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Wednesday, November 3 – The Winners

Oh yeah, what a beautiful morning! Perfect weather, plus – we’ve got a governor named Brown, a senator named Boxer, a lieutenant governor named Newsom, and a World Series team! The big parade down Market Street today is already jamming up traffic and BART stations and people are in a party mood. I’m riding in a Toyota RAV4. The driver, a lady, and her friend in the front seat, I and another rider in the back. Surprisingly (or maybe not) very little seat and leg room back here for a vehicle that looks so imposing from the street.

With the new progressive lineup in Sacramento, we commuters crammed together out here on the freeways may see some changes in California transportation. As attorney general, Jerry Brown has been waging a war against smog and greenhouse gas emissions and is generally an ally in environmental protection and conservation. As governor I’d like to see him instigate some real action to get more hybrids on the road and to make them more affordable, more accessible. And then there’s the whole issue of mass transit. Our systems are just not keeping up and they cost commuters too much money. I’m expecting a lot out of these new winners. But today they can bask in the glory – it’s a great day for them.

Go California!

This Week. The express lanes are coming.

WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 8. A cool and overcast day but a spectacular sunrise is breaking through the layers of fog. I’m in a 4-door Ford pickup truck. Both guys in the front seat are chuckling as I get in and we all say good morning. The driver is a guy in his late 50s and seems unaware of the dollar I lay on the armrest next to him. Traffic starts to crawl along after only a few miles. ’46 MINUTES TO DOWNTOWN SF’ the electronic sign says. Summer lite is really over.

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 9. Another overcast and somewhat gloomy morning as I leave the house, but no wind at all. It’s very still and quiet. Not so out here on the daily commute. This morning’s freeway sign says ’39 MINUTES TO DOWNTOWN SF’ and traffic is moving but plentiful. I’m in the front seat of a large Chrysler minivan, a Town & Country. A rotund fellow is driving and when I pull out my dollar he grins and taps the pull-down eyeglass pouch above the windshield. “That’s great”, I say. “A little toll pouch!” He looks pleased with his solution. He’s sporting chiseled long sideburns that extend down to his chin. A blue and white tassle, like the ones from graduation caps, hangs from his mirror along with a small wooden cross on a chain of wooden beads.

Traffic starts piling up as we get closer to Berkeley and the Bay Bridge, and single drivers from other lanes start pulling into the carpool lane, slowing us down. As I watch them, I think about how our commute would (will) be once it also functions as an express lane. And it will happen.

On Monday, September 20 the Bay Area’s first express lane will open on Interstate 680. This will be a 14-mile length of the 680 heading south from #84 to #237, and it is also a carpool lane. The ‘express’ feature means that single drivers can use the carpool lane, for a fee. The toll will vary depending on the amount of traffic on the freeway at the time. Stripes painted on the road will indicate entry and exit points and the single drivers will be electronically monitored and charged through their FasTrak transponder. You may wonder, as I did, how the carpool drivers, who also have transponders, will avoid being charged. They will need to obtain a mylar bag to hide their transponder so that it is not charged. There will not be vid cams as a backup, as there is on the bridges, so disputing charges will be difficult, if not impossible. Wonderful.

The next express lane is scheduled to open next year on eastbound Interstate 580, between Pleasanton and Livermore, followed by another opening on the westbound 580 in 2012. The plan is to eventually have all 800 miles of carpool lanes converted into express lanes.

Sounds like an ingenious plan for making more money, but unfortunately another way to weaken the carpool system. Dave Hyams, a spokesman for the express lane project said the project will reduce congestion. “The carpool lanes are not full, so there’s plenty of room”, he said. Well, sure, Dave, the carpool lanes are not full. They’re not supposed to be. If they were, who would care about driving in the carpool lane?

How about decreasing congestion by providing more incentive to carpool? Like not charging bridge toll to carpoolers? Eh? ‘Course there’s no money in that!

It’s a beautiful morning in Vallejo and I’m in the front seat of a bright red Scion. I like these funny looking box-like cars. They are amazingly comfortable to ride in. Comfy seats with lots of leg room. There are 2 fellows in the back seat – KUDOS to our driver! – and they look comfortable, too. Mid-aged lady in Friday jeans is driving wearing a cluster of beaded bracelets on her wrist. A GPS is tracking our trip, and of course KCBS Radio is all about the horrible explosion and fire in San Bruno.

Traffic is much lighter today. I made a huge effort to get up and get moving so I can get some gym time in before work and it looks like I might make it. A wonderful hanging beaded wire ornament dangles from the mirror.

