Zero-emissions ferry coming to Bay waters

KQED – excerpt

The Bay Area will soon welcome the nation’s first energy efficient ferry, powered by hydrogen fuel cells, a green technology that its inventor hopes will revolutionize the global maritime industry. Alameda startup Golden Gate Zero Emission Marine announced on Monday that it had won a $3 million grant from the California Air Resources Board to help develop the “Water-Go-Round” passenger ferry. Do you currently commute by ferry? How do you feel about an energy efficient ferry? Story: http://bit.ly/nd2KoubNb

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Autonomous Vehicles Might Drive Cities to Financial Ruin

By Susan Crawford : wired – excerpt

In Ann Arbor, Michigan, last week, 125 mostly white, mostly male, business-card-bearing attendees crowded into a brightly lit ballroom to consider “mobility.” That’s the buzzword for a hazy vision of how tech in all forms—including smartphones, credit cards, and autonomous vehicles— will combine with the remains of traditional public transit to get urbanites where they need to go…

In the US, most automotive research happens within an hour of that ballroom, and attendees knew that development of “level 4” autonomous vehicles—designed to operate in limited locations, but without a human driver intervening—is accelerating…

The session raised profound questions for American cities. Namely, how to follow the money to ensure that autonomous vehicles don’t drive cities to financial ruin. The advent of driverless cars will likely mean that municipalities will have to make do with much, much less. Driverless cars, left to their own devices, will be fundamentally predatory: taking a lot, giving little, and shifting burdens to beleaguered local governments. It would be a good idea to slam on the brakes while cities work through their priorities. Otherwise, we risk creating municipalities that are utterly incapable of assisting almost anyone with anything—a series of sprawling relics where American cities used to be…

It’s all just money. We have it; we just need to allocate it better. That will mean viewing public transit as a crucial element of well-being in America. And, in the meantime, we need to press Pause on aggressive plans to deploy driverless cars in cities across the United States...(more)

 

How the Koch Brothers Are Killing Public Transit Projects Around the Country

By Hiroko Tabuchi : NYT – excerpt

A team of political activists huddled at a Hardee’s one rainy Saturday, wolfing down a breakfast of biscuits and gravy. Then they descended on Antioch, a quiet Nashville suburb, armed with iPads full of voter data and a fiery script.

The group, the local chapter for Americans for Prosperity, which is financed by the oil billionaires Charles G. and David H. Koch to advance conservative causes, fanned out and began strategically knocking on doors. Their targets: voters most likely to oppose a local plan to build light-rail trains, a traffic-easing tunnel and new bus routes.

“Do you agree that raising the sales tax to the highest rate in the nation must be stopped?” Samuel Nienow, one of the organizers, asked a startled man who answered the door at his ranch-style home in March. “Can we count on you to vote ‘no’ on the transit plan?”.

In cities and counties across the country — including Little Rock, Ark.; Phoenix, Ariz.; southeast Michigan; central Utah; and here in Tennessee — the Koch brothers are fueling a fight against public transit, an offshoot of their longstanding national crusade for lower taxes and smaller government…

In places like Nashville, Koch-financed activists are finding tremendous success…

But the outcome of the May 1 ballot stunned the city: a landslide victory for the anti-transit camp, which attacked the plan as a colossal waste of taxpayers’ money… (more)

comment on the article:

I live in Nashville. I am a liberal, pro-Transit progressive but even I voted against this transit proposal. Why? IT WAS A TERRIBLE PLAN, and not for the reasons Americans For Prosperity said. I think you do a disservice to this complex issue when you give the Koch Bros. credit of its defeat, at least here in Nashville. The reason a large number of people did not support the plan had little to do with Americans For Prosperity’s argument and more to do with the fact that the plan did not serve the people who need transit the most, would spur development in areas already stressed to the max by overdevelopment, and seemed designed to cater to downtown workers and tourists — two groups who have been more than adequately catered to over the years.

 

Bay Area subway and rail costs: Why are they among the highest in the world?

By : curbedsf – excerpt

The process of designing, bidding, and building mega-projects is a costly one, but it doesn’t have to be this way

Shortly before the Bay Area appeared on lists of the worst traffic in the world, the region set an ambitious plan to move millions of daily car trips to public transportation by 2040. But local transit agencies pay some of the highest subway and train construction costs in the world, which will limit the impact of $21 billion the nine counties pledged to expand the transit network.

