Rail CA: Some Mission Bay Neighbors Fuming Over Caltrain’s Diesel Dust

: mastransitmag – excerpt

Nov. 27–Toby Levine braced for noise and pollution 10 years ago when she moved into San Francisco’s Mission Bay neighborhood, two blocks away from the Caltrain station at Fourth and Townsend streets.

Yet the pervasiveness of the diesel dust surprised her. It frosted the geraniums on her balcony and caused the leaves of the podocarpus trees to droop and turn brown. It stuck to her windows, freckled her neighbors’ deck furniture and collected in air vents.

“It wouldn’t be so bad if we were dealing with a less-dangerous chemical, but diesel is poison,” said Levine, who for years has led a neighborhood campaign to get Caltrain to minimize the emissions from its locomotives while neighbors wait for the rail system to go electric in 2022.

At the San Francisco station, which has 12 tracks, the first trains start rolling around 4:10 a.m. every weekday, and the last one pulls in at 12:05 a.m. During the slower-paced weekend schedule, trains run from 8 a.m. until midnight.

So for much of the week, diesel wafts through the air up to 20 hours a day in a booming new neighborhood. Plus, Caltrain’s fleet is more than 30 years old — “near the end of its life span,” said spokesman Dan Lieberman — and its engines don’t burn fuel that efficiently.

To further complicate matters, there are no state or federal laws that regulate idling diesel locomotive engines, so neighbors have depended on the rail line and its contracted manager, TransitAmerica Services, to write their own rules… (more)

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Is Rapid Growth of Subway Systems in China Losing Steam?

By Sun Lichao and Pan Che : caixinglobal – excerpt

The cancellation of Baotou’s subway system has given a signal to city governments around the country that the ‘wind has changed’ on such projects, an unnamed provincial economic planning official told Caixin…

Construction of the subway system in Baotou, the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, had been taking place for only two months when the central government called off the project due to the drain it placed on city coffers…

Many third- and fourth-tier cities have scrambled to launch rail projects in the past two years. Cities such as Yinchuan, the Ningxia Hui autonomous region; Xining, Qinghai province; and Yangzhou, Jiangsu province, have filed plans for underground travel systems that are awaiting approval from the country’s top economic planner, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC). Several other cities, including the steel hub of Tangshan in Hebei province, are researching and drafting subway plans as well…

City-level governments see the spiking of Baotou’s subway project as a sign that “the wind has changed its direction” on such programs, said an official with a central province’s Development and Reform Commission…(more)

Excellent Uber Ad Distills the Problem With Uber in Crowded Cities

: streetsblog – excerpt

In a brilliant new spot, Uber inadvertently lays out exactly why its for-hire vehicles won’t solve transportation headaches in crowded cities…

There’s certainly a place for these services in the transportation ecosystem, but they’re not a solution to moving large numbers of people in crowded cities. No app, no matter how user-friendly, can turn cars into a congestion fix… (more)

My favorite false narrative that joins the fake news category is the claim that a troll is running on social media that “Uber is a pubic transportation system”. The Mayor of SF must have bought that article as he made a deal to transfer public property to Uber in exchange for data. Is it time for the public to start boycotting these cars by returning to “free” rideshares called hitchhiking?

Ask B. Sarah Jones at the November 20 SaveMuni Meeting

To all SaveMuni members, friends and associates:

At the next SaveMuni meeting (11/20/17, 5:30 p.m. Turk/Fillmore Police Station) we will have an excellent opportunity to learn more about the SFMTA, it’s objectives, its priorities, its structure and how it functions. Sara Jones, SFMTA’s new Planning Director will be at the meeting to explain the program, answer questions and exchange ideas with us.

This is your chance to find out how MTA plans to cope with San Francisco’s worsening transportation condition. Come and invite your friends!

Big Philanthropy Takes the Bus

By Benjamin Ross : dissentmagazine – excerpt

In 2002, Royal Dutch Shell’s grant-making arm set out to influence transportation policy in developing countries. Initial “market testing,” the Shell Foundation itself has said, revealed that a program directly funded by Shell would lack “credibility,” and so Shell decided to channel its money through an “intermediary.” Several bidders competed to play this role. Shell chose the World Resources Institute, a business-oriented environmental nonprofit.

The resulting program was dubbed EMBARQ. With Shell’s financial support—starting with a $7.5 million grant—and ongoing guidance, EMBARQ urged cities to rely on buses that run on Shell’s product instead of building electric-powered subways.

Buses, to be sure, are essential to any transit system, and they rarely get the respect they deserve. Improving them can serve social justice as well as transport. But ordinary buses are hardly a credible substitute for subways. So EMBARQ promotes what is called bus rapid transit, or BRT. This refers to bus routes with special features, such as travel lanes where cars are excluded, that are said to offer rubber-tired travel that’s as good as rail but costs less. It’s an elastically defined concept that comes in many flavors; the common element is less the transportation than the politics of it. BRT is the bus you get when you don’t get a train…

BRT was newly in vogue among transit planners when Shell and EMBARQ took it up. But it’s an idea with a history… (more)

 

China’s tests out world’s first driverless train that runs on virtual rails

By

bus_train11

Look Ma, No rails! or Medians!

The Hunan city of Zhuzhou is currently testing out an unmanned train that doesn’t run on rails. You know, like a bus.

