Muni Fare To Increase Again July 1, Caltrain Considering Fare Hike Too

If you’re a Caltrain rider who would like to voice your frustration with (or support of!) the proposed fare increase, the commuter rail line service will have staffed tables at 11 different stations tomorrow, Tuesday, May 23, to gather your feedback. Additionally, the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board will have a public meeting on Thursday, July 6 at 10 a.m. at the Caltrain Administrative Office in San Carlos. You don’t even have to be present at the meeting to speak up, because Caltrain is taking comments online and via email at changes@caltrain.com.

But as for Muni riders, that 25-cent fare increase is a done deal and going into effect July 1, 2017 regardless of your feelings on whether the fare’s fair…

 

SAN FRANCISCO CAN HAVE A SIMPLE, WORLD-CLASS TRANSIT SYSTEM

By Howard Wong, AIA SaveMuni


With a population of 4.6 million people and an area of 3,800 square miles, Melbourne’s transit mode share isn’t particularly high but the system activates the city.  Ubiquitous trams reinforce Melbourne’s historic character, including a free tram zone in the Central Business District and a free tram loop that links railroad stations, harbor, convention center, stadium, Parliament, museums, stores, arcades, alleyways….  For San Francisco’s short distances within its 49 square miles, the palpable lesson is that bus rapid networks, trams and ferries can activate streets and neighborhoods—quickly.  Free Shuttle Bus Loops could link downtown to the waterfront, to neighborhoods and to transit hubs—for a fraction of the cost of subways and big infrastructure projects.

CLEAN TECHNICA  How Much Would It Cost Nowadays To Build A Massive Tram System Like Melbourne’s? https://cleantechnica.com/2014/12/31/melbourne-tram-system-huge/  Melbourne, Australia, is home to what is by far the largest streetcar system currently in operation in the world — one that makes those found in the US cities where there is one at all seem like a fair ride in comparison. The urban streetcar system comprises roughly 249 kilometers of double-track and 487 trams in total.

You’re probably getting jealous now, and for good reason. So a good question to ask would be, why doesn’t the city I live in have such great public transportation infrastructure? And how much would it cost for it to develop a similar system?

The main takeaway from this all, though, is that maintaining and/or rebuilding or renovating legacy infrastructure is usually the most economical approach to public transportation infrastructure buildout… by far.  It’s just too bad that so many of these quite effective tram systems (which once covered the US) were done away with during the wild embrace of the personal automobile during the last century.

MAP:  Melbourne Tram Network
https://static.ptv.vic.gov.au/siteassets/PDFs/Maps/Network-maps/Tram-Network.pdf

TRAMS OF AUSTRALIA:  Melbourne’s Tram History
http://www.railpage.org.au/tram/melbhist.html After the Second World War, when all that was shiny and new (like the motor car) was embraced, and all that was established and old-fashioned (like the tram) was rejected, Melbourne alone stood against the tide. The Chairman of the MMTB, Sir Robert Risson, far from having a taste for tramway closures like his opposite numbers elsewhere, stoutly defended the trams against a hostile press. He upgraded track by setting it in mass concrete (when this was still politically possible) and even the Government could see that removing trams would be a waste of the investment. He argued that trams would always attract more patronage than an equivalent bus service, and proved it in 1956 when the Bourke St bus service (which had replaced a cable tram line) was upgraded to a tram in time for the Olympic games, despite the wailing of the newspapers.

No doubt the cause was aided by an intransigent union, who were so determined that any bus which replaced a tram must have two-man crewing, that the economics was not really weighted in favour of the bus anyway. The other factor in Melbourne’s favour that is often mentioned is the wide main streets, which meant that there was less obstruction of cars than in other cities.

By the mid 1970s, Melbourne could see how lucky she had been not to follow the fashions of the ’50s, and even the conservative government, normally given to starving public transport to death, agreed to the purchase of new trams. These were the Z-class, which are a mixed success, but were good enough to be followed by the A-class and B-class trams in the 1980s.

DAILY KOS:  Bernie Sanders cracks up as Trump praises Australian healthcare after his evil bill http://www.dailykos.com/story/2017/05/05/1659272/-Bernie-Sanders-cracks-up Donald Trump praises Australian Universal Healthcare After watching the clip, both Bernie Sanders and Chris Hayes laughed almost uncontrollably. “Wait a minute Chris,” Sanders said. “The president has just said it. That’s great. Let’s take a look at the Australian healthcare system. Maybe let’s take a look at the Canadian healthcare system or systems throughout Europe.

