SPUR Talk: Transportation Challenges for Downtown Tech Companies

by : sfstreetsblog -excerpt

A panel at SPUR discussed how downtown tech companies Airbnb and Salesforce help their employees get to work .

The San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR), hosted a lunchtime talk in downtown San Francisco today, with representatives from Salesforce and Airbnb, about how the companies help employees commute between work and home. Unlike tech giants based outside of downtown San Francisco, neither company makes heavy use of private buses–so-called Tech Shuttles–and instead depends on public transit such as BART, buses and Caltrain.

“Our San Francisco campus is right down the street,” said Lauren Bennett, Senior Program Manager for Transportation at Salesforce. Her company has seven buildings in downtown San Francisco with nearly 7,000 employees, she explained, adding “That gives us access to two BART stations and the regional Transbay Terminal…we don’t have a last-mile problem.”

That’s probably why a third of its employees get to work by BART, with another 20 percent getting in by various bus and other transit providers. That’s part of a corporate strategy. “We think our employees want to work in urban areas and like the city as an amenity,” she said. And they don’t try to insulate their employees from the surrounding area. “We don’t have a cafeteria. We want people to get out, walk around and spend money in small businesses,” she said…(more)

California Freeways Will Soon Generate Electricity

Freeways inspire road rage, serve as giant trash receptacles and take us home, often very slowly.

And now, a new statewide initiative means they could soon be generating some much-needed electricity.

The office of L.A.-area Assemblyman Mike Gatto announced recently that the California Energy Commission has agreed to fund multiple piezoelectric pilot projects in the Golden State. 

According to a state energy commission report, “Piezoelectric crystals give an electrical discharge when mechanically stressed.” So as vehicles roll over a highway embedded with these crystals, an electrical current is created, which can be harvested to feed the grid.

Similar programs have been launched in Israel and Japan, while Italy has a roadway project in the works. And the San Francisco nightclub Temple has even installed a piezoelectric dance floor.

“I still get stopped on the street by people who ask what happened to the idea of using our roads to generate electricity,” Gatto says. “California is the car capital of the world, and we recycle just about everything. So why not capture the energy from road vibrations and put it to good use?”… (more)

SFMTA Readies Limited Roll Back on Mission Transit Project

By sf.streetsblog – excerpt

SFMTA staff has released its recommendations for compromises to its recently completed Mission Street transit upgrades. In addition to plans to relocate the outbound Cortland stop to the nearside of the intersection, the staff wants to move forward with (from the agency’s FAQ):

  • Removing two of the required right turns on Mission at 26th and 22nd. This will allow vehicles to travel four blocks on Mission before encountering a required right turn, making it easier to access businesses and find parking along the street. We expect this change to improve traffic circulation without increasing through traffic or delaying bus riders.
  • Exempting taxis from the left turn restriction at 21st Street. This exemption, in the middle of the Mission corridor, will provide more options for taxis to reach their destinations…

Business owners around the intersections in question, meanwhile, still want Mission restored to how it was before March, when SFMTA put down the “red-carpet” lanes for transit. Patel Varsho, who’s owned “King of Fashions,” a clothing shop on Mission, since 1991, said they’ve felt the cuts to parking and that  “Business is slow.” Mihee Lee owns the “Smile Bar-B-Q,” a nearby lunch counter on Mission at 22nd. “Customers have no parking,” she said. “Business is down 20 percent.” Neither commented specifically on the significance of eliminating the turn restrictions, and instead were concerned primarily about parking…

Despite claims of improved reliability, the transit lanes don’t seem to have improved bus spacing. Three 14s in a row pulled into the stop on 22nd… (more)

What do you suppose convinced SFMTA to “improve” their controversial improvements? Did the threat of a Charter Amendment coming out of a western district convinced them they have gone too far? Claims that the buses are not any more reliable now than they were before the red carpet got laid?

Sit through one SFMTA Board Meeting and you will know the answer. We sat through a relatively productive SFMTA staff meeting yesterday and came up with some very cheap, fast fixes for staff to take back to their bosses that we told them would help the Mission merchants recover from their losses but we don’t expect them to listen to us.

San Francisco needs traffic flow, not traffic control. Until that mindset changes residents will not be happy with the SFMTA.

The voters, particularly the ones on Lombard, Masonic, Geary, Van Ness, Taraval, 16th Street and Potrero Avenue, to name a few, will not trust the SFMTA to listen to them either and will probably support the SFMTA Charter Amendment: Details here: stopsfmta.com