Tide is way out this morning and the shoreline a shiny, muddy swamp. A flock of geese are coming in for a landing in the grassy recreation area near Berkeley. Fall migrations are underway. Another huge flock of at least 50 snow-white birds, maybe small gulls, are out in the water bobbing in a curved line that simultaneously lays in a beam of sunlight. Wow.

The toll plaza is a mess, frozen in time and space. We fly by. The weekend starts in 8 hours. Enjoy.

A Rough Week

My last post was on Monday when I mentioned my cat, Lucky. He died on Tuesday. If you’ve lost a beloved pet you know how tough it is to go through this. This was especially devastating because he was relatively young (His 10th birthday was, perversely this last Saturday), in apparently good health and the illness hit him quickly and hard. Our family spent a mellow and blessedly warm last day with him on Tuesday and then said our goodbyes.

Lucky, a dear and constant companion. So much loved and so terribly missed.

When I left for work and the carpool early Tuesday morning, I did not know how sadly the day would end and felt optimistic in the glorious sunny summer morning. The air was deliciously warm and I felt exposed leaving the house without a coat or sweater. I was tired and stressed about Lucky who at that point was undiagnosed. The vet said she’d have the test results this morning. I rode in the back seat of a spotless Lexus with two crisply dressed executive types in front. They sounded like work colleagues, rather than social acquaintances and were engrossed in work chatter during the commute. The driver declined my toll offer, “My company picks up the tab.”

The freeway was packed and the carpool lane was the place to be. We cruised along at about 55 mph. Moving past Berkeley, I looked across the bay at San Francisco basking in the morning sun, and just above the horizon of the hills south of the city was a fine dark line of – oh no, could that be smog? In San Francisco?!!!

Wednesday passed in a sad daze. Still wonderfully warm. I rode in a Toyota sedan, paid my toll, which was unacknowledged by the fellow driving. Air conditioning was going full blast, cold but it felt good this day and helped wake me up. The city looked soft and welcoming in the warm morning haze. The driver maneuvered through several lanes trying to find an opening in the sluggish traffic, but to no advantage. We made up for lost time zooming through the toll gate and were in the city in good time.

Thursday, today. Brrrr. The air from Alaska has returned and it is a windy gray morning. About a 10 minute wait for a ride. I get in the back seat of a big Ford Explorer. Large older guy with his young son, about 11 or 12 years old. I pass up 4 quarters. The driver lays them out in his palm and says “It’s $1.25.” I explain that I usually pay one dollar. “You’ve ridden with me before”, he scolds. “That’s what it is.” I don’t remember riding with him, but I will surely try not to do it again. I feel quite annoyed and would have left the car had we not been on the freeway entry ramp, but I pass up the additional quarter. Good grief. Like I’ve said before it’s not the money it’s the attitude and this guy’s attitude needs some work. But if a quarter is what it takes for him to make it through the day he’s welcome to it. Driving a behemoth like this Explorer he undoubtedly needs to collect whatever he can to pay for the gas. To hell with the planet, right? He clutches and sips at a super-sized paper cup of Cibolo Mountain Coffee throughout the ride. Traffic is heavy and once again the city and bay are invisible under the thick fog. I am grieving, feeling sad and vulnerable and am sorry to be riding in such an unfriendly car.

Wednesday, Thursday, and Today, August 23 – Finally, a Change in the Weather

I’ve fallen behind a couple of days. My dear cat, Lucky, is very ill and I’m giving him all my attention. But I’ll catch up today and take a break from my sick cat duties.
Last Thursday, August 19, I had absolutely no interest in working so was dragging and very late to the carpool line. But after a 10-minute wait I had a great ride. As I approached the car – a VW Passant – the driver signaled through her window that she’d take 3 riders, and I thought oh great, she’s planning to make a little profit on the toll this morning. But no! Just the opposite. She said ” no toll”, looking snappy in a bright cherry-red velour cardigan, black pants and a good looking big yellow leather bag. They two guys in the back seat looked happy and put their money back in their pockets.

I asked her why no toll. ” If I can’t afford the $5 a day to commute, then I shouldn’t be driving”, she said. “And I don’t think the riders should have to be responsible for my toll.” But she was quick to add that she appreciates the offers of toll payment. She mentioned that her husband, an insurance adjuster, had brought up the question of liability for drivers who charge a payment for rides. I’d wondered about that too, so when I got to my computer later that morning I looked up the California State law on such matters. It turns out there is no extra licensing or fee for driving a car-share or carpool vehicle with the riders contributing to the expense of the commute. So all you toll takers are perfectly legal, I’m sorry to say.

