Year in Review Bay Area: High Speed Rail Narrowly Passes, Apps Push Into Bay Area

(Photo CC by Flickr user worndark)

2012 was a year that had transportation on the minds of voters and elected officials throughout California. It was also a year of technological innovation, lawsuits, and personal loss.

We monitored the halls of power, and we got out and about—on bikes, buses, trains, cars, and cabs—to find out just what getting around in the Bay Area is all about. Here are some of our favorite feature stories of the year from KALW.


In Politics: A Year of Close Calls:

The California State Legislature finally gave the green light to state’s controversial high-speed rail plan, but only by the narrowest of margins. With strong support from Governor Jerry Brown, the legislature voted to release initial funding needed to start construction in time to meet federal deadlines.  So far, only about $8 billion of the projected $98 billion needed to complete the project have been secured. Ray LaHood voiced his support for the bullet train in the face of renewed opposition to any further federal funding at a Transportation Committee hearing on the project earlier this month.

Elections in the state ushered in Prop 39, which will earmark billions of dollars for clean energy programs.

At the county level, a sales tax increase meant to fund transportation infrastructure projects in the Bay Area failed to receive the 2/3 majority vote it needed to pass. After an aborted recount, Measure B1 fell short by around 700 votes of the approximately 350,000 cast.

And after a two-year campaign, young people in San Francisco finally won the right to ride MUNI for free.


Bike 101:

I overcame (mostly) my fear of riding my bike on city streets by getting behind the handlebars and taking a class in urban bike riding.


Riding the 1 Bus:

More than 22,000 people ride the 1 and 1R buses every single day. Most of them don’t own cars — this is the only way they get around. The buses travel right through the heart of the Fruitvale and San Antonio neighborhoods along International Boulevard, also known as East 14th.

Whatever you call it, it’s a road, and a part of Oakland, with an identity all its own. As part of our reporting project about the Fruitvale and San Antonio neighborhoods in Oakland, I got on the 1 to find out what riding the bus says about a community.


Train Engineers and Track Suicides:

I met a Caltrain engineer about track suicides. They are, of course a tragic occurrence, but they also take a toll on the people whose job it is to get you to and from work every day.

“The way I kind of look at it, the farther I am from my last one, the closer I am to my next one,” he says. “It’s almost like rolling the dice. It’s an awful tragedy.”


Meet the Super Commuter:

I visited the NASA-style control room that keeps Bay Area traffic moving (sort-of), and navigated the intricacies of getting around (or not) on our freeways and bridges with the Super Commuter.


Taking Uber for a Test Drive:

Uber had a busy year, brashly pushing it's way into new markets like Washington, D.C. and New York with mixed success. In San Francisco, the company drew lawsuits even as business continued expanding.

And reporter Isabel Angell tried out a new app that’s supposed to make it easier (though not necessarily cheaper) to get a cab in San Francisco.