Tech commuter shuttles riding wave of controversy

sfexaminer – excerpt

On weekday mornings, San Francisco residents, mostly in their 20s and 30s, many in jeans and hoodies, a few in khakis and tucked-in dress shirts, form a single-file line against a mural-graced wall by the Muni bus stop at the southeast corner of 24th and Valencia streets.

They know each other well enough to line up following a system that lacks public signage, but rarely engage in conversation. Here they wait to catch a ride to work, but this isn’t a casual carpool line. This is an invitation-only club.

Some wear earbuds and almost all are engrossed in their smartphones until their free ride arrives, rarely more than a couple of minutes late — a two-story white bus with tinted windows, plush seats and Wi-Fi… (more)


San Francisco police concerned about new bike lane confusion

By David Stevenson : ktvu – excerpt


More and more people are using two wheels instead of four to get around in San Francisco, but authorities expressed some concern Thursday that confusion by drivers over brightly colored new bike lanes could lead to accidents endangering cyclists.

San Francisco bicyclists are increasingly claiming their share of the city’s roads. Cycling increased 96 percent between 2006 and 2013. The city boasts a network of 215 miles of bicycle lanes and shared-use paths, aimed at enabling more people to get out of their cars and onto two-wheel transportation.

But police on Thursday told KTVU the growth of new designated bike lanes is sparking concerns about the interaction between cyclists and motorists at intersections.

Specifically there is concern that confused or careless drivers attempting right turns are cutting off cyclists.

“There’s a lot of confusion as to how to properly negotiate certain segments of the roadway,” said San Francisco Police Commander Mikail Ali. “Cars making right hand turns at intersections is probably one of the number one sources of conflict between motorists and bicyclists.”

Ali said many drivers don’t realize they must merge into the bike lanes to make right turns. The key, he said, is to use the broken lines in the bike lanes as the cue to “take” the lane- while keeping an eye out for bicyclists.

Cyclists can either stay behind the car in their lane or pass on the left.

“Signalling is a huge component,” said Ali. “The idea there is to simply avoid the potential collisions that have occurred, in some cases fatal, where a car’s making a right-hand turn in almost a button-hook fashion.”

It’s the kind of turn that Ali blames in part for the death of 24 year-old Amelie Le Moullac, killed last August by a truck turning a corner at Folsom and Sixth streets. Four bicyclists were killed in collisions with vehicles in 2013. One has died so far this year.

On Market Street in the city’s Financial District, cyclists said reckless right turns by motorists are a daily danger.

“I’ve pretty much learned to just swerve to the left when it happens,” said Stephanie Koehler. “Like, use my instincts as fast as I can to get out of their way.”… (more)

Disabled woman: Pittsburgh parking meters too tall

By Sheldon Ingram : wtae – excerpt

Debra Stemmler says she couldn’t reach controls on new street meters

PITTSBURGH —A woman has sued the Pittsburgh Parking Authority, saying that its new electronic parking meters are too tall for her to reach from her wheelchair.

Fifty-three-year-old Debra J. Stemmler filed the class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court, claiming that the parking authority is violating the Americans With Disabilities Act. Her lawsuit says the new meters have working parts more than 48 inches above the ground, including coin slots… (more)

AC Transit ordered to pay $15.3 million for speed bump snafu

By Malaika Fraley : Oakland Tribune – excerpt

OAKLAND — AC Transit has been ordered to pay $15.3 million to a Richmond woman and her daughter for back injuries the young mother suffered when a bus driver sped over a speed bump in San Pablo in 2011.

The verdict reached Tuesday by an Alameda County jury is the largest personal injury award against the transit system.

“We are still mulling over the verdict as it were and deciding what the steps may be,” AC Transit spokesman Clarence Johnson said, noting the transit agency had no other comment.

Maria Francisco was 20 years old and on her way to the Hilltop mall with her 4-year-old daughter on Aug. 27, 2011, when an AC Transit bus driven by Dollie Gilmore hit a speed bump going 30 mph in a 15 mph school zone on Church Lane.