The next day, the 20th was a typical Friday light traffic day, Many cars were lined up and I got in the back seat of a Honda sedan. The driver looked like an older version of Miles from “Lost”. He was wearing a short-sleeved white polo shirt with an expensive looking brown suit, the jacket tossed over the back of his seat. He kept flinching as he drove. An unconscious habit perhaps or maybe a nervous disorder. Or maybe, like me, he could use a massage. Near Pinole we pass the In ‘N Out. Many mornings as we go by I think of how good those burgers are and wish I could pick one up for lunch. On this cold cheerless morning, I could use one right now!
We whiz past 3 lanes of suddenly congested non-carpool traffic and are in the city by 8 a.m.

Monday, August 23. My god, summer is finally here! No half-way about it! 80s and 90s predicted for today and it’s already comfortably warm at 7 a.m. Very,very nice and somewhat odd to see the sun at this hour! I walk up to a big Honda SUV. It has two rows of back seats and is actually more of a van. The woman driving must be incredibly tiny. Her seat is pushed so far up that the steering wheel is resting on her chest. A colorful cotton bag covered with about a dozen various sized pouches is hanging off the bag of her seat. It looks like those over the door devices that hold multiple pairs of shoes. These pouches are holding kleenex, bottled water, a power breakfast bar. A huge silver crucifix hangs from the mirror. I lean forward and toss a dollar into a little white plastic basket between the front seats.

A giant truck with a load of smashed cars go by us. These always fascinate me. It’s something about those neatly stacked layers of colorful metal that were once complex engines and roaring vehicles transformed into silent slabs.

Speaking of many cars in small spaces, did you see this picture?

These guys need casual carpool!

This is part of a 62-hour traffic standstill on a road leading to Beijing! 62 HOURS! Some of the drivers have been trapped in it for three days. I examined the picture carefully and it looks like most of the cars have only one person – the driver.

Once again I am delighted to speed past the log-jam of traffic at the toll gates on the Bay Bridge and am thankful for the carpool. The warm weather has lent a tropical flavor to the vegetation near the freeway and there’s a whole patch of the vividly pink naked lady lilies abloom, nodding as we pass.


THURSDAY, AUGUST 12. I arrive at the Vallejo carpool site to see at least 50 cars lined up. Nice (for the riders, anyway). I get in the front seat of a Chevrolet pickup. Another passenger is squeezed in the back. We buckle up and get out our toll offerings which are refused. “No money in this truck”, the driver says loudly. “You guys are saving me $3.50 by just riding with me.” He’s a rugged kind of guy, and the truck has a rugged kind of guy smell (not bad, just the way guys smell when they don’t use perfumes). I see part of a large tattoo on his right arm, under his gray t-shirt. He’s a contractor and commutes from Folsom 2 or 3 days a week, sometime on his motorcycle, he says.

“I’ve seen vans pull up and get 4 or 5 riders and charge each one of ’em $1.25”, he says. “A lot of drivers are just tryin’ to cash in on this toll thing.” I agree and relate the story of the BMW driver wanting her full $1.25 ‘fare’. (See my July 16 blog – Days of Contention).

His truck is clean and comfy. “I’m just about 500 miles short of 300,000 miles on this truck. I take real good care of it and like to keep it clean.” He says he see guys pull up to jobs in dirty, torn clothes and beat up trucks and tools. “You just know what kind of work they do.” I agree. “My husband always says you can tell a lot about a worker by the way he takes care of his tools.” A newer pickup truck passes us as we cross the Bay Bridge. The rear window is out and has been taped with plastic, which has torn and is flapping in the wind. The driver points it out. “That’s what I mean. You just know what kind of work you’re going to get from that guy.”

I comment on the light summer traffic, and he thinks it’s mostly the economy. But he also thinks a lot of people are taking unemployment benefits who don’t deserve them – his brother for one. I don’t want to argue with him, but most people do not have a great time being on unemployment. Their benefit amount is usually a fraction of what their salaries were, and now, for the new group of “99rs” – the people who’ve been on the dole for 99 weeks – their benefits have run out. No more extensions. And no jobs.

I know there are people who will always take advantage of situations where money is involved. Look at the banks, look at Wall Street, the credit card companies! And look at the carpool drivers who demand their $1.25 every day.

