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)

Advertisements

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)

As other cities lead electric charge, San Francisco expands diesel fleet

By Robyn Purchia : sfexaminer – excerpt

as-far-as-the-eye-can-see7

Accommodating these diesel monsters is not helping clean the air.

SFMTA directors have argued that electric vehicle technology is not ready, instead authorizing the purchase of hundreds of new trolleys and planning to expand The City’s diesel hybrid fleet.

With our Bay breezes and environmental ethos, San Francisco typically boasts better air quality than other cities, but that doesn’t mean San Franciscans are breathing easy. In a letter to the state last year, the San Francisco Municipal Transporation Agency stated 70 percent of San Franciscans are exposed to significant diesel exhaust levels, a primary cause of lung disease and asthma.

While city officials struggle to control congestion from Uber and Lyft rides, they’ve fallen asleep at the wheel in tackling a source of these fumes: Muni buses…. (more)

Don’t ignore the construction dust.

Caltrain sales tax measure closer to reality

By Katy Murphy : santacruzsentinel – excerpt

SACRAMENTO >> A state Senate bill to allow local authorities to place a 1/8-cent sales tax for Caltrain on the ballot in Santa Clara, San Francisco and San Mateo counties cleared the Assembly on Friday, pushing it close to the finish line.

Senate Bill 797, by Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, is part of an effort to raise $100 million annually for the popular train that shuttles more than 60,000 riders on weekdays up and down the Peninsula between San Francisco and San Jose… (more)

More tax updates from a nine-county perspective.

RELATED:
Voters, get ready for a Caltrain sales tax measure

Muni Board Approves $21 Billion Capital Improvement Plan

by Nathan Falstreau : hoodline – excerpt

Earlier today, Muni’s Board of Directors voted unanimously to approve a 20-year capital plan to help the agency meet its anticipated needs over the next two decades, including improved facilities and an overhaul of the city’s light rail trains…

The plan does not, however, account for projected SFMTA revenues.

Although the Board has approved desired funding areas, whether or not the the city comes up with the money and ultimately approves projects is not guaranteed. According to the agency, public approval is also necessary to “secure federal, state, regional, and local funding” in the future….(more)

California’s bullet train is likely to face more environmental hurdles after a high court ruling

By Maura Dolan and Ralph Vartabedian : latimes – excerpt

California’s high-speed train project is likely to continue to be buffeted by environmental challenges as a result of a decision by the state’s top court.

In a 6-1 ruling last week written by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, the California Supreme Court decided that federal rail law does not usurp California’s tough environmental regulation for state-owned rail projects.

It clears the way for opponents of the $64-billion bullet train to file more lawsuits as construction proceeds and also allows Californians to challenge other rail uses, such as the movement of crude oil from fracking… (more)

High-speed rail gets us stuck in traffic

By David Schwartzman : californiapolicycenter – excerpt

It will soon be nine years since high-speed rail was passed in California. But Californians haven’t gotten the high-speed r.ail system they were promised. Instead, high-speed rail has taken a new form: it is more expensive and smaller in scope, and it will substantially increase traffic congestion in urban areas.

High-speed rail will cost Californians billions of dollars. In urban areas, increased traffic may cost Californians billions more. Its business plan relies on unrealistic ridership projections. The project is devoid of private funding because businesses see high-speed rail as likely to run at a loss. While high-speed rail wastes more taxpayer dollars, the private sector makes it obsolete with technological innovation, which will reduce future income from the high-speed rail system. High-speed rail authorities have violated federal law by making significant changes to the proposition approved by voters. High-speed rail has not been the success voters imagined when the bill passed.

