Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Lake Transit drivers’ strike suspended

According to an email from Mark Wall, general manager for Lake Transit Authority, the proposed Dec. 3 to 5 Teamsters strike of Paratransit Services, the operations contractor for Lake Transit, has been suspended and the parties have agreed to an additional meeting with a federal mediator to help resolve differences.

Wall wrote, “My understanding is that, if there is a strike, it likely would not occur until January. This, of course, is great news for all involved, but particularly for Lake Transit passengers and those workers who contribute everyday to their safe and affordable transportation.”

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Lake Transit drivers to strike

Attention bus commuters: Lake Transit drivers plan to strike from Dec. 3 to 5. The drivers are represented by Teamsters Local No. 665.

Lake Transit Authority general manager Mark Wall stated today that at a minimum, the contractor, Paratransit Services, will maintain local routes and Dial-a-Ride in the Clearlake/Lower Lake area.

According to Wall, the next priority will be Lakeport Dial-a-Ride and then other routes based on operating staff needs and ridership demand.

For up-to-date information about any changes or reductions to fixed routes and Dial-a-Ride, call 707-263-3334 or 707-994-3334 or visit

Monday, September 24, 2012

Ride the bus ‘like a pro’

Rogue Valley Transportation District bus
Image source: Rogue Valley Transportation District on Facebook
If I was in Medford, Ore. today, I could learn to ride the bus “like a pro” courtesy of Rogue Valley Transportation District (RVTD). A bus commuter skills class takes place from 3 to 4:30 p.m. at Medford’s Santo Center.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Cyclist Fiedler updates blog at libraries

Bicycle packed with camping gear
Derek Fiedler/Bike and Thrive Tour
One of the most intriguing columns in American Libraries magazine, published by the American Library Association, is How the World Sees Us. It features statements about libraries curated from a variety of sources.

These statements fascinate me for their insight into how people perceive libraries.

A recent feature by Record-Bee columnist Peyton Clarkson features such a public perception, as expressed by 23-year-old cyclist Derek Fiedler during his Bike and Thrive tour in August.

As related by Clarkson:
“Traveling from Portland, Ore. to Boulder, Colo. with nothing more than his steel-framed Bianchi bike and about 50 pounds of gear, Fiedler rode an average of 90 miles a day, sometimes as many as 120 miles, to complete his journey from Aug. 4 to 29.
“‘My ultimate goal was to find a way of traveling based on my own power with the perfect balance of enjoyment, suffering and exploring, also to find freedom. Unlike hitchhiking, you are not relying on other people or petroleum gas, just your own power. It felt completely liberating,’ Fiedler said.”
Fiedler documented his tour on his Tumblr account. “But maintaining an Internet presence in the middle of a national forest is not easy.”

The solution? Fiedler maintained his blog at libraries:
“‘I stopped at 20 to 25 libraries. They are really our society’s bastion of information. Like public transportation, public libraries are a great way to be self-sustaining,’ Fiedler said.”
This library volunteer thanks you, Fiedler and Clarkson, for highlighting the role of libraries in being able to communicate online.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Water on tap for presidential inauguration

According to Corporate Accountability International (CAI), U.S. Senator Charles Schumer has committed to ensuring that tap water will be served at the presidential inauguration.
“New York Sen. Charles Schumer said in a letter to Corporate Accountability International that just as Washington tap water is available in the Capitol every day, it will be available at inaugural ceremonies.”
Schumer heads the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies.

As reported by HuffPost: DC on Aug. 23,  Schumer announced in August that New York-based Saratoga Springs Water would supply water for the inauguration.

CAI credited public outcry and national media attention with Schumer’s changed stance.

In a letter, George S. Hawkins, general manager of the D.C. water authority, asked Schumer to serve tap water instead of bottled water. The letter said tap water costs 1 penny per gallon, while bottled water costs 100 times more.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Lakeport needs more bus shelters

Lake Transit sign with yarnbombing tag
 Lake Transit stop near the Lakeport Library
(with a yarn bombing tag, but that's another story)
When a fellow bus commuter learned I was going to write about the need for waste containers at Lake Transit stops, she brought up what has been another concern: the absence of any benches and shelters at many Lakeport stops.

