Bicycling the Delaware Water Gap – Port Jervis to Trenton

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There are numerous ways to connect between Metro North and SEPTA service heading south to Philadelphia. New Jersey Transit and Amtrak are logical ones; riding 125 miles down the Delaware River is probably the most scenic. For a recent weekend visit to Swarthmore, I took the Old Mine Road through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, camped in Worthington State Park, and spent the second day riding old canal towpaths in Pennsylvania and New Jersey down to Yardley on SEPTA’s West Trenton Line.

The route – Overall, scenic and very low traffic. I was a bit worried about some of the roads between Stroudsburg and Easton, PA, but they were quiet and the cars that did pass me were courteous. The unpaved canal towpaths made for slower going than I expected, especially after some rain made them a bit muddy in parts. Wildlife sightings included six deer, a family of groundhogs, four cardinals, five great blue herons, two black bears, and hordes of geese intent on blocking the canal towpaths.

The bike and gear – A heavy folding bike was easy enough to take on the bus from Boston to New York, the Metro North/New Jersey Transit train from New York to Port Jervis, the SEPTA train from Yardley to Swarthmore (and back to Philadelphia), and the Amtrak train from Philadelphia back to Boston. I brought cooking equipment and food in one small pannier, and extra clothes and supplies in another. On top of the rear rack I had a duffel bag with my sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and tent. I also had a handlebar bag for my camera, phone, directions, and snacks. At the campground, I made sure to hang all of my food in a pannier when I went to bed; a bear poked around camp in the morning, so it was a good thing I did.

Crawford Notch

Pictures from a hike out of the Dry River Campground in Crawford Notch State Park, via the Bemis Brook Trail, Arethusa Falls Trail, Arethusa-Ripley Trail, and Dry River Trail

April Weekend in Cape Cod

Pictures from a trip to beat the summer crowds, including a lunch stop in Chatham, camping in Nickerson State Park, and a ride along the Cape Cod Rail Trail to the National Seashore:

Beyond Safe Driving – Better Training for Drivers

This New York Times piece describes a school district in South Carolina where dedicated training for school bus drivers helped make them a productive part of the students’ education.

In Hartsville, disciplinary infractions were being issued at a much higher rate on school buses than at school. A child development expert from Yale identified two key problems: “first, there wasn’t a real relationship between the drivers and the school; and second, the drivers didn’t have any training on how to deal with children or families — the only training they’d received was how to drive a bus.”

The district’s response, a two-year training curriculum for drivers, benefits both students and drivers:

They provided basic information about the developmental pathways along which kids develop, and suggested constructive ways to interact with students and parents (for example: speak to every child every day, learn everyone’s name, and try to build relationships with the children and their parents). “The goal was to make the drivers feel like a valuable part of the whole picture, and to help them start asking for the behavior they did want, instead of talking about the behavior they didn’t.”

They also reviewed the bus referral form itself. “It listed 48 possible infractions — and no rules,” said Camille Cooper, who directs the program’s learning, teaching and development initiatives. “If you’ve got tons of referrals but no rules, the expectations for the kids were not being clearly communicated.”

So the drivers honed in on the behaviors they thought were most important. They continued to explore strategies for better communication between the children and their families. And they reduced what had been a long list of opaque infractions into a short list of five rules, which ranged from the mundane (staying seated) to the aspirational (treating one another with respect).

Cooper also worked with Hartsville’s elementary school principals to help them strengthen their bonds with the drivers. “I’d never worked with the bus drivers in any capacity before,” said Tara King, the principal at West Hartsville Elementary School. “There was never any relationship there, let alone a professional development opportunity.”

The article goes on to detail how these new professional development opportunities have helped improve education outcomes for students.

Are educational success stories like this one made less likely when cities try to force students from school buses onto public transit, districts contract out service, and labor relations break down, as has happened in Boston?

And what could public transit agencies learn from the success of this long-term, ongoing professional development example? Instead of one-time, basic customer service training, ongoing development and practice could benefit both passengers and employees — especially in Boston, where transit employees have to deal with the likes of this.

People’s Climate March: 6 Weeks Later

In September, I joined 400,000 others in New York for the People’s Climate March. It was a joyous convocation of people of color, people of faith, old people, and young people, all demanding action to address climate change and expressing shared hope for a just transition.

A month and a half later, I’m trying to reconcile the march’s magnitude and passion for action with what the US midterm election results mean, especially for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. The probable new chair of that committee, which oversees the Environmental Protection Agency, has compared the EPA to the Gestapo and authored a book entitled “The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future.”

The hundreds of thousands who marched in New York, and the millions around the world whom they marched to represent, see clearly that the conspiracy threatening their future is not a hoax, but politicians representing corporate money.

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Privatization and the Crisis of Bus Drivers in Santiago

Early in the morning of June 2nd, 2014, Marco Antonio Cuadra walked into a bus depot as he had done for his preceding 25 years as a bus driver in Chile’s sprawling capital city. This morning, however, instead of setting out to cover his routes across Santiago, he doused himself in gasoline and set himself on fire, shouting, “This is for the workers! Let it mark a precedent!”  By the time his coworkers grabbed fire extinguishers from their buses and doused the flames, 90% of his body had been severely burned. Waiting for an ambulance to arrive, one of the drivers asked Cuadra why he taken such drastic action. The pained response (as seen in an extremely graphic video uploaded to Youtube): “For our coworkers – because of how [corporate managers] abuse us, how they don’t pay our wages, and how they fire union leaders, but nobody complains. ¿Hasta cuándo?”

Two weeks earlier, Veolia, through its Transdev branch and Chilean subsidiary Redbus, had initiated the firing of Cuadra, a leader of Redbus Union 2. The company claimed he and the treasurer of the Union failed to fulfill “the obligations expressly indicated in their work contract.” Other employees dispute this claim and note that Veolia/Redbus, a private operator for the public Transantiago/Metropolitan Public Transport Directorate, initiated the firing three days before employees were set to present a new collective bargaining plan.

The ambulance took Cuadra to Santiago’s main hospital where he underwent a series of amputations and surgeries as his organs progressively failed over the coming weeks. His wife shared her thoughts in an interview:

A memorial for Marco Cuadra in Central Santiago (picture from Laurel Paget-Seekins)

A memorial for Marco Cuadra in Central Santiago (picture from Laurel Paget-Seekins)

He was distraught because of all the injustice. He was enraged when he saw how [Veolia/Redbus] made the older drivers, and the workers in general, work very late, how the company didn’t respect them, and how they had to use diapers because of the lack of bathrooms and the length of the routes… I pray to God that he’ll come through this so he can tell me what really happened. What I think now, based on what I saw and what his coworkers have told me, is that it was a result of utter frustration, the most extreme frustration that a human being can take.

On June 27, twenty-five days after his act of desperation, Cuadra died from his injuries.
Continue reading ‘Privatization and the Crisis of Bus Drivers in Santiago’

Dinner on the T

Summer Commute, 2014

Last summer’s commute was done mostly by Metrolink commuter rail to Los Angeles Union Station. This summer, my primary commute was by folding bike to Tsinghua University’s School of Architecture: