Friday, October 31, 2008

Caltrain Twitter Holier than Caltrain


With each incident that causes a delay, we strive to improve our communications with our customers. For this incident, we used our public address and visual message systems at our stations. We also continued to update the media, posted information to our Web site and recorded a message on our Customer Service line. Some of these worked well; some will be refined to provide a better service in the future.

Caltrain Twitter

caltrain: NPR says all NB and SB trains suspended at San Mateo T06:11

caltrain: Trains stopped in both directions: SB 102 @ Burlingame, SB 104 @ Belmont and NB 103 @ Millbrae. No ETA to restore service. T06:45

I arrived at the train station at 6:43 and nobody had a clue other than "The trains are not running". I checked the twitter feed and knew quickly what was going on. Of course this information is coming from *Passengers* - not from Caltrain. Caltrain has the info, they just have far less capability than their passengers to disseminate it. OK, sure NPR had the info at 6:05 or so, but the people who need the information the most are in the train station not listening to their radios. The message boards had vague information, but when Brad and I got to Redwood City as mentioned before we knew exactly where the trains were from the twitter feed. A one horse operation should be able to get decent information on the message boards - or perhaps dispatch official information via .... ummm... Twitter?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

SF2G holier than Caltrain.

I had a 9:30 AM meeting today. Had - past tense, as in it did not happen.

In theory I could get a train at 7:59, arrive MV at 8:44, take my time and get to work at 9:15, shower and go to the meeting. Given that I could

1) get bumped
2) have some delay

I decided I would get on the 6:44 AM train. Arrive Lawrence 7:49, 10 minute ride to work, giving me a 90 minute buffer.

As I rode to the station at 6:25, I went through the Mission and cursed knowing that an SF2G ride would probably be setting up at Ritual. So busy lately I don't even check. Chances are there would be a ride, and getting up this early and not riding was very annoying. The ride would probably not get me to work until 9:45 - I could try to cut off a Caltrain downstream but that would reintroduce the possibility of

1) getting bumped - but with no time to spare

So I went to Caltrain. The station was packed with frowny faces, meaning only one thign. Darwin had struck midnight and taken another lonely soul away from us as they decided to play "Beat Thomas the Train". I checked Twitter Truck under a train in San Mateo, Fatality.

Fatality - adds 30 to 90 minutes
Car under train - adds 90 minutes more, minimum.

A co-worker and I discussed the possibility of riding the whole way, now that I was at 4th/King this was not very tempting. BART to Fremont and a ride to work was a possible play, but they opened the door and let us on a train. We decided to take that and see how far South we could get. Answer? Halfway in between SSF and San Bruno. What brainiac takes the train out of hold at South City, sends it to nowhere, and then puts it back into hold? Now we were stuck and could not bail from the train.

Finally we made it to San Bruno and more delays were announced. We bailed and rode 15 miles or so to Redwood City. I re-checked the twitter and noted that our train had now left Millbrae, we did a quick calculation and figured we had 10 minutes until it would be in RWC. I ordered a bagel at Noah's and then discovered that my calculations were off by 2 minutes the wrong direction. Somehow I still managed to make the train with food. I arrived at 10 AM, 2 hours later than planned and my meeting went to pot. Had I gone with the SF2G crowd, I would have been sweaty but probably could have made the meeting.

Photo of wreck

What is with the fatalities/accidents lately? Sheesh.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

San Francisco is Holier than Lafayette Indiana

Talking to my sister the other day about the election and whatnot, the subject of getting around on a bike was brought up. This is an extreme form of transportation and one would be crazy to let children ride a bike.

One would generally venture that a "Big Bad City" like San Francisco would have it even worse than a genteel college town (OK, maybe West Lafayette is the genteel college town and Regular Lafayette is a little rough around the edges). So I undertook my own little research project.

These photos were snapped during my morning commute (different days). A woman riding with her child down Eureka St and another tandem on Valencia in the bike lane.

