North Beach Meeting on Sidewalk Bulbs Gets Tense; SFMTA to Paint Demos

by Aaron Bialick : sf.streetsblog – excerpt

A public meeting in North Beach became tense yesterday as residents and firefighters opposed to basic street safety measures continued to assert that sidewalk bulb-outs are dangerous. To appease skeptics, the SFMTA announced that the bulb-outs planned at four intersections on Columbus Avenue will be tested first by installing painted “safety zones” in August. Construction of concrete versions will begin next year…

The bulb-outs “being proposed for Columbus Avenue are not that scary,” said D3 Supervisor Julie Christensen, who told attendees she convinced the SFMTA to implement the painted versions as a trial. “We’ve been looking at all these really carefully… modifications were made, and what we’ve got now is kind of a river stone that’s been smoothed over by all kinds of forces.”…

It was the second recent meeting about bulb-outs held by North Beach Neighbors. At the first meeting on April 30, Hoodline reported, members of SF Fire Fighters Union Local 798 protested life-saving curb extensions claiming they hinder fire trucks. Since that meeting, the union’s president also sent a letter [PDF] to SFFD Chief Johanne Hayes-White calling the department’s approvals of bulb-outs “very troubling.”…

A few people remained unconvinced, however, and raised their voices. Here’s one of the arguments between an opponent and SFMTA planner Oliver Gajda, about whether it’s safe to assume that trucks can turn around bulb-outs without conducting a field test:

Firefighter Tony Rivera also repeated an anecdote to scare people about the prospect of wider sidewalks that he told at the April meeting, according to Hoodline.

At Columbus and Union Streets, where the block of sidewalk along Washington Square Park was extended last year to make the bus stop more efficient, Rivera said he became alarmed when his six-year-old son bent down to pick up a penny at the curb.

“The bus came by — I didn’t realize I was now standing in traffic,” Rivera said. “Before, there used to be a buffer of cars. There should be a warning saying that you are now much closer. If you’re a little kid, or my mom who’s 93 — she needs glasses — she cannot tell that she’s standing right in the way of a vehicle.”

He also complained to Gajda that taxpayers have to pay for the curb extensions, and that he didn’t get a notification about them. “It’s wrong, man. You don’t live in the neighborhood, I do… I think it’s bullshit.”

Rivera said he “has to drive a car,” and that if bulb-outs remove more parking spots, “I’m not going to go there and help our neighborhood because I’m going to be driving around, distracted. It’s going to be crazy.”

Daniel Macchiarini of the North Beach Business Association has continued to fight the 2010 Columbus Avenue study that recommended more space for people. He claimed that the SFPD told him there haven’t been any pedestrian injuries since 2013, except for one “criminal” one, at the intersections set to get bulb-outs, which will “destroy small businesses.” He said SFFD only approved the bulb-outs because of “pressure from the mayor’s office.”

Macchiarini also said that SFMTA staff hasn’t returned his emails over the years requesting statistics on pedestrian safety to explain “why we’re doing this.”…

While SFFD has shown signs of softening its opposition to bulb-outs and narrower roadways, SFFD Assistant Deputy Chief Ken Lombardi said the agency’s stance has never changed. As he explained in January 2014, “it’s hard to pinpoint” what has slowed emergency response times, but the department has “shut down” or watered down safety improvements nonetheless.

After showing stats and pictures of broken fire truck components caused by hitting “obstacles,” he said he couldn’t say how many of them were caused by bulb-outs. He said, however, that SFFD would like to see more daylighting and bike lanes, as long as they’re not protected by “hardscape” structures… (more)

Opponents: Warriors proposed arena fails environmental test for traffic

by Sharon Song : Kron4 – excerpt (video)

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — The battle over the Golden State Warriors’ proposed new $1 billion arena is heating up as a group of opponents on Tuesday plans to raise their concerns about traffic and parking before city officials.

