China, environment, publictransport

The Beijing Underground; and Meltdown Live

Roving China correspondent Josh Chin has filed a brief video report with the Wall Street Journal on Beijing’s growing transit system. It’s done well, and for being just a few minutes long, feels awfully comprehensive. My favorite is this Chinese kid who grew up in Switzerland and in documenting the entire subway system online.

And if you’re online right now, and interested in such things, you can watch a live stream of Meltdown: The Impact of Climate Change on the Tibetan Plateau, hosted by the Asia Society and chinadiaologue, by visiting the society’s main webpage. Here is the day’s schedule, all times Eastern Standard:

8:00 am: Registration and Coffee

8:45 am: Welcome (Webcast begins)

9:00 am: Tibet on Film

* Michael Zhao, Center on US-China Relations
* David Breashears, Arcturus Pictures

10:00 am: Himalayan Meltdown

* Lonnie Thompson, School of Earth Sciences, Ohio State University
* Yao Tandon, Chinese Academy of Sciences

11:30 am: Plateau Survival

* Emily Yeh, University of Colorado, Boulder
* Daniel Miller, US Agency for International Development, New Delhi
* Yonten Nyima, University of Colorado, Boulder
* Julia Klein, Colorado State University

1:00 – 1:45 pm: Break

1:45 pm: A Region at Risk

* Saleemul Huq, Climate Change Group, International Institute for Environment and Development
* Katherine Morton, Department of International Relations, Australian National University
* Lara Hansen, WWF Global Climate Change Program

3:00 pm: Organizer Remarks

* Robert Barnett, Modern Tibetan Studies, Columbia University
* Elizabeth Economy, Council on Foreign Relations
* Isabel Hilton, chinadialogue
* Orville Schell, Asia Society Center on US-China Relations

4:00 pm: Afternoon Keynote Address

* Rajendra Pachauri, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Nobel Laureate

5:00 pm: Closing Reception

(If you have a Mac, you may need to install the latest version of the Flip4Mac plugin to watch the webcast. Check Flip4Mac in your system preferences to see if you need an update, or just click this link to download.)

environment, publictransport, San Francisco

Who Says the Bay Area is Any Different From the Rest of the Country?

Today may be the hottest day of the year. The hot weather wreaks havoc with our air quality, and a few friends have remarked on the thick layer of smog that settled over San Francisco yesterday (imagine the view in this photo, but browner). Normally, Pacific winds keep us cool and blow all of our pollution into the East Bay and the Central Valley, home to some of the nation’s worst air.

And so the Bay Area Air Quality Management District has declared today the first “Spare the Air” day of the year. That means commuters can ride any of 25 regional public transportation systems for free today and tomorrow (another Spare the Air day), in an effort to encourage people to leave their cars at home. The question is, will they?

One of the San Francisco Chronicle‘s more entertaining sections is 2 ¢ents, a forum in which a pool of readers answer a question posed by the newspaper. I’ve never lived in a place where the local paper had one of these features, and when I first saw it, I thought it was a joke like The Onion‘s “American Voices.”

Today’s question: “What would get you to use public transportation for your commute?” A good question, since that’s the point of the free rides on a Spare the Air day like today. As a daily public transportation rider for the last four-and-a-half years, I believe higher ridership would help prompt our transportation administrators to improve services. (Of course, if they improved services first, ridership would probably go up as a result. Chicken or egg, you know?) Some people made good points (e.g., “People shouldn’t have to use sites like just to figure out how off-schedule our buses and trains really are.”). Nearly all of them complained about public transit and gave reasons why they still would not ride it. One of my favorites was this guy:

What would it take to get you to use public transit? My daily transit history is as follows:

  • February 2002–December 2003: Muni and Caltrain
  • January 2004–Present: Muni
  • August 2006–June 2008 (anticipated): Muni and BART
money, photography, publictransport, San Francisco

We Need More Idled Vintage Trolleys On This Page

Last week, a fire on the BART tracks between the Montgomery and Embarcadero Stations led to public transit delays and downtown road closures. Although the fire itself was apparently a relatively minor incident—no one appeared directly threatened by the fire—the BART response approaches “bungled” status; as smoke seeped into one BART train, inadequately informed passengers grew panicked and confused, rushing through the cars, vaulting over seats. Some of them pried open a door and took the emergency tunnel walkway into Embarcadero Station, preventing the train from backing into Montgomery where everyone could have exited without further incident. Instead, all the passengers had to walk through the tunnel and out at Embarcadero Station (and grumbled when they had to put their cards through the gates to exit, charged for the ride).

When I went to investigate (too late to see much of interest), I didn’t get many pictures. But this one, of trolleys backed up on Market and waiting for the city to open up their path, turned out OK. Says Flickr’s Vision63, “That’s a kick ass perspective. I love the near light and the distant light. And it’s just plain old purty.”

journalism, movies, photography, publictransport, San Francisco

You don’t look 1981.

The following was intended to be blogged, but at the time I had no blog. The related pictures have been viewed more than any of my other, better pictures. But linked to it, so what can you do?

September 21, 2005

I was walking to my train stop at Duboce Park this morning when a woman patrolling the entrance stopped me. “I can’t let you walk through the park.” Why not? “We’re filming a movie. It’s set in 1981. And you don’t look 1981.” So that’s it then.

I never look 1981 enough, though I try and try.

For the last several weeks, I thought San Francisco Muni was building a nice, new stop at Duboce Park, where I get on the train to work. But they built it very quickly, which is not the municipal way. And it had expensive-looking, polished granite exteriors, when we all expect plastic. And it had escalators going underground, which doesn’t make any sense, since it’s an above-ground stop. Then they put up the BART sign.

So if you’re familiar with the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) system you know there is no high-speed electric train line that goes to Duboce Park.

My sources on the street (seriously) said there would be filming today, so I brought my camera. I was late for work, but it was interesting to watch. We don’t get a lot of Hollywood action like Southern California. The movie is called “Pursuit of Happyness.” The scene they were filming showed Will Smith running away from a cab, escaping into Duboce Park. Pictures are of varying quality–some second unit director or something wouldn’t let me get any closer. As usual, I didn’t pass for a Teamster, many of whom are to be seen lounging at stage right.

Hey, it’s Will Smith! Sure, you can click on that photo.
It just means Will will maintain his most-viewed domination.
Help Will crush Su Lin in the rankings, who, like China, is on the ascendant!
There can’t be more Best Actor Oscar winners in the wild than giant pandas, right? So which is really the endangered species?