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Santa Clara County Bus vs. Jet Blue? Just Fly; Its Cheaper

Santa Clara County Bus vs. Jet Blue? Just Fly; Its Cheaper
Finally something to cheer about regarding the Valley Transportation Authority.
After being battered for months for cutting bus lines and rejiggering service, Santa Clara County can now boast having the best buses money can buy. OK, I don’t know about the best part. All I know is the cost of running the county’s three Zero Emission Bus (known as a ZEB) is absolutely nuts, as Gary Richards points out in today’s Merc.

It costs $51.66 a mile to move one of the buses down the road. Good thing mass transit agencies never expect to recover all costs from passenger fares. Otherwise, it would cost you $309 to take the bus from San Jose City Hall to Eastridge mall.

OK. OK. Maybe the bus would have 10 or 20 people on it, reducing your cost to $15 or $30.

Another way to look at it? When JetBlue starts its discount service between Mineta San Jose International Airport and Long Beach in May, the airline will offer a round-trip fare of $78.
Making the trip in a VTA/ZEB bus would cost $31,305, or about 400 times the airfare. ***

By Mike Cassidy


DADVENTURE: 2008 New York Toy Fair EXPOSED!

espite last year's Jet Blue travel debacle, I'm returned for the 2008 New York Toy Fair.
My generous and enthusiastic, but child-free host expressed interest in accompanying me to the show. I asked her what was the longest amount of time that she had spent in a crowded Toys 'r' Us in the Christmas season. Just to give her perspective on how much "fun" is involved.

My feet were numb before I was halfway through the massive show's upper floor on the first day. Some of the exhibitors were welcoming of me and my press badge (credential vetting process?), with dedicated team members at the ready with press kits and tours of the new products. Some exhibitors refuse to make eye contact as soon as they make you for not being a buyer.

I don't even bother with the big boys like Mattel and Lego. I've heard they beat up bloggers just for asking to get in to their fortress-like booths. My favorite response was from the president of brand that my youngest, Coop, is in particular love with at the moment. I introduced myself as a fan of the products. She looked through her bifocals at my badge, and, her voice dripping with disgust, spoke to a staffer.

"The giveaway box is in the back," she said, and walked off.
I was totally humiliated, but I did hang around for the swag.

In terms of the actual toys, I'm most drawn to outdoor activities and kits. The number of pitiful board games just makes me sad. And global warming has come to kid's toys. In other words, global warming is the new theme. Every other booth features a "green toy" made of some exotic hard wood and paint made of insect derived pigment. I actually saw one "Global Warming" Mad Scientist kit. What's the experiment? Release a giant mushroom cloud of CO2 by having your mom turn the key in her Range Rover?

There was a Bill Nye branded kit that helped kids to understand how recycling works by making their own recycled paper out of used newspapers that actually looked really cool to me. I liked everything at the Razor booth and the people were really cool. For those of you who are worried that your need for branded goods from Hannah Montana and High School Musical will never be met: rest easy. I can report from the New York Toy Fair 2008 that there will be enough Hannah Montana plastic makeup kits and board games and karaoke machines to thoroughly decorate all the concentric rings of hell.

The other trend I noticed this year: no less than eight booths hawking testing gear and laboratory analysis to toy store owners and manufacturers. I demo-ed one hand held lead detector that was pretty cool. Instead of hiring washed up actors to deliver powerpoint presentations on the history of toy safety and blasting it over the PA, and PR teams to prowl the show floor, maybe the TIA or the CPSC should pop for a couple of these and, you know, pass 'em around.

One PC note: a majority of these booths were staffed exclusively by Asian men. I did not confirm that these gents were Chinese, but wouldn't that be a Wharton School-worthy case study of creating a market and offering a solution? Could they not get together and handle this whole lead issue on the other side of the Pacific? Am I channeling Archie Bunker right now? But my two least favorite aspects of the show have to be the "Game Center" and the Pink Plastic Sequin Explosion Booths.
The "Game Center" is on the lower level, and it's a cluster of booths where mostly husband and wife teams stands and pitch their board games. I break into a trot down the aisles of this section hoping to avoid "the look." The We-Just-Took-Out-a-Second-Mortgage-to-Follow-the-Dream look. These poor folks with trepidation and hope in their eyes, having left the good day job and dumped the life savings into what they hope will be the next big thing. I know the look well.

And then there are the Girl Booths. About every fifth one is a complete Pinxsplotion, full of frilly costumes and makeup kits and every other thing a father of daughters needs to be on guard against. We have to stand on the barricades, on guard against the pinkification of girlhood.
I'll post my top ten finds of the show later in the week.***

by Clay Nichols
Clay Nichols, Family Correspondent:
Clay's column, Dadventure, published twice monthly to Gather Essentials: Family, is a sure-fire guide to raising flawless, perfectly behaved, and always obedient children. Yeah, right.
Clay is the co-author of Filmmaking for Teens: Pulling Off Your Shorts, an award-winning playwright, and the Chief Creative Officer at, a fatherhood website.


