Stand Up 4 Transportation Day

This Thursday, April 9th, is national Stand Up 4 Transportation Day. As you know I'm a public transportation supporter so this post is part of my participation in that day. Below I will have a link that will allow you to Be a Voice for Public Transit.

Investment in public transportation:

Creates jobs

Provides access to jobs

Revitalizes business districts and neighborhoods

Enables employers to tap a larger workforce

Boosts commerce

Saves money on infrastructure costs for taxpayers

Public transportation helps consumers save!

Taking public transportation rather than driving saves families an average of $800+ each month, and more than $9,700 annually.

Downtown parking costs an average of $1,995 annually.

94 percent of the average American household’s transportation expenses go toward buying, maintaining, and operating cars.

All forms of public transportation are more energy efficient than cars. Every day, people using public transportation save the equivalent of 900,000 fill-ups of gas.

By expanding public transportation around our nation, combined with smart land use and consumer education, we can reduce our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions even further. America reduces its dependence on foreign oil by more than 4 billion gallons of gasoline every year because of public transportation.

Even if you don’t use public transportation, you benefit from it every day. Public transit results in less air pollution, and it alleviates congested streets and highways. Even if you don’t ride, you’re often helped by people—at your grocery store, your health clinic, your bank, your school—who get to work on public transit.

Public transit also supports healthy lifestyles. People who use public transportation walk more, which improves fitness and reduces the risk of developing obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. The cleaner air in communities with public transit contributes to lower incidence of asthma, lung cancer, and other diseases. Public transit also reduces isolation, especially for older Americans and people with disabilities.

All of the above facts and more can be found at publictransportation.org

With all these benefits of public transportation why do you have to become a Voice for Public Transit?

It's all about politics. Many Republicans hate public transportation.

In a recently approved Amtrak funding bill every single vote(101) against the bill was a Republican member of Congress. A GOP vote to eliminate all funding failed 147-272.

Just last month Republican members of Congress introduced a bill that would:

Most federal funding for public transportation, bike lanes and pedestrian walkways would cease under a House bill introduced late last week that's aimed at keeping the Highway Trust Fund afloat without more revenue.

Starting this October, the “Developing Roadway Infrastructure for a Vibrant Economy (DRIVE) Act” would effectively erase the trust fund's mass transit account and end allocations for bike and pedestrian projects. Overall, the bill would save the fund about $10 billion annually, according its lead sponsor, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) That amount would cover at least the bulk of the gap between current spending levels and flagging fuel tax receipts.

The quote above is from E&E Publishing which is a paid service. Don't think I can link to the article.

So there you have it. If we are going to have a vibrant and useful public transportation system we have to speak out.

For you to become a Voice for Public Transit, and I hope you do, use this link and sign the petition. It's very important and painless.

 

 

 

 

A Cute Dog Picture

 

AAH! I've been meaning to use this picture for sometime. I know it's just a cheap trick to suck you into another public transportation post but since I've been on the subject lately I thought I would do a general follow up.

If a cute dog picture doesn't get you interested maybe for the ladies, Ryan Gosling?

If all else fails how about people in their underwear?

I wrote about this event back on January 15, 2014, under the title We Don't Do This In Mendocino. We still don't do this in Mendocino but there was one passenger who seemed to be in their pajamas. The No Pants Subway Rides started in 2002 with just 7 participants.

On Sunday, January 11th, 2015 tens of thousands of people took off their pants on subways in over 60 cities in over 25 countries around the world. In New York, our 14th Annual No Pants Subway Ride had over 4,000 participants, spread out over seven meeting points and eleven subway lines.

Check out the video (second one down) of the first event on their history page. Notice the title of the book the woman was reading.

Speaking about Mendocino–I discovered a YouTube video produced by the Mendocino Transit Authority. In talking about it with the local supervisor and bus drivers none of them had seen it. This might be the first public viewing for them.

