Commuter Bus program Report

Report by Edward Mason with comments

Summary of the February 21, 2017 MTA Board meeting
Making the Commuter Bus program Permanent

FOR
Three representatives from the Teamster’s Union declared the program a win-win for all: jobs, profits all around; “labor harmony;” and the streamlining of the shuttle operation, including coordination with residents.

One after the other, the commuter buses patrons presented their case: reduction of dependence on cars; ease of travel, with consequent savings to their personal time; the avoidance of 40 minutes on Muni and/or a full CalTrain. Some argued that they ride the commuter bus because there is no shuttle to work from the CalTrain Station. (According to a former Apple employee who helped design its commuter system, that company does pick up at the shuttles.) Almost to a man they parroted the bromide that the program removes 10,000 autos and benefits the environment. Each insisted that they only wanted to live in San Francisco and did not want to own a car. One woman, who rode the buses during the course of two pregnancies, cited the importance of frequent stops.

A representative from the Bay Area Council made his contribution. He cited three years working with the MTA and ABAG (the Association of Bay Area Government). He trumpeted the reduction of vehicle mileage, the easing of congestion and the removal of 2 million car trips annually. All this was good for the environment, with the result that the best option is a permanent program.

Others asked for increased commuter bus loading zones. During the presentation, Director Ramos asked speakers to indicate if they rode Muni. Some said they had a Clipper Card. (No one indicated they rode Uber/Lyft to the commuter stop, a fact which has been observed.). Surprisingly some commented they would purchase an auto and drive if the commuter bus was not available. (Surprising because many in this age group do not know how to drive and distain the burden of car ownership — one of several reasons for the success of Uber/Lyft).

In summary, the “for sustaining commuter bus program arguments were convenience, fewer auto miles, good for the environment, and time savings for personal or family time, i.e., personal benefits. (Not mentioned: the huge tax deduction that the company takes for the business expense of transporting its work force. This deduction reduces their contribution in the form of corporate taxes to the general welfare. (Individuals generally can not deduct their commute, so we all indirectly support this corporate write-off)).

AGAINST
One argument against the corporate bus operation is the low mileage-per-gallon in the city vs. the freeway, especially with the extensive use of deadheading. (This argument supports the use of HUBs.) The ignoring of ADA, the omission of an EIR, and the displacement of lower income populations are other frequently raised problems. (More ammunition for a BART HUB.) Also on the legal side, red zone stops violate state code 22500 and cause Muni to fall short of its 85% on-time goal prescribed in the City Charter; and enforced Muni street-boardings violate ADA rules. In view of all the busses’ many violations, the MTA issues too few citations. Noise and vibration impact on houses. Smaller buses could substitute for many if not all of the behemoths. One detractor even contented that if the buses disappeared the 10,000 additional autos represented by the population of riders would have a minor impact on the 300,000 auto commute time total on Highway 101.

Finally, buses should benefit all parties (citizens, not select workers). In the end, the support should be for a Public Regional Express Bus system. Presently the program represents an illegal give-away of bus stop space. Prop 26 fee structure should be reviewed, State Assembly Bill 61 to legalize red zone failed.

DIRECTORS’ comments / questions included:

  • Shift to smaller buses on more streets? Companies determine the size and mix of buses.
  • Increase penalty, emissions standards
  • Director Ramos commented one thousand emails received and New Development in SF funding Mass Transit changes (I assume new market rate development for South Bay workers. However, the Transportation Sustainability Fee derived from new development is deeply discounted to less than 25% of the Nexus Study true transportation expansion cost. Growth is not funding Growth). With a growing economy, MTA must“accommodate the need of Industry.” (Does this mean at all costs and with little or no regard for the collateral damage inflicted upon the neighborhoods?) He applauded the industry for being willing to work with this voluntary program. He conceded that the arrangement was far from perfect and would evolve, including MORE STOPS TO REDUCE DWELL TIME, such as additional loading zones that remove parking.
  • Form a web page for better violation/complaint reporting

TAKE AWAY
Underlying the argument for the corporate bus operation is a presumption of the inherent right of the individual to enjoy a simultaneous commute-and-work experience, a benefit that suits both the employee and the employer. Of the many individuals who said that, deprived of that right, they would purchase an auto and drive, not one displayed any trepidation about the environmental consequences of that action.

I will share the Public Records Request correspondence received supporting the Commuter Bus Program. Mostly repeated cookie cutter statements. Mostly like upstart businesses “mustering the troops” to lobby the legislators.

The geography (steep hills) and geometry (narrow /awkward streets) undermine the practical use in this city of motor coaches, i.e., 40’plus vehicles designed primarily for travel on freeways. None of the supporters mentioned any of the intractable and multiple problems associated with them, including staging (idling for a time point departure); the obstruction of intersections; noisy, late night operation; and the conflict with MUNI.