Essay: Airline Merger

Back in the bad old days of the early 1980s, before the effects of airline deregulation had fully kicked in, I used to fly to Washington or someplace else nearly every week. I didn’t mind flying. There were lots of airlines to choose from and they usually fed you on any flight longer than the hop to Toledo. All you generally had to do was take the keys out of your pocket when you went through security. Once, I was running way late and they just waved me on.

Now, of course, there are far fewer airlines. What you have to go through to get on an airplane these days is worse than what you used to have to do to get in to see Howard Hughes. Well, that’s life. And not everything about our brave new world is bad. For example, it is now cheaper to fly to Lacrosse, Wisconsin than it used to be. If you can find a flight, that is. And if you want to go to Lacrosse, which I really don’t.

But I do know this. When I hear the words “proposed airline merger,” I want to put my hand on my wallet and scream for my congressman. Mergers are always portrayed as being good for the consumer, and they have mostly been exactly the opposite. However, Phil Power, chairman of the non-partisan Center for Michigan, believes this one is different. He thinks a merger between Delta and Northwest could be very, very good for the entire state’s economy. In his column this week, he forecasts that a merger “would make Detroit the premiere gateway to Asia, and a tremendously attractive hub for travelers going to Europe and South America.”

Not only that, but he thinks this could be the final piece of the puzzle needed to make a decades-long dream possible: “Airport City.” That would be a bustling, job-rich, consolidated passenger and freight-handling center that would stretch from Detroit Metropolitan Airport in Romulus to Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti. Warehouses, modern-day marshalling yards and assorted businesses would spring up in the 27,000 mostly undeveloped acres between the two airports, creating thousands of jobs.

This was the dream of the late Ed McNamara, the longtime Wayne County executive. I always thought that was a great idea. One of those great ideas, unfortunately, that would never happen. But this merger just might be the tipping point that would create the critical mass that would prove me wrong. That, coupled with the opening up of Asia and the tremendous growth of China.

Still, I have my reservations. I don’t want Northwest-Delta to be the only passenger airline in Detroit. I would like to see some kind of assurance that this will not choke off competition, especially from the new low-cost carriers like Spirit and Jet Blue. What I want is a system that works pretty well for all of us -- sort of like we had in the bad old days of regulation, only better. I hope you don’t think that would be un-American. ***



Planes, Trains....Well You Know...

Tomorrow marks my 6th month anniversary to the day of when I said goodbye to my friends and family, got on a plane and embarked on my journey to New York City. Which is funny because tomorrow, I will actually be saying hello to them all! I took a weeks vacation from work and am spending some time back "home" in Seattle.

The even stranger thing about it all is that this might also be one of the days when I feel more like a New Yorker than any other day since I left. Today I traveled to JFK in a way only a true New Yorker would....

I started out on 57th and 10th where I loaded my baggage (pun intended-it's been a rough couple of months) into a cab headed for Penn Station. The driver tried to take me through 4:30 in the afternoon?!! No I wouldn't have it! So I redirected ....take me down 9th please....and he did (humph).

After arriving at Penn Station I proceeded to make my way - with out asking anyone (I'm no tourist) to the ticket counter to buy my $7 train ticket to Jamaica (Queens - not the tropical locale) - on my way to my seat I bought a $2.50 amstel light and boarded the train. 15 minutes and slightly tipsy (i hadn't eaten) I arrived (apparently) at the entrance to the Air Train in Jamaica Queens. At the Jamaica stop I boarded the Air train for $5 which took me RIGHT to my terminal at Jet Blue (yes I'm flyin' cheap). The whole thing cost me $14.50- beer included.

I'm pretty sure it's the beer slash conquering New York travel with out taking a snotty car service combo...but suddenly I'm in love with Jet Blue! So now I sit listening to John Cougar (after he dropped the Melencamp but before he took it back becoming only John Melencamp...) enjoying a beer with a stranger who is enjoying making fun of me.

More from Seattle soon.... ***



Packing an Airline Survival Food Kit

These days, with airlines charging for aisle seats, luggage, and now food, you have to really think ahead when you travel or you’ll starve before you ever reach your destination. On my recent trip to Quebec, I was dismayed to find that Air Canada doesn’t accept credit cards for food purchases. It was especially disappointing as it looked like they actually had decent food. Most other major airlines, including Jet Blue, won’t accept cash anymore which , at least, makes sense… their flight attendants don’t have to run up and down the aisle shouting “Does anyone have change for a $20?”

So, if I hadn’t had my emergency food rations in my backpack, I would have been out of luck on Air Canada. Thankfully, I had cheese, crackers, nuts, and a chocolate croissant stashed away, in addition to a bottle of water. You also have to be careful about where and when you buy your beverages, as I discovered in Europe on my last trip. Many of the airports there have not one security checkpoint, but two, so I wasted about $6 on a bottle of water after I cleared security only to find that I had to go through an additional security screening at my gate.

In many of the airports in Europe, like Vienna, once you go through screening to your gate, you’re a prisoner in the gate waiting area with no access to any kind of stores or restaurants so it’s impossible to get any liquids. In those cases, as soon as I board the plane, I ask the flight attendant for a bottle of water. If you ask early, before supplies start running low, you have a better chance of scoring. ***


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