I was reading the local paper back on November 13, 2014 when I notice a picture of a woman that looked familiar. It was a feature titled, Way Back When. Sure enough, it was Cheryl, my favorite MTA bus driver.

Since I've just been on a trip using Amtrak let's link to several stories Grist.org did on using Amtrak to move from Boston to Oakland. The stories were done by Heather Smith. Part one is called, Amtrak wait? Blame the freight. It explains the reasons why the Amtrak Train is almost always late, sometimes excessively. Part two is called, Why Americans love to hate the train — and always have. In it Heather gives you the history of our railway system and where it went wrong. Part three is called, Rumors of the death of the train station have been greatly exaggerated. The history of train stations is explored in this part. I believe the pictures are by Heather. The first one is Chicago's Union Station and the second is Denver's train station. She also talks about transferring to the California Zephyr, number 5 In National Geographic's 10 best train trips in North America.

Part four is the final article. It's called, At continent’s edge, a rail epic concludes, pursued by tank cars. In this article she concludes her trip with a discussion of conversations on trains and the dangers of oil-by-rail.

Like my articles on my Amtrak trip, sometimes it makes taking the train seem like a pain in the ass. It is more like an adventure but you do have to weigh the advantages to the environment. Take for instance this Forbe's article called, The Most Efficient Mode Of Transportation In America Isn't A Prius — It's A Train. The new documentary, Transforming America, tells about the differences between our passenger rail system versus Europe's.

There is no doubt that Americans live in a car culture. Many U.S. citizens don't know what it would be like to live in a train culture.

The population of the U.S. is on track to add over 100 million people to the country by the year 2050. Airports and highways are already over crowded.

I for one like train travel and will leave the subject of Amtrak with this fact–“Last year Amtrak announced their 10th annual ridership record in 11 years, carrying 31.6 million passengers. Amtrak’s ridership is growing faster than any other major form of travel.”

Let's go on to buses.

A Danish mass transit solutions company, Midttrafik, is trying to make bus riding sexy with a couple of videos.

We don't see ads like these in,this county. Maybe we should. Technology is changing your typical bus. Some headlines and some links below.

Electric Buses Being Tested Around the World Pleasing Passengers and Environment.

BYD's All-Elecric Bus Sets a New Record with 200 Mile Journey Around Copenhagen.

First Battery-Powered Bus Transport 135,000 Passengers in 10 Days.

Electric Bus Breaks World Record by Traveling 700 Miles in One Day. Note that they charged it during the day.

This poo-powered Bus Runs on Regular as Long as You do.

So what happens to used buses? It turns out you can get them cheap. They are sold at auctions and even on EBay to other agencies and people. These old buses in San Francisco are being put to a good use by providing shower facilities to the homeless.

LavaMae’s first mobile shower bus launched last weekend. CREDIT: KENA FRANK

At this site you can check out pictures of old subway car being dumped into the Atlantic Ocean to create artificial Reefs.

So who loves public transportation and who doesn't. It use to be a nonpartisan issue but not any longer. I found two articles that explains why the right doesn't love public transportation. One article has the very catchy title of, Why Do Conservatives Hate Public Transit.

The transportation bill moving through the House eliminates the provision that dedicates to mass transit 20 percent of monies from the gas-tax supported Highway Trust Fund — an arrangement that has been in place since Ronald Reagan was president. It also slashes support for high-speed rail projects, cuts subsidies to Amtrak, and eliminates designated funding for bike and pedestrian infrastructure as well as the “Safe Routes to School” program.

The other is called, Off the Rails.

What, exactly, do Republicans, conservatives, and libertarians have against trains? Seriously, what? Why did President George W. Bush try to zero out Amtrak funding in 2005? Why is the conservative Republican Study Committee suggesting that we do so now? Why does George Will think “the real reason for progressives' passion for trains is their goal of diminishing Americans' individualism in order to make them more amenable to collectivism”?

There have recently been several reports that the Koch Brothers and their partner networks have come out against transit projects.