Assuming 20% of the future employee expansions of Facebook (6,000) and Apple Spaceship (8,000) will most likely result in additional buses in San Francisco. Plan Bay Area 2040 is up for review. Will the employment centers build work force housing? Work site congestion mitigation transfers congestion to the employees’ neighborhood. San Francisco is not alone, as Private Commuter Buses roam the South Bay Cities traveling from San Jose to Sunnyvale, or Mountain View.

Proposed Trump budget makes billion-dollar cuts in city transportation, development funds

By Patrick Sisson : curbed – excerpt

Mayors: “mortally wounds the places where the majority of Americans live, work and play”

The numbers are in. The preliminary 2018 federal budget proposal was released by the Trump administration today, and it doesn’t look good for urban infrastructure funding.

The “blueprint budget” offers a series of sizable cuts in domestic spending, totaling $54 billion, including reductions that would target transportation funding, community development, and public housing. If this budget is adopted by Congress, these cuts could create massive shortfalls in city and local budgets and hinder future plans for reinvesting in urban communities… (more)

from @yfreemark : List of all transit projects in line for federal funds in the next few years, but which would have their funding cut with Trump budget.

U.S. Transportation department executive approved grant days before taking job with rail contractor

By Ralph Vartabedian : latimes – excerpt

A top Obama administration executive at the U.S. Department of Transportation approved a $647-million grant for a California rail project in mid-January and less than two weeks later went to work for a Los Angeles-based contractor involved in the project, The Times has learned.

The grant provides a significant part of the money required to install a $2-billion electrical power system on the Bay Area’s Caltrain commuter rail system, allowing the rail to retire its diesel locomotives.

The power equipment will eventually be used by the state’s bullet train from Los Angeles to San Francisco, making it a critical part of the $64-billion program. The California High-Speed Rail Authority has pledged about $713 million to help install the system, according to state records.

The grant was handled by Carolyn Flowers, the acting chief of the Federal Transit Administration.  Flowers announced the grant approval in a letter, dated Jan. 18,  to congressional leaders. The Times obtained a copy of the letter…

Thirteen days later, Flowers went to work for Aecom, a Los Angeles-based engineering firm. The company news release announcing her hiring says she will head its North American transit practice. Aecom provides program management services to Caltrain for the electrification project, according to Caltrain documents. It was formerly a regional consultant to the high-speed rail project as well.

On Friday, the federal transit agency said it had “deferred” a decision on the grant and said it would look at the matter in the next federal budget cycle. The decision may be an early sign of the Trump administration’s view of the bullet train project. The line is already under construction and will need significant federal funding moving forward.

The delay follows a letter from every Republican member of the California House delegation to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, asking that the grant be put off until an audit of the high-speed rail project is completed.
This is exactly what America hates about Washington, D.C… (more)

Don’t they call this the revolving door?

RELATED:
Carolyn Flowers-letter to congress

‘Shell knew’: oil giant’s 1991 film warned of climate change danger

What Shell knew and when

SF CEQA

by Damian Carrington and Jelmer Mommers : theguardian – excerpt (includes video)

Public information film unseen for years shows Shell had clear grasp of global warming 26 years ago but has not acted accordingly since, say critics

Film warned of climate change ‘at rate faster than at any time since end of the ice age’   What Shell knew about climate change in 1991(more)

The oil giant Shell issued a stark warning of the catastrophic risks of climate change more than a quarter of century ago in a prescient 1991 film that has been rediscovered.

However, since then the company has invested heavily in highly polluting oil reserves and helped lobby against climate action, leading to accusations that Shell knew the grave risks of global warming but did not act accordingly.

Shell’s 28-minute film, called Climate of Concern, was made for public viewing, particularly in schools and universities. It…

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SF installs diagonal pedestrian crossing at dangerous Chinatown intersection

Meter Madness

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez: sfexaminer – excerpt

After more than a year of repeated protests, San Francisco has installed full “pedestrian scramble” safety engineering improvements to a busy intersection in Chinatown.

Kearny and Clay streets, where 77-year-old Ai You Zhou was struck and killed while crossing the intersection in 2015, is the latest spot in The City to receive the pedestrian engineering treatment, which replicates pedestrian crossing patterns in China… (more)

It can take a while, but both pedestrians and drivers like scrambles. They are the least confusing and the most safe of any crossing process in the traffic “tollbox” and we would like one at 16th and Mission as well. How log will it take to get one there?

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BART ridership slumps; board mulls service cuts, fare increases

By Erin Baldassari : eastbaytimes – excerpt

OAKLAND — Despite crush-loads of passengers during peak commute times, the number of people riding BART is actually falling, forcing the transit agency to begin tough conversations about how to make up for lost revenue.

