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October 2004

Merit Awards

City CarShare

Known for its distinctive lime-green Beetles, City CarShare has added trucks and even hybrid vehicles to its fleet. (Photo: Kit Morris)

City CarShare: The Green Way to Go
Try this short exercise in car-ownership math: Add up the cost of your vehicle, your insurance and maintenance costs, gasoline and parking fees, and divide it by the amount of time you actually spend driving. It may not be worth it when you consider that you could be behind the wheel of one of City CarShare’s trademark lime-green Beetles, paying only $2 to $4 per hour and 44 cents per mile, reducing your impact on the environment and supporting an organization committed to social change.

Over the past three years, the nonprofit agency has launched a network of shared vehicles that its 3,000 members can use as their own, paying only on a per-use basis. The fleet of over 75 late-model vehicles — Volkswagen Beetles, Golfs and Jettas, Honda Civics, Toyota Scions and Tacoma trucks — is scattered at nearly 40 Bay Area locations that are easily accessible by public transit. “One of the things we are excited about is working with the transit agencies to integrate car sharing and transit,” said Larry Magid, City CarShare’s executive director. “Members can take BART across the Bay, pick up a car at an East Bay station and get to their destination, and in that way we are extending the reach of transit.”

Membership is booming and City CarShare is now the largest nonprofit car-sharing organization in the United States. A recent University of California at Berkeley study shows that City CarShare members removed 700 cars from crowded city streets and Bay Area highways in the program’s first year, a major factor in the jury’s recognition of the organization with an Award of Merit.

The nonprofit recently launched an innovative partnership with the city of Berkeley wherein the city will retire 15 of its fleet vehicles and replace them with five City CarShare hybrid cars. The hybrids will be reserved for city use during business hours — saving the city an estimated $400,000 over the first three years — and will be available to regular members at night and during weekends.

A grant from MTC’s Low Income Flexible Transportation (LIFT) Program has helped City CarShare expand its fleet in low-income neighborhoods and offer discounted memberships to people transitioning off of welfare. “This gives people access to vehicles that they normally wouldn’t be able to afford,” said Magid.

Robert Raburn

Bicycles on transit are a passion for full-time advocate Robert Raburn. (Photo: Kit Morris)

Robert Raburn: Getting the Bay Area Into Gear
In 1990, after a decade of driving on Interstate 880 from Oakland to San Jose State to teach courses related to conservation, Robert Raburn thought seriously about his commute and determined it was time for a change. He decided to rearrange his lifestyle to become a bicycle commuter. In the same year he began a professional collaboration with the nonprofit East Bay Bicycle Coalition (EBBC). Today he is the EBBC’s unpaid executive director, advocating tirelessly for improved conditions for cyclists, increased bridge access, the closure of critical gaps in the bicycle lane network, and secure bike parking facilities in Oakland and other East Bay cities.

Thanks in no small part to the EBBC and Raburn, AC Transit now provides bike racks on nearly all of its buses. The EBBC also helped launch the Bikes on BART program and the Bay Area bridges’ bicycle shuttles, and created a series of East Bay bicycle route maps. Raburn’s goal is to incorporate bicycle and pedestrian access into all transportation projects, and to expand upon the “Safe Routes to Transit” projects identified in the recently approved Regional Measure 2 ballot measure. He believes bicycle ridership will swell thanks to rising oil prices, and he’s working hard to have a bicycle-mode strategy ready to implement.

Raburn practices what he preaches. In place of driving, he pedals a touring bike equipped with a rack, saddlebags and lights. And he has a bike trailer big enough to haul a ladder, windsurf board or even a four-drawer file cabinet. In 2001 he sold his car and now uses City CarShare (see above) when he needs an automobile.

Rick Rickard, EBBC board member, described the Award of Merit winner: “If there is one word for Robert, it is ‘passion.’ He gets really excited about issues like Measure 2 and works on them incessantly. The rest of us are volunteers and we do our bit and go on. But Robert is the thread that ties it all together. He carries the intensity around the issue.”

Bay Trail

When completed, the San Francisco Bay Trail will stretch nearly 500 miles and connect the shorelines of all nine Bay Area counties. (Photo: Jack Yako)

The San Francisco Bay Trail Project: Halfway There and Growing
If you ever have walked across the Golden Gate Bridge, fished off the rocks in Emeryville, roller-skated along San Francisco’s Embarcadero to Pier 39, flown a kite on the waterfront in Tiburon, hiked through the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Fremont or taken a Sunday family excursion along the Carquinez Strait, you have enjoyed the San Francisco Bay Trail.

