New, simpler plan for SF’s downtown rail extension

By Michael Cabanatuan and J.K. Dineen : sfchronicle – excerpt

Cautious optimism for San Francisco’s East Side communities – there is a less disruptive, cheaper alternative plan for the downtown rail extension

San Francisco’s latest vision for South of Market preserves Interstate 280, gets rid of the Caltrain rail yard, and has the commuter rail line’s downtown extension bypass Mission Bay, instead dipping underground a mile before its current station at Fourth and King streets.

A study to be released Monday, after 3½ years of work, significantly revises an idea raised by then-Mayor Ed Lee in 2013 to improve transit connectivity and create a new neighborhood…(more)

The last thing we need is to destroy another neighborhood to create a new one.

 

 

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PLAN-IT LOS ANGELES

A collection of important articles and original commentaries on planning issues in the greater Los Angeles area

Updated analysis of Senator Scott Wiener’s SB 827 Real Estate Deregulation Bill

Platkin on Planning: Los Angeles is heading toward a perfect storm of gentrification, well camouflaged behind spurious claims of boosting transit ridership and addressing LA’s housing crisis through planning, zoning, and environmental deregulation.

This perfect storm is propelled by huge tail winds from the State Legislature in Sacramento, with big city Democrats fronting for the real estate interests that fund and mentor them. San Francisco State Senator Scott Wiener and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti are their current favorites, but many more are lining up at the trough.

To begin, there is a treasure trove of successful programs that they could turn to if they truly wanted to increase transit ridership and address the climate and housing crises, but they are totally mute on these options. As for their cheerleaders, their silence is also deafening since the following public programs are at odds with their mantra to magically solve LA’s many urban ills: “build more market housing.”

Increasing transit ridership through the following is not on their to-do list:..

My conclusion about SB 827, by itself, and in combination with the supplemental land use ordinances I reviewed above, is that it is one of the most destructive pieces of planning legislation I have encountered in over three decades of professional work in the city planning profession.  Like all miracle cures, it won’t work.  It might make some landowners and landlords rich, but its fatal flaws will destroy many neighborhoods, without increasing transit ridership or reducing the cost of housing…

Dick Platkin is a former Los Angeles city planner who reports on local city planning controversies for CityWatchLA…(more)

Please read and comment at the source if you can.

Massive cost overruns threaten to derail the bullet train. Here’s what has to change

by Ralph Vartabedian : latimes – excerpt

Only two years ago, the California rail authority unveiled an ambitious plan to begin operating a segment of bullet train service between San Jose and the Central Valley by 2025. It would take nearly every penny in its checkbook, but the rail authority assured the public it would work.

But that plan has been crushed by the acknowledgment Tuesday that the cost of building just 119 miles of rail between the farm towns of Madera and Wasco has soared from about $6 billion to $10.6 billion, siphoning off money that the authority had planned to allocate to the ultimate goal of connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco.

It has left the broader high-speed rail project, a lofty objective that Gov. Jerry Brown has pursued since the 1980s, in an existential crisis.

Over the next year, Brown, the Legislature and the next governor will have to decide whether to create new revenue sources, dramatically delay its construction or scale it far back from a complete 550-mile system, among other possibilities… (more)

 

 

Rail Gauge: A Transit Adventure on SMART

by Peter Lawrence Kane : sfweekly – excerpt

Having opened this fall with a 43-mile leg of its eventual 70-mile route, SMART connects Sonoma and Marin counties by rail — and it’s fun to ride.

For all the grumbling about how the Bay Area is sclerotic when it comes to ambitious transportation projects, trains are enjoying something of a resurgence. High-speed rail seems inevitable, BART opened an extension to Warm Springs with further infill stations planned, Caltrain electrification seems likely, the much-delayed Central Subway chugs along, and Muni may yet extend the F-Market streetcar to Fort Mason. Down south, car-choked Los Angeles plans major subway expansions along its Purple Line ahead of the 2028 Olympics.

The rail-scape is impressive. While U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier talk about building another Bay crossing for vehicular traffic, perhaps the time is right to relieve overcrowding and delays with a second Transbay Tube instead. That idea sounds farfetched, but the county that famously declined to participate in the original BART system — Marin — now has a functioning train running from downtown San Rafael to Sonoma County Airport in one hour and seven minutes.

“They’re really learning how to transfer to buses to get to San Francisco or get to the Larkspur Ferry,” she adds. “People here are learning transit because they haven’t had transit. I’m watching them learn schedules and meet ferries and they’re so excited.”… (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)

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)

Most poll respondents don’t plan to ride SMART

By Stuff: ARGUS-COURIER – excerpt

Last Mile Issues require parking options

A majority of respondents to an online Argus-Courier poll said that they would not use the SMART train for their daily commute.

Here are some comments:

“Aside from the fact there is a serious lack of parking near the train station, the train goes nowhere near where I work in San Rafael. Walking or taking a bus to or from the train station will not work either. I will continue to drive.”

“I’d like to, but that may change depending on price, in particular, as well as timing with the Larkspur ferry. ”

“I am retired but want to ride the train and see the sights once all the bugs are worked out.”

“I do not and do not know anyone who will. This train has cost us millions in taxpayer dollars and has woken me up several times as it blows its horns.”

“I go into San Francisco. It is not time or cost effective, including the incomplete route to the ferry.”

If the transportation authorities quit fighting and added sufficient parking to their list of amenities for ALL public transit stations and hubs, they would not have the problem of a sinking ridership. There is no excuse for this lack of parking at the stations other than an out-dated notion that people can and should be controlled by a “wiser” government.

The Crazy Idea of Running Caltrain onto Muni’s Tracks

: streetsblog – excerpt

Maybe it’s not quite as crazy as it sounds

A little over a week ago, the San Francisco Examiner ran the Op-Ed: “Fast and cheap: Getting Caltrain to Transbay Terminal … this year.” Author Stanford Horn proposed extending Caltrain via Muni’s T/N tracks on King Street and building some more tracks on Howard Street to a platform at the new Transbay Terminal, as a stop-gap measure until the DTX tunnel is built

Horn’s assertion, that it would be such a simple project that it could be connected up in a few weeks or months, is as silly as it sounds. As Noel Braymer, editor of the Rail Passenger Association of California newsletter wrote: “Oh dear God, where do I begin! There is no way that the Federal Railroad Administration will allow Caltrain equipment to share tracks with much lighter rail transit trains. The reason is, in the case of a collision Muni cars would be crushed if hit by Caltrain!”

To point out another obvious problem: although the track gauge is the same, Caltrain’s rolling stock is wider than Muni’s. Since Muni uses high-level platforms, that means if you plopped a Caltrain onto Muni’s tracks, it would crash into the platform. Furthermore, Caltrain’s equipment would likely derail on Muni’s track switches. Horn’s piece was savaged in the comments section as totally unworkable… (more)

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.

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