New bus operator offers low-cost routes to LA, SF

By Ben van der Meer : bizjournals – excerpt

Sacramento has another competitor in the space for low-cost travel to other cities without flying or driving.

FlixBus, which started operations in Los Angeles in May, expanded bus service to Sacramento and other Northern California cities Thursday, including several in the Bay Area and Central Valley.

Its strategy is straightforward: Tickets as low as $4.99 to San Francisco and $14.99 to Los Angeles, using buses equipped with Wi-Fi and a full range of movies and other entertainment for every seat.

Three buses will leave from Sacramento daily at 5:50 a.m., 1:10 p.m. and 10:50 p.m., arriving at either University of California Los Angeles or the University of Southern California in about nine hours. Three other buses arrive daily in Sacramento from those starting points. The pickup and drop-off point is the California Automobile Museum at 220 Front St.

Other cities with FlixBus service starting Thursday include Bakersfield, Fresno, Oakland, Reno and San Jose… (more)

One more reason SF needs a robust parking transit hub system to connect people with all the mobile options easily without taking up curb space. This is the only win win possibility we have if we want to clean up the mess and build flexibility into the system for those constant transit meltdowns. Don’t bother to fight it. Just fix it.

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NOW is the time to DEMAND A PUBLIC HEARING on the privatization of our public streets.

“Lyft’s Big Bike-Share Buy Is About Ruling the Streets”.

This is the headline running on Wired after the recent announcement that Lyft acquired Motivate, and the Gobikes. According to the article, Lyft would not discuss the terms of Motivate’s exclusive contract with the SFMTA, but they have talk to San Francisco City authorities and voters if we demand they do.

The contract was brought to our attention at and reviewed a few months ago at a SFMTA Board of Directors hearing on alterations on Bayshore. The contract was reviewed by a number of people at that time and alarms were set off but few people paid attention, although the media has done a decent job of covering these issues. This program will turn into the Airbnb disaster on the streets and it could be stopped now before any more damage is done.

Has SFMTA sold us out to Lyft, Uber, Ford and GM and their plans to control our streets? We know they will replace human jobs with robots. How does this fit into MTC’s expansion plans for more public transit and the environmental argument for dense cities along transit corridors in the Bay Area that SPUR is pushing?

How SMART is it to sell our streets to private corporate giants that plan to robotize our streets killing thousands of human jobs­­? Isn’t this what everyone complained about the last time GM bought the rails and dismantled them? How much support are the on-demand entities getting from our public transit agencies in their efforts to take over our streets again?

The public needs to decide how we want to use our streets while they are still ours!  Now is the time to put a stop to the removal of public parking while we figure out how well the SFMTA programs are serving us and our needs.

We insist on an investigation into the relationships between our public transportation department and these private entities. These contracts between private and public enterprises look suspicious when we see that the public is paying to supplement these private enterprises that claim they are taking over our streets as described here: Chariot adds commute routes for UCSF employees, with public funding

Who made this deal to use public funds to supplement the Chariot rides for UCSF employees living in the East Bay. Where are the public funds coming from? Does Chariot get Bay Bridge toll exceptions too while the rest of us pay more to cross? Who gets exceptions to those tolls?

We have been complaining about the separation of powers within the SFMTA and now we see there is a problem of separation of powers and interests between our public and private transportation entities. 

ENUF already! Demand they stop removing pubic parking now. This is Airbnb on the streets. Merchants and residents are already having problems with delivery services with the curb parking that we have left now. We cannot afford to loses more curb parking.

Who is on our side? Ask your supervisor and those running for the office in November what they plan to do about the privatization of our streets by the SFMTA. Some supervisors have already taken a stand on our side. Public parking has been restored and saved. Thank the supervisors who have acted in our behalf and ask them how you can resolve parking problems using Ordinance #180089.

Chariot lobbyist may be in trouble for campaign donations

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24th Street is one of the most impacted streets by the Tech buses. Merchants have always had trouble on the street and now they are leaving in droves. Residents have been protesting for months and getting very little relief as the SFMTA moves the tech stops around like the Police move the tents, trying to pretend like they are improving the situation.

New information on investigations into possible campaign improprieties surfaces two days before the Mayoral election in this letter.

