Interview with BATWG Chair Jerry Cauthen

batwgblog – excerpt (includes video)

Chris Pareja interviews Jerry Cauthen, Chair of Bay Area Transportation Working Group.(BATWG) BATWG works to improve alternatives to cars to entice people out of cars vs. forcing them out of cars….https://batwgblog.com

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Good riddance to Bay Area’s transportation czar

By Mercury News & East Bay Times Editorial Boards : mercurynews – excerpt

Replacement for MTC’s Steve Heminger should bring vision for region’s transportation and housing

Steve Heminger, the executive director of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, announced Wednesday that he will end an 18-year reign by retiring early next year…

The region’s freeways are gridlocked. Public transit systems are in disarray. Commute times continue to increase. Heminger touts his agency as “action-oriented and project-based,” but that has translated into piecemeal construction, pathetic planning and a lack of long-range vision. The agency merely hands out money for one politically popular project after another with little sense of where it will all lead.

Meanwhile, Heminger flew around the world on top-priced airline tickets at public expense; deceived the public and flouted the law to use bridge toll money to fund his badly overbudget quarter-billion dollar regional government building on prime downtown San Francisco real estate; and masterminded his agency’s hostile takeover of the staff of the Association of Bay Area Governments.

The Bay Area deserves better in what is arguably the most important job shaping the region’s transportation and housing. The time for a road project here, a rail extension there and tax increases wherever they can be found is over….

He’s leaving now. It’s time for the commissioners to step up, to show leadership — to make one of the Bay Area’s most critical government hires. For the sake of Bay Area residents and the region’s economy, they need to get it right… (more)

 

California’s Bay Area Prepares for a Driverless Future

by Erin Baldassari : mercurynews – excerpt

Six cities in the region are getting $5 million to fund pilot programs aimed at integrating autonomous vehicles and solving general traffic congestion problems.

(TNS) —  SAN FRANCISCO — Within two to three years, bicyclists in Emeryville and Los Gatos will be able to download an app to get more green lights at intersections. Patients at the Veterans Administration Palo Alto Medical Center will be hopping on an autonomous shuttle for appointments. And, within a few more years, BART riders in Dublin will have a driverless vehicle picking them up and dropping them off at the station.

It’s all part of an effort to prepare the Bay Area for a future with self-driving cars, said Robert Rich, a planner at the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), the region’s transportation planning agency. When that future comes, cars will be expected to communicate not just with each other, but also with traffic signals and other infrastructure, he said… (more)

Companies Will Likely Have First Dibs on Fully Autonomous Vehicles

by JC Reind : govtech– excerpt

Top automakers say the first generation of the technology will be used for commercial purposes, not by the general public.

(TNS) — LAS VEGAS – Auto companies at this week’s CES tech convention affirmed plans to have their first true self-driving cars in production by 2021 — or in some cases earlier.

But don’t expect to see these vehicles on any dealership lots.

This first generation of autonomous vehicles will, in most cases, not be offered for sale or lease to the general public, but instead would be reserved for commercial use by ride-hailing fleets and delivery services… (more)

 

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.

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)

Almost any transit project is eligible to apply for Federal funds.

(Quick clarification – the Bay Area gets a lot of “formula” funds for transit.  How they are used are up to MTC and the transit agencies, but, in general, these are all spoken for – if they were transferred for other purposes, such as a major capital project, then that means a whole lot of over-the-hill buses would not be replaced at the ends of their useful life, a lot of rail lines will not be given required maintenance, etc.  In addition to the transit programs – of which 49 USC 5307 is by far the largest – there are also three highway “flexible” funds, with CMAQ and STP being the vast majority.  These can be used for transit, again, pretty much at the option of MTC, but, given the extreme underfunding of Bay Area road maintenance, unlikely to occur.  What we are probably talking about is the Federal discretionary capital grant program for transit, which is mainly 49 USC 5309 “new starts.”)

Since the Obama administration has pretty much changed the rules so that factors like ridership, etc., aren’t really part of the evaluation process any more, so, if the Bay Area made this a high priority, it would likely have a chance.  However, there is only so much money to go around nationally, and there is a limit to how much money any region is going to get, and there is an unlimited amount of other requests for this funding, so the real question is, how far up to the top of the list this will be.

The other interesting factor is that it is getting real questionable how much money for transit programs there is going to be.  With the Republicans controlling both houses, and the D’s not really into the program, there hasn’t been a new transportation authorization bill for quite a while, just short-term extensions and, right now, it is difficult to see how there will be a long-term extension any time soon.  Without that, not a whole lot of money for any new projects.  Not saying impossible, am saying makes it more difficult.

OK, let’s step back and take a wild turn.  Let’s say that the objective is to create a transit system that will carry the most people, get it done the quickest, and do it at the lowest cost to taxpayers.  Not really the way things are done, of course, particularly in the Bay Area, but, just as a thing to think about.  OK, going down that road, the way to go is to run long-haul commuter buses on an I-580 HOT lane from the Central Valley to the existing BART end station.  Such lines can be started within two years (the biggest time-taker is getting the buses delivered, now that the roadway is getting close to completion), there are just about no costs for the right-of-way, and this is the type of transit service that has the highest farebox recovery ratio – over 90% is not at all uncommon, although I’m not going to make that kind of prediction without a lot of study.

This would have also been the right way to go before BART went over the hill to the Tri-Valley.  Of course, it was never even considered as an option.

– TR, Transit specialist

This pretty much back up what many of us have been saying for some time. The SFMTA and other municipal transit authorities are not in the transportation business, they are in the construction business. They are also in the empire building business. The more the construct the bigger the public debt to the industry grows since the maintenance and operations costs escalate accordingly. This is why many people are saying NO MORE MONEY for the bottomless pit that claim, “if we build it they will come.”

To the desert valley where there is no water?