Miscellaneous and Useless Information


The New York Times has a four-part series on the “Golden Quadrilateral“, a set of four-lane expressways that connect Delhi, Mumbai (Bombay), Chennai (Madras), and Calcutta, and the rapid changes to Indian society that comes with it.

My mom and I went to see the Fleet Week air show today, including the Blue Angels. What a show! The weather was perfect, and the view was great from Crissy Field, with plenty of parking at the Main Post in the Presidio. I haven’t seen the Blue Angels for about nine years, so I’d forgotten how much fun they are to watch. Even some of my photos and videos came out.

Also, we took some not-so-popular streets within the city, to try to dodge traffic going to Fleet Week, or the Columbus Day parade, or the golf tournament at Harding Park, or the Colts vs. 49ers game, skirting Laguna Honda Hospital on the way there and Diamond Heights on the way back. Let’s just say I went through parts of San Francisco I’d never seen before.

On Saturday, Jonathan and I went to the grand opening of the Vasona Light Rail line, which runs from downtown San Jose to Campbell [photos]. It was packed. At 11, they started the speeches. I leaned over and saw the schedule — there were a lot of politicians lining up for their turn. We decide to skip the chitchat and ride the trains themselves. First, from the Downtown Campbell station, we headed north. The train was faster than I expected; it was a smooth ride, and as Jon pointed out, a lot quieter than BART. (Granted, it’s also slower.) We got off at the Convention Center station, then waited about 20 minutes to take a Winchester train back. We took it to the end of the line, and then arrived back at the downtown Campbell stop at 12:30. And they were still talking.

But soon they were done, and then we hit the free food stands (grad student instincts). But it was a little chaotic, so we didn’t get enough for lunch. Instead, we went to nearby Sam’s Barbeque. Jon immediately decided on the beef brisket, which brings back good memories for him, while I went for the pork shoulder. That’s mighty good eatin’!

A follow-up: Looks like the new light rail line is off to a good start.

When I first started working at IBM Almaden, my commute was about 30 minutes each way, against traffic (thank goodness). It wasn’t bad, as commutes go in the Bay Area, but I was using about 1.3 gallons per day. That quickly adds up, especially the way gas prices are now.

Then I found out that there’s a VTA express bus that goes from Palo Alto and Cupertino to two of IBM’s sites, with a shuttle connection to Almaden. Thanks to the Eco Pass program, it’s free.

Now I’m riding the bus as often as possible. I burn at most half as much gas as before, so I’m now saving a ton of money. Sweeeeeet. I can also work on the bus if I want. And I don’t have to deal with the morons who inhabit our freeways. One of my colleagues says it’s like riding a grown-up version of a school bus — almost every passenger works for IBM (although mostly at two other IBM sites, not Almaden).

There are a few downsides. One, it now takes me an hour each way, 20 minutes of that spent transferring between the bus and the shuttle, and I have to wake up an hour earlier to catch the bus. Two, on the way home, the “bus stop” has no shelter and no bench. Once winter comes, it’ll be dark and wet, at which point I’ll switch back to driving. Finally, if the bus were to, say, break down on the way to picking me up, I would be caught sitting at the bus stop wondering what the *&#$#* was going on. Luckily, my bus stop is at a light rail station, so when that did happen to me yesterday, I was able to hop on the train to downtown San Jose, and then catch a ride with a colleague and her husband to Cupertino, saving myself from a 40-minute bus ride.

Nothing deep here, just some stuff that interests me:

Miracle: Ahnold and the legislature leadership have finally reached a deal on the Bay Bridge replacement. Now maybe this bridge will be built before I turn 40. Sheesh.

Recently there’s been a bunch of articles about “second-generation traffic calming.” The basic idea is simple, but sounds crazy: remove all signs, traffic lights, and lane markings. Eliminate the curb separating the sidewalk from the street.

This does several things. It emphasizes the street as a space to be shared between pedestrians and drivers. It encourages drivers to slow down (although the street may also need to be narrowed as well). Once the speed is down to about 20 mph, then drivers are slow enough to negotiate around other drivers and pedestrians without the need for signs. And since intersections don’t have stop signs or traffic lights anymore, total travel time actually goes down, because you no longer have to come to a complete stop at intersections.

This is already being tried in Europe with good results. Could it work here in the U.S.? I could see it working in some downtown and suburban residential neighborhoods; in fact, it’s already working in West Palm Beach, Florida, and I wouldn’t mind seeing it tried out in my neighborhood. But doing this on a 6-lane arterial surrounded by strip malls would be a bit much.

A Path to Road Safety With No Signposts • New York Times • January 22, 2005

Roads Gone Wild • Wired Magazine • December 2004

Why don’t we do it in the road? • Salon • May 20, 2004

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