Bay Area subway and rail costs: Why are they among the highest in the world?

By : curbedsf – excerpt

The process of designing, bidding, and building mega-projects is a costly one, but it doesn’t have to be this way

Shortly before the Bay Area appeared on lists of the worst traffic in the world, the region set an ambitious plan to move millions of daily car trips to public transportation by 2040. But local transit agencies pay some of the highest subway and train construction costs in the world, which will limit the impact of $21 billion the nine counties pledged to expand the transit network.

“If your costs are higher you will build less,” says Alon Levy, a mathematician turned transportation expert (and Curbed contributor). His simple cost-per-mile comparisons of subway projects expose the astronomical costs of building urban rail in the United States.

When the Salesforce Transit Center opens in San Francisco this summer, a new tunnel will be needed to connect it to the current Caltrain terminus in SoMa. The project, known as the Downtown Extension, is estimated to cost $3 billion for each mile of subway, six times more than the average outside the United States.

The Central Subway, a 1.7-mile tunnel that will connect Chinatown to Fourth and Brannan Streets, is a relative bargain at $923 million-per-mile. But elsewhere in the world, new subways cost half as much..

Rail construction costs compared

  • $3 billion per mile: SF Downtown Extension (DTX)
  • $923 million per mile: SF Central Subway
  • $780 million per mile: BART to San Jose
  • $451 million per mille: Tokyo Metro Fukutoshin line
  • $450 million per mile: Paris Line 14 extension
  • $64 million per mile: Barcelona Sants tunnel…

In the Bay Area, an unusually large number of transit agencies, 28 in total, often fail to coordinate routes and schedules. This leads to a slow and clumsy experience that many would-be riders avoid.

Costly turf war in Millbrae

Caltrain has provided service to San Francisco from Millbrae Station for years. But BART added service there as a part of its $1.6 billion expansion to San Francisco International Airport.

“Caltrain and BART are fighting for turf,” says Levy.

In Paris, a single planning organization, the RATP, dictates routes and spending for new infrastructure. Individual transit agencies operate trains and buses, they do not plan or construct their own expansions…. (more)

This sounds like the Charter Amendment concept the SFMTA was working on to split the SFMTA into two distinct agencies. They just failed to finish the job. No reason to mix future plans with a present system that is needed to operate the present system.

A new report from the Regional Plan Association of New York offers a sweeping suggestion: “The entire process of designing, bidding, and building mega-projects needs to be rethought and reformed top-down and bottom-up.”

But if reform is considered, it may have to come through an unusual degree of political leadership. As the Bay Area weathers another round of newspaper layoffs, a new study found that in places where the watchdog role of newspapers diminished, government costs go up.

A new report from the Regional Plan Association of New York offers a sweeping suggestion: “The entire process of designing, bidding, and building mega-projects needs to be rethought and reformed top-down and bottom-up.”

But if reform is considered, it may have to come through an unusual degree of political leadership. As the Bay Area weathers another round of newspaper layoffs, a new study found that in places where the watchdog role of newspapers diminished, government costs go up... (more)

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Subway contractor knew it was using wrong rails

 By Matier and Ross : sfchronicle – excerpt

The Central Subway contractor that installed 3.2 miles of supposedly substandard track on the new line claims it acted “in full compliance” with its contract, despite being told by the city four years ago that it was using the wrong steel and needed to switch it out, city records show…

On Monday, Maria Ayerdi, the former Transbay Joint Powers Authority boss now working for Tutor Perini on the subway project, sent San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin’s office a letter looking for help in resolving the dispute…

The letter included a statement from locally operated Con-Quest pleading its case and saying the cost of having to replace 201 tons of installed rail “will have an enormous impact on our company” and that if the city “succeeds in forcing our company out of business more than 60 employees will lose their jobs.”

The dispute also raises disturbing questions about city oversight of the subway, which stretches from South of Market to Chinatown…(more)

This project was doomed from the start.

RELATED:

City investigated steel track on another project laid by Central Subway contractor

At the SFMTA Board of Directors, a member of the public called on the SFMTA to inspect other trackway laid by Con-Quest.

