Head of California high-speed rail project calls it quits

yahoo – excerpt

The head of California’s $64 billion high-speed rail project said Friday he’s stepping down after five years pushing forward a vision of 220-mph trains that still faces stiff resistance from lawmakers and the public. Jeff Morales, 57, told The Chronicle that uncertainty over the project’s future had nothing to do with his resignation, only a genuine desire to move aside after breaking ground on the nation’s largest infrastructure project. Morales, who sent his resignation letter to Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday, plans to remain chief executive officer of the California High Speed Rail Authority through June 2, long enough to find his replacement. In May 2012, Morales was hired by the rail authority’s board as the project struggled to get off the ground, with agency staffing stalled, lawsuits looming over rights-of-way, and the Legislature yet to commit to construction. […] the agency has bought up more than 1,000 parcels of land and hired a handful of contractors to begin building 119 miles of rail line between Madera and Bakersfield. […] in Sacramento, the state’s cap-and-trade program, which essentially sells pollution credits to industry to fund projects like high-speed rail, has failed to meet revenue expectations. […] he worked as a senior vice president at Parsons Brinckerhoff, an international transportation firm that has been a primary contractor for the rail authority…(more)

State Seeks Hefty Fine For BART in Deaths of Two Workers

Jaxon Van Derbeken reports for ncb investigates : nbcbayarea – excerpt (includes video)

State regulators want to fine the transit agency for alleged safety lapses in the deaths of two track workers hit by a train during a strike in 2013. NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit obtained BART’s own surveillance video of the accident that shows how the rookie operator tried but failed to sound the horn before hitting the workers… (more)

The 22nd Street Caltrain Station To Stay, But Needs Better Accessibility

by Shane Downing : hoodline – excerpt

Earlier this week, Socketsite suggested that the 22nd Street Caltrain station could be removed or relocated, based on a new study.

But Planning Department spokesperson Gina Simi says that suggestion, which appeared in a number of other local publications, is “simply inaccurate.”

What is happening is that a study on railyard alternatives and the I-280 boulevard is currently being conducted. As part of the study, the Citizens Working Group (CWG)—comprised of 21 members without decision-making power—was asked to weigh in on priorities and concerns about the forthcoming Transbay Transit Center, redeveloping the Caltrain depot at 4th & King streets, and tearing down I-280’s northern terminus in San Francisco…

However, the real issue at stake was not the removal of the 22nd street stop. Instead, improving ADA access and connecting the 22nd Street station to San Francisco’s street grid and other transportation, which were supported by 90 percent of respondents, are bigger priorities for Planning… (more)

How BART strike ban could be key to big transportation package

By Matier & Ross : sfchronicle – excerpt

The big and bold blitz by Gov. Jerry Brown and state lawmakers to raise the gas tax and vehicle license fee to pay for a $52 billion fix-up of the state’s crumbling roads, rails and bridges has hit a speed bump right here in the Bay Area — thanks to a trio of suburban lawmakers saying, “Not so fast.”

The lead doubter is state Sen. Steve Glazer, a moderate Democrat whose district stretches from Livermore up to Orinda and over to Brentwood. Not only is he tax-averse, but his single biggest concern is outlawing BART strikes like the two that made life miserable for his constituents in 2013 — and word is, he won’t vote for the transportation package unless it contains such a ban…

The two other Bay Area question marks on the mega-transportation and tax plan are Democratic Assemblyman Timothy Grayson of Concord and GOP Assemblywoman Catharine Baker of San Ramon — both from the same neck of the woods as Glazer…

Last week, a KPIX-5/Survey USA statewide poll found that only 23 percent of Californians surveyed think taxes and fees need to be raised for roads, compared with 61 percent who think Caltrans should spend its money more efficiently… (more)

At this point the riders are going on their own strike as fewer riders are showing up for the service on weekends, BART is losing more support from the public that is conducting its own vote by choosing more comfortable and reliable modes when possible.

New Beta site for SFMTA

After months of complaints about the difficult, non-user friendly experience in accessing information on the SFMTA web site and the lack of true public outreach and transparency in operating procedures many of us have experienced in dealing with the San Francisco Municipal Transit Authority, we discovered a new beta web site under development. Check it out and see what you think. https://sfmta.xtreet.org

SFMTA is accepting feedback and questions. If you have any feel free to contact them.

SF OpenData is here. It appears to include a lot more city data.

So far we see:

At least some SFMTA Board resolutions are now searchable by referencing particular details, such as project classification, or a specific location. We look forward to additional details such as date of proposed implementation, progress reports and completion date.

There were two maps last I looked: One of disable parking spots and one of temporary tow-away zones. The latter seem to out0-numer the former by a large margin. Limiting those temporary two zones could go a long way toward solving the double parking problem.

Resolutions appears to be the history of all the detailed little street alterations they take up at engineering hearings. This one starts in 2010. Seems to end at 3/7/17. Hopefully they will get enter the FUTURE actions soon, as those are the ones most people need to know about.
This includes video of meetings where supposedly these changes were discussed.

Now we meed to how this will work on future projects.

Tech Shuttle Sign of Growing Inequality

Op-ed By Mari Elizapublished in The Potrero View

Lingering controversy over “tech buses” – shuttles conveying high technology workers here, there, and everywhere – is related to who gets to ride them and how far a would-be passenger has to walk to catch a public or private bus. The free ride and exclusive social element sets the tech buses apart, and causes animosity between tech shuttle riders and everyone else.

Muni riders are having their bus stops cut, and seats removed.  Shuttles appear to be free, clean and comfortable. They also seem to be closer to a door-to-door service, while Muni is forcing its riders to take longer walks by eliminating stops.

It could be an illusion, but it’s certainly a perception. A new privileged class system is rearing its ugly head.  The wealth and privilege associated with tech buses adds to feelings of social inequality.  Shuttles have become the catalyst for anger that needs an object to lash out against because they’re so visible and appear to be unregulated, ignoring laws and getting away with it. 

Neighborhoods want to kick the shuttles out.  Developers want to eject low rent tenants.  Both sides are lining up to protect their turf.

 

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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