Followup: gas in Canada

I have quite a bit to say about Canada, but just as a quick followup to my last post, gas was indeed very expensive. I was lucky enough to be able to borrow a car from my relatives, but my side trip of 194 km (120 mi) one way (so 240 miles total) cost CDN$73.30 in gas (51.077 L @ CDN$1.435/L), plus the CDN$60.06 (40.445 L at $1.485/L) of gas that I put into the tank to leave it more or less full for my relatives (the tank didn’t start out full, so I had to fill up twice).
[My bank indicates I was charged US$72.71 for the CDN$73.30. The other I paid in cash.]

Interestingly, Google Maps is completely convinced that the way I went — Hwy 401 to CR-73 (Elgin Road) — isn’t the best way, but my relatives all insisted that it was the best way. The distance and time given are identical for the route Google suggests and the route that was recommended to me (though the one I actually took, which was given as a slightly simpler alternative, is 2 miles and 3 minutes longer), and doesn’t involve going through downtown Toronto just after the rush hour (something that is indeed the nightmare you might imagine, as I discovered the next day on bike, but on bike it’s not a big deal because you can’t be going that fast anyway). It seems like a no-brainer to me.

That was the only time I was in a car for the entire trip, except for a brief drive with my aunt and uncle to dinner (I took buses to and from the airport). I’m pretty sure we could have gotten to the place we wanted to go faster on the TTC subway than driving at that time, too. I was very impressed by the TTC, but I’ll leave that discourse for another entry, along with my joy at visiting Urbane Cyclist.

511 is strange sometimes

I sometimes don’t understand 511. Or rather, I understand, but I just disagree.

There are three trips that I looked at for getting where I was going tonight. The one I actually wanted was the third one. The other two are marginally shorter (by 2-3 minutes) and in one case quite a bit more complicated, involving more than one transfer. The other one is probably about the same but it involves dealing with a station and bus that I’m not as familiar with and which are a bit more sketchy. I know 511 doesn’t know that I’m less familiar, but I still think the trip I picked (Caltrain to 4th and King, N-Judah to Duboce & Church) is the easiest one, and the least sketchy. The fact that it’s three minutes longer really matters not at all to me. Similarly, the return trip tried a multi-transfer trip first before giving me the N option.

In my opinion, transfers should definitely be weighted more heavily as a negative. If there’s something I hate about transit, it’s transferring when the connections aren’t well-defined and familiar, and all the attendant worry it brings. Give me the simple option that takes two minutes longer, please.

Oh, and did I forget to mention that it said that the 6:37 Caltrain is the last one of the day, and then promptly displayed a schedule showing many more? Yeah, I really don’t know what that’s about.

Caltrain bike tips

Courtesy the brilliant minds on the SVBC listserv and especially Margaret Okuzumi, ED of the Bay Rail Alliance and a very nice and friendly person:

Caltrain Bike Tips

Caltrain will tell you the bike rules, but those of us who use it every day will tell you how to do better than the rules and be a courteous bike commuter when using the train as part of your commute.

One thing we missed: don’t obstruct pedestrians getting on or off the train. Caltrain says pedestrians have the right to board and exit first. Try not to get in the way of a pedestrian or contact one with your bike — it could end in reprimand, anger, or injury. Sometimes simultaneous bike/ped boarding and deboarding is permitted by the conductors. If the stairs are divided unevenly, it’s bikes through the wide side unless you’re experienced and have a skinny bike, but if the wide side is on the south (pedestrian) side of the car, the pedestrians get to go first.

Electric squid, metal gorilla

I enjoyed MetroRiderLA’s series of posts on transit in the Bay Area.

My most-used system: Caltrain

Best line:

The January 17 journey on Train 362 was very fast.
Then again, this trip didn’t cover anything south of Millbrae. Had
there been more time, this 10-part miniseries would have been a Greek
epic, with the transit odyssey including entries on the Santa Clara
Valley Transportation Authority’s bus and barren light rail and the
ruins of the once vast samTrans duchy. Any transit agency rebellious
enough to begin its name without capitalization is worth a write-up.

The system I hate to love: BART

This is a really excellent analysis of the pros and cons of BART. A few excerpts:

BART focuses its primary trunk service on San Francisco, with it
forming the head of a squid. The four endpoints on the east side of
the Tube form its tentacles, with a secondary trunk formed through

In the East Bay, this squid service also took on the characteristics
of a gorilla. It was very burdensome to maintain both San Francisco-
like train and bus service. BART had something that AC Transit
didn’t: funding primacy.

When counties buy in to BART by joining the district, they take on
the responsibilities of funding both their construction and and
operations within their jurisdictions. This solved the problem of
the who’s-subsidizing-whom issue, but there was always a threat of a
county chiseling its obligation. So the BART service obligations were
the first to be paid. It sounded like a fiscally upright arrangement.

The burden would then fall on bus riders. Since BART only had to
be concerned with its trains and would get first dibs on money, it
didn’t have to worry about local bus service. AC Transit bore the
brunt of service cuts, even though there was very heavy demand for
local East Bay bus service….

The Bay Area’s biggest loser has to be samTrans. San Mateo County bet
it all on a massive BART extension and watched it backfire bad. San
Mateo opted out of being a charter member of the BART district, but
it still got service as far as Daly City, on the northern edge of the
county line, and then Colma, the city where the dead outnumber the
living. The line kept creeping southward, going in as far as Millbrae
and San Francisco International Airport. The county paid for these
extensions by pawning samTrans service. The massive service expansion
southward proved to be a colossal failure. Airport ridership had been
abysmal, plus BART was largely duplicating the service of the more
culturally ingrained Caltrain commuter rail service. The saddest part
of all: samTrans lost more bus riders than BART gained rail riders.

Now the squid-gorilla is coming after Santa Clara County, with a
long-term vision of forming a ring around the Bay. The Valley
Transportation Authority is grappling with paying for an excessively
expensive BART extension, all while being infamous for having an
extensive but unproductive light rail network. It also already has
service along both sides of the bay by the more antiquated technology
known as conventional rail. BART would be astronomically expensive,
redundant and if light rail has been any indication … Santa Clara
County should know what the First Rule of Holes is.

Just yesterday I was reading an editorial that used San Mateo County BART as a success story. <game show eeeeennnnnnnt>

I haven’t read the whole series but I suspect it’s worth reading.

In the meantime, tonight I’m off to Sunnyvale City Hall to tell the City Council that that all road users deserve safe accommodation.

More later: I’m planning a letter to the Menlo Park City Council telling them I think they have their heads in the sand (or somewhere else, perhaps) if they really think opposing high-speed rail on the Peninsula is a good plan.

{City} Caltrain on Google

This is super cool.

Type in “{City} Caltrain” in Google Maps where X is a city name with a Caltrain station and you get a map with a pic of the station, indications of the time of next 6 trains, their type (Bullet, Limited, Local), and their final destination (SF, SJ, Tamien, or Gilroy). Pretty goshdarn awesome in a world that needs more awesomeness.

Some of the non-city names work too, like 22nd St or San Antonio, but others don’t, like California Ave and Tamien, which do bring up the station location and snapshot but only bring up bus and light rail info, respectively. Still awesome!