This excellent animation from TrueMajority shows in
graphic detail (using Oreo cookies) how ridiculously, large
the military budget is, and how we could solve many domestic
problems with a modest 12% cut. A must-see. (watch
Tracking the facts
about light rail by Ken Hoffman, Houston
Chroncle, June 5,
SAN DIEGO -- I don't know much
about light rail, its potential impact on a city like Houston, how
federal funding works or what's going through U.S. Rep. Tom
But, probably like you, I
wonder: Does light rail work, is it clean, and does it get you
where you want to go? And how come Dallas has it and we
So last week I visited five
cities that have light rail: San Diego, Denver, Cleveland,
Portland, Ore., and that city north of us on Interstate 45. I
spent one day in each city, riding the train and checking out the
I was a typical tourist. I
practically wore white Bermuda shorts, black socks and sunglasses,
with a camera dangling around my neck.
I started in San Diego, which
has the biggest, and maybe the best, light rail system in the
United States. The two main routes, the Blue Line and Orange Line,
loop around downtown, heading north and south along a 46-mile
Trains take you to most of San
Diego's popular attractions, like the Gaslamp Quarter and Old
Town, two historical districts that used to be dumps but now are
packed with trendy restaurants, clubs and theaters. I discovered
that happens a lot when a city gets light rail.
You can take a train to Little
Italy for lunch (try the Polpettone Italiano sandwich at Cafe
Zucchero), then to Qualcomm Stadium, home of the San Diego
The first portion of the rail
route, a 16-mile stretch from downtown to the U.S.-Mexico border,
was built in 1981 using -- listen up, Congressman DeLay -- no
San Diego wanted to build its
light rail system fast and get it done. So city officials decided
not to waste time chasing federal money and all the strings that
The 16-mile route has since
almost doubled to Mission Valley north of downtown. The train's
official title is the Blue Line, but most people call it the
Tijuana Trolley, in honor of the anything-goes Mexican border town
sitting at the end of the line.
The Tijuana Trolley is the most
popular route in San Diego's light rail system. Officials don't
like to say the Tijuana Trolley turns a profit, but they do admit
it brings in more money than it costs to operate the line.
The train has multiple
personalities, depending on the time of day.
During morning rush hour, it's
a commuter line, bringing workers from wildly overpriced homes in
the suburbs to their jobs in San Diego. Later, it becomes a school
bus, getting students to class on time. Then it's a tour guide,
taking visitors to Old Town, the ballpark, Seaport Village and
many other attractions.
All night long, the trolley is
a rolling designated driver, taking partygoers to free-wheelin'
Tijuana, where it's always happy hour, you can buy lots of things
you don't need but can't live without, and you can visit doctors
who use cash registers.
The streets are lined with
touts. "You want to see a doctor ... dentist? I can take you there
Tijuana is like the Medical
Center in Houston, except the doctors carry change for a
You never know. You could be
sipping two-for-one margaritas at 9 p.m. at Iguanas-Ranas Bar
Grill and Rock 'n' Roll on Revolucion Avenue, and suddenly it
makes perfect sense:
"Hey, while I'm here, I might
as well get a root canal."
Each night, the Tijuana Trolley
brings back thousands of U.S. tourists safe and sound, except
maybe for a hangover and no idea why they bought a 5-foot purple
pinata shaped like Tinky Winky the Teletubby.
A Quick Trip ticket costs
$1.50, good for two hours anywhere the trolley goes. An all-day
pass, called the Day Tripper, costs $5. There are many discount
plans for seniors, students and military personnel.
The trolley ride is smooth and
quiet. The cars are immaculate. Signs warn against loud music,
littering, eating, drinking and putting your feet on the seats. I
didn't see one scrap of paper on the floor. I checked under the
seats for chewing gum and boogers. Clean as a whistle.
The trolley has many obvious
benefits. Each electric trolley replaces about 80 carbon
monoxide-burping cars and trucks on the road. Fewer cars means
less air pollution, less traffic congestion, fewer parking
nightmares and, certainly in the case of the 3 a.m. train from
Tijuana, fewer drunken drivers on the road.
I've tried without success to get local groups to add their events to this calendar (Bike Texas, the Yellow Bike Project, City's Bicycle Program, Bike Austin, etc.)
If you'd like to help edit the calendar, or at least add your group's events to it, then please let me know!