Monday, February 12, 2007

the fate of elvas

Apparently Union Pacific will tear down Elvas Tower, the interlocking control tower at the Elvas Avenue wye, in early March. It has been out of service for decades but still stands, becoming slowly more dilapidated and frequently vandalized despite the heroic efforts of the California State Railroad Museum's Maintenance of Way department.

Take your photos now if you want to catch 'em. Apparently the last group of vandals ripped everything copper out of the tower and left an awful mess. CSRM crews are trying to extract anything worth salvaging or preserving that is left inside, including the actual mechanical interlocking hardware.

There was some hope that Elvas Tower could be moved, in order to someday be part of the Railroad Technology Museum. Sounds like UP is following its usual policy of selecting the dumb option and just knocking down a piece of local history, after letting it stand neglected for so long. Take your photos now...

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

West Sacramento history link

Interesting link on the LJ Urban weblog today here on West Sacramento history, including a link to a PDF of a book on West Sacramento history. Lots of valuable tidbits to be found here.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Waiting for the jitney?

Apparently some local transit advocates are exploring the possibility of a private "jitney" service to provide short-headway minibus service to Central City neighborhoods. The idea would be to supplement existing RT routes and replace some privately held commuter vans used by senior residences by establishing short-run "jitney" routes from residential neighborhoods to nearby services.

"Jitney" is an archaic term for a bus, and many private jitney services appeared in the early 20th century as an alternative to streetcars. They were generally smaller and slower than streetcars (due to the relatively primitive state of gasoline-powered vehicles) but were more flexible than streetcars, with the ability to easily change routes or avoid obstacles. Streetcar companies objected to their presence, of course, and argued that unlicensed public conveyances caused undue wear to public roads without paying for street improvements like streetcars did, but as automobile technology improved many streetcar companies started "bustitution" as early as the 1920s, replacing older streetcars with buses, which were larger and faster than the original jitneys.

The potential target market would mainly be seniors or others with limited mobility who have difficulty getting around on RT due to limited headway times and lack of access, but a wider potential market to all sorts of urban dwellers could exist.

The potential vehicles would be mini-buses, probably purchased used from local organizations like senior homes that use them for resident transportation, or other such agencies. Potentially they could be purchased new.

While this sort of organization would probably call for some kind of public funding, it has some interesting potentials. Projected headway times of 5-10 minutes between buses mean that it would be more convenient than taking RT. It could feasibly reduce short-trip traffic, and thus be a potential mitigation measure that developers could subsidize instead of providing additional parking spaces (for example, give developers a choice between paying $40,000 for an additional parking space, or $25,000 towards public transit that will be convenient for residents of their project.) Finally, by being convenient enough to encourage people to take it, other modes of transit will be better utilized (a jitney won't run out to the suburbs, for example.)

So, is it time to bring back the jitney? Is the central city dense enough, and transit-ready enough, to support such a service? More details as I find them out...