But last Wednesday, some 50 anti-government groups, including Koch brothers front group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and other recipients of the Kochs’ largesse such as Freedom Partners, sent a letter to Congress calling on it to oppose any increase in the federal gasoline tax. Among their chief complaints, “Washington continues to spend federal dollars on projects that have nothing to do with roads like bike paths and transit.”

It’s part of the right-wing and Koch network’s coordinated national attack on transit…the Kochs are going after transit in local referenda. Local AFP chapters have been leading the charge against transit expansions in regions like Indianapolis and Nashville. Last month, Urban Milwaukee reported AFP is trying to block a streetcar project. And Randall O’Toole, the anti-transit flunky at the Koch-funded Cato Institute is arguing against a new line on D.C.’s metro that would link the urbanizing inner-ring Maryland suburbs.

Where does funding for public transportation come from? It varies. The farebox revenue is the first thing that comes to mind. Fares are generally the smallest part of the funding. Here in Mendocino County the state requires the MTA to have at least a 14.7% farebox recovery rate.

Where does the rest of the money come from? Taxes, the types and amounts of which differ from region to region. In the United States, the most common form of taxation for transit is the sales tax. In states as ideologically diverse as California, Texas, and Washington, state wide sales taxes provide the lions share of transit subsidies.

At the federal level, a segment of the federal gasoline tax is used to support the programs of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The FTA supports transit development through such programs as the New Starts Program , which provides funding for new rapid transit projects and the rehabilitation of existing lines, the Job Access and Reverse Commutes (JARC) program, which provides funding to assist the poor in accessing jobs in underserved communities, and operating subsides to transit agencies in areas with a population of under 200,000.

You can check here and here (California) to better understand funding for public transportation.

Public transportation needs to be funded if we are to get people out of their cars, protect the environment and reduce the carbon going into the air. Your public representives, local, state and federal need to hear that you support trains, buses and bike paths.

 

The Trip Back

This is the Bakersfield Train Station at 4:30AM. Pretty quiet and empty. You can't see her but there's one Amtrak employee behind the counter and a security guard wandering around outside. The luggage on the left belong's to a women who asked me to watch it while she used the restrooms. It sort of made me feel good that a stranger would ask that of me. I guess I look like a normal honest person. There is a reason why I catch the first train out in the morning. I'll get to that shortly. The 4:55AM leaving time is the reason I use the Best Western Hill House Hotel just across the street. Schedule an early wake up call and a short walk and I'm at the train station. I had some extra luggage with me this time. My mother's fall in early December had prevented her from mailing Christmas presents to us. I was carrying them home.

The reason for the early train is just logistics and expense. The Amtrak Train and Bus gets me to Ukiah at 12:50PM. After a layover of about two hours (lunch time) I can then catch MTA's Route 75 through Boonville and Navarro to meet-up with MTA's Coaster at the Navarro River Junction which will take me to Little River for a pick up at the store. If I take the later train (10:05AM) it gets me to Ukiah at 5:50PM which is too late to catch any MTA bus over to the coast. I would have to check into another hotel and spend most of the next day in Ukiah.

I boarded the 4:55AM train and after finding a seat went to the cafe and got the first cup of coffee made that morning. Another reason to take the early train is that it's not crowded and most of the passengers just try to sleep. It's dark and foggy for the first two plus hours of the train trip so it's a good time to read or snooze if you can. It can be dangerous to sleep. I remember one trip where a guy slept pass his destination. On this trip the guy in back of me was sleeping. When we were leaving Modesto he woke with a start when he heard Jack London Square in Oakland as the final destination. This is something that the conductor does as a welcome to the new passengers boarding the train. I heard him say wait and was scrabbling to collect his luggage. He thought he had missed his stop which was Emeryville. I had to calm him down and told him we were only in Modesto. I spent the last hours of the train trip trying to identify ducks and shorebirds as we went by the many water and marsh areas. Shovelers, Buffleheads, Mallards and Scaups were the ducks I could pick out. Coots were everywhere. Avocets and Yellowlegs were the shorebirds. Lots of Snowy and Great Egrets. The train was 25 minutes late getting into Martinez. That was actually a good thing. It would cut my wait time in Ukiah.

