New bus operator offers low-cost routes to LA, SF

By Ben van der Meer : bizjournals – excerpt

Sacramento has another competitor in the space for low-cost travel to other cities without flying or driving.

FlixBus, which started operations in Los Angeles in May, expanded bus service to Sacramento and other Northern California cities Thursday, including several in the Bay Area and Central Valley.

Its strategy is straightforward: Tickets as low as $4.99 to San Francisco and $14.99 to Los Angeles, using buses equipped with Wi-Fi and a full range of movies and other entertainment for every seat.

Three buses will leave from Sacramento daily at 5:50 a.m., 1:10 p.m. and 10:50 p.m., arriving at either University of California Los Angeles or the University of Southern California in about nine hours. Three other buses arrive daily in Sacramento from those starting points. The pickup and drop-off point is the California Automobile Museum at 220 Front St.

Other cities with FlixBus service starting Thursday include Bakersfield, Fresno, Oakland, Reno and San Jose… (more)

One more reason SF needs a robust parking transit hub system to connect people with all the mobile options easily without taking up curb space. This is the only win win possibility we have if we want to clean up the mess and build flexibility into the system for those constant transit meltdowns. Don’t bother to fight it. Just fix it.

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Lawsuit targets toll authority over $3 bridge toll increase

By Erin Baldassari : mercurynews – excerpt

SAN FRANCISCO — A taxpayers association, on behalf of three plaintiffs from Vallejo, Vacaville and Lodi, is challenging a recently approved $3 bridge toll increase in state court — a move that could potentially delay or eliminate the measure.

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association filed the suit Thursday in San Francisco Superior Court against the Bay Area Toll Authority (BATA). It challenges the notion that Regional Measure 3, which voters approved last month, is a “fee” requiring only a simple majority to pass, rather than a “tax,” which requires two-thirds voter approval.

The suit asks that the toll be invalidated…

That’s not a fair increase for the drivers who will be footing the bill for public transit or bicycle and pedestrian projects, which together account for roughly two-thirds of the planned projects, said Timothy Bittle, a lawyer for the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. …

Prop 26, which voters approved in 2010, broadened the definition of a tax to include many payments previously considered to be fees, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office. Fees that benefit the public broadly — rather than providing services directly to the fee payer, such as garbage fees or state park entrance fees — would be considered a tax under Prop 26, the analyst’s office said…(more)

NOW is the time to DEMAND A PUBLIC HEARING on the privatization of our public streets.

“Lyft’s Big Bike-Share Buy Is About Ruling the Streets”.

This is the headline running on Wired after the recent announcement that Lyft acquired Motivate, and the Gobikes. According to the article, Lyft would not discuss the terms of Motivate’s exclusive contract with the SFMTA, but they have talk to San Francisco City authorities and voters if we demand they do.

The contract was brought to our attention at and reviewed a few months ago at a SFMTA Board of Directors hearing on alterations on Bayshore. The contract was reviewed by a number of people at that time and alarms were set off but few people paid attention, although the media has done a decent job of covering these issues. This program will turn into the Airbnb disaster on the streets and it could be stopped now before any more damage is done.

Has SFMTA sold us out to Lyft, Uber, Ford and GM and their plans to control our streets? We know they will replace human jobs with robots. How does this fit into MTC’s expansion plans for more public transit and the environmental argument for dense cities along transit corridors in the Bay Area that SPUR is pushing?

How SMART is it to sell our streets to private corporate giants that plan to robotize our streets killing thousands of human jobs­­? Isn’t this what everyone complained about the last time GM bought the rails and dismantled them? How much support are the on-demand entities getting from our public transit agencies in their efforts to take over our streets again?

The public needs to decide how we want to use our streets while they are still ours!  Now is the time to put a stop to the removal of public parking while we figure out how well the SFMTA programs are serving us and our needs.

We insist on an investigation into the relationships between our public transportation department and these private entities. These contracts between private and public enterprises look suspicious when we see that the public is paying to supplement these private enterprises that claim they are taking over our streets as described here: Chariot adds commute routes for UCSF employees, with public funding

Who made this deal to use public funds to supplement the Chariot rides for UCSF employees living in the East Bay. Where are the public funds coming from? Does Chariot get Bay Bridge toll exceptions too while the rest of us pay more to cross? Who gets exceptions to those tolls?

We have been complaining about the separation of powers within the SFMTA and now we see there is a problem of separation of powers and interests between our public and private transportation entities. 

ENUF already! Demand they stop removing pubic parking now. This is Airbnb on the streets. Merchants and residents are already having problems with delivery services with the curb parking that we have left now. We cannot afford to loses more curb parking.

Who is on our side? Ask your supervisor and those running for the office in November what they plan to do about the privatization of our streets by the SFMTA. Some supervisors have already taken a stand on our side. Public parking has been restored and saved. Thank the supervisors who have acted in our behalf and ask them how you can resolve parking problems using Ordinance #180089.

GM Quietly Working On Launching its Robo Taxi Service in San Francisco

By Eric Waltz : futurecar – excerpt

Since General Motors acquired San Francisco-based autonomous driving startup Cruise Automation in 2016 for $1 billion, the two companies have been laying the groundwork and testing autonomous technology for a commercial launch of a robo taxi service using an autonomous fleet of Chevy Bolt EVs. Now, more details of the project have been revealed.

Automotive News has reported that Cruise installed 18 fast EV chargers in a parking facility near San Francisco’s Embarcadero, a bustling waterfront district popular with tourists that includes Fisherman’s Wharf and the Ferry Building Marketplace. GM’s self-driving car unit has been testing its own ‘Cruise Anywhere’ ride-hailing app and fleet-management system, said people familiar with the matter.

GM is planning to start its own ride-hailing business using self-driving cars outfitted by Cruise in 2019, but the company has remained silent on when the robo taxi service would start or whether it will work with a partner. Now it appears that San Francisco will be the first launch city.

(more)

Interesting that they picked the Embarcardero area to develop their “driverless taxi service”. I was just down at the Embarcadero Center and almost all of the the retail spaces are empty. Most restaurants, shops and bars seem to have closed. All the street parking was taken up by construction trucks. Is this the future of our humanless city? Empty robocars driving around in search of a human rider? A better question is, has the SFMTA signed a contract with GM to launch a progam in SF without bothering to inform us yet? And how does the voting public take away their pen? I this another PUC product? How does the voting public take away the state’s right to control local affairs?

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

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)