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

Open Thread: Is it Time to Pilot a Sidewalk Bike Lane on Market Street?

A better approach to bike lane placement?

Meter Madness

By Roger Rudlick :streetsblog – excerpt

Call Them “Sidewalk-Height Raised and Curb-Protected Bike Lanes” Maybe?

Yesterday, I took a ride on a Jump electric bike on Market Street. Ryan Rzepecki, the CEO of Jump, was riding alongside. When we stopped, we talked about how nerve racking it is to ride on Market. We also discussed how comfortable it is to ride in Berlin, where, in many places, rather than stripe a bike lane on the street (American-style, in the gutter, as on Market Street) they stripe it on the outer edge of the sidewalk.

A short time later, I noticed the brick treatment on Market near Duboce, seen in the lead image, and thought to myself: that looks just like a Berlin bike lane.

I fear some readers are already foaming at the mouth. In San Francisco, the mere intimation of putting a bike lane on a sidewalk causes heads to…

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The Crazy Idea of Running Caltrain onto Muni’s Tracks

: streetsblog – excerpt

Maybe it’s not quite as crazy as it sounds

A little over a week ago, the San Francisco Examiner ran the Op-Ed: “Fast and cheap: Getting Caltrain to Transbay Terminal … this year.” Author Stanford Horn proposed extending Caltrain via Muni’s T/N tracks on King Street and building some more tracks on Howard Street to a platform at the new Transbay Terminal, as a stop-gap measure until the DTX tunnel is built

Horn’s assertion, that it would be such a simple project that it could be connected up in a few weeks or months, is as silly as it sounds. As Noel Braymer, editor of the Rail Passenger Association of California newsletter wrote: “Oh dear God, where do I begin! There is no way that the Federal Railroad Administration will allow Caltrain equipment to share tracks with much lighter rail transit trains. The reason is, in the case of a collision Muni cars would be crushed if hit by Caltrain!”

To point out another obvious problem: although the track gauge is the same, Caltrain’s rolling stock is wider than Muni’s. Since Muni uses high-level platforms, that means if you plopped a Caltrain onto Muni’s tracks, it would crash into the platform. Furthermore, Caltrain’s equipment would likely derail on Muni’s track switches. Horn’s piece was savaged in the comments section as totally unworkable… (more)

Closures, overcrowding, rats: New York City commuters face ‘summer of hell’

Meter Madness

By Tom McCarthy :theguardian – excerpt

Being trapped is a common thread in fictional future forecasts. Our urban planners’  future perfect plans for tiny crowded units with public transport ride-shares feel a lot like the futuristic city depicted in the 1985 Terry Gilliam movie, “Brazil”. where there is no easy way out.

The city’s aging subway has been declared ‘a state of emergency’. Combined with closures on other rail lines, riders are bracing for the worst

There was a time – somewhere between the 1990s exorcism of violent crime from much of New York City and Thursday, when a “state of emergency” was declared for the city’s transit system – when a nightmare scenario on the subway meant a rat crawling up your leg, over your chest and nearly into your hoody.

That remains a vividly awful prospect. But in the summer of 2017, rats are competing…

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Hidden freeway costs revealed: Willits Bypass 50 percent more expensiv

KGO – excerpt (includes video)

ABC7 News has learned a controversial freeway project that Caltrans claimed cost $300 million actually cost $460 million, 50 percent more than the agency told the public.

http://abc7news.com/video/embed/?pid=2134312

Documents obtained by ABC7 News show Caltrans has been giving out the wrong total cost figures for the Willits Bypass on Highway 101 in Mendocino County for the past five years.

The new freeway opened last November. It is 6 miles long, with two major overpasses, designed to route cars and trucks around a traffic bottleneck in the tiny town of Willits.

Willits Mayor Gerry Gonzalez is glad to see it finally finished. “Getting commercial truck traffic off of Main Street and making it a safer community is important,” he said.

…(more)

No offense, but how much safety can we afford? What percentage of our taxes is going into “safety projects?”

$460 million so far, (we are told will go higher), for 8 miles of highway overpass? That is $57K dollars a mile before they finish the mitigations. We could do a lot more with that 460 million dollars than build an overpass for a small town. Someone must already be planning a new development off the freeway.

MTC Wins Transportation Planning Excellence Award for Plan Bay Area and One Bay Area Grant Program

MTC : prnewswire – excerpt

SAN FRANCISCO, June 5, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) has been awarded a 2017 Transportation Planning Excellence Award from the Federal Highway Administration for the project, “A Strategy for a Sustainable Region: Plan Bay Area and the One Bay Area Grant Program.” Plan Bay Area is the long-range transportation and land use plan for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area while the One Bay Area Grant Program channels the region’s federal transportation funding to make the vision of Plan Bay Area and its successors a reality… (more)

More deceptive back-patting by MTC.  The Bay Area sports a dropping per capita transit ridership and suffers as the second most congested metropolitan region in the country.  Despite this, according to its many boastful pronouncements MTC would have us believe that it is the most wonderfully successful planning department in the country if not the entire world.

Here’s the truth of the matter.

MTC’s “excellence” is in the forming of multitudinous overlapping and vaguely defined committees and in generating mountains of fine sounding reports that make it look to the feds and the gullible as if everything in the Bay Area is in perfect order. The truth is that MTC doesn’t come even close to practicing what it preaches in its flood of written communications.  Instead of advocating and promulgating sound regional planning MTC remains passive whenever a regional transportation problem of consequence arises.  Instead of addressing regional transportation issues MTC remains in the back rooms brokering deals with the handful of Bay Area cities with significant influence in Washington.  The result is a continuing series of high cost/low benefit parochial projects that do nothing to address the increasingly excessive traffic congestion and dropping public transit ridership that are detracting from the Bay Area’s quality of life.  So far the Region has let MTC get away with this swindle.

Do We Want to Improve LA Transportation, Or Just Spend Money On It?

Kenneth S. Alpern, City Watch LA : capoliticalreview – excerpt

TRANSIT WATCH–Do you wonder why homelessness has shot UP in our city and county after we’ve screamed and spent more to try to help our fellow Angelenos and free up our streets, and instead we’ve gotten more … Garcettivilles? Do you ever wonder whether those sudden and new homeless living in tents, in campers, or in sleeping bags under our bridges and taking over our streets are actually Angelenos, who have come here from all over the nation and who have decided to create their own “neighborhoods”… a.k.a., Garcettivilles?

Money is best spent well, and to its credit, LA Metro has overall earned the bragging rights to money well spent, and to not taking the taxpayers’ money for granted.  But we’ve seen lots of interesting data, and we’ve not always had the best partners in Sacramento and Washington…so how do we best proceed?… (more)

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

Fast and cheap: Getting Caltrain to Transbay Terminal … this year

By Stanford M. Horn :sfexaminer – excerpt

It needn’t take a $2.5 billion tunnel construction project dragging out more than seven years to get Caltrain extended to the new Transbay Terminal. That goal could be achieved in 99 percent less time, at 99 percent less budget. In fact, the project is so simple that it shouldn’t take more than a few weeks or months to build, involving no new structures taller than a cantaloupe or excavations deeper than a watermelon. In short, there need never be an embarrassing white elephant along downtown Mission Street because trains would be running on the terminal’s first day under the interim solution proposed here. When the permanent tunnel is completed, in 2025 or so, service would be switched there… (more)

SFMTA Looks Into Extending Streetcar Line To Fort Mason

 

RELATED:
Federal funding could drive forward tunnel’s future