from the Pat Brown playbook."
A spokesman for the governor said Schwarzenegger's emphasis on
rebuilding California is part of a long-term plan, not a new
direction. Department of Finance spokesman H. D. Palmer also said the
governor will continue efforts to control state spending.
Nonetheless, 2006 is shaping up as a year when the governor and
lawmakers focus on tackling a huge backlog of public works projects,
ranging from highways, to port access, to school construction, to
"There are lots of needs because we have neglected lots of things,"
said Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland. "California has
not invested in a long time in things that make California work."
The state is supposed to draft an annual plan laying out its public
works needs but hasn't done so since 2003.
It faces a $160 billion to $200 billion shortfall in transportation
funding alone over the next 10 years, said Democratic Sen. Tom
Torlakson, chairman of the Select Committee on California
"Our transportation system has been unraveling," Torlakson said.
"We're 50th in the nation in the amount we spend per citizen on
transportation, 49th in the nation in the condition of the roads, and
we have the most congested areas in the nation."
Finding a way to pay for a massive program to ease traffic, improve
levees and build other projects in an era of continuing state budget
deficits won't be easy.
The Legislature's budget analyst, Elizabeth Hill, announced in
November that the state would have a brief respite from deficits in
2006 if lawmakers don't increase spending beyond projected levels.
But she warned that deficits would return in 2007 unless the
Legislature and the governor made additional budget cuts or raised
During a postelection trip to China, Schwarzenegger said the package
he would propose could cost "much, much more" than $50 billion.
"We're looking at something really big," he said.
But Palmer said the governor hasn't decided which projects to include
in his proposal, how much it would cost or how to pay for it.
He also said the governor was looking at more than just borrowing
money by selling general obligation bonds, a traditional financing
method that requires voter approval and can cost the state about a
dollar in interest for every dollar it borrows.
"He said, 'Think outside the bond,'" Palmer said.
Alternatives include imposing user fees or assessments on industries
that would benefit from the improvements or requiring local
governments to chip in, Palmer said.
Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, who is drafting his own infrastructure
legislation, said lawmakers should identify a revenue source to pay
off the additional debt, possibly through a tax increase, if they
approve the use of bonds.
"It's a discussion we're going to have to have," the Los Angeles
The California Alliance for Jobs, a construction industry group, is
recommending that lawmakers and the governor approve a $30 billion to
$40 billion bond measure as a first step in dealing with the backlog.
The group advocates a quarter-cent sales tax increase to help pay off
Palmer said Schwarzenegger won't accept a tax hike.
Assembly Minority Leader Dick Ackerman, R-Tustin, also opposes a
general tax increase but said the package could include revenue bonds
that would be paid off "by people actually getting the benefit" of
levee upgrades, water projects and certain other improvements.
The state should also take more of a pay-as-you-go approach to
financing public projects instead of selling bonds, Ackerman said.
"You can't bond everything," he said.
State Controller Steve Westly, a Democratic candidate for governor in
2006, joined the debate by calling for legislation that would impose
more accountability for bond spending. He proposed creating an
oversight commission that would have final say over which projects get
Proposition 53, a constitutional amendment lawmakers added to the 2003
special election ballot, would have allotted a small percentage of the
state's general fund each year for public improvements. Voters
soundly rejected it.
Assembly Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, said voters'
attitudes may have changed since then.
"We are living off of infrastructure that was built not when Jerry
Brown was governor, but when his father was governor," he said.
But he added that Republicans aren't likely to support a huge bond
"Our members are going to see what is the need, what is the
prioritization, where is the money going and how to pay for it," he
said. "I don't think our caucus is going to put generations in debt.
We are supportive of building the infrastructure of California. We're
just not supportive of living in deficit."
State Treasurer Phil Angelides, another Democratic gubernatorial
candidate, also is leery of a huge bond measure. He warned that
paying it off without a revenue increase could eat into money needed
for education, health care and other programs.
Some lawmakers are considering adopting a series of bonds instead of
just one mega proposal. Spreading the bonds over several elections
would ease the impact on the state's budget and credit ratings,
The state hasn't been neglecting its needs completely. Voters have
approved nearly $74 billion in bonds since 1996, including $37.5
billion for public schools and universities.
Lawmakers already have placed a $600 million library construction and
renovation bond measure on next June's ballot and a $9.9 billion
measure on the November ballot to begin construction of a high-speed
Perata is proposing an $11.7 billion bond measure that would provide
money for flood protection, port improvements, low-cost housing and
He said lawmakers and the governor should try to put such a bond on
the June 6 primary election ballot instead of waiting until November.
If they make that their goal, they would have to act by early
Published Friday, December 30, 2006, in the San Jose Business Journal
Can private enterprise save BART?
By Timothy Roberts
Faced with the need to cut millions of dollars from the cost of
building a BART line through San Jose, the Valley Transportation
Authority (VTA) is hoping that it can convince private developers to
build BART stations and parking garages in return for development
rights around the stations. If so, the VTA could shave millions from
the cost of building the 16-mile extension of the rail line, currently
estimated to cost $4.7 billion.
[BATN: No, $6.2 billion according to the FTA -- and that was before
VTA increased their "construction" cost "estimates" from $4.2 to $4.7
BART-bucks. (As everybody knows, one pre-construction BART-buck is
equivalent to less that 0.5 of your earth dollars.)]
Saving money is a must if the line is ever to be built.
Although Santa Clara County taxpayers voted in 2000 to tax themselves
for most of the cost, the VTA still needs $750 million from the feds.
But the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), the gate keeper for the
proposed BART dollars, says the cost per rider on the planned San Jose
extension is too high. The solution lies in boosting the ridership
number -- a figure some believe is already unrealistically high given
the valley's economic downturn -- or cutting the cost.
[BATN: The ridership "number" isn't "unrealistic" due to "the valley's
economic downtown"; rather, its fraudulence under any economic
scenario is unambiguously demonstrated by comparison with the the
geography and demography of ANY transit line in the world carrying
111,000 daily riders. See for example:
On Dec. 9, the VTA, which is responsible for building the extension,
withdrew its request for federal money until it can agree with the FTA
on the best way to measure that cost, says Michael Burns, VTA's
The cost per rider is actually a complicated formula that measures the
benefit derived from each rider per mile. The VTA has brought that
figure down from $41 to $31, but the FTA won't bite until it comes in
at or below $27.99.
No one will know how much the cost of the BART extension has to be
reduced until the VTA and the FTA can work out the formula for
establishing the cost. But no matter how the numbers are calculated,
Mr. Burns says it is clear that VTA will have to cut costs, and he is
looking to the private sector for help.
In September, the VTA board approved a $250,000 study of development
possibilities around the proposed BART stations, but the urgency of
the idea was heightened earlier this month when VTA decided to take a
"VTA just has to sit down and reconsider its design model," says
U.S. Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, who has taken the lead in Congress
in pressing for the federal funding for the project. Among his
suggestions: "It can look at joint partnerships to build parking
garages and stations."
That's exactly what Mr. Burns has in mind.
"I want to see where there are opportunities for private sector
participation," he says. "The concept is that we would turn over the
project to a developer who would be required to build a station."
Developer Barry Swenson says he can envision high-rise residential
towers next to BART stations in San Jose.
"We would want to build 10-20-story residential towers next to BART
stations," he says. "With the crews there we could build the station
and the tower at the same time. There is a lot of advantage to having
one large construction job instead of two."
[BATN: The only residential tower we're aware of mooted in San Jose,
the $276m project at Third and San Fernando streets, is being
SUBSIDIZED by San Jose to the tune of $28.1 million!!!!!!!!
Quite how that can square with this concept of developers falling over
each other in order to come up with the several hundred million
dollars required to construct each underground BART station is
something which each VTA General Manager will just have to discuss
with the spiritual counsellor of his or her choice.]
Already the VTA is working with private developers to plan
high-density development around VTA light rail stations on West San
Carlos Street and Capitol Avenue. Preliminary plans for the
development of Coyote Valley call for developers to build much of the
infrastructure including a train station.
And the BART system has experience working with developers to build
high-density housing, offices and shops around several existing
Developers led by the Unity Council, a local nonprofit group, invested
$100 million around the Fruitvale station in Oakland to build 47
rental units, 37,000 square feet of retail, 27,000 square feet of
office and a parking garage.
Bridge Housing Corp. of San Francisco is planning a $140 million
development around BART's McArthur station, a transfer point in
Oakland. For that development, BART is providing land from a parking
lot that will be replaced by a parking garage. Bridge also plans 400
residential units and retail space at the site.
"It's very ambitious," says Lydia Tan, Bridge's executive vice
The developer also would be interested in the Santa Clara County BART
stations, says Ms. Tan. "We are in the business of building as much
transit-oriented development as possible."
Ampelon Development is also interested. It is developing 17 acres
around a new West Dublin/Pleasanton BART station that will include a
$63 million [BATN: $71 million] station with parking garage, 210
residential units, a hotel, a restaurant and, on a separate parcel in
Pleasanton, a 170,000-square-foot office building.
The challenge with BART to San Jose, says Bob Russell, a partner at
Ampelon, is that much of the land around the planned stations is
already locked up and would need "assemblage," something that usually
means the taking of property by eminent domain.
A bill pending in the California Assembly would allow transit
districts to turn areas within a quarter-mile radius of a station into
redevelopment zones for the construction of transit-oriented
development. That bill, sponsored by Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch, passed
the Senate earlier this year but has been held up in the Assembly over
concerns that it might overreach on eminent domain.
The success of that bill may be the key to making the numbers add up
The 8.8-mile BART extension to Millbrae is costing San Mateo County
$10 million year in operating costs, in part because it was built too
far ahead of the population that would use it, says Kate White,
executive director for the Urban Land Institute's office in San
"If we bring BART all the way to San Jose, we have to get it right
this time and use the land around it right," she says.
Mr. Burns says the high cost and low ridership on the San Francisco
Airport extension of BART has made the FTA more skeptical of BART
extension projects. BART spokesman Linton Johnson, however, says that
the ridership on the line is about where BART predicted it would be.
Q: How do you know when a BART spokesman is lying?
A: His lips are moving.
Millbrae extension ridership is approximately ONE THIRD of that
"predicted" by BART in order to cook the EIR books sufficiently to
defraud the federal government of $750 million.
See http://bayrailalliance.org/bart/sfox_ridership.html for an
overview of actual versus "predicted" ridership.]
Developers are likely to be enticed to such developments by the added
value that a nearby BART station can bring to the development. The
office building at 44 Montgomery St. in San Francisco, which is
directly above the Montgomery Street BART station, is always fully
leased, says Mark Ritchie of Ritchie Real Estate. He sees BART as
essential to the development of downtown San Jose.
"I'm all for BART and any way to creatively finance stations and
parking garages should be considered," he says.
Timothy Roberts covers public policy, corporate governance and
Internet security for the Business Journal. Reach him at (408) 299-1821.
Published Sunday, January 1, 2006, in The London Times
The world tells us to take the train
Michael Palin's globetrotting has shown him the full toll the car is
taking. Hit the brakes, he says
I care deeply about the environment but, over the past 17 years of
making travel programmes for the BBC, I have been busy polluting this
environment on almost every conceivable form of carbon-emitting
vehicle, apart perhaps from camels and elephants.
Travelling has given me an opportunity to see transport solutions and
transport problems all over the world, in rich and poor countries.
What comes across loud and clear is that there is no short cut, no
magic solution to the problems of increasing car use across the world.
Improved transport is to most people part of an improved quality of
life. Mobility helps people to find better work and better living
conditions. It keeps families in touch. It helps in the creation of
better facilities such as schools, houses and workplaces.
The history of Homo sapiens has been one of huge journeys and epic
migrations: from Africa into southern Asia and Europe, from central
Asia into China, and from Asia across the Bering land bridge into
America. Today's people are moving from Africa into Europe and from
South America into North America.
The most advanced and prosperous country in the world -- the USA -- is
still one of the most inwardly mobile. I have American friends who
are quite astonished that I've lived in the same house in the same
city for 38 years.
Since the industrial revolution, though, there has been a price to pay
for these nomadic tendencies. And that is a dramatic change in the
environmental conditions on our planet. Causes can be argued over but
certain facts are undeniable.
Scientists working with material from ice sheets estimate that the
level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stabilised at about 270
parts per million for some 12,000 years. In the 200 years since the
industrial revolution, this figure has leapt to 380 parts per million
and is still rising.
