The unelected bureaucracies that keep us stuck in traffic

By Jackie Lavalleye : californiapolicycenter – excerpt

Inadequate roads are leaving Californians stuck in traffic. According to a 2016 study by Inrix, a data company that specializes in traffic-related analytics, Los Angeles, California has the worst traffic in the United States. San Francisco takes the number three spot, and San Diego comes in number 14. In all, 17 California cities rank among the 100 most congested cities in America.

Traffic congestion has many negative effects on cities and people, including reduced economic growth as well as adverse health effects for the people sitting in traffic. So who is responsible for our terrible traffic? A group of little-known public agencies have a federal mandate to plan and implement transportation-related projects – but they aren’t getting the job done for Golden State commuters.

In 1962, the federal government created Metropolitan Planning Organizations, usually called “Associations of Governments”, as part of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1962. The purpose of these agencies is to bring together elected officials from various cities and counties within a metropolitan region for the purposes of planning regional transportation efforts. Further, the intention of this Act was to increase collaboration and cooperation among local governments within a region.

The boards of these organizations are not directly elected. Instead, local elected officials from member cities are appointed to serve on their boards. Day to day decisions are made by unelected bureaucrats.

Legally, many of the Associations of Governments in California are enforced by a Joint Powers Agreement. Per Nolo’s plain-english law dictionary, a Joint Powers Agreement is a “contract between a city and a county and a special district in which the city or county agrees to perform services, cooperate with, or lend its powers to, the special district.”… (more)

More data on the process that was used by the people who took over control of our lives may be found in the fourty year plan that was written and published by some familiar names and organizations that have taken control of our lives. Read the plan and see who has been involved from the start and how they planned and executed the disaster we are living in now, and what may be done about it. http://livablecity.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/tlc_path.pdf

Employers warned to offer commuter benefit to workers in Bay Area

By Denis Cuff : eastbaytimes – excerpt

80 Shuttle buses staging on 24th street twice a day idling, spewing out toxic air and running loud engines for air-conditioners are not tenable for residents on the narrow residential neighborhood. This is not a green commuter solution.

An air pollution rule requires large Bay Area employers to offer incentives or pre-tax benefits to workers to take van pools, car pools, public transit, or bicycles to work.

Air pollution regulators are warning thousands of Bay Area employers they could be fined for failing to comply with a rule requiring them to offer a commuter benefit to employees who get to work via van pool, bus, train or bike.

Under the 2014 rule made permanent last year, employers with 50 or more full-time workers must offer them a benefit encouraging commute methods that reduce gridlock and air pollution.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District has estimated that about 8,000 employers are covered by the rule, but only about 4,200 have registered with the air district and demonstrated they offered a benefit, officials said Tuesday…

The benefit can save employees several hundred dollars a year, as well as lower payroll taxes for employers, according to the air district and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

Continued noncompliance could result in companies being cited and fined, said Tom Flannigan, an air district spokesman.

“Our first option will be working with companies to get them to comply,” he said, “but companies at some point could be cited for violations just like businesses that pollute.”

Companies can register at 511.org, and find more out more information about it at http://511.org/employers/commuter/news... (more)

REPEAL THIS LAW – “Employers also can offer workers a free or subsidized bus or shuttle service such as buses offered to Google workers.”

 

Does this look like the source of the problem we are having with commuter shuttles to anyone else?

It is time to fix the shuttle bus problem by repealing this law or re-writing the rules to allow for more local control over the shuttle option. If the point of this program is to clean the air, and the idling shuttle buses are adding to the problem, this is not the solution to the clean air problem.

How the Bay Area took over the self-driving car business

 By David R. Baker and Carolyn Said : sfchronicle – excerpt

The small white cars topped with what look like stubby metal antennas swarm in and out of an unmarked San Francisco building like bees around a hive.

They’re a daily sight in their South of Market neighborhood, to the point that smartphone-obsessed pedestrians rarely even notice them. Passersby also may not realize that much of the time, the cars are driving themselves.

These cars, equal parts Detroit and Silicon Valley, are the creation of a San Francisco startup, Cruise Automation, and General Motors, which bought Cruise last year for well over half a billion dollars. They are just one component of a burgeoning autonomous vehicle industry that has developed with startling speed, one that could, very soon, fundamentally reshape our economy, our cities and our society.

For close to a century, vehicles that could drive themselves belonged to a future that forever seemed a few decades away, a jet-pack dream just out of reach. Now the technology is advancing fast enough that many of those developing it predict human-driven cars will be obsolete within a generation…

The creative engine for this world-shifting technology, its main laboratory and testing ground, is the Bay Area. More than 60 companies in the region — some based here, others drawn from as far away as China, France and Japan — are chasing the dream of robotic driving.

They include some of Silicon Valley’s biggest names: Tesla, Apple and, of course, Google, the Internet search giant whose willingness to throw its vast resources into self-driving research over the past decade forced skeptical automakers to follow.

