Muni’s Super Bowl Non-Surveillance Cameras

By sfweekly – excerpt

Soon, more than 110 million pairs of eyes will be on San Francisco for the Super Bowl — and for attendees at Super Bowl City, the “fan village” taking over the foot of Market Street at the Embarcadero, extra eyes will be on them.

Over the past few weeks, Muni has quietly installed 25 cameras on the stretch of Market Street from First Street to the Ferry Building that will be shut to traffic from Jan. 23 to Feb. 12. (The fan village will host events, like an Alicia Keys concert, from Jan. 30 up until game day on Feb. 7).

The cameras, affixed to city-owned streetlight poles, were first noticed by leery, privacy-minded Twitter users who spread word of a creeping super surveillance state via the hashtag #SuperBowlSurveillance.

But these aren’t security cameras — really. Rather, according to Municipal Transportation Agency spokesman Paul Rose, these are “traffic cameras,” installed as part of a nearly decade-long “intelligent” traffic improvement effort called “SF Go” that’s seen more than 70 traffic monitoring cameras installed in other parts of the city since 2007, including on Mission Street and rush-hour hospots like Franklin and Gough streets.

These cameras don’t record, Rose says — as per a city law that forbids recorded surveillance — and are meant to monitor traffic, not people. Further, they’re linked to a control room at Muni headquarters at 1 South Van Ness Ave., not police headquarters.

However, they could still be used to keep an eye on things. They pan, tilt, and zoom, like a security camera (and their installation did not require public notice or Board of Supervisors approval)(more)

We are fast moving into a government structure that hands the controls over to non-elected appointees and bureaucrats. That is what we have now with the SFMTA. If their ability, (notice I did not say authority) to purchase and install security cameras without any public review or official scrutiny, we need to seriously curtail their activities and request a hearing on this abuse of citizen trust.

Muni Wants Facial Recognition Technology for its “Traffic Cameras”

By : sfweekly – excerpt

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has been busy adding to its stock of surveillance equipment.

The agency, which oversees Muni and the myriad street closures currently in effect to make way for the Super Bowl, has set up new “traffic cameras” in the areas along Market Street that will be closed to traffic for all the big deal surrounding the big game.

That set off alarms among privacy advocates — why do you need a traffic camera in an area closed to traffic? — who also pointed out that the SFTMA was, for some reason, also seeking “traffic” cameras with “face detection” technology.

Bids are due today for prospective entrepreneurs to supply Muni with an additional 150 high-tech Samsung security cameras. In addition to the ability to pan, tilt, and zoom, the $1,700 cameras also have the face recognition ability, as the Chronicle noted today.

So why do you need a traffic camera with face recognition technology — if it’s only for traffic, never to be shared with police, and does not have the ability to record, as Muni officials continue to insist?

That’s actually a very good question that’s been answered only with varying versions of “trust us.” Muni spokesman Paul Rose, in comments to the Chronicle today, noted that fancy software is also required to use the face recognition technology in the cameras — and that’s not something Muni has or plans to obtain, he said.

The cameras are supposedly going to be viewed by a traffic supervisor stationed at a Muni building on Market Street who will view the feeds in real-time only, and direct traffic or resources to a particular area after, say, an accident, Rose says.

There are already other cameras positioned around town doing that job right now, he notes…

Trust us? This is the outfit with the $1 billion budget that is in the red. “Trust us” doesn’t work. No way do we want to be surveilled by the SFMTA . Take that one off the table.

Can Fractional Car Ownership Work?

Connie Loizos : techcrunch – excerpt

A couple of weeks ago, Ford Motor Company somewhat quietly announced that next month, it’s beginning a leasing pilot program in Austin that will enable three to six people to lease a Ford Vehicle together.

It’s not alone in thinking about fractional car ownership. Audi is similarly trying out a fractional car ownership program called Audi Unite that allows up to five people to own a car together. (It launched, and remains exclusively available, in Stockholm, Sweden.)

A nascent startup in London called Orto is also entering the business of fractional car ownership.

The big question, of course, is whether the concept – which has been enormously successful when it comes to hotel time shares and private jets – can work when it comes to cars…

In fact, that foregone conclusion explains why GM, along with Ford, Audi and BMW, have recently begun testing out their own car-sharing services. They haven’t gone terribly well to date, though. While GM’s service is about to launch, BMW’s pilot program, called DriveNow, was suspended in its pilot city of San Francisco last November. The company cited the city’s parking policies as too big a hindrance…(more)

Sorry, Google: California’s self-driving car bill would prioritize unknown rival

the Mark Harris : guardian – excerpt

The bill, AB1592, would permit autonomous vehicles ‘not equipped with a steering wheel, a brake pedal, an accelerator, or an operator inside the vehicle’

A California lawmaker has introduced a bill that would legalise autonomous vehicles without human drivers for the first time in the US.

Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla wants to change California’s rules so that GoMentum Station, a testing ground for autonomous vehicles located in her district near San Francisco, can test completely driverless vehicles on public roads.

The bill, AB1592, would permit self-driving cars “not equipped with a steering wheel, a brake pedal, an accelerator, or an operator inside the vehicle”. However, only GoMentum Station would be allowed to conduct the pilot tests, and the trials would be limited to a specific business park and top speeds of 35mph.

California law currently requires all autonomous vehicles on public roads to have a human safety driver and manual backup controls… (more)

The Google bus program is in trouble

By Tim Redmond : 48hills – excerpt

New political reality on the board means the days of giving everything away to the tech industry may be over (for now)

The Google bus program is in a bit of trouble. And that reflects a significant new dynamic on the Board of Supervisors.

The supes were supposed to vote today on an appeal of the city’s decision that a permanent tech-shuttle program needs no environmental review. That’s a complex legal issue, but it involves a huge set of political questions: Did the city get the best deal possible from the tech and shuttle companies? Are the buses causing displacement, and should that be part of the mitigation? Are there too many buses, and is the city regulating them tightly enough?

Instead, Sups. David Campos and Norman Yee moved to continue the appeal for two weeks, so that all the stakeholders can have a chance to meet and see if they can work something out.

These sorts of continuances are pretty standard, and it’s unusual for anyone to oppose a request for extra time to negotiate an appeal.

There’s a lot of evidence that the tech shuttles do, indeed, drive up housing costs. Even so, Campos noted that “none of us here are saying the shuttles should go away.” The question, as a pilot program becomes permanent, is whether there are strong enough regulations, whether the shuttle operators are paying their fair share to use Muni stops, and whether the plan that the Municipal Transportation Agency has put forward is the right one.

Sup. Eric Mar said that he wants to see the city “mitigate the horrible impacts of too many shuttles.”.

In 2016, if the Google buses want to operate in the city, they’ll have to follow some real rules. I suspect this means Airbnb will be facing a similar dynamic. The days of tech-at-all costs are coming to an end. For now… (more)


Surprise move on Masonic – last minute meeting notice

Tuesday, January 26, 6:30- PM
John Adams Campus Room 139, SFMTA meeting to explain the Masonic plan to will begin construction of the Masonic bike lane project in mid-2016.  They will provide more information at this meeting. This meeting will be a good opportunity to find out information, question MTA and express your opinion about this $18 million project. Unfortunately, for some reason, the meeting notice does not appear on the MTA Masonic project webpage.

If you object to this project sign the Save Masonic petition and tell the supervisors and the candidates why you object and ask them what they plan to do to reign in the SFMTA. All comments go directly to the recipients.  Comments on the meeting are welcome here. Let us know if this is a Show and Tell or a serious discussion meeting.

North of Panhandle Meeting Stressed Data and Parking Parking Parking

sf.streetsblog – excerpt

…To add more parking, the city is considering blocks of nearby Turk, Central, Lyon and other streets for 90-degree, angled parking. An audience member brought up that she doesn’t like angled parking, because it’s hard to see oncoming cyclists. At that point, I chimed in. It occurred to me that if they’re re-configuring parking, why not add a cycle path between the curb and the parked cars, to created a simple protected bike lane? It would require blocks to make sure cars don’t pull up too far, but that’s cheap. Not exactly a ground breaking idea, so I thought.

Gajda was emphatic that there wasn’t room, and besides, they were building a bike lane on Masonic. I kept pointing out that building a raised bike lane on Masonic, as part of a relatively complex and expensive street improvement project, is not an argument for not building a simple parking-protected bike lane on another street. After all, the city is spending the money to reconfigure the parking regardless. Somewhere between 90 degree parking, which the city is considering, and parallel parking, there has to be an angle that will make enough room for a bike lane along the curb without blocking the car lane, even if that costs a handful of parking spots.

The neighbors would SFMTA put the bike lane on a side street and left Masonic along. That would make everyone a lot happier, especially the poor commuters who will not know what hit them unless we get the news out.

Major Gridlock Grips San Francisco As Construction Begins On Super Bowl City

cbslocal – excerpt

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Kickoff for Super Bowl 50 is still days away, but major gridlock has already arrived in San Francisco due to construction on Super Bowl City.

