Transportation


I saw Cars over the weekend with Jon. Cars, of course, is based on a true story: the life, death, and rebirth of Route 66. It was astonishingly accurate in its renditions of roads, road signs, and maps. Pixar definitely had some roadgeeks advising them. In addition, Pixar got the author of one of the most celebrated books on Route 66, Michael Wallis, to be the voice of the Sheriff, which explains how the movie could tell the story of Route 66 and roadside America was so well. It also explains some of the dewy-eyed nostalgia in the film, but that’s okay. Cars is a family film, not a PBS documentary.

Afterwards, we went to Willow Glen for dinner. Aqui is a “fast casual” Cal-Mex restaurant [photo]. It’s definitely got the “Cal” part going; I’ve never been to a Mexican place that serves tortilla chips with black beans, hummus, and polenta. Their Pork Ranchero Tamales and Cuban Pork Enchiladas were also tasty. And since they don’t have waiters, none of their dishes are above $11. For dessert, we couldn’t resist our third visit to the Willow Glen Frozen Yogurt Company [photo].

Get this: a neighborhood where the streets are for cars and planes.

Here’s an overhead view from Windows Live Local. Notice the extra-wide streets named Boeing Road, United Drive, and so on, next to the Cameron Airport. These streets are also taxiways.

Both Hong Kong and Taipei have RFID smart cards available for paying fares on subways and buses. Taipei even knocks 20% off of each subway ride. You don’t need to take the card out, just hover your wallet over the reader. It’s amazingly convenient. The Bay Area desperately needs something like this, especially since we have over two dozen transit agencies (which is stupid, but that’s another topic). The Metropolitan Transportation Commission has been testing such a system, TransLink, for almost four years. Let’s go people! What’s the holdup?

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.

Next Page »