Casual Carpool From Montclair?

In Oakland, no one has to hitch a ride and hope they will end up in San Francisco.  Unlike typical hitchhiking, casual carpools are an organized effort where both riders and drivers join forces for the daily commute across the Bay.  This is part of our local fabric, with carpools operating over the past 30 years.

Old Fashioned Hiktchiker

These casual carpools are almost a misnomer, since they depend on reliable locations and trustworthy volunteers.  Passengers know they can find a ride during rush hours, while drivers expect to speed through the carpool lanes over the Bay Bridge.

Montclarions have to leave the village to join these carpools, and generally head to Park Blvd.  According to RideNow, there are currently nine locations in Oakland and one in Piedmont.  There’s one next to the Orinda BART too.

One regular commuter to the city, Patricia Carberry-Harris, thinks it’s about time to establish a casual carpool in the Village.  She typically takes the V express bus from LaSalle every morning, and is looking for other options:

I am wondering if there might be interest in starting a casual carpool location in front of the old firehouse on Moraga near the tennis courts.  The location looks ideal – there is enough room for several cars to pull into, and once you have your passengers, you can head right down to 13 and hop on 24.

Having a casual carpool in that location would obviate the need to drive down Park Boulevard and pick up passengers at one of the two Park locations, and then keep going to 580.  If anyone has suggestions about another location that might work better, please feel free to chime in.

Patricia’s suggestion sounds very plausible.  There should be enough demand for a small carpool spot here, and I’m betting that Montclarions would leave a few more cars parked at home.  Feel free to comment here,  or reach Patricia directly at

More info:   Check out the casual carpool spots on this google map.  Learn more at RideNow about carpool etiquette.  Visit the ride discussion board if you have more questions.  Read about bridge rules at the Bay Area Toll Authority.

We Are Only The ATM

While reading the Tribune this morning, I noticed a feature about how homicides impact everyone in Oakland.  Even if we don’t live in neighborhoods with any murders, we are supposedly living with extra stress nearby.

If you are cowering in the Oakland Hills, then it’s most likely related to home burglaries or robberies.  One Rockridge resident declared that we’re known as the local ATMs!

ATM Machine

Though our area primarily experiences thefts of all stripes and colors, that’s not completely connected to living in Oakland.  Take a look at any place with a little wealth or high property values, and you will see the ATM phenomenon play out.

In fact, our perpetrators don’t consistently come from Oakland; they venture from Contra Costa and other places too.  We often are targeted right alongside the Berkeley Hills and Lamorinda.

Here’s another data point to refute local crime fears.  Whenever we post crime statistics at Today in Montclair, the traffic to our site noticeably drops off.  We don’t know why you aren’t interested in stats, and whether it’s due to boredom, disgust or the desire to otherwise disengage from reality.

However, you perk up when new and more creative crimes appear.  Let’s hear about the guys casing open-houses and stealing staged furniture, the solicitors who come back later for electronics gear, or even those restaurant robbers hitting on patrons.  Now that’s the juicy stuff we like!

Seriously, we can be careful and vigilant but I don’t really buy the living-in-fear hypothesis.  When the four cops were killed, I admit to short-lived fear about my route to the airport.  I don’t believe Montclarions usually feel like they exist around a war zone and exhibit undue stress.  What do you think?

Yes, Montclair Schools Earn Top Scores Again

The most recent California academic test scores were released two days ago, and the Montclair elementary schools did just fine.  Take a look at the Academic Performance Indicators (APIs), where we show all the Oakland elementary schools which ranked at least “7” or more statewide, on a 1-10 scale.

Top Oakland Elementary Schools

Top Ten Scores

Based on these APIs, Thornhill and Montclair ranked in the top ten percent statewide, while Joaquin Miller fell into the second decile or top twenty percent of schools.

That kind of strong showing doesn’t surprise us at all.  After all, there are plenty of devoted parents who spend time working at the schools, organizing fundraisers for student activities, and helping their kids study and finish their homework.