.. (more)

Oregon (Yes, Oregon) Just Put a Tax on Bicycles

By Laura Bliss : citylab – excerpt


Cylcists crossing along bike path in the panhandle photo by zrants

The $15 fee on new bikes is a strange way for the state to prioritize active transit.

Oregon boasts the country’s top share of bike commuters, the first per-mile driving fee program, and some of the cleanest urban air quality. And with its newly passed transportation bill, this famously progressive playground will also be the first state with a bicycle tax.Oregon, which does not levy regular sales taxes, will require buyers of new, adult-sized bikes priced $200 and up to pay $15 in excise taxes starting in the fall. With annual administration costs pegged at a mere $100,000, the tax is expected to raise $1.2 million a year for the Oregon DOT’s Connect Oregon program, which helps fund projects serving multiple modes of transportation.

Legislators pushing the tax—an idea that’s swirled in Oregon, Washington, and other statehouses for years—“felt that bicycles ought to contribute to the system, bicycle owners ought to contribute to the system, irrespective of the fact that most of them also own a car,” Senator Lee Beyer, who helped write the bill, told Oregon Public Broadcasting in May… (more) 

Lawsuit alleges state is trying to sabotage initiative to repeal gas tax increase in California

By Patrick McGreevy : latimes – excerpt

 

The state attorney general’s office on Monday released a title and summary for a proposed initiative to repeal a gas tax increase. Proponents of the ballot measure say the state-drafted title and summary are misleading and they will go to court to have them changed.

The way language on measures is written can affect whether voters sign the petitions.

Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach), the leading proponent of the initiative, said he will go to court to have the title and summary changed.

“We’re going to challenge it in Superior Court,” Allen said late Monday. “Gov. Brown’s attorney general has issued a misleading title and summary,” Allen said. The lawmaker said “almost everything” in the short summary would mislead voters. We will wait to win in court and then we will be gathering signatures up and down the state…(more)

 

How many laws can one cyclist break in an intersection?

Op-Ed


Cyclist running red light at a railroad crossing photo by zrants.

I was headed north on Webster when I came to a stop light and stopped. As I looked to my right side I saw a cyclist approaching with a child on the back. The next thing I noticed was that Although the child was wearing one, the cyclist was not wearing a helmet. He was wearing shorts and some kind of sandals. As I watched, he approached the intersection with the red light, and, instead of stopping like I did, he crossed in front of me like a pedestrian might, and then proceeded to cross the intersection against the red light on the other side and drove up onto the sidewalk, where he proceeded to continue on his way.

First, he wore no helmet, so, if he went down he would not be protected and able to help the child, who would also go down if he bike fell. Not very smart parenting.

Then, he did not stop at the red light. Instead he crossed the street in front of the stopped cars from right to left and then crossed against the light on the other side. He could have been hit by a vehicle proceeding through the green light, or a car making a right turn. He may or may not have been seen by either car, as he was weaving a bit through the potholes. Since he was breaking the law, and not following the rules of the road it was hard to anticipate what he was doing until he did it, making it harder for cars to avoid hitting him.

Then he drove up on the sidewalk.

I count four laws being broken at this one intersection. And he is teaching his child to break the laws. That is what really bothers me. Parents are putting their children in dangerous situations and teaching them bad habits at the same time.

Red transit-only lanes have no use in West Portal

By Sally Stephens : sfweekly – excerpt

MissionReds
Merchants blame the experimental Red Lanes on Mission Street for 30% loss of business. Photo by zrants.

One Red Lane too many : SFMTA is using Red Lanes like these on Mission Street to remove “blight” like thrift shops, small unique craft businesses and repair shops all over town as loss of easy access and parking divers customers away.

Studies of displaced communities all over the world prove that gentrification is killing neighborhoods and the unique community character that created the charm the new residents think they are moving into. Views are a past memory as new towers scrape for the clouds and fog moves inland as the trees that blocked it are removed for the hilltops.

The small collection of cobblers, repair shops and bookstores left on West Portal, are slated for extinction because they are on a “transit rich” street. Red Lanes are the answer to curb these hangers on. They must go to make room for more high rise units of housing, coffee shops, gyms and bike shops. Everything else will be delivered by Amazon drones soon, unless they get permission to have the self-driving vehicles roam the sidewalks.

One size doesn’t always fit all. Most of us know that, but the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has yet to learn that lesson.

The SFMTA recently received federal approval to expand red transit-only lanes to 50 streets throughout The City. While most are in the highly congested downtown and South of Market areas, others are not.

West Portal Avenue is one of the shortest streets included in the expansion. Two Muni light-rail trains and two bus lines travel at least one block on the street.

I go to West Portal nearly every day to shop, eat or meet friends. I see lots of trains and buses, but I rarely see one stuck behind a line of cars slowing it down. The trains move easily — sometimes, too fast — down the street. So, why does the SFMTA want to put red lanes there?

