The Lexus Lanes — and why they won’t work

By Zelda Bronstein : 48hills – excerpt

Night-Bridge

Bay Bridge photo by zrants

Instead of rewarding carpools and getting people out of private cars, we are rewarding wealth and encouraging more people to drive. How does this make sense?

One of the hallmarks of neoliberalism is the application of market solutions to market-generated problems. It’s an approach that’s bound to fail, because market-generated problems can only be solved by non-market solutions; but to the neoliberal mind, no-market solutions are anathema. Unfortunately, this approach is guiding city and regional planning in the Bay Area.

A case in point is the October 5 hearing on “Job and Office Trends” at the SF Planning Commission. As Tim Redmond reported, the planners focused on the severe imbalance between jobs and housing in the city, and how that imbalance is making it impossible for many people who work in San Francisco—especially those of modest means—to live near their jobs. What the planners missed was the source of that problem: their own unending pursuit of new commercial space, especially new office space. In Redmond’s words:

“The entire presentation by the department staff worships at the altar of growth. When you look at the slides, it’s as if we are competing with the rest of the nation for who can grow faster, and have the most “healthy” economy, which means the fastest growing.”

It also means the economy with the highest prices. Never mind that the tech influx is the major source of the astronomical housing prices and the accompanying displacement of economically vulnerable San Franciscans. During public comment, longtime affordable housing advocate John Elberling noted that he hadn’t heard “the word gentrification” or anything.

“about the human consequences of accommodating growth, which is clearly the current mission of the San Francisco Planning Department, even when the growth, the commercial growth, is clearly more than we can accommodate.”

The same “marketizing” growth mania is driving another misguided planning scheme: the installation of HOT (High Occupancy Toll) or express lanes on Bay Area highways. On October 9, new HOT lanes went into operation on I-680 between Walnut Creek and Dublin. Former HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lanes, twelve miles southbound and eleven northbound, have been converted into express lanes that will operate between 5 am and 8 pm. (In the Bay Area, the term “rush hour” long ago became an anachronism.)…

Until I attended the briefing, I thought that express lanes were intended to decrease congestion. Not so. Their purpose, said Caltrans Deputy District Director Sean Nozzari, is to “help us manage traffic congestion better” by opening “available capacity to solo drivers.”…(more)

Management by Confusion: Once again we are being charged top dollar for confusion on our streets and highways. These programs are NOT user friendly and they contradict their stated purpose and goals.

The “experimental” traffic and parking management programs are so confusing the SFMTA Board and Board of Supervisors has trouble understanding them. If the “experts with detailed printed charts, maps, graphs, surveys, reports and personal Q and A after presentations can’t understand the program, how will the public figure it out?

It is hard enough keeping track of your online bank accounts and nesting email messages. Now drivers are expected to deal with driving along curving streets while watching out for children, pets, and stupid humans texting as they cross the street and cyclists who ride everywhere but in the “protected” bike lanes they demanded be installed for their safety on city streets.

On highways we are supposed to purchase yet another payment tool if we are to avoid paying huge fees for doing something we didn’t know to avoid in the first place. How is this legal, ethical, or good for society?

 

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Lower Haight Construction Woes

By Nuala Sawyer : sfweekly – excerpt

A small business owner received a citation from the city — for a square of sidewalk that they’d already dug up.

Small businesses in Lower Haight had a rough summer, which has turned into a bumpy fall, and will soon be a harsh winter. Construction has been underway for months to replace aging sewer pipes, repave streets, widen sidewalks, construct bulbouts and generally upgrade the entire neighborhood’s infrastructure. It’s needed — though easy to complain about when jackhammers outside shake your entire restaurant’s dining room.

But many of the inconveniences — customers’ cars getting ticketed while construction workers’ vehicles get off scot-free — make it even harder for those running a small business to survive. And one business owner, Matt Nudelman, who owns the Lodge on Haight, has had enough. On Sept. 30, he received a notice of violation from the Department of Public Works for a “sidewalk nuisance.” The culprit, according to the inspector who photographed it and filed the complaint, was a small stain outside the Lodge’s front door…

The kicker: That square of sidewalk no longer exists. Before the notice even landed in Nudelman’s mailbox, the entire street in front of his restaurant was dug up. Now, in order to enter his business, customers have to walk 20 feet to either side of large orange barriers. There is nowhere to lock up a bike or park a car. And the piles of trash left behind each day make the entire facade of his business look dangerously unappealing — the very thing that Public Works is citing Nudelman for…

The Supervisors are holding multiple hearings about problems with the multiple street projects that are creating havoc on our streets, pushing more families out of the city, and killing businesses that don’t have deep investor pockets to prop them up while they struggle to survive.

You might want to protest by phone or email if this bothers you in hopes of stopping the pace of new projects and street closures. If you object to the hassle of getting through town now, you will be really annoyed if the SFMTA and the Board of Supervisors approves the next big anti-traffic project they are planning for Folsom Street.

They want more bike lines and protected bike lanes on Folsom Street to make your access to the Bay Bridget more difficult than it already is. As most people are by now aware BART is already packed and often has problems operating under current conditions so switching to the BART is not much of an option, especially since there is a parking shortage at the stations and no plans to expand that.

Buses and public transit vehicles will have no better access to the bridge than they currently have so cutting off lanes does nothing to help them.

As some of us pointed out over a year ago, there is a huge labor shortage that is being exacerbated by the city projects that are forcing more talented contractors out of the area when they can’t deliver quality workers, so what are wee getting? A huge expensive mess. Rushing contractors is never a good idea if you want a job done well.

See our letter sent to the Board of Supervisors this week and edit to personalize your own complaints. Ask them who they are representing by continuing to approve more street projects.

If you can, show up to the board of Supervisors and SFMTA meetings to complain about any plans to expand the street projects until the ones under way are complete and paid for. This is the only way we are going to end this nightmare. discoveryink.wordpress.com/no-new-street-projects/