When voters approved Proposition 1A with 52.7%, the estimated cost for high-speed rail going from Sacramento and San Francisco to San Diego was $45 billion. However, a 2011 business plan by the California High-Speed Rail Authority projected costs to be $98.5 billion, and potentially as high as $118 billion, while also ending at Anaheim rather than San Diego. Despite the enormous difference in cost, Californians were not consulted about whether they were still interested in high-speed rail. Instead, the project was scaled down, with slower speeds and fewer new tracks, estimated to cost $68.4 billion, and later $64 billion... (more)

SFMTA approves dedicated bus lanes for Geary Boulevard

By Jerold Chinn : sfbay – excerpt

San Francisco transit officials on Tuesday gave a key approval to a $300 million bus rapid transit project that will change the way Muni runs the 38-Geary local, rapid and express routes through the Geary corridor.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors approved the state environmental review report and adopted the recommended “Hybrid Alternative” design of the project.

Commissioners of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority approved the same report and recommended design in January.

The project will dedicate red transit-only lanes from Gough to Stanyan streets along the curb edge, then in the median from Stanyan Street to 28th Avenue, and then back to curbside from 28th to 34th avenues.

Transit-only lanes already exist on the downtown portion of the Geary corridor, but will have improved bus stops as part of the project…

The project has had opposition from merchants worried about construction hurting businesses and critics of the project who have said the project is costly.

San Franciscan’s For Sensible Transit filed a lawsuit earlier this year against the project citing that transportation planners did not study in full detail the no build option in the environmental review report. Other concerns included construction costs and construction impacts.

Bob Starzel, director of the San Franciscan’s For Sensible Transit, said the group does not like the way the project has been planned. He advised the SFMTA board to not “rubber stamp” the project:

“The only way we could talk you is by a lawsuit. We prefer to do it in a more enabled way.”…

After Tuesday’s approval, Brisson said staff will work on the detailed designs of the project, which includes the roadway and right-of-way changes. The SFMTA plans to seek public outreach on the detailed designs.

Transit officials also expect to the complete the federal environmental review process later this year.

Brisson expects to bring back a legislative package to the Board of Directors of the proposed roadway and right-of-way changes in early 2018… (more)

Why does such a big story have little press so far, and no comments. Citizens are looking into how the EIR is approved without a project description.

Why are we spending $300 million dollars on the consolidated center lane when the project manager admits that the rapid and local lines will share bus stops after the two lines are consolidated in the center lane and the only no time savings will come from eliminating a few stops.

Taxpayers should request an explanation for spending $300 million dollars on a complex center lane when removal of a few bus stops will cost nothing and get the same results.

As the number of tents on the sidewalk mounts and crime increases, keep in mine that the red paint applications trigger an annual maintenance expense that will become a part of the growing SFMTA budget each year, tell your supervisors what you prefer to do with your tax dollars.

This project will not proceed without federal dollars so be sure to weigh in with your federal representatives and watch the state reps as well. To better understand how these projects are coming to our streets, read the following document: http://livablecity.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/tlc_path.pdf

Central Subway project faces up to 10-month delay

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

Muni’s Central Subway project may be delayed by almost a year.

If the construction contractor, Tutor Perini, and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency do not catch up with ongoing construction delays, the project is forecasted to open 10 months late, according to the project’s required monthly monitoring report released in late May, the most recent report available.

That report, known as a Project Management Oversight Committee report, wrote that the SFMTA and Tutor Perini need to reach an agreement over scheduling conflicts, or those forecasted delays may increase.

“If we don’t change anything of what we’ve done so far, we will be 10 months late in revenue service,” Central Subway Program Director John Funghi confirmed to the San Francisco Examiner… (more)

Please comment at the source. This appears to be more evidence that SFMTA has too many projects going at one time. What does it take to convince City Hall to STOP approving more street projects until the SFMTA has completed the ones they have now. Fill the holes you have now!

Which city does Transit Better – LA or SF?

I asked a transit expert to compare the two cities. Here is the response.

TAR:  LA and SF are two of the worst, overall, in the U.S.  If you look at
the rankings, LA is almost always the absolutely worst.

However, as a practical matter, it comes down to particular commutes in each
place.

