Safety Expert Says Muni Dragging Incident is About More than Faulty Doors

: streetblog – excerpt

The operator’s main job in the Market Street tunnel is to make sure it is safe to proceed. Either the new trains have serious blind spots or the operator didn’t do that.

Earlier this month, a woman whose finger was caught in the door of a new Muni train was dragged and badly injured at the Embarcadero Station. Recriminations are focusing on the doors, which apparently don’t always properly reset when a small object obstructs them from fully closing.

The city has responded by delaying funds for additional car purchases. According to a statement from SFMTA, they will be locking the rear doors on the new Muni trains so that “…operators can focus on seeing passengers entering and exiting the single doors nearest to them which adds a level of safety vigilance.” The agency also wrote that they “…want to remind customers to avoid holding the doors open in any way.”

But focusing solely on the doors, according to a safety expert and others familiar with transit operations, misses a larger issue…

 “Muni has a broken safety and operational culture if it allows a train operator to drag a woman who has her hand stuck in the door.”…

“Riders deserve to understand what went wrong and what’s being done to prevent it from ever happening again,” said Hyden. “We need Muni to take responsibility and be clear about any changes needed in management, oversight, training, maintenance, procedures, or testing.” (more)

 

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)

Los Angeles Rail: Ridership Decline Estimated at 42 Percent

By Wendell Cox : newgeography – excerpt

The Reason Foundation has just published an important review of transit in Los Angeles County, by transportation consultant Thomas A. Rubin and University of Southern California Professor James E. Moore II. A total of four reports have been released, under the title A Critical Review of Los Angeles Metro’s 28 by 2028 Plan. Links are provided at the end of this article. More reports are to follow.

Rubin, former Chief Financial Officer at the Southern California Rapid Transit District (SCRTD) and founder of the Deloitte transportation practice, and Professor Moore have published extensively on transportation issues, and in particular, on developments in Los Angeles.

Background on the Rail and Busway System

Four decades ago (1980), Los Angeles County embarked on a huge rail transit development program, when the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission (LACTC) adopted Proposition A, which was enacted by the voters and took effect after successfully defending a California state Supreme Court challenge (Note). As a board member of LACTC, I was pleased to have drafted and introduced the amendment that created the rail funding set aside in Proposition A, out of a belief that such a system would alleviate traffic congestion in Los Angeles. Experience has proven otherwise, as traffic delays per commuter have risen 60 percent since the early 1980s, according to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute Annual Mobility Report.

Financial Assessment

Rubin and Moore demonstrate that building the rail (and fixed busway) system has cost considerably more than anticipated while the revenue from the multiple sales taxes passed by voters has fallen short of projections. Nearly $20 billion (not inflation adjusted) was spent on construction through 2016…

Links to the four reports are below.

1. Introduction, Overview, and the Birth of Transit in Los Angeles
2. The Rise of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro)
3. Metro’s Transit Ridership Is Declining
4. Metro’s Long Range Plans Overpromise and Underdeliver

Note: LACTC and SCRTD merged in 1993, creating Metro (the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority).…(more)

California reports show that robot cars love their drivers: Robot cars on average required a human takeover every 14 miles driven, says Consumer Watchdog

consumer watchdog : prnewswire – excerpt

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 14, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — Updated reports required by the California Department of Motor Vehicles from companies testing robot cars on California public roads reveal a fleetwide average of 1 human takeover for every 14 miles tested, according to calculations by Consumer Watchdog. The number of times a human driver had to take control of the robot car during testing varied widely between companies.  Overall 28 companies including Uber, Apple, Toyota, Waymo (Google) and GM Cruise logged 2.04 million miles in testing and reported over 145,402 disengagements.

“These reports show that robot cars aren’t close to being ready for public deployment,” said Adam Scow, Senior Advocate for Consumer Watchdog. “While some companies are improving, others are sputtering out in the parking lot.”… (more)

Cars still hold No. 1 spot for getting around in SF — and it’s getting worse

By Phil Matier : sfchronicle – excerpt

Despite millions of dollars spent on new bike lanes and other transit improvements, people still favor cars when it comes to commuting in and around San Francisco, a new report by the city’s Municipal Transportation Agency concludes.

“We can change the roads, but human behavior hasn’t changed since William Shakespeare started writing about it,” quipped SFMTA board member Art Torres.

And people like cars, whether it’s their own or a hire…

Commuting by bike, which surged by 140 percent between 2005 and 2015, has dropped in recent years… (more)

It is very heard to force people to do things they don’t want to do. Is changing public behavior the proper role for public servants in Democratic society?

Mobility report shows bike trips on the decline in SF

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

San Franciscans may be spurning two-wheeled trips.

Nearly 20,000 fewer daily bicycle trips were taken in 2017 compared to 2016, data revealed Monday by The City’s newest “Mobility Trends” report shows.

The dwindling bike numbers look even worse when compared to The City’s record-setting year for bike trips, 2015, which reached a height of 126,000 average bicycle trips per day.

By 2016 those average daily trips dropped to 115,000, then down to 95,000 by 2017…

While solo bike trips in The City continue to fall, more people are hopping into cars and causing record-level traffic congestion, according to the mobility report. Muni ridership remains relatively stable…(more)

Valencia bike shop claims their business in on decline. We suggest a talk with the merchants on Valencia and other bike-friendly streets to see which industries are thriving and which are wilting under the combined weight of bike lanes and TNCs.

