Transit ridership declining in the Bay Area, according to UCLA study

By Kris Reyes : abc7news – excerpt (includes video)

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — A UCLA study commissioned by the Metropolitan Transit Commission shows that ridership in the Bay Area is declining.

The full results of the study will be presented to a transit commission meeting on Wednesday.

The study identified three categories of riders: Choice or commute-oriented, Transit dependents and occasional riders.
In a period between 2009-2017, transit dependents and occasional riders both decreased by about 10 percent, while choice riders were up 13 percent… (more)

FASTER Bay Area

At a meeting with one of the main proponents of FASTER Bay Area (FBA) – the proposed nine-county 1% public transit sales tax to raise $100 billion over 40 years – we got an update on their plans…

The short version is that it is going forward and we need to be very wary…

Last year, Senator Beall (D, 15th, Silicon Valley), the Chair of the Senate Committee on Transportation, introduced SB278 on MTC reform, which, idle since March, became a two-year measure for this year. It is the place-holder for FBA. Since the objective is to place FBA on the November 2020 ballot, where it will need two-thirds of the voters to make it happen, it will need the urgency measure to be effective immediately, meaning two-thirds approval of both houses of the Legislature and the Governor’s signature by approximately June…

The answer we got was, it is now anticipated that it will be another four-week weeks before it is populated – but the plan is that SB278 will be voted out of the Senate as is – namely, not a word on the tax, then be populated later, passed by the Assembly, then back to the Senate, and to the Governor in time to be enrolled so that the sales tax will be on the November ballot. This is a variation on the classic California Legislature cut-and-amend process; which, as we all know, often works – well, “works” in the sense that the matter becomes law…

Watch S278 on MTC reform as it changes throughout the process.

Why is it so hard for the Bay Area to build megaprojects?

By Benjamin Schneider : curbed – excerpt

Major infrastructure projects are necessary for the Bay Area to address climate change and keep its growing population moving

When the newly opened Salesforce Transit Center closed to repair cracked steel beams in September 2018, local-news junkies and transportation boosters felt a sense of deja vu. The steel beam situation was eerily similar to the saga of the defective “steel rods” on the eastern span of the Bay Bridge, which needed structural reinforcement just as the new bridge was about to open. Both projects shared another defect: ballooning budgets that bore no resemblance to initial estimates.

These recurring difficulties with the Bay Area’s megaprojects have become the stuff of negative headlines around the country, and are seized upon as ammunition by opponents of visionary infrastructure projects. But a frank reckoning with the state of megaproject delivery in the Bay Area is just as important for supporters of mass transit and green infrastructure as it is for the naysayers. With even more (and more complex) projects on the horizon—including the high-speed rail, which will connect LA with SF via the Central Valley, and a second Transbay Tube—the Bay Area needs to get megaproject delivery back on track.

Curbed SF spoke to experts in this field to better understand where the Bay Area’s megaprojects have gone wrong, and what they can do differently in the future. It all starts with extensive preplanning, according to Karen Trapenberg Frick, a professor of city and regional planning at the University of California, Berkeley, who wrote Remaking the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge about the arduous replacement of the eastern span…

“As soon as we’re angling for the first dollar, when this thing’s real, we need to establish independent external peer review,” she says. With both the Salesforce Transit Center and the Bay Bridge, comprehensive, external oversight only came after major problems were detected. Planning and peer review can also help with budgeting and project management. Experts should be in the room with planners and policymakers, telling them, “These projects are hard, they take a long time, they’re going to cost more than we think,” says Trapenberg Frick….

“Don’t, unless absolutely necessary, try to invent anything new. Look at what is being done in other places where costs are low and performance is high, and just copy it.”

(more)

Considering all the problems we have seen unfold with megaprojects, the public should not trust the government process based on “optimism bias” as the author so aptly puts it.

Much the problem, as in the case of the Millennium tower, comes from lack of communication, between departments, designers, and engineers. Perhaps an earlier peer review would help.

