Opinion: Fixing Bay Area transit requires better building practices

By Marc Joffe : mercurynews – excerpt

Change construction methods after setbacks of Salesforce Center, Bay Bridge, BART to San Jose, high-speed rail

In the Bay Area, we’re witnessing one transportation infrastructure setback after another. Too many projects are late, over budget and provide limited benefits, leaving travelers stuck in traffic.

Local leaders should consider policies to make infrastructure projects less costly and more reliable. Shifting risk onto the private sector and using more standard technologies are two such policies.

The latest setback is the closure of the $2.2 billion Salesforce Transit Center due to construction defects. Besides a rooftop park and an unused high-speed rail terminal, the elaborate structure includes overpasses spanning Fremont and First streets.

The structural integrity of these two overpasses is now in doubt. Since the terminal will only handle about 20,000 riders per day, it could have occupied a much smaller footprint, obviating the need for overpasses…

Whatever technology officials choose for intercity rail and other transportation projects, they should award projects on a Build Operate Transfer (BOT) basis. Under BOT, a private contractor has responsibility to complete the project and establish service for a predetermined cost, eventually turning it over to the government. The contractor gets the opportunity to make extra profits, but the company takes on the risk of losses when construction costs exceeds budget or revenue service is delayed.

While for many Bay Area progressives, public-private partnerships may be a dirty word, the fact is that all our major infrastructure projects involve private contractors. The operative question is not whether companies have a role, but whether they have incentives to get projects done on time and within budget.

Marc Joffe, a Bay Area resident, is a senior policy analyst at the libertarian Reason Foundation... (more)

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First-ever woman named SF Muni chief

By Joe Fritgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

The first-ever woman to lead Muni at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency was appointed last week, following the retirement of a man dogged by sexual harassment allegations.

Julie Kirschbaum is the new acting SFMTA director of transit, which she announced to the agency’s transit division on October 29…

As acting deputy director, Kirschbaum managed day-to-day Muni operations, led a system-wide redesign and managed the transit planning and scheduling group, according to SFMTA…

Before Reiskin was hired, Debra Johnson was acting director of transportation, overseeing multiple departments. Carmen Clark also was interim executive director of SFMTA for a time, which oversaw Muni responsibilities. However, Kirschbaum is the first woman to take the reigns as Director of Transit at SFMTA, directly and principally responsible for Muni.

In the Bay Area, however, women-led transportation agencies are the norm. Grace Crunican is general manager of BART, and Tilly Chang oversees the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, which primarily serves as a congestion management and transportation planning body… (more)

We can only hope that a new era of respect for the workers and Muni riders will open the door to some much needed changes in the top-down management style of the department. We hope the new director will concentrate on running a cleaner, safer, more reliable transit system today and get out of the planning department. We hope the new director will direct the staff to do the public’s bidding instead of forcing the pubic to follow the staff’s schemes. Just give it a try for 6 months and see if the ridership levels to not go up and the public does not approve.

TRANSIT CENTER CRACKED BEAMS: COMPLEXITY VS. SIMPLICITY

Hello Everyone: More information gained from engineering magazines and photographs (structural drawings not public). Over Fremont and First Streets, the lower bus deck is essentially a suspended bridge—hung from two 8-foor deep girders at the upper park level. Somewhat unusual for a suspension structure is the single chord (vertical column) that hangs the lower bus deck from each girder.

SKYRISE: Transbay Transit Center Engineer Describes Design Innovations and Challenges

https://skyrisecities.com/news/2015/12/transbay-transit-center-engineer-describes-design-innovations-and-challenges

De Oliveira expanded on the specific elements of the building: “On the roof level, the beam that runs the perimeter of the structure, the spandrel beam, there’s a little gap of unsupported girder, and in the event of an earthquake, what will happen is each one of the architecturally exposed steel trees rocks back and forth, and that short segment of steel girder is intended to yield in shear and flexure. The trees are comprised of those steel pipes and steel castings and they remain predominantly elastic, so that the girder yields up and down and absorbs the energy input into the building by the earthquake.”

