Tag Archives: Car-Free Challenge

Institutional change needed to shift car-centric patterns

3 Jun

Though I haven’t owned a car for more than two years, this Car Free Challenge week has made me even more attuned to my travel patterns and how car-centric Oakland is.

Yesterday, I had jury duty. After waiting for a few hours and panicking when the judge said the trial would last 3-4 weeks, I found out that the trial had been canceled because they had reached a negotiation.

But as I waited, I was surprised by how car-focused the Oakland courthouse is. My summons told me which garage to park in. When I arrived, there were instructions on the wall, which included a sign indicating where to pick up parking validation. During the instruction period, the courthouse employee explained the parking validation process further and then explained how we could get mileage reimbursed and again pointed us to the forms.

Never once was I given instructions about how to get to the courthouse by bus, even though it’s just a block from the 72/72M/72R bus stop. Never was I told where I could park a bike. Never was I offered reimbursement for my bus fare.

Changing driving and transportation habits one person at a time via the Car Free Challenge is great, but I don’t think we’ll see a huge shift until our institutions shift their habits. The courthouse needs to review its practices, the City of Oakland needs to stop doling out free parking to hundreds of employees, and employers must offer incentives to use alternative means of transportation. Those changes may be slow to come, but once they’re implemented, I’m confident we’ll see a major shift away from cars and towards transit, biking, and walking.

Sweet Bus Stories

2 Jun

AC<br /> Transit Bus

Everyday of the Car Free Challenge, TransForm sends out an email featuring a contest that urges challenge participants to write a blog post about something particular for a chance to win a prize. Today’s contest involved sharing sweet transportation stories with the prize being chocolate (of course). Though I haven’t shared one of those here recently, I was reminded of some blog posts I’d previously written about sweet bus stories, so I thought I’d share them again.

Community in Motion

Posted on August 13, 2007

One of the things I love about riding the bus is the sense of community. I know many of the bus drivers on my line by now, and at night, when there are few riders on the bus and I’ve had a couple drinks at Radio, I usually chat with the driver for a while. This sense of community sometimes goes beyond the drivers, like today…

As I was riding a fairly empty 1R bus, a young woman with large, dark sunglasses to match her dark, long hair tied back in a ponytail, boarded the bus. As she walked towards the back of the bus, an older woman with a wide brimmed hat and a floral print purse stopped this young woman. The young woman stopped in the aisle, but the older woman asked her to sit down, which she did, across from her. This apparently wasn’t close enough for the woman – who seemed a bit hard of hearing – so she asked the younger woman to sit next to her. She sat down, and pushed her sunglasses back on her head, revealing dark brown, comforting eyes.

I was a few seats back, but I’m a bit nosy sometimes, and I could tell the two didn’t know each other. I’m not sure exactly what they were talking about, but it seemed as if the older woman was asking the younger woman for advice on navigating the legal system. “District Attorney’s office… they could probably find you help… the East Bay Law Center on Shattuck…”

Ultimately, I didn’t care that much about exactly what they were talking about. But it made me smile to see one stranger helping another.

Bus Therapy

Posted on April 8, 2008

Today was a rough day for me. I woke up at 6am to go to Sacramento, did a bunch of running around the Capitol, sat through a long hearing, rode back to Oakland, and participated in a three hour strategy meeting while intermittently taking phone calls about a bill that’s being heard in Sac tomorrow. I practically ran out of my office to the bus, where I waited in the chilling cold wind, imagining the large, cold glass of Pinot Grigio that awaited me at home.

Needless to say, I was a bit grumpy and exhausted by the time I got on the bus, but by the time I disembarked, I had a huge smile on my face.

At 40th street, a man boarded the bus, and I could tell he was negotiating with the bus driver. Then, a woman with a child ran to the bus and made it on, and I realized he had been asking the driver to wait for this stranger. The woman proceeded to negotiate with the bus driver to wait for her friends and children, as they made their way quickly to the bus and piled on. All this time, the bus driver and several riders cracked jokes and enjoyed the high energy of the children. Keep in mind that this is the same bus driver that for the previous portion of the trip had been driving as if he was driving an ambulance, speeding through yellow lights, and stopping several feet away from the curb so he could quickly pull away.

