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)

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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.

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)

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

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

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)

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)