New Muni trains delivered with defective doors

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

Rider caught in door, dragged onto tracks and hospitalized due to lack of vital safety mechanism

At least some of Muni’s newest light rail vehicles — part of its more than $1.1 billion future train fleet — appear to have been delivered with doors that clamp down and lock on objects and people, documents obtained by the San Francisco Examiner reveal.

That door defect may have seriously injured a Muni rider last week… (more)

Thankfully we still have a free press. Do we need more proof that the system is broken? This is not good news for the those who approved the fast-tracked purchase of the unpopular Siemens cars. Will use the one tool they have to curtail the SFMTA? Will the Board of Supervisors refuse to sign the SFMTA budget?

A public department that ignores the public it serves is not a well-run department. It appears the SFMTA wants speed and they riders want safety and comfort instead. The public demands better. Speed is not the answer.

Who at City hall stop this insanity? Who will admit to a coverup? Will someone finally fall on their sword and take the blame? How will SFMTA’s director and PR czar spin this one?

Will City Hall finally let the public speak for themselves and consider their wisdom? Thanks to everyone who tried to bring reason to the department that has no ears and uses its power and public funds to silence those who do speak out.

This is looking more and more like rock soup

By Tom Rubin

I’m sure everyone knows the fable about the hungry beggar who begins making rock soup, boiling a pot of water with nothing in it but rocks. When someone asks him what he is doing, she says he is making “rock soup” – and uses a spoon to sample the taste. “Yes, it is coming along nicely – but could use a bit of flavor – like some peas.” So, she brings him some peas, he adds them, and tastes again. “Very nice – but some beans would add quite a bit” – and another on-looker helps out. After several such events, he has a very tasty soup.

Rock soup.

What the transportation powers-that-be are doing is proposing a very complex system of running both high-speed rail and commuter rail on the same set of two rail tracks with a large number of grade crossings, many stations, and not a lot in the way of storage, passing, and cross-over tracks. One of the major problems will be that HSR is proposed to operate with only one stop between San Francisco and San Jose Diridon Station and no stops between Diridon and Gilroy. In order for HSR to be HSR, it must severely minimize the number of stations. But, in order for commuter rail (aka regional rail) like Caltrain to be successful, it must make multiple stops – in fact, between Gilroy and San Francisco, where HSR will have only two stations, Caltrain has 27 stations (not counting three that are only used on weekends and for football games).

When trains are using the same pair of tracks going in the same direction, for a faster train to pass a slower one is not simple and requires careful planning and properly designed track. The original proposal was for four tracks, two for HSR and two for Caltrain and other non-HSR use. There were to be great efforts – and expense – to minimize the number of at-grade crossings. (The Final Caltrain/HSR Blended Grade Crossing and Traffic Analysis identifies 40 at-grade crossings between SF and Sunnyvale Avenue.)

But, the residents along the rail corridor, mainly on the Peninsula, rose up in protest and the plan for four-track operation has been killed, at least for the time being. The improvement of the at-grade crossings is preceding, but these are very costly, can be very difficult to do for many reasons, and will, best case, take many years – and it may not be possible to convert all of them. San Mateo County is currently studying/implementing improvements of the 35 in its territory.

According to the Traffic Analysis, there are six storage/passing tracks in each direction, including two in each direction to be added, between SF and SJ.

The report discusses the modeling of “6/0,” “6/2,” and “6/4” operations – as in six Caltrain and zero, two, or four HSR trains per hour – and, without getting into great detail, operating even ten trains an hour will require a lot of work and will – based on very preliminary analysis subject to much change – for the 6/4 scenario, result in three to five crossings experiencing declines in gate down time (rubber tire traffic delays going down) and the rest will experience more gate down time.

The Traffic Analysis does not go beyond the ten train operating scenario, but, as simple logic would tend to indicate, furthered by the trend that in the Analysis that ten trains create more issues than eight and eight more than six, it is not difficult to include that, without major reductions in the number of grade crossings – AND THESE MUST BE THE “RIGHT” GRADE CROSSINGS – sixteen trains would likely create significantly more rubber tire delays than ten.

Even if all the grade crossings were to be eliminated, it would still be quite challenging to be able to operate sixteen trains per hour without significantly slowing HSR – very possibly to the point where it becomes impossible for HSR to been the Constitutional requirement for two hour and forty minute operation between SF and LA – that is, assuming that this would be possible even if HSR was the only use of this track.

The projection of Caltrain ridership increase – from the current 60,000 daily riders to 161-207,000 – is also questionable, as is the projection for the 40% increase in population within two miles of Caltrain stations by 2040 (and how many of these would have the slightest interest in using Caltrain is another important question).

So, for this to make sense, there has to be a massive increase in population, with a high percentage of the population increase interested in using Caltrain and having a way to use it (as in, how are they going to get to and from the Caltrain stations at both ends of their trips), plus the capacity for access, parking, and station platform capacity at the stations along the line, plus sufficient capacity for passing movements to allow the express HSR, and the limited-stop Caltrain Baby Bullet trains, to pass the every-stop Caltrain trains, and for the HSR trains to pass the Baby Bullet trains, and then for more capacity at the proposed Salesforce Tower terminal, and the money to pay for all this, and to subsidize the HSR service once it begins operation (which is prohibited by the State Constitution), and for the HSR service to be able to meet the 2:40 time requirement, and for the general populace to not object to any and all of this sufficiently to make this politically impossible.

All in all, rock soup.

… except that this recipe does not appear to be very mouth-watering.

Tom Rubin

VTA takes 12 buses out of service after 4 drivers get scabies

By Alix Martichoux, : sfchronicle – excerpt

The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority has taken 12 buses out of service after four drivers were infected with scabies.

The VTA first became aware of the problem Saturday, when the first driver affected reported the skin irritation. Three other employees have since suffered the same issue.

Scabies is caused by a parasite called the human itch mite, according to the Center for Disease Control. “The microscopic scabies mite burrows into the upper layer of the skin where it lives and lays its eggs. The most common symptoms of scabies are intense itching and a pimple-like skin rash,” explains the CDC…(more)

Public transit systems cannot get a break this week. Personal experience in Ecuador leads me to believe that scabies love buses. They jump off the seats onto the meal. Fortunately they are easy to get rid of. Hard to miss this annoying pest. Buses need to be fumigated.

Why Is U.S. Government Infrastructure So Costly?

By Chris Edwards : cato – excerpt

Tracy Gordon of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center writes interesting columns on taxes, fiscal federalism, and other economic issues. Before Congress and the administration enact another costly infrastructure bill, they should consider what Gordon wrote in a 2015 article:

“… it is an opportune time to reexamine the so-called consensus on infrastructure funding—that we need more of it and now. Focusing on how much we spend leaves out a more important question: how much infrastructure we get for our money.

Put bluntly: the costs of US infrastructure are too damn high.”(more)

BART’s top official, Grace Crunican, announces ‘surprise’ departure

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

The general manager led the agency through a strike that crippled the Bay Area and also helped secured a $3.5 million bond

BART’s top staffer is headed out the door.

BART General Manager Grace Crunican announced her departure Thursday at the BART Board of Directors meeting, which directors called a “surprise.”

“Despite my challenges and ups and downs at BART I am proud,” Crunican said.

She added that her top staff are “customer-focused and have made operational changes,” and are prepared to take over for her when she leaves…(more)

Breed, Walton announce plan to end switchbacks on Muni T-Third ‘immediately’

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

Walton vowed to end practice shortly after he was sworn into office

The roughly 40,000 daily riders of the T-Third line have come to know the practice of “switchbacks” well.

A Muni train headed to the Bayview will stop, mid-route, and turn back around to shore up service elsewhere in the system, leaving riders stranded on their way home.

Now, city officials say, that regular practice will end “immediately.”… (more)

New Supervisor and Mayor stop switchbacks on Third Street. Will the SFMTA drop them entirely and serve all the people?

SFMTA is to blame for Central Subway delays, not contractor

opinion : sfexaminer – excerpt

Tutor Perini Corporation (Tutor Perini) wishes to respond to the March 24, 2019 article titled “Independent monitor warns Central Subway project in danger of further delays.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) is responsible for the delays and cost overruns on the Central Subway Project (Project), not Tutor Perini.

It appears that SFMTA has been dishonest with the public and the oversight contractor regarding the project delays. Construction delays arise for a myriad of reasons, many of which are the owner’s fault.

Contractors typically do not design the projects they build; owners or their consultants do. If the project’s original design is flawed and the contractor cannot build what is required as a result, the owner will have to issue a change order providing the contractor with new design plans or requirements to correct the problem. Here, SFMTA has delayed the project opening by issuing hundreds of change orders to the contractor to correct numerous flaws in SFMTA’s original design for the Project. SFMTA has known since at least 2016 that the project was not going to be open to the public on time because of the delays that SFMTA, not Tutor Perini, has caused.

A good example of this occurred on the Chinatown portion of the project. The original project opening date of December 2018 slipped because of SFMTA’s design errors. SFMTA also misled the oversight contractor when it gave them a tour of the Chinatown Station this past February. What SFMTA failed to tell the oversight contractor was that from the summer of 2018 until February 2019 Tutor Perini’s progress on the project was effectively stopped due to SFMTA’s defective reinforced concrete structural floor slabs, beam, and Station Agent Booth designs.

In addition, SFMTA failed to inform the public that it was SFMTA that oversaw and approved the contractor’s installation of the steel track referenced in the article that SFMTA later insisted needed to be replaced. Only after the track work was partially installed did SFMTA change its mind on requirements for the work and then tried to blame the contractor. SFMTA admitted some responsibility for the track issue by directly purchasing the new higher strength replacement rail for reinstallation by the contractor.

SFMTA also fails to acknowledge that the reason it partially terminated the Automated Train Control System contract was because SFMTA’s sole source supplier, Thales, who SFMTA previously assigned to Tutor Perini, had failed to date to produce a final design for train control. SFMTA only terminated this assignment so that SFMTA would not be held liable by Tutor Perini for the delay caused by Thales’ failure to perform.