Jurors saw video of a petite Francisco flying up and hitting her back on the edge of the plastic of the bus’s rear seating, followed by Gilmore accusing her of faking and threatening prosecution as she was crying out in pain… (more)


This App Sums Up Why Everyone Hates Silicon Valley

By Lydia O’Connor : huffington – excerpt

If you’re wondering why so many San Franciscans claim the tech industry has turned the city into a playground for the wealthy, this new parking app does a pretty good job of summing things up.

MonkeyParking, which started in Rome and recently made its U.S. debut in San Francisco, lets drivers auction off their curbside parking spots to the highest bidder and earn as much as $150 a month, according to the app makers.

“Publish your parking spot on MonkeyParking every time that you park your car and get notified about drivers willing to pay for the spot,” the company explains on its AngelList investor page. “Accept the price and leave your spot to the driver within 10 minutes. It’s a smart way to make some extra $ when you’re about to leave your spot anyway.”

Parking spots in San Francisco are notoriously difficult to find, and MonkeyParking thinks it’s created a convenient solution.

But it may only end up being convenient for well-to-do smartphone owners with enough superfluous income to buy parking spots. The app has already aroused the ire of residents upset seeing a tech startup trying to commoditize public space… (more)

No trickle down money here. Just a lot of good old-fashioned greed, the kind that used to be considered so gosh in San Francisco, but now its the currency of choice. Making money off other people’s misery. No wonder San Francisco is now ranks as the fourth most stressed city.

People Go Bananas Over MonkeyParking – The SF City Attorney’s office is also looking into whether it’s legal. “So far, all we’ve determined for sure is that it’s extremely weird,” a spokesperson told The Chronicle.
As far as I can see (Twitter) tech people are lauding MonkeyParking as the most novel form of “sharing economy” yield management yet, and SF veterans are arguing that it is yet another example of a tech corporation profiting off of public space. I guess the moderate view is that it’s some sort of Italian anarchist performance art… (more)


The truth inside the Google bus lawsuit: gentrification hurts the environment

by Susie Cagle in Oakland : theguardian – excerpt

Stop blaming poor people for pollution. When Silicon Valley’s class war prices out city workers and forces them to the suburbs, they become more eco-evil than Google

A new lawsuit brought by San Francisco activists against the city places blame squarely on Silicon Valley’s now infamous private tech-employee shuttle buses, claiming that they not only spew air pollution across the city and endanger cyclists and pedestrians, but also that they directly displace residents from their homes. But this lawsuit – and the city’s bypassing of a review process, and the buses themselves – isn’t really about the environment. It’s about class, and it could foretell big changes for how California’s cities grow in the future…

San Francisco tries to scuttle environmental reports all the time, and activists constantly sue them for it, so, in a certain sense, this is business as usual. But if this group can make their case against the company shuttles, they might not just force a city drunk on the promise of technology to take stock of its values – they might impact development across the entire Golden State… (more)

BMW Brings Ride-Share Street Parking to Mission District

By Jordan Ecarma : autoworld – excerpt

BMW’s DriveNow car-sharing service has expanded in San Francisco to allow for street parking, making it convenient for customers who don’t have time to return the car to a designated station.

While the street parking option will start just in select parts of the Mission District, the expanded service should come to Bernal Heights, Haight Ashbury, Noe Valley, North Panhandle (NOPA), Alamo Square and Potrero Hill by the end of this year,

First launched in Munich in 2011, DriveNow has spread to other German cities and came to the U.S. in fall 2012, bringing a fleet of 70 plug-ins to the Bay Area. The service has 17 stations including several in San Francisco, Oakland and Palo Alto, as well as San Francisco International Airport and Oakland International Airport, according to Edmunds.

DriveNow members pay $39 to join the service, and rides cost $12 for the first half-hour and 32 cents per each extra minute. The San Francisco branch plans to add 80 more ActiveE electric vehicles to bring the fleet’s total to 150.

The service could eventually expand to more parts of the U.S., although it would face competition from growing car-share options like Uber, Lyft and Zipcar… (more)