Palo Alto: Council adds underpasses to Caltrain track re-design list

By Aldo Toledo : mercurynews – excerpt

Council members urged city staff to narrow down list of alternatives, not expand it.

PALO ALTO — Council members are urging civilians working on proposals for separating Caltrain tracks from busy city streets to narrow down their options as the list of potential projects once again expanded.

City officials plan to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in the next several years to keep Caltrain service from forcing traffic to stop at four city roads: Charleston Road, Meadow Road, Churchill Avenue and Palo Alto Avenue.

On Tuesday council members voted unanimously to include two of the three proposed additions to the grade separation list, including an option to build underpasses at Charleston Road and Meadow Road and a bespoke intersection at Churchill Avenue, which hundreds of Palo Altans signed a petition to close instead…(more)

CA: Lateefah Simon leads BART board on track to social justice

By Rachel Swan : masstransitmag – excerpt

For years, Lateefah Simon was an ordinary transit rider — the unflinching single mom who dropped her daughter off at 7 a.m. each weekday, then scrambled to catch a BART train. Now, she helps set an agenda for the regional rail system.

Jan. 19–For years, Lateefah Simon was an ordinary transit rider — the unflinching single mom who dropped her daughter off at 7 a.m. each weekday, then scrambled to catch a BART train. Now, she helps set an agenda for the regional rail system.

“With all these decisions BART is making, the board needs a legally blind, black, single mother,” said Simon, whose acute nearsightedness prevents her from driving. She was elected president of BART’s Board of Directors in December, signaling a political shift for the transit agency.

Throughout its history, BART offered respite from the problems outside. This year it’s confronting them head on. A more progressive board is pressing for low-income fare discounts, civilian ambassadors to supplement the police force, housing on station parking lots and parking prices that dissuade people from taking their cars. They’re considering far-reaching ideas, like making transit free for everyone — something that 42-year-old Simon hopes to see in her lifetime… (more)

Atherton signs off on Caltrain proposal to permanently close its train station

By Angela Swartz : almanacnews – excerpt

After more than a dozen public comments, the Atherton City Council decided on Wednesday, Jan. 15, to accept a proposal from Caltrain to permanently close the town’s train station. The town will now work with the rail service agency to create a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with specifics for closing the station in the next few months.

Caltrain spurred this process last week, when it sent a letter to the town – which had most recently indicated it wants to expand service to weekdays – asking it to provide official support for the proposal before closing the station, which currently operates only on weekends…(more)

1 killed by Muni train at bus stop in San Francisco’s Visitacion Valley

abc7news – excerpt (includes video)

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — Police and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) are investigating a deadly accident involving a Muni train in San Francisco.

The incident happened around 1:30 a.m. Sunday morning on Bayshore Boulevard and Sunnydale Avenue and a man was pronounced dead at the scene.

Officials say while the train was stopped and waiting for the light at the last stop, a man on the platform approached the train and tried to open the doors.

“Preliminary information indicates that the deceased sat on the couplers between two LRV cars while the train was stopped,” police said in a news release. “He fell underneath the second car of the train once it started moving again.”

When the operator started to turn the train around, the man fell off the platform and the second car of the train hit him… (more)

S.F. city attorney orders rebel e-scooter company to shut down immediately

By Rachel Swan : sfchronicle – excerpt

The San Francisco city attorney sent a cease-and-desist order Tuesday to a rogue e-scooter company that has parked vehicles along Fisherman’s Wharf and the Embarcadero and that it says is using fake permits with the city seal.

Startup Go X engaged in “dangerous and illegal conduct that interfered with the city’s impoundment of improperly parked scooters,” City Attorney Dennis Herrera wrote in a letter to the company’s lawyer, Joshua Ridless. He ordered the company to shut down by Jan. 18 or face immediate abatement under the general public nuisance law and the state’s unfair competition law.

The company owes $233,800 in unpaid fines, after racking up 540 citations in 10 months for operating without a permit and carelessly stashing e-scooters in the public right-of-way, according to the city. By doing business this way, it gained an unlawful and unfair advantage over competitors that abided by the city’s Powered Scooter Share Permit Program, Herrera wrote.

Go X CEO Alex Debelov said he was perplexed. In an interview Tuesday he characterized himself as a well-intentioned entrepreneur who didn’t fall within the city’s regulations, because his company parks scooters at businesses — mostly hotels — rather than on curbs. Since starting in May he’s put 1,000 e-scooters on streets, spreading them along Fisherman’s Wharf, into the Financial District and to Union Square. Debelov has partnered with more than 70 businesses, sharing revenue from scooter rides in exchange for space to park.

He hopes to get authorization from the city to keep operating past Jan. 18… (more)

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Where Has the Money Gone?

By Phillip Sprincin : cityjournal – excerpt

In 2009, San Francisco’s municipal budget totaled $6.5 billion—$8.6 billion in today’s dollars, adjusted for inflation and population. San Francisco’s budget for 2019 is an eye-popping $12.2 billion, a 10 percent increase just since 2018. The city has failed to match this staggering budget growth with a similar increase in capital investment or services, however, providing an object lesson in the limits of what money can do.