The Autonomous Rail Rapid Transit (ART) is being dubbed by Chinese state media the “world’s first smart rapid rail bus,” whatever that means. The train/bus (trus?) was first shown off in June this year. It uses sensors to determine the dimensions of the road and make a virtual track for itself to ride along…(more)

This kind of technology may be the best argument for putting a halt on new projects while we finish the ones underway now. Eliminating the rails, medians and other “traditional” infrastructure elements costing billions of dollars now, could be the cheap public transportation answer in the very near future. Give the public a break while the technology catches up.

 

CA bullet train authority postpones critical $30M contract award

Kim Slowey : constructiondive – excerpt

Dive Brief:

  • The California High Speed Rail Authority has postponed awarding a key, $30 million operations and management contract for the first leg of its new rail line through the state’s Central Valley region, according to Courthouse News Service. CHSRA was scheduled to award the contract at its monthly meeting Thursday.
  • The CHSRA had planned to tap DB Engineering & Consulting USA, a subsidiary of German rail company Deutsche Bahn, for the project, but Spain-based bidder Renfe protested the decision at the last minute. Renfe objected based on its scoring process, during which the company said it received high marks in two out of three categories.
  • The CHSRA’s reluctance to move forward with an operations contract led some meeting attendees to suggest that the authority was dragging its feet at a “critical time” in the bullet train’s schedule. The agency, which is already late in delivering the first segment of the high-speed rail by eight years, will address the contract award issue at its next meeting in November…

Dive Insight:

Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Times published a June CHSRA report that said the 119-mile line through the Central Valley cost $1.7 billion more than originally forecast, which raised the total price tag to $8 billion. The CHSRA chalked up the increases to the rising cost of land, the cost of utility relocation and negotiations with freight companies over the logistics of running high-speed trains near their tracks. It is unknown whether this add-on will raise the entire projected cost of the rail past its current budget of $64 billion… (more)

BART’s new cars finally pass safety tests, on track to roll by Thanksgiving

By Michael Cabanatuan : sfgate – excerpt

BART’s sleek new railcars finally passed safety tests over the weekend — months behind schedule — and are on track to start carrying commuters around Thanksgiving, transit officials said Monday.

John Garnham, project manager for BART’s new fleet, said the first 10 new cars, which have undergone rigorous testing and subsequent fixes for the past year and a half, completed the last of a lengthy checklist of tests and requirements on Saturday… (more)

Menlo Park: Council splinters on grade separations

by Kate Bradshaw : Almanac – excerpt

The Menlo Park City Council’s answer to the nearly $400 million question – “One grade separation, or three, at Menlo Park’s Caltrain crossings?” – will have to wait.

About the only thing the council, minus Councilwoman Catherine Carlton, could agree on, following a lengthy discussion at its Oct. 10 meeting, was to table a vote on the matter until she was present..

A two-year study has yielded two options, from which the City Council was asked to pick one for further study:

● Option 1: Tunnel Ravenswood Avenue about 22 feet beneath the Caltrain tracks at an estimated cost of $160 million to $200 million and an estimated construction duration of three to four years. Access to Alma Street from Ravenswood Avenue (a popular route to the Civic Center) would be eliminated.

● Option 2: Raise the Caltrain tracks and lower the roads to allow vehicles to pass beneath the rails at three crossings: Ravenswood, Oak Grove and Glenwood avenues. The estimated cost is $310 million to $390 million. Estimated construction duration is four to five years. This option would require creating an above-ground berm that the train would travel on. At its maximum, the berm would be 10 feet high at Ravenswood and Oak Grove avenues, and about 5 feet at Glenwood Avenue… (more)

Focus should be on making Muni service better

Response from Muni Officials to:  “As other cities lead electric charge, San Francisco expands diesel fleet,”  

Muni’s transit system is the cornerstone of The City’s environmentally sustainable transportation system and is one of the greenest in the world. Despite providing more than 700,000 trips a day, it is only responsible for 2 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions in The City. San Francisco’s transportation sector generates approximately 46 percent of The City’s total emissions, and more than 90 percent of that comes from personal and commercial vehicles like cars and trucks.

The focus shouldn’t be simply on how fast can we move to all-electric buses, it should be on making Muni service even better, so even more people ride it. This is why we are working so hard to put new and cleaner vehicles into service, because at the end of the day, attracting more people to transit will have the greatest impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions in San Francisco…

John Haley
Director of SFMTA Transit Operations….. (more)

Setting the record straight on diesel in San Francisco
San Francisco Muni should be applauded, not reprimanded, for its choice of clean diesel technology in its transit buses...

Robyn Purchia’s commentary dismisses the judgment of seasoned transit fleet management professionals and is based on the false premise that somehow San Francisco is falling behind because of their transportation technology choice, all the while embracing electric bus manufacturer marketing. Of course, electric vehicles are cheaper, with millions of dollars in public subsidies. Are they cheaper after that? It shows just how superficial things have become.

The primary mission of public transportation agencies is to provide accessible, affordable and reliable transportation to the most citizens possible. That’s why still today that the majority of new transit bus investments around the country are the new generation of clean diesel technology. It delivers the greatest value, reliability and performance.

There is more than one shade of green, and public transportation has and continues to make important strides in these areas. They can be “clean and green” without going all electric…

Allen Schaeffer, Director of the Diesel Technology Forum (more)