Our government, like many others, recognises the problem. While it
was still in opposition it pledged to reduce Britain's emissions of
carbon dioxide by 20% by the year 2010. About 20-25% of these
emissions are from motor vehicles, and if this figure were to include
aircraft travel -- rising at 9% a year -- it would show just how
significant a share of the responsibility for pollution falls on
From my recent journeys I can see few crumbs of comfort. Wherever
I've been, however remote, it's clear that the love affair with the
internal combustion engine is deep, lasting and universal.
On the Khyber Pass two years ago, unbroken ranges of bleak, bare,
towering mountains all around me were matched only by an almost
equally unbroken line of trucks laden with people and possessions
returning to post-Taliban Afghanistan from the refugee camps of
In China, where roads used to be jammed with bicycles, they're now
jammed with bicycles and cars; and if they follow the model of almost
every other advanced country, they will in 20 years be jammed entirely
If, as the French philosopher Pascal once famously wrote, "The sole
cause of man's unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay
quietly in his room", then we are indeed a highly unhappy planet.
Outside of Alcatraz, I've seen very little evidence of anyone staying
quietly in their room, even when it would have been much easier to do
The Shandur Pass in the north of Pakistan is a barren plateau 3,750
metres above sea level, where the wind howls and snow and ice cover
the ground for two-thirds of the year. One place, one would have
thought, from which human beings would want to stay well away. But
every summer a polo match takes place in this inimical wilderness
which attracts upwards of 15,000 people.
They call it freestyle polo and, though not quite as free as it used
to be in the days when the game was played with sheep's carcasses or
the heads of one's enemy, it is one of the toughest sports I've ever
seen -- matched only in its toughness by the demands made on those who
have to get there. Most still walk, taking two days or more to climb
up from their villages. But every year a few more vehicles rattle up
the dirt track to the top of the pass. It surely won't be long before
they need a car park on the Shandur Pass.
In the desert of northern Sudan, another of the more remote parts of
the planet, there are no roads but the railway running from the
southern end of Lake Nasser to Khartoum is always packed. I reckoned
there were 3,000 people on the train they optimistically call the Nile
Valley Express on the day I was there, with a further 1,000 being
allowed to travel on the roof for free.
I spent some time on the top of one of the coaches. The passengers
were courteous and tea was served by a man walking precipitously from
coach to coach with a huge kettle. Indeed, most people I spoke to
were quite surprised to hear that people in Britain weren't allowed to
travel on the roofs of trains. I had to explain about bridges.
It's easy but misleading to romanticise those who still travel slowly
and simply. I've spent time with the yak herders of Tibet who move
from winter to summer pastures walking beside their livestock and
occasionally redirecting their animals with shouts and the odd lump of
earth thrown at the head. I've accompanied the camel drivers of the
Sahara who take three months to carry salt across the hottest part of
the desert. Believe me, if they could afford four-wheel-drives or
motorbikes, I'm pretty certain they'd jump at them.
The image of old and new transport solutions was nowhere better summed
up than when we were driving one of the pitted, hard-top roads across
Mali when we were overtaken by a pick-up truck. In the back were six
camels. So there we are. Whichever way you look at it, barring some
catastrophic disruption of oil supplies, the number of exhausts,
accelerators, carburettors and toxic particulates will continue to
increase across the globe.
But there is evidence that fuel consumption can be cut without losing
personal freedom or productivity. In the UK, Transport 2000 has had
impressive results from consulting employers about ways of reducing
car commuting; by offering the cheaper alternative of subsidised
public transport, the healthier alternative of cycle facilities and
the practical alternative of car sharing. Among 20 big employers
implementing such plans, car commuting journeys fell by 18%.
Reducing the necessity for car travel can be achieved by locating
businesses closer to home. It's much more feasible when our economy
is turning from heavy industry, well away from residential areas,
towards service, high-tech industries in smaller units often near
urban centres where public transport can do the brunt of the work.
The government has a role to play in this and has gone some way to
help matters by increasing the tax penalties on company cars and
encouraging the use of biofuels. And I'm told that road charging and
not just road building is a growing element in future transport
But as fast as car commuting schemes are cutting private car journeys,
the ever-increasing numbers of shopping malls and out-of-town retail
parks are increasing them. We live in a country that gets steamed up
about increased fuel prices yet has the highest proportion of
four-wheel-drive SUVs in Europe. Do people just not make the
connection? I would advise the owners of some of the great tanks that
I see toiling up to the 132- metre summit of Highgate Hill in London
to send them to Pakistan, where they're actually needed, and take a
Commercial sense and common sense demand continuing and generous
investment to increase the capacity of the railways. Longer, more
frequent trains, longer platforms, more user-friendly and well-staffed
stations, and continued improvements in signalling, will pay off
handsomely, both commercially and environmentally.
The success of the Channel tunnel link in capturing the lion's share
of the London-Paris traffic has shown that better railways can not
only take cars off the roads, but planes from the skies as well. The
government would do well to look at a high-speed rail link between
London and Edinburgh, which could do the same for the flights between
London and Scotland.
London has shown that a combination of road pricing and better
integrated public transport can deliver environmental benefits despite
all the doomsday predictions. Since the congestion charge was
introduced, traffic in central London is down 18% and carbon dioxide
emissions are down 19%.
Sadly, what is working in London may be too late for cities such as
Los Angeles, Beijing and Bangkok, all either built for the car or
building for the car.
Which brings me to the development of clean, fuel-efficient,
environmentally friendly vehicles. I can't believe we're taking so
long to get round to this. Could it be that the internal combustion
engine has hypnotised us all for so long that it will require not only
engineering expertise but also the creation of a whole new mindset to
come up with effective and commercial alternatives?
Finding a way of propelling cars and trucks without the side effects
of damaging emissions must surely be the holy grail of transport
planning and our greatest hope for the future. I only hope that all
those who profit from the internal combustion engine will be unselfish
in this and realise that a debased environment is good for none of us.
We may have to call into question the glamorisation of the car, its
association with speed, freedom and self-expression. In the future it
may be something a little less sexy and a little more functional, but
at least there might be a future. And a future that may well look
back at the pollution we tolerate now as the equivalent of the stench
of Victorian London before the sewers were laid.
Can all this be left to market forces? I would like to think so, but
the pace up to now has been dreadfully slow and I think we shall need
guidance, incentives and investment from the very top of government.
Politicians must be brave and realise that the quest for cleaner,
safer vehicles is possibly one of the greatest, most inspiring
challenges facing our world.
As for me, I shall continue to make travel programmes, secure in the
knowledge that the food I'm seen eating, the sanitary arrangements I'm
seen experiencing and the coughing attacks that strike me halfway up
high mountains are doing more than any government could to persuade
people to stay at home.
Extracted from a speech by Michael Palin, who is president of
Transport 2000, to the recent Environmentally Friendly Vehicles
conference. For more information, visit http://www.transport2000.org.ukb
Published Friday, December 30, 2005, in the San Jose Business Journal
Looking deeply into our crystal ball, the staff of The Business
Journal has identified five newsmakers to watch in 2006 -- Tony
Ridder, CEO of Knight Ridder Inc.; Mineta airport czar William Sherry;
developer and sports kingpin Lewis Wolff; VTA's new leader, Michael
Burns, and the governor's new chief of staff, Susan Kennedy.
Next, airport needs new airlines, flights
The slashing of Mineta San Jose International airport's expansion
project and the reduction of future airline landing fee increases --
two major tenets of Aviation Director William Sherry's modernization
plan -- are now in place.
Now it is time to see if he can follow through on his goals of luring
new airlines to San Jose while increasing the number of flights from
Mr. Sherry's plans have been criticized by several former chairs of
the Airport Commission, who claim Mr. Sherry prematurely caved in to
airline demands to lower planned landing fee increases.
But with passenger traffic still nearly 20 percent below pre-Sept. 11,
2001 levels, Mr. Sherry maintains the airport could not afford the
$4.5 billion expansion and modernization plan originally slated there.
American Airlines has been quietly reducing the number of flights
operating at Mineta San Jose International for several years and
Southwest Airlines threatened to reduce the number of its flights out
of San Jose if the fees were increased as much as originally planned.
Meanwhile, Mineta San Jose International can boast of the addition of
Hawaiian Airlines and modest flight expansions from JetBlue and
But long-term projections show only modest passenger increases. San
Jose remains alone among the three Bay Area airports to have not
recaptured the passenger traffic lost since Sept. 11, 2001. And with
construction of the North Concourse heating up this year, it may be
tough to convince people to brave the mess to catch a flight.
Mr. Sherry must also tread carefully around the planned construction
of several high-rise towers in downtown San Jose. Already, the
Federal Aviation Administration is reviewing the heights of several
existing buildings to see if airlines need to change their safety
procedures when taking off to the south, a path that about 20 percent
of all flights take. How Mr. Sherry handles the city's desire for
more downtown residents with airport safety needs will go a long way
toward Mineta San Jose International's long-term financial health.
VTA at a junction
Michael Burns' first step forward as the new general manger of the
Valley Transportation Authority was a tactical retreat. He pulled
back VTA's request for $750 million in federal funding for BART. He's
not giving up on that money. It's still needed to build a portion of
the 16-mile extension of BART from Fremont to San Jose and Santa
Clara. But he's taking time to work out differences between the VTA
and the Federal Transit Administration over how the two agencies
estimate the cost of building the BART extension.
That task is big enough, but Mr. Burns, who grew up in a railroading
family (his father worked on the old Pennsylvania Railroad, once the
largest railroad in the free world), also needs to do some
politicking. He needs to get the north county and south county in
agreement about the BART project. Voters approved a half-cent sales
tax in 2000 to pay most of the costs of the project. But six years
later, some of the VTA representatives from northern Santa Clara
County are concerned that the cost of BART will drain resources away
from buses and upgrades to Caltrain.
Mr. Burns's job will be to prove that BART would benefit all parts of
the county, not just San Jose and Santa Clara, and he may need to
convince developers to build BART stations and parking garages in
return for the rights to build developments around the proposed BART
His job is made all the harder by the misfortunes of San Jose Mayor
Ron Gonzales, who has been a strong supporter of the BART extension,
and now may be a weakened partner in that endeavor. Mr. Burns'
success or failure will determine to no small extent how the region
develops over the next 30 years.
Published Monday, January 2, 2006, in the San Francisco Chronicle
Bay Area starts cleanup -- no end to flood worries
Rough traveling: Hodgepodge of buffeting rain and wind face those on
way back from holiday vacations
By Carrie Sturrock
People traveling home at the end of the holiday season today could
find themselves facing a grab bag of weather woes, including heavy
rainfall and strong winds in Southern California, potential floods in
the Central Valley and lots of snow in the Sierra.
Highway conditions were something of a moving target Sunday in
Northern California with a number of roads still closed by earlier
flooding and mudslides. Receding waters enabled Caltrans crews to
open a number of highways and improve driving conditions overall.
Still, high winds Sunday were making it difficult for high-sided
vehicles on Bay Area bridges, and Caltrans officials warned that
mudslides could block highway lanes and shoulders at any time.
Motorists are encouraged to delay travel if possible and take care on
roadways that may still be dangerous in areas.
"This has been a heavy storm," said Lauren Wonder, a Caltrans
"We are cautioning people to drive carefully because conditions can
change at a moment's notice," she said.
Travelers going to or from Southern California should take extra care.
The National Weather Service is predicting the Los Angeles region will
get battered by the same type of heavy rains and strong winds that
forced the evacuation of thousands of people from their Bay Area homes
early Saturday and raised havoc on local roadways.
By Sunday, the floodwaters that nearly swallowed up cars in the
westbound lanes of Interstate 80 in Fairfield had receded. A number
of Bay Area roads remained closed, however, despite the efforts of
road crews to clear them for traffic:
* In Marin County, Highway 1 was closed north of Bolinas due to
flooding and mudslides. On Highway 101, the Manzanita ramp was closed
due to flooding. Flooding also shut down the westbound lane of Route
37 at Atherton Avenue.
* In Sonoma County, Route 12 was closed at Sebastopol, Route 116 was
closed at Forestville and Route 128 was closed at Geyserville.
Portions of Route 12 and Route 121 were closed west of Schellville.
* In Napa County, Route 29 was closed south of Calistoga and also
shut down between Saint Helena and Yountville. Route 121 was closed
just before Wooden Valley.