In fact, virtually all of Tutor Perini’s disputes with SFMTA center around SFMTA’s flawed designs for the project and all the re-work and delays necessitated by these design errors and SFMTA’s untimely and inept attempts to correct them. Tutor Perini notified SFMTA in 2015 of the defective radio system prescribed for the project. Yet four years later, SFMTA has still failed to produce an acceptable final design for extension of the radio system necessary to finish the project.

For the past several years, SFMTA also has failed to completely pay Tutor Perini and its subcontractors for the extra work made necessary by SFMTA’s changes to the original project requirements. Many of the subcontractors who have gone unpaid are small disadvantaged contractors. In fact, SFMTA is partly responsible for at least one small disadvantaged business becoming insolvent, and the agency is causing undue financial hardship to many other small companies that have registered formal complaints. SFMTA has also failed to resolve various Dispute Review Board (“DRB”) recommendations that have been made in favor of Tutor Perini, including that Tutor Perini and its subcontractors should be granted extensions to the contract completion date due to design problems caused by SFMTA.

The Article’s suggestion that Tutor Perini’s legitimate disputes with SFMTA may cause delays to project completion is also false. To date, Tutor Perini has continued to perform its obligations under the contract despite the various disputes over time and money, in effect financing extra work made necessary by design flaws that are not Tutor Perini’s responsibility. Moreover, Tutor Perini’s management has made several efforts to reasonably resolve the disputes with SFMTA. Tutor Perini has proposed methods that will allow for SFMTA to make payments for changed and extra work done within a reasonable time frame instead of years later. To date, however, SFMTA has ignored these reasonable proposals.

In summary, it is easy and convenient to blame the contractor for construction delays. It takes more time to understand the complicated project histories that underlie disputes and delays on major construction projects. In the case of this project, however, it does not take long to uncover the real facts. Upon some basic investigation and fact-gathering, it becomes clearly evident that SFMTA itself is responsible for the project delays. We do not address the comment of the self-proclaimed “Ron-Tutor-ologist” other than to note such a claim and the statements made by this purported “expert” are inconsistent with any serious inquiry into the true causes of delay affecting the completion of the Central Subway Project.

The truth is that Tutor Perini and its team have worked diligently to work around SFMTA’s design errors to complete the project on time. We also have continued working on the project notwithstanding legitimate payment disputes that SFMTA has essentially ignored for years. Underlying these disputes is the fact that Tutor Perini and its subcontractors have performed significant extra work to complete a major public project and are now unpaid and out of pocket millions, all as a result of SFMTA’s faulty design and project mismanagement.

Tutor Perini is the lead contract on San Francisco’s Central Subway project… (more)

N-Judah train shutdown could affect Muni bus service citywide

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

Muni riders on bus routes along Chestnut Street, Geary Boulevard, and Mission Street had best prepare: Bus service is about to get worse while Muni stretches to provides buses elsewhere in The City.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency will take the N-Judah train out of service between Ocean Beach and Carl and Cole Streets starting April 13, so the agency can build out its Inner Sunset Streetscape Improvement Project, which will include safety features, traffic signal upgrades and new seating along the N-Judah line.

Bus shuttles will run on that portion of the N-Judah line instead, but those buses have to come from somewhere… (more)

The Energy 202: EPA’s own adviser finds Trump’s rollback of car rules could cost jobs

By Dino Grandoni : washingtonpost – excerpt

An environmental adviser to the Trump administration projects that its attempt to reverse Obama-era fuel-efficiency standards could have a steep long-term toll on the U.S. economy and eventually cost the country hundreds of thousands of jobs.

The research by an outside adviser picked by former Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt — and funded by grants from the auto industry — is sure to fuel critics of the Trump administration’s attempts to stall rules meant to reduce the amount of climate-warming and illness-causing pollution produced by the nation’s automobiles.

While cutting the car regulations would give the U.S. economy a short-term jolt, it would in the long run forestall job-creating automotive innovation while putting less money in the wallets of motorists who would have to spend more on gasoline, according to the adviser John D. Graham, who is dean of the Indiana University O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs, and his four colleagues… (more)

Not to mention people would purchase more fuel efficient cars made abroad like they did prior to the government policy. The automobile industry is already moving into fuel efficient cars to meet the demand.

The very short rail link California can’t build

By Joe Mathews : vstar – except

How will California ever finish high-speed rail when it can’t finish San Francisco’s Downtown Rail Extension?

Twenty-three years ago, a restaurateur and wine shop owner named Gavin Newsom was appointed to his first political gig, as a San Francisco parking-and-traffic commissioner. Back then, a top priority of San Francisco transportation officials was a proposed 1.3 mile-rail line called the Downtown Rail Extension, or DTX, to connect the city’s commuter rail station with downtown.

All these years later, DTX remains little more than a plan, as yet unrealized. As such, it embodies the failure of transportation execution that Newsom now confronts in California… (more)

Comments welcome at the source or here.