The Federal Highway Administration considers red transit-only lanes — like those painted on Mission Street — to be an “experiment” in speeding up mass transit. Indeed, the proposed expansion is also considered an experiment.

A few months ago, the SFMTA released a study of red lanes on three streets in The City’s northeast section and declared them a grand success. According to its blog, the SFMTA considers red transit-only lanes to be the “new standard” for city streets.

But this new standard may not be a good fit for West Portal…(more)

It is up to the residents and businesses to stand up and say San Francisco will not tolerate any more Red Lanes or experiments on our streets. People in the eastern neighborhoods tried to warn everyone and they were ignored. Now they are coming after everyone on the West side. It is time to act. Let you supervisor, Mayor and state and federal reps know if you are fed up and want to stop being the guinea pig for transportation experiments. Roll back the Red. Join the Sensible Transportation movement: http://www.sfsensibletransit.org/

Self-Driving Taxis Could Have a Vomit Problem

By David Welch and Gabrielle Coppola : bloomberg – excerpt (includes video and audio)

  • Managing self-driving rideshare fleets could be costly, yucky
  • ‘It is a really big issue and no one has figured it out’

It didn’t take long for Pritam Singh to learn a key lesson about working for Lyft. People are disgusting. They have a nasty habit of throwing up in moving vehicles.

Rideshare drivers are acutely aware that customers tend to do that, along with slightly less annoying things like wiping hamburger-greasy fingers on armrests and turning floor mats into swamps of slush. Singh, who ferries passengers for Lyft Inc. in Manhattan several evenings a week, drops about $200 a month cleaning — really, sometimes it feels like sanitizing — his Toyota Camry… (more)

People can be incredibly disgusting, and don’t respect other people’s property. If you take public transportation you know what to expect in a public car. Cars with no drivers are especially at risk of sustaining damage and being trashed.

But the major point of this article is that the industry is moving much too fast into unknown territory and there are a lot of reasons why the rush to robotize cars may not pan out to be as profitable as some people anticipate. Read the article and see what you think.

Drivers spend an average of 17 hours a year searching for parking spots

Kevin McCoy : usatoday – exceprt (includes video)

Searching for parking is more painful than ever for U.S. drivers.

Motorists spend an average of 17 hours a year searching for spots on streets, in lots, or in garages, according to a report issued Wednesday.

The hunt adds up to an estimated $345 per driver in wasted time, fuel, and emissions, according to the analysis by INRIX, a leading specialist in connected car services and transportation analytics…

Hunting for parking “imposes significant costs on our pocketbooks that we often don’t think about,” and also adds to (traffic) congestion,” said Bob Pishue, an INRIX transportation analyst and co-author of the report. “This is a problem not only drivers face, but local shops and businesses, too.” … (more)

Thank you Supervisor Yee for requesting a Controller’s analysis of the effect of large street projects on our local businesses, but, do we need more evidence that local businesses are at risk when parking is removed, lanes are reduced and getting round the city is a pain instead of a pleasure?

San Francisco residents need to be put on notice that the anti-parking and cars movement is purposefully being used to kill our local economy in favor of the Amazon jungle SFMTA planners envision for us. According to them we have too many retail businesses. Everybody should shop online and take deliveries. Not that there is a plan for delivery parking either. They were probably planning on sidewalk robots, but, that plan was put on hold to protect the walkers.

Who needs safe streets to walk down when you can put on your army boots and pack your weapon of choice as you stroll down the crowded sidewalk ankle-deep in waste to the street corner. If you are lucky we will picked up by a self-propelled vehicle or make your way up to the roof for the Drone delivery of your lunch. The not so fortunate must make their way to a crowded bus or walk if walking is still free.

This is where we are headed if we continue along the path they have chosen for us. Look at the designs of all the buildings and you can see the plan in action now. What does it take to change this picture? Stay tuned.

The anti-car traffic congestion and parking problems and street obstructions did not happen by accident. This condition was planned and implemented by the people you see and hear from every week at the SFMTA. They are the power brokers who are running the show. You can read their treatise and see exactly how rose to their positions of authority.

Despite safety concerns, Upper Market protected bike lanes approved

By : sfexaminer – excerpt

Upper Market Street will be transformed following the unanimous vote by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency on Tuesday to make it safer for cyclists, pedestrians and motorists.

Though the Upper Market Street Safety Project was heavily lobbied for by dozens of everyday-bicyclists who attended the meeting, it had one major detractor:

The San Francisco Fire Department.

SFFD Deputy Chief of Operations Mark Gonzales told the board that the department wasn’t opposed to the entire project, just the parking protected bike lanes...(more)

An Appeal was filed on this project and will be heard by the Board of Supervisors Tuesday, July 11. Stay tuned.