going green – 511 Contra Costa

Bay Area Bike-Share– Helping Us Get Around (2013)

Bay Area Bike Share launch in San Jose CA
Will the streets of the Bay Area soon be full with a sea of bike-share commuters cycling that last mile from BART to the workplace? Only time will tell. Photo credit: Richard Masoner
The Bay Area is not new to transportation innovations. Last year, we celebrated four successful decades of the visionary commuter rail known as BART, which stills sees climbing ridership  and continues be seen as a model of sustainable transportation for the rest of the nation. Coincidentally, last year also marked the 75th anniversary of another incredible Bay Area infrastructural transportation monument, the Golden Gate Bridge.
Today, the Bay Area is leading the way in California again*, albeit with a subtler and humbler infrastructural feature, but one that nonetheless has the potential to hugely impact the way we move– Bay Area Bike Share. Bay Area Bike Share just launched Thursday, August 29th, so the system is merely in its infancy, but similar systems have been around Europe for a while in cities such as Paris and London, and  New York City was recently graced with its own iconic bike share earlier this year. Stateside, bike-share programs so far has proven to be surprisingly successful, especially in New York and D.C. Here in the Bay Area, bike share seems to have great potential to compliment our existing excellent regional public transport system, which is perhaps why Bay Area Bike Share is initially launching in Downtown San Francisco and along the Caltrain corridor in Redwood City, Palo Alto, Mountain View and San Jose.
Here’s how the system works:

  1. Get a Bay Area Bike Share Membership (or pay for a single day use, but longer membership quickly pay off).
  2. Use Annual Member key or enter your Ride Code (provided to 24-Hour and 3-Day Members) to unlock a bicycle from any station.
  3. RIDE – Run errands, ride to and/or from your BART station, commute to work,  or just go for a spin and use it as a gym membership of sorts!
  4. Return the bike to the nearest station.
  5. Repeat steps 2 through 4. Remember, any trip under 30 minutes is free– and yes you can simply dock a bike and check out a new one for another 30 minutes of charge-free cycling.

Bike-share bikes are NOT intended for long trips and the pricing system reflects this. For example, using a Bay Area Bike Share bike for an hour and a half before returning it to a station, will cost you $12 in addition to your membership fee. Any trip under 30 minutes, however, is completely free after membership fee is paid.
So what are bike share bikes good for? Going to meetings or grabbing a bite to eat on your lunch break; cycling from a BART station to your office (at the moment, most downtown San Francisco BART stations have bike share stations nearby); replacing bus trips under three miles with a bike ride; avoiding having to bring your own bike on BART; the infamous last-mile… The possibilities are many, and as long as your journey takes less than 30 minutes (keep in mind, at a “no sweat” pace, one can easily cover at least three miles on a bicycle), using a Bay Area Bike Share bicycle is free. Because of this structuring, getting an annual membership is particularly enticing as it can save you money, especially if you use it to replace short bus trips and cab rides when getting around congested parts of San Francisco.
So what do you think– are you ready to take a Bay Area Bike Share bicycle for a spin?
For additional information, check out Bay Area Bike Share’s Frequently Asked Questions or Contact page. And if you are on social media, feel free to check out Bay Area Bike Share on TwitterFacebook, Tumblr or Instagram.
*While Bay Area Bike Share is not the first bike share system to launch in California, it is by far the largest and is also distinguished in that it is regional and not confined to a single city, integrating the system well with our existing public transportation network and commuter routes.

Have You Been Enjoying A Better Ride? (2013)

Gillig Suburban Inaugural 11.7.13
New AC Transit bus, the “Gillig Suburban,” offers riders free wifi. Photo credit: AC Transit

In March AC Transit began phasing in a new line of buses built by Bay Area based company Gillig to replace some of the fleet’s older models. In August, AC Transit introduced the New Flyer 60’ articulated buses, which feature 52 seats (and additional room for standing) to handle demand along its most heavily traveled routes (click here to check out the specs of the bus).
Now, as of November 8th, AC Transit has unveiled yet another type of bus to improve service quality for riders, one geared to to accommodate long distance commuters, called the “Gillig Suburban.” These buses have the following features:

Gillig Suburban Inaugural 11.7.13
With seats like that, riding the Gillig Suburban bus could make for a very relaxing commute. Photo credit: AC Transit

