Big Philanthropy Takes the Bus

By Benjamin Ross : dissentmagazine – excerpt

In 2002, Royal Dutch Shell’s grant-making arm set out to influence transportation policy in developing countries. Initial “market testing,” the Shell Foundation itself has said, revealed that a program directly funded by Shell would lack “credibility,” and so Shell decided to channel its money through an “intermediary.” Several bidders competed to play this role. Shell chose the World Resources Institute, a business-oriented environmental nonprofit.

The resulting program was dubbed EMBARQ. With Shell’s financial support—starting with a $7.5 million grant—and ongoing guidance, EMBARQ urged cities to rely on buses that run on Shell’s product instead of building electric-powered subways.

Buses, to be sure, are essential to any transit system, and they rarely get the respect they deserve. Improving them can serve social justice as well as transport. But ordinary buses are hardly a credible substitute for subways. So EMBARQ promotes what is called bus rapid transit, or BRT. This refers to bus routes with special features, such as travel lanes where cars are excluded, that are said to offer rubber-tired travel that’s as good as rail but costs less. It’s an elastically defined concept that comes in many flavors; the common element is less the transportation than the politics of it. BRT is the bus you get when you don’t get a train…

BRT was newly in vogue among transit planners when Shell and EMBARQ took it up. But it’s an idea with a history… (more)

 

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China’s tests out world’s first driverless train that runs on virtual rails

By

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Look Ma, No rails! or Medians!

The Hunan city of Zhuzhou is currently testing out an unmanned train that doesn’t run on rails. You know, like a bus.

The Autonomous Rail Rapid Transit (ART) is being dubbed by Chinese state media the “world’s first smart rapid rail bus,” whatever that means. The train/bus (trus?) was first shown off in June this year. It uses sensors to determine the dimensions of the road and make a virtual track for itself to ride along…(more)

This kind of technology may be the best argument for putting a halt on new projects while we finish the ones underway now. Eliminating the rails, medians and other “traditional” infrastructure elements costing billions of dollars now, could be the cheap public transportation answer in the very near future. Give the public a break while the technology catches up.

 

CA bullet train authority postpones critical $30M contract award

Kim Slowey : constructiondive – excerpt

Dive Brief:

  • The California High Speed Rail Authority has postponed awarding a key, $30 million operations and management contract for the first leg of its new rail line through the state’s Central Valley region, according to Courthouse News Service. CHSRA was scheduled to award the contract at its monthly meeting Thursday.
  • The CHSRA had planned to tap DB Engineering & Consulting USA, a subsidiary of German rail company Deutsche Bahn, for the project, but Spain-based bidder Renfe protested the decision at the last minute. Renfe objected based on its scoring process, during which the company said it received high marks in two out of three categories.
  • The CHSRA’s reluctance to move forward with an operations contract led some meeting attendees to suggest that the authority was dragging its feet at a “critical time” in the bullet train’s schedule. The agency, which is already late in delivering the first segment of the high-speed rail by eight years, will address the contract award issue at its next meeting in November…

Dive Insight:

Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Times published a June CHSRA report that said the 119-mile line through the Central Valley cost $1.7 billion more than originally forecast, which raised the total price tag to $8 billion. The CHSRA chalked up the increases to the rising cost of land, the cost of utility relocation and negotiations with freight companies over the logistics of running high-speed trains near their tracks. It is unknown whether this add-on will raise the entire projected cost of the rail past its current budget of $64 billion… (more)

Technology CA: LA, Orange County Transit Agencies Seek their Own Ride-Sharing Services

By Sandy Mazza : masstransitmag – excerptri?ai=3698298f-25b6-4057-97a8-d487ae9f7aa7&ts=1fHU9MXxwaWQ9NTM3MDY1MTcxfHJpZD1iODEwZGFjOS1kOTkzLTQ0YWYtYjQxYy03YzUwZjlmNzY2NWV8cnQ9MTUwODg2OTUzNXxhdWlkPTQ5ODMwMnxhdW09RE1JRC5XRUJ8YXVwZj1kaXNwbGF5fHNpZD0xMDc5MjZ8cHViPTQzNzN8cGM9VVNEfHJhaWQ9Y2M3YjQyNjctNmVjNS00NTk0LWJiNTAtZmY5ZGRiMmJiZTQ4fHJzPTF8YWlkPTUzODQ3MjY4OHx0PTF8YXM9MzAweDI1MHxsaWQ9NTM3ODAyOTUwfG9pZD01MzczNDk4ODZ8cD0wfHByPTB8YXRiPTB8YWR2PTQ2NjF8YWM9VVNEfHBtPVBSSUNJTkcuQ1BEfGJtPUJVWUlORy5HVUFSQU5URUVEVk9MVU1FR09BTHxsaXQ9Vnx1cj1WVFphNDdTckt5

Public transit agencies in Los Angeles and Orange counties announced Monday that they’re seeking private-sector partners to operate new door-to-door ride-sharing programs.

The proposed “micro-transit” programs would begin operating in selected areas this summer, offering cheaper door-to-door rides than Uber and Lyft — as low as $5 per trip with free transfers to buses and rail lines.

The service would be designed to boost ridership and to keep up with private-sector technology innovations, said Joshua Schank, chief innovation officer at Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or LA Metro…(more)

REALATED:

Holding Company behind Motivate is Bikeshare Holdings LLC. By most counts this is not a neighborhood friendly organization(more)

BART’s new cars finally pass safety tests, on track to roll by Thanksgiving

By Michael Cabanatuan : sfgate – excerpt

BART’s sleek new railcars finally passed safety tests over the weekend — months behind schedule — and are on track to start carrying commuters around Thanksgiving, transit officials said Monday.

John Garnham, project manager for BART’s new fleet, said the first 10 new cars, which have undergone rigorous testing and subsequent fixes for the past year and a half, completed the last of a lengthy checklist of tests and requirements on Saturday… (more)

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)

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.

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

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)