Before I got off the bus, I had a moment to chat with the driver. We commiserated about our long days and how we’d have to do it all over again in the morning, and I found out that this was to be his last trip of the day, before he made it home to his family.

To recap, the bus driver, so eager to get home after a long day, delayed his own gratification to wait for a few mothers and their young children, and he did so with a considerable amount of cheeriness.

This is what I call bus therapy, and for $1.25 a session, it’s one of the best deals in Oakland.

The magical bus ride

Posted on July 15, 2009
Yesterday evening, riding the 1 on my way home from work, I heard a girl, probably about 6 or 7 years old, ask her mom, “What if the bus doesn’t stop?”

Her mom turned to her, smiling, and said, “Don’t worry, it will.”

I smiled to myself, thinking about what a sweet question it was and trying to remember back to the time when parents transported me around and transportation seemed a bit mystical and magical. I’d get in the car, sit back, and then all of a sudden arrive where we were going. Or in this girl’s case, she hops on the bus, sits back, and suddenly arrives, with the bus driver magically knowing where to stop.

A bit later, the mother pulled the cord and then she, the daughter, and the girl’s father all started walking towards the front door before the bus pulled up to their stop. They left the bus quickly, and the mom thanked the bus driver as she was leaving. The little girl then thanked the bus driver too.

That reminded me that it’s never too early to learn (or teach) bus etiquette.

June 1-6 Oakland Political & Community Events

1 Jun

Happy Car Free Challenge Week!

I went away for the weekend on a much needed vacation and am pressed for time so this week I’ll just be listing the events with links for further info. In honor of Car Free Challenge Week, I’m also listing ways to get to these events via public transit.

Tuesday, June 1 – Oakland City Council Meeting

AC Transit: 1/1R, 11, 12, 14, 18, 20, 40, 51A, 72/72M/72R
BART: 12th Street

Wednesday, June 2 – Special AC Transit Meeting on Service Cuts

AC Transit: 1/1R, 11, 12, 18, 51A, 72/72M/72R, NL
BART: 12th Street or 19th Street

Wednesday, June 2 – Gateway Park Public Workshop: First Concepts: Design Ideas for Gateway Park

AC Transit: 1/1R, 11, 12, 18, 51A, 72/72M/72R, NL
BART: 19th Street

Thursday, June 3 – Bench and Bar Happy Hour Fundraiser for Rebecca Kaplan

AC Transit: 1/1R, 11, 12, 18, 51A, 72/72M/72R, NL
BART: 19th Street

Friday, June 4 – Ferment Change: A Cultured Dinner for City Slicker Farms

AC Transit: 11, 12, 51A, NL
BART: 19th Street

Saturday, June 5 – Bluegrass for the Greenbelt: The Fifth Annual Benefit Concert for Greenbelt Alliance

AC Transit: 45, 57
BART: San Leandro BART (Greenbelt Alliance will provide a free shuttle to the Dunsmuir Estate from BART.)

Sunday, June 6 – Temescal Street Fair

AC Transit: 1, 12, 18, 26, 57
BART: MacArthur

Just a few more days until the Car Free Challenge starts

28 May

I don’t know how this crept up on me so quickly, but TransForm’s Car Free Challenge starts next week! I was reminded of it because yesterday I opened my mailbox and saw a package from TransForm. I had forgotten that one of the perks of joining the challenge is this awesome shirt:

If you want one of these, the only way to get one is to join the Car Free Challenge. And when you do, please join the Blogoaksphere Team. I had hoped to have time over the past few weeks to do individual outreach to bloggers, but alas, my life’s been keeping me pretty damn busy so this post will have to suffice. So far there are just two of us on the team, and I know there are many more bloggers and blog readers who support TransForm and alternatives to driving. And it’s just a week long commitment to stop driving or to drive fewer miles – I know many of you can do it!

