Big city commissioners talk politics of transportation reform

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) : – excerpt

What is the latest thinking on transportation politics and perspectives in America’s largest cities? How do transportation department chiefs view bicycling and transit? On Friday, the top transportation officials from Chicago, New York City, Boston, San Francisco and Philadelphia shared a stage for a panel discussion at the final event of the National Association of City Transportation Officials’ (NACTO) Designing Cities conference…

While Hayes kept the discussion interesting, some common visions emerged, and they’re likely to define the next era of transportation in big cities across America. The topics included the declining role of cars (and the rise of bicycles), financing, equity, battling car culture, and more

If you had any doubts about how Ed feels about your car, here is the proof that he thinks it is his mission to fight the car culture.

It also comes down to being smart with the money you do have, said SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin. “I think being strategic about how we invest money and doing it cost-effectively is key. And the most cost-effective investment we can make for moving people is bicycle infrastructure. It’s much cheaper to put in a bike lane than making a new subway…”

But Ed, you are spending money on a subway and bike lanes.


“The more we can move to active transportation — I guess I would call it active transit where you don’t have the union and you don’t have the driver because the user is driving themselves — and people can be healthier and stations can be modular and solar – powered; those kind of things need to be a part of the equation.”…

Not surprisingly, they transit officials want to eliminate drivers and unions.

Reiskin and Klein gave examples of how they’ve dictated terms of contracts with car sharing companies to ensure they place vehicles in underserved neighborhoods… ”

“Two-thirds of New Yorkers get around without a car, less than half don’t own a car; but you still have that psychological thing around cars… Like it’s a constitutional right

Last I checked we do have the right to own a car.

If you want to follow the status quo, you’re going to be one of those metropolitan areas that will not make it.”… (more)

What does “make it” mean? If it means become a new Manhattan, maybe we don’t want to make it. Maybe San Francisco wants to keep its traditional less dense residential neighborhoods with yards and cars.

Quicklink – OpEdNews – Comments welcome

Channel Street Used As Private Parking Lot

By Sarah Mcdonald : – excerpt – July 2010

… he City and County of San Francisco is losing a potential revenue source from a public street located near the Central Waterfront that’s being used for private parking.  Channel Street, which is 628 feet long and runs from Carolina to 7th streets, is fenced off on both entrances, and flanked on either side by private businesses.  Rows of Ride the Ducks and Classic Cable Car tour buses, and Budget rental trucks, are parked inside the fenced area.  According to Barbara Moy, acting manager for the Bureau of Street Use and Mapping, San Francisco Department of Public Works (DPW), the businesses don’t have a permit to park on the street.  Mario Balestrieri, manager at San Francisco Mini Storage, which parks Budget trucks on Channel Street, said he doesn’t believe his company has a parking permit. “We’ve maintained the property and kept it closed,” he said, “because if we didn’t the homeless would move in.”  The fence was installed with the City’s permission in 1992 by Moody Property Management to keep out vagrants…
Last year Norcal Waste Systems, now Recology SF, acquired half of Channel Street from the City in exchange for a plot of land adjacent to Little Hollywood Park, splitting the 100 foot wide street down the middle.  According to Robert Reed, Recology SF’s public relations manager, all of Recology’s trucks are parked on their own land.  Leading up to the land swap, community groups had advocated that Channel Street become a park.  Instead, Hooper Street, from 7th to 8th, is being considered as potential green space by the Planning Department.
Leshne was disappointed with the land transfer, but believes that what’s left of Channel Street has potential to serve as beneficial public space.  The formerly industrial neighborhood is being steadily transformed into residential developments, including Leshne’s building, where 224 units were completed in 2008.  The neighborhood is short on sidewalks and other walkways.  “There’s still enough area to improve and make it a good space to walk through,” she said…
“If people want this opened, we can certainly look into getting it opened,” she said.  But Reed said if that happens he hopes the City will maintain the area.  He pointed to problems with dumping, vandalism and theft, with fenced-off streets a common solution. “A lot of the landowners end up bearing the brunt of the City’s shortfalls,” he said. “I could see why the streets were closed off.” Leshne agreed that the street should be further developed to turn it into a public walkway. “Just opening the gates, I don’t know what that does,” she said.  Moy plans to consult with Planning Department staff about Channel Street’s future… (more)