But what promises to be a football lover’s dream, is turning into a car driver’s nightmare.

Crews have started building the free-to-the-public fan village in Justin Hermann Plaza, prompting a slew of road closures and detours.

Gridlock has gripped The City, and it’s not going to let go any time soon.

Saturday, frustrated drivers encountered road closures on the southbound Embarcadero and Market Street. The bumper-to-bumper traffic spilled over onto neighboring Battery Street, as cars were rerouted by an army of SFMTA workers in yellow vests… (more)

New poll shows strong support for raising ‘Google Bus’ city fees

By : sfexaminer – excerpt

The second legal challenge to the program regulating “Google Buses” – formally known as commuter shuttles – is heading to the Board of Supervisors next week.

Anticipating this public debate, the Bay Area Council released a glowing public poll Wednesday morning, showing strong public support for these private shuttles.

“The Bay Area Council has seen shuttles as a very positive development on the transportation scene,” said Adrian Covert, policy director at the council, whose members include many local businesses.

In an interview, the council noted the benefits of taking as many as 60 cars off the road per shuttle bus.

“You can bet getting two million car trips off the road every year is going to have an important environmental benefit,” said Rufus Jeffris, a spokesman for the council.

But the poll of likely voters also shows the public strongly backs raising fees on the commuter shuttles – a point of contention from critics of the Commuter Shuttle Program, the formal name of the regulations of private corporate shuttles in San Francisco…

Critics filed a legal environmental challenge of the permanent shuttle program, which the Board of Supervisors will weigh in on next week. The Coalition for Fair, Legal and Environmental Transit, SEIU Local 1021, and citizens Sue Vaughan and Bob Planthold filed the challenge through their attorney, Rebecca Davis…  (more)

Brown’s transportation budget celebrates the car

By Daniel Weintraub :  californiahealthreport – excerpt

Weeks after returning from the Paris summit on climate change where he was hailed as a leader in the movement to limit greenhouse gases, Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed a new transportation budget that celebrates the car.

In 2016-17, Brown wants to spend $16 billion on transportation, and most of that would go toward making it easier for people to drive. The Democratic governor wants to build new roads and highways and repave old ones, and use more technology to speed traffic.

As opposed to what the SFMTA is doing. Are they at odds with the state?

Brown does dedicate some new money to transit and rail improvements, including the high-speed rail project that he sees as part of his legacy.

But he proposes almost nothing to promote “active transportation” – human-powered movement through neighborhoods and cities on bikes and on foot that is not only better for the environment, but also for our health.

Despite an increase of $3 billion for transportation overall, his budget would offer the same $120 million these programs received in 2015-16 to pay for changes that make streets safer and offer alternative routes to help walkers and cyclists get off the roads.

Brown’s budget would do little to reduce a backlog of more than $800 million in local projects seeking a share of these limited funds.

His biggest insult to active transportation is his proposal to use $100 million in cap-and-trade fees collected from industrial polluters to finance an initiative he calls “low-carbon roads.”  That proposal might even be illegal… (more)

Is it April Fools Day or is this the Onion? Can this be true that the governor has figured out cars are not the enemy, that the car industry is producing cleaner more efficient engines that use less gas and are swapping out for electric cars as fast as they can get their hands on them?

Could it also have anything to do with the realization that around 30% of the funds for public transportation comes from private transportation drivers. You don’t want to kill that goose if you want to keep those buses, trains and rails moving.

He must know better than to fight the latest trend in Silicon Valley as they turn to cars and the drones now that everyone has a computer and smart device. You don’t want to fight Apple and Google over their future plans to build robot cars. Those cars will require smart roads no doubt.

Regardless, we applaud the governor and state representatives for changing their focus and finally (we hope) supporting the goose that lays the eggs that feed the ferocious transportation appetite. Most of the air pollution is coming out of the ground (in SoCal) and is produced by the buildings, not the cars.

Muni Antenna Tears Hole In Tech Shuttle Downtown

An electric Muni bus antenna collided with the window of what appears to be a tech shuttle downtown, though which vehicle may have been at fault remains unclear. From the photo above, it appears the antennas had come loose from the overhead wires and were sticking off the rear of the Muni bus when the shuttle possibly drove into them. So much for Muni and tech shuttles living happily side by side!

SFist is investigating the scene and trying to determine which company may have hired this particular shuttle. We’re seeking an official comment from the SFMTA and/or any witnesses, though it does not seem as though anyone was hurt… (more)

Good augment for keeping MUNI and the shuttle buses apart. Too much sharing isn’t good.