Now these Bay Area landmarks are being linked by an ever-growing system of pedestrian and bicycle trails that, when complete, will encircle San Francisco and San Pablo bays. The Bay Trail will connect the shorelines of all nine Bay Area counties, link 47 cities and cross many of the region’s toll bridges. The Bay Trail Project was recognized with an Award of Merit for reaching the momentous halfway mark towards completion — over 250 of the eventual 500 miles are now finished.

The Bay Trail Project is a nonprofit organization administered by the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG). “Any long distance trail requires both inspiration and perspiration — a good idea and dedicated effort and ongoing commitment,” said ABAG Planning Director Janet McBride. “Cities, state and regional agencies, park districts, and local advocates can be justifiably proud of the progress to date on the Bay Trail. And as each new segment opens, more of the trail is connected and the utility of the whole network increases.”

Recently completed sections of the trail include a segment of walkway and jogging path along Interstate 80 in Berkeley that improves access to the Berkeley shoreline and links to Eastshore State Park, and paths through Oyster Point Marina in South San Francisco. Paralleling the physical construction of the trail is ABAG’s effort to artfully publicize and promote its usage with six new maps available for sale, detailing different sections of the trail and offering route guides and access information.

“Seven million people live in this region and there’s one thing that all of us share: We all live in a county that touches the Bay,” said McBride. “It is the one thing that defines us as a region. The Bay Trail gives us an opportunity to get close to the Bay and thereby come to appreciate it.”

Jim Bigelow

Jim Bigelow trained his sights on rehabilitating the Dumbarton Rail Bridge for commuter rail service. (Photo: Kit Morris)

Jim Bigelow: Restoring a Rail Connection
Some people look at the Dumbarton Rail Bridge and see a fire-damaged hunk of wood and metal; Peninsula resident and Award of Merit-winner Jim Bigelow sees a sleek new train system. As long ago as 1987, Bigelow was working with elected officials and members of the business community to advocate for a commuter rail link between East Bay bedroom communities and Peninsula jobs. “With the rail line next to the Dumbarton Bridge, it was a natural to start thinking about getting that reactivated and making it a transit corridor to help out with the east-west commute, which was really not served by major transit,” said Bigelow.

It has taken perseverance, but today the partnership of transit agencies, advocates and officials who agree with Bigelow is proud to see the $300 million project fully funded, in part by the recently passed Regional Measure 2 bridge toll hike. Planning, design and construction are expected to take six years, and revenue service should start in 2010 with six daily trains transporting approximately 4,800 passengers across the Bay.

A revitalized rail corridor will alleviate traffic congestion on the Dumbarton Bridge and improve regional connectivity. Commuter train service eventually will link Caltrain to the Capitol Corridor rail line to Sacramento, as well as the Altamont Commuter Express to the Central Valley and BART in the East Bay. According to Howard Goode, San Mateo County Transportation Authority deputy executive director, “Jim Bigelow was the driving force that kept things going. In a world where there are lots of issues competing for your attention, Jim is very effective at reminding you that Dumbarton is an important one and that we should be going to the next step.”

Alfred Zampa Memorial Bridge

The opening of the Alfred Zampa Memorial Bridge heralds a new era for travelers across the Carquinez Strait. (Photo: Bill Hall, Caltrans)

Alfred Zampa Memorial Bridge: Teamwork Engineers a Marvel
A new landmark for the San Francisco Bay Area made its grand debut last autumn. The first major suspension bridge to be built in the United States in 30 years — and the first in California since the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge were completed in 1936 and 1937 respectively — the new westbound span of the Carquinez Bridge opened in November 2003 amidst a fanfare of speakers, parades and fireworks. A modern interpretation of a classic suspension span, the bridge was named for the late Alfred Zampa, a local ironworker who helped build the original 1927 Carquinez Bridge, as well as the parallel 1958 span and four other Bay Area toll bridges.

“The building of any edifice is not just about steel and concrete,” said Bart Ney, Caltrans public in-formation officer. “It’s also about dedicated men and women working as a team: designers, architects, engineers, construction workers and townspeople who share a vision.” With this Award of Merit, MTC celebrates the Zampa Bridge as an achievement in engineering and honors the team of people who made it a reality.

