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June 2009
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August 2009

July 2009

Don't Shortcut Life: Safety Tips from Caltrain

A Caltrain train is almost 2 stories tall, weighs close to a million pounds, has flashing lights, and takes more than a half-mile to stop. Please stay out of its way. The tips below will provide you with the knowledge you need to stay safe when you are near or need to cross train tracks. In addition to 98 weekday, 32 Saturday, and 28 Sunday trains, Caltrain also operates extra trains for Giants baseball games and other special events. Union Pacific Railroad runs freight trains along the Caltrain line. So you can expect to see a train at any time on any track.

  • Cross Caltrain tracks only at designated crossings and when it is safe to do so.  While it might not be the quickest route, it will be the safest.

  • Know that if you are on foot and not using a designated crossing – marked by a sign or gate – then you are trespassing and are subject to a citation and fine.

  • Even though they might look as if they’re moving rather slowly, Caltrain reaches a top speed of 79 miles per hour. At that speed, they cover the length of a football field in less than three seconds.

  • Watch out for a second train. Between San Francisco and San Jose, Caltrain operates on two tracks, with four tracks in select locations. When you see the last car of a passing train, don’t cross until you’re sure that no other trains are coming on either track.

  • A train will be through a crossing in less than a minute. It is better to lose one minute in life than your life in one minute.

  • Be aware that Caltrain operates in “push-pull mode.” The locomotive usually pulls southbound trains. However, on northbound trains, the train is “pushed” from behind by the locomotive with a passenger car leading the train. Trains can travel in either direction on either track.

  • Despite their size, trains can be difficult to hear, especially in the “push” mode.

  • When you’re at the station with children, keep them close to you at all times.

  • When waiting at a station, be aware that approaching trains may not be stopping at the station and can pass near you at 79 miles per hour.

  • When waiting to board a train, stand behind the yellow safety line at stations and don’t cross to the center platform until the train stops.

  • Don’t sit on the edge of the platform. All trains overhang the rails and require that space to operate.

  • Never drive onto a railroad crossing until you are sure the traffic ahead has left enough space to drive across without boxing you in. Do not shift gears while driving across the tracks. If your vehicle stalls on the crossing get everyone out and get off the tracks. Call 911 or 1.877.SAF.RAIL (1.877.723.7245) to report the situation.

  • Transit Watch: You can help keep the rails safe by reporting dangerous situations, such as children playing on the tracks or people hanging out along the rail right of way. Call 1.877.723.7245 to report dangerous situations.

  • School and transit buses carrying passengers, as well as trucks carrying hazardous materials, are required to stop at all rail crossings. Be prepared to stop if you are following one of these vehicles.

Parking on a Hill? Follow Click & Clack's Advice

How dumb can you be? A reader told CAR TALK columnists Click & Clack that she had parked her car on a slope in Golden Gate Park and did not curb the wheels, set the parking brake, or leave the stick shift in first gear. When she returned to her car, she found a note on the windshield and a piece of wood blocking one of her front tires. Apparently her car had rolled forward and some Good Samaritan had saved the day. She told Click & Clack that she couldn't believe someone would go to all that trouble. Click & Clack advised always taking all three precautions in case one or more of them fails: When parking on a hill, curb your wheels, set the parking brake, and if you have a standard transmission, leave the car in first gear.

Pass the Pizza, Pass on the "Petrole Sole"

As an editor, I tend to read restaurant menus with a critical eye, even though I know the food and the service are more important than the chef's spelling. With this in mind, I scanned Granucci's ad in the Pacifica Tribune and gagged when I came to "petrole sole." This fish dish sounds more appropriate for the galley of the Exxon Valdez. Pass on the "oily" fish. Likewise for the "carmelized onions" and "lemon buter." But I hear the pizza is good.