So don’t procrastinate any longer. Join the challenge, join the team, and look out for an awesome package from TransForm, which should be a nice respite from all the campaign mail you’ll be receiving next week.

Join the Blogoaksphere Car-Free Challenge Team!

14 May

Last week, I wrote about TransForm’s Car-Free Challenge. I hope some of you have registered to take the challenge. It’s only a week-long this year and supports an incredible Oakland-based organization.

But if you haven’t, another incentive to join is to be part of the Blogoaksphere Team. Last year, several Oakland bloggers and blog readers took the challenge, but I neglected to create a team and ended up regretting it. The blogoaksphere has joined together in the past to support transit, stop parking lots from being built, and stop the wasteful and inequitable Oakland Airport Connector. So let’s join together again and see how few miles the blogoaksphere can drive.

Besides helping the environment, saving money, and bringing attention to an important issue, you’ll also have fun. TransForm is throwing a couple of parties for Car-Free Challenge participants, and offering individual and group prizes throughout the Challenge.

Don’t delay. Sign up for the Car-Free Challenge now and then join the Blogoaksphere Team.

If the registration fee is a barrier to you, you can still support the challenge and team by spreading the word to friends, coworkers, and family. And if you’re an Oakland blogger, please spread the word about the challenge and the team on your blog.

The wedding exit of my dreams…

6 May

As I’ve mentioned here before, I’ve been super busy planning my wedding. One of the things that popped up on my wedding planning checklist is to book transportation for the wedding. Fortunately, that’s not an expense we need to cover or a task we need to deal with. Unfortunately, our wedding is going to involve a whole bunch of driving, since it’s at Chabot Space and Science Center and there’s no bus service there on the weekends.

If only we could leave our wedding like this:

I can dream, right?

But more importantly, I can make up for our wedding’s dependence on car travel by taking TransForm’s Car Free Challenge. I took the challenge last year, and going nearly carless for a month was harder than I could have imagined (and I don’t even own a car!). This year, they’re making it a bit easier by running the challenge for a week instead of a month, June 1-7.

I’m going to take the challenge again. It’s going to be a struggle to set my goal because I have a meeting in San Leandro the first Wednesday of every month. I usually BART there and get a ride home, but a ride home would change my goal from zero miles to 13.4 miles. So I might just have to suck it up and take BART to the bus and get home after 10pm.

Whether you’re carless, extremely car dependent, or somewhere in between, consider taking the Car Free Challenge. You’ll bring attention to an important issue, have a real impact on the environment, and probably will save some money.

If you plan on taking the challenge, let me know. Last year they had teams and I thought it would be fun to start a blogoaksphere team this year. I’ll coordinate it if there’s enough interest. (Update: I’ve set up the blogoaksphere team. Please join!)

The freedom of a 31 day bus pass

11 Jun

A year ago, I decided to switch from purchasing single ride fares to buying an AC Transit 31 day bus pass every month. I have to admit that I went back and forth for months before doing so, trying to figure out what made the most sense financially. I figured out how many rides I’d have to take for the value of the 31 day pass to kick in (40) and tried to figure out how often I rode the bus every month, which varies greatly. Ultimately, I decided to go for it, even though I didn’t imagine it would save me more than $5 or maybe $10 per month.

Now, I’m sure it usually saves me more than that, but the savings have turned out to be not the only (or primary) benefit of having a 31 day bus pass. Having the pass has instilled me with a sort of transit freedom that I hadn’t felt since giving up my car because I no longer have to calculate the cost of individual bus trips.

In the past, for example, I might try to do my grocery shopping by walking. This would often create more trouble then it was worth because I could only buy a limited amount of groceries, and it was mostly because I didn’t want to pay $1.75 for the return bus trip, just to ride 10 blocks. Now, I wouldn’t think twice and hop on the bus with my groceries.

