Steven's blog

OCTA proposes route, sets hearing for Harbor Blvd rapid bus

An update on OCTA's Bravo system on Harbor Blvd: OCTA is having a Rapid Bus public hearing set for Mon, Dec 8, 2008 9:00am at their headquarters. Their description (with my own emphases added)? "Route 543 will operate primarily on Harbor Blvd between the cities of Fullerton and Newport Beach on weekdays only between approximately 5 a.m. and 8 p.m. The purpose of the BRT [sic] service is to provide a rapid transit option to Orange County commuters and visitors as well as satisfying congestion mitigation commitments and regional air quality conformity requirements by the end of 2010 in the South Coast Air Basin. The BRT service will supplement the existing local service in order to maximize operational efficiency and passenger convenience. The BRT service is proposed to be implemented with the June 2009 service change effective June 14, 2009.

It's about time!

I picked up the route map and hearing notice off a 57 bus and scanned it. Take a look at the route.
read more→

Microorganisms everywhere - a 48-hour experiment

We started microbiology labs this week and it's actually fun to see stuff grow. My friends — Ash, Jonny, Cliff, Jen, and Charitha — and I cracked open a bunch of agars and swabbed various things onto them and incubated them for 48 hours at 37ºC. This particular media has such a weird name: "Brain Heart Infusion agar (BHI) is a complete media used to cultivate a variety of fastidious organisms including bacteria and fungi." read more→

Designing social networking sites with Drupal

I just gave my last talk this Sunday morning at the DrupalCampLA conference. The talk brushed on elements that contribute to effective designs for social networking websites. It's heavily inspired by Joshua Porter's new book Designing for the Social Web, and includes insight on which Drupal modules help support user participation. I also cover my own personal Drupal case study, P=MD, a social networking site made for my friends; with that experience, I learned that recruiting and retaining users is a huge challenge and requires an additional marketing/publicity mindset (beyond design and development) and I learned that all these modules in Drupal provide amazing functionality but it takes additional effort to make them all work together into a coherent, usable website.

The presentation files are here in PDF form and includes bonus slides on (1) how to promote the sharing of with your website as a viral marketing tool, and (2) what modules can harbor the collective intelligence of your crowds (your site visitors). I can upload a Powerpoint or Keynote file if you e-mail me.

I had a wonderful time speaking and I loved meeting new friends in the audience. I hope I can help out again with DrupalCamp and other Drupal promotions in the future, because this was such a valuable experience for me. :) read more→

Get Metrolink updates on your phone

Kudos to Metrolink for testing out sending system status alerts using bleeding-edge SMS text messages. According to Metrolink's post on Twitter,

We've been sending ‘tweets’ to our ‘followers’ since mid-August 2008 as a pilot program and we plan to continue to test Twitter's effectiveness over the next few months but we need your feedback.  But first you have to subscribe.  Visit to learn how to set up your free account.  Next, use your cell phone or computer and send the following message to 40404:  follow Metrolink.  You should get a confirmation that you are now following Metrolink.

What kind of messages does Metrolink send out? Take a look at their web feed at and you'll find nuggets such as "Antel. Vall. Line Train 222 is 28 min. late out of Lancaster". This is the kind of quality up-to-the-minute information commuters have been craving for when they've found out their train has been delayed for an ambiguous amount of time, and information that should be on every LED display at every station!

(By the way, this initiative is similar to the Caltrain twitter feed that Ravi Pina, a Tellme, set up, except his feed is user-powered and includes bits of train commentary like alerts for crotchety train conductors: ) read more→

San Diego-Los Angeles "express" trains?

I noticed there's some OCTA talk about making Metrolink-Amtrak-Coaster train services easier to use for first-time riders. They recently did focus group studies on how they could improve service along the LOSSAN corridor. In a memo on August 14, 2008 with the subject "Los Angeles-San Diego Rail Corridor Service Integration Focus Group Findings," OCTA notes that: read more→

Bravo! rapid bus, part II: Missed opportunities and the South County BRT

A notable omission to Bravo! is the lack of a connection to John Wayne Airport. The closest it gets is Von Karman/Michelson, which is a pretty far walk from the airport. Its current route serves a lot of office complexes, but this would mostly be an area more appropriately served by commuter lines.

Another odd addition I've noticed is that Irvine Metrolink/Amtrak Station has a rapid bus connection. I've never seen stations so far away get this much attention, especially since the station was built primarily for commuters taking Metrolink. Irvine was built for cars and is nowhere near a walkable, sustainable community. Bus service within Irvine is notoriously infrequent (Irvine buses such as route 175 come every SEVENTY minutes). So having this suburban rapid bus connection makes no sense. It only seems to work if the Bravo Green Line operates primarily short trips.

Plus, I can't help but mention that we UC Irvine students are ready for more rapid transit options, but we're unfortunately stuck with the anemic ASUCI Shuttle system and a handful of commuter and community OCTA routes (read: infrequent service). Riders on line 79, which descends from Tustin through UC Irvine, must travel in standing-room only crowds in the mornings, but the bus comes every half hour to every hour. I wish UC Irvine had more green options. read more→

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