San Francisco’s Mission Bay neighborhood has been designated for the NBA championship team’s 18,000-seat arena and entertainment center. But the project is facing a major showdown as the Mission Bay Alliance, a newly formed coalition that includes UCSF stakeholders, donors, and faculty point to an environmental report that it says gives the project a flunking grade on the subject of traffic in the area.

On Tuesday, the Mission Bay Alliance along with other representatives from the UCSF healthcare community plan to share those concerns during a public hearing, as they highlight findings of the recently released draft environmental impact report (EIR). The opponents are worried the arena will create dangerous delays for patients and physicians trying to get to the new UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco at Mission Bay.

“The draft EIR shows that the Warriors’ proposed entertainment complex in Mission Bay fails major intersections and will grind traffic in Mission Bay to a screeching halt during games and events,” said Bruce Spaulding of the Mission Bay Alliance. “While our team of attorneys continues to review the project, the draft EIR admits this project will have significantly negative impacts on nearby residents and UCSF patients and healthcare workers.”

The group says major intersections in the area receive a failing score of “E” and “F” during special events, according to the report’s “Level of Service” traffic impact analysis. The scoring calculates the delays per vehicle and assigns an A-F letter grade for each Mission Bay intersection. The Mission Bay Alliance says the report shows the vast majority of those intersections would fail, facing heavy congestion and gridlock during games and special events. The alliance says these problems are anticipated despite substantial transit and transportation investments promised by the city to ease traffic in the area.

City officials are planning a public hearing about the project Tuesday and formal comments to the city’s planning department are due July 20 (45 days after the draft EIR was released), said the Mission Bay Alliance. After an initial review of the EIR, the Mission Bay Alliance’s legal team wants an additional 45 days to review and comment on city documents used to support the environmental report for the project.

“45 days is simply not enough time to meaningfully review and comment on the draft Environmental Impact Report,” said Mission Bay Alliance attorney Tom Lippe in a letter to the city requesting the extension.

The latest move follows a protest on Monday by UCSF nurses who voiced their concerns about the proposed project… (more)

If you are concerned by the traffic congestion around Mission Bay now, we may want to write letters supporting a continuance.

Lyft and Uber Won’t Release Data to Shed Light on How They Affect Traffic

by Aaron Bialick : sf.streetsblog – excerpt

As ride-hail services like Lyft and Uber have boomed in San Francisco and other cities, proponents claim they help reduce demand for parking and road space by making it easier for people to own fewer cars. But very little data has been released by the ride-hail companies that would allow experts to assess their impact on streets and traffic…

In a panel discussion yesterday, Lyft’s Curtis Rogers emphasized that reducing car ownership is “our end goal that we think we share with the city.”

But when Thea Selby of the SF Transit Riders Union pressed Rogers for data to show whether Lyft might be substituting for transit trips more than car trips, he said he couldn’t provide it. Rogers insisted, however, that Lyft doesn’t want to compete with Muni, walking, or bicycling. “We think we’re just one more piece to the puzzle.”…

While thousands of ride-hail drivers are estimated to be on city streets every day, Lyft and Uber keep a tight lid on the numbers, usually citing privacy concerns.

Kate Toran, the SFMTA’s director of taxis and accessible services, said that any data submitted by Lyft or Uber to government agencies is “under seal,” meaning it’s not available to the public or city transportation planners.

The lack of data makes it “really challenging to make planning decisions,” said Toran. “Reducing auto dependency is a really great goal, but when there’s no barrier at all to entry for anyone who wants to drive their personal car into San Francisco and make some money, I think that outweighs the numbers of people who are shedding their vehicles. But again, we don’t know.”…

An August study from the University of California Transportation Center [PDF] did shed some light on the use in SF of ride-hail services.

The study said the effects of ride-hail services “on overall vehicle travel are ambiguous,” but that the findings suggest it “has a small but not inconsequential (8%) induced travel effect” of increasing driving.