I see this sort of thing quite frequently. I probably would not recommend patting the kid on the head and sending them into traffic alone, but with supervision the kid is probably a lot safer on their bike than I am given that I take more calculated risks and ride at a faster speed. Risk - by the way - does not mean "running stop lights". It means that I generally trust drivers to adhere to the law which allows me to get somewhere faster, but this assumption is usually pretty risky because drivers tend to have an allergy to things like "turn signals" and "Looking in their mirror". This AM, for example I stopped at a stop sign and proceeded when it was my turn, only to have a driver yell at me for running the stop sign! I pointed out to him that I was at the stop sign and had waved the car *IN FRONT* of him through, as such HE was the one who had run the stop sign. Were I riding with a child, I would instead make sure I had eye contact with the driver and explicitly negotiate right of way to leave no room for doubt.

This style of riding is why you don't hear a lot of stories of accompanied minors dying in bike accidents. Sadly there have been several unaccompanied minors who have died in the Bay Area while riding their bikes this year.

I like to make the argument that this means people need to drive better, not that children should not be allowed to ride bikes. The compromise is found by the people pictured above - not only allows children to ride bikes safely, it also is more what I would call "quality time" with children than throwing them in the back seat and schlepping them to school in the mini-van so you can have time to stop at Starbucks.

I'll get my own test soon - the demon seed of Murph is only 3.5 months away.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Trader Joe's - home of unholy evil balloon army.

On my way in this AM on Central Expressway past the Mathilda offramp, I spotted a balloon float from the offramp onto the freeway, at about eye level. I was going about 25 MPH at this point in the drops, and pulled up as I watched the balloon ominouisly float towards me. It had a string attatched to it and I know from stories and experience you don't want strings, windbreaker sleeves, etc... tucking into your spokes at speed. I tried to avoid the balloon but to no avail, it magnetically floated right at me and impact was directly into my front wheel. I prepared for my wheel to lock up so I could unclip and stay upright.

Fortunately, the balloon simply tangled onto the quick release of my front brake caliper and I dragged the balloon behind me. I rode about a quarter mile, amused, then thought better of this as the balloon could have decided to change plans at any minute.

I grabbed the balloon and took a look, expecting "Happy Birthday Tommy" or some bunk. Nope. "TRADER JOES". Note however that the balloon is "100% biodegradable!" Awesome! I guess had I gone down it would not have been due to the eco-friendly balloon, but due to the tentacle of non-100%-biodegradable plastic that was tied to the balloon.

But I do feel safe knowing that the if next turtle that swallows a Trader Joes 100% biodegradable balloon can just figure out how to breathe through said balloon for a couple of years while that balloon turns into compost, he or she will be able to complete their fulfilling life!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Our pumpkins are holier than yours

This was a lot of work but turned out pretty cool.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Holy Tunitas Creek Batman!

This is so cool I can barely stand it.

Update - there is a specific email for the bike hut.

************* FORWARDED MESSAGE *********************************

Dear All,

I wanted to let you all know of The Bike Hut which will be of value to
Bay Area cyclists. My wife, Christine, and I recently bought a farm on
Tunitas Creek Road in Half Moon Bay - -
which we're transforming into a non-profit dedicated to the food
justice movement. We'll grow organic vegetables and offer nutrition
and cooking classes for local low-income families, provide
environmental education programs for all ages and more.

But we also have a one-car-garage-sized building right on Tunitas
Creek Road which is now named The Bike Hut. Since this road is so
popular for bicyclists, we wanted to provide you a rest stop and
homemade energy snacks and drinks. At the moment, there's just a small
picnic area for your use and we'll always have free water there for
you. It will probably take us a few months, but we're working on
recipes for organic/vegan energy snacks and drinks which we'll sell.
For now, feel free to stop, picnic, get some water, etc, and keep an
eye out for more developments.

We're one mile inland from Hwy 1. You can't miss The Bike Hut - it's
bright red - and a great place to take a pause before starting the
ascent up Tunitas Creek Road to Skyline Blvd.

We'd appreciate your passing the word to others in the bicycle
community. If you have any ideas on how we ccan get the word out,
please let us know. Also, if any of you are planning any rides or
events where we could be a pit stop, please contact us.