FRIDAY, AUGUST 13. Another ride in a pickup truck today. This is a much bigger, newer Chevrolet, again with a back seat. The rear passenger gets in and is really cramped. I assure her I’ll move my seat forward, which I do. The driver is a big guy in a red t-shirt and a bluetooth device in his ear. I put a dollar in the cup holder, the other passenger passes up $1.25. We talk about our jobs and the economy. He tells me about his divorce a few years ago. “I lost everything – the cars, 2 houses, the works. I just walked away from it.” Sounds like this disaster hit just as the economy was about to cave in, so he’s been scrambling to put his life and job back together. He’s re-married, and has been commuting from Sacramento to pick up work in the city.

About the tolls, he says “These bridges were supposed to have been paid for years ago, so what are we paying for now?” I tell him that sales tax was a big part of the revenue for the California transportation agencies, and with the real estate disaster, much of that money is gone. “The sales tax revenue helped pay for road and bridge maintenance, as well as the salaries for people in those agencies”, I point out. “Wonder how much their salaries are” he asks. I wonder too and have been doing some research to find out. (Stay tuned).

He thinks that raising the toll fee and charging carpoolers is backfiring. “Look at how many fewer people are on the road”, he says. “So they get a dollar or two more per car in tolls, but 4,000 fewer cars. Stupid!” Looks that way to me too, but I’m waiting to see the numbers in a couple of months.

Until then, enjoy the light traffic and the warmer weather – predicted for next week – and count your blessings. These are rough times. CG

Friday, August 6 – The week ends and so does the Transbay Terminal

Wednesday and Friday rides take off once again in the chilly gray fog. (I stayed home Thursday). Amazing that only 10 miles away it’s 80 and 90 degree weather. We are cursed with this heavy fog bank along the coast of California this summer and it is a drag. Refreshing, no doubt for visitors from the steamy east. After a frosty 10-minute wait, Wednesday’s ride is a Toyota SUV. The driver was a high energy guy in a crisp dress shirt and jeans. A big good morning. As I handed over my toll dollar I asked him if the riders were all paying up. “Oh yes, everyone is real good about it”. The other passenger pays $1.25.

Today (Friday) I was happy to see a line of about 20 or 30 cars waiting for riders. I hopped into a Nissan SUV driven by an Islander-looking lady in a bright chartreuse sweater. A crystal bead rosary swung from the mirror as we took off, flying down the nearly empty freeway at 70 mph. One cup holder appears to hold toll donations, the other was filled with yellow butterscotch candies in shiny cellophane. The cool air was on (it’s 54 degrees) – an ongoing mystery to me why drivers turn on the air conditioning in this weather. Near Berkeley a lone pelican flapped through the super heavy gray fog over the freeway blanketing the bay area this morning. I saw the rest of his flock further on down the freeway, swooping, as only pelicans can, over the bay. The Golden Gate Bridge was invisible in the muck and the city appeared to end at Nob Hill. We whizzed past a nearly empty toll plaza and into the city at 8 a.m.

I walked up to the Transbay Terminal for my last bus ride from the 70 year-old building. Demolition begins next week. I asked the driver, “This is the last day I’ll catch my bus here, right?”. “Yah, historical day”, he says with a heavy Russian accent. “Very historical.” He’s excited about the change in locations and goes on to give me a completely incomprehensible description of the new bus routing and where I’ll be catching my bus on Monday. But I’ll figure it out – the new temporary terminal is only a couple of blocks away and is highly visible – all white metal struts poking up into the air. The driver adds that the original plan was to have the buses pull inside the terminal to pick up passengers, but that changed when the city realized it could make better ($) use of the indoor space for vendors, so riders will continue to catch buses outside, as we have been doing at the old terminal.

And so the fifth week of the new bridge tolls ends. And the end of the summer that never was is not far off. But here’s the weekend once again and let’s make the most of it. See you Monday.

Tuesday, August 3 The popular cars

Plenty of cars once again, and my ride today is an older Hyundai sedan. Driver is a big guy and the rear seat passenger is too. I feel small and squashed in the front seat, which has been moved forward to accommodate Mr. Big Guy in the rear. Traffic is plentiful, too, but all lanes are moving at 65 mph and then some. I put a dollar in the little tray under the dash (it doesn’t look like the other rider contributed, unless the driver tucked it away). It’s drizzly and grey and this morning’s local weather people say today will be the warmest of the week, with even cooler weather ahead through the weekend. We need a break! I’m sick of this.