Once Controversial Land Swap Passes Board of Supervisors

City’s campaign against cars hurts the disabled

by Howard Chabner : – excerpt – OCTOBER 21, 2012

October 5, 2012

Honorable Edwin M. Lee
Carla Johnson, Acting Director, Mayor’s Office on Disability
JohnPaul Scott, Deputy Director, Mayor’s Office on Disability
Wendy James, Co-Chair, Mayor’s Disability Council
Jul Lynn Parsons, Co-Chair, Mayor’s Disability Council

Dear Mayor Lee, Carla, JohnPaul, Wendy and Jul Lynn:
I hereby resign as Chair of the Physical Access Committee (PhAC) of the Mayor’s Disability Council, effective two weeks from today. 

I’ve served as Chair of the PhAC for nearly five years. Since 1990 when I began using an electric wheelchair, and even before then when I walked with difficulty, I’ve seen and experienced great progress in many aspects of disability access in San Francisco, especially in access to buildings, curb ramps at intersections and disaster preparedness. It has been a privilege and a source of pride to have helped move the ball forward on physical access as chair of this committee…
During the past year, I and others have communicated these concerns many times to you Mayor Lee, the Board of Supervisors, the SFMTA Board of Directors and SFMTA staff. In that time the campaign against cars has intensified and become more insidious, and our concerns have not been addressed in a major way. Therefore, after careful consideration and with regret, I have chosen to resign.
Thanks to all of you for the opportunity to have served as Chair of the PhAC and to have worked with MOD, the MDC and many other talented, dedicated San Francisco City employees and volunteers.

Howard Chabner

Mr. Chabner’s critique of the Fell/Oak bike lane proposal ... (more)

Oak/Fell bike lanes discriminate against disabled

by Howard Chabner : – excerpt – OCTOBER 15, 2012

Below is a comment by Howard Chabner on the proposed Fell and Oak bike lanes. Turns out that the project is not only against the interests of those who have to drive and park on neighborhood streets, but it’s even worse for the disabled.
Dear Chairman Nolan and SFMTA Board Members:
I have lived on Fell Street across from the Panhandle since 1988. The importance of promoting bicycle safety and encouraging bicycling is undeniable. I urge you not to approve the proposed Oak and Fell Street cycle track for the following reasons:
Putting an increased volume of bicycle traffic on these streets (especially Oak), which already have a heavy volume of fast-moving motor vehicles (around 30,000 vehicles daily on each of Fell and Oak, according to a presentation from SFMTA staff) and timed traffic signals, will greatly increase safety risks for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists
This is especially true given the large number of residential and commercial driveways on these blocks, and the large number of motor vehicles turning into and out of them. Many of the garages are narrow, and visibility is limited for drivers pulling out of them; with a cycle track it would be difficult for drivers and cyclists to see each other. There is a heavy volume of motorists turning off of and onto Oak and Fell, Divisadero and the side streets; even with traffic signal improvements, cycle tracks will create more conflicts among bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists. An already complex situation will be made even more complex and hectic.
Instead, using Hayes and Page, which have stop signs instead of traffic signals, and which have a much lower volume of motor vehicles, would be safer. I know experienced bicyclists who use Hayes and Page often and believe these routes are much safer than any cycle tracks on Oak and Fell would be. Installing cycle tracks along two of the fastest and busiest vehicular thoroughfares in San Francisco contradicts SF’s stated goal of encouraging novices to bicycle by providing safe spaces with no pressure to go fast.
The Haight Ashbury Improvement Association has proposed a safer alternative for cyclists, using Hayes and Page Streets, but SFMTA has not seriously considered it. Here is a link to the HAIA plan

HAIA plan
The proposed plan would negatively impact safety, parking, traffic, air quality and disability rights; it should not be adopted.

Thank you very much for considering this e-mail.