There were major bus stop improvements during 2011-12 as noted in the annual report on the Aug. 8 Lake Transit Authority agenda.

The report credits partnerships with Konocti Unified School District, Clearlake Rotary Club and Lake County Public Works for major improvements to several stops.

 I am profoundly grateful for the shelter from which I begin my commute to work. But I would like to suggest a target area for improvements in the coming year.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Would you give up your seat on public transit?

Ian Hill asks, “When do you give up your seat on public transportation?” on the KQED News newsfix blog. The question elicited some opinionated responses, which Hill compiled with Storify. Great reading for we “straphangers” who commute by public transit.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Book advocates greater investment in public transit

Cover: Straphanger by Taras Grescoe

For the past three weeks, my daily commute on Lake Transit has offered me an occasion to read Straphanger by Taras Grescoe (Times Books, 2012).

Grescoe, like me, is a “straphanger,” defined as “somebody who, by choice or necessity, relies on public transport, rather than a privately owned automobile.”

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

We need trash containers at bus stops

Trash can attached to CityBus pole in Santa Rosa
Trash can attached to CityBus pole in Santa Rosa
Discarded drink containers are a blemish on the landscape at our Lake Transit stops. The problem is that when drivers very reasonably prohibit boarding by people with flimsy cups, the people leave them on the ground.

At the bus shelter at Highway 29 and Young Street, a container is in place for trash and for recyclables but only because my husband and I dragged it from its original location down the street.

Bus shelter with waste container next to it
Jonathan and I dragged a trash and recycling container from down the street
to its new location at this Lake Transit stop
(This same container is too seldom emptied, however, and is once again near overflowing.)

At the majority of stops, trash containers are non-existent and garbage is left on the ground or, at those stops that have shelters, is left on the seats or seat backs.

Disposable cup on bus shelter bench
Disposable cup left on bus shelter bench
During a recent walk in downtown Santa Rosa, I found a possible solution: a sturdy metal waste container attached directly to the pole designating a CityBus stop.

Next time a person faces the dilemma of being unable to board his or her bus with a plastic cup that is prone to spilling, how simple would it be to provide similar containers where bus patrons and walkers-by can conveniently dispose of their trash?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

‘Straphanger: Making a Case for Public Transport’

Cover art: Straphanger
Cover image: Straphanger by Taras Grescoe
To my list of must-read books, add Straphanger by Taras Grescoe (Times Books, 2012). An excerpt from the book’s introduction is published at

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Considerable gap between transit and auto costs

Microsoft Excel spreadsheet: Percent of income spent on transportation
Cost of travel for transit-proximate and car-dependant households
Source of data: Taras Grescoe, citing Brookings Institute study
From Taras Grescoe, author of Straphanger (Times Books, 2012), comes this amazing statistic about the cost of travel in households that are near public transit versus those that rely upon cars:
“According to a Brookings Institution study, transit-proximate households in the United States devote only 9 percent of their income to transportation compared to 25 percent for the car dependent.”
Book cover: Straphanger by Taras Grescoe
Cover: Straphanger
by Taras Grescoe
The book has accompanied me during my bus commute each day. I used Microsoft Excel to create this chart, which visualizes the considerable gap between transportation costs.

Clearly, the cost of auto travel adds up and I need only compare the monthly cost of my Lake Transit pass -- $40 for the entire month -- and the cost to fill up the tank -- at least $40 a week.

Grescoe cites additional health benefits for relying upon public transit:
“Because every trip to a bus stop or subway station starts with a walk, transit users in the United States average 19 minutes of walking a day -- close to the 22 minutes a day recommended by the U.S. Center for Disease Control.”
Grescoe recommends the use of, which rates neighborhoods nationwide from 0, completely car-dependent, to 100 for a “Walker’s Paradise.”

My neighborhood, I was pleased to note, rates 75, very walkable.