Transit is different in LA.  To a large extent, the only place where transit
can really be competitive is peak-hour commutes to the central business
district — and LA has, by far, the smallest CBD relative to urbanized area
population in the U.S., if not the world.  Also, believe it or not, greater
LA is, by far, the densest urbanized area in the U.S. and is almost dead
last in freeway center-line miles and total road miles per capita (I win a
lot of bar bets on these two).  But, much of LA has a very good grid system
of arterial streets and LA-DOT is world-class, particularly on traffic
signal progressions and the like.

So, in a strange way, commuting is better in LA than in SF.  Because we
don’t have a single huge downtown that a whole lot of people are trying to
get to, there is a much better work/live balance, and people have shorter
commutes to the distributive downtowns and other disbursed work locations.

Also, Greater LA is one of the poorest regions in the nation; we’ve just
about kicked out the last of the middle class and the good middle class
jobs, so we have some very rich and a lot of very, very poor – even more so
than in SF, which is saying something.  So, the bus system is very highly
utilized, frequently with the highest average load factor in the industry
(fighting New York City and Honolulu for that “honor”).

But, while SF started with a very good – but very old – rail system, which
was then added to by BART, starting fifty years ago, LA lost the last of
what was the finest rail system in the nation in 1961 – and then tried for
years to get something going.  Finally, in 1980, the rail proponents passed
a one-half cent sales tax to begin building rail – which was supposed to
provide eleven rail lines all over the County.  Thirty-seven years later,
and three more half-cent sales taxes (Los Angeles County Metropolitan
Transportation Authority gets over $3.5 BILLION a year in sales tax revenues
that no one outside the County has any say over) – and we have about half
of that rail system built.

Unfortunately, this has come at the expense of the bus system, which has
suffered through multiple fare increases (when the median bus rider
HOUSEHOLD income is $15,000, trying to afford even one thirty-day pass at
$100 is a rather large segment of income) and reductions in service, so
total ridership has been going steadily down – even after $16 billion spent
on building new rail lines (and that’s just for the ones that have been
completed).

If you want more detail, here’s a link to something I prepared about fifteen
months ago:

http://demographia.com/db-rubin-la-transit.pdf

The only thing that has really changed since this was written is that two
more rail lines have been finished and went into service, another half-cent
sales tax was passed, even more rail lines have been started – and
ridership has continued to drop.

Sad, isn’t it?

Tom Rubin

MTC Wins Transportation Planning Excellence Award for Plan Bay Area and One Bay Area Grant Program

MTC : prnewswire – excerpt

SAN FRANCISCO, June 5, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) has been awarded a 2017 Transportation Planning Excellence Award from the Federal Highway Administration for the project, “A Strategy for a Sustainable Region: Plan Bay Area and the One Bay Area Grant Program.” Plan Bay Area is the long-range transportation and land use plan for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area while the One Bay Area Grant Program channels the region’s federal transportation funding to make the vision of Plan Bay Area and its successors a reality… (more)

More deceptive back-patting by MTC.  The Bay Area sports a dropping per capita transit ridership and suffers as the second most congested metropolitan region in the country.  Despite this, according to its many boastful pronouncements MTC would have us believe that it is the most wonderfully successful planning department in the country if not the entire world.

Here’s the truth of the matter.

MTC’s “excellence” is in the forming of multitudinous overlapping and vaguely defined committees and in generating mountains of fine sounding reports that make it look to the feds and the gullible as if everything in the Bay Area is in perfect order. The truth is that MTC doesn’t come even close to practicing what it preaches in its flood of written communications.  Instead of advocating and promulgating sound regional planning MTC remains passive whenever a regional transportation problem of consequence arises.  Instead of addressing regional transportation issues MTC remains in the back rooms brokering deals with the handful of Bay Area cities with significant influence in Washington.  The result is a continuing series of high cost/low benefit parochial projects that do nothing to address the increasingly excessive traffic congestion and dropping public transit ridership that are detracting from the Bay Area’s quality of life.  So far the Region has let MTC get away with this swindle.