* In Solano County, Route 113 was closed from Hay Road to Midway
* In Contra Costa County, Route 4 was blocked off between Timber Road
and Byron Highway because of downed power poles. Mudslides and
flooding on the shoulders also were causing problems on Route 12,
Highway 24, Route 84 and Highway 680.
* All roads in San Francisco and Alameda were open Sunday, but
Caltrans was closely monitoring roads in San Mateo and Santa Clara
counties for mudslides, as well as downed trees and power lines.
California Highway Patrol Sgt. Wayne Ziese said that while it's not
the worst roadway flooding he's ever seen, there are persistent
problems that differ from past floods. These include the levee break
that caused the flooding of Highway 37 in Novato, as well as the
unusually long-lasting flooding in Fairfield and Schellville.
"There will be some challenging conditions," Ziese said. "Folks are
going to have to detour and make their way around. ... Most of the
folks making their way to the Bay Area won't have too many problems
unless things crop up."
Published Monday, January 2, 2006, in the San Jose Mercury News
Bullet train on slow track
By Phil Yost
The day a bullet train arrives in San Jose about two hours after
leaving Los Angeles is a long way off. But the argument about how the
train would get here, if ever, is back on and it's pitting Silicon
Valley against East Bay officials and environmentalists.
[BATN: In other words, it's pitting San Jose-subservient VTA -- the
rail operator with by far the worst track record in the country, and
one with an unmitigated record of failure in every aspect of
"planning" and operations -- against everybody else -- in particular,
against the people who have been PROVEN correct about VTA light rail
and PROVEN correct about VTA finances and PROVEN correct and MTC's
toll bridge program and PROVEN correct about BART extension costs and
ridership, etc, etc, etc, ad nauseam.]
But here in the Bay Area, a gigantic record of failure is exactly the
qualification most required in order to go on to even more titanic
The path of a high-speed rail line has been determined for most of the
distance from Los Angeles to Northern California. But the route
across the Diablo Range from the Central Valley into the Bay Area,
once apparently a settled question, is being studied and debated all
[BATN: It was a rationally, technically and economically settled
question in 1999 before irrational SJ and SLVG (nee SVMG) coerced MTC
into passing an anti-Altamont resolution directly contrary to the
findings of the all existing HSR studies, and subsequently had the
preferred Altamont alternative simply REMOVED FROM THE HSR
ENVIRONMENTAL STUDY PROCESS. So rather than being "studied all over
again", what we're seeing is a thoroughly corrupt political
undermining of the legal the environmental process all over again.]
Environmental groups and advocates for the East Bay want every
high-speed train to cross through the Altamont Pass, where Interstate
580 runs. Under that plan, all trains would arrive at a station in
the East Bay, then proceed to one of the Bay Area's three major
Silicon Valley leaders prefer a route that crosses the mountains
through Pacheco Pass near Gilroy and comes to San Jose before going to
either San Francisco or Oakland.
"You want to take the most direct route," said James Webb, senior
policy adviser to [BATN as yet unindicted] San Jose Mayor Ron
Gonzales. "It doesn't make sense to come through the Altamont and
divide the tracks in three different directions to serve three
But the Altamont path makes sense to environmentalists. It "is by far
the environmentally preferable site to get into the Bay Area in terms
of disturbance to truly isolated and therefore pristine areas" in the
Diablo range, said Gary Patton, executive director of the Planning and
Conservation League. Altamont "is already a corridor that's been
The Altamont route also appeals to politicians from the East Bay and
Sacramento whose constituents would be closer to a quick ride to San
Francisco or Los Angeles.
At this point, though, the idea of a bullet train like those in Europe
and Japan linking Los Angeles and the Bay Area, and ultimately
Sacramento, remains a proposal without the money to make it happen. A
statewide bond issue to start construction was postponed in 2004. It
is on the ballot for November 2006 but is expected to be dropped.
But planning, which has been under way for a decade, continues. In
November, the California High-Speed Rail Authority approved the basic
route and many of the stations, except those in Northern California.
For the Bay Area, the question of whether Altamont or Pacheco -- or
even some crossing in between -- would be the best route sends the
debate right back to the beginning. Six public hearings were held in
late November and early December in San Jose, Oakland, San Francisco,
Livermore, Modesto and Suisun City. Consultants will use the
information gathered at the meetings to develop proposals to be
reviewed in more hearings in the spring. A final decision is about 18
[BATN: Unfortunately, due to the gross corruption of the MTC and the
Caltrain boards -- two of the principal agencies which are supposed to
be sponsoring this "study" -- the decision is fore-ordained. Both
bodies have passed resolutions stating that whatever SLVG says is what
they want, and, as a result, even if the rail study consultant team
unprecedentedly were ALLOWED to breathe a hint of the rational
conclusion that the Altamont route will cost tens of millions less
(including the saving from not building a 100% duplicative BART line
from Fremont to SJ, carry millions more passengers, cost millions less
to operate, and serve San Jose and the South Bay far better than the
ignorant, confused and purely political alternative, that finding will
be discarded; HSR's costs will escalate to the unfundandable; Caltrain
improvements (which VTA has explicitly tied to HSR) will never be
undertaken; and most importantly, all rail alternatives to BART-SJ
will be killed.
The extent of the corruption and ignorance of the parties involved --
not to mention the mind-boggling stupidity with which they act
directly against THEIR OWN ECONOMIC SELF-INTEREST -- is simply
breathtaking. If there were a metaphysical hell, they'd be burning in
it. Instead, they create the wordly hell for the rest of us to suffer.]
The debate includes issues of environmental damage, operational
efficiency, ridership projections and the purpose of the train -- to
replace flights from the Bay Area to Los Angeles, or also to provide
fast commuter trains from the Central Valley through Altamont to
Advocates for each route, who share a conviction that the other side
doesn't know enough about trains to run a model railroad, are
resorting to putting in the political fix.
Altamont advocates grew suspicious when that route was dropped in 1999
-- to the satisfaction of South Bay political leaders -- even though
it was the preferred route in early planning.
Pacheco advocates suspect that revival of the Altamont route, though
supported by environmental groups, is principally a political power
play from the East Bay and Sacramento. In recent years, Altamont
proponents gathered enough support that the rail authority went back
to do a formal study of the route, fearing that if it didn't, its
final recommendation would be vulnerable to a lawsuit.
"Hijacking high-speed rail to serve that local need isn't necessarily
in the best interest of high-speed rail as a long-distance service,"
said Laura Stuchinsky, director of transportation and land use for the
Silicon Valley Leadership Group. Other trains, such as the ACE line,
serve those Central Valley-South Bay commuters.
The Pacheco route "is the most logical route and it also provides the
highest level of service" said San Jose's Webb. The route is
preferred by the Silicon Valley High-Speed Rail Coalition, an
organization that includes the city councils of San Jose, Santa Clara
and Sunnyvale, and numerous labor and government organizations.
Pacheco provides the shortest ride between San Jose and Los Angeles,
they argue. It also takes advantage of the existing Caltrain corridor
from Gilroy to San Francisco, which would be upgraded. Under the
Altamont alternative, San Jose would sit at the end of a branch line
instead of being at the crux of the Y between San Francisco and
Pacheco supporters contend the Altamont route would require an
expensive new bridge across the bay and through the Don Edwards
wildlife refuge to reach San Francisco.
But Daniel McNamara, project director for high-speed rail for Train
Riders Association of California, thinks the Pacheco advocates have it
"The reason Altamont is exciting for San Jose is because you have the
ability to draw from the Central Valley population base to jobs in
Silicon Valley," he said. Plus, "it reconcentrates Silicon Valley
close to the train station in San Jose."
Santa Clara County is home to 1.7 million people, he noted. So rather
than being left at the end of the spur, he said, ending the train in
San Jose makes it a major destination. Trains go where the riders
are. The bridge to serve San Francisco, he argued, is much less
complicated and expensive than opponents contend.
By coming farther north in the Central Valley than through the
Altamont pass, the train goes within reach of 1 million more people,
McNamara said. Commuter trains and high-speed trains can share the
While the location debate continues, the prospects for high-speed
trains remain uncertain. A statewide vote on a $9 billion bond issue
that would provide the initial funding keeps getting postponed.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders are now leaning
toward replacing the bond measure, now scheduled for November, with a
broader issue of at least $10 billion that would include funding for
transportation, ports, and flood control.
The new bond designates $1 billion for projects that would benefit
current rail systems and keep the possibility of high-speed rail
Contact Phil Yost at pyost@... or (408) 920-5636.
[BATN: For real information see
Published Thursday, December 29, 2005, in the San Francisco Chronicle
Letter to the editor
Don't junk the old bridge
Now that the new east span of the Bay Bridge is beginning to look like
a reality, I find myself thinking about the fate of the old east span.
Once the new span is complete, the existing span is scheduled for
demolition. However, once the new span is complete, the old one could
be retrofitted at considerably less cost, because it would no longer
be necessary to maintain traffic.
We could then build a new west span from Yerba Buena Island to the
I-280 freeway in China Basin, effectively doubling crossbay
transportation capacity at much less cost than constructing a new
This would also provide a connection between the East Bay and the
Peninsula that bypasses downtown, reducing congestion and transit
times. Has anyone considered this alternative?
Published Thursday, December 29, 2005, in the San Francisco Chronicle
Letters to the editor
FasTrak or slow track?
Editor -- I find it interesting that Caltrans is going to proceed with
plans to put more FasTrak lanes on the Bay Bridge even though they
think it is going to add to the backup. Anyone who endures the
morning commute into San Francisco knows that more FasTrak lanes
aren't going to help. The backup begins at the metering lights, not
the toll booths. It makes one wonder whether their goal is reducing
congestion or just saving labor costs by reducing the number of human
[BATN: Neither. What's really happening, then? Well, just consider
that the contract for FasTrak(tm) was awarded by our friends at MTC
to the highest bidder...]
Editor -- If we don't want our credit and personal information put
into the FasTrak system, or to be tracked by whoever has access to the
gadgets, we'll be forced to go slower because there will be fewer
lanes that take cash?
Boy, oh boy, Big Brother is really getting stronger. I thought all
drivers paid car taxes, gas taxes and, most likely, income taxes. But
only some drivers get to use the bridge freely? Outrageous.
Published Saturday, December 31, 2005, in the San Francisco Chronicle
Working for a better Bay Area
By Suzanne Pullen
Results: Day 119
Lane dividers replaced on Bay Bridge.
Missing plastic carpool lane dividers have been replaced, but plans to
install another type of delineator have been shelved.
ChronicleWatch reported on missing orange pylons near the toll plaza
in February after tipster Charles Zaloudek told us motorists were
illegally crossing into the carpool lane through large gaps in the
lane dividers. Zaloudek said he saw many near accidents as carpool
drivers veered into another lane or came to a halt to avoid drivers
coming through the divide.
Caltrans spokeswoman Gidget Navarro said her agency was aware of the
missing delineators, damaged by drivers repeatedly driving over them.
The company that supplied the pylons went out of business, she said,
and Caltrans is in the process of switching to a new supplier. In
June, Navarro told us crews had replaced the missing delineators with
their remaining stock. She said that new white pylons would be
installed when crews were finished working on higher priority
But this month, Navarro told us Caltrans had decided the white
delineators weren't an improvement over the existing ones. She said
if a better, longer lasting product was found, Caltrans would install
it. "The situation is better than it was when I first contacted you,"
said Zaloudek, but she added there was already a gap just past the
toll plaza. Navarro said her agency would make sure to replace the
existing pylons when they were damaged.
Who got it done: Bijan Sartipi, Caltrans District 4 director;
(510) 286- 5900; bijan_sartipi@...
On the watch list
Plans to regrade rough pavement on Albany's Pierce St. pending funding.
Who's responsible: Rich Cunningham, Albany public works manager, (510)
Fence installed in front of support wire on bike path near Richmond Pkwy.
City completing work on new bike path.
Who's responsible: Bill Lindsay, Richmond city manager, (510)
Published Monday, January 2, 2006, in the San Jose Mercury News
Tax break renews rush for hybrids
Owners can also qualify for carpool lane passes
By Gary Richards
The hybrid rush is back on and dealers are bracing for an onslaught of
new customers in the new year.
Three things are contributing to the latest demand: a tax credit of a
much as $3,400 for 2006 models; fears of losing out on a coveted
carpool lane sticker, and still fresh, painful memories of forking
over $3 for a gallon of gas.