Straphanger (388.4 GRESCOE) can be found through the combined catalog system of our Lake, Mendocino and Sonoma County libraries. An excerpt from the book’s introduction is published at

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Did someone say ‘graph’?: Taras Grescoe’s carbon emissions

Chart displaying carbon emissions for kerosene-fueled jet, diesel-fueled car and electric train
Carbon emissions for kerosene-fueled jet, diesel-fueled car and electric train
Source of data: Taras Grescoe, citing the Deutsche Bahn website
Straphanger by Taras Grescoe (Times Books, 2012) has accompanied me this week on my daily Lake Transit commute.

Grescoe, like me, is a “straphanger,” defined as “somebody who, by choice or necessity, relies on public transport, rather than a privately owned automobile.” His book argues for greater investment in public transportation and less dependence upon automobiles.

During last night’s reading, I encountered a comparison of Grescoe’s 1,000-mile journey by train from Paris to Copenhagen with other forms of travel.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Bottled water labeling

Ashland Food Co-op logo stainless steel water bottles
From the Ashland Food Co-op website:
Reuseable water bottles are environmentally-responsible
alternative to single-serving bottled water has compiled a glossary of bottled-water labeling terms and what they say about the water’s origins. The essay cites a finding by SymphonyIRI Group: that sales of bottled water increased 2 percent, to $7.8 billion, from August 2010 to August 2011.

Terms include Artesian, Distilled, Mineral, Purified, Sparkling and Spring. Among the terms is P.W.S., which stands for “Public water source” or municipal water supply.

“Whatever the bottle says, don’t be misled by crisp blue labels and pictures of mountains,” the essay states: “Forty-seven percent of the bottled water sold in the U.S. is tap water that’s been purified, according to data from the Beverage Marketing Association, a trade group.”

Given the cost of purchasing something that I could get free from the tap, especially since the likelihood is that it was bottled from tap water anyway, I think it much more attractive -- and environmentally sustainable -- to use a refillable water bottle.

Read the complete essay at

My thanks to TapItWater for bringing attention to this essay, assisted by a re-tweet on Twitter by Matt Weiser of the Sacramento Bee.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Next steps for AFC climate-friendly transportation

Bike giveaway promotion from April 10 at Ashland Food Co-op
From its Facebook page: on April 10, the Ashand Food Co-op promoted
an opportunity to win a bike offered by Honest Tea
The highlight for me reading the Ashland Food Co-op’s 2011 Annual Report that arrived in the mail this week was the annual report upon its social responsibility. From a portion that addresses climate-friendly transportation:
“We have a number of programs in place to encourage climate-friendly transportation. We provide secure parking for bicycle commuters and shoppers, and we give weekly prizes to employees who walk, bike, and carpool. We have a program to collect bikes from the community, repair them, and give them to employees for free. In 2011 six employees received free refurbished bicycles, and several others received free bicycle repairs and parts.”
I appreciate this emphasis upon alternatives to single-occupant auto use but would like to suggest additional objectives for the sustainability committee:

  • Promote commuting by bus with the Rogue Valley Transportation District’s new employer bus pass program. “By providing transit options to your employees, your business will be rewarded by a reduction in parking requirements, a healthier staff, and by improved employee and community relations.” According to the RVTD, the monthly price of bus fare is $3.85 per employee for companies that buy the pass for all of their employees. It invites businesses to call  RVTD Employer Services at 541-608-2411 or email
  • Devote outreach and education toward changing consumer behavior. Offer to be a sales outlet for RVTD bus passes, which are currently available at the RVTD Front Street station, 200 S. Front St. in Medford; at the administration offices, located at 3200 Crater Lake Ave. in Medford; and at the  City of Ashland Utlities Office at 20 E. Main St. In addition, encourage ride-share among AFC customers.

The co-op’s ongoing problem with a “jam-packed” parking lot will not go away simply by adding more spaces. Single-occupant auto use will perpetuate this problem, particularly as the annual report notes 7.5 percent sales growth.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Cover that Klean Kanteen

The more successfully we convince our friends to carry reusable water bottles instead of single-serving plastic, the more necessary it becomes to tell each other’s bottles apart.

