BART seizes on Bay Bridge gridlock to lobby for delayed $1.25B federal grant

By Rachel Swan : sfchronicle – excerpt

Bay Area officials say a critical upgrade to increase BART’s passenger capacity is being held up needlessly in Washington, where a $1.25 billion federal grant application has languished for 18 months.

The issue picked up momentum this month as California’s U.S. senators sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation secretary urging immediate action on the grant application.

On Wednesday, BART officials upped the pressure, saying that a fatal crash on the Bay Bridge, which jammed traffic into the city for hours and brought 10,000 additional passengers to the train system, illustrated the need for improvements…(more)

Report: Uber and Lyft’s rise tanked wheelchair access to taxis

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

A new city report details the devastating drop in on-demand rides for the disability community after the rise of Uber and Lyft.

A new city report details the devastating drop in on-demand rides for the disability community after the rise of Uber and Lyft.

The financial blow to the taxi industry, the report alleges, was also a blow to the availability of on-demand trips for anyone who uses a wheelchair.

The report also points a way forward for the multi-billion dollar ride-hail industry to roll out wheelchair accessible vehicles and inclusive transportation for people with disabilities more broadly.

It’s a bit of an uncharacteristic kumbaya moment between old-school taxicab regulators and the tech transportation darlings, but one San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Director of Taxi and Accessible Services Kate Toran said is necessary to provide people with disabilities the service they need… (more)

Tentative contract deal could help end shortage of Muni drivers

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

Legislative analyst identified long wait for operators to reach full pay as factor in high turnover

Muni’s union and The City have come to a tentative agreement in their contract negotiations, the San Francisco Examiner has learned.

And although the union and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency are tight-lipped on the details of these contract talks, some operators within the agency are claiming the agreement is strong enough — in both pay increases and wage progression — to help end the Muni operator shortage.

That shortage of drivers has led to increasingly bad service on the streets, as buses and trains sit idly by without enough staff to operate them.

SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose confirmed there is an agreement with the Transport Workers Union Local 250-A, which represents Muni operators… (more)

San Francisco’s Uber-Nuisance Probe Gets Go-Ahead From Court

By Joel Rosenblatt : bloomberg – excerpt

Uber Technologies Inc. was ordered to turn over to the city of San Francisco data about how many of its drivers are responsible for illegal parking, traffic congestion and safety hazards.

A California appeals court rejected Uber’s argument that the information was properly given to a state regulatory agency, the California Public Utilities Commission, and shouldn’t be turned over to San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera. Friday’s order affirms a lower-court ruling in San Francisco’s favor… (more)

Trump administration pulls $929 million from California high-speed-rail project

By Michael Laris : Washingtonpost – excerpt

The Department of Transportation said California officials “failed to make reasonable progress” and had not met federal requirements for the project.

The Trump administration on Thursday followed through with its plan to pull more than $900 million in federal funds from California’s beleaguered high-speed-rail project.

The U.S. Department of Transportation said California officials “failed to make reasonable progress” and had not met federal requirements for a project beset with cost overruns. But the decision is also consistent with President Trump’s penchant for sparring with leaders of the liberal-leaning state…(more)

Political Punch: Major California housing bill is on ice for the year

By Alexei Koseff : sfchronicle – excerpt

A controversial measure to revamp local development rules in California by promoting denser housing around public transit and job centers will not move forward this legislative session.
The state Senate Appropriations Committee said Thursday that it would hold Sen. Scott Wiener’s SB50 for the year, allowing it to come back for a vote in 2020. That could give Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat, more time to build support or make further changes to the deeply divisive bill.
Wiener, in a statement, said he was “deeply disappointed” by the move. “We are one hundred percent committed to moving the legislation forward,” he said.
“We need to do things differently when it comes to housing. We’re either serious about solving this crisis, or we aren’t,” he said. “At some point, we will need to make the hard political choices necessary for California to have a bright housing future.”… (more)

If you opposed this bill you may rejoice for a moment. This bill is expected to show up again and possibly in as parts of another bill. Consider the efforts being made to pass SB330 That bill may freeze developer fees and make it even harder to deal with the infrastructure problems we already have. Read up on that one and see what you think.

Central Subway: The never ending project

By Lyanne Melendez : abc7news – excerpt

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — It seems most people in Chinatown knew about the latest projected delay of the Central Subway.

It was supposed to be completed by December 2019, now it’s projected to be finished by February 2020 according to the Project Management Oversight Committee.

RELATED: SFMTA holds community meeting to discuss central subway project

“But right now, you see they delay and delay. No one knows when the expected day to end this project,” expressed a frustrated Suellen Lian who works across the street from the project.

But the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency still stands by its December 2019 deadline. By the way, that’s one year after the very first, original completion date.

“All of our focus and plans are set for December,” maintained Paul Rose, spokesperson for the SFMTA… (more)

Open Forum: Save Muni from itself

By Bob Feinbaum : sfchronicle – excerpt

Save Muni has long called for a management audit of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. To that request we now must add: Review the agency’s structure. Well-reported problems with new train cars, operator shortages and maintenance problems last month have only highlighted the agency’s shortcomings.