The Y-shaped tree columns, at the building exterior, are primarily bracing elements that have flexibility. At the bridges, the two upper girders carry most of the load of the park deck and the suspended bus deck. The single chord (vertical column), at the midpoint of each girder, is heavily loaded. Suspended structures do move. And the Y-shaped tree columns allow movement. Ultimately, the lesson here may be that simplicity is best. The bridge design seems overly complex. The simple approach would have been a truss bridge, where the bridge’s entire height (from park level down to bus level) acts as a single “beam” or “tube”.

ONE POINT OF VULNERABILITY
The vertical column does a lot of work—all by itself. No redundancy. If the bus level moves differentially from the park level, there’s much stress at one point. Differential movement could be caused by differences in stiffness, deflection, vibration, oscillation, lateral forces, wind, uplift, suction, pressures, dynamic loading, thermal expansion, soil settlement…. Because both bridges in the project are designed similarly, one would expect the same stresses. Just food for thought. Regards, Howard Wong, AIA


ABC7 NEWS:
Video shows beam cracks, description of general structural system
Salesforce Transit Center in San Francisco could be closed for another week
https://abc7news.com/salesforce-transit-center-in-san-francisco-could-be-closed-for-another-week/4342897/

CHRONICLE:
It looks simple, but it’s not. Complexity of Transbay Transit Center raises risks
https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/It-looks-simple-but-it-s-not-Complexity-of-13267862.php?cmpid=gsa-sfgate-result

At that midway point, where each girder meets a single column that in turn supports the bus deck below, is where each of the cracks occurred. “Those two girders are working hard, spanning a good length and bearing a heavy load,” Panian said. “And the place where it’s expected to carry the most load is where it is cracked.” What may have helped prevent disaster is that the two girders don’t hold the span in place all by themselves. They’re paralleled by smaller, more conventional beams on either side that connect to the transit center structure on the east and west.

Where the SFMTA’s Prop. A money has gone

By Will Reisman : sfexaminer – excerpt from April 14, 2013

Prop. A, five years later: The second part in a two-part series explores where funding from Proposition A has gone since voters passed the initiative in 2007. It was intended to give the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency more control over revenue from parking meters and off-street lots to put toward the Transit Effectiveness Project. It appears that money has been put toward other uses...

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which manages Muni, is projected to collect $31 million in revenue this fiscal year from Proposition A, a ballot measure passed in 2007. Prop. A gives the agency more control over revenue collected from parking lots and meters, and the money is supposed to go directly toward the Transit Effectiveness Project, a long-awaited plan to improve Muni service.

However, funds have been directed to areas that seemingly have ambiguous links to transit service, according to records obtained by The San Francisco Examiner…

Overall, the funds will pay for 217 transit agency employees at a cost of $23 million. Along with funding these positions, Prop. A revenue will go toward a new dump truck and 50 Go-4 Interceptors, the small vehicles used by parking control officers…

Paul Rose, a spokesman for the transit agency, defended the expenditure plan.

However, former Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin, who advocated for Prop. A in 2007, said the funds are being misspent.

“We gave the SFMTA and its commission unparalleled authority and took away oversight from the Board of Supervisors,” Peskin said. “But it has been a failure because the SFMTA has simply not used the money properly. I think it’s time to put oversight of the funds back into the elected officials who represent Muni riders.”

Quentin Kopp, a retired Superior Court judge and also a former board president, called the expenditures an expropriation of taxpayer funds…(more)

Wonder how Peskin feels about dealing with the SFMTA now. Of course he has his hands full with the Leaning Tilting Sinking Millennium Mess and the Transbay Terminal Terminal.

Hopefully someone on the Board of Supervisors will find the time to hasten the restructuring of the SFMTA Board that just killed the taxi industry, and is doing everything in their power to hand over control of the streets to their corporate buddies, Lyft, Uber and the rest of the disruptors.

