“Transit Latest Trends”

By Howard Wong

Salesforce Transit Center:  Grand Opening Block Party, Saturday, August 11, 2018, 12pm-4pm, Mission Street (Beale & Second Street)—FREE

Downtown Caltrain Extension (DTX) Needs Acceleration:   Now, the long-promised Downtown Caltrain Extension (DTX) needs fast-tracked design and construction.  Without DTX, the shiny new Transit Center will lose its luster without 33,000 daily rail riders, generating commercial, operating and maintenance dollars.  We need 100% commitment to DTX. 

Citywide Transit Transformation:   Traffic congestion, air pollution, neighborhood revitalization and neglected transit needs, particularly in western/ southern San Francisco, must be addressed with sound decision-making..

FUTURISM:  Attached “Transit Latest Trends”,  Regards, Howard Wong, AIA

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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.

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)

 

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)

Subway contractor knew it was using wrong rails

 By Matier and Ross : sfchronicle – excerpt

The Central Subway contractor that installed 3.2 miles of supposedly substandard track on the new line claims it acted “in full compliance” with its contract, despite being told by the city four years ago that it was using the wrong steel and needed to switch it out, city records show…

On Monday, Maria Ayerdi, the former Transbay Joint Powers Authority boss now working for Tutor Perini on the subway project, sent San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin’s office a letter looking for help in resolving the dispute…

The letter included a statement from locally operated Con-Quest pleading its case and saying the cost of having to replace 201 tons of installed rail “will have an enormous impact on our company” and that if the city “succeeds in forcing our company out of business more than 60 employees will lose their jobs.”

The dispute also raises disturbing questions about city oversight of the subway, which stretches from South of Market to Chinatown…(more)

This project was doomed from the start.

RELATED:

City investigated steel track on another project laid by Central Subway contractor

At the SFMTA Board of Directors, a member of the public called on the SFMTA to inspect other trackway laid by Con-Quest.

“I’m wondering if the rail to be laid in the Twin Peaks tunnel meets these specifications in the contract,” said San Franciscan David Pilpel, in public comment to the board and Reiskin. “Was that high strength rail? Standard strength rail? Is that the rail sitting along Junipero Serra for two years, rusting?”….

Outside the SFMTA board meeting, Reiskin said the issue at Central Subway did not call for the agency to inspect Con-Quest’s other repair work… (more)

 

Open letter to SFCTA and SaveMuni Executive Committee.

Although San Francisco has spent billions of dollars on public transit, the high number and locations of Transit Deserts explain public dissatisfaction—particularly for lower-income people in outlying and southern neighborhoods. Inefficient cost/ benefit infrastructure projects, like the short 1.7 mile/ $1.6 billion Central Subway, have taken local funds from the rest of the Muni system—cutting routes and service disproportionately in isolated communities. Not to mention collateral damage to neighborhood businesses and peoples’ livelihoods. Or annual high operating and maintenance costs that cut bus hours. Going forward, we need to give priority to and accelerate cost-effective projects that improve San Francisco’s public transit system as a whole.

Regards,

Howard Wong, AIA, SaveMuni 

Dozens of U.S. Cities Have ‘Transit Deserts’ Where People Get Stranded

By Junfeng Jiao and Chris Bischak : smithsonian – excerpt (includes map)

Living in these zones makes it hard to access good jobs, health care and other services. 

Transportation deserts were present to varying degrees in all 52 cities in our study. In transit desert block groups, on average, about 43 percent of residents were transit dependent. But surprisingly, even in block groups that have enough transit service to meet demand, 38 percent of the population was transit dependent. This tells us that there is broad need for alternatives to individual car ownership.

Shrinking transit deserts does not necessarily require wholesale construction of new transit infrastructure. Some solutions can be implemented relatively cheaply and easily.

[NOTE:  In the article’s chart of 27 cities, San Francisco ranks worst.]

MAP (choose San Francisco):   http://www.transitdeserts.org/?xid=PS_smithsonian

….(more)

Falling transit ridership poses an ‘emergency’ for cities, experts fear

washingtonpost – excerpt

Commuters tire of the \shuttle bus shuffle that crawls through San Francisco streets. Crowded Muni is painfully slow and standing room only is hardly a ride worth taking when other modes offer clean, comfortable seats.

Transit ridership fell in 31 of 35 major metropolitan areas in the U.S. last year, including each of the seven cities that serve the majority of riders, with losses largely stemming from buses, but punctuated by reliability issues on systems like Metro, according to an annual overview of public transit usage.

The analysis by the New York-based TransitCenter advocacy group, using data from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Transit Database, raises alarm about the state of “legacy” public transit systems in the Northeast and Midwest and rising vehicle ownership and car-based commuting in cities nationwide.