Environmental Leadership Training


Contemplating a green career change? Not sure how to start? Acterra’s Be the Change environmental leadership program can give you the training and experience you need to help you down the path to a new "green" career. Many of our  graduates have used the program as a way to ease back into the workforce after a period at home, and others have used the experience to "green" their current job or company. Be the Change is training a corps of leaders of all ages who are developing productive, innovative solutions to the environmental challenges before us. The program offers a 10-month course that starts in September and features monthly seminars that teach participants how to be effective change agents where they live, work, worship, or play. The curriculum revolves around environmental information, personal skills mastery, and social change processes—and everyone does a project to put what he or she has learned into practice. We have top-notch speakers and advisors, and the other class members are also emerging leaders with demonstrated skills. All members learn from one another and come  away with a group of 25-30 new friends. We are holding one more info session for potential program applicants to learn more about program content, meet others who care about our environment, and talk with Be the Change participants, advisors, and program staff. Contact info: Rebecca Araiz Iverson, Director, Be the Change Environmental Leadership Program, 650-922-1787 (cell). YOU are the leader we are waiting for! Apply now for the class of 2009-2010 (September-June). For more information, visit ACTERRA 

[forwarded by Karen Rosenstein]

Help Consumer Federation Fight Budget Cuts

The governor just signed a budget that will devastate the lives of millions of vulnerable Californians while rewarding big business. This budget will deny hundreds of thousands of poor children health coverage. Funding for mental health, HIV/AIDS care, community clinics, and supportive services for frail elderly and disabled persons will be slashed. 40,000 young people will have the door to higher education slammed in their faces, thanks to planned enrollment cuts at California State University. UC and CSU campuses just hiked tuition by 20 percent, making college less affordable to the dwindling number of students admitted. Public schools and community colleges will be hit with $7 billion in new cuts. As working Californians face billions in higher sales tax and income tax rates, politicians granted big business $2.5 billion in new tax breaks in the past year. That's most of the money we need to preserve higher education in California. Big Oil will avoid any of the "shared sacrifice" even after making record profits last year. If California joined every other oil-producing state in imposing an oil severance fee, we would have more than a billion dollars in new state revenues. That's equal to 22,000 fewer layoff notices to classroom teachers. It will take a grassroots organizing campaign, not the failed politics of Sacramento, to restore tax and budget fairness. The Consumer Federation of California is working with progressive allies to place a measure on the ballot to repeal the new corporate tax loopholes. We are also committed to ending the two-thirds budget rules that give a small minority of extremist lawmakers the power to hold the budget hostage. Please contribute to our campaign for budget and tax fairness!

Richard Holober
Executive Director
Consumer Federation of California
520 S. El Camino Real, Suite 340, San Mateo, CA 94402, 650-375-7840

Nature Within Reach: Bay Area License Plate


It may be ironic and oxymoronic, but it's still a good idea: the "Nature Within Reach" Bay Area license plate, to benefit the California Coastal Commission.

The application period has been extended to July 2010 for a new,  nature-oriented license plate. The image on these yet-to-be-issued plates will be the Golden Gate Bridge and will feature the tagline Nature Within Reach. Fees received for this  new plate will fund the San Francisco Bay Area Conservancy Program (under the auspices of the California Coastal Commission, the folks who work so hard to preserve healthy open space along our stunning Northern California coast). Only 7,500 pledges are needed to bring this license plate into the public arena. Go to BAY AREA LICENSE PLATE to view the image and for details on ordering.

Restore Hetch Hetchy Seeks Volunteer Manager: Must Know San Francisco Neighborhoods


RESTORE HETCH HETCHY, a national environmental advocacy campaign, needs a talented, experienced volunteer manager for a six- to eight-week outreach mobilization in San Francisco.  Must have previous volunteer recruitment experience and have a sound knowledge of San Francisco neighborhoods. Position is 20 hours/week and requires availability both nights and weekends. Could become full-time, permanent position. Hiring immediately. To apply, please email a one-page cover letter outlining your personal approach to volunteer recruitment and volunteer management, a current resume, and three or four references to NO PHONE CALLS.