Water bottle slipcover
A cloth slipcover serves the purpose of differentiating between bottles. It also helps provide insulation but I have found that with the double-walled Klean Kanteens, extra insulation is unnecessary.

For a friend’s bottle I created this cozy out of T-shirt material. She cut letters freehand and I stitched them centered onto a rectangular piece of fabric about 10 inches wide and 3 inches high. I folded the fabric lengthwise with the letters inside and stitched the 3-inch sides together. I gave myself a six-eighths-of-an-inch seam allowance.

I then turned the resulting tube inside out and, voila, a personalized bottle slipcover.

Jersey knit is tremendously stretchy and these are approximations. If the cozy is at first too loose or its fit loosens afterward, you can try taking the seam in.

Monday, May 28, 2012

‘We are on the same bus’

Jonathan and I use via RVTD's Route 10 when we're in Ashland, Ore.
Photo by rickie22 on Flickr. Reused under terms of Creative Commons
On the Medford Mail Tribune website, I found a great commentary by Julie Akins, news director of KOBI TV Channel 5 based in Medford, Ore.

Akins, like me, commutes to work by bus. In her case, it’s via the Rogue Valley Transportation District and in mine it’s on Lake Transit. For both of us, it’s a matter of choice. She says:
“I coyly gave away my parking space and invested in more rubber-soled shoes to see what I could gain from the experiences of walking to and from bus stops and taking time to look out the window and watch the world go by each morning and evening.”

Akins offers the observation that most people who ride the bus are not there by choice:
“I have not done a formal or even informal poll of bus riders, but I’m clear the regulars are there by necessity. The seats in the back are crowded as people talk in animated detail about getting licenses pulled for various infractions and no longer being able to drive as a condition of parole. 
“The talk of trying to save up for a car on disability or TANF, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and then watching the bare reality of people in wheelchairs who rely on the bus to get to the store or the doctor convinces me choice is a rare occasion for many on the bus. I am glad there is a bus for them and for me.”
My impressions of Lake Transit ridership suggest that reasons vary for why people are riding the bus. There are people in circumstances similar to what Akins describes: licenses lost and unable to drive.

Other riders are licensed drivers who simply choose not to drive.

More and more frequently, I hear passengers say they’ve started riding the bus because gas prices became too high. Given that it can take $40 or more to fill the tank each week, the $40 that a person spends for a month-long pass is a real bargain in comparison.

I could not afford to live and work at near-opposite ends of Lake County if I had to drive.

One of the things I like best about the bus is the stress relief. There is so much stimuli to process when a person drives a car and even when I’m a passenger in an auto, the other cars in close proximity can be a source of anxiety.

I prefer to ride a bus; it is elevated from the roadway and it reduces the impressions that register. Thus my anxieties are reduced. I can also bring my travel pillow with me and take down-time when I need it.

I feel confident in my personal fleet of drivers who get me where I need to go.

Akins decides that it doesn’t really matter why anyone is on the bus:
“[T]he fact is we are there coming and going and through the ride we are learning more about what it is to be in a community. I have not had an unpleasant encounter, no one has threatened me in any way and the protocol is to yell ‘thank you’ to the bus driver when leaving. The regulars know that we are on the same bus and share a culture. We are generally good to each other. It’s nice.”
Who knows, when Jonathan and I move to Ashland, Ore., we may even meet Akins on a bus.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Transit grant application top-trending

Screen capture: Most-viewed stories on Record-Bee website as of April 10, 2012
News that the Lake Transit Authority has submitted a grant application to fund increased commuter services drew a lot of viewer interest on Tuesday on the Lake County Record-Bee website.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Rogue Valley Transit to lengthen schedules

It will be easier than ever for my husband and me to use Rogue Valley Transportation District (RVTD) buses during stays in Ashland, Ore. The Medford Mail Tribune reported that starting April 2, RVTD will expand weekday hours and add Saturday services.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Green publications should promote public transit

Screen capture: Voting break-down from Mother Earth News poll results

An email from Utne Reader this week invited me to take a “green vehicle” survey that was hosted by Mother Earth News. The first few questions had to be left blank because they involved the answerer’s primary vehicle and “public transit” wasn’t an option.