Things get more interesting when you look at our schools versus “similar schools,” which is a politically correct ranking against statewide peers with matching racial and economic profiles.  Now you see that Thornhill, Montclair and Joaquin Miller have a little catching up to do.

New Super Looks At Inequities

Meanwhile Oakland has just appointed a new school superintendent, Dr. Anthony Smith.  He already lives in Oakland and has a kindergartner entering Crocker Highlands next year too.  Smith seems focused on helping the whole school system, especially the underachieving schools.

Smith has strong opinions about providing a good education rather than teaching for tests.  According to the Tribune, he is rather dismissive of No Child Left Behind which has been “soul-stripping for students and for teachers.”  He does want to ensure there are the right resources available to motivate learning.

Funding Sources

The newcomer wants to examine the current fundraising model, which effectively contributes to have and have-not schools.  In the hills, we work hard to raise funds all year long and deliver educational resources that aren’t available in the flats – like librarians and after-school activities.  Many Oakland schools don’t have the luxury of fundraisers, of course.

With the budget crunch, we believe that Superintendent Smith will consider how to fairly redistribute wealth from all the available pools.  Not to be greedy, but we wonder when it’s appropriate to “rob Peter to pay Paul.”  Should one school’s efforts directly or indirectly benefit another?

More info:   Take a quick look at the Oakland Tribune’s school blog, which covers all the latest district happenings from the beat reporter.  Also check out the school scores released Thursday by California’s Department of Education.  While this data took almost a year to collect and crunch, it still holds up to close scrutiny.

Those Lucky Weekday Hikers

For years, the Montclair Hiking Club has organized weekday hikes around the Bay Area.  The group is associated with Oakland’s Park and Rec Department, but essentially run by hiking volunteers.  They are very organized and carpools leave every Tuesday morning from the Montclair Park Rec Center.

Montclair Hiking Club

Last week, the Club held its annual picnic and revealed those lucky weekday hikers.  On that Tuesday, some took the long way around Redwood from Skyline Gate, while others showed up at the Redwood Gate to wander stream-side.

Generally the hikers go from a few miles to ten miles each week – and most do not look like spring chickens!  I’m not too surprised that they are still doing these amazing hikes in the hills.

This coming week, the options are either Morgan Territory or Leona Canyon.  Now that summer crowds have arrived, it makes sense to walk during the weekdays – if you have the time and energy.

The group has its own site which lists upcoming hikes.  You can also get on their email list by sending a note to  Someday I should just take the day off, and hang out with this motley crew.

Pack Heat At National Parks

So now you can legally carry a concealed weapon while visiting our National Parks.  After all, you might feel the need for a pistol during a hike up Half Dome!

It almost seems like an April Fool’s joke.  Today a credit card bill passed through the U.S. Congress and President Obama is poised to sign it.  The new protections afforded to credit card-carrying Americans are a good step forward.  But there’s an unmentioned provision to reverse a Ronald Reagan-era ban on guns in parks, thrown in without warning.

Last Cannon Yellowstone

I love this quote from the  Brady Campaign:  “Families should not have to stare down loaded AK-47’s on nature hikes,” said Paul Helmke, the president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.  We saw this coming, when Bush reversed the Reagan provision back in December.

Now we have the freedom to bear arms while visiting our natural wonders.  It’s not hunting season ever.  No one is planning on attacking you in the woods.  No one ever likes carrying extra weight when they hike.  So this is political posturing at its finest, and I feel sorry for the extra burden placed on the National Park Service rangers.

Of course, I can’t help but think about Oaklanders carrying weapons around our city parks.  Even if there were trouble makers, no one will really know about them.  Only two park rangers are assigned to all the parks and their jobs will get chopped soon.  While I believe our assigned police officers are focused on their city beats, park surveillance is too much to ask from an already-stretched crew.