Researchers conducted 380 surveys at three ride-hail “hot spots” in SF in the spring of 2014. They asked respondents if they would have still made their trips if ride-hail wasn’t available. Of those who would have, only 6 percent said they would have driven instead, while 39 percent would have used a traditional taxi. Twenty-four percent said they would have taken a bus, and 9 percent rail.

In an op-ed in the SF Chronicle last week, SFTRU’s Daniel Sisson wrote that while ride-hail services can be useful, he’s worried their widespread use might reduce the pressure on city officials to improve Muni…  (more)

Traffic fine policy banned in California court system

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The governing body for California’s court system Monday banned county courts from requiring people to pay traffic fines before they can contest their tickets.

The Judicial Council’s unanimous vote in favor of abolishing the practice comes as state officials have raised concerns that traffic fines and penalties are ensnaring minority and low-income residents. Fines have skyrocketed in California over the past two decades, and courts have grown reliant on fees as a result of budget cuts during the recession.

The Judicial Council’s decision takes effect immediately, and also requires courts to notify traffic defendants that they don’t have to make so-called bail payments in any instructions or other materials they provide to the public.

“I am proud of the rule that has been developed,” California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said in a statement. “This is an important first step to address an urgent access-to-justice issue.”… (more)

RELATED:
New Policy in effect for California traffic courts

UCSF nurses union comes out against S.F. Warriors arena

By J.K. Dineen : sfgate – excerpt – (video)

The Golden State Warriors could face some unexpected opposition in their drive to build an arena in Mission Bay: nurses.

On Monday, the California Nurses Association, a union that represents 900 UCSF nurses, came out against the plan for an 18,500-seat arena across the street from the new UCSF Medical Center on the southern edge of Mission Bay.

In a statement, the nurses union cited “impacts on access to care, patient health and the ability of patients, family members and health professionals to access Mission Bay’s hospitals and clinics in gridlock traffic.”

At a news conference Monday, three nurses expressed reservations about the Warriors’ plan, although they all admitted that they were unfamiliar with the details of the team’s recently released 800-page environmental impact report, which analyzes the arena’s potential effects on traffic and parking.

Backed by Mayor Ed Lee and San Francisco’s political establishment, the Warriors’ Mission Bay arena plan faced minimal public opposition until April, when a mostly anonymous group of UCSF donors and wealthy biotech executives announced it would fight the proposal. The group, the Mission Bay Alliance, has hired no fewer than four law firms and has vowed to spend millions of dollars on legal challenges.

While the Mission Bay Alliance’s legal threats have not eroded support for the development at City Hall, concerns voiced by rank-and-file nurses could help bolster the case against the basketball arena in the court of public opinion.

“Delay of care is a big concern for our nurses,” CNA member Lili Cooper said at Monday’s news conference… 

“The city is planning to tackle potential traffic jams through beefed-up public transit and a “traffic separation” plan aimed at funneling arena-bound cars onto certain streets while hospital and neighborhood vehicles are routed onto others.”… (more)

And which of our neighborhood streets would the SFMTA be re-routing traffic that is not already overwhelmed? Do they plan to bulldoze a new thoroughfare through a residential neighborhood? There are no streets around Mission Bay that are not already impacted by the traffic jams. And the trains and buses are already jammed with long lines of commuters and sports fans jostling for seats.

SAN FRANCISCO SUPERVISOR WIENER AUTHORS LEGISLATION TO CUT TOW COSTS

By Carolyn Tyler : abc7news – excerpt (video)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015 12:00AM
SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — If your car is towed in San Francisco, you’re going to be paying some of the highest rates in the country to get it back, but now for one group of motorists — those whose cars were stolen — it appears some relief is on the way.

Back in the 1980’s and 1990’s, San Francisco residents were reimbursed the towing expenses for stolen cars, but that changed in 2005, perhaps due to the economy.