Researchers concluded that factors such as lower fuel costs, increased teleworking, higher car ownership and the rise of alternatives such as Uber and Lyft are pulling people off trains and buses at record levels…

“Transit systems should deliver quality service to low-income people. But low-income people do not owe us a transit system.”…

Metro is mulling a major redesign of the bus system. But first, officials need to figure out why people aren’t riding.]… (more)

Central Subway problems persist

Op-ed by Gerald Cauthen : sfexmainer – excerpt

ed-head1

Have you ever wondered how the Central Subway project, a 1.7-mile rail extension of Muni’s Third Street line from Fourth and King to Chinatown, managed to get so bollixed up? Here’s a brief history of what happened:

At the end of 2017, it was announced the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s Central Subway manager, John Funghi, was leaving his post for the $1.6 billion project to work on Caltrain electrification. His departure came shortly after Tutor-Perini, the station contractor, released a report Nov. 1, 2017, showing that the project is more than two years behind schedule and burdened with more than 1,300 construction contractor claims outstanding — only 73 of which had at that time been addressed by the SFMTA — leaving the remaining 94 percent awaiting “processing.”

As things stand, the trains won’t be rolling into Chinatown before Spring 2021, at least 29 months behind schedule.

The true extent of the project’s construction cost and delay problems are now revealed: The Tutor-Perini report submitted to Supervisor Aaron Peskin lays out the problems in detail and asks Peskin, who is also chair of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, to help resolve the hundreds if not thousands of outstanding issues between it and the SFMTA. In view of the many months of the Federal Transportation Administration’s Project Oversight Reports repeatedly warning of unfilled SFMTA positions and other staffing problems, and of accumulating contractor claims and accruing project delays, this came as no great surprise.

Yet, as recently as three months ago, the leadership of the SFMTA was still contending that, although the actions of the contractor had delayed things by nine months, the project was still within budget. That was before the 1,300 claims came to light; it is now clear the project is both way behind schedule and way over budget. From what has been revealed to date, it appears that because of a “head-in-the-sand” response to serious Central Subway design and construction problems, the ultimate cost of the project has increased substantially, thereby placing the SFMTA and San Francisco taxpayers in financial jeopardy… (more)

Gerald Cauthen represents SaveMuni, an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization created to help find ways of improving Muni and the other transit services leading into and serving San Francisco.

Lack of jobs is hardly a problem. A lack of talented workers is. This is exacerbated by an agency that can’t say no to every hair-brained scheme special interest groups come up with. If the SFMTA were only allowed to work on one large construction project at a time and finish it before starting another one, we might have a system and city that functioned.

We understand SFMTA is giving project managers multiple projects to manage. We were told that is what happened on Potrero. Their excuse is that if they don’t start a project they lose funding for it. The SFMTA and the director have bitten off too much to chew and they have buried their heads in the sand in hopes we won’t notice their incompetence. They will continue the blame game while biting the hands that feed them until they are put out to pasture. The voters have a say if the Supervisors give them a chance to restructure the department.

Can the British man who saved Toronto’s subway help New York City?

By Jamiles Lartey : theguardian – excerpt

Andy Byford, a veteran of Transport for London, Sydney’s RailCorp and Toronto Transit Commission, takes ‘the biggest challenge in the most wonderful city’

Sixteen years ago, former New York transport boss Bob Kiley was recruited from across the pond to rescue the London Underground “New York Tough Guy to Run Tube,” announced the Evening Standard.

Now the reverse is happening. Andy Byford – who grew up in Plymouth and is a veteran of Transport for London, Sydney’s RailCorp and the Toronto Transit Commission – arrives to take on New York’s rammed and creaking transport system, which this year suffered a “summer of hell”. Long-deferred repairs wrought havoc on the already overburdened system, leaving passengers stranded on sweltering platforms and captive in immobilized subway cars…

This is the future of world class cities? Crowded, crumbling, sweltering subway cars?

He has already floated potentially unpopular ideas, like an end to 24-hour service on some lines, and closing others for repairs. “It’s a harsh message but there will be no gain without a bit of pain,” Byford said…

“He basically was looking for, in the short term, quick wins,” said Steve Munro, a veteran Toronto transit activist and blogger. “That’s the basic thing any new manager does: they come in and want to be seen as doing something. So he went after the stuff that was relatively easy and cheap to implement.”…

How do we go from the SFMTA’s billion dollar scam projects to quick, cheap and easy solutions? Maybe we need a new chief that thinks that way?

“There’s a reason why that equipment is under strain. It’s old and it’s trying to carry more people than it was ever designed for,” Byford said…(more)

The trick is knowing where to set your limitations before you reach them.