This freedom goes far beyond regular errands though. Sometimes I’m out with friends and someone offers me a ride home, but I want to stay out a bit later. In the past, I might have taken the ride, but now I know I can stay out as long as I wish and take the bus home. Or a few weeks ago, I was looking for a couple particular clothing items so I walked down to check out a few stores near Rockridge BART, but found nothing. Before having the 31 day pass, I probably would have just walked home, but instead, I hopped on the 51 down to Berkeley and was able to find one of the items I was looking for. Then I hopped on the 51 back home. And transferring buses is now something I don’t think twice about – I don’t have to worry how much time lapses in between and there’s no additional cost to me.

Having a monthly bus pass has been a huge help in taking the Car-Free Challenge! I honestly don’t think I could make it through this month without it.

A 31 day pass is probably not for everyone, especially for those who walk, bike, or BART to work, but if you’re a frequent bus rider, it’s worth looking into. And now is the perfect time to do it, since it currently costs $70 but will go up to $80 on July 1 (when all fares will increase). So consider taking the plunge, and join me in enjoying the freedom of a 31 day bus pass.

Living in the O’s Second Birthday

8 Jun

A couple years ago, I read Beth Bagwell’s Oakland: The Story of a City and realized how enchanted I had become with Oakland. So I created a WordPress account, thought up a blog name, and put up this header picture:


Then I wrote, and wrote, and somehow managed to keep this blog alive and running for two years. I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on blogging and my growth as an Oakland activist, but I pretty much covered all of that on A Better Oakland’s anniversary.

I have to admit that when I started this blog, it was mostly just to force myself to write regularly and I never thought I’d have more than a few regular readers. This blog was just an outlet for me. But since more of you have been reading and commenting, I feel even more compelled to write regularly.

So I want to thank all the Living in the O readers, whether you’ve been with me for the full two years or whether you just found my blog. You’re the reason I’ve started to do investigative reporting. You’re the reason I bother with action alerts that sometimes have had huge impacts. You’re the reason I keep tabs on all the events going on in Oakland every week.

Living in the O will hopefully be around for another year, and I hope you’ll stick with me. If you’d like to give back, I’d greatly appreciate it if you would donate to TransForm via my Car-Free Challenge page.

Taking the Car-Free Challenge

4 Jun

This month, TransForm is hosting the Car-Free Challenge, and yesterday I signed up to participate. What is the car-free challenge?

During the month of June the average Bay Area resident will drive 540 miles (that’s 135 miles/week) and the average American driver more than 1,000 miles. Think you can do better?

Join a huge community of people from California and around the country in setting and reaching a personal low mileage goal in the month of June – plus win great prizes and share your stories of taking transit, walking, and bicycling.

Whether driving less (or not at all) is stretch for you or already a way of life, we want you to take the Challenge!

Together we will send a powerful message to our leaders that a critical mass of people want to drive less and live more.

I gave up my car more than a year ago, so I mostly get around by the bus or walking (in case you didn’t know, I’m terrified of riding my bike in Oakland). Still, I sometimes drive my girlfriend’s car or get a ride, and I’m guessing those short trips add up. So this month I’ll be tracking my miles and aiming to drive 20 miles or less. I’ll also be writing, both here and at my car-free challenge blog, about my experiences with this challenge and about my mostly car-free life.

You should get involved too. Here are two ways you can help out:

1. Support me in my challenge by donating to TransForm. My initial goal is to raise $100, but I hope to surpass that and set a new goal. TransForm is an incredible group that does political advocacy and education on transportation and land use issues (they used to be called the Transportation and Land Use Coalition). They have taken the lead in fighting for an alternative to the Oakland Airport Connector and have also been instrumental in advocating for AC Transit’s bus rapid transit project. Whether you can donate $5 or $500, everything makes a difference.

2. Sign up for the Car-Free Challenge. It’s simple to create a page, track your miles, and tell the world about your experience. Besides being a great cause, there’s fun involved. At the end of the challenge, TransForm will be hosting not one, or two, but three parties for challenge participants. They’ll also be giving out many prizes. So sign up today!