Portland streetcar power cables melt in extreme heat

Meter Madness

By Amy Graff :sfgate – excerpt

It has been so hot in Portland, Ore., in recent days that streetcar power cables are melting, bringing transit service to a halt for days…

Amid the heat, street cars have also been hindered by sagging overhead wires and power issues, according to a statement from Portland Streetcar. TriMet’s regional MAX light rail system also suspended service due to similar issues with overhead wires and extreme heat…

Heat-related expansion caused road pavement to buckle or pop loose in many areas, including on Interstate 5 in Seattle. Workers in tanker trucks in Seattle were hosing down drawbridges with water at least twice a day to prevent the steel from expanding in the heat and interfering with their opening and closing mechanisms…(more)

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Bay Area Transportation Working Group

via email from the Bay Area Transportation Working Group

Caltrain Extension (DTX) Side-tracked Again

Instead of moving the project forward, the Region backpedals. The recently-formed “Executive Steering Committee” is comprised of staff representatives from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), Transbay Joint Powers Authority, SF County Transportation Authority, SF Mayor’s Office, Peninsula Joint Powers Authority (Caltrain) and the California High Speed Rail Authority. They and their consultants have returned to reviewing such long-settled matters as the routing of the Caltrain extension, an ill-conceived and unneeded Pennsylvania Avenue subway, the number of tracks leading into the Salesforce Transit Center (already studied and resolved twice) and the possible interface in the distant future between the Salesforce terminal and a second sub-aqueous rail tube, if one is ever built.
All this for a project approved by all relevant local, regional, State and federal agencies and jurisdictions over 12 years ago that received its State and federal environmental clearance in 2009…(more)

The Dream of Seamless Transit: AB 629

There is a new paper out on “Seamless Transit” (previously called Integrated Transit). Replete with attractive professional graphics, the paper outlines in glowing terms all the things that are generally regarded as necessary to get lots more people to ride trains and buses. Click here to read the paper.

Unscrambling Politically-Inspired Entanglements

The Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority has developed a creative and forward-looking plan that would cut over 20 minutes off the time it now takes a Capitol Corridor train to travel between Oakland Jack London Square and San Jose’s Diridon Station. See https://www.southbayconnect.com

The Capitol Corridor system affords a comfortable and reliable way of getting from Auburn via Sacramento, Davis, Martinez, Richmond, Oakland and Newark all the way into Silicon Valley. However, Capitol Corridor trains are currently detoured from the main Coast Starlight route through eastern Hayward and Union City and then along 5 miles of east-west track to rejoin the main line in Newark and for the remainder of the trip to Silicon Valley. Since the East Hayward/Union City route closely parallels BART the detour never did make much sense. And now, with BART being extended through downtown San Jose and all the way to the Diridon Station, it makes even less sense…(more)

SFMTA: From One Hole Right into Another

SFMTA has finally realized that trying to push 43 short Muni Metro trains an hour through the subway is…and always has been…absurdly unworkable. So now it’s decided to cut back to a more reasonable 20 to 25 trains an hour. Fully automated coupling of the K’s to the M’s at St. Francis Circle and of the J’s to the N’s at the Duboce Portal would achieve this objective by allowing for fewer but longer J/N K/M, N and shuttle trains to operate in the subway.

However for unaccountable reasons never explained, the SFMTA hierarchy continues to regard automated coupling as an unacceptably terrifying complication. As things stand, to avoid the need for coupling trains together, the MTA is planning to require all its downtown-bound M-Line riders to henceforth to get off and transfer to the K Line at West Portal and all its downtown-bound J-Line riders to henceforth get off and transfer to a Market Street subway train at Church and Market. In other words, to avoid the coupling, MTA is prepared to permanently deny at least a third of its Muni Metro riders direct downtown service.

Plans, Plans and More Plans

At the present time there are a number of regional plans ongoing in the Bay Area. Currently it takes years to get through the planning/environmental clearance process to project design, construction and start-up, consistent with available short-term, mid-term and long-term funding. There is an overriding need to streamline this process, in part by:

  • Integrating the plans, at least to the extent of eliminating unnecessary duplication and overlap
  • Taking a good honest look at each potentially viable alternative, while at the same time decisively and expeditiously discarding the ones that are clearly impractical
  • Setting and following definitive schedules, right from the start
  • In the name of accuracy and realism, insisting that cost estimates, schedules and budgets be prepared and monitored by experienced professionals

BATWG will have more to say on how the Region would benefit from expedited and more effective capital improvement programming and execution in subsequent issues of the  newsletter.


Op-ed: S.F. Mayor’s Veto Fails to Move Transit Forward

By Scott Feeney : streetsblog – excerpt

A veto of a proposed free-fare pilot isn’t enough. The mayor must offer concrete solutions for bringing back riders.

Mayor London Breed has vetoed a pilot program to give Muni riders free fares this summer. In her veto message, she wrote: While I appreciate the intent to encourage public transit ridership, exacerbating SFMTA’s structural deficit by eliminating fares does not support our long-term transit goals. SFMTA must focus on restoring service lines and improving reliability…

The pilot would have lasted from July to September, with funding identified to replace fares. SFMTA received more in federal aid than it lost in fares and sales taxes, so it’s in better financial shape than before the pandemic.