"!Our supply of Priuses has gotten really tight," said Geoff Yeager,
general sales manager at Stevens Creek Toyota, which gets 30 to 40
Priuses a month and has 150 buyers who have plunked down $500 to
reserve one of the electric-gas cars that can get up to 60 miles a
"There's the tax credit and the carpool lane. That's a big deal."
While the wait for a hybrid dropped to only a few weeks earlier last
year, dealers now expect a two- to three-month delay at some South Bay
dealerships. More than a dozen Priuses are sitting on the Stevens
Creek Toyota lot, with buyers waiting to pick them up this week to
qualify for the tax break on their 2006 return.
"The tax break is a big incentive," said Sam Kluetz, a 54-year-old
computer programmer from Mountain View, whose wife, Kathie, would use
the hybrid to commute to San Mateo.
The amount of credit for each hybrid is based on how many more miles
it gets to the gallon than a similar gas-operated car or SUV. This
can be as much as $2,400. Another credit is added on top of that,
based on a car's lifetime fuel savings. It can range from $250 to
$1,000 per car.
Less gas and the tax break are nice, but ah, that carpool lane perk.
That may be the biggest benefit.
Nowhere is it more enticing than in Santa Clara County, where there
are more carpool lanes than in the rest of the region combined.
That's why 2,299 carpool stickers had been issued through November,
more than in any other Bay Area county.
Los Angeles drivers hold the top spot in the state, with 11,528
stickers having been mailed out through November, among the more than
42,000 carpool applications sent in as of last week. Around 215 new
applications arrive in DMV offices in Sacramento each Monday through
If that rate continues, the current 50,000 limit could be reached by
March. At that point, state officials will evaluate the impact of
allowing hybrids to use the carpool lane during commute hours.
Depending on those findings, the state could either decide to issue
25,000 more stickers or limit hybrid use in carpool lanes on certain
highways if the lanes are overused.
"When we hit 50,000, Caltrans can tell us to stop issuing, or make
specified carpool lanes off-limits to hybrids, at any time," said DMV
spokesman Steve Haskins, whose agency will soon post a disclaimer on
its Web site regarding possible limitations on carpool-lane use.
Bay Area officials have so far not seen an adverse affect on area
diamond lanes. Only about 400 hybrids a day are being tracked in
carpool lanes at Bay Area bridge toll plazas despite the fact that
7,900 drivers who live in the region or surrounding counties have
received carpool lane stickers.
Justin Chen and his wife, Maureen, recently bought a Prius so she can
commute from San Jose up Highway 101 to her job as a high school
English teacher in East Palo Alto. Even though gas prices are
averaging under $2.17 a gallon in the South Bay, it's the yellow
diamond lane stickers from the DMV they eagerly await.
"Her commute up the 101 in the mornings is all right," said her
husband, "but the trip down is horrendous during rush hour."
How much time does it save? "About 20 minutes each way," said Tammi
Hersrud of Hollister, who commutes up the 101 diamond lane in a silver
Prius. "And yes, it's great."
[BATN's heart is warmed knowing that the mean old government is making
life so much easier for some of society's most needy.]
Contact Gary Richards at mrroadshow@... or (408) 920-5335
Published Monday, January 2, 2006, in the San Jose Mercury News
Frustrated drivers line up behind paying tolls for safer Hwy. 152
By Gary Richards
Q Our holiday sense of peace and relaxation was interrupted when we
received a phone call last Wednesday from my wife's childhood friend,
calling to cancel plans for skiing at Lake Tahoe. Her only brother
was killed in that traffic accident on Highway 152 the previous
Tuesday, when a truck veered across the two-lane road and hit his
sport-utility vehicles, killing all four people inside. It took
almost 24 hours before authorities notified family members because of
difficulties identifying the victims as their bodies were so charred
from the fire after the head-on collision, which sent them plunging
down an embankment.
He was driving his sister-in-law and her two teenage children to
Southern California. Now he leaves behind a widow with two young
children. Something needs to be done about that 152 stretch between
highways 101 and 156. If it takes a toll to build a safer road and
bypass the indifference and inaction of our state and county
government, it will be worth it for the thousands who travel this road
A And ...
Q I thought I would share my story about driving on 152. In September
during my first week of commuting after buying my new house in Los
Banos, I was on 152 very close to where this recent accident happened.
My rear tire blew out, and I hit the hill on the passenger side, with
my car being thrown across oncoming traffic and down the cliff about
100 feet. My car was totaled, with minor damage to my husband and
myself. I know if there was a guard rail it would have kept me from
going down the cliff.
A A guard rail could be a wise improvement. I'll check with Caltrans
and find out if there are plans to install one. Truck passing lanes
are scheduled to be added in two more years.
Q I would have no problem paying a toll on 152. I hate with a passion
having to drive that route. ... Yes to a 152 toll road. ... Paying a
few bucks to get over 152 safely is a small price to pay. ... The
winding 13 miles from Gilroy to 152-156 is absurd. I would gladly pay
a $5 toll each way if it meant a wider, safer freeway to bypass that
horrid two-lane road.
David Whitlock, John Grout, Paul Wendt, Carlos S. and many more
Q You have always skirted the issue in regards to Highway 152. We
want answers, not deaths. When will the problem be resolved?
A Not for a long time. Work is under way on minor improvements near
Gilroy Foods, work will begin on new ramps at the 152-156 intersection
in the summer, and eastbound truck passing lanes may be coming in a
couple of years. That's it. To widen 152 to four or six lanes or
expand highways 25 and 156 as a bypass may cost $1 billion and take
Q Your call for a toll road is not the answer to the problem on
Highway 152. You are such a wimp, always following the government
line on stuff like this. Why don't you be more independent?
Environmentalists want to stop widening 152 just like they did at
Devils Slide on Highway 1. ... I agree that Highway 152 is dangerous,
but before you go off on a tangent and start polling about a toll
road, maybe you should investigate the economics of roadway
infrastructure. In general, toll roads are a very poor return on
investment. ... Sure, we can make 152 a toll road. All it would be
is more expensive and no safer. I don't trust the state Legislature
to accumulate the toll money and spend it for an upgraded road. I
trust them to use the money for another pet projects.
Omar Chatty, David Dutra, Ken Jorgensen and a few more
A Most toll roads now being proposed include clauses that money can
only be used for those projects or in those areas.
Q What is the latest on the plan to build a freeway over Mount
Hamilton? Couldn't we get some billionaire like Bill Gates to help
pay for this?
A Congress approved spending nearly $8 million to study the building
of a 23-mile road linking Interstate 5 with Highway 101 south of San
Jose. It would be -- gasp! -- a toll road -- with no trucks allowed.
But the cost could be in the billions of dollars if it is ever
approved, which I seriously doubt.
Contact Gary Richards at mrroadshow@... or (408) 920-5335.
Published Monday, January 2, 2006, in the San Francisco Examiner
Drunken-driving deaths drop on Bay Area roads
By Justin Jouvenal
Police said Sunday the storm clouds that have pounded the Bay Area
with rain may have had a silver lining: They dampened holiday spirits
and kept some drunken drivers off the road.
There have been only two drunken-driving deaths during the holiday
season so far as opposed to 11 at this time last year -- a dramatic
decrease, according to police. Meanwhile, DUI-related crashes dropped
from 75 to 55 this year and drunken-driving arrests dropped slightly
from 2,169 to 2,109. The figures are through midnight Saturday.
"I think this lousy weather may have kept people in. We are grateful
for that," said Jan Ford, a spokeswoman for San Francisco's
drunken-driving enforcement program Avoid the 14.
San Francisco, which is the center of the New Year's revelry in the
area, saw only 10 DUI arrests through midnight Saturday night, Ford
said. All told, there have been 71 DUI arrests in The City this year,
but no one has been killed or injured in an alcohol-related crash.
In San Mateo County, Sheriff's Office Sgt. Ken Taylor said
drunken-driving arrests were at 311, which is higher than last year.
There have been 13 drunken-driving collisions in which people have
been injured, but so far no one has died in a DUI crash this year.
One of the accidents involved a community service officer, who was
sideswiped by a drunken driver on New Year's Eve as he drove
southbound on Highway 101 in Burlingame on New Year's Eve. The
officer was not hurt in the accident, which occurred around 10:30 p.m.
The Bay Area's drunken-driving enforcement efforts kicked off Dec. 16.
So far, police have set up 34 sobriety checkpoints and have launched
hundreds of extra patrols across the region. There are 125 different
police agencies participating in the enforcement, which wrapped up at
midnight Sunday night.
Ford said just because the holiday season is over, drivers should
still be careful on the roads -- especially with heavy winter rains
lashing the region.
"We would like people to continue to be careful. This weather will
make an injury crash into a fatal crash," Ford said.
Published Friday, December 30, 2005, in the San Jose Mercury News
A plan to boost green projects
Coalition in state drafts parks, water measure for ballot
By Paul Rogers
In an unusual campaign to hedge their political bets, a coalition of
11 leading environmental groups has quietly drafted a ballot measure
asking California voters next year to approve the largest parks and
water bond in state history.
The proposed measure, now awaiting a title and summary from California
Attorney General Bill Lockyer, would raise $5.4 billion to shore up
aging levees in San Francisco Bay's delta, build new drinking water
treatment plants, fund flood control, restore salmon runs and purchase
new parklands from Monterey Bay to Lake Tahoe to inner-city Los
[BATN: Read proposed initiative text at
Since the 1920s, similar bonds have paid to build California's state
park system and the dams, canals and pumps that make up the State
What's different this year, however, is that Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger and Democratic leaders in Sacramento already are
discussing plans to craft their own massive bond package to pay for
new highways, bridges, schools and water projects.
State Senate leader Don Perata, D-Oakland, for example, has written a
bill to provide a $10.3 billion bond act for roads, ports and levees.
Schwarzenegger is expected to unveil his own plan -- which Sacramento
insiders expect to total $20 billion or $30 billion -- next Thursday
during his annual "State of the State" speech.
The environmental groups say they want a fallback in case political
squabbles in an election year doom chances for a Schwarzenegger-
Democratic agreement on a larger bond -- or if their projects are left
out it. They contend that the state's relentless population growth --
500,000 people a year -- is causing sprawl and taxing California's
fragile drinking water system.
"We know that Californians care about safe drinking water and
conservation of beaches, rivers and lakes," said Mark Burget,
California director of the Nature Conservancy, based in San Francisco.
"We're hopeful the governor and the Legislature will respond, and
they'll include funding in their bond proposals for those needs. But
we are prepared to move forward with this proposal if the Legislature
fails to meet the need."
The environmental coalition is composed of deep-pocketed land trusts
and other organizations that campaigned to win passage of the last
parks and water bonds, Propositions 40 and 50 in 2002. It includes
the Nature Conservancy, California Audubon Society, Save-the-Redwoods
League, the Trust for Public Land, Peninsula Open Space Trust and Big
Sur Land Trust.
The group will have to raise about $5 million to fund the campaign,
and has hired a firm to begin collecting 600,000 signatures in about a
month to meet a mid-April deadline, said Rachel Dinno, government
affairs director for the Trust for Public Land, in Sacramento.
"If the Legislature passes a resource bond," she said, "we can stop
our signature gathering at any stage. But we want to ensure we are
protecting our drinking water quality, our natural resources and
providing a place for kids to play."
Critics say the groups have jumped the gun, and should work to include
water and parks with roads, schools and other capital needs because
there is limited funding.
"It is premature," said Larry McCarthy, president of the California
Taxpayers Association. "We're a vast state with critical needs. If
investment is put together in a fragmented way with initiatives by
special interest groups, it is going to be haphazard."
Historically, environmentalists have asked state lawmakers to put park
and water bonds on the ballot. Teachers unions and labor groups
occasionally have drafted initiatives as leverage to persuade the
Legislature to act.
"Very interesting. It may well be that this is a move by the enviros
to buy a seat at the negotiating table," said Sherry Bebitch Jeffe,
senior scholar at the University of Southern California's School of
Policy, Planning and Development.
Bonds work like IOUs. The state sells them to investors to raise
money, then pays them off over decades with interest.
Most financial experts recommend that states spend no more than 6
percent of their general funds to pay back bond interest and principal
every year. California is now at 4.3 percent, according to a November
report from Elizabeth Hill, the state's non-partisan legislative
Californians have voted for bonds to fund drinking water, flood
control and other water projects more often than for parks and
wildlife. Since 1970, there have been 32 parks and water bonds on
California's state ballot. Of those, 14 of 15 water bonds passed, a
93 percent success rate; only 10 of 17 parks bonds passed, a 59
percent success rate.