  • Passenger-controlled overhead reading lamps
  • High-backed cushioned seats
  • Overhead luggage racks
  • Free wifi

All three new models of buses are part of AC Transit’s “A Better Ride” effort to make bus travel more pleasant and efficient. If you have ridden any of the new types of buses, AC Transit encourages you to provide feedback by sending an email to abetterride@actransit.org.
To keep up with the latest news from AC Transit, check out the agency on facebook, twitter, youtube, or sign up to receive their e-newsletters 

San Francisco Bike Share Is On The Way! (2013)

Melbourne Bike Share - first day
A bike-share dock in Melbourne, Australia. Photo credit: Gavin Anderson
This past month you may have heard about New York City’s historic bike-share launch. New York’s bike-share program continues to incite enthusiasm and excitement, not just for the locals using the system, but for other cities interested in similar bike-share schemes. Here in California one can’t help but to wonder– when will the bike-friendly Bay Area get to enjoy bike-sharing? After all, the Southern Californian city of Anaheim already has bike-sharing (though currently on a very small scale).  Well, worry not, bike-sharing could be coming to San Francisco and the Bay Area as early as this summer! The Huffington Post reports:

San Francisco is already one of the most bike-friendly cities in the country, but it’s about to get even more pedal power when the city’s bike sharing program rolls out this August.
Run by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, in conjunction with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and other local government groups, the $7 million bike sharing program will be a one- to two-year pilot effort to determine how effective bike sharing is as a method of reducing private automobile traffic and the pollution that comes with it.

The SF bike sharing pilot will be studied for its effectiveness in shifting people out of their cars.  It is easy to imagine bike-share being helpful as a means to compliment BART trips and generally help foster multi-modal travel  and the replacement for single-occupant vehicle commute trips.  The system will start with 700 bikes and 70 bike-share stations but if successful, the pilo could expand to as many as 10,000 bikes throughout the Bay Area (which would make it tied for the largest bike-share system in America).
To get an idea of how bike-share generally operates in North America, check out this video produced for D.C.’s Capital Bike-Share program

Video credit: NACTOfilms

For more details about the Bay Area’s approaching bike-share program, head over to SF.Streetsblog.

Paris Bans Cars to Reduce Traffic

people on bikes on carfree seine
People on bikes on car-free Seine. Photo credit: William Lee-Wright
Mayor of Paris, France, Bertrand Delanoe wants his city to live up to its reputation as a relaxed, picturesque oasis but there’s only one problem– there’s too much traffic. So what’s the course of action to change this? Heavily restricted car use.
Al Jazeera’s Rory Challands reported the city’s bold action, noting Paris is perhaps more car crazy than one thinks when imagining people enjoying sidewalk dining on a pedestrian friendly Parisian boulevard:

Modern cities have becomes slaves to the automobile and Paris is no exception. Traffic jams, internal combustion engine and the car horn are as ubiquitous in Paris as they are anywhere. But change is afoot; the petrol powered dreams of the past are choking on their own noxious fumes and a newer, greener, more pedestrian friendly future is being attempted.

The decision to ban cars is part of a greater effort to encourage walking and cycling and make the banks of the Seine River a desirable spot in the city. Mayor Delanoe states simply:

It doesn’t make any sense that for several decades the banks of de Seine have been inaccessible to pedestrians.

Unlike North America cities, Paris, and much of Europe, was developed long before the advent of the automobile and so Delanoe wants to restore lost pedestrian access and reverse decisions in the 1960’s that made the city more car friendly at the expense of travel by foot.

Take a spin of the Going Green Activity Wheel

Looking for a way to green up your life, but need a little inspiration? Want to get the kids involved in the brainstorm?
Try 511CC’s Going Green Activity Wheel!
Many of the suggestions are a little common sense to grown ups: take transit once this week, track how much your household spends on gas, or go exploring on a bike trail.
But the activity wheel is designed to get your kids involved and thinking about how they move around. Read a bedtime story about hydrogen cars. Write your own transit haikus and limericks. Count the seconds you spend at red lights.
You can spin the wheel online, or order your very own free wheel to spin at home. Sadly, this offer is only good for Contra Costa County residents.
Give it a spin, and see where you get (and how)!