Apple cuts 190 jobs in self-driving car division

By Rex Crum : mercurynews – excerpt

Is Apple giving up on the self-driving car market?

Maybe not entirely, but based on the fact that Apple is laying off 190 employees in its self-driving car operations in Santa Clara and Sunnyvale, there is at least an impression that the tech giant is scaling back whatever plans its has to put an Apple car on the road.

In a notice filed with the California Employment Development Department, Apple said that it will cut 190 jobs, effective April 16. The notice didn’t disclose in which areas Apple is shedding those jobs, but various reports said Apple officials confirmed the positions are in the company’s self-driving car operations, which have been code-named Project Titan…(more)

Maybe they already did the work they were hired to do. Replace themselves. That is what robots do. Kill jobs. The tech industry is full of job-killing engineers who are programming their replacements.

In ‘unprecedented’ partnership, Facebook-funded trains could one day cross the bay

By Erin Baldassari : mercury news – excerpt (includes map)

Details are far from finalized, but, the public got its insights into the project beginning last week

In an unprecedented partnership for the Bay Area, Facebook and a private investment firm are teaming up with a public transit agency to potentially deliver a dream commuters have held for decades: a new southern crossing to connect the East Bay and the Peninsula.

The proposed transit connection, which estimates indicate could cost nearly $2 billion to build, would use an existing — but now-defunct — freight corridor to whisk commuters past stop-and-go traffic on the Dumbarton Bridge that regularly leaves motorists slogging at speeds that average under 20 mph. The Cross Bay Transit Partners, a collaboration between Facebook and the Plenary Group, a private-investment firm specializing in infrastructure projects, began gathering input on the plan with public meetings late last week and two more events are planned for Thursday and Saturday…(more)

While we appreciate the plan to revamp the old bridge, the private/public partnerships have not worked well for the public. We are picking up too many of the pieces of failed regional transportation schemes that were designed by outside experts and consultants with little regard for the public needs, opinions, or input.

Corporate Shuttles Thrive in the Bay Area’s Traffic Jam

By Kristen V Brown : bloomberg – excerpt

Ride-sharing and Big Tech buses are picking up the slack for lackluster public transportation.

Each workday, software engineer Edoardo Conti rides Facebook Inc.’s shuttle bus from his San Francisco neighborhood to the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park. At an hour or more in crawling traffic, it’s a tedious ritual. But were it not for the shuttle, the carless Conti says he might not have taken a job at Facebook at all.

The Bay Area has a mishmash of lackluster public transit options, including trains that don’t service many of the places people live and work and buses that are slow and often overcrowded. So private options have emerged: ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft; scooter and bike rentals such as Bird, Lime, and Jump; and corporate shuttles from the likes of Facebook, Genentech, and Google that ferry workers to their campuses. A Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority study counted more than 100 shuttles operating in the area daily… (more)

This is not news to the people who have been warning about the corporate takeover of our streets who are aided and abetted by our government transportation authorities.

Lower Stockton Street to Reopen to Traffic and Transit

By Phillip Pierce : SFMTA – excerpt (includes graphic)

Starting on Friday, February 22, Stockton Street between Geary and Ellis will reopen to traffic after being closed due to construction on the Central Subway. This street segment runs essentially from Union Square to Market Street — directly above the new subway’s biggest station.

The reopened street allows the 8, 8AX, 8BX, and 91 OWL routes to return to their previous alignments on lower Stockton and 4th Street starting on Monday, February 25. This is great news for transit riders who will save about five minutes on their rides from Chinatown to SoMa and on to Visitacion Valley. Nearby merchants are likewise happy to see construction getting closer to being finished…

Union Square/Market Street Station Construction

Expected to be the busiest of the new stations and located in the heart of one of San Francisco’s key retail and hotel districts, the Union Square/Market Street Station also boasts some unique features. Its northern entrance is built directly into the southeast corner of Union Square while its southern end will connect directly to the existing Powell Street Station, allowing quick access to other Muni lines and BART. An underground walkway creates a passage between the entrances and down to the platform where customers can catch the train.

Rendering of of the Union Square/Market Street Station under Stockton Street.

Rendering of the Union Square/Market Street Station under Stockton Street… (more)

Transbay Terminal — yet another problem. Train space might be too small

By Phil Matier : sfchronicle – excerpt

The Transbay Transit Center may not have enough room in its underground rail station to handle Caltrain service.

San Francisco’s Transbay Transit Center may have a new problem on its hands — not enough room in its $700 million underground train station to handle the projected Caltrain rail service when, or if, it arrives.

“That’s what we are looking into now: what level of projected future service we will have and how much the station will accommodate,” said Caltrain spokesman Seamus Murphy.

At issue is the two-story-high, three-block-long train “box” that sits under the terminal. It was built as part of a plan to bring both Caltrain’s Peninsula rail service and California high-speed trains directly into the terminal via a 1.3-mile tunnel to the Caltrain station at Fourth and King streets…(more)

After high-speed rail demise: Downtown SF to Downtown LA trains?

By Standford M. Horn : sfexaminer – excerpt

The U. S. Census counted 10 million Californians in 1950.

Today the California Department of Finance says there are some 40 million of us.