I always try to pick a seat on the way back so I can see a different view of where I've been. That's just a little traveling tip. The following pictures are from the return Amtrak Bus trip. The first one is of the Carquinez Strait from the George Miller Jr. memorial Bridge. The second is the fairgrounds in Petaluma and the third is some of the countryside outside of Ukiah.

So we were about 25 minutes late getting to Ukiah. Had lunch at Denny's (don't judge, it was within walking distance and better then McDonald's) and then waited for MTA's Route 75 at the Pear Tree Center bus stop.

What can I said about Route 75 that wouldn't give you a bad impression of public transportation. Route 75 is easily the most interesting route that I've used. I have traveled with a cage load of cockatiels in the back of the bus. The county jail in Ukiah has a habit of releasing prisoners so that they catch Route 75 for those that live on the coast. I remember one smaller man complaining about the bigger prisoners stealing his food. This trip was no different.

A young girl boarded after me and dropped some condoms out of her wallet when she went to pay the fare. Ed, the bus driver didn't bat an eye. Said she might need them later. She sat down near me and said she was in Ukiah to buy uniforms for a new job and it was the start of her new “adult” life. At the library several people got on. One was an older gentleman who seemed to know the young girl. Another man immediately announced that he needed a phone to call his “shrink” because he was running out of meds. Valium was mentioned in the call after a girl loaned him her phone. It turned out that the older gentleman was a reporter for the Anderson Valley Advertiser. Part of his beat was the courthouses in Mendocino. His name is Malcolm. The young girl's name is Jazz and the “meds” man is Benjamin. It turns out that they had some connection by way of the court system. Malcolm was homeless five years ago and had a serious dislike for Fort Bragg Police because they kept busting him for smoking weed. Writing about the court system he knew all the police, lawyers and judges in Mendocino County. The three of them talked about who had arrested whom, who their lawyers were, and who their judges that heard their cases were. Jazz was a juvey arrested for selling drugs and spent some time at juvenile hall. Benjamin had spent some time in prison for what sounded like spousal abuse and was on probation. That conversation went on for some time and then Benjamin decided we wanted to hear his poetry. Who's going to say no? He read one and Jazz said it was awesome, Malcolm said it was excellent but needed a better reading. I said it was pretty good and got this glare. I thought I was in some trouble from the “meds” guy. Malcolm got off at Boonville and Benjamin moved over to try to hustle Jazz. I heard them both declare themselves clean and sober while they smoked and he had a beer during the break stop at the Navarro Store. At Navarro River Junction Jazz continued south on the Route 75 bus while Benjamin went north on the Coaster to visit his son in Little River. I got off at the Little River Store where my wife picked me up and drove me home safe and sound.

It didn't turn out to be the trip I was expecting but it worked. If you've read all the posts you might think that taking public transportation can be a pain in the ass. You might think that the negatives out weigh the positives. Riding public transportation in a rural area like Mendocino County is harder then if you lived in a big city. Major transportation hubs are hard to get to from Mendocino but it can be done.

What are the advantages? When traveling you realize there are lots of cars and trucks out there on the highways and city streets. I didn't have to worry about them. My vehicle wasn't one of them. I could set back and let someone else do the worrying. On the train I could have lunch and drink a beer or go to the restroom without needing to make any decisions on where to stop. With low gas prices it might be cheaper to drive especially if you don't qualify for a senior discount or have a AAA membership but you do put that wear and tear on your car and also yourself.

My major reason for using public transportation is to get my truck off the streets as much as possible. At around 852 miles round trip from Little River to Bakersfield I saved 766.8 pounds of climate changing pollution from going into the air.

Transportation is one of the single largest sources of air pollution in the state. That includes the smog and other ground-level pollution that damages hearts and lungs, as well as the greenhouse gas emissions that disrupt the climate. There are 33 million cars and light- and medium-duty trucks registered in California, more than in any other state in the U.S. And that number doesn’t include the big heavy duty trucks that carry freight around the state.