Howard Chabner


Lack of Transparency Dogs Community Trust Fund

By Lori Higa : – excerpt from July 2010

///In 2007, TMG Partners created a $1.5 million community benefits fund as part of an agreement that enabled the developer to convert 650 Townsend – the brick building adjacent to the Concourse –from business services to offices without having to provide the hundreds of parking spaces that would otherwise have been required under the City and County of San Francisco’s Planning Code.  Brokered by Dogpatch-based real estate consultant and community advocate Joe Boss, the Eastern Neighborhoods Public Benefits Trust Fund (ENPBTF) has steadily drawn on these funds to support a number of local nonprofits. However, because of the way the agreement was structured, the Trust Fund’s operations, including the identification of which organizations have received funds, has largely remained secret.
The Eastern Neighborhoods (EN) is a geographic designation created by a decade-long, hotly contested City rezoning plan. The collection of communities that make up EN – Potrero Hill, Showplace Square, Dogpatch, the Central Waterfront and northeast SoMa – sprawls across 2,200 acres, almost twice the size of Golden Gate Park.  The Eastern Neighborhoods Plan, approved last year, calls for the creation of up to 10,000 new housing units in the area.  The plan was designed to balance affordable and market-rate housing, and preserve production, distribution and repair jobs …
A complete list of grantees is unavailable due to the ENPBTF’s status as a donor-advised fund, as administered by the San Francisco Foundation, according to Boss.  Because of its legal designation, information on the fund, its grantees and award amounts is not “public domain,” stated Boss in an email to the View…
SFMTA received what appears to be the largest chunk of fund monies “because the greatest potential impact to the area is perceived to be the increased daytime population of the project, and the lack of strong transit service in the area…the donor conditioned that over $500,000 of the funds would…[go] to ongoing transportation planning.”  According to Boss, little progress has been made on the SFMTA transit assessment.  The View was unable to get comment from the agency before this story went to press …
“I’ve never heard of grants and grantees being kept secret,” said long-time local community organizer and author Mike Miller. “What’s going on with the ENPBTF seems typical of the nature of San Francisco politics…There’s no shortage of nonprofits who claim to give voice to the voiceless, but end up excluding their constituents…people are bought off in various ways, the conditions that started the protests, remain the same. What neighborhoods and communities need is the equivalent of a union,” said Miller… (more)

The lack of transparency makes you feel good about dealing with non-profits doesn’t it? When you consider the large percentage of the city’s budget that goes to non-profit contractors you begin to wonder whether farming work out to private entities is really the cheapest way to run a city.

Does Your City Need a Transit Riders Union?

By EMILY BADGER : – excerpt

They tell a favorite story within the Los Angeles Bus Riders Union about the moment when the barely two-year-old organization first began to wield real power in the city. It was 1994, and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority was preparing to raise fares and eliminate the monthly bus pass on which many low-income riders depended. The Bus Riders Union filed for a temporary restraining order against the changes. And a judge actually gave it to them.
“For us, that was the single biggest breakthrough, and we knew the entire county was not going to be seeing us in the same way again,” says Francisca Porchas, an organizer with the union today. “We were the people who had actually stopped the fare increase from going into effect.”…
With the help of the NAACP, the Bus Riders’ Union went on to sue the MTA for violating the Civil Rights Act in creating separate and unequal transit: one aging and overcrowded bus system for the city’s predominantly low-income, minority population, with newer rail investments for the region’s upper-income suburbs. The MTA ultimately signed a 10-year consent decree – doggedly monitored over the years by the Bus Riders Union – requiring substantial reinvestment in the bus system, with added hours of service, new vehicles and a new weekly bus pass…
“Even in liberal San Francisco, we have elected officials and transit officials that are really nervous to push back against the conventional wisdom of the car being really the king of the road,” Kaufman says. “Even if they are saying it rhetorically, they’re still kowtowing to their constituents who are saying ‘don’t give away my parking space for this, it isn’t worth it.’ It’s hard to think of the collective good when there’s one guy who keeps on nagging and poking you saying ‘don’t do this, don’t do this, don’t do this.'”
The city’s bike community is remarkably well organized, with a 13,000-member coalition and a multi-million dollar budget. Dave Snyder, who started that group, is also one of the organizers behind the transit union, and Kaufman says they hope that that group will similarly grow in influence. Today, it has about 200 members each giving $25 a year (or 10 hours in volunteering). Their biggest success to date sounds small, but it’s something: In July, the union pushed the Municipal Transportation Authority to institute all-door boarding.
The whole idea for most of these organizations isn’t just to fight for current service and fare levels (some of which are clearly financially unsustainable), but rather to build better transit systems for the long run. Elected politicians and transit officials won’t necessarily get there on their own. History is full of examples, Porchas says, of unempowered people who’ve had to organize for what they need.
“We’re in a crisis,” Kaufman says. He wasn’t referring to peak oil, but the more mundane crisis of congestion, of transportation paralysis, of a system in San Francisco where buses and trains run at 8 miles per hour, often transporting with the least efficiency the people who can least afford to sit there. “This is really the only solution. The Google self-driving car, cars that are going to run on water – those are really cool technologies. They’re exciting. But they’re not going to solve our congestion problem.”… (more)

