Letters for October 21 

Readers sound off on the Lost Runner, Oakland parking, the BART connector, community colleges, and more.

"A Solution to Parking in Oakland?" Full Disclosure, 9/2

We Should Discourage Parking

I find it ironic that the Oakland City Council may be backing down on the extension of metered parking to 8 p.m. Here, in the environmentally friendly Bay Area, we should be a leader in progressive green policies. People are accustomed (addicted?) to cheap or free parking. That needs to change. Driving is of course convenient, and easy parking is important for neighborhood businesses. But driving has many negative impacts and "externalities," from global climate change all the way down to injured pedestrians, pollution from tires and oil, the encouragement of sprawl, etc. Slowly but steadily increasing the cost of driving may be difficult politically, but it is the right thing to do (and not just because the city needs the money).

Stephen Knight, Oakland

Editor's Note

Since this letter was submitted, the city council did roll back the later hours.

"There's No One in Charge," Full Disclosure, 9/23

An Expensive Boondoggle

In his article on the proposed BART connector to Oakland Airport, Robert Gammon calls AirBART "a rinky-dink airport shuttle service that is vulnerable to bad traffic and inconvenient for families with small children." That may be true, but one thing he fails to point out is that the round-trip fare on the new elevated tramway will be $12 per person — and that's on top of your BART fare. With those prices, it's likely that most families would opt to take a taxi or shuttle service or just park at the airport. The tramway is an expensive boondoggle, and the Port of Oakland, as well as Alameda County residents, should say "no thanks."

Sue Trowbridge, Alameda

Why Make a Bad System Worse?

Why do we need anything other than what we have now to get people between BART and the Oakland Airport? AirBART may be vulnerable to bad traffic, but so is getting to BART in the first place, and once you get there, it takes so much time getting to the Coliseum Station from just about anywhere else that shortening the time to get to the airport would be significant. AirBART may be inconvenient for families with small children, but not any more so than BART itself is. After all, the biggest inconvenience could be transferring from BART to any sort of shuttle, especially with children and luggage.

There are other options already: taxis and door-to-airport shuttles, as well as being dropped off at the airport. All of these are more convenient than taking BART to any sort of shuttle, and will almost certainly take less time, even if one could be beamed directly to the airport from the BART station.

Bruce De Benedictis, Oakland

Singapore Does It Right

Even prior to when I got on the BART Board (seventeen years ago) the Oakland Airport Connector was under consideration. About sixteen years ago, BART seriously considered the connector and conducted an extensive study with several alternatives. One was a bus alternative. However it was not an exclusive lane busway but one similar to the 1R and 72R Rapid Bus that AC Transit currently operates. These lines operate in mixed-flow, have limited stops, and signal priority. But in mixed-flow, the volume of traffic affects the bus' use of signal priority. Under congested conditions, buses are not able to take full advantage of the signal priority because many times there are so many cars lined up at signals the buses cannot pass through in the allocated priority time provided.

The Airport Rapid bus alternative would have encountered considerable delays when there were events at the Coliseum. On this study, both professor S. Lewis (who was on the BART Board at this time) and I objected to this study, for the bus alternative did not consider a full exclusive lane busway for it would have eliminated this signal delay with full application of the busway. Even later studies did not study the full use of the exclusive lane busway alternative routed along Hegenburger Road. The airport's advertised priority development is to construct 5,000-6,000 cars [of] structured parking, which would cost at least four times more than the $25 million they were contributing. Accommodating parking would encourage auto use, the very element that we are currently trying to minimize under the pending problem of climate change.

In regards to funding, of this half-a-billion-dollar project, the only beneficiary as planned would be the airport who originally contributed only $25 million. Subsequently, the City of Oakland contributed $19 million with a suggestion that a couple of stops be provided along the connector's route so that area along the route would benefit from this project. However, the two stops are being disregarded for presently it is planned that there will be no additional stops other than the airport.

To add a stop with the planned automated guideway transit would cost a couple million for it would require an elevator to accommodate the disabled, plus stairs, added electronic controls, and perhaps a bypass, and the added cost of maintenance after it is built. Whereas an added stop with the busway would be a fraction of an AGT stop.

Regarding planning, I very much agree with Mayor Bates; planning and transportation is currently being administered politically by separate agencies and the projects they manage are not fully considered and integrated.

Singapore has about the best transportation system in the world. The reason is they manage to integrate their transit, road system, and land developments. To do this, they have combined their land planning with transportation into a single agency. Through this coordination they have: integrated land use, town and transportation planning, developed a comprehensive road network, applied various technologies into its planning, controlled the number of cars in use, and instituted congestion pricing. Through this they have developed a world-class integrated transportation system, envied by land and transportation planners throughout the world.