Meanwhile, BART will offer 50 percent off fares in September. BART joins transit agencies across the country reducing or waiving fares to bring back ridership, including Washington, D.C.’s Metro, Kansas City’s KCATA, and L.A. Metro…(more)

Letter to the Editor: Stop the “Pilot Program” and Open the Upper Great Highway

Richmond Review/Sunset Beacon


I live in District 4 and I am a member of the group called Open the Great Highway. I am writing to express my opposition to the two-year pilot program for the Upper Great Highway, not only because it has disrupted our quiet and safe neighborhoods by directing thousands of cars onto what were once minimally used streets, but because this pilot program is being requested, recommended and justified based on false and unethically obtained “facts.”

First of all, the survey that seems to have become the primary authority for this pilot program is nothing more than a sham. Almost everyone I have talked to, and to whom others have talked, knew nothing of the survey. It claims that around 4,000 people took this survey and of that, around half of the people in the Sunset District and a few in the Richmond District approved of the closure. The…

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SFMTA street changes improve safety in the Tenderloin

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) : mastransitnews – excerpt

SFMTA’s recently constructed quick builds on Golden Gate Avenue and Leavenworth Street are helping to address the unsafe vehicle speeds and failures to yield that have made up most traffic incidents in the Tenderloin.

Due to high rates of people being struck by vehicles in the Tenderloin stretch of Golden Gate Avenue and Leavenworth Street, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) launched two quick build projects, with preliminary design phases in February 2020.

The Tenderloin is a densely populated and diverse community located in the heart of San Francisco. It is home to high concentrations of seniors, children, people of color, people experiencing homelessness and people with limited-English proficiency–many of whom live below the poverty line. SFMTA says these groups are most at risk of dying or being severely injured in traffic collisions…(more)

What say you who live, work, or pass through the Tenderloin? Has slowing traffic mitigated the negative social and economic problems in the area?

A Little More Remote Work Could Change Rush Hour a Lot

Emily Badger : nytimes – excerpt

There is something uniquely awful about that time of day when there is no good way to get around. The car horns sound nastier as downtown traffic snarls. The elbows feel sharper on a jammed subway. The sight of red brake lights is soul-crushing when they lead on a highway all the way to the horizon.

Mere mention of it makes the body tense up: rush hour.

But for much of the pandemic, it vanished. Not only did people travel less over the past year, with schools closed, restaurants off-limits, and millions of workers unemployed or at home; they also traveled less in a very particular way. Rush hour peaks flattened, smoothing travel demand around cities across the country into a low-grade continuous flow, a Tuesday morning not so different from a Saturday afternoon…

About a third of workers in the U.S. hold jobs that economists say could be done remotely. Suppose many of them worked from home one day a week, or opted occasionally to read email in their bathrobes before heading in. Overall, we’d be talking on a given day about a decline of a few percentage points in peak commuting trips — a small number, but a big deal during the most painful parts of the day…

Transportation researchers have observed the benefits of marginal changes in commute behavior on Jewish holidays, when most employers remain open but a small share of commuters stays home. In Washington, D.C., compressed schedules and telework policies for federal workers had created noticeably saner traffic on Friday mornings. On the region’s Metrorail, peak ridership before the pandemic was consistently 10% to 15% lower on Fridays than midweek.

New routines emerging from the pandemic could re-create this dynamic on a broader scale…(more)

Hopefully SFMTA will re-design their programs to fit our needs so we can be happier traveling in comfort while maintaining our persona space in our vehicle of choice. They might even offer more physical amenities to public transit riders by returning the bus stops and seats they removed to cram more people in and move them faster. We are not sardine cans that need to move swiftly down a conveyer belt. We are human beings that appreciate reliability, comfort and quality service.

Opinion: With the latest Caltrain fiasco, it’s time to talk about merging railroad with BART

By Dave Price : padailypost – excerpt

The news that Caltrain is delaying its switch to electric trains by two years, and that the project is $330 million over budget, raises a few issues:

• For one thing, it relieves the pressure on the Palo Alto City Council to decide what it will do with the rail crossings across the city. Consultants and a highly-informed citizens committee have been studying the alternatives, but council has been reluctant to make final decisions.

At the same time, council has been itching to put a business tax on the ballot to pay part of the bill for the bridges at the crossings.

But with this delay, there’s no urgency for that tax to hit the November 2022 ballot…(more)

Caltrain electrification delayed to 2024, and the price tag is rising too

By Nico Savidge : eastbaytimes – excerpt

Two-year delay is a blow to a key project for Caltrain’s future

Caltrain’s transition from diesel locomotives to sleek electric trains will take two years longer than expected to finish, railroad officials announced Thursday, while its price tag is growing by more than $300 million.

The first electric trains between San Jose and San Francisco are now projected to begin service in late 2024, rather than sometime next year. And the 51 miles of electrification work will cost $2.3 billion, up from the previous estimate of $1.98 billion…(more)

I am getting confused and my head is spinning. I thought the electrification was assured. Who to believe when?

Extra buses added after San Jose VTA shooting suspended

By Lloyd Alaban : sanjosespotlight – excerpt

VTA sent out additional buses to help bridge gaps in light rail service following Wednesday’s mass shooting. But now that’s going away too.

The transportation agency stopped light rail service after an employee opened fire at the agency’s rail yard near downtown San Jose, killing nine people and then himself. It’s unclear when service will resume.

“Management is in discussions with how to resume service on a short term basis, as well as what the long term service recovery plan will look like,” VTA spokesperson Stacey Hendler Ross told San José Spotlight. She asked for the public’s patience and understanding while the agency works to get the light rail system back up and running. “We are doing our best to balance the needs of passengers with the needs of our employees to have the time they require to cope with last week’s tragedy.”…(more)

I feel sorry for the folks in San Jose who did not see this coming. Hope they work something out soon.