The Bay was blanketed in fog on the morning of November 7, 2007 as the container ship M/V Cosco Busan steamed out of the Port of Oakland, toward the Golden Gate. Due to a chain of blunders by its crew, marine agencies, and a pilot who a court later determined had overdosed on prescription medication, the vessel’s hull scraped against a fender at the base of Bay Bridge support tower, tearing a 200-foot gash into its hull. More than 53,000 gallons of thick bunker fuel from two of the ship’s fuel tanks gushed into the Bay. It was the worst oil spill to occur here since 1984.
Along the coast the slick extended north nearly to Limantour Spit in the Point Reyes National Seashore, and south to Pillar Point Harbor. Inside the Bay oil extended from the San Rafael Bridge to Oakland Inner Harbor Channel, oiling the shorelines at San Quentin, Tiburon, Richardson Bay and Angel Island. An estimated 6,849 seabirds and waterfowl died as a result of the spill, according to a report prepared for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Office of Spill Prevention and Response, and the oil reduced up to one-third of that year’s herring spawn.
In 2011 the ship’s owners and operators reached a settlement with federal, local and state officials to provide $44 million to attempt to repair the damage. In 2012 state and federal spill trustee agencies—the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, California State Lands Commission, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, and Bureau of Land Management—released finalized plans for the money aimed at improving roosting and nesting habitats, restoring eelgrass and oyster beds, trail-building, and other recreation infrastructure work.
Larger than John F. Kennedy International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, and Miami International Airport combined, the Orlando International Airport (MCO) is the country’s fourth largest, by acreage. But for all its land wealth, it struggles to move people efficiently. The current terminals can process between 40 and 45 million passengers each year—currently just under 43 million travelers fly into and out of MCO each year—and that limits what the facility can provide in terms of services. On some days, more travelers move through the current terminals than they are designed to accommodate, which leads to exceedingly long wait times and limits what the facilities can provide in terms of service.
Soon, however, the airport will break ground on South Terminal C, a $2.2 billion development set to open in 2020 and grow the airport’s capacity to 55 million annual passengers. While the design by Fentress Architects integrates many future-focused elements, one of its touch points is something of a transportation relic: a passenger rail station. Brightline, a privately funded rail service, will soon begin its first leg between Miami and West Palm Beach. Eventually, it will extend north to Orlando and the airport.
As cities grow and traffic snarls roads, cities are focusing on building multimodal linkages to make car-free trips more tenable, including to and from airports. Orlando might not be the typical city that jumps to mind when you think of a hub for transportation innovation. MCO does, in fact, have the country’s largest airport rental car fleet. Driving the 235 miles south to Miami, however, can take 5 hours in traffic compared to the 3-hour rail ride promised by Brightline. If successful, the rail integration might be a harbinger for greater intercity transit system integration across the country.
If you’ve ever visited an iconic national park like Yellowstone, Yosemite or Glacier, your first glimpses of arresting, postcard-perfect vistas were probably framed by a car window. That’s how I first glimpsed Yosemite’s Half Dome. After driving through the tunnels on Big Oak Flat Road, the road curved and the valley came into view. Angels sang. I was so overwhelmed by that monolith’s grandeur and beauty that I had to pull over onto the shoulder and have a good cry.
Years later, I stuffed my backpack with supplies and headed out my front door, Yosemite bound once again. I walked 10 minutes to the nearest San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (Bart) station, which I rode east, to the Richmond station, and transferred to Amtrak. I used the train’s free Wi-Fi to get some work done during the scenic two-hour and 40-minute ride to Merced, California, where I waited a half hour for a Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System (Yarts) bus up to Yosemite, another two-hour trip.
In total, my fares were double what I’d have paid in gas, but bus riders are exempt from the park’s entrance fee ($20 then, $30 now). The trip took more than an hour longer than driving would have, though slogging through Bay Area traffic could have evened that scale. One less car in the crowded, summer-packed Yosemite Valley that day made an imperceptible difference to the park’s clogged roads and parking lots. But once I was inside the park, the free park shuttles and my own two feet took me everywhere I wanted to go. I experienced zero road rage and could have wept over Half Dome to my heart’s content without worrying about swerving off the road.
A tiny coastal town in Norway is about to become home to an ambitious enterprise that will turn a diminishing glacier into a high-end cocktail cooler. Is there cause for alarm?
April 4, 2015
Glomfjord, Norway, is a coastal town of 1,120 residents just north of the Arctic Circle. For decades, it was home to a chemical plant that produced ammonia. After it was shuttered in 1993, two Norwegian solar power entrepreneurs saw an opportunity, and Renewable Energy Corporation began making solar panels in the former ammonia plant in 1997. Sadly, lower manufacturing costs in Asia forced REC to move its domestic production overseas, and it closed its doors in Glomfjord three years ago.
Now, a startup company called Svaice is occupying that old factory, and aims to make a very low-tech product – ice cubes – from an abundant (yet diminishing) local resource: glaciers.
Specifically, the ice would come from nearby Vestre Svartisen, the second-largest glacier in Norway. Since Svaice, led by local businessman Geir Olsen, announced its business plan last year, it has attracted both interest among local government officials eager to support a new local employer, as well as incredulity among people who cannot fathom commoditizing chunks of a glacier that is already receding rapidly.