Companies like Google, Salesforce, and Uber, headquartered in and around the city, pour sky-high salaries and stock-option windfalls into the local economy, which has seen real estate values—and the cost of everything else—soar. City coffers overflow with tax revenue. Though the effect has been most pronounced for the past decade, it extends as far back as the first dot-com boom, 20 years ago—in 1999, the city budget was $4.2 billion, equivalent to $7.7 billion today. The excess budget above inflation and population growth over those 20 years totals an astonishing $23 billion…

The paltry results from exceptional budget growth are also a story of mismanagement. The Central Subway, though one of the most expensive subway projects in the world, has almost run out of money; its opening was recently delayed another 18 months. Last year, Muni made critical upgrades to the century old Twin Peaks tunnel, requiring additional busses to substitute for trains during the work. Muni didn’t plan for the extra drivers and took them from other routes, leaving the city short on service and causing a system-wide “meltdown.” The “Grand Central of the West,” despite having no tunnel or tracks, still cost $2.2 billion; it closed only six weeks after opening, due to structural cracks. The city spent $2 million to build a public bathroom at $4,700 per square foot, a construction cost similar to high-rise luxury condos. As successful as the OneSF capital plan has been, searching for a list of projects on its website returns the message, “the requested page could not be found.” San Francisco demonstrates that throwing in more money will compound mismanagement, not solve it.

The story of San Francisco’s budget over the past two decades shows that the city’s leadership doesn’t really value many of the issues—transit, affordable housing, clean energy—that it says it does. Given how little the city has done with its incredible windfall, year after year, it’s not clear what it values at all… (more)

Interesting article on national site that focuses rather narrowly San Francisco’s surreal budget. One must ask the question, what are they doing with all that money?

Newsom taps Bay Area Council CEO for Water Emergency Transportation Authority

By Brian Rinker : bizjournals – excerpt

Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed a long-time political mover-and-shaker, Bay Area Council CEO Jim Wunderman, to chair the agency that oversees Bay Area ferry services known as the Water Emergency Transportation Authority, or WETA.

Wunderman will move from his previous position as vice chair, a role he held since 2015, into the top seat, replacing Vice Admiral Jody Breckenridge, who had served as chair since 2014. The board is comprised of five members serving six-year terms, with the governor appointing the chair and vice chair. The governor has yet to announce a vice chair.

Wunderman will be taking over WETA during a time of great expansion. Transit advocates have hung their hats on ferry services as the great hope for easing the Bay Area’s road congestion, which steals an average 116 hours a year from the typical commuter, according to traffic research firm INRIX… (more)


Resolving the Great Subway Seat Debate

By Brian Feldman : nymag – excerpt

New York City. The city that never sleeps. The Big Apple. We all love it here, in the concrete jungle. What a town. The Yankees. Broadway. Skyscrapers. “I’m walkin’ here!” Taxis. Law & Order: SVU. The ferry. Central Park. And of course … the subway.

Every New Yorker has their own subway strategy, and everyone has their own opinion about how to handle the subway correctly. Maybe you think the G train sucks (but actually it’s good). Maybe you think the C train is good (actually, it sucks). The only thing we can all agree on is that the subway’s infrastructure is in shambles and someone (Andrew Cuomo) should fix it… (more)

It looks like the play the seat picking game in New York too.

Report: 98 Percent Of U.S. Commuters Favor Public Transportation For Others

theonion – excerpt

WASHINGTON, DC–A study released Monday by the American Public Transportation Association reveals that 98 percent of Americans support the use of mass transit by others.

“With traffic congestion, pollution, and oil shortages all getting worse, now is the time to shift to affordable, efficient public transportation,” APTA director Howard Collier said. “Fortunately, as this report shows, Americans have finally recognized the need for everyone else to do exactly that.”…(more)

In a push to boost low ridership, VTA’s new service plan to debut with free rides

By Carina Woudenberg : sanjosespotlight – excerpt

The Valley Transportation Authority’s service changes, which include greater frequency on its most popular routes and a new light rail line, debut Saturday. And, for the first four days, riders can try the new service for free.

The new service plan was geared partly toward boosting ridership, which has decreased in recent years. From 2015 to 2019, bus ridership dropped by 17 percent and light rail use declined 26 percent, VTA spokeswoman Brandi Childress said.

Some of that drop mirrors a nationwide decrease in ridership as the economy ticked up and steered people toward car ownership and as ride-share companies such as Uber and Lyft grew in popularity.

Also, recent rail line rehabilitation has led to slowdowns, which likely contributed to lower ridership, Childress said.

Work on the VTA’s new service plan began in 2016, when the agency hired a consultant to study ridership data.

“That assessment identified options for VTA’s strategy for increasing ridership, improving the farebox recovery rate, making our service more useful to riders and lowering barriers to transit,” Childress told San José Spotlight… (more)

Municipal authorities have one thing in common. They ignore the public’s request to maintain the minimum level of service the public needs to trust the system.