How can cars be blamed for buses that running at 8 miles an hour that take two hours to get across town when the cars, running on the same streets, get across town in 20 to 30 minutes? The cars can’t be slowing the buses down.
What do the private shuttle buses have going for them that works better for their riders than the public system? Could it be that they serve their riders instead of the system?

In San Francisco, tech investor leads a political makeover

By Gerry Shih : – excerpt

…””The tech industry is producing all the jobs in this city,” Conway snapped, according to four people present, his voice rising as he insisted that old-line businesses “need to get on board (by changing the tax code to favor the new technologies).”
In the end, they did get on board — and San Francisco voters on November 6 will decide whether to approve the change in the tax code…
Not everyone in this famously liberal city is enthused about the new tech boom, which is driving up rents and threatening to price out all but the wealthy.
“As someone who lived through the tech boom in the ’90s and watched countless friends and community members get pushed out of their homes, only for the bubble to disintegrate, this is painful to watch,” said Gabriel Haaland, political director for the SEIU Local 1021, the largest union in the city. “Those times are here again.”
Last month, when San Francisco Magazine published an article bemoaning tech-driven gentrification, traffic on the magazine’s website broke all records.
“It touched on an issue that people have been thinking about for a while,” said Jon Steinberg, the magazine’s editor…
In one instance this year, after social media company Pinterest moved to San Francisco, Conway pressed officials to repaint curbs to allow employee parking near the start-up’s offices, according to two people with knowledge of the matter. The city refused; Conway denied that the incident occurred… (more)

E-bikes: Love them or hate ‘em, our readers have some strong opinions

Special to National Post : – excerpt

We asked for your e-bike stories and you responded. Here are just a few:
I live downtown and have ridden an e-bike for over five years. I also am a cyclist with a traditional bike, a motorist, a rollerblader and a pedestrian, so I have seen the increase in adoption of e-bikes from many angles. One goal for e-bikes was to get people out of their cars. I think it has done that. Most of the objections to e-bikes seem to come from my fellow cyclists. There are a whole myriad of objections – e-bikes don’t follow the rules, they’re too fast, they’re too quiet, etc. To touch on just these three: Laws Some e-bikers don’t follow the laws; Many more cyclists disobey the laws. Speed E-bikes are restricted to 32 km/h; Many cyclists go a lot faster than that. Noise What is quieter than a regular bicycle? … (more)

I can’t believe this is really an issue, though I predicted it would be. Where do you draw the line and why bother to, between a bicycle, e-bike, motor scooter, motor cycle, and and all the other single person slower vehicles people can dream up to get around on?

Requests for Proposals Projection SFMTA

SFMTA – excerpt

Requests for Proposals Projection SFMTA. / Construction & Professional Services Contracts Municipal Transportation Agency. October 2012 — September 2013 … (more)

Not sure how the Bayview Opera House Phase II re-landscape and refurnish the plaza with pavement, planting, lighting, and furniture comes under the SFMTA budget.

Bid corrections.pdf
SFMTA opens bidding for Central Subway work