After six years of growth, staff anticipated a similar increase in the number of riders during the 2016-2017 fiscal year, which began July 1. Instead, the agency is reporting that ridership through December was 5.2 percent below what it projected. Weekend trips took the hardest hit, coming in at 9 percent lower than projected, compared with 4.2 percent for weekday trips.

In January this year, for example, weekday trips were down a little more than 4 percent, and weekend trips were down slightly more than 2 percent, compared with the same month last year. Ridership figures vary month by month, but BART staff said they are seeing a decline in the total number of riders opting to take the trains… (more)

Put the seats back on the BART cars if you want to compete with trains, taxis and Ubers! No one wants to stand on a moving vehicle. Why is BART considering service cuts, seat removal and fare increases if they are losing riders? Why would people want to stand on BART?.

It is one thing to convince yourself that you are perfect, but another to convince the public that they can trust you. BART needs to ask the public what they want instead of forcing changes they don’t want. The trains still have seats last I heard and they are comfortable seats or were the last I remember. Given the choice I would take the train.

RELATED:
Legislature should reverse BART’s deceit of voters 
BART says it needs more money because weekend ridership is down

 

About Mobility Hubs

metrolinx : excerpt (includes graphics)

What is a Mobility Hub?

In The Big Move, the Regional Transportation Plan for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA), one priority calls for “a system of connected mobility hubs” that provides travellers with seamless access to the regional transit system, supports higher density development, and demonstrates excellence in customer service.

A mobility hub is more than just a transit station. Mobility hubs consist of major transit stations and the surrounding area. They serve a critical function in the regional transportation system as the origin, destination, or transfer point for a significant portion of trips. They are places of connectivity where different modes of transportation – from walking to biking to riding transit – come together seamlessly and where there is an intensive concentration of working, living, shopping and/or playing.

Mobility hubs have great potential to help transform the region and reinforce provincial policies as laid out by the landmark Greenbelt Plan and Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe. The hubs will be centres of activity, attracting opportunities for live, work, and play, that are connected to the rest of the GTHA through reliable, rapid transit. This potential can be achieved with the successful integration of land use and transportation planning, committed private sector partners, strong stakeholder engagement and a common vision for the future…(more)

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Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco are most congested U.S. cities

By : usatoday – excerpt

Cheap gas and a surging economy are taxing the nation’s roads and contributing to congestion that cost U.S. motorists almost $300 billion last year in wasted time and fuel, according to a new report…

“Gas prices haven’t increased that much over the last year or two,’’ says Bob Pishue, senior economist at INRIX and a co-author of the traffic scorecard. Economic growth or productivity has also been strong in cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York. “Those kinds of factors, combined with an already strained road network leads to increased congestion.’’…

Even if the growing popularity of ride share services like Uber reverses the nation’s decades-long decline in car pooling, the increasing amount of freight on the nation’s roadways will still stoke gridlock. “With an economic recovery … the movement of goods also puts a lot of strain on the roads network too,” Pishue says. “So even if people reduce their driving a little bit, freight is still increasing.”…

When freight carriers lose time and money in traffic,  90% of those costs “get pushed onto households through higher prices for goods and services” Pishue says… (more)

 

Trump administration deals a big setback to Caltrain

By Matier & Ross : sfgate – excerpt

In the first big hit to the Bay Area from the Trump administration, newly minted Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has put the brakes on $647 million for Caltrain to go electric — and in the process pretty much killed hopes for high-speed rail coming to San Francisco anytime soon.

“It puts the (electrification) project in serious jeopardy,” Caltrain spokesman Seamus Murphy said Friday.

Caltrain carries about 60,000 riders a day between the South Bay and San Francisco, but its diesel-driven trains are both costly to operate and slow. Officials see electrification as a way both to increase ridership and save money on operating costs.

Going electric would also allow the Peninsula line to be the final link in the high-speed rail system that Gov. Jerry Brown wants to stretch from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The Obama administration embraced the idea, but California Republicans have long portrayed it as a boondoggle and sought to kill it.

In this July 1, 2013, file photo, commuters board a Caltrain train at the Caltrain and BART station in Millbrae. The Federal Transit Administration is delaying a decision on whether to approve a $647 million …(more)

Forum on future of interstate highways coming to SF

Meter Madness

By Nuala Sawyer : sfexaminer – excerpt

Bay Area residents are being invited to participate in an ongoing study on the future of interstate highways, which will provide recommendations on the country’s highway system plan for the next 50 years.

The study is being organized by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Transportation Research Board, who at the request of Congress are holding a number of events across the country. The events offer the public the chance to participate in how best to plan, fund, operate and maintain the 60-year-old, nearly 47,000-mile freeway network in the decades ahead.

For those who are interested in providing their views, the study is coming close to home next weekend. On Feb. 23 and 24 the Transportation Research Board will be hosting a forum open to the public. The first meeting will be held Thursday, Feb. 23, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., in the…

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