The environmentalists' new bond proposal splits parks and water
spending about half and half, but they highlight the water features
Pollster Mark Baldassare called their tactic "politically savvy,"
and said it might lead to odd coalitions of bird watchers and highway
builders if lawmakers combine all the bond language into one large
"It might actually help the larger infrastructure bond pass later,"
said Baldassare, research director for the Public Policy Institute of
California. "Otherwise, you could easily see the environmental
community lining up against some of the elements of a major
infrastructure bond, like expanding roads and ports," Baldassare said.
Contact Paul Rogers at progers@... or (408) 920-5045.
Published Friday, December 30, 2006, in the Los Angeles Daily News
L.A., Long Beach ports will monitor pollutants
By Felix Sanchez
LONG BEACH -- The ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles have tentatively
agreed to set up a coordinated air-quality monitoring system to
measure pollutants above Southern California's massive port complex,
officials at the two agencies said Thursday.
Calling it a milestone pact, officials said the system will aid future
air-quality improvement efforts and provide a snapshot of the dirty
air that moves into neighboring residential areas.
The project will gather air samples and data from four monitoring
stations already at the Port of Los Angeles, and two stations to be
designed and located at the Port of Long Beach.
International trade has been booming at both ports, contributing to
concerns about emissions from a growing number of trucks, ships and
Results will be shared between the ports and environmental regulatory
agencies, including the South Coast Air Quality Management District.
The public also will be able to review pollution data on the Web sites
of both ports.
"We need to know the good and bad news around the harbor district,"
said Robert Kanter, planning and environmental affairs director with
the Port of Long Beach.
Historically, the pollution data gathered for the region has been from
AQMD monitoring stations close to Long Beach Airport, Kanter said.
The data are important, he said, but were not presented in real time.
The air quality monitoring network and a memorandum of understanding
to set it up are scheduled for final approval by the L.A. Harbor
Commission on Thursday and the Long Beach Board of Harbor
Commissioners on Jan. 9.
"A collaborative air quality monitoring program will provide the
clearest picture of the extent that port-related operations impact the
quality of the air we breathe," said Ralph Appy, environmental
management director at the Port of L.A.
The monitoring stations in Long Beach are being designed and, after
commission approval, likely will be ordered and then installed in four
to five months.
"We want the monitors to be in a good location," Kanter said. "We'll
spread them out so that there's good geographic coverage."
Long Beach will spend $1 million. Commissioners in November approved
the money to contract with San Diego-based Science Applications
International Corporation to build the monitors.
Published Saturday, December 31, 2005, in the Contra Contra Times
Cash puts Richmond trail on right track
By John Geluardi
The Bay Trail in Richmond will get another infusion of cash next year
that will go toward completing a one-mile gap that runs between a
sanitary landfill and a wastewater pool.
While some may not think it's the most charming section of Richmond's
beautiful north shoreline, it will move the city that much closer to
completing its 41 miles of scenic Bay Trail.
East Bay Regional Park District board members added $350,000 to the
proposed 2005-06 budget earlier this month. About $200,000 will go
toward design and environmental studies for the one-mile section of
the trail that will connect the Wildcat Creek Trail with the West
Contra Costa Sanitary Landfill. That portion of the trail will cross
a levee on the west edge of a West County Wastewater pool. The cost
to close the one-mile gap is estimated at $800,000
The remaining $150,000 will go to planning and design of uncompleted
trail sections near Point Pinole Regional Shoreline. The Richmond Bay
Trail is part of the 400-mile San Francisco Bay Trail project. The
trail will ultimately encircle the San Francisco and San Pablo bays
and connect all nine Bay Area counties. To date, about 240 miles of
the trail have been completed.
The funding is good news to Bruce Beyaert, chairman of the Trails for
Richmond Action Committee, a nonprofit group formed six years ago to
expedite the completion of Richmond Bay Trail.
"There is finally some movement toward completing the northern
portions of the Bay Trail where there is great open space, expansive
views over San Pablo Bay and great shorebirds," said Beyaert
In Richmond, 24 miles of the Bay Trail has either been completed or is
The Bay Trail in Richmond is almost entirely complete along Richmond's
southern waterfront that runs from Miller/Knox Shoreline Park to Point
Isabel Regional Shoreline. That part of the trail offers numerous
World War II sculpture exhibits in the Rosie the Riveter World War
II/Home Front National Historical Park, Lucretia Edwards Park and the
Shimada Friendship Park.
"Richmond has such an incredibly scenic shoreline with great
historical exhibits that tell the story of the Kaiser shipyards,"
Beyaert said. "The beauty of the Bay Trail is that it gives everybody
the opportunity to exercise and recreate in the truest sense of the
word. It's a great escape from the stresses of urban life."
Contact John Geluardi at 510-262-2787 or at jgeluardi@...
Published Saturday, December 31, 2005, in the San Jose Mercury News
A WILD RIDE
The year began with the dumping of Valley Transportation Authority
General Manager Pete Cipolla, and ended with a rosier economic
forecast. In between were months of turmoil for the Valley
JANUARY: Authority buys out contract of General Manager Peter Cipolla,
for nearly $335,000.
APRIL: Three months after refusing to study a shortened BART extension
to East San Jose, the authority reverses course and agrees to study
costs and ridership of an extension that would end at Berryessa Road
to better land federal aid.
APRIL: Authority eliminates a downtown BART station to reduce
construction costs by as much as $100 million.
JUNE: San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales said voters next year should be
asked to approve an additional quarter-cent sales tax to rescue
transportation projects, including the planned BART extension.
Michael Burns is named new general manager.
SEPTEMBER: The proposed BART extension will draw 33 percent more
passengers but cost $500 million more than previously projected,
according to a new report.
OCTOBER: The authority staff recommends putting on hold a direct rail
connection from BART to Mineta San Jose International Airport to cut
NOVEMBER: Lacking regional agreement on how to rescue the BART
extension, the authority cancels a vote on a long-range spending plan
that relies on a new tax. More than 80 percent of projected tax
receipts would now be needed to construct and operate the BART
DECEMBER: Authority cancels a second vote on new sales tax plan. With
the Bush administration threatening to declare the extension
ineligible for federal funding, the authority abandons its quest for
federal money until it comes up with a better financial plan. New
forecast predicts an extra $2 billion in revenue during the next 30
years, which authority says means all projects approved five years ago
can be built if a new sales tax is passed.
Source: Mercury News reporting
Published Sunday, January 1, 2006, in the San Francisco Chronicle
Letter to the editor
Bay Bridge toll plaza should be transfer site
Editor -- The article in the Real Estate section on the Transbay
Terminal ("Transbay planners see new landmark," Dec. 25) overlooks
that fact that the functions of the terminal could be much better
performed at the Bay Bridge Toll Plaza.
The terminal is too far from BART, and Muni transfers take too much
time to compete with buses that go to major destinations right off the
High-speed trains could go to the toll plaza by existing East Bay rail
routes. People-mover connections from the toll plaza to West
Oakland's BART and from Caltrain in San Francisco could make better
and shorter trips to downtown destinations
Both Muni and AC Transit buses could easily reach the toll plaza to
deliver passengers, using the freeway connections direct to major
destinations with much greater efficiency.
This all harks back to the major study of the future of the terminal.
It was very well funded and studied most of the alternatives, except
having buses go straight to their destinations, making better use of
the freeways, with a brief direct transfer at the toll plaza.
Let the developers build their office buildings without writing off
some of the costs on a new, even worse-placed Transbay Terminal.
Published Sunday, January 1, 2006, as a San Francisco Chronicle
Oil Prices: As the Price Goes Higher, Transportation Jobs Get Tougher
By Sarah Blanchard
Everything that runs on gasoline and oil is costing more to run these
days: school buses, ferries, jet planes, cargo ships, trains, delivery
vans, taxicabs and long-distance haulers. Every transportation
company in the nation is caught in a vicious squeeze between
skyrocketing fuel prices and the need to bid competitively and fulfill
their contracts. Perhaps only the bicycle couriers in major cities
are exempt -- and they still have to buy tires, which have also gone
up in price.
Most transportation companies must tie their expense and profit
projections to fuel-cost forecasts that have been blown right out of
the water. Unless they operate with fuel surcharges in their
contracts, when the price of gas and diesel go up -- and up and up --
these companies have to eat the higher costs and tighten their belts
elsewhere. That can translate into tough times for employees, on
The true costs of fuel hikes
Petroleum prices affect not only the cost of fuel at the pump, but
also the cost of electricity and the cost of manufacturing many items
we all depend on: tires, fertilizers, detergents, paints, disposable
diapers, asphalt, roofing shingles, cosmetics and absolutely
everything made from plastic. Trying to budget for product price
hikes as well as delivery costs has become a nightmare. The sky-high
[BATN: ??????] price of oil has changed every aspect of our nation's
economy, but the transportation industry has been hit the hardest.
When crude oil hits $60, $65 or, as it did briefly, even $70 a barrel,
the companies responsible for moving people and goods around the
United States must cut costs, raise prices and essentially change the
way they do business.
The hurricane economy
Fuel prices were already on the rise before the hurricanes hit the
Gulf Coast. Most of the oil wells and refineries in the Gulf survived
with minimal damage, but for every day the refineries were shut down
due to the hurricanes, U.S. oil production was cut by more than 70
percent -- that's one million barrels per day. As a direct result of
Hurricane Katrina, 279,000 people lost their jobs. Economists are
predicting that the ripple effect will create cutbacks and downsizing
in many industries, including transportation and related support
Many airlines are predicting a $15 or $20 fuel surcharge per ticket.
Even with the extra income, only one airline, Southwest, expects to
make a profit this quarter. Before the hurricanes, many airlines were
optimistic about this year's increased demand for flights, but when
fuel prices soar customers cut back on both personal and business
travel because a higher percentage of their available resources goes
to pay for gasoline, electricity, heating oil and other necessities.
Two airlines (Delta and Northwest) filed for bankruptcy shortly after
Hurricane Katrina, bringing the total number of bankrupt major
airlines to four. It's no surprise that there's little or no
predicted job growth in that industry.
Transportation: Who's been hit the hardest?
The American Trucking Associations, an Alexandria, Va.-based trade
group, has revised its estimated fuel costs for the trucking industry
this year to $85 billion. That's a 37 percent increase from 2004 fuel
costs. And fuel costs may comprise up to 30 percent of the overall
expenses for many trucking companies. Truck drivers who work for
large, well-run companies will probably survive in this economy.
Larger companies, including long-haul trucking companies and
parcel-delivery services, have the clout -- and hopefully the
financial leverage -- to weather high prices and fluctuations, though
the road these days is certainly a bumpy one. Even the drivers who
work for the major firms and have lots of seniority are concerned,
however, because their employers are doing some serious
Freightliner, for example, decided to concentrate on its long-haul
routes, cutting its mid-size truck fleet and laying off 260 workers
from its 1,540-employee plant in Mount Holly, N.C., even before the
hurricanes became a factor in fuel costs.
The job outlook for long-haul big-rig drivers showed strong demand
across most of the country during the first half of 2005, but all bets
are off now as transportation companies in general are looking to
reduce costs by cutting or combining services. That means
consolidated runs, fewer express or same-day deliveries, possible
layoffs, postponed pay hikes and potential cuts in benefits.
Independent truckers who must pay for their own fuel or those who work
for smaller, less-profitable companies are facing economic disaster if
they can't t renegotiate contracts, eliminate unprofitable routes or
rely on fuel-surcharge contract clauses to help cover rising costs.
Rail and intermodal shipping were originally expected to increase in
volume by three to four percent during 2005 (as compared to 2004), but
hefty fuel surcharges may flatten that demand.
The gas crisis is also tough on people who use their personal cars to
earn a living. Independent taxi drivers are heavily regulated by
municipal agencies, so many cabbies can't just tie their fuel costs to
daily fluctuations in fuel prices. Pizza restaurants, newspapers and
florists are also hard-hit, because their income (and the payments
they make to their couriers) weren't keeping up with fuel prices
before the hurricanes hit.
Are there any bright spots?
Yes. One is mass transit.
Many commercial transportation systems are hurting, but the demand for
public transportation is stronger than it has been in decades. For
example, according to a recent survey conducted by the Pennsylvania
Economy League and the Pew Charitable Trusts in the spring of 2005 --
before the hurricanes -- 11 percent of Pennsylvania residents say they
started using public transportation more often. Young adults and
minorities are most likely to have found alternatives to driving.