Hiring experts who have successfully completed projects is a no-brainer as, is using existing systems.

Assemblymember may ‘force’ state to reveal ‘dark data’ of hidden Uber, Lyft crashes

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

A California politician is taking aim at Uber and Lyft’s hidden crash data, which state regulators have for years hidden from the public.

That data has long been out of reach of local San Francisco politicians as well as state regulators, as reported this week by the San Francisco Public Press, a local nonprofit investigative news outlet

Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) sent a letter Thursday requesting the California Public Utilities Commission make annual crash data reports submitted by Uber and Lyft public record.

The CPUC requires Uber and Lyft to file annual reports containing detailed safety and traffic data, yet after what the Public Press called “intense industry lobbying,” the commission’s rules were written to include a confidentiality clause shielding those reports…(more)

Business owners in San Francisco’s Chinatown collaborate to fight crime

By Dion Lim : abc7news – excerpt (includes video)

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — A group of business owners in Chinatown is taking matters into their own hands after two violent attacks and what feels like to them a constant stream of break-ins and crime.

While it doesn’t sound like much, many are banking on a change in parking garage fees at night to not only bring in more business but to the area but to also get the attention of law enforcement to provide more resources.

Business owner and entertainment commissioner Steven Lee has been lobbying for more than 6-months to get parking rates reduced at the Portsmouth Square Parking Garage, the primary garage location for those visiting Chinatown.

“There are a lot of empty storefronts we still want to fill…but most importantly we want to push more nightlife. But the biggest problem is that people don’t feel like their cars are safe,” he says.

Before the rate there to park from 5pm to 2am cost $36. Now after working with the SFMTA, SF Rec and Park and garage management the new evening rate will be $8 to park during that same time…(more)

Mission Street merchants have been clamoring for parking for years. Maybe now they will get some relief? Where do you sign up for “safe” parking in the Mission?

Santa Monica to Consider EV Charging Fees

By Jorge Casuso : surfsantamonica – excerpt

January 13, 2020 — With electric vehicles eating into parking revenues and boosting charging station costs, Santa Monica is rethinking its policies encouraging their use.

The City Council on Tuesday will consider imposing a fee to use City owned charging stations, which are currently free, as well as charging a $1 per minute “overstay fee” for those who exceed the posted time limit.

The Council also will consider revisiting a program that allows EVs displaying the proper decals to park for free at City parking meters that are losing potential revenues.

“As the demand for EV charging grows and more stations are installed throughout the City, it is increasingly necessary to have a clear strategy to deploy, manage, and reinvest in the City’s EV charging program,” staff wrote in their report to the Council.

In addition, staff noted that the rise in the number of EVs parking for free at meters “will contribute to existing parking meter revenue declines, though precise amounts are unknown.”… (more)

Let’s see, the more EVs the less pollution but lost parking revenues. What is the goal? Eliminating greenhouse gasses or collecting revenue?

Where Has the Money Gone?

By Phillip Sprincin : cityjournal – excerpt

In 2009, San Francisco’s municipal budget totaled $6.5 billion—$8.6 billion in today’s dollars, adjusted for inflation and population. San Francisco’s budget for 2019 is an eye-popping $12.2 billion, a 10 percent increase just since 2018. The city has failed to match this staggering budget growth with a similar increase in capital investment or services, however, providing an object lesson in the limits of what money can do.

Companies like Google, Salesforce, and Uber, headquartered in and around the city, pour sky-high salaries and stock-option windfalls into the local economy, which has seen real estate values—and the cost of everything else—soar. City coffers overflow with tax revenue. Though the effect has been most pronounced for the past decade, it extends as far back as the first dot-com boom, 20 years ago—in 1999, the city budget was $4.2 billion, equivalent to $7.7 billion today. The excess budget above inflation and population growth over those 20 years totals an astonishing $23 billion…