Bill and Christine


Potrero Nuevo Farm, 1045 Tunitas Creek Road, Half Moon Bay, 94019
650-726-5700 (voice) 650-726-5701 (fax)

Sarah Palin is holier than Global Warming - Bonus: I polish my halo in Carson City

"Right well what I have said about this is really the debate at some point, had better shift to, no matter the cause, whether it all be attributed to man’s activities or just the natural cycle of climate changes in our earth’s history. We have seen this before. No matter the cause we had better do something about it"

This is a huge money making opportunity. Should McCain win, and then kick the bucket, we will have the opportunity to bid on the contract to make the "GIANT SUNSPOT BLOCKING MACHINE!" The best part is that since the world is something like
4000 years old, the cycles are probably quite short and by the time the machine is
ready we'll need to build the "GIANT ICE MELTING MACHINE" instead!

Campaigning in Nevada

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I am holier than the drunk at Bowling.

Tuesday is bowling night. I get off Caltrain early and switch to BART and take to Colma, where Serra Bowl is conveniently located 200 yards or so from the BART station. I like bowling night, I get to hang with my friends (and until her stomach started looking like a bowling ball, my wife) and bowl, talk politics, sports, and have some beers with "The Cadillacs" (our team name). One too many beers not being a big problem as we walk to BART and go home.

Last night as I waltzed out of the bowling alley, I heard the league drunk belch something about "cyclists mumble stop signs... mumble" and I WENT OFF. This was definitely a one too many beers night.

"EXCUSE ME? How are you getting home tonight? Driving? Yeah, you can barely walk, barely see, and you are going to get into a car. When you kill someone I will be there to testify that you are a drunk son of a b***h and make sure you are in the can for a very very long time."

He started on the stop signs thing again and I went off again "Don't give me this BS you (many expletives deleted)". Walter Sobchak would be proud - I should have thrown in a "Has the whole world gone crazy? Am I the only one around here who gives a shit about the rules? Mark it zero!"

I did feel a little sheepish about the level of my tirade, especially since a more cool member of the league was standing next to the drunk. I left a message on Joe's voicemail. Here is the text reply...

I know who u are talking about. is Serra bowl Colma or daly city? I know some colma cops. Let's set that a-hole up. I have a feeling he already has no license."

He can fool the f**ks in the league office but he cannot fool the Cadillacs!! Bowling should be amusing next time.

Oh, and I bowled 106, 116, 125. You gotta problem with dat?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

do I post this to

Riding down Valencia towards home last night, annoyed at missing the debate, I saw a crowd spilling onto Valencia St at 21st. The Mark Sanchez supervisor campaign had thrown open a garage door leading into their campaign HQ, and were showing the debate on a big screen TV. They had set up chairs 4-5 deep in the parking spots alongside the HQ, and then people were standing around that.

Now Valencia at 21st has its share of restaurants and the like, but it's not exactly a pedestrian corridor like 24th St in Noe Valley or Castro St at 18th. So where was all the "foot traffic" coming from?

The bike lane.

The bike lane on Valencia is probably the most used bike lane in SF except for the "bike lane" on Market. OK, I don't have any facts to back that up, but a lot of people use it (and I think Market - for some crazy reason - is used even more). Well, it's 7 PM and you're riding home - perhaps to catch the end of the debate - and you see a crowd on the street watching the debate, what do you do? You stop and watch it with your peeps. (Did I just say "peeps"?). It was cool. But the bike lane was no longer passable, and it spilled into half the traffic lane. I think it was worth it.

Apparently they had a 63 inch in Dolores Park with huge speakers, I screwed up and didn't seal the deal to go watch it there with the fixie guys and the like so our dog could have enjoyed the debate as well.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

BART is holier than Caltrain (say it ain't so!)

busy day on this blog. Can you tell I am "working from home". No seriously, I have already designed a few base classes and derived more from them. And sent out about 20 twitters and posted three blog posts. Anywho...

Generally I think BART is
1) Good
2) Not nearly as good as the money that has been spent on it.

Generally I think Caltrain is
1) Good
2) Held together with bailing wire and bubble gum
3) Very good given #2.