In the years around 1950, Downtown San Francisco and Downtown Los Angeles were connected with a day- and night-long stream of storied, streamlined trains. The Morning Daylight, the Noon Daylight, the Starlight, the all-Pullman Lark, The Coasters, the San Francisco Passenger, and others sped up and down the 470-mile corridor carrying millions of Californians annually. The fastest trains took less than ten hours.
Today, with California 400 percent bigger, the two downtowns are connected with zero trains. And last week Governor Newsom pulled the plug on the high-speed rail project that would have linked them as often as every 15 minutes.

While five airlines provide almost hourly service between LAX and SFO, might there be a train market among those 40 million for people who are not in a hurry or who want to save a few bucks?…(more)

Unfortunately the low cost, fast and cheap plan is the last one the government will accept when they have tax dollars to burn. Only the most expensive bridge design is acceptable for our public transit authorities who are intent on make SF Bay a world class destination.

Until the voters who call SF Bay home cut off the tax spigot, the government will not do anything cheap. They just got a new round of tax dollars burning a hole in their buckets, and the solution is to offer inexperienced workers $40 an hour digging ditches and filling potholes because there is a skilled worker shortage and they are burning through our tax dollars and bridge tolls as fast as they can so they can go back to the voters and beg for more.

DC could subsidize Lyft, Uber rides when subway is closed at night

By Sean Szymkowski : thecarconnection – excerpt

To combat loss of public transportation service at night during scheduled maintenance, Washington, D.C.’s Metro subway system could subsidize Uber and Lyft rides to make up for the inconvenience.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday on the potential plan, which is in the drafting stages currently. The subsidies would provide up to $3 off per ride, but only for Metro workers. The program would not apply to people out for recreation and is meant to help those in need of transportation for work in the healthcare or hospitality industries, for example. The trip must also take place between midnight and 4:00 a.m. and the rider must be traveling to their home or workplace. Subsidies would be capped at 10 rides per worker a week… (more)

California reports show that robot cars love their drivers: Robot cars on average required a human takeover every 14 miles driven, says Consumer Watchdog

consumer watchdog : prnewswire – excerpt

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 14, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — Updated reports required by the California Department of Motor Vehicles from companies testing robot cars on California public roads reveal a fleetwide average of 1 human takeover for every 14 miles tested, according to calculations by Consumer Watchdog. The number of times a human driver had to take control of the robot car during testing varied widely between companies.  Overall 28 companies including Uber, Apple, Toyota, Waymo (Google) and GM Cruise logged 2.04 million miles in testing and reported over 145,402 disengagements.

“These reports show that robot cars aren’t close to being ready for public deployment,” said Adam Scow, Senior Advocate for Consumer Watchdog. “While some companies are improving, others are sputtering out in the parking lot.”… (more)

Siemens Light Rail Trains Seating

Wednesday, March 20, 3:30 PM – contact SFMTA CAC
Noe Valley Room 7th Floor 1 S Van Ness MTA Headquarters
– agenda
Siemens Light Rail Trains Seating
will be a discussion topic at the MTA Citizens’ Advisory Council Finance and Administration Committee meeting
Seating is a major issue for many:
* Seats too high for individuals with short legs.
* Seats are hard on hip bone contact
* Flat seats and sliding  – seats not contoured for stability
* Back and forth train movement with no back support is difficult on the spine.
* Incline travel (Dolores Park for example) is hard on the spine
* Middle person has to reach across to push the stop button, no pull cord available
* Seating is awkward / confining  for the “middle” person


Several years ago the  MTA internet survey resulted in about a 55%-45% approval of the current configuration. At some meetings this has been interpreted as overwhelming support. This current seating configuration allows more passenger capacity.  However, the fleet will grow from 151  to  about 220 or so.

As disclosed at the MTA office site Board meeting, Muni will conduct an “intercept” survey asking patrons their opinion of the seat configuration.

When the topic arises in personal conversation, no one has approved of the new seat configuration.

Bottom line,  you have to show up as numbers count if your are dissatisfied with the current seat configuration.  As with any major equipment procurement, change orders for a price are in line.  With only about 70 light rail vehicles delivered, now is the time to initiate a change order to the contract.   This decision will be with us for the next 30 years until the next generation of light rail vehicles is purchased. If you can’t get there in person, send letters and comments to your supervisor, Ed Reiskin and the SFMTA CAC expressing your feelings regarding these seats.
Contact: San Francisco City Mayor, and Supervisors, and SFMTA

Elon Musk’s Boring Company in talks for airport tunnel project in Silicon Valley

By Simon Alvarez : teslarati – excerpt

The Boring Company, Elon Musk’s tunneling startup, might have another tunnel project on its hands. In a statement earlier this week, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo stated that he has been in talks with The Boring Co. over the last 18 months to discuss the possibility of building a tunnel linking Diridon Station and the Mineta San Jose International Airport — a distance of about 4 miles.

Addressing reporters at City Hall, the San Jose, CA mayor noted that the tunnel project could give Diridon Station a chance to “grow with the city,” particularly as Google is expected to construct a campus near Diridon in the future, which would likely bring thousands of people to the area. Apart from this, Diridon Station, the city’s main transit hub, is expected to undergo an overhaul in the future, with the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) line set to extend downtown to the station itself.

Around five years ago, cost estimates for the construction of a conventional rail link connecting the Mineta San Jose International Airport to Diridon were listed at a hefty $800 million. Liccardo noted that tunnels, particularly those constructed by The Boring Company, could cost just a fraction of the $800 million estimate. That said, the mayor clarified that the project, provided that it does happen, would not be locked with the Boring Co…(more)