We’re listening to KFOG radio and staying warm with the heater on (thank you!). The radio folks are talking about the most popular stolen car this year, which is the Cadillac Escalade, a vehicle I don’t think I’ve ever ridden in. I had to look up the Escalade and see exactly what it is – it’s a big, luxury SUV, that actually comes with a standard antitheft ignition immoblizer. Which should prevent it from being started without a real key. But thieves, ingenious devils that they are, simply put these vehicles on flatbed trucks and haul them away. Number two on the most popular cars to steal is the Ford F-250 crew 4WD (2008 and 2009 models). I was amazed to see the Hummer appear as Number six on the list – it seems like it would be quite a feat to steal a Hummer, and to keep it stolen! However, most car thefts are SUVs, especially the big luxury types, and large pickups. And most stolen vehicles are plundered for their parts, rather than for the ride itself; pickups are frequently stolen because they commonly carry tools and equipment, which can be sold.

The top ten most frequently stolen cars, then are:
1. the Escalade
2. the Ford F0250
3. Infiniti 637
4. Dodge Charger HEMI
5. Chevrolet Corvette
6. Hummer HW
7. Nissan Pathfinder Armada
8. Chevrolet Avalanche 1500
9. Chevrolet Silverado 1500 crew
10. GMC Yukon

So what do you think the safest car is (safe, that is from being stolen)? It’s the Volvo S80, followed by Saturn VUE, Nissan Murano, Honda Pilot, Subaru Imprez, Toyota Prius, Mini Cooper (a surprise to me!), Toyota Tacoma double, and the Toyota Sienna.

The car I drive, a Hyundai Elantra, made neither list. And most of the cars I carpool in frequently are not on those lists either, although I have ridden in three of the ‘safe’ cars – the Prius, the Mini Cooper, the Toyota Tacoma. I’ve had one ride in a Hummer (a real non-event) and I felt like I had betrayed humanity just by being a carpool passenger in one of those overgrown, ostentatious gas guzzlers.

With the exception, maybe, of the Prius, I would like to see all of those cars vanish and be replaced with cars whose lifeblood is not petroleum. And these cars are in the works. Nissan has already produced the LEAF, a little electric hatchback that gets 100 miles on a charge, and is a good little car for daily commutes. Chevrolet is about to launch the VOLT later this year, an electrical hybrid with a gasoline backup. Next year there will be more to choose from, and at better prices. These hybrids and electrics are still pretty pricey, however there are federal and some state tax breaks that bring the prices down a bit.

With the future of ‘popular’ cars looking smaller, less grotesque, and consuming little or no gas, I wonder what the the car thieves will go after then? Maybe they can just raid the salvage yards. That’s where those popular cars belong.

Monday, August 2 The end of summer

Happy August! An amazingly long line of cars, winding around the block, a few riders walking up to the line. But wait – as we pull into the carpool area, here are 2 girls en route to the line, who have decided to just jump into the last car in the line. Nice for the driver, he won’t have to wait 10 or 15 minutes, or more, like everyone else! Bad for the drivers waiting patiently in the line ahead. It’s not nice to cheat, carpoolers!

I am in the front seat of a Toyota Camry. Asian-american older fellow driving. No talk, just barely a hello. The rear passenger pays $1.25 – not me, I’m paying a dollar, take it or leave it. The heat is on and it’s cozy in the car. We breeze along at 60 mph, sorry for the other 3 lines that seem to be stuck in gridlock. The congested traffic in the non-carpool lanes continues for 5 or 6 miles and then mysteriously ends. It is gray and foggy, and getting foggier by the minute. The driver has to turn on his wipers to clear the drizzle. Across the bay from Berkeley, San Francisco has become invisible in the fog. We round the Eastshore Park passing the shoreline ponds and there is a young (or very small) egret, clumsily splashing about all by himself. En route to carpool this morning I saw a group of Canadian Geese, browsing through the grasses in a roadside park. The bird migrations south must be beginning.

And summer is nearly over. The summer we only glimpsed for a week or two in May.

Thursday & Friday’s rides – July 29 & 30 – And some numbers after the first tolling month

Knowing that the sun will eventually beat back the fog later today and that it will warm up – a little – keeps me going while I stand shivering in this morning’s short line. It’s been a dilemma how to dress each day. A heavy coat is too hot to wear home in the late afternoon, but it sure feels good in the morning. Warm scarves have become my daily accessory. I pass up the first ride – a sporty 2 seat Mercedes, S-500, I think. Too small, too fast, not safe. The next ride is also a Mercedes – a large comfy and safer C-240. No heat in the car, but I’ll survive. I pay my dollar, the other passenger pays $1.25, so this morning’s ride costs our driver a quarter in tolls. Hey, he’s got a Mercedes – he can handle it, right?

