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)

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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

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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.

They raised tens of thousands of dollars to fix a dangerous intersection. Now they can’t get the city to take action

By Steve Lopez : sftimes – excerpt

Alexander von Wechmar and Rob Ramsey, who live down the street from each other, have seen a lot of befuddled drivers negotiate their long-troubled intersection in the Hollywood Hills.

Canyon Drive and Bronson Avenue come together in an awkward union. It’s as if Bronson isn’t sure where it wants to go, so it forks into Canyon at two points, forming a large triangle in the middle and confusing many a driver…

Residents take on a dangerous intersection

After the motorist died, Von Wechmar and Ramsey stood at the intersection together one day and watched a driver spin around the circle like he was on a merry-go-round.

“Rob said, ‘This guy’s showing us what we need here,’ ” recalls Von Wechmar, who had just returned from Germany and saw firsthand the benefits of a well-planned traffic circle.

And so began, in the year of the Lord 2005, a 12-years-and-running battle with L.A. City Hall in an attempt to safeguard pedestrians and motorists alike with the installation of a simple circular median.

In those early days, Von Wechmar approached Tom LaBonge, the district’s city councilman at the time. Von Wechmar said LaBonge was receptive and consulted an engineer, then asked the city Department of Transportation to look into it.

“The city provided a technical drawing, a bird’s eye view,” says Von Wechmar, and a neighbor, artist Carolin Q. Wild, produced a lovely rendering of a landscaped traffic circle with a vintage street lamp in the middle of it.

But things grind along slowly at City Hall, and before long, residents were told the city did not have the money to install a traffic circle…

n mid-August, the city sent out a notice that it was repaving the street where the intersection sits. The notice advised that any street excavation will be prohibited for one year after the repaving, meaning the traffic circle project would be delayed, assuming it ever begins.

What’s all the more galling to Von Wechmar and Ramsey is that their street doesn’t really need repaving. But the city often gives priority to moderately worn streets because the horrible ones are too expensive to fix…

Ramsey, Von Wechmar and I watched as one car after another blew through a stop sign and whizzed past the spot where there might be a traffic circle one day, in a not-too-distant decade, but who’d put money on that?… (more)

Too much power and authority and money are bringing out the worst in transportation authorities, who are apparently trained to ignore public requests. Time to cut their power and funds in protest.

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)

Public Ridesharing, Shuttle Program: $4 Million In Grants

patch – excerpt

“Shuttle bus, ridesharing services link commuters with mass transit and play a key role in helping the region attain its clean air goals.”

SAN FRANCISCO, CA — The Bay Area Air Quality Management District announced in San Francisco that it is offering up to $4 million in grants to public agencies for shuttle bus and ridesharing services.

The money for the grants comes from the Transportation Fund for Clean Air. The fund amounts to $22 million per year and comes from a $4 surcharge collected by the state Department of Motor Vehicles on cars and trucks registered in the Bay Area… (more)

 

Lyft and Amtrak now let passengers book rides to and from the train station

by Nick Statt : theverge – excerpt

Another business links up with Lyft, and not Uber

Lyft is partnering with Amtrak to help train passengers get to and from the train station. The new deal will let you book a car with the ride-hailing service from within Amtrak’s mobile app. If you’re a new Lyft rider, using the promo code “AMTRAKLYFT” grants you $5 discounts on the first four rides, regardless of whether they’re booked through the Amtrak app. Lyft says its service reaches 97 percent of all Amtrak riders in the US..
The business lingo Lyft is targeting here is known as first- and last-mile service, and it’s a big market opportunity for ride-hailing apps. Both Lyft and Uber allow people to get around without having to rely on their own vehicles or public transport, but neither can really solve the problem of having to get to and from larger transportation hubs like airports and train stations. The ride-hailing industry fought vigorously, and largely succeeded, at muscling airports into allowing drop-offs and pickups. Now, it appears like trains are presenting a new battlefront for Lyft and Uber to control how consumers travel…

Lyft and Uber want to control how you get to and from every transportation hub.

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.

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