“I’m wondering if the rail to be laid in the Twin Peaks tunnel meets these specifications in the contract,” said San Franciscan David Pilpel, in public comment to the board and Reiskin. “Was that high strength rail? Standard strength rail? Is that the rail sitting along Junipero Serra for two years, rusting?”….

Outside the SFMTA board meeting, Reiskin said the issue at Central Subway did not call for the agency to inspect Con-Quest’s other repair work… (more)

 

Open letter to SFCTA and SaveMuni Executive Committee.

Although San Francisco has spent billions of dollars on public transit, the high number and locations of Transit Deserts explain public dissatisfaction—particularly for lower-income people in outlying and southern neighborhoods. Inefficient cost/ benefit infrastructure projects, like the short 1.7 mile/ $1.6 billion Central Subway, have taken local funds from the rest of the Muni system—cutting routes and service disproportionately in isolated communities. Not to mention collateral damage to neighborhood businesses and peoples’ livelihoods. Or annual high operating and maintenance costs that cut bus hours. Going forward, we need to give priority to and accelerate cost-effective projects that improve San Francisco’s public transit system as a whole.

Regards,

Howard Wong, AIA, SaveMuni 

Dozens of U.S. Cities Have ‘Transit Deserts’ Where People Get Stranded

By Junfeng Jiao and Chris Bischak : smithsonian – excerpt (includes map)

Living in these zones makes it hard to access good jobs, health care and other services. 

Transportation deserts were present to varying degrees in all 52 cities in our study. In transit desert block groups, on average, about 43 percent of residents were transit dependent. But surprisingly, even in block groups that have enough transit service to meet demand, 38 percent of the population was transit dependent. This tells us that there is broad need for alternatives to individual car ownership.

Shrinking transit deserts does not necessarily require wholesale construction of new transit infrastructure. Some solutions can be implemented relatively cheaply and easily.

[NOTE:  In the article’s chart of 27 cities, San Francisco ranks worst.]

MAP (choose San Francisco):   http://www.transitdeserts.org/?xid=PS_smithsonian

….(more)

Peskin seeks to block dockless electric rental scooters in SF

By Joshua Sabatini : sfexaminer – excerpt

Aaron Peskin introduced legislation Tuesday that would prohibit and assess fines for dockless motorized rental scooters if they show up on San Francisco’s streets.

Last year, The City took steps to block the emergence of dockless rental bikes from being dumped on San Francisco streets without permits. Peskin on Tuesday said the most recent emerging technology is dockless motorized scooters, which are rented through smartphone apps. The devices are motorized push scooters resembling large Razor scooters…

Currently is no permit required for leaving unattended motorized scooters that are part of a rental program. The legislation would require motorized scooter rental companies to obtain a permit from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. Without a permit, the scooters could be deemed a nuisance, and Public Works could confiscate them.

The legislation, which requires approval by the full Board of Supervisors to become law, would also allow the SFMTA to assess fines and the City Attorney to seek civil penalties against companies operating without a permit… (more)

Costs to upgrade Muni’s Sunset Tunnel soar — partly thanks to neighbors

By Michael Cabanatuan : sfchronicle – excerpt

Work to strengthen and modernize Muni’s Sunset Tunnel will end up costing $4 million more than planned — due in part to neighbors’ complaints about noise and late-night work.

The Municipal Transportation Agency board voted Tuesday to approve the additional payment to contractor ProVen Management, for a total of $23.3 million, because of delays, mostly associated with neighbors’ appeal of a night work permit, and additional work requested by the agency…

Money to pay for the increased cost will be siphoned from a project to rebuild the turntable in the Cable Car Barn, part of an effort to rehabilitate the cable car system. Muni will delay that work until 2019 while it looks for new funding… (more)

Leave it to SFMTA to blame the neighbors. The will blame anyone rather than assume the blame themselves. How much longer will people put up with them?

