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Comment Only if they're useful (Score 1) 654

Here in the SF area we have Caltrain, but it runs infrequently and is very slow. Level crossings mean that it's also noisy. I would take it more if it were free (right now it's still cheaper to drive my 19.6 mpg 300 HP fun-car), but I wouldn't take it a lot more. If, however, it ran so often that I didn't need to think about the schedule, and were faster (by eliminating stops, possibly by color-coding trains), that would be a different story.

The buses are ludicrously slow and nobody knows when or where they're stopping or going. Few people take them at all. Nobody in my socio-economic group. They're just too stupid.

BART has a better schedule, but doesn't have a useful connection to Caltrain. It doesn't connect around the south side of the bay.

No system makes easy, direct connections to the major airports like you expect in major metropolitan areas. They all require at least one connection via a janky, slow, annoying shuttle bus. At worst they require several hops between various forms of transit. SFO is especially bad since they charge obnoxious fees for shared ride vans, even to off-site parking, and then make it nearly impossible to walk there from anywhere reasonable. They have no interest in improving access to their airport.

tl;dr: I'd take one form more, but not a lot more. I'd take public transit a lot at any cost that's less than driving so long as it's time-competitive with my alternatives. Right now nothing competes with my bicycle for less-than-fifteen-mile trips.

Comment Advertised versus real range (Score 1) 229

Around the SF Bay Area it feels like the biggest contribution to range anxiety isn't the range, but the delta between claimed range and real range. Lots of folks here have driven (or own themselves) the Leaf or the 500e. The most common expression of dissatisfaction is that there's a large delta between claimed and realized range. This problem seems to have been largely solved on the petrol side of the house (EPA ratings of MPG have gotten a lot more accurate recently).

It seems like there needs to be a realignment between marketers, regulators, and engineers to get these numbers right. What's being done to make that happen? I think that trusting the range numbers would go a very long way to making people more comfortable with electric vehicles.

Full disclosure: I've worked in the EV world for almost ten years, and I'm not impartial.

Comment It's all about real estate (Score 1) 692

If the root complaint is that housing prices are going up, then San Francisco and its residents are at least as much to blame as the economic success of their region. They consistently vote to nix new housing developments because they feel it will upset the character of a neighborhood, or block the view of an adjacent one. To put it bluntly, it's property owners voting down measures that would dilute their property value and current tenants voting down measures that they feel would change the demographics of their neighborhood.

The city is a popular place for young people to live, and with proximity to strong schools like Berkeley and Stanford, young professionals have money. Without growth in housing units, the free market will push housing prices up so long as demand will support it. This is just like any other real estate market in the country.

Many residents complain that the tech buses are using public bus stops. That's between the city and the tech companies, and they've got a negotiated agreement. Maybe the residents are not happy with how their city represented their interests and what they got in return, but that's between the residents and their government. As of right now, the tech companies' use of public bus stops is legal and agreed-upon. Any protests against that use should be at city hall, not at the bus stops.

As for mass transit, that's a hugely sticky issue in the area as well. Caltrain fares are more than the cost to drive for a given distance and it doesn't connect to the BART system, nor does it wrap around at San Jose / Milpitas. The state can't afford to buy the land or pay the construction crews to connect and harmonize these lines, nor will homeowners allow for significant expansion due to the perceived loss in home value. And then there's the problem of the entire western half of SF, where there is no rail or subway at all.

Submission + - Student president candidate brings paid astroturfing to higher education 1

grimsnaggle writes: Stewart MacGregor-Dennis, a candidate for Stanford student president, has brought paid astroturfing to higher education. An unofficial Stanford blog post outlines the extent of his antics, including purchasing more followers than the sum total of the Stanford student body. Astroturfing is for more than customer reviews, it seems.

Comment Re:Medical expenses? What's that? (Score 1) 651

My friends who work at medical device companies feel no pressure to keep costs down. Why make a part out of plastic when things machined from billet aluminum are shiny? Oops, there was an error in that part. Maybe we should order twice as many more of the next revision, because surely we will have caught all the bugs. Later, when the R&D is done, they'll sell the machine for a boatload of money and only honor the warranty if the end-user (your doctor) buys all of their consumables from the OEM. Now they also sell bottles of buffered saline for $10k/liter. As far as I can tell, the rest of the medical industry works in much the same way. But it's all OK, because you want the very best possible care and you wouldn't want to kill Uncle Pete for want of a few hundred thousand dollars.

Comment Re:Medical expenses? What's that? (Score 3, Interesting) 651

I'm a US citizen and I needed medical care in Coober Pedy, South Australia. The hospital was closed for the night so they called in a doctor for me. He looked me over, gave me some painkillers and anti-inflammatories, slapped on an ice-pack, billed me $46, and sent me on my way. No government or insurance was involved.

Had this been the United States, they would've billed me $400 for opening the door, $150 for the first drug, $220 for the second, $190 for the ice-pack, $30 in clerical fees, and made me sign a bunch of paperwork. I don't understand why medicine is so expensive in our country.

Comment Re:I bought a house (Score 1) 651

8% is a pretty good rate. If you find an investment that can pull that off without violating any laws, please let me know. Also, having cash on hand does not correlate to a credit score. As recently as last year I was unable to get a post-paid cell phone plan despite having enough cash on-hand to pay the monthly bill until the end of the millennium.

You can tell the ideals of a nation by its advertisements. -- Norman Douglas