“If your costs are higher you will build less,” says Alon Levy, a mathematician turned transportation expert (and Curbed contributor). His simple cost-per-mile comparisons of subway projects expose the astronomical costs of building urban rail in the United States.

When the Salesforce Transit Center opens in San Francisco this summer, a new tunnel will be needed to connect it to the current Caltrain terminus in SoMa. The project, known as the Downtown Extension, is estimated to cost $3 billion for each mile of subway, six times more than the average outside the United States.

The Central Subway, a 1.7-mile tunnel that will connect Chinatown to Fourth and Brannan Streets, is a relative bargain at $923 million-per-mile. But elsewhere in the world, new subways cost half as much..

Rail construction costs compared

  • $3 billion per mile: SF Downtown Extension (DTX)
  • $923 million per mile: SF Central Subway
  • $780 million per mile: BART to San Jose
  • $451 million per mille: Tokyo Metro Fukutoshin line
  • $450 million per mile: Paris Line 14 extension
  • $64 million per mile: Barcelona Sants tunnel…

In the Bay Area, an unusually large number of transit agencies, 28 in total, often fail to coordinate routes and schedules. This leads to a slow and clumsy experience that many would-be riders avoid.

Costly turf war in Millbrae

Caltrain has provided service to San Francisco from Millbrae Station for years. But BART added service there as a part of its $1.6 billion expansion to San Francisco International Airport.

“Caltrain and BART are fighting for turf,” says Levy.

In Paris, a single planning organization, the RATP, dictates routes and spending for new infrastructure. Individual transit agencies operate trains and buses, they do not plan or construct their own expansions…. (more)

This sounds like the Charter Amendment concept the SFMTA was working on to split the SFMTA into two distinct agencies. They just failed to finish the job. No reason to mix future plans with a present system that is needed to operate the present system.

A new report from the Regional Plan Association of New York offers a sweeping suggestion: “The entire process of designing, bidding, and building mega-projects needs to be rethought and reformed top-down and bottom-up.”

But if reform is considered, it may have to come through an unusual degree of political leadership. As the Bay Area weathers another round of newspaper layoffs, a new study found that in places where the watchdog role of newspapers diminished, government costs go up.

A new report from the Regional Plan Association of New York offers a sweeping suggestion: “The entire process of designing, bidding, and building mega-projects needs to be rethought and reformed top-down and bottom-up.”

But if reform is considered, it may have to come through an unusual degree of political leadership. As the Bay Area weathers another round of newspaper layoffs, a new study found that in places where the watchdog role of newspapers diminished, government costs go up... (more)

RM3…the Aftermath

Bay Area Transportation Working Group (BATWG)

June 12, 2018

RM3 Approved…..the Aftermath

RM3 was accepted by the voters of the Bay Area on June 5, 2018. This has created a gigantic $4.45 billion slush fund for regional planners to dispense. Considering that the “Yes on RM3” side outspent the “No” side by least 250 to 1 and yet won by a scant 53.9%, the “Yes” side has little to cheer about. Especially since the votes for successive regional transportation funding measures have been dropping.

RM3 Unfair:  As might be expected, non-bridge users voted mostly for RM3 and frequent bridge users voted mostly against it. All else aside, RM3 was patently unfair in terms of who pays and who gets the proceeds of the bridge toll increases.

RM3 Violates California Constitution:  In addition, the RM3 bridge toll increases are being improperly treated as fees (requiring a 50% vote) when they are in fact taxes (requiring a 2/3rd vote).  On November 5, 1997 the Californa voters passed State Proposition 218 which added Article 13C to the California Constitution.  According to Article 13C a bridge toll increase is a fee only “if it is imposed for the exclusive privilege of the payor (driver & passengers)…”  Since the sponsors of RM3 plan to use the bridge toll increases to pay for expensive projects scattered around the Region including in areas where most of the voters virtually never use the bridges, the proceeds of RM3 are clearly not fees.  Since this puts RM3 in direct violation of Article 13C and since the measure passed by 53.9%, not 2/3rds it should be nullified by the Courts.