The bridge carries three lanes of Interstate 80 traffic and features two 10-foot-wide shoulders to ease the clearing of stalls and accidents. The new span also provides pedestrians and bicyclists with a link between Contra Costa and Solano counties: a dedicated path that opened in the spring of 2004.

MTC also honored a handsome book, Spanning the Carquinez Strait: The Alfred Zampa Memorial Bridge, that documents in both photos and text the design and construction of the bridge, and includes a short history of the first Carquinez Bridge as well as a biographical sketch of Alfred Zampa. This book, like the bridge, will remain a resource for many years to come.

Tiny Tickets

Tiny Tickets: Big Impact
A ticket for a cure. A ticket for an education. A ticket for a meal. A ticket for a rescue. Since 2002, thousands of tiny BART tickets that otherwise would have wound up in the garbage or wedged deep in a drawer have been turned into donations that improve the quality of life in the Bay Area. Founded as a partnership between BART and the East Bay Community Foundation (EBCF) in 2002, the Tiny Tickets Program urges BART patrons to put their tickets with small remaining values to good use by donating them, and encourages local nonprofit organizations to raise funds by collecting these tickets.

“Most of these tickets only have 5 or 10 cents on them, maybe 50 cents, and they’re really not of much value to the customer,” said Carol Walb, BART’s manager of Customer Services. “But in total, they add up to a fair amount of money. There’s anywhere from $200,000 to $1 million of these residual tiny tickets out there at any time.”

BART promotes the Merit Award-winning program in news-letters, posters and on its Web site. EBCF collects tickets from nonprofits on a quarterly cycle and turns them in to BART for redemption. The nonprofits can choose whether they would like cash or BART tickets in exchange. From April 2002 until December 2003, more than 115 Bay Area nonprofits turned 88,000 Tiny Tickets into nearly $60,000 in cash for community programs.

“This is an easy way for transit riders to aid many worthy nonprofits and their clients,” said MTC Senior Public Information Officer Ellen Griffin. Participating nonprofits serve a range of interests, including schools, libraries, shelters and environmental groups. Girls Inc. in Contra Costa County traded its tiny tickets for 100 BART youth passes for summer program field trips, while Family Bridges in Oakland garnered over $700 worth of senior BART tickets to enhance its programs serving Oakland’s Chinese community.

AC Transit Rapid Bus

AC Transit’s Rapid Bus (Line 72R) is the “smart” new way to travel the San Pablo Avenue corridor. (Photo: John Benson)

AC Transit Rapid Bus and East Bay SMART Corridors Program: Relief for Traffic-Clogged San Pablo Corridor
The East Bay SMART Corridors Program and AC Transit’s new 72R Rapid Bus Line are delivering a one-two punch in the battle against traffic congestion along the 14-mile San Pablo Avenue corridor — running parallel to Interstate 80 from the city of San Pablo to Oakland. Both programs were recognized by MTC with an Award of Merit.

Fully operational as of May 2004, the SMART Corridors Program has deployed $20 million in intelligent transportation tools, including traffic cameras at key intersections that feed live images to a Web site for the public. The effort, also in place along arterial routes parallel to Interstate 880 in Alameda County, is being led by the Alameda County Congestion Management Agency in partnership with some two dozen other agencies. Operation and maintenance will cost less than $2 million annually.

Meanwhile, AC Transit has transformed a commute line along the San Pablo corridor into an all-day Rapid Bus route that cuts through traffic. The service uses a new breed of European low-floor buses that speed boardings for all passengers, including wheelchair users. Signal-preemption equipment — which interacts with the SMART Corridor technology to prolong green lights and shorten red lights — helps speed the buses through intersections. (Emergency vehicles likewise can make use of the corridor’s signal-preemption features.) And, to take the guesswork and anxiety out of waiting, AC has been installing electronic signs at bus stops that announce the estimated arrival of the next bus.

In May 2004, AC reported a striking 66 percent jump in daily ridership during peak periods com-pared to the limited-stop service it replaced nine months earlier. The route is 20 percent faster than local service and 17 percent quicker than the previous limited service, cutting the average trip by 12 minutes.

“These two programs show what you can do to make the most out of existing infrastructure, and they are innovative in that they rely not on costly and time-consuming road widenings or rail projects. Instead, they use technology to add capacity and efficiency to what is already in place,” noted MTC Legislation and Public Affairs Manager Randy Rentschler.