The paltry results from exceptional budget growth are also a story of mismanagement. The Central Subway, though one of the most expensive subway projects in the world, has almost run out of money; its opening was recently delayed another 18 months. Last year, Muni made critical upgrades to the century old Twin Peaks tunnel, requiring additional busses to substitute for trains during the work. Muni didn’t plan for the extra drivers and took them from other routes, leaving the city short on service and causing a system-wide “meltdown.” The “Grand Central of the West,” despite having no tunnel or tracks, still cost $2.2 billion; it closed only six weeks after opening, due to structural cracks. The city spent $2 million to build a public bathroom at $4,700 per square foot, a construction cost similar to high-rise luxury condos. As successful as the OneSF capital plan has been, searching for a list of projects on its website returns the message, “the requested page could not be found.” San Francisco demonstrates that throwing in more money will compound mismanagement, not solve it.

The story of San Francisco’s budget over the past two decades shows that the city’s leadership doesn’t really value many of the issues—transit, affordable housing, clean energy—that it says it does. Given how little the city has done with its incredible windfall, year after year, it’s not clear what it values at all… (more)

Interesting article on national site that focuses rather narrowly San Francisco’s surreal budget. One must ask the question, what are they doing with all that money?

 

 

California Law Loophole Creates a Staggering Car Theft Crisis

By Leslie Eastman : legalinsurrection – excerpt

Law enforcement is stymied by a state law that says it only counts as a felony burglary if the car doors were locked, according to the Los Angeles Police Department…

“It’s ridiculous that under current law you can have a video of someone bashing out a car window, but if you can’t prove that the door is locked you may not be able to get an auto burglary conviction,” Democratic state senator Scott Wiener, who proposed changing the law but got pushback for the second year in a row, told the Los Angeles Times in December.

According to a tracker published by the San Francisco Chronicle, an average of 66 “smash-and-grab” car thefts were reported each day in San Francisco in December. Many more go unreported.

Wiener stressed that many of the victims of car theft are tourists who have no way of returning to testify that their car doors were, in fact, locked…(more)

It looks like it is time to write letters demanding an amendment to the state law that requires proof that trashed cars were locked. Contact your state legislator. Contacts here: https://discoveryink.wordpress.com/state-legislators/

An estimated 100,000 homes are sitting empty in the San Francisco metro area

By Amy Graff : sfgate – excerpt

Here’s a number that will make anyone trying to find a place to live in the Bay Area frustrated: An estimated 100,025 households are sitting vacant in the San Francisco metro area.

The number comes from a study released this week by LendingTree, an online service connecting consumers with lenders and banks. The company based in Charlotte, N.C., looked at the vacancy rates in the nation’s 50 largest metropolitan areas, revealing some interesting findings…(more)

 

Housing justice protesters disrupt Wiener housing bill news conference

By Bay City News : sfexaminer – excerpt

State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, came to Oakland on Tuesday to promote a bill that would boost construction of apartment buildings and condominiums in an effort to address the state’s housing shortage.

But Wiener and other speakers at a news conference on the steps of City Hall were drowned out by protesters, including people from the homeless activist group Moms 4 Housing, who said Senate Bill 50 wouldn’t provide enough affordable housing.

Wiener has tried for several years to get the state Legislature to pass his bill, which he said would eliminate restrictive low-density zoning near public transit and job centers and create new zoning standards for those areas. SB 50 must pass the Senate Appropriations Committee and then the full Senate by the end of January in order to move forward in the new legislative session… (more)

If you want to remove the option of building new single family neighborhoods in the state of California, you may want to support this bill. That is Senator Wiener’s intention. Even though he owns a home in San Francisco, he claims that building them removes affordable housing since he claims it is not possible to build affordable single family homes in the state. People beg to differ will be opposing the bill.

It is also important to note the plan to pay for the growth is not expected to come from those who benefit. Part of the package know as Compact, includes a plan to raise taxes on the current residents to pay for the expansion of infrastructure required to accommodate the growth. Guess who benefits?

Actions may be taken now if you oppose the SB50 you may call the Senators on the Appropriation Committee and let them know your position. Contacts and details.