Twenty-one percent of those age 18 to 29, and 32 percent of non-whites
say they are making greater use of mass transit. The numbers are even
higher in urban areas, where mass transit is more readily available:
Three in 10 Philadelphia city residents say they are using mass
transit more often. (Source: Spring 2005 IssuesPA/Pew Poll: Values
and Government Reform)
Amtrak officials say that ridership on the Kansas City to St. Louis
line is at its highest in three years, despite recent fare increases.
And Amtrak's Surfliner, a San Luis Obispo to San Diego train that
stops in Los Angeles, has seen an 11.2 percent increase in ridership
this year over last.
A second opportunity for job growth comes from all the rebuilding
efforts in the Gulf Coast. Although its original transportation
infrastructure was disrupted by the hurricanes, that area will need to
have everything replenished -- from housing materials to supermarket
goods. All that reconstruction represents an opportunity for
truckers, dispatchers and anyone else involved in getting the debris
out while bringing the construction workers and the new materials in.
And you may want to look for growth in these industries, which also
have transportation and delivery needs:
* Manufacturers of mobile homes, bicycles, motorcycles and mopeds
* Alternative fuel technology (biodiesel, solar, gasohol)
Your job strategy
To create a job strategy in this market, you need to know what's
happening, and where. For example, major segments of the automotive
industry are being battered by the high cost of fuel. Every car
manufacturer is watching sales of SUVs and trucks plummet.
A report published in July by the University of Michigan
Transportation Research Institute's Office for the Study of Automotive
Transportation (OSAT) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
concluded that if the price of crude oil hits $80 a barrel, 297,000
auto-related jobs would disappear nationwide, 110,000 of them in the
three auto-belt states alone (Michigan, Ohio and Indiana). One
segment flying in the face of this trend is auto manufacturers that
emphasize fuel efficiency and hybrid technology, because business is
actually booming for those cars.
If your job depends on delivering goods to retail stores for the
holiday market, don't expect to see any overtime, because high fuel
prices could put a major dent in the holiday season for retailers.
With consumers paying more for fuel and electricity they'll have less
to spend on holiday shopping, which translates into lower demand for
retail goods, which means fewer deliveries needed and so on.
Regardless of your field of work, if you're in the market for a new
job in the transportation industry you should be looking for something
that can offer you shorter commutes and mass transit access.
Better yet, look for a job with a mass transit agency.
This article is part of ChronicleJobs, a weekly advertising feature
produced by the Marketing Department of the San Francisco Chronicle,
and does not involve the editorial staff.
Published Tuesday, January 3, 2006, in the Los Angeles Times
Beware of "borrow and build"
By Rick Cole
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, armed with a prediction that the
population of California will surpass 50 million by 2020, will try out
a new message in his State of the State speech this week:
infrastructure. But beware, that translates into "reach for your
"We will need more schools, more energy, more water and more roads,
highways, railroads and ports to move our goods around the state and
around the world," he announced in a recent preview speech. "Whether
it's more money in the state budget or a bond supported by the people,
we are going to make it happen."
In an attempt to recover from his recent special election debacle,
Schwarzenegger is jettisoning Ronald Reagan's "live within your means"
motto and invoking instead Pat Brown's record of "borrowing and
building" to accommodate a growing populace.
The magnitude of what he has in mind is stunning. While the
Democratic leader of the state Senate is pushing a carefully
calibrated $10.3-billion package to meet the state's infrastructure
needs, our Republican governor is talking boldly about a $26-billion
-- or "much, much larger" -- bond.
But Schwarzenegger's latest bright idea, like his special election
initiatives, is deeply flawed. He hasn't taken the time to build a
consensus around coherent policies.
Take Schwarzenegger's simplistic call for more roads and highways.
Sunne Wright McPeak, his secretary of business, transportation and
housing, has warned that throwing billions at expanding the freeway
system encourages sprawl and congestion rather than fixing the
problem: "As our state continues to grow, we must address the
increasing air pollution, traffic congestion and 'dumb-growth pattern'
that is hurting our economy and environment." We will be paying off
the bonds for 30 years, long after the improvements are overwhelmed by
the dumb growth they promote.
The "infrastructure crisis" in California is real. Our transportation
system, levees, parks and energy supplies are stretched to the
breaking point. But bigger isn't necessarily better -- even if we
could afford to pay the staggering costs.
It's vital to focus on a crisis response that gets the most
sustainable, logical and long-term return on investment for
California, the world's sixth-largest economy.
Should we double-deck freeways at a colossal cost, or is there a way
to use the ones we have more efficiently? Do we need "more water"
from dams and canals, or can we conserve more effectively? Should we
subsidize suburban sprawl by building more highways, or invest in
making our older inner cities more competitive?
The governor dismisses such questions when he tells reporters: "Hey,
here are the problems that we have, and let's build."
Sure, his pollsters are telling him that people are fed up with
traffic and spooked by the flooding unleashed by Hurricane Katrina and
New Orleans' vast infrastructure failures. But haven't we had enough
of "sound-bite solutions" and half-baked ballot measures?
The threat of mega-bond mania is that the governor and Legislature
will skip the hard work of long-term planning, of weighing detailed
proposals and analyzing all the costs and benefits, of compromising
and building a consensus for the state's future. Instead, they are
poised to simply cut a deal on a list of pet projects that appeal
directly to special interests. Those interests will be eager to fund
a campaign to convince voters that pork means progress. If they win,
Brown had a guiding vision of California, and he put in place coherent
master plans for higher education, transportation and a statewide
water system long before he got to the "borrow and build" part. But
his enduring legacy is not the list of projects he completed. It's
the courage of the leadership he exerted. As he said then: "We are
here today to bear a lantern for the future, not carry a torch for the
If Schwarzenegger needs inspiration for his State of the State
address, he should look beyond "borrow and build" and ask what a
visionary like Brown would do if he were alive today. That would
surely lead him to seek the strategic solution, not the quick fix.
Rick Cole is the city manager of Ventura. His views are his own.
Published Tuesday, January 3, 2006, in the Berkeley Daily Planet
Column: The Public Eye: It Takes a Potemkin Transit Village
By Zelda Bronstein
In 18th century Russia, Grigori Potemkin purportedly tried to impress
Catherine the Great by building elaborate fake villages along a route
she traveled in Crimea and the Ukraine. Today, "Potemkin village"
signifies a showy false front intended to hide embarrassing or
disgraceful conditions. Sad to say, that description fits the project
that the City Council endorsed Dec. 13 when it voted 8-0-1 (Spring
abstained) to support an application from the city, in partnership
with the South Berkeley Neighborhood Development Corporation (SBNDC),
for a $120,00 California Department of Transportation Community-Based
Transportation Grant. The money would be used to plan a 300-unit
"transit village" at the Ashby BART west parking lot, where the city
controls the air rights.
Transit villages are dense, mixed-use developments located at transit
hubs and stations. Promoted by advocates of "smart growth" -- when it
comes to wordsmithing, you have to hand it to these folks -- transit
villages are supposed to discourage commuting and fight sprawl. The
one at Ashby BART, we are told, will also provide affordable workforce
housing; revitalize the neighborhood economy without gentrifying it;
and repair the gaping hole that the Ashby BART station tore into the
urban fabric of the south Shattuck area.
Unfortunately, there are giant gaps here between rhetoric and
reality. A full inventory of the stratagems at work would fill several
pages of the Daily Planet. I want to focus on one ploy that's central
to the Caltrans grant proposal: creating the illusion of community
involvement and support.
The application asserts that the project has had "public participation
from the start," thereby "dramatically improving the potential for the
entitlements to be awarded without the public acrimony, lawsuits,
delays and uncertainty that plague many projects." The fact is that
until an article appeared in the Dec. 13 Planet, only a handful of
individuals in the south Shattuck area had even heard about plans for
a transit village at Ashby BART. Yet E-mails from BART planner Nashua
Kalil indicate that BART and city staff had started working with the
project's main sponsors, Councilmember Max Anderson and SBNDC
representative Ed Church, at least as early as last July.
The stealth factor becomes even more blatant once you learn that the
grant application was filed with Caltrans on Oct. 14 -- two months
before the item appeared on the council's agenda! Ordinarily, grant
applications must be approved by the council before they're submitted
to a grantor. As an excuse for this admittedly irregular procedure,
the staff memo accompanying the application says that "the grant
opportunity was discovered at a very late date, and there was no
opportunity for advance council review." Ed Church has told me that
he found out about the grant program two weeks before the Oct. 14
deadline. City Manager Phil Kamlarz brings last-minute, off-agenda
items to the council when he chooses. Why didn't he bring the
Caltrans grant to the council at its Oct. 11 meeting, three days
before the application was due? Even supposing that for some good
reason the item couldn't get onto the Oct. 11 agenda, why did it take
two months and seven more council meetings for it to come up for
Let me suggest an explanation: Messrs. Kamlarz, Anderson and Church
did what they could to keep the public from learning about the
Caltrans grant application because they knew that once word got out
about a 300-unit transit village at Ashby BART, a lot of people in the
south Shattuck community would be alarmed. Up to a point, their
subterfuges worked: on the evening of Dec. 13, the council chamber was
virtually empty. Only two speakers at public comment addressed the
Ashby BART grant. Their concerns were essentially brushed aside by
the council majority.
The eight who voted to support the project will have a harder time
blowing off the community at large. To judge from the letters that
have appeared in the Planet since Dec. 13, neighbors of Ashby BART are
angry about being left in the dark. The stealth planning aside, many
people are also incensed by the project's massive size. Others, noting
that the project area extends in a half-mile radius beyond the parking
lot, see the transit village as a stalking-horse for redevelopment and
eminent domain. Still others are worried that surrounding
neighborhoods will be upzoned for higher density, as provided for by
California's 1994 Transit Village Development Planning Act (authored
by then-Assemblyman Tom Bates). They fear that sometime early in 2006
the council will pull another fast one and suddenly declare the South
Shattuck Strategic Plan a transit village plan, as per the terms of
Assemblywoman Loni Hancock's AB 691, enacted into law last fall and
scheduled to sunset at the end of this year.
At the Dec. 13 meeting, one of the speakers at public comment, Jackie
DeBose, asked the council to direct the city manager to withdraw the
SBNDC application and to use the staff time that has been dedicated to
this proposal to set up a genuine community-based planning process for
development at the Ashby BART station. The city could incorporate the
ideas that came out of such a process into a new proposal and apply
for the same Caltrans grant next fall. Her appeal was ignored. How
would the council treat the same request if it came from a mobilized
south Shattuck citizenry? Let's hope we have a chance to find out --
the sooner the better, because this train is about to leave the
Neighborhood associations in the south Shattuck area have scheduled a
panel discussion about the SBNDC grant proposal, transit villages and
related matters for Tuesday, Jan. 17, at the South Berkeley Senior
Center (2939 Ellis St., at Ashby Avenue). The event will begin at 7
p.m. Background material, including the text of the SBNDC proposal,
can be viewed on the Neighbors of Ashby BART website <http://nabart.com>
Published Tuesday, January 3, 2006, in the Contra Contra Times
BART riders can count on freebies
By Mike Adamick
Tickets that double as baseball cards.
Book gift certificates.
Over the past two years, BART has evolved from frugal to free-spending
-- at least when it comes to offering freebies and other marketing
ploys to attract and retain customers.
"Keeping our riders loyal and happy pays dividends," said Linton
Johnson, spokesman for the four-county transit network.
Over the next year, riders can expect even more.
Tickets that double as Warriors basketball trading cards and a
revamped Web site that offers real-time train-location status will be
among the first marketing campaigns deployed in 2006.
More free-ride days, paid for by corporate sponsors, are also on the
horizon, though officials declined to discuss specifics while
BART's fares account for 60 percent of its roughly $500 million
budget. But since the dot-com bust, its annual marketing budget has
dwindled from the millions to $500,000.
To stretch each dollar, BART has looked for partners to help pay for
gimmicks and freebies, benefiting riders and costing the transit
network little, if anything.
"Now that we've been able to form partnerships, the amount of ads we
run actually exceeds what we did when we had more money to advertise,"
said Aaron Weinstein, department manager of marketing and research.
Take the Warriors basketball cards as an example.
