Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Cell phones make transit riders targets

Kind of a no brainer I guess? From Gothamist:
A few more details about subway robberies being slightly up in 2008 compared to 2007. Apparently a third of those subway thefts were for cell phones. WCBS 2 reports, "Police say the easiest marks are the riders near the doors. Thieves time it so that just as the doors are about to close, they make their grab and take off, leaving the victim trapped inside the train, and helpless to do anything about it." One rider was philosophical "You know if [my phone] gets stolen, I'd rather let it get stolen than get stabbed or something like that." And just last summer, a cop told the Daily News, "A kid taking out an iPhone and using it is like waving around $300."
Shootings and muggings on MTA (bus stops and light rail) seem to start from people asking to "borrow" the phone. (My strategy is to not use it much on transit, but that was eventually abandoned in favor of "catching up.") I always felt like more money could be gained from an iPod than my phone anyway... Anyway. The data. It's about phones.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Perils of Private Transportation

I woke up this morning and saw a thin layer of snow on the ground. So I bundled up, got into my snow covered car, and moved it into the car port.

Because the last time it snowed, I enjoyed the snow for a few hours and then went to my car and realized, oh, when it snows, it covers more than the ground! It covers cars parked at the bottom of the driveway! So that's what happens when you drive. You scrape off your vehicle! And with limited arm movement the whole scraping snow off the car was rather frustrating.

I scraped the snow in the car port.

Now there a flurries and blazing sun. I can see grass blades! There are flakes on my car and they are not melting.

It's too bad that a bus doesn't pass my front door and stop in front of physical therapy, like it might have in Baltimore. Those were the days.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day


Inauguration 2005
Originally uploaded by parapluiesdoux
After obsessively following developments for public transit for Inauguration Day, the day is here. Reporters are stationed outside Metro stations and my Google Reader was filled with hundreds of Transportation posts, most of them from The Washington Post's transportation team.

The screams and cheers on tv are unending. They parallel only to my experience with Good Charlotte or Fall Out Boy, or that one time Gavin Rossdale dove into the crowd and women fell to his feet, and in the shuffle, a woman knocked me down. But I don't think anyone on the route has a Care Bear they want signed. There are people as far as the eye can see, and it is nothing like it was four years ago.

Four years ago we boarded the train in all black and were surprised to find our car mostly empty. It never really filled, and the tourists that boarded with us got out before they could access the parade route and when we looked confused they said they were sightseeing. "We never meant to come for THIS," they said as the doors closed behind them.

We got out at the station above and the streets were empty. We were surrounded by men and women in suits and long coats, who were walking to work. One of us was one of their co-workers and he waved and smiled as they went off to law firms and cubicles. And then we walked in the snow to the protest route.

There was enough clean snow on the ground for a friendly snowball fight with the police escort, and it was the only few moments we felt relieved. There was an importance in the march, and part of it was knowing it could all go wrong at any minute. And it did, when the wingnuts got involved on the next block and an escort said, "Go home, we have to arrest everybody."

We went to Chinatown, on an empty train, and got out at an abandoned stop. We are in a restaurant that should have been full, and probably is today, but was empty. It was disappointing, and when we were seated, the televisions were turned on and up, and the staff watched and laughed with us as a news correspondent said, "THERE HAVEN'T BEEN ANY PROTESTS." And then we weren't relieved anymore, because it had been for nothing.

It's nice, nice in the American sense--pleasant, unencumbered, relieving--that the streets are filled with people. That people went to REI and bought handwarmers, and woke up early after hardly sleeping last night to fill the streets and cheer.

There have been crowds swarming around Ben's, and the streets have been a long party all night long since Friday.

So I feel like if the Inauguration is so different the next four years can bring a radical difference in the general atmosphere, too.

Friday, January 16, 2009

There are two exciting posts on Examiner.com this week.

The first is a HOW TO on riding the Metro. It's something I wanted to write a long time ago, but is minus the many many pet peeves I have and directed at out of towners.

The second is how to get to popular tourist locations using Metro.

If you're in DC for the Inauguration I think these posts should really help you. If you'll be in the city in the future, they should still provide some kind of direction and assistance. Yay, transit!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Crosswalks

Note: Part of this post was posted a few minutes ago on Examiner.com (because it has different readers). But it feels appropriate here, too, and I felt like I could say more. Maybe.

Gothamist reports today that crosswalk signals in New York City are "freezing" showing both the cross signal (the white LED silhouette) and the DO NOT WALK signal (the red LED hand). The city centric blog reports that cold temperatures are forcing the signals to show both signs.

The post also says that the problem will bring on lawsuits but that's actually unlikely. I don't remember any signal when I crossed the street the night of my accident and the bottom line there (not that I was planning on a lawsuit) is that lawsuits are bad because accidents keep maintenance in line to fix broken technology. That's in my words. It's as ridiculous as it sounds, though. And (I hate to say this) it's not the city's fault that it's cold. However, I'd like to see the city step out and immediately fix the issue. Most of NYC's residents are CROSSING ITS STREETS.

Unfortunately, the further I got into DC for health care after the accident the more morons I ran into. The bottom line in DC is that everyone should be driving a car, and damn everyone who isn't. (Which is annoying because for the first time in my life I own a car.)

Has anyone noticed this problem in DC or its suburbs? Having had an excessive amount of time to obsess over crosswalk signals (or lack thereof) I worry about the results of bad crosswalk signals. Have you seen this problem? And whether or not: what do you think?

Is there a foolproof way to make a street safe to cross?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Bike in a Box

(Note: I said some things about the BART shooting in my Examiner post this week. I should have posted it here, but I didn't! But you can read it anyway on that website, right? Also, there has been a lot of inauguration writing over there too, and you will want to read that, too.)

Via Consumerist: A man checking a box on his flight paid $50 because the contents included a folding bike. The box was under fifty lbs and the one free checked item from the passenger:

Picture this: It's New Year's Eve and I'm checking in at Jet Blue's fancy new T5 terminal at JFK. I've only got one piece of luggage to check 'cause that's all you can check for free on Jet Blue these days. The item mustn't weigh over 50 lbs. and its combined outer dimensions must be under 80". The box I put up on the scale weighed 43lbs. and was under that size.

"What's in the box?" asks the lady at the counter.

"A folding bike, some clothes, and some cheese." I say.

"That's $50." she says, blankly.

Folding bikes are expensive. And serious. But there's a victory! After the story was reported, JetBlue changed its policy to match other airlines, who charge $$ for the bike because of the required handling. (Um, even with the charge I don't feel great about relinquishing my bike.) They wrote:
Our bicycle policy has now been updated to reflect that Customers traveling with a folding bikes in a bag that fits within the standard checked bag weights and dimensions (62 inches in overall dimensions and 50 pounds in weight — see our baggage requirements here) will not be charged the Bike fee and will be treated like any checked bag.
Yay!