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.

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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

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

To Donald, from Ben: Don’t fund Honolulu’s train

By Catherine Cruz : kitv – excerpt (includes video)

HONOLULU – Former Hawaii governor Ben Cayetano took out a full page ad in Friday’s Washington Post newspaper.  The letter calls on the President to terminate Honolulu’s Full Funding Agreement for transit.

“Honolulu’s rail project does not deserve a single dollar more from the federal government.  It has become a poster boy of how politics, incompetence, disinformation and outright lies are at the root of wasteful  projects which do little for the public except raise taxes.”

The ad also notes that the city is at least $3 billion short and six years behind schedule.

The ad comes as the legislature decides next week on whether to extend the half percent excise tax an extra two years or another ten.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell released the following statement:

“The people of O’ahu have now gone through three election cycles where rail was the issue of the day, and each time affirmed that rail should be completed as originally planned with 20 miles of guideway and 21 stations. In each of those elections, ads like the one that appeared in today’s Washington Post were paid for by those who oppose the project, as is their right under the First Amendment. I remain focused on working really hard to extend the city’s half-percent rail surcharge for at least another 10 years. This will allow the country’s first driverless train to reach all the way to Ala Moana Center and ensure a viable project. That’s what the people of O‘ahu expect, and that’s what I’m concentrating on.”

Tune in to KITV Island News at 5, 6 and 10 as rail proponents react to this latest campaign… (more)

California is not alone in the quest for bogus transit project funds. Governor is already under attack for the “pothole” gas tax he just signed. People are watching that money and there is already a recall effort out of San Diego.

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