Road congestion in many parts of the state has become nearly unbearable… Californians annually waste nearly $19 billion in time and fuel while stuck in traffic. The average San Diego traveler can expect to spend 67 hours a year waiting in traffic, while the average San Francisco traveler can expect to spend 80 hours stuck in traffic.

We need to change our ways if we are to save this planet. You need to do it for your kids and grandkids. I do it for the birds.

 

 

 

 

The Train to Bakersfield

I had intended to do realtime blogging for my trip to visit my mother in a hospital in Bakersfield but events soon sapped my enthusiasm for blogging. I'm back home and will now try to recreate my trip. I had arrived in Martinez and was waiting for the train going south.

Then comes sort of a mad dash to find a seat. It's easy if you're traveling by yourself but might be a problem if you are traveling with a group of people or your family. The first thing most people do is get out their smartphones and laptops. Amtrak provides wifi and a120V socket. The seats are for the most part comfortable and come in a series of two seats together or four seats around a table.

The best part of the trip is between Martinez and Stockton. There's lot's of water and marsh which means ducks, herons, shorebirds, hawks and coots. Apparently I was too busy watching them and forgot to get some pictures. There's also some interesting houseboats and little islands with houses on them. After Stockton it's pretty much the same thing. The California Central Valley is the state's major agricultural region. Amtrak calls it the Nation's Salad Bowl. Throw in some cows and sheep and you get the picture, if blurry. You get into oil country when you get close to Bakersfield. It was dark when I arrived and departed so I didn't get to see it but you could smell it.

Around the major cities on the route you can peer into people's back yards or see the many homeless camps and the trash associated with them. You can choose to look are not. Maybe you think we are a great country with few problems. How you view from the train window might be the difference between conservative and liberal thinking. And then there's the graffiti.

 

 

It was just after Stockton that the trip took a different turn. I received an email from my sister that said, “Surgery went well…In recovery for the next several hours”. About an hour later she sent another email. “She stopped breathing when they took out the breathing tube. She's temporarily on a ventilator until she comes out of the anesthesia more…” When I planned the trip there was no surgery in the picture but tests found an issue that had to be corrected and it was risky at her age.

The remaining part of the trip was trying to keep in touch with family members about what was going on. My TracFone failed me. I have been having trouble with the phone ever since I accidentally forgot to buy “service time”. TracFone now keeps deactivating it even though it has minutes and time on it. Email worked and then I remembered Apple's FaceTime (same as Skype). That didn't work because bandwidth on the train wasn't adequate. I was able to FaceTime with my wife at the hotel using their high-speed wifi. I then tried IMessage (Apple's version of texting) and it worked. I was able to have a realtime conversation with my wife. It was agreed that I would check into my hotel room and my sister would pick me up the next morning and take me to the hospital.

The train arrived in Bakersfield 15 minutes early. The passengers commented that this never happens. Normally the delays are caused by having to wait for freight trains to pass. My theory is that freight is not moving because of the west coast harbor shutdowns.

 

 

Bus Ride to Martinez

The Amtrak Bus was about 10 minutes late. The driver, an older, greying, cigarette smoking lady said not to worry about it. We would probably get to Martinez early. I learned from a lady with a service dog that the bus would be full because she had had a hard time getting a reservation. Apparently holiday travel and Humboldt College students were the cause. With the bus being full I asked the bus driver if she was expecting any handicapped people boarding because those reserved seats were empty. She said no so I sat in one of those reserved seats.

Did I feel guilty? No because I could always move. Allergy season has started. A couple of passengers and the driver were hacking the whole trip. A little irritating. I found out that the bus had wifi which was a first for me. I learned from my sister that my mothers surgery for this morning was a go.

The bus takes you down Highway 101. There's plenty of nice scenery along the way and traffic isn't bad until you get to Santa Rosa where they take you through downtown.