Mike Marshall
Executive Director
Restore Hetch Hetchy


Ian Butler Video: Keep Plastic Out of Environment


SAVE THE BAY estimates that more than a million plastic bags wind up in San Francisco Bay each year, smothering wetlands and entangling animals. This trash flows into the ocean and joins the Great Pacific Garbage Patch--an area of "trash soup" twice the size of Texas, where plastic pieces outnumber plankton...under various guises, the plastics industry is suing cities that attempt to reduce plastic bag usage..."Fees and bans are proven ways to create a mass switch to reusable bags, which will clean up our communities," says exec director David Lewis. In fact, in Ireland, a 33-cent fee on plastic bags reduced use by 90% and plastic bag litter by 93% in one year.Save The Bay supports California Assembly Bill 68, which requires a 25-cent fee on plastic and paper bags at all retailers. A portion of the fee would be used for litter cleanup programs, and low-income customers would be exempt. Through our Clean Bay Project, Save The Bay is working directly with San Jose and other Bay Area cities to pass legislation that would reduce plastic bag usage.


MTC Releases Transportation 2035 Plan Online


The Metropolitan Transportation Commission's newly released Transportation 2035 Plan for the San Francisco Bay Area: Change in Motion is now available for viewing online, along with other companion technical reports: 2035 PLAN. The plan is a 25-year vision for a regional transportation system that bolsters our economy, safeguards our environment, and ensures equitable transportation access for all Bay Area residents -- while taking into account the changing environment around us. The 142-page document was developed over two years, with thousands of Bay Area residents providing input, and adopted by the Commission on April 22, 2009. To save costs and paper, MTC encourages you to view the plan online, but if you would like a printed copy, email, fax 510-817-5932, or call 510-817-5836, providing the name of the document you are requesting, your name, and your mailing address. A new online tool is also available for those who want to learn more about projects and programs identified in Appendix 1 of the Plan. View the Online Transportation 2035 Project Listings Web site at: PROJECT LISTINGS

"One Brick" Volunteers Help Restore Beach


Samantha Burton
Dagoba Chocolate Kit

Dear Samantha,
On July 26, an organization called "One Brick" supplied us with 25 volunteers who came to Pacifica State Beach from all over the San Francisco Bay Area. They worked for three hours removing invasive plants such as ice plant, wild radish, and cape ivy. These enthusiastic volunteers removed more invasive plants in one day than any other group I have seen. Thank you for selecting Pacifica's Environmental Family as a winner of the Dagoba Chocolate Kit.


Good Road Food: Fogeaters Market and Kitchen



If you find yourself traveling along the Mendocino County coastline having to choose between which battered-and-deep-fried restaurant you must settle on for lunch, try holding out for Fogeaters Market and Kitchen on the south side of Point Arena. You’ll find sandwiches, specialty salads, and baked goods that you would normally find only in the best cafes and restaurants. It is in an unassuming two-story Victorian painted a cozy shade of ocean blue with a patio deck and ample space for eating while viewing pastoral, oceanside scenes. Fogeaters is a tidy, well-stocked, gourmet, locally grown, organic grocery store with a small but surprisingly inventive and productive deli counter staffed by Executive Chef Kelly Hatcher Mellon, a native of Half Moon Bay. The counter offers a variety of sandwiches such as roasted apricot panini with slabs of Brie and caramelized onions, and ham and cheese panini, not your normal road stop fare, along with chicken salads and curries that do not use mayonnaise, that dreaded goo, as a base, but a pureed alternative of roasted eggplant, garlic, and onions. If you’ve ever wondered what the perfect thing looks like, what the most sensible yet exotic thing you could find on a road trip might be, or the most amazingly tasty treat you could ever have, it would be an “Egg in a Cloud.” It’s an egg cupcake. Using Kelly’s savory biscuit dough, the chef rolls it out thin and cuts pieces that are hand-pressed into cupcake trays, then adds a cracked egg to each, baking them as a unit. The egg stays whole, gently housed by the crispy biscuit dough. If you cut it in half, you would see a perfectly roasted free-range egg with a yolk, still moist and wrapped in perfectly cooked biscuit dough. I’m drooling just writing about it. Other notable items are the take-away grilled vegetables and house carnitas that you can buy vacuum-packed to cook at home or to take with you for a picnic somewhere farther down the road. Chef Kelly also makes spreads to go, such as her roasted fennel with garlic and Parmesan cheese, a tasty alternative to everyday hummus, which can be taken with any number of breads or crackers from the market.

Fogeaters Market and Kitchen
Highway 1
Point Arena, Mendocino County, California