Roy Nakadegawa, former director, BART and AC Transit, Berkeley

"The Death of Energy at 92.7," Culture Spy, 9/23

Energy 92.7, R.I.P.

The radio industry is going through a lot of changes in the past few years. With increased competition from the Internet, satellite radio, iPods and other mediums, the radio industry is facing so many challenges. Radio stations are being bought out by major media companies and when we are turning on the radio these days, we listen to the same thing. 

The Bay Area is a place with a well-established history in radio and has become a part of our culture. The first radio station started right here in the Bay Area (KCBS) in 1909. Energy 92.7 (KNGY) was one of the great radio stations. It had a weak 5,000-watt transmitter but thousands of listeners [throughout] the bay and America. In 2009, Energy won top dance radio station in the United States. Energy literally had energy and it had a loyal niche of listeners. Many of the listeners were young and a part of the gay and lesbian community of the Bay Area. Even with the listeners and the success, Energy was not able to make money and was sold in early September. Now, we are now stuck with another generic Top 40 radio station that plays the same songs all day long. This is the face of the modern radio station. The owner of the new KREV fired all of the old KNGY staff and streams all of the music from Las Vegas from their sister station in Las Vegas. This is the "brilliant" idea from KREV to reduce overhead cost to none. In my opinion, this station will last about six months and will fall like KNGY, but with no dignity. What the media giants don't get about the Bay Area is we want locally hosted radio shows like KGO. We want a radio station with its own culture like KFOG and KOIT. We want radio stations that play locally made and produced music like KMEL. What these new radio stations offer listeners [is] nothing. The music from these new radio stations is like someone plugged their iPod into a radio tower and decided to call it a radio station. 

The new KREV represents the new face of radio. Now when you turn on the radio, you can listen to the same song from the top 10 list from over five different radio stations. Radio now has no personality, no culture, and no soul. We will miss KNGY and the music it has brought, and try to find other places to listen. 

Donald Sakiyama, Castro Valley

"Cuts Threaten the Mission of Community Colleges," Raising the Bar, 9/23

They Just Keep Coming

At the California community college where I have been a full-time professor for the last ten years, morale is low. Classified staff is getting laid off. Faculty openings are going unfilled. At least four divisions do not have deans; these positions are being manned by various administrators, who stop by sporadically. Last week, when I asked for campus police presence by one of my classrooms in which there had been an altercation, I was told by the police chief that there was only one officer on duty, and he would come over if he had the time, after he oversaw another class that had also had an altercation.

Meanwhile, there has been something like an 11 percent leap in enrollment — just in time for the grave cuts to basic skills and other classes required for transfer. I've heard of a counselor at one of the state universities telling his students that they should consider attending college out-of-state, for, if they stay within the California system, it will take them seven years to garner all their credits for a bachelor's degree. If community college students' stresses are historically high (in one of my classes, there are three pregnant girls under twenty), you can imagine just how off-the-charts those stresses are now. It makes me want to jump ship. Yet they're still coming — even as they lament the difficulties (as they should). Community college students have been fighting against odds for so long that, perhaps, they might be the ones to push through the best.

Michelle Blair, Oakland

"The Lost Runner," Feature, 10/7

Give Him a Darwin Award

Everyone loves a missing persons story that ends happily with that person being found alive and well. Rachel Swan's article made me wonder why we should be happy for John Mintz. The man has no regard for himself much less his family or society at large. His nihilistic tendancies will certainly result in his demise ultimately. I wonder why your publication wasted a cover and six pages of ink covering this narcissist. He is obviously an obsessive compulsive with a death wish. No wonder his marriage didn't last. Look at how many times he wanders off into wilderness areas without any preparation for the elements and no attempt at understanding basic survival techniques. You would think in his other crazy quest to visit every library in California that he would spend a little time reading backwoods trail guides and glean some tips for living like notify people of our whereabouts, carry a GPS beacon, and a reasonable supply of food and water. In the end, nature will get this fool. In the meantime, I hope he finds help with his problem from a qualified mental health professional but I doubt it. You don't run into many good shrinks in the wilderness in the middle of the night when you really need one. For Mr. Mintz it will be too late.

Gus Sinks, San Bruno

What's the Cause?

Over the past year I have read several good books on survival, most notably Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales and The Survivors Club by Ben Sherwood. So your article about the lost runner, John Mintz immediately caught my attention. At the end I was perplexed by Mr. Mintz' behavior and began connecting the behavioral dots. My hunch is that he suffers from Asperger's Syndrome, an autistic spectrum disorder which accounts for his odd behavior.

Ann Jennings, Albany

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