What a letdown!

I apologize for not delivering my promised weekend AC Transit history lesson. But I had a good reason. Instead of going on the blog, it went on Novometro. And you can read it there right now. Many kudos to the folks at AC Transit, who provided us with awesome photos of vintage buses.

Part 2 of the East Bay Express Van Hool expose is up, and well, I guess I’m relieved that I don’t have to spend any time refuting false claims this week, but after such a fiery beginning, it feels somewhat anticlimactic.

What do we learn in this installment?

Well, it turns out that when public employees take business related trips, their trips are paid for with taxpayer money. Also, when they do that, people usually think they spend too much money.

I guess there’s a couple of minor issues here:

Since 2000, the agency’s costs have skyrocketed, forcing it to repeatedly slash service and raise fares, as it lost millions of passengers.

Hmm…well, the last part isn’t true. They funny things is that if Gammon had picked a different year, say, 2001 (PDF!), when ridership peaked, with 70,808,702 unlinked trips and 231,171 average weekday unlinked trips, I could have said he was being misleading or picking and choosing numbers to suit his needs, but instead, I get to say that he’s just straight up wrong. You see, in 2000 (PDF!), the agency reported 67,632,612 unlinked trips and 225,465 average weekday unlinked trips. Compare that with 2006 (PDF!), the most recent year for which data is available, and we see 66,962,680 annual unlinked trips and 226,732 average weekday unlinked trips. So we have a loss of less than a million annual unlinked trips and a gain in trips on the typical weekday.

In fact, records show that AC Transit has the worst overall record among the Bay Area’s major urban mass transit systems in the past several years.

Really? Then why does the MTC say in their most recent State of the System report that AC Transit outperformed other Bay Area transit agencies, which lost a total of 11% of riders between 2000-01 and 2004-05 (PDF!)? AC Transit lost 9%, ranking higher than Golden Gate Transit (19% decline), SamTrans (20% decline), and VTA (34% decline), and doing only slightly worse than Muni (8% decline) over the same time period. I guess if you decide that two rail systems, BART (4% decline) and Caltrain (7% decline) are the only other transit systems, then that statement works. Seems somewhat dishonest, though.

At the time, several North American bus makers were selling low-floor models. AC Transit had even purchased some from an Alabama manufacturer the year earlier.

The Alabama manufacturer in question is NABI, which actually sells buses made in Hungary, but “provides the final assembly processes using standard American mechanical components in compliance with the requirements of applicable “Buy America” regulations.” Other “American” bus companies that manufacture buses outside of the US and engage only in final assembly here to comply with Buy America laws include: New Flyer, Orion, Nova, and Motor Coach Industries.

Currently, the plan is to transform the two center lanes of Shattuck and Telegraph avenues, International Boulevard, and East 14th Street into bus-only lanes, from downtown Berkeley to either San Leandro or BayFair BART stations.

This is technically true, although to me it implies that AC Transit wants to take the entirety of 4 different streets, when in reality, only 2 blocks of Shattuck would have the lane and East 14th and International are actually the same street.

The story ends with a vague description of BRT, then back to who on the AC Transit board likes Van Hools, then concludes with the non sequitur:

Whether or not it makes sense to buy Belgian buses has little to do with the underlying issue of Bus Rapid Transit. Should Berkeley and Oakland support AC Transit’s plans for bus-only lanes on Telegraph Avenue and other thoroughfares?

Go to KitchenDemocracy.com and share your views.

Normally, I like to give people some details about what they’re being asked about before I encourage them to form opinions, but each to their own, I guess.

I’ve written about BRT a bunch before. Regular readers know this, but for newcomers, enjoy some links, from me and others:

8 thoughts on “What a letdown!

  1. len raphael

    Local Media Rant:

    How much worse can the Trib get? When they decided to place the local news on the front page and eliminate the Metro Section, it looks like they reduced their national newsfeeds also. Hard to believe they found a way to cut their superficial coverage of local and national news even more, but they have: they ran the same article on the Reiser case today 1/31/08 and on 1/29/08.

    Hans Reiser has a run-in with judge after jury session
    By Chris Metinko, Staff Writer
    Article Last Updated: 01/29/2008 06:49:28 PM PST

    OAKLAND _ A slow day of testimony at the murder trial of Hans Reiser ended in fireworks Tuesday as the judge in the case told the murder defendant he was welcome to fire his attorneys, but that it would not stop the trial.

    —————–
    Judge to Reiser: Fire lawyers, trial won’t stop
    Heated exchange ends day of testimony in trial Tuesday
    By Chris Metinko, STAFF WRITER
    Article Last Updated: 01/31/2008 02:43:32 AM PST

    OAKLAND — A slow day of testimony at the murder trial of Hans Reiser ended in fireworks Tuesday as the judge in the case told the murder defendant he was welcome to fire his attorneys, but that it would not stop the trial.

