Roadshow: Why I’ve given up on Caltrain

by Gary Richards : mercurynews – excerpt

Q I read your response to us Peninsula folks that our traffic hopes rest with faster and more Caltrain service. But I have given up on Caltrain. Why?

There are zero places to park at the Mountain View station, as the lot is always full. Surrounding street parking is limited to two-hour and five-hour zones. This is not enough time to go to a Giants game or other event in the city without risking a parking ticket.

Believe me, I’ve tried Caltrain and have given up, hence adding to the gridlock on Highway 101. Nearby stations have the same problem. Faster trains are useless without better parking options.
S B of Los Altos

A Unfortunately, there is only a slim ray of hope. Caltrain has no immediate plans to add more parking spots from Gilroy to San Francisco. The 340 spaces in Mountain View fill up early as ridership now can approach 60,000 people a day… (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.

SAN FRANCISCO CAN BE ONE OF THE MOST LIVABLE CITIES IN THE WORLD

By Howard Wong, AIA SaveMuni

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Australia’s Melbourne has similarities with San Francisco’s urban genetics—art, culture, diversity, innovation, quirkiness, scale, character, history…. But Melbourne has been ranked #1 as the world’s most livable city for six years in a row—while San Francisco’s ranking has dropped.  No American city ranks in the top tier of livable cities.  But San Francisco has a spectacular beauty and geographic uniqueness that should surpass any waterfront city in the world.  Learning from Melbourne, I was struck by the around-the-clock vitality—networks of pedestrian alleyways, bars, cafés, coffee houses, small businesses, historic arcades, public art, parks and tram transit.  Melbourne seems to have a democratic distribution of benefits to all its citizens—a fine-grained urban grittiness that charms and entices.  Such democratic quality of life issues should be discussed—like at the D3DC forum below.

ECONOMIST:  The World’s Most Livable Cities  http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2016/08/daily-chart-14
Liveability is declining in a fifth of cities surveyed. The index, measured out of 100, considers 30 factors related to safety, health care, educational resources, infrastructure and the environment to calculate scores for 140 cities. Those that score best tend to be mid-sized cities in wealthier countries. Melbourne tops the list for the sixth year in a row (see chart, right), and six of the top ten cities are in Australia or Canada. Some American cities, including Atlanta, San Francisco and Chicago have also dropped down the rankings after spikes in civil unrest.

THE ABC:  Melbourne ranked world’s most liveable city for sixth consecutive year by EIU http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-08-18/melbourne-ranked-worlds-most-liveable-city-for-sixth-year/7761642  The EIU [Economist Intelligence Unit] index scores 140 of the world’s major cities in healthcare, education, stability, culture, environment and infrastructure.  Melbourne scored 97.5 out of 100, one basis point more than Austria’s Vienna.  Canada’s Vancouver and Toronto ranked third and fourth respectively. Adelaide was rated equal fifth most livable city, tied with Calgary, Canada.

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.

Plan Bay Area 2040 Draft Plan

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) will host an open house to receive comments regarding Plan Bay Area 2040.  The open house is Wednesday, May 17, 2017 between 6:30pm and 8:30pm at the MTC headquarters at 375 Beal Street ( about a 10 minute walk for Embarcadero Station). DRAFT PLAN LINK

The Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) is now available; comment on the DEIR and the Draft Plan through June 1.

Some statistics include:
*  501,000 jobs added between 2011 and 2015
*  65,000 housing units built between 2011 and 2015
*  Regionally 1 house built for every 8 jobs created.

HOUSING
Where will the region plan for the 820,000 new households forecasted between 2010 and 2040.  Regionally by 2040, 3.4 million households are forecasted. 46% will be in the “Big 3 Cities”  — SF, Oakland, San Jose.

JOBS
1.3 million new jobs  (36% in the Big  3 Cities)

So what does it all mean?  Climate Change, Housing costs and displacement, Economic Development and Environmental Impact and Transportation.

A question raised at a recent MTC committee meeting was: Should cities seeking economic development take responsibility for housing?  (Think the Menlo Park Facebook Expansion).  The local Menlo Park approval for 6,000 more jobs has regional impact.

No mention of a Public Regional Express Bus System to move the population.   More Private Commuter buses operating on your residential street?

Draft Plan and Draft EIR at Plan Bay Area 2040 Draft Plan

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)

House Spending Bill Includes $100 Million for Key Caltrain Project

By Dan Brekke : kqed – excerpt

A House appropriations bill proposed this week as part of a package to fund federal government operations through the end of September contains what could be a welcome surprise for Caltrain.

Legislation from the House appropriations subcommittee on transportation includes $100 million for the Peninsula commuter railroad’s planned electrification of its route from San Jose to San Francisco.

It’s far from certain, however, that Caltrain will get to spend the money. Congress has yet to vote on the bill including the electrification funding — a project that has faced unanimous opposition from the 14 Republicans in California’s House delegation. And even if Congress approves the legislation and it’s signed into law, the transit agency will receive the funds only if the Trump administration signs off on a $647 million grant agreement that’s been on hold since February.

“It’s not a done deal, but it’s good progress,” said Caltrain spokeswoman Tasha Bartholomew. She added: “We still have a long way to go.”…

Chao has until June 30 to decide on the grant. That’s also the deadline set in Caltrain’s agreements with contractors for work to begin on the electrification project… (more)

RELATED:

Bill Would Permit Use of Bullet Train Bonds for Caltrain Upgrade

AB1889 by Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, would change the wording of previous legislation to approve selling the bonds to pay for upgrades to Caltrain, which for years has been included as part of the plan to build a California high-speed rail system… (more)

Did AB 1889 pass and will the legislature choose to use the funds this way?

Leadership turnover at the California High-Speed Rail Authority could signal shakeup

By Ralph Vartabedian : latimes – excerpt

The organizational chart of top management at California’s bullet train authority disappeared from the agency’s website about three months ago, sending what now seems like a sign of impending shakeup.

Chief Executive Jeff Morales announced his departure on April 21 in a letter sent to Gov. Jerry Brown and the rail authority. Late last year, the senor deputy officer left, and before that the chief administrator and the computer systems director said goodbye.

A leadership exodus has also roiled the authority’s corporate “rail delivery partner,” Parsons Brinckerhoff, which makes many of the day-to-day engineering and construction decisions in the effort to build a high speed rail line between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and is critical to the bullet train project’s success or failure.

Gary Griggs, the company’s top executive on the California project who has worked on BART, the San Francisco subway, and the Taiwan bullet train, quietly announced his retirement recently. Griggs was preceded by Tony Daniels, Hans Van Winkle, Brent Felker and Jim Van Epps — all since about 2012. A deputy, Gay Knipper, was just let go as well.

It adds up to a senior management upheaval at a time when the rail authority is wrestling with construction falling behind schedule, cost estimates heading higher and a hostile wind blowing from the Trump administration…

“”As long as Dan Richard is at the helm and Mike Rossi oversees finance, then you are in good shape.” Thea Selby, former rail authority board member…

“When you have a large infeasible project, it is better to not be in the room when it comes to a halt.” — James Moore, Viterbi School of Engineering, USC…(more)

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.