Ask B. Sarah Jones at the November 20 SaveMuni Meeting

To all SaveMuni members, friends and associates:

At the next SaveMuni meeting (11/20/17, 5:30 p.m. Turk/Fillmore Police Station) we will have an excellent opportunity to learn more about the SFMTA, it’s objectives, its priorities, its structure and how it functions. Sara Jones, SFMTA’s new Planning Director will be at the meeting to explain the program, answer questions and exchange ideas with us.

This is your chance to find out how MTA plans to cope with San Francisco’s worsening transportation condition. Come and invite your friends!

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.

Polk Streetscape Construction Update

Only the SFMTA and the DPW would use a construction photograph as a greeting. They must think we appreciate the appearance of the mud and orange cones as much as they do. Guess what, to us ROAD CONSTRUCTION SUCKS! No one except you thinks they look attractive, so quite sending us these hideous photos of broken streets in your cheerful greetings. You are looking a head to spending more of our tax dollars disrupting our lives. We are NOT! How tacky can you get.

29463164-24ff-4fa9-9a8a-d1854bdc42d5.jpg
Water work on North Point Street, January 11, 2017 – San Francisco Public Works

9b48ec82-e298-4bfd-85f6-f6ff3bfb7911.jpgJanuary 13, 2017
Greetings Polk Street Community Member and Happy New Year!
View the latest construction information for the Polk Streetscape Project. Project Activity Summary – Crews have resumed work in segment 5 on North Point Street, between Van Ness Avenue and Larkin Street performing water main replacement work.

Week of January 16, 2017
Crews will continue water main replacement work on North Point Street from Van Ness Avenue to Larkin Street. Work will resume Tuesday January 17, 2017.

Week of January 23, 2017
Crews will continue water main replacement work on North Point Street from Van Ness Avenue to Larkin Street.

Anticipated construction schedule for Segment 5:
Water work: 01/02/17 – 03/27/17
Concrete Flatwork: 01/09/17 – 02/01/17
Final Grind & Pave: 03/31/17 – 04/03/17

Anticipated construction schedule for Segment 4:
Sewer work: 11/2016 – 04/2017
– Bay to Greenwich
– Filbert to Union
Water work: 01/2017 – 04/2017
– North Point to Bay (16″ Main)
– North Point to Chestnut & Chestnut from Van Ness to Polk (8″ Main)
– Lombard to Filbert (8″ Main)
Concrete Flatwork: 04/2017 – 09/2017
Electrical work: 04/2017 – 05/2017
Final Grind & Pave: 09/2017 – 10/2017

Looking Ahead: Construction for the Polk Streetscape Project is anticipated to be completed in six segments over a 24 month period. Construction in segments 5 & 4 are currently underway, with segments 3, 6, 2 and 1 pending. Work for the Polk Traffic Signal Upgrade Project (Contract No. 2568J) is anticipated to begin January 2017 and will occur at nine intersections from Union to Post streets in segments 4, 3 and 2. We will be working closely to coordinate construction activity in these segments.

Polk Streetscape Project – Things to Know… (more)

SF voters approve better transit, reject tax to pay for it

By Jerold Chinn : sfbay – excerpt

San Francisco voters voted overwhelmingly to approve $150 million for improved transit and homeless services Tuesday night — while rejecting by a similar margin a sales tax increase that would provide the funds.

Election night results in San Francisco show Proposition K, a three-quarter sales tax increase that would have taken effect in April of next year, failing with 67 percent of voters against the increase.

The 0.75 percent sales tax increase — to 9.25 percent — would have provided funds for Proposition J that would create the Homeless Housing and Services Fund and the Transportation Improvement Fund… (more)

“San Francisco’s current sales tax is at 8.75 percent, but will decrease to 8.5 percent after Dec. 31, 2016.”

Voters need to look forward to lower taxes in this volatile, unpredictable economy with high rents and evictions looming. They are watching SFMTA roll out one ridiculous future project after another non-stop while they are being squeezed out of the city.

In spite of all the back-slapping at City Hall the public does not appreciate the constant “improvements” being slapped down on the streets at our expenses, and no amount of PR and advertising dollars will convince us to spend another dime on systems we will never live to see.