Next month, BART plans to print tickets with player photos and
statistics on the back -- just like traditional trading cards. Fox
Sports Net Bay Area pays for the costs and offers free air time for
BART television commercials in exchange for having its logo on the
BART and Fox Sports Net Bay Area teamed up for a similar campaign this
summer, offering tickets featuring San Francisco Giants and Oakland
Some of the more popular freebies included free coffee gift
certificates, sponsored by Peet's Coffee and Tea. In August, 100,000
free coffee cards were handed out at stations.
Earlier this month, BART paired with the Northern California
Independent Booksellers Association to hand out $10 gift certificates
BART also has plans to revamp its myBART.org, which offers freebies
and discounts for cultural events throughout the Bay Area. Weinstein
said myBART has 17,000 members but he expects the membership to grow
with a new site and new discounts.
[We at BATN would never in a million years give up our demographic
information in order to receive spam from a web site with such an
embarrassingly infantile name. My BART! My BART! My Little Pony!]
The transit network is also reworking its messaging for next year.
Currently, BART has posters and billboards that tout the system as a
"groovy" way to beat traffic jams. This year's message will,
ironically, try to lure people out of their cars by playing on their
love affair with them.
"We think it's appealing to people to be able to give their cars a
vacation," Weinstein said.
Mike Adamick covers transportation.
Reach him at 925-945-4745 or madamick@...
Published Monday, January 1, 2006, in the San Francisco Examiner
Cyclist says an SUV hit him on purpose
Friends offering $10,000 reward
By Bonnie Eslinger
Friends of a hospitalized San Francisco cyclist -- who said a driver
in a dark-colored sport utility vehicle intentionally hit him -- are
offering a $10,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of
Joel Comford, 34, was lying on the pavement in San Francisco's Mission
district, his bike thrown to the side, when police came to his aid
just after midnight Dec. 17. He had suffered a broken arm, several
lost teeth, and a shattered jaw, which made it impossible for him to
tell police what had happened, according to the police report.
One witness did come forward that night to tell police that as he
walked around the corner of 20th and Florida streets, he saw an SUV
hit Comford. Another witness said she saw the medium-sized man flip
over his bike as a dark-colored vehicle sped away.
Comford, who several years ago took on the name Spider Davila, was
taken to San Francisco General Hospital, where he spent 10 days in the
intensive care unit. During that time, news of the collision quickly
spread among his friends and fellow cyclists, who, as soon as they
were permitted, came to his bedside.
Since he was under heavy sedation, Comford said it wasn't until
Dec. 24 that he was able to speak to friends and family about what
He says he was on his way home from a party and had pulled his bike
over to the curb so he could stop and make a call on his cellular
phone. He heard a screeching noise, and looked up to see a dark SUV
careening down the street. He told friends he had yelled out, "Nice
way to drive your SUV!" as it sped past. Comford said he was caught
off-guard when the driver stopped the large vehicle.
"That's when I remember him gunning it into reverse and getting hit,"
Comford said carefully between the wires that will hold his jaw
together for the next four to six weeks. "It seemed very intentional
to me at the time."
Comford's close friend, Katy Bell, said she called the inspector
handling the case during the holiday weekend and left a message with
the updated information. When the inspector returned the call after
the weekend, he said he would follow up on the lead, Bell said.
According to police spokesman Sgt. Neville Gittens, there are still no
leads on the suspects, but the inspectors are considering the evidence
and may reclassify the incident as an assault.
Published Tuesday, January 3, 2006, in the San Jose Mercury News
Agency lures elderly with free rides for three months
By Gary Richards
With transit ridership finally heading back up, there's a plan under
way to put more people on buses and trains.
The Valley Transportation Authority will allow anyone eligible for
elderly, disabled or Medicare fares to ride at no charge for three
months beginning Sunday during off-peak hours and on weekends.
Free rides will be offered all day on weekends and weekdays from
9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and after 6 p.m.
The authority has held nearly three dozen meetings at senior and
disabled community centers since October and one message came through
again and again. Many seniors and disabled people are reluctant to
ride public transit, even though they fear being stranded at home and
unable to get to everything from medical appointments to the grocery
store to meeting friends.
"The elderly community is expected to double in the next 20 to 30
years and one of the biggest issues when you turn 65 is a lack of
mobility, especially if you can't drive," said Bernice Alaniz, the
authority's deputy director of marketing and public affairs. "This
will be an opportunity to help people learn a bus route, plan trips
and still be mobile and remain socially active."
As baby boomers turn gray, America is becoming a nation of seniors.
The number of those 65 and older will rise from about 35 million today
to more than 70 million in 2030.
According to a survey released last month at a White House Conference
on Aging, more than four of five Americans 65 or older worry that they
will be stranded and unable to get around when they no longer drive.
Nearly all respondents said that maintaining their independence is
A study last year by the Surface Transportation Policy Project, AARP
and the American Public Transportation Association found that more
than half of all non-drivers 65 or older stay home largely because
transportation options are limited.
Being stuck at home, and the resulting isolation, have serious social
and economic consequences for the nation's elderly, the study
concluded, as their physical and mental well-being can quickly
deteriorate. If seniors feel isolated, they are less likely to
exercise and are more likely to be depressed and to skip doctor
Susan Lister, 73, of Los Gatos gives the plan a thumbs up. She and
friends wanted to visit Christmas in the Park in San Jose two weeks
ago but were reluctant to drive at night downtown because they feared
that driving there would be difficult. So they tried light rail,
picking up the train in Campbell.
"Traffic was at a complete standstill," Lister said. "We knew that
taking public transportation was the best decision because we never
would have found a place to park."
Seniors on fixed incomes, she said, might not take a bus or trolley
wanting to save money. And they may have safety fears.
"But this was very, very safe," said Lister, who teaches Spanish to
doctors and nurses. "The people on the train were very friendly and
nice to talk to."
Bus and light rail ridership has been increasing, reporting a 5 1/2
percent jump in November compared with a year earlier. The agency
hopes more seniors riding will continue that upward trend.
But first the agency must convince them that a trip is easy and cheap,
for at least a few months.
"For someone who hasn't taken transit in their lifetime, it can be
intimidating," the transportation authority's Alaniz said. "We want
to show them that it's not difficult."
Contact Gary Richards at mrroadshow@... or (408) 920-5335.
FREE TRANSIT RIDES FOR ELDERLY, DISABLED
To qualify for the senior-disabled-Medicare fare and ride free on
buses and trains during non-commute hours January through March, you
must be 65 years or older or disabled, and present one of the
following forms of identification:
* California driver's license
* California identification card
* Regional Transportation card
* Medicare card
* DMV disabled license plate registration
* DMV disabled parking placard printout
* Alien registration card
* Birth certificate
* Valid card from another transit provider
* Proof of age (65 and older)
Call (408) 321-2300, TDD for the hearing impaired (408) 321-2330 or
log on to www.vta.org for more information.
Source: Valley Transportation Authority
Published Tuesday, January 3, 2006, by the Associated Press
Rollover risk nullifies SUVs' size and weight edge, study says
By Jan Dennis
Children are no safer riding in sport utility vehicles than in
passenger cars, largely because the doubled risk of rollovers in SUVs
cancels out the safety advantages of their greater size and weight,
according to a study.
Researchers said the findings dispel the bigger-equals-safer myth that
has helped fuel the growing popularity of SUVs among families.
SUV registrations climbed 250 percent in the United States between
1995 and 2002.
"We're not saying they're worse or that they're terrible
vehicles. We're challenging the conventional wisdom that everyone
assumed they were better," said Dr. Dennis Durbin, a pediatric
emergency physician who took part in the study, published today in the
Eron Shosteck, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile
Manufacturers, said he had not seen the study but cited government
research released last summer that found SUVs have become less
top-heavy since 2000 and made dramatic improvements in rollover
"SUVs have an exceptional safety record and are safer than or as safe
as cars in the vast majority of crashes," Shosteck said.
The study, which Durbin called the first on SUVs and child safety, was
sponsored by Partners for Child Passenger Safety, a research project
of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the world's largest
insurer, Bloomington-based State Farm Insurance Co.
The researchers looked at accidents involving nearly 4,000 children
under age 16 between 2000 and 2003, and found child injury rates of
about 1.7 percent in both cars and SUVs.
The study examined only 1998 or newer cars and SUVs with
second-generation air bags.
On average, the SUVs weighed 1,300 pounds more than the cars
studied. The study found that the extra weight of SUVs enhanced
safety, reducing the risk of injury by more than a third.
But that was offset by findings that SUVs were more than twice as
likely as cars to roll over in crashes.
Children in rollovers were three times more likely to be seriously
injured than those in nonrollover accidents, according to the study.
The findings surprised researchers, who assumed heavier SUVs were
safer than cars when they launched the study a year ago, Durbin said.
SUV safety will probably improve because of legislation approved by
Congress this year that requires the National Highway Transportation
Safety Administration to develop standards for automakers to address
SUV rollovers, he said.
"To the extent that SUV makers can solve the rollover problem, we may
see them becoming the safe haven for children that they have the
potential to be," Durbin said.
Automakers already have made strides through engineering and new
technology such as electronic stability control, Shosteck said.
NHTSA spokesman Rae Tyson agreed but said he hopes the study will
encourage families to check safety ratings closely before buying.
"I think there is a segment of the buying public that may be buying
them with the false impression that they are buying the safest vehicle
they can for their families," Tyson said.
Road Safety by the numbers
* More than 10,000 people die in rollover crashes each year.
* 59 percent of fatalities in SUVs occurred in rollover crashes,
compared with a 23 percent rollover fatality rate for passenger cars
* There are about 10 deaths per 100,000 registered SUVs, compared with
seven for pickup trucks, and nearly four for vans and passenger cars.
* SUV registrations increased 250 percent between 1995 and 2002.
* The average SUV is about 1,300 pounds heavier than the average
Information on vehicle safety ratings can be found at
http://www.safercar.gov and http://www.hwysafety.org
Published Tuesday, January 3, 2006, in the Contra Contra Times
Livermore woman pushes for BART
By Bonita Brewer
Getting BART extended to Livermore is an uphill battle, but resident
Linda Jeffery Sailors isn't giving up.
Sailors, a former Dublin mayor who now lives in Livermore, is
gathering petition signatures urging BART to commit to getting rail to
Livermore before doing any extensions outside the original BART
district -- including one to San Jose.
Despite harsh financial and political realities, "We need to put BART
to Livermore back on track; I feel the ball got dropped and needs to
be picked up," she said.
The petition will be submitted to the BART board at its Jan. 12
meeting. It notes that Livermore taxpayers have been paying for BART
since 1962, when voters in Alameda, Contra Costa and San Francisco
counties approved taxing themselves for a core system with potential
Although there were no guarantees the line would get to Livermore,
Sailors said there were representations to that effect.
"BART later (in the 1980s) purchased two very large pieces of land in
Livermore for stations and that, to me, was the promise," she said.
"The I-580 corridor is considered one of the worst commutes in the
state, and we should be doing everything we can to help solve that
problem," Sailors said, contending that a Greenville BART station at
the base of the Altamont Pass could also provide links to buses and
other regional transit modes.
The arguments are not new, and BART officials and others agree that
getting BART to Livermore is a worthy goal.
But many say the estimated $1 billion cost of an extension from BART's
Dublin-Pleasanton station is too unwieldy given the agency's financial
woes, and given projections that, unlike with the San Jose extension,
there would not be enough additional riders to qualify for federal
"I am not aware of any current source of funding for construction of
an extension to Livermore; it's a difficult burden to overcome," said
board member Joel Keller of Antioch.
He noted that as now proposed, the $4.7 billion BART extension to
Silicon Valley would be funded with a combination of state and federal
grants and by Santa Clara County taxpayers, who also would cover
potential operational subsidies.
Meanwhile, in eastern Contra Costa County, plans are under way for a
less costly alternative to a traditional BART extension -- running
diesel-powered trains from BART's existing Pittsburg-Bay Point station
to Antioch, Oakley, Brentwood and Byron.
Though a similar light-rail alternative was explored for Livermore, it
was rejected in May 2004 by a panel of elected officials from BART,
Alameda County, Livermore, Pleasanton and Dublin, which instead
favored planning for Interstate-580 car pool lanes while preserving
right-of-way for a regular BART line down the freeway.
BART board member Zoyd Luce, whose district includes the Livermore
area, said he supports Sailors' efforts and signed her petition.