The SFMTA was created over a decade ago to bring all the city’s transportation under one agency. As envisioned, professionals would work together to develop integrated policies and programs that served the public better than separate taxi, streets and transit departments. It simply was assumed that keeping politics out of transportation, by insulating the SFMTA from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, would assure better decisions.

But the outcome has been a spectacular failure.

The Board of Supervisors was removed from transportation decision-making, other than voting for the SFMTA budget (without the ability to make amendments). But politics wasn’t eliminated — it simply went underground…(more)

Rethinking Public/Private Enterprises

“Corporations cause problems whenever public officials allow themselves to be compromised by corporate wealth and power” – Gerald Cauthen, President of the Bay Area Transportation Working Group

Maybe we need to see some studies on the success/failures of Public/Private enterprises. How do the public/private determine power and distribute profits and how are outcomes of the programs measured?

  • Under what circumstances do governments enter into public/private enterprises?
  • How do public/private partners determine separation of powers?
  • What does each party contribute to ensure the success of the program?
  • How much public funds are invested in public/private enterprises?
  • How is the public involved in decisions to partner with corporation?
  • What are the shared goals and interests of the partners?”
  • What is the oversight process for the public/private enterprises?
  • How do government entities enforce regulations on their private partners?
  • Is government exerting proper authority over their corporate partners?
  • How are disputes handled?
  • What are the financial outcomes of the public/private enterprises?
  • Are government entities recovering their investments?
  • Is the public being served by all the public/private enterprises?
  • Does the public know about these partnership?
  • Does the public support these partnerships?

Rethinking the SFMTA at 20

By Marc Salomon : sfexaminer – excerpt

With the impending resignation of SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin amidst yet another collapse in confidence of the troubled transit system, it is time for San Franciscans to pause for a moment to consider whether the SFMTA as currently structured is the right tool to solve our transportation problems.

This SFMTA structure has been in place for almost 20 years now, since voters passed Proposition E in 1999 when Muni and the Department of Parking and Traffic (DPT) were combined into the SFMTA at the behest of Willie Brown.

The thinking at the time was that if one agency, independent of political interference by the Mayor and Board of Supervisors, had dominion over both transit and streets, that transit would run faster and draw mode shift from private autos. As with so much in the Brown era, the agency was repurposed to serve other interests with an occasional optional provision of transit services to San Francisco residents.

Needless to say, this SFMTA has not been able to rise to the challenge. Transit speeds have plummeted. Auto congestion on surface streets has contributed to snarling transit. The death toll on the streets has remained alarmingly high. And the mayor runs the agency like a contracting fiefdom.

So before the SFMTA Board picks a new leader for the agency, before the Board of Supervisors confirms any new board appointments, policy makers should take a step back and consider the following:Has the SFMTA really been an independent agency, as the board of directors sees itself as an adjunct of the Mayor’s office?

Has the unification of the DPT with Muni led to traffic being controlled in favor of Transit First?

Has the SFMTA been able to effectively plan for ongoing population and job growth as well as handling intensified land use?

Has the SFMTA been able to sustain mobility for existing residents who are not incorporated into the new San Francisco being engineered around us or are living with mobility or poverty challenges?

Has the MTA been able to proactively engineer city streets for pedestrian and bicycle safety or people living with disabilities or does it just react to tragedy after the fact?

Does the SFMTA Board as structured lend itself towards potentially adversarial independent oversight of the agency?

Has the SFMTA been up front and honest in its communications with San Franciscans about projects before the fact?

Does the SFMTA transportation planning group play well with Planning Department transportation planning and Transportation Authority transportation planning?

Is there ever any accountability for SFMTA directors or senior staffers for errors, failures and omissions or are seat warmers rewarded?

Is this SFMTA structure capable of managing capital projects safely and on time?

The answer to most of these questions is some form of NO. Policymakers should take this opportunity to dig deeper into the SFMTA’s structural problems before seeking a new outside leader. Michael Burns and Nat Ford were outside transit experts on whose watches the MTA did little more than mark time.

First, let’s figure out the best governance structure into which Muni should fit that will deliver rapid, reliable and honest transit services. Then let’s change the SFMTA to reflect that. And once a new structure is in place, let’s then do a leadership search to find the best candidate to match the new structure.

Mayor London Breed’s “Nothing to see here, move on,” as we see with her appointment of Steve Heminger to the SFMTA board, only kicks the can down the road. Heminger, of course, was the MTC chief during the disastrous Bay Bridge rebuild scandals, ran the MTC like a fiefdom and oversaw a marked deterioration in regional mobility. It is challenging to envision how Heminger would make matters better at the SFMTA.

The Board of Supervisors should pull the emergency brake on SFMTA governance, rejecting any appointments, so that it can expose and examine the structural and policy problems and figure out the best fix for the SFMTA and Prop E… (more)

Marc Salomon served on the MTA and Transportation Effectiveness Project and Bicycle Advisory Committees.