RM3 Doesn’t Address Regional Transportation Problems:  Another equally fundamental defect in RM3 is that it neither reduces regional traffic congestion nor bolsters the Region’s lagging public transit networks. There are a few worthwhile projects in RM3, but there are also many turkeys.  RM3 loosely defines 35 projects. Here are some highlighted allocations:

  • BART and Muni fleet replacement: $500 million and $140 million (this is needed)
    Caltrain Downtown Extension: $325 million (also needed)
  • Capitol Corridor Upgrade and Dumbarton Rail Crossing: $90million and $130 million (also needed but the allocations are much too small)
  • Ferrys: $300 million (incredibly, 7.3% of RM3 has been allocated to a system that accounts for only 0.05% of Bay Area trips)
  • BART to San Jose: $375 million (needed perhaps, but the anticipated ridership comes no where close to justifying the cost)
  • Fourteen backward-looking, traffic-inducing highway projects: $2,390 million
  • Vaguely defined transit, transit access and trails improvements: 4 projects; $615 million
  • RM3 allocations lavished upon non-bridge using Santa Clara County: $755 million

Conclusions:  Does BATWG think that RM3 will cause the highway backups and the urban congestion to ease? No….we don’t.  Does BATWG think that the increased bridge tolls are taxes and not fees and that therefore RM3 violates the State Constitution?  Yes we do.

For more information about BATWG, go to www.batwgblog.com

CEQA Case Report Year in Review 2017: Understanding the Judicial Landscape for Development

by Latham & Watkins LLP : jdsupra – excerpt (large pdf attached) or see online.. (more)

California higher courts rule in favor of public agencies on small majority of environmental impact report cases.

Over the course of 2017, Latham lawyers reviewed all 46 California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) cases, both published and unpublished, that came before California appellate courts. These cases covered a wide variety of CEQA documents and other topics. Below is a compilation of information from the review and a discussion of the patterns that emerged in these cases. Latham will continue to monitor CEQA cases in 2018, posting summaries to this blog.

Please see full Report below for more information… (more)

Muni to start servicing Salesforce Transit Center

By Carrie Sisto : hoodline – excerpt (includes site plan)

Muni buses will start servicing the new Salesforce Transit Center tomorrow after repeated construction delays.

Buses from five routes — 5, 5R, 7, 38, and 38R — will begin pulling into the street level of the new bus terminal at Natoma between Beale and Fremont streets.

Although construction is largely complete, other transit services are not expected to begin using the terminal until later this summer.

The new two-block long, four-story transportation terminal replaces the original Transbay Terminal at First and Mission streets, which opened in 1939 and was demolished in 2010 to make way for the new development. At its peak, the former facility served 26 million passengers each year… (more)

Fast-growing Facebook wants to fix Dumbarton rail bridge

By Wendy Lee : sfchronicle – excerpt

Facebook has entered into negotiations with the San Mateo County Transit District to improve the Dumbarton corridor, a critical connection point between the company’s bayfront headquarters in Menlo Park and cities on the east edge of the bay such as Fremont and Newark.

The project could include renovating a defunct rail bridge over the bay, built in 1910, that parallels the existing, congested bridge for cars and trucks.

The negotiating agreement, approved Wednesday by the transit district’s board, will allow Facebook and a public infrastructure investor, Plenary Group USA, to begin working on a plan to improve the corridor… (more)

Chariot lobbyist may be in trouble for campaign donations

as-far-as-the-eye-can-see7

24th Street is one of the most impacted streets by the Tech buses. Merchants have always had trouble on the street and now they are leaving in droves. Residents have been protesting for months and getting very little relief as the SFMTA moves the tech stops around like the Police move the tents, trying to pretend like they are improving the situation.

New information on investigations into possible campaign improprieties surfaces two days before the Mayoral election in this letter.

Hello Friends and Allies,

The tech shuttle bus protest this morning using electric scooters may have caught your eye: http://www.sfexaminer.com/acti vists-block-tech-bus-commute- say-e-scooters-treated-better- homeless/

But there is more in the news regarding corporate efforts to privatize mass transit and co-opt public space. A lobbyist for Chariot may be in trouble for donating personally and bundling close to $1000 to the campaign of London Breed for Mayor. This may violate Proposition T, passed in 2016, and is now being investigated by the SF Ethics Commission., Bigad Shaban and colleagues of NBC Bay Area Investigative Team did a report on the charges to the tech shuttle buses to participate in the Commuter Shuttle Program. Per that program the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency permits the tech shuttles to — illegally — make use of public Muni bus stops for a cost-recovery fee now set at $7.31. (It’s a violation of California Vehicle Code 22500.5 for any but public buses and taxis to use public bus stops. There is an exception for school buses when there is an agreement between the public transit agency and the school district in question.) Why, the team wondered, is the SFMTA only charging the tech shuttle buses a per stop administrative fee tied to the cost of running the program but had been selling taxicab medallions for $250,000 a piece until the advent of Uber and Lyft?

Don’t forget to vote!

Sue Vaughan