Note that most of the pictures are going to be poor because I'm using my IPad Mini, shooting thru glass, and I'm moving.

Rohnert Park and Petaluma came next. Both are big cities with lot's of traffic and stoplights. We don't have many stoplights in Mendocino County. I was happy to have a bus driver navigate these streets. Don't think I could handle it anymore.

Witnessed the bus driver getting mad at several people spending to much time saying goodbyes to relatives or girlfriends. Has a schedule to keep. Leaving Petaluma I had someone sitting next to me. He was quiet and was reading a book on Chilies(?). Two women in front of us were talkers. I know their whole life stories. How many kids they have and the many places they've lived. Even where they have fished.

After Petaluma we left 101 and veered off towards Napa (Route 37) where the scenery changed.

For a birdwatcher there were plenty of ducks, herons, and shorebirds to look at in the many bodies of water and marshes along the way. Route 37 takes you into Vallejo and Highway 80. I've driven 80 and it wasn't fun.

A form of transportation you won't get me on is this thing at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom.

 

From 80 we went on Highway 780 then to 680 and after that I don't know where we were until downtown Martinez and the Amtrak Train Station. The bus driver was right. We were early.

Ok! Word of advice. If you are wanting to use the restrooms at the train depot you will need one of these little tokens.

If you can wait until the train use the restrooms on it. The men's restroom was in a state of disrepair. One of the stalls was out of order, down to one urinal, one sink and the blow dryer didn't work. Makes a bad impression when thinking about Amtrak.

 

President’s Day Travel

It's President's Day and I'm on the road. Left Fort Bragg on time and arrived in Ukiah on time. Have some time to kill so I had coffee at the local Denny's. I'm outside McDonald's using their wifi. Do I feel guilty? Not really. Having to listen to a guy's radio playing at full blast.

Connecting to the Amtrak Bus soon.

Pet peeve #1–People that smoke. Even if they can't smoke on the bus you can still smell them. The loud radio doesn't count because I can leave at anytime.

It's going to be a warm day. In the high 70's in Ukiah. Remember it's still winter. No snow on the local hills.

 

Blogging From a Moving Train

So–mom's in a hospital in Bakersfield, CA. Need to get down there to visit for a few days. What's the plan? Most people would plan a road trip for the roughly 426 miles from Little River. Some might drive to the nearest airport that had planes into Bakerfield. That could be Sacramento, San Francisco, or Oakland. I have made this trip before and know that I can do it using public transportation. Knowing that there's wifi (hopefully) available I thought I would blog the ins and outs, the ups and downs, and the likes and dislikes of using public transportation. At least that's the idea.

Starting out I will be using the Mendocino Transit Authority(MTA) to get me over to Ukiah. The CC-Rider(route 65) will take me over the hill to Ukiah from the Boatyard in Fort Bragg. Hopefully it will be in one of these larger buses. Don't know how busy the MTA will be on President's Day.

In the pass I've gone on to Santa Rosa on the MTA but I have to admit that the Amtrak Buses are more comfortable. I will have a hour and a half wait in Ukiah instead of a hour and ten minutes in Santa Rosa when transferring to the Amtrak Bus. It's a good thing I noticed that it's pickup place is now McDonald's instead of Burger King or I would have screwed up the whole trip. Alway's check the latest schedule.

The Amtrak Bus will take me to Martinez, CA where I will get on the San Joaquin Train to Bakersfield.

The San Joaquin takes you through Central California. Through Stockton, Modesto, Merced, Fresno, Wasco,and Bakersfield. It's not the most scenic route especially going into Fresno and beyond. The gang graffiti is revealing. Will have to see if it's still there. Plan to use the Golden Empire Transit's Route 45 while in Bakersfield to get from my hotel to the hospital.

The trip back will be the reverse except that I will use MTA's Route 75 and the Coaster(Route 60) when I get back to Ukiah which will drop me off just down the road from where I live.

That's the plan. We'll see what happens.