Adding insult to injury, San Francisco resident Luis Rodriguez will spend big bucks to get his Chevy Malibu from the towing yard. Every month on average, nearly 200 stolen vehicles end up at AutoReturn.

San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener said, “It’s a real hardship — especially for lower income people who rely on their car as a lifeline to get to work — to have to pay a lot of money to get their car, when they didn’t do anything wrong.”

Wiener has authored legislation with the backing of the Municipal Transportation Agency. If approved, starting this December through next March there would be changes. And when the towing contract comes up for renewal, it is also expected to include the new previsions.

Muni’s $266 SFMTA administrative fee would be waived for San Francisco residents and cut in half for non-residents. The $225.75 towing fees would be waived for everyone. And rather than the current four hours you’re given to get your car before the storage fees accumulate, residents will have a 48 hour grace period. The grace period will be 24 hours for non-residents… (more)

SAN FRANCISCO’S TRANSBAY TERMINAL PROJECT QUICKLY TAKING SHAPE

Originally posted on SF Public Transit Solutions:

By Carolyn Tyler :abc7news – excerpt – (video)

Thursday, June 25, 2015 09:19PM
SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — Work on a regional connection for Bay Area commuters is quickly taking shape. With much of the construction on the Transbay Terminal completed underground, we’re finally seeing it rise above street level.

At First and Mission streets in San Francisco commuters are watching an icon rise, one that might actually make their trip into San Francisco easier someday. “You absolutely get a feel for what that experience is going to be when the transit center opens in late 2017,” Dennis Turchon said.

Turchon is senior project manager of the $1.1 billion new Transbay Terminal project.

It is designed to be the Grand Central Station of the west, a hub for Bay Area transit.

Regional bus lines will carry commuters to and from the city on the upper levels, while underground Caltrain and…

View original 28 more words

Activists prod Mayor Lee over Caltrain extension

By Hannah Albarazi : sfbay – excerpt

Environmentalists and transit enthusiasts are urging San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee to prioritize a ballot measure that passed in 1999 that required an extension of the Caltrain line to the Transbay Terminal in downtown San Francisco.

The passage of the 1999 ballot measure, known then as Proposition H, required that Caltrain be extended to the Transbay Terminal and prohibited the city from taking any actions that would conflict with extension.

Alex Doniach, a spokeswoman for the Mission Bay Alliance, a non-profit group that wants to see the Caltrain downtown extension brought to fruition, and also stands unwaveringly against the proposed Golden State Warriors stadium, said San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee should honor the original Downtown Rail Extension (DTX) agreement.

Transit enthusiasts from groups such as the Train Riders Association of California, Bay Rail Alliance, Friends of Caltrain, Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund, and the Coalition of San Francisco neighbors, among others, gathered outside City Hall today to urge the mayor not to postpone the DTX project any longer..

The 1999 measure, however, did not set a strict timeline for construction of the project, resulting in years of postponement by elected officials….

A public hearing by the city’s Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure Commission is scheduled for 1 p.m. on June 30 in Room 416 in City Hall at which time comments from members of the public regarding the Draft SEIR on the construction of the arena will be heard… (more)

Here lies one of the problems with using the ballot to govern. So many details must go into a piece of legislation to make it enforceable, and , as we are finding out, enforcement is largely lacking unless the administration makes it happen.

So, be careful who you put in office in administrative posts.

And, as Scoop Nisker said, “If you don’t like the news…”

Opinions Are Divided On North Beach’s Proposed Traffic-Calming ‘Bulb-Outs’

Next Tuesday, June 30th from 6:30-8pm, North Beach Neighbors is hosting another meeting at the San Francisco Italian Athletic Club (1630 Stockton St.) to discuss traffic-calming measures slated for the community.

As part of the Columbus Avenue Safety Project, SFMTA is proposing bulb-outs at four intersections in North Beach, and some neighbors are concerned they’ll slow down response times for emergency