The T line has never lived up to its promise. Coming upgrades may not be enough to help

Jamil Wardlow leaves his Bayview home an hour early whenever he has to catch the T-Third Street Muni Metro. The line runs so late, and the trains are so sluggish, that he needs that extra time, he said.

Lamar Reed said he once got so tired of waiting for the T that he walked five miles to get downtown from Kirkwood and Third streets.

These aren’t outlier stories; they are typical rider experiences on a troubled light rail line that has never lived up to its promise of delivering brisk, convenient transit service to one of the city’s most isolated and least accessible pockets. Too often, riders say, the line is either stuck at one of the many intersections along its route or idling in car traffic…

The line is about to enter its next phase, when the Central Subway opens in 2019. At that point, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency will reroute the T near Fourth and King streets, piping trains into a tunnel beneath Fourth Street, where they will zip north under SoMA to a new station in Chinatown.

“Once they open the Central Subway the whole rail line will improve,” said former SFMTA board chair Tom Nolan. He hopes that by 2020, trains will skate from Visitacion Valley and the Bayview up to Stockton Street… (more)

Hello! How does this help the folks in Bay View who have limited service? Sometimes the ideas SFMTA comes up statements with defy reason. This is one of them. Whoever suggested this as a solution to fix the T-Line should apologize for insulting the riders’ intelligence. DON’T WASTE OUR TIME! Don’t worry about speeding service until you eliminate switchbacks!

 

SAVE MUNI FORUM RECAP

Hi Everyone, Saturday’s Forum went very well—virtually a finale to Transit Week. Nicely done! Good speakers. MTA Director Ed Reiskin and media added gravitas. A Chinese reporter interviewed Ed Reiskin. Anyone know who all the camera-people were—and did they use their footage? Would be nice to post forum video on website. Also, a BART Board candidate attended, brought by Charley Marsteller (should have invited all the candidates). Our event was advertised on Fun&Cheap, which is a Bay Area calendar. Any attendees mention that ad? NEXT FORUM THOUGHTS: Locate along Market Street in a smaller auditorium, like Mechanics Institute or Hobart Building (could be free). More slide shows too. Best, Howard

Below is neat graph shown by Commute Seattle:

GRAPH: Change in Bus + Rail Ridership

https://www.geekwire.com/2017/seattle-area-transit-ridership-growing-faster-big-u-s-cities-options-way/

Below is Saturday news story about cracking beams—with Jerry speaking.

KPIX: Crews Begin Repairs To Cracked Beams In Transbay Transit Center

https://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/video/3943778-crews-begin-repairs-to-cracked-beams-in-transbay-transit-center/

Teamster Shuttle Drivers Ratify Contract

Teamster Shuttle Drivers For High-Tech Companies Overwhelmingly Ratify Contract

Pressrealese Newswire : businessinsider – excerpt

SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 24, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — Members of Teamsters Local 853 who are shuttle bus drivers for high-tech companies have ratified a strong agreement including wage increases and a secure retirement.

The 600 drivers work for WeDriveU and Loop/Hallcon, contractors to high-tech companies including Apple, Tesla, Amazon, Twitter, LinkedIn, Salesforce, Electronic Arts, Lam and Facebook.

The agreement includes wage increases of 5 percent the first year, 4 percent in the second and third years, and 5 percent in the final year or the option to open the agreement early for additional improvements. The drivers also received $1,800 in retroactive pay…

Supervisor Ahsha Safai recently organized a hearing at the Board of Supervisors to examine whether the companies were in compliance with the labor harmony provision. The SFMTA asked each company to resubmit their service disruption plans based on a determination that they were inadequate.

The Teamsters Union is part of a growing movement of labor, faith and community-based organizations and workers challenging income inequality in Silicon Valley through an innovative partnership called Silicon Valley Rising. For more information, visit, www.siliconvalleyrising.org.

Teamsters Joint Council 7 represents 100,000 working men and women in 22 local unions in Northern California, the Central Valley and Northern Nevada…(more)

“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

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)