Except for this...
An official BART twitter feed which included today's service advisory for fatality in Pleasant Hill
Caltrain Twitter feed with many service advisories and information posted on last night's fatality - designed by Ravi Pina and content from riders, far better than any official information.

mybikelane is holier than you

A while back I got really religous about double parkers on Townsend Street on the way to Caltrain. The double parking occurs around a blind corner out of a rotary. When you are surprised by said double parker (50% of time it's a cop, btw) you are forced into the lane which is typically occupied by a UPS truck.

I am working from home this AM (have to meet the DirecTV guy because it's easier to Tivo than download the podcasts). So I was surfing around and found the excellent San Francisco Bike Blog . It had a link to a My Bike Lane . Awesome!

I especially like this one.

Capitol Corridor Holier than Caltrain

The car I was on had a new bicycle rack, with space for seven bikes. Six passenger seats had been removed to install the racks.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Cyclists holier than drivers.

Last night riding down Townsend with my buddy Dan, we were side by side having a chat. Which is one of the great things about bike commuting, you aren't encased in your cocoon ambivalent to the world, you are in it. For example the other day I saw a woman with an Obama bumper sticker on her bike fender, I said "Proof you don't need a bumper to have a bumper sticker". I ended up riding from 18th to Market on Valencia with a 50-something woman I have never met before, having a chat. Never happens in a car. But I digress...

They recently painted a white stripe on the sides of Townsend, a joke of a road with no sidewalks, diagonal parking, and several bus stops for the 19 and the Academy of Art Shuttles (no sidewalks so we'll just drop 100's of people daily to walk down the middle of the street). The stripe sort of keeps the cars to the middle of the street which is perhaps why they painted it there. Of course this also makes them think that the 1000's of bikes who use Townsend - the main route to Caltrain - have to be outside this white line in the potholes, in the blind spots of people pulling out of diagonal parking, and sharing non-existent space with pedestrians.

So I hear this commotion behind me and this car pulls up and the passenger yells "GET IN THE BIKE LANE". I think being in the middle of the conversation makes me better at the quick answer "There is no bike lane" and I went back to my conversations. He wittily responded "F**K YOU".

Several blocks later I came across Trinh Bui also riding home and we started up a chat (again this never happens in your car, or at least it should not). We were riding down 15th leisurely taking one of the two lanes (15th is one way) as there was heavy traffic and there are stop signs at each block. I heard a honk behind me and noted a mini-van. Given the opposite lane was clear and we were basically tailgating a car, I didn't pay much attention. Stopped in 3rd slot at Mission, he pulled up next to me, I looked and said "Hi" to the passenger,this prompted the driver to spew some sort of vitriol to me about blocking the road. I assessed this situation and decided to blow this one off and just rolled on at the green.

In related news - JD Power and Associates today said that the global auto industry may experience an "outright collapse" in 2009.

Another benefit of the bike commute - I stopped to shoot this picture on the way in last week.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass or the Love Parade? Which is more Holy?

This weekend I was able to partake in two San Francisco events. I stumbled upon the "Love Parade" at the start at 2nd and Market, while running an errand before going to Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. Both fine affairs in their own right - but which is "More Holy"???

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass: Free music festival in Golden Gate Park. BYOB! Great music including Elvis Costello, Robert Earl Keen, Steve Earle, Robert Plant and Allison Krause, Emmylou Harris, most of the Jayhawks, and MC HAMMER fer cryin out loud. Sets of 3 wastebins for compost, recycling, trash, and constant reminders from the stage to follow the rules. Valet Parking run by the SF Bike Coalition.

Love Parade: See below.

create free polls | comment on this

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Caltrain Bikers - Holier than Caltrain

Per Caltrain

Why doesn't Caltrain add more on-board bike capacity?

The Baby Bullet expresses have proven so successful that some trains have been running out of spaces for bikes, and at times nearing capacity for passengers.

Photo Courtesy Ben Damm

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Bike On Caltrain holier than No Bike on Caltrain

Last week there was a fatality in Burlingame.

The cyclists onboard the partycar #275 hopped off from the train stranded at Hillsdale and rode to Millbrae in an informal peleton to grab a BART train home.

On BART we joined folks from 369 and 373.

Meanwhile the other passengers stood by the side of the tracks on their cellphones begging a ride home. One more reason to take your bike on board.