Another long line of cars and I am in a Toyota Corolla. I and the rear passenger hand over our toll contribution, which is graciously received. A very stylish driver with a great hair cut, who actually looks terrific in her Friday jeans! I mention the construction work going on by the Vallejo Ferry Terminal (new parking structure plus re-modeled Ferry terminal building) and that starts a lively conversation that lasts the entire commute – about Vallejo and its future. She’s a former San Franciscan, who moved to Vallejo several years ago, where she bought a home. “I couldn’t afford to buy in the City.” However, she’s come to realize that her commute expense has made it more expensive to NOT live in San Francisco. “But I could never have bought a house there, and that’s the trade-off.” She’s excited about the potential in Vallejo. Especially, she says, after a conversation she had with a recent casual carpool rider. “He was amazing! He had so many great ideas and actually knew how they could be implemented.” These included, among many other things, corporate headquarters on Mare Island and a light rail connection from Vallejo to BART. She encouraged him to run for office and we agreed that anyone with that kind of visionary energy has an obligation to put it into action. A great ride.

Both the Chronicle and Examiner carried front page stories yesterday (Thursday, July 29, 2010) with the latest data on the new bridge toll. The numbers were compared to last July’s traffic and this year there were over 12,000 fewer daily carpoolers on ALL the bay area toll bridges. On the Bay Bridge, the number dropped by 5,350, a 29% decrease from the same time last year. Total traffic also decreased from last year by 3,531 vehicles a day, an 8 1/2% decrease. It looks like some carpoolers may have switched to BART – there were about 1,500 more BART morning commuters in July. Less traffic also meant that the maximum delay on the bridge dropped from 19 minutes to 10 minutes.

These numbers undoubtedly reflect the traditionally light traffic during the summer, as well as job loss. The unemployment rate in California is 12.3%, just below Nevada (14.2% and Michigan 13.2%) and in San Francisco, unemployment is up to 10.5%, almost a 1 percent increase from last year.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission is happy with the numbers, and calls the new tolls a success. “We’re raising revenue and seeing decreased congestion”, Steve Heminger, executive director of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission told the Chronicle.

Having fewer people carpooling doesn’t seem like a success story to me, but I guess it depends on your perspective. We’ll see how wonderful it is to have fewer people carpooling come September and more cars on the road.

Find a warm spot to enjoy the weekend. Back on Monday. CG

Wednesday, July 28 The Old Transbay Terminal – last chance to see it

I arrive at the Vallejo carpool line at 7:30 a.m. and am greeted with a wonderful long line of cars, all patiently waiting. My ride is a VW Passat, a great car. I recognize this driver and have ridden with him before. Suit and tie guy in his 50s, careful driver, nice temperature in the car. I give him $1, the rear passenger gives $1.25 and off we go. Traffic is still vacation-light and when we reach the toll gates, they are nearly empty. I glance at the on-going new bridge construction and remember this is an historic day for the new bay bridge. The first piece of the 525 foot tower will be put in place today. Once completed and lit up, it’s going to make a powerful architectural statement – one giant tower holding the cables for the 4 1/2 mile span.

Another major transportation project begins next week with the closing of the old Transbay Terminal at 1st and Mission Streets. Check out the website (www.transbaycenter.org). The proposed animated sketches you see are a HUGE departure from the old building – very light and airy. Construction on the new permanent terminal, which will be located where the old one now stands, will be ongoing for the next 7 years, and will centralize the region’s entire transportation network, including Caltrain and the High Speed Rail.

When the old terminal closes next Friday, August 6, all bus service will move to the new temporary terminal at Howard and Main Streets. A full list of bus stops at the temporary terminal can be seen at http://www.temporaryterminal.org. Us casual carpoolers, who line up on Beale, between Howard and Folsom, will have a front row view of the action at the temporary terminal, which is right across the street from our line up area.

The changes aren’t good news for everyone. Besides displacing a number of permanent homeless residents who’ve come to call the Terminal home, the demolishing of the 70-year old structure will end the lives of the giant trees that have provided shade, homes for hundreds of birds and one of the few living green environments in the south-of-Market chaos.

If you want a last look at the old terminal before it’s blasted away, there are hourly guided tours this FRIDAY, JULY 30. Meet at the ground floor entrance at 1st & Mission Street at noon, 1 pm, 2 pm, 3 pm or 4 pm.