 

 

Self-Driving Vehicles Are Going to Make Traffic Even More Miserable, Says New Study

By Taylor Donovan Barnett : interestingengineering – excerpt

Whether you like it or not, self-driving cars will be hitting the road in full-force in the coming years. Thanks to new technology developed by companies like Tesla and even Uber, autonomous vehicles will become a staple of modern culture, with nearly 10 million self-driving cars expected to hit the road by 2020.

Yet, not all is well across the autonomous landscape. Like any new technology, there have literally been speed bumps in the world of self-driving cars. From accidents to malfunctioning AI, self-driving vehicles are still very much in their infancy.

However, new research in the world of autonomous vehicles has uncovered another potential issue down the line, parking. Anyone living in a metropolitan area will tell you that parking is always a long-winded adventure. According to a new study, autonomous vehicles could create a problematic parking issue…

The Autonomous Vehicle Parking Problem

Professor Millard breaks down his concerns further in his published paper, “The Autonomous Vehicle problem.” In his paper, he estimates that just the presence of the relatively small amount of 2,000 self-driving vehicles in the San Francisco area will slow traffic to less than 2 miles per hour(more)

Want to work on a job that is threatened by this new tech future plan? Do not want to live in the slow lane? Maybe take this up with your state public utility regulation agency, your state reps and your local government officials now. Insist on a pubic conversation about this new technology.

Romance of the Rails

Featuring Randal O’Toole and Caleb O. Brown : cato – excerpt

Randal O’Toole claims streetcars were taken out by a city bus manufacturer, not GM as legend has it.

Listen to the podcast featuring Randal O’Toole and Caleb O. Brown In Romance of the Rails, author Randal O’Toole details the rise and fall of trains as a mode of transportation why it’s quite likely we can never go back to it. (Or download:mp3)

“The problem is politicians like to fund new transportation but they don’t like to fund maintenance.”

Tom Rubin Thoughts on Congestion Pricing

By Tom Rubin

I’ve studied the current Metro 28 by 2028 Plan – and it is pie in the sky.

To give a bit of background, Metro has a very long and consistent history of promising everything to everyone and then, when the plan crashes, everyone is worse off – yes, a few (nowhere near what was promised) rail lines get built, but transit ridership goes down due to the cost overruns – and the fare increase and bus service cutbacks to try to pay for them.  Then, another sales tax to pay for what was promised last time is proposed, and passed.

Metro now has one quarter-cent and four half-cent sales taxes that will bring in about $3.8 billion this year – and the fourth sales tax, passed in 2016, includes some of the same rail lines that were in the first, passed in 1980.

The LA Mayor is running for President.  He wants to run on the great “success” of what he is doing in LA, specifically, all the rail lines he has built and the wonderful things that have occurred.  Now, when Measure M passed in 2016, the plan was to have the fastest rail construction program in history, 20 new projects to being service by 2028 (well, a couple of those were road projects).  Speaking as someone who has studied LA transit in great detail for decades, it is utterly unbelievable that this will occur.

So, of course, the plan is, let’s go for 28 projects by 2028, with the extra eight being among the most expensive on the entire 40-year plan list.  No chance in hell.

So, how to pretend that this is viable?  A new revenue source is needed, and not another sales tax.  So … congestion pricing.

There are three flavors discussed.  The smallest, which would be the “easiest” to implement (that is a relative scale, compared to the other two, not an absolute one) would be a congestion corridor around the Los Angeles Central Business District, now shown as brining in $1.2 billion per year, beginning July 1, 2020.

OK, to start with, the schedule in beyond impossible.  At a minimum, it would need new legislative authority from Sacto to even being essential to even begin.  Then, because it is, arguably, a tax, because the collections from the vehicles entering would be used for transit, not roads, it would, some say, need a two-thirds, not a 50%+1 majority, to be enacted (we’ll know a lot more when the current RM3 case, raising the tolls on the Bay Area bridges to fund transit, is decided).  There will also be huge public relations, work with interest groups, etc. – and setting up the charging system will not be something that can be done in a few weeks.

OK, $1,2 billion/year.  Let’s compare that to the London Zone, which is going on two decades in use, is significantly larger geographically, and has multiple times the population and, more important, jobs.  It netted $198 million last year – charging $14.53 per day.  Someone want to explain the math?

Then, we have the most desirable option, vehicle mile travelled (VMT), which would bring in $10.35 billion a year, again, show as starting on that same July 1, 2020.  OK, you might note that this would be about 270% from the sales tax revenue on the largest county in the U.S.  It is also about four times what the entire State of California paid into the Federal Highway Transit Fund – hell, it is 25% of what the entire nation paid into the HTF.

Also, not only would this require State legislation, but it would also require Federal legislation – and, why would Metro think that it would get all the money from this?  Good luck on that.  By the way, again speaking as someone who has been watching this for a long time, trying to come up with a way for LA County to collect this without the rest of the U.S. putting it in is pretty much impossible.

So, while I think that Congestion pricing is the way to go in the long-term, and there really isn’t much of an alternative, it will take a LONG time to get there and, I have very great confidence in the ability of the elected officials at all levels to delay and screw this up beyond belief.

Good luck with that.

 

San Francisco transportation commission taps McMillan as new leader

progressiverailroading – excerpt

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) has named former Federal Transit Administration (FTA) official Therese McMillan executive director. She will succeed Steve Heminger, who is retiring next month after serving as executive director since January 2001.

MTC is the transportation planning, financing and coordinating agency for the nine-county San Francisco Bay area. McMillan — who also will serve as the top executive for the Association of Bay Area Governments — currently is the chief planning officer for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro).

“McMillan is no stranger to the bay area or to MTC, having worked for 25 years as a member of the commission staff, and for more than eight years as MTC’s deputy executive director for policy,” commission officials said in a press release… (more)