COMMONWEALTH FUND:  Health Care System and Health Policy in Australia
http://www.commonwealthfund.org/grants-and-fellowships/fellowships/australian-american-health-policy-fellowship/health-care-system-and-health-policy-in-australia
The Australian health care system provides universal access to a comprehensive range of services, largely publicly funded through general taxation. Medicare was introduced in 1984 and covers universal access to free treatment in public hospitals and subsidies for medical services; Medicare is now sometimes used to describe the Australian health care system though precisely it refers to access to hospitals (hospital Medicare) and medical care (medical Medicare).  Health indicators are strong, for example Australian life expectancy is the third longest in the OECD.

Muni to pull $26 million from pedestrian safety projects for bus yard improvements

By : sfexaminer – excerpt

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency isn’t spending its voter-approved bond money fast enough, so it’s redirecting funding to Muni projects that are ready to go — right now.

Nearly $26 million in bond money that will not be immediately spent on some portions of the “Muni Forward” program to boost bus and train service, the Better Market Street project and other pedestrian safety projects will instead flow to Muni facility improvements.

That’s the upshot of a tussle between the agency that runs Muni and the Board of Supervisors, which criticized the agency previously for not spending its 2014 voter-approved $500 million in bond funding fast enough…

Fast forward to Tuesday’s SFMTA Board of Directors meeting, and directors approved pulling $26 million in bond money from projects that are taking longer than expected to come to fruition, and instead spending that funding on projects that are shovel-ready…

Many of those Muni projects were delayed as communities — and some members of the Board of Supervisors — called for more public input to reshape them. Some of those delayed projects include Better Market Street, a plan to make Market street a robust public space with urban plazas, and pedestrian and bicycle safety upgrades…(more)

Could this be a good thing? A careful analysis of the improvements so far reveal an alarming trend of unfinished projects, including no signage to direct riders to the new placement of stops. We heard there is no marked bus stop at General Hospital for the last week. The public is alarmed over the lack of respect City Hall is showing to our Fire Department and emergency responders.

These are the 5 biggest Bay Area transportation infrastructure projects

by Judy Cooper : bizjournals – excerpt (includes a slide show)

  1. Transbay Terminal/Caltrain Downtown Extention Phase 1 : $2.26 billion
  2. BART Railcar procurement program : $2.03 billion
  3. Caltrain Electrification : $1.98 billion
  4. Muni Third Street Light Rail Phase 2 Central Subway : $1.58 billion
  5. Toll Bridge Rehabilitation Program : $892.09 million

With San Francisco traffic congestion recently ranking as the fourth worst in the world and one poll showing 70 percent of locals are willing to pay higher taxes for a solution, it’s safe to say many Bay Area residents are fed up with their commute.

Several large-scale transportation infrastructure projects aim to alleviate some of that frustration. In this Friday’s issue of the San Francisco Business Times we spotlight the 25 biggest transportation projects underway in the region.

Projects on the List are ranked by total cost. All together, the top 25 projects are valued at some $14.1 billion combined. Data for the List was obtained from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission(more)

Commuter Bus program Report

Report by Edward Mason with comments

Summary of the February 21, 2017 MTA Board meeting
Making the Commuter Bus program Permanent

FOR
Three representatives from the Teamster’s Union declared the program a win-win for all: jobs, profits all around; “labor harmony;” and the streamlining of the shuttle operation, including coordination with residents.

One after the other, the commuter buses patrons presented their case: reduction of dependence on cars; ease of travel, with consequent savings to their personal time; the avoidance of 40 minutes on Muni and/or a full CalTrain. Some argued that they ride the commuter bus because there is no shuttle to work from the CalTrain Station. (According to a former Apple employee who helped design its commuter system, that company does pick up at the shuttles.) Almost to a man they parroted the bromide that the program removes 10,000 autos and benefits the environment. Each insisted that they only wanted to live in San Francisco and did not want to own a car. One woman, who rode the buses during the course of two pregnancies, cited the importance of frequent stops.

A representative from the Bay Area Council made his contribution. He cited three years working with the MTA and ABAG (the Association of Bay Area Government). He trumpeted the reduction of vehicle mileage, the easing of congestion and the removal of 2 million car trips annually. All this was good for the environment, with the result that the best option is a permanent program.

Others asked for increased commuter bus loading zones. During the presentation, Director Ramos asked speakers to indicate if they rode Muni. Some said they had a Clipper Card. (No one indicated they rode Uber/Lyft to the commuter stop, a fact which has been observed.). Surprisingly some commented they would purchase an auto and drive if the commuter bus was not available. (Surprising because many in this age group do not know how to drive and distain the burden of car ownership — one of several reasons for the success of Uber/Lyft).

