Friday, August 26, 2005

Bugs in the new Caltrain schedule

They seem to be working the bugs out of the new Caltrain schedule. For the first couple of weeks, most trains arrived late, particularly on the weekends. I usually ride the "express trains" because they stop at both of my stops, Sunnyvale and 22nd St. Although the train makes very few stops north of San Carlos, south of that city, it makes all regular weekday stops (no trains stop at Atherton on weekdays). Because of this mixed schedule, long and short distance commuters are riding on the same train for the first part of my northbound commute.

The long distance commuters, as a general rule, tend to be very efficient about putting their bicycles on the racks on the bike car. If we're all going to the same place (e.g. 22nd St.), we put our bikes on the same rack. We all have the proper tags indicating what stop we're going to.

Probably because they don't spend much time on the train, some of the short distance commuters do not observe the same bicycle etiquette that the long distance commuters are accustomed to. Many of them don't have tags on their bikes. They do not organize their bikes in a way that makes it easy for commuters at later stops to board. Of course, some short distance commuters are very thoughtful and some long distance commuters are clueless. But in general, the longer the commute, the more thought is given to the organized placement of bicycles.

I wonder if there is an optimal placement for each bike based on boarding location and destination.

Because of this chaotic environment, the trains are often late, cyclists are often denied boarding on commuter trains, and the conductors sometimes get into arguments with passengers. I hear the complaint, "Five bikes to a rack!" quite often lately. Because I board at Sunnyvale and few cyclists are on the train that far south, I have not been bumped yet. I expect things will get a little less chaotic as the weather gets cooler and wetter.

Los Angeles

We're driving to L.A. this weekend for a friend's wedding. I'm nervous about the trip, mostly because I don't like being in a car. Sara's better behind the wheel than I am and I think she'll probably do most of the driving. I'll sit in back, watching Boo Boo.

L.A. tends to be vilified because it represents suburban sprawl, pollution, consumerism and conspicuous consumption, and other ills. However, I've always had fun there. It's so big, I barely feel like I know the place. I don't think I would want to live there. Would it be possible to live my almost car-free life in L.A.? They say nobody walks there. I miss Potrero Hill already.


I have been tapering off my coffee intake for the past several days. Yesterday I hit a low of about half a cup total (a quarter of a cup in the morning, a quarter of a cup after noon). I don't know if it was lack of sleep last night, waking up at 3:30 AM this morning to change Boo Boo, boredom, or just plain ol' psychological addiction but I couldn't keep up the virtuousness today. I walked over to Le Boulanger in Cupertino at about 10:30 this morning, ordered a double espresso and a fat-laden breakfast sandwich, sat on the overstuffed chair, and pretended I was in Paris. Oddly enough, the people behind me in the cafe were speaking French.

Whoosh! It was like putting Drano through the pipes of my mind. Three blog posts (the other two are on their way) appeared in my head as I was walking back from the coffee shop. It takes about twenty minutes before I actually start feeling high on caffeine. This delay probably encourages overconsumption of coffee. I intentionally avoid big mugs because I don't think it makes sense to drink a lot of coffee at once. A cup of coffee is five or six ounces. That's a little more than half of a standard mug. If you drink much more than a cup at a time, you're really just applying an irritant to your stomach.

I still think it's a good idea to keep the overall caffeine consumption low (maybe one cup a day total) but these little espresso breaks now and then are a treat.

Monday, August 01, 2005

New trains

With Sara's help, I managed to get out the door in time to make the 6:49 train from 22nd St. to Sunnyvale this morning. The new Caltrain schedule should improve my commute somewhat. Caltrain has added "baby bullet" trains and local/express hybrids to its schedule. The hybrid "limited" trains run about 10 minutes faster than they did before today. I did notice that there was only one bike car on my morning train. In the past, there has often been two. Although bike car was about 2/3 full, I expect fewer early morning riders once people get used to the new schedule.

The new trains are faster on the way home, too. If I leave work at 4:30, I should be home by 6 PM.

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