"It's hard to get support from everyone on the board but when a group
like this gets together, it can be productive," Luce said. "It shows
people really do want this, and expect our public servants to do
Sailors noted that before BART's extension to Dublin-Pleasanton was
built in the early 1990s, advocates were told there was no money but
they nevertheless managed to make it happen through a variety of
"They also told us there wasn't enough population, but the first week
BART opened in Dublin, it reached its 10-year ridership projections,"
[BATN: Is it teleologically possible for anybody advocating BART
projects NOT to lie outrageously and constantly?
For reference, BART ridership projection for the first year of
the Dublin extension: 16,230.
Actual average 1997 weekday ridership here on Planet Earth: 10,636.
No BART line has ever come anywhere near meeting its ridership
"projections", and no BART line has ever come anywhere near
meeting its construction "budget".]
Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, whose district includes
Livermore, said he supports a Livermore BART extension -- but not
before BART is brought to the Warm Springs area of southern Fremont.
He said a Warm Springs station is next in line under a deal that
diverted some of its funding to help cover cost overruns for the
Bonita Brewer covers the city of Livermore.
Reach her at bbrewer@... or 925-847-2120.
[BATN: See also:
Editorial: BART to Livermore simply a wonderful idea (23 Dec 2005)
Livermore residents lobby for someone to pay for BART extension (23 Dec 2005)
Duelling BART extensions compete for worst cost-effectiveness (19 Dec 2005)
Published Tuesday, January 3, 2006, in the San Jose Mercury News
Friend tells of bicyclist's death by tree
By Sandra Gonzales
Eric Saltzman heard a loud snap as he and a friend rode their bikes on
a familiar narrow road in the Los Altos Hills. He turned around and
saw a eucalyptus tree hit an electrical wire.
When Saltzman went back, he found his friend, Dan Plummer, underneath
the tree. He went to get help, but it was too late.
Plummer, 39, a champion cyclist and research scientist from Redwood
City, died instantly Sunday morning on the Natoma Road route they rode
at least once a week -- a victim of the wet, wild weather that socked
the Bay Area during the past few days.
"It's unbelievably freakish," said Colin Cooper, another friend who
regularly raced with Plummer on Team Spine, a Northern California
amateur road-racing team. "It's an absolute tragedy. You're always
worried about getting into a bike wreck, about getting hit by a car,
but nobody would think about a tree falling on you. That's the last
thing you would think of."
The Santa Clara County Coroner's Office couldn't confirm the identity
Monday night because authorities had yet to reach any next of kin.
Reached by telephone at his Menlo Park home, Saltzman said he was
Plummer "was a great guy, a great friend, somebody we will all miss
very much," he said. "We are still struggling to come to grips with
Neither of them were riding very fast on the hilly street near Black
Mountain Road because it was wet and windy, Saltzman said.
"People ride there all the time," Saltzman said. "We rode together
several times a week, and that was one of our regular areas."
Plummer had a distinguished academic pedigree. He had bachelor's and
master's degrees from Brown University and a doctorate from the
University of California-San Diego, where he also served on the
faculty of the School of Medicine.
His biography on the cycling club's Web site lists photography,
writing, reading and "various technology geek stuff" as his
But his real love was cycling, friends say.
"He lived for it. It was his life. The cycling team was his family
out here," Cooper said. "He was incredibly dedicated to the sport."
Plummer, originally from Massachusetts, had been cycling competitively
for about 10 years. "He was incredibly smart, witty and friendly.
Everybody's really devastated by this," Cooper said.
The team, planning a memorial ride for him, left a tribute on its Web
"Our friend, our team mate, our brother, we'll miss you. Every pedal
stroke you are with us, in our hearts and forever on the team."
Contact Sandra Gonzales at sgonzales@... or (408) 920-5778.
Published Tuesday, January 3, 2006, by Reuters
Stockholm's congestion charge reduces traffic
By Niklas Pollard
Stockholm's first day of a congestion charging experiment proved a
success in reducing traffic on Tuesday when the number of vehicles
entering the city center dropped by about a sixth.
The test run in the Swedish capital, involving a maximum charge of 60
crowns ($7.50) a day, will last until July and Stockholm residents
will vote in September on whether to make the world's most extensive
congestion charging system permanent.
"Traffic in inner-city Stockholm fell by 16 percent during the morning
hours compared to yesterday," the city's mayor, Annika Billstrom, told
Official data from the morning period showed 69,600 vehicles entered
the congestion charging zone, down from 83,000 on Monday.
The charge, targeted at cutting traffic on the most heavily congested
roads by 10-15 percent, is part of a political deal for Prime Minister
Goran Persson's Social Democrat minority government to win the support
of the Green Party in parliament.
But while most Swedes take pride in their country's environmental
credentials, many have been angered by the charge.
An opinion poll showed nearly 60 percent of Stockholm's residents
opposed the charge, while 30 percent were in favor.
"I think it is insane that we who have to drive in and out for work
have to pay," said truck driver Clas Ahlefjord.
"I hate those charges ... It would be better to use the money help
people fix their teeth," said resident Ingrid Ohman.
But Claes Roxbergh, a Green Party member of parliament, said: "The
alternative is to sit in traffic jams for the next 10 years."
In London, the only other European capital with a congestion charge,
traffic volume has been reduced by 18 percent.
Opposition was widespread in the British capital when congestion
charging was introduced in 2001, but many Londoners have since warmed
to the system under which motorists have to pay eight pounds ($14) a
"There was lots of apocalyptic talk before it was introduced," said
Richard Dodd, spokesman for the Transport for London congestion
"People said things like public transport will not cope, London will
become a ghost town, businesses will be driven out and nobody will
come to central London to shop any more. None of that has turned out
to be true," said Dodd.
Published Tuesday, January 3, 2006, in the The Local (Sweden's News in
"Quiet start" for Stockholm congestion charge
One stolen transponder, one banner protesting against Stockholm mayor
Annika Billström and one attempted sabotage of a payment station --
but as far as police were concerned, that was a quiet start to the
first day of Stockholm's new congestion charge trial.
The cameras and infra-red beams began their controversial tour of duty
at 6.30am on Tuesday morning,
But late on Monday night someone, apparently hoping to avoid paying up
to 60 kronor a day, tried to destroy a computer unit in the payment
station at Ålkistan, north of Stockholm University.
"First they tried to drill a hole, then they put some flammable
material in and lit it," said Kurt-Erik Hansson, at Stockholm police.
Passing security guards spotted the flames. They called the fire
brigade but managed to put out the fire with snow before they arrived.
The fire had not damaged the computer unit.
At Norrtull another protestor hung up a banner complaining about
Stockholm mayor, the Social Democrats' Annika Billström. In her
campaign to become city leader, Billström famously declared in a 'read
my lips' moment that there would be no congestion charge.
A car park in Vällingby was the site of the first reported theft of a
transponder, the device which links the payment station to the
driver's bank account for instant payment.
Stockholm's morning papers reported ever-increasing opposition to the
scheme, with the latest poll showing 80% of residents against it.
But technically the first few hours passed as planned.
"It's all as expected," said Birger Höök, project manager at the
Swedish Roads Agency.
"This is working remarkably well -- we haven't had any problems," he
told Dagens Nyheter just after 9am.
The reaction from commuters was mixed. With many people still on
their Christmas break, pressure on the system today was expected to be
relatively light, although there were some reports of extra crowds on
Eva Voors, a public relations consultant who commutes to her office on
Kungsgatan in central Stockholm from Nacka, a suburb in the south-east
of the capital, said that the difference was clear.
"Usually my bus is half empty, but at 8.15 this morning at Danvikstull
there were a huge number of people on the bus, while the roads outside
looked like they would on a Sunday morning."
The trial will last until the end of July, with all motorists with
Swedish-registered cars liable to pay to go into or out of central
Around 400,000 drivers around Stockholm have already acquired a
transponder and the administrative load will be enormous. Every
charge is a tax decision which may be appealed, and the authorities
are on high alert for fraud.
In the autumn, Stockholmers will have their say on the congestion
charge in a referendum.
[BATN: Second article follows]
Traffic "down 25 percent" on charging debut
Stockholm's congestion charge reduced the number of cars coming in and
out of the city centre by 25 percent, on the first day of trials of
the controversial project.
"The trial has started well," said Gunnar Söderholm, head of the
congestion charging office at Stockholm council.
Birger Höök, project leader at Vägverket (the Swedish National Road
Administration), said that between 6.30 am and 6.30 pm on Tuesday,
246,000 vehicles passed the pay stations that ring the city.
In the same period on Monday, 328,000 vehicles passed the stations,
meaning that traffic was down 25 percent.
How closely these figures will be repeated in the future is open to
question. Many drivers are still on Christmas holidays and behaviour
can change quickly.
Another result of the charges was that many drivers chose to use the
Essingeleden bypass road, which on a full working day could create
As the congestion charge is technically a tax, each time a car passes
a pay station a formal tax decision is made. Birger Höök estimates
that around 180,000 tax decisions were made on Tuesday. If each of
these decisions resulted in a charge of 15 kronor, drivers will have
paid a total on 2.7 million kronor on the first day of road charges.
The trial will continue until July, when Stockholmers will vote in a
referendum to decide whether to keep the charge.
Published Saturday, December 31, 2005, in the San Francisco Examiner
Letter to the editor
Where's the Fast Pass?
If Muni really wants to increase its revenues, it might think about
making Fast Passes more readily available to the working-class
public. I am a "still-working" senior who is very dependent on public
transportation for my daily trips downtown, yet the other day in a
wild rainstorm I had to trudge from my Noe Valley apartment all the
way down to the Safeway store on Market Street to get my monthly bus
This nifty, economical public transportation incentive should be on
sale at as many stores as possible and the fact of their existence
should be posted on the storefront window. A pass is not "Waldo."
Anna Van der Heide
[BATN: Don't get us started, especially on the subject of
unpurchasable Muni token booklets.]
Published Sunday, January 1, 2006, in the Santa Cruz Sentinel
Riders struggled to get around during strike
Editor's note: This is another installment in a year-end series of
stories on the people and events that made headlines in 2005. The
series concludes today.
By Genevieve Bookwalter
During the 35-day Metro bus strike, rider Marcus Banuelos said he
often walked two hours from his home near 41st Avenue to work as
program coordinator at the Homeless Services Center on Coral Street.
His twice-weekly visits to family in Watsonville were put on hold, as
were trips to see his dying sister in Monterey.
Banuelos' tribulations were nothing compared to clients at the
shelter, he said, some of whom lost jobs they were depending on to
save money and move into their own place.
"People who are homeless and had almost gotten out of here, it set
them back to almost starting over again," he said.
Those were just a few of 23,000 each day who were stuck looking for
transportation after Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District drivers
went on strike Sept. 27. For 35 days they walked, rode bicycles,
hailed cabs and bummed rides to get to work, school and the store.
Along with bus drivers' union leader, Bonnie Morr, the thousands of
stranded bus passengers are the Sentinel's 2005 newsmaker of the year.
Some riders supported the drivers and welcomed them back with roses or
bottles of wine. During the strike, a group of UC Santa Cruz students
staged rallies, stormed Metro board member and UCSC lecturer Mike
Rotkin's office, and staged a 9:30 p.m. weeknight protest at Metro
board member Dene Bustichi's house.
Others riders swore never to board the bus again.
Banuelos said some of his homeless clients just wouldn't return to the
shelter at night, instead sleeping outside work in places as far as
Half Moon Bay or San Jose.
Christopher Myren, general manager of Best Western All Suite Inn on
Ocean Street in Santa Cruz, said about half his housekeeping staff
lives in Watsonville and had no way to get to their jobs. He and
other staff often used their own cars to pick up employees during the
While he's glad buses are running again, Myren said the district could
have done more than give a week of free rides to compensate people for
"They ran the bus free for a week? I mean, look at all the people
that had to suffer for a month," Myren said. Not only were folks
forced to drive more, he said, but oil and gas prices were sky high
after hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit the Gulf Coast and disrupted
Many of those new drivers were UCSC students and employees, who
crammed the campus with cars and turned Coolidge Drive into a parking
Cabrillo College was in little better shape, and students from both
campuses were forced to drop classes because they couldn't get there.
As for Banuelos, he would occasionally catch a ride or call a taxi,
but cabs cost about $15 each way to work, which gets expensive. As a
result, the swelling and problems with one of his feet got worse.
Banuelos said he held both sides responsible for the ordeal.
"I think maybe there was a little bit of stubbornness there, people
didn't want to budge," Banuelos said. "I can't blame one certain
party or one certain group. I just hope it doesn't happen again."
Contact Genevieve Bookwalter at gbookwalter@...
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