In summary, the “for sustaining commuter bus program arguments were convenience, fewer auto miles, good for the environment, and time savings for personal or family time, i.e., personal benefits. (Not mentioned: the huge tax deduction that the company takes for the business expense of transporting its work force. This deduction reduces their contribution in the form of corporate taxes to the general welfare. (Individuals generally can not deduct their commute, so we all indirectly support this corporate write-off)).

AGAINST
One argument against the corporate bus operation is the low mileage-per-gallon in the city vs. the freeway, especially with the extensive use of deadheading. (This argument supports the use of HUBs.) The ignoring of ADA, the omission of an EIR, and the displacement of lower income populations are other frequently raised problems. (More ammunition for a BART HUB.) Also on the legal side, red zone stops violate state code 22500 and cause Muni to fall short of its 85% on-time goal prescribed in the City Charter; and enforced Muni street-boardings violate ADA rules. In view of all the busses’ many violations, the MTA issues too few citations. Noise and vibration impact on houses. Smaller buses could substitute for many if not all of the behemoths. One detractor even contented that if the buses disappeared the 10,000 additional autos represented by the population of riders would have a minor impact on the 300,000 auto commute time total on Highway 101.

Finally, buses should benefit all parties (citizens, not select workers). In the end, the support should be for a Public Regional Express Bus system. Presently the program represents an illegal give-away of bus stop space. Prop 26 fee structure should be reviewed, State Assembly Bill 61 to legalize red zone failed.

DIRECTORS’ comments / questions included:

  • Shift to smaller buses on more streets? Companies determine the size and mix of buses.
  • Increase penalty, emissions standards
  • Director Ramos commented one thousand emails received and New Development in SF funding Mass Transit changes (I assume new market rate development for South Bay workers. However, the Transportation Sustainability Fee derived from new development is deeply discounted to less than 25% of the Nexus Study true transportation expansion cost. Growth is not funding Growth). With a growing economy, MTA must“accommodate the need of Industry.” (Does this mean at all costs and with little or no regard for the collateral damage inflicted upon the neighborhoods?) He applauded the industry for being willing to work with this voluntary program. He conceded that the arrangement was far from perfect and would evolve, including MORE STOPS TO REDUCE DWELL TIME, such as additional loading zones that remove parking.
  • Form a web page for better violation/complaint reporting

TAKE AWAY
Underlying the argument for the corporate bus operation is a presumption of the inherent right of the individual to enjoy a simultaneous commute-and-work experience, a benefit that suits both the employee and the employer. Of the many individuals who said that, deprived of that right, they would purchase an auto and drive, not one displayed any trepidation about the environmental consequences of that action.

I will share the Public Records Request correspondence received supporting the Commuter Bus Program. Mostly repeated cookie cutter statements. Mostly like upstart businesses “mustering the troops” to lobby the legislators.

The geography (steep hills) and geometry (narrow /awkward streets) undermine the practical use in this city of motor coaches, i.e., 40’plus vehicles designed primarily for travel on freeways. None of the supporters mentioned any of the intractable and multiple problems associated with them, including staging (idling for a time point departure); the obstruction of intersections; noisy, late night operation; and the conflict with MUNI.

Assuming 20% of the future employee expansions of Facebook (6,000) and Apple Spaceship (8,000) will most likely result in additional buses in San Francisco. Plan Bay Area 2040 is up for review. Will the employment centers build work force housing? Work site congestion mitigation transfers congestion to the employees’ neighborhood. San Francisco is not alone, as Private Commuter Buses roam the South Bay Cities traveling from San Jose to Sunnyvale, or Mountain View.

Transit crisis in San Francisco

Op-ed by By Gerald Cauthen : sfexaminer – excerpt

Joshua Sabatini provides a nice summary of what The City’s transportation planners want to do to reduce traffic congestion in San Francisco. The problem with their plans is that they won’t work. What is being proposed is akin to trying to fly an airliner using just the ailerons. What’s currently in vogue in San Francisco illustrates what’s wrong with City Hall’s response to its growing transportation crisis.

Most transportation planning are left to people who are well-intentioned but inexperienced. As a result, the proposed solutions tend to be half-baked and over-simplified:

“San Franciscans drive too much; we must walk more.”

“The restraints on parking will ease traffic.”

“More people should ride Muni.”

“We need more bicycle lanes.”