Hello Friends and Allies,

The tech shuttle bus protest this morning using electric scooters may have caught your eye: http://www.sfexaminer.com/acti vists-block-tech-bus-commute- say-e-scooters-treated-better- homeless/

But there is more in the news regarding corporate efforts to privatize mass transit and co-opt public space. A lobbyist for Chariot may be in trouble for donating personally and bundling close to $1000 to the campaign of London Breed for Mayor. This may violate Proposition T, passed in 2016, and is now being investigated by the SF Ethics Commission., Bigad Shaban and colleagues of NBC Bay Area Investigative Team did a report on the charges to the tech shuttle buses to participate in the Commuter Shuttle Program. Per that program the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency permits the tech shuttles to — illegally — make use of public Muni bus stops for a cost-recovery fee now set at $7.31. (It’s a violation of California Vehicle Code 22500.5 for any but public buses and taxis to use public bus stops. There is an exception for school buses when there is an agreement between the public transit agency and the school district in question.) Why, the team wondered, is the SFMTA only charging the tech shuttle buses a per stop administrative fee tied to the cost of running the program but had been selling taxicab medallions for $250,000 a piece until the advent of Uber and Lyft?

Don’t forget to vote!

Sue Vaughan

San Francisco Accused of Giving ‘Tech Buses’ Free Ride

Nearly 400 commuter shuttles travel through San Francisco every day, but are they paying their fair share? That’s the question posed by critics who argue companies that operate these “Tech Buses” should pay more for their use of public bus stops and damaging city streets. Investigative reporter Bigad Shaban reports on a story that first aired May 3, 2018…(more)

Falling transit ridership poses an ‘emergency’ for cities, experts fear

washingtonpost – excerpt

Commuters tire of the \shuttle bus shuffle that crawls through San Francisco streets. Crowded Muni is painfully slow and standing room only is hardly a ride worth taking when other modes offer clean, comfortable seats.

Transit ridership fell in 31 of 35 major metropolitan areas in the U.S. last year, including each of the seven cities that serve the majority of riders, with losses largely stemming from buses, but punctuated by reliability issues on systems like Metro, according to an annual overview of public transit usage.

The analysis by the New York-based TransitCenter advocacy group, using data from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Transit Database, raises alarm about the state of “legacy” public transit systems in the Northeast and Midwest and rising vehicle ownership and car-based commuting in cities nationwide.

Researchers concluded that factors such as lower fuel costs, increased teleworking, higher car ownership and the rise of alternatives such as Uber and Lyft are pulling people off trains and buses at record levels…

“Transit systems should deliver quality service to low-income people. But low-income people do not owe us a transit system.”…

Metro is mulling a major redesign of the bus system. But first, officials need to figure out why people aren’t riding.]… (more)

New rules to ban jitneys from competing with Muni

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

The City is on the cusp of approving new regulations that will officially bar private transit service Chariot — and similar jitney services, should they arise — from directly competing with existing Muni routes.

Late last year, The City approved its first-ever comprehensive regulations of jitneys, which chiefly govern San Francisco’s only remaining private mass-transit service, Chariot… (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.

Shuttle zone changes are going to public hearing

Shuttle bus brigade takes how many cars off the street and moves how many people at a time? According to one neighbor, only 3 or 4 people are on some of these behemoths. How practical of a solution is this?

Friday June 16, 10 AM
Room 416 City Hall – Public Hearing on Shuttle zone changes

Letter regarding shuttle bus program with Hearing sent to Ed, who is working on the shuttle bus problem on 24th Street in Noe Valley:

Hi Ed,

Thanks for sending (list of complaints). I’ve passed along your notes from the last couple weeks to the appropriate shuttle operators. A few things I wanted to note:

  • We’ve recently communicated with a few companies that are missing a sticker or two on their vehicles as you have noted, and we have provided them with replacements for those stickers. We’re creating an official process in the new Salesforce portal that is being built for the program for shuttle operators to request replacement stickers and to indicate the reason why they need new stickers (i.e. new paint job, replaced bumper, etc)
  • We’re speaking with our engineers about policies around shuttles staging in the Valencia turn lane
  • Shuttle zone changes are going to public hearing next Friday 6/16 at 10am in City Hall Room 416. We look forward to seeing you there and I’d be happy to talk to you about the proposal before then as well.Thanks,Alex

Tech Shuttle Sign of Growing Inequality

Op-ed By Mari Elizapublished in The Potrero View

Lingering controversy over “tech buses” – shuttles conveying high technology workers here, there, and everywhere – is related to who gets to ride them and how far a would-be passenger has to walk to catch a public or private bus. The free ride and exclusive social element sets the tech buses apart, and causes animosity between tech shuttle riders and everyone else.

Muni riders are having their bus stops cut, and seats removed.  Shuttles appear to be free, clean and comfortable. They also seem to be closer to a door-to-door service, while Muni is forcing its riders to take longer walks by eliminating stops.

It could be an illusion, but it’s certainly a perception. A new privileged class system is rearing its ugly head.  The wealth and privilege associated with tech buses adds to feelings of social inequality.  Shuttles have become the catalyst for anger that needs an object to lash out against because they’re so visible and appear to be unregulated, ignoring laws and getting away with it. 

Neighborhoods want to kick the shuttles out.  Developers want to eject low rent tenants.  Both sides are lining up to protect their turf.

 

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.