    The other thing they did was dust off their annual piece on King’s Gym (I like King greatly, and am sure he can use the free publicity, but the Tribune substitutes human interest stories for in depth reporting of anything)

    -len raphael temescal

  2. Angela

    Mr. Raphael,
    While I share your frustrations about the Trib (as a reader, resident and reporter), I want to add my two cents (as a reader, resident and reporter).
    NO. 1. We’ve done our fair share of reporting about the gym (and I train there) but it’s not about publicity for them and the story wasn’t “dusted off.” Try thinking of it this way: Boxing always makes a colorful story, he’s an important part of the community and the grudge match was positive. The grudge match was the angle. Ok, you didn’t like it.
    NO. 2. The Metro section is not gone but is merged w/ the A section. Yes, there’s less national/international news and that sucks. But, like you say, a lot of what they were slapping up there wasn’t worth it anyway. It would be nice to see a section that helped people understand the news outside of the Bay Area but the bosses are trying desperately to cut costs and keep their profits as high as poss, thus the changes. I think they think people want local so they’re making everything really local. I don’t know what to say about the Reiser story duplication. Lame.
    NO. 3. The Trib reporters are trying to make a paper for Oakland, despite all the mistakes, staff cuts, union busting, changes, etc. that are plunked down on us. But no matter how good the stories are the Chron always gets the credit. So, how about Oaklanders really standing behind their paper and their reporters. We want a great paper too.
    You SHOULD demand a better paper but instead of ranting about it on a blog, why not call or write us as well as to the publisher and owner? They’re the only ones who can do anything.

  3. V Smoothe Post author

    Len –

    Um…that’s incredible about the Reiser stories. Also just bizarre. I have issues with the Trib, but I think that had to have just been some kind of big mistake. Right? In any case, I could care from the murder trial. I think I’ve read maybe two stories about it total.

    I personally don’t mind the lack of national news in the Trib – I can get much better coverage of national issues in a variety of other sources, so I’ve never been one to see a lot of value in that aspect of local newspapers.

    Angela –

    I’m not entirely sure what is meant by “Oaklanders really standing behind their paper and their reporters.” What should residents by doing? If anything, I think that residents do a service to the Tribune by holding the paper to high standards and complaining when those standards aren’t met.

  4. len raphael

    A,
    Re King’s Gym, it’s not that I don’t like it. Au contraire, both my sons boxed there from 7th grade to 12th grade. It came in very very helpful for both of them physically, mentally, and safety. King and his first wife are in our Oakland hall of favorite people. if the editors set you reporters loose on serious in depth reporting assignments, i wouldn’t have to say that the only consistently high quality writing in the Trib are the obits and the recipes, and only the obits are written locally (or are they?). With these latest improvements to the Trib one can read everything in it except maybe the most recent interview of a murder victim’s family, the recipes, and the obits in about 6 minutes. I think the editors decided to pitch the tribune at about a 7th grade level. They must have a very low opinion of Oakland residents. Yes, I have emailed the publisher within the last year. No, I don’t subscribe to the Chronicle out of a misplaced hope that the Trib will get better.

  5. Angela

    I composed a lengthy, impassioned response to the criticisms (which I’m not totally in disagreement with) and the question before realizing what is needed is for the Trib to do a better job of reaching out to the public in forums etc to answer those questions and hear from readers (and readers from the editors/reporters). So I am working on putting something together. Folks should feel free to e-mail me with ideas about such a forum at awoodall(at)bayareanewsgroup.com.

  6. Capricious Commuter

    Raphael, the duplication was, as V surmised, a big mistake. The wrong date was on the story, so it wasn’t immediately apparent to people laying out pages that the story hadn’t been written, edited and printed two days earlier. Clearly, more care on the part of all involved could have prevented that. I’ve neard a lot of oldtimers in the newspaper business bemoan the loss of lead type, because back then, you had not only proofreaders but pressmen (yes, they were all men. sorry) as the last line of editorial gatekeepers. When computerized editing became the norm in the 1980s, newsrooms did away with proofreading, and printing plates were one-piece synthetic sheets, so it was too late to check to make sure all the letters were in the right place. With news stories going up on the web instantly, the layers of editing have been reduced to one for major breaking news (before you had a line editor, copy editor and proofreader). We’re also spread out in different offices (Oakland, Richmond, Walnut Creek, to name some) and use two different computer networks, so much of the communication is electronic and things like dates on stories become all the more important. Had the reporter and editor who laid out the page been in the same room, I don’t think the mistake would have happened. I like to think (hope, pray) that we learn from these mistakes and they’ll happen less frequently once our lines of communication are better established. This spring, we’ll all be working on the same computer system, so that should help.

  7. len raphael

    A, read your reply and appreciate the situation.

    V, actually someone at the Trib used to select excellent newsfeeds on international news. They got stuff that the nyt, wapost, wsj did put out. For normal people, one used to be able to get a half way decent briefing on internatl news from the trib, and certainly no worse than the Chron.

    CC, ok the Trib runs a super lean press room, bordering on starvation. But that’s no excuse for the Tribs descent into pablum. The Chron at it’s worst filled it’s pages w HIV stories. The Tribune is overflowing w stories about African American families of homicide victims, and AA ministers wringing their hands.

    It’s almost as if someone at ANG ran the numbers and concluded that best shot for the Trib was to aim for elderly working class/retired African American audience because the younger educated AA’s are leaving Oakland for places like Atlanta, the other working class minorities have their own ethnic papers, older whites watch tv for their news, and yuppies of all colors wouldn’t be caught dead reading the Trib.

    ANG never tried giving local residents in depth local coverage that might have brought in all different kinds of local readers. It could also try writing editorials that take a strong stand on something, anything.

    Maybe they figured Maynard tried that and failed.