All of these warrant discussion and consideration, but none come even close to fully addressing the real problem. If people are to leave their cars at home, there will have to be non-automotive travel alternatives that work. Here are some considerations that tend to get shoved under the rug:

• Good decisions are not made by the seat-of-the-pants. One has to ask: What works; what doesn’t? What has been shown to work elsewhere? What is cost-effective? What are the alternatives? These essential elements of good planning tend to get lost in a seemingly endless series of politically inspired “bright ideas.”… (more)

SF voters approve better transit, reject tax to pay for it

By Jerold Chinn : sfbay – excerpt

San Francisco voters voted overwhelmingly to approve $150 million for improved transit and homeless services Tuesday night — while rejecting by a similar margin a sales tax increase that would provide the funds.

Election night results in San Francisco show Proposition K, a three-quarter sales tax increase that would have taken effect in April of next year, failing with 67 percent of voters against the increase.

The 0.75 percent sales tax increase — to 9.25 percent — would have provided funds for Proposition J that would create the Homeless Housing and Services Fund and the Transportation Improvement Fund… (more)

“San Francisco’s current sales tax is at 8.75 percent, but will decrease to 8.5 percent after Dec. 31, 2016.”

Voters need to look forward to lower taxes in this volatile, unpredictable economy with high rents and evictions looming. They are watching SFMTA roll out one ridiculous future project after another non-stop while they are being squeezed out of the city.

In spite of all the back-slapping at City Hall the public does not appreciate the constant “improvements” being slapped down on the streets at our expenses, and no amount of PR and advertising dollars will convince us to spend another dime on systems we will never live to see.

Voters will see sales tax hike, funding for homeless and Muni on November ballot

by Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

There’s little debate over whether San Francisco should invest more in Muni and homelessness, but a whole lot when it comes to how.

Voters this November are being asked to approve a sales tax hike in Proposition K, and a spending mandate for that revenue with Proposition J, which sets aside annually $100 million for transportation and $50 million for homeless services…

But opposition to the sales tax hike comes not only from the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, but some progressive politicians as well. Supervisors Aaron Peskin, Norman Yee and Jane Kim voted against placing the sales tax on the ballot.

Peskin even submitted a paid ballot argument against the sales tax hike, arguing it is “balancing our budget on the backs of the poorest and most vulnerable in our city” and that within The City’s existing $9.6 billion budget, “City Hall should address critical issues.”

In 2017, San Francisco’s sales tax would decrease from the current rate of 8.75 percent to 8.5 percent, but if Prop. K passes it would increase by .75 percent, to a total of 9.25 percent…

“I generally have not been supportive of flat regressive taxes,” Kim told the San Francisco Examiner during an editorial board meeting, noting she also does not support a proposed tax on sugary beverages that’s on the ballot as well. “Flat taxes disproportionately impact low income households.”

In opposing the measure, the Chamber argued the sales tax “places overwhelming economic strain on local businesses, especially small businesses, causing costs to rise, businesses to leave or close, and lost jobs.”

There are no active fundraising campaigns against Props. J and K…(more)

There is an growing opposition movement to Proposition K. Contact us  if you want to help fight it. With five major tax bills on the ballot and even more set-asides, almost half of the city ballot initiatives are about taxes and there is a growing opposition movement to increasing taxes.

Both progressives and business people agree that increasing sales tax is bad business. Some of our endorsers for No on K are: Supervisor Aaron Peskin, SF Berniecrats, San Francisco Tomorrow, Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods, Chinese American Democratic Club, District 3 Democratic Club, SaveMuni, Bay Area Transportation Working Group, San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, Council of District Merchants, San Francisco Taxpayers Association, San Francisco Libertarian Party, San Francisco Republican Party

State College System Funds Need to Create More Public Transit Jobs

By Brandi Childress : vta -excerpt

These training programs for transit workers are needed because the public school system is failing to prepare students to do the jobs that are needed.

A program to train much needed transit operations and maintenance workers is taking shape thanks to a one-million dollar grant from the California Community College Chancellor’s Office.

The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), Mission College of Santa Clara, and the Amalgamated Transit Workers Union (ATU) Local 265 are launching the Transit Apprenticeships for Professional Career Advancement initiative to build a unique system of apprenticeship programs to recruit and train 100 apprentices during the two-year grant period.

VTA’s workforce development strategy, “Grow Your Own”, offers current VTA workers the opportunity to learn new skills and move into new careers using this apprenticeship approach. These opportunities begin with the entry-level position of a professional coach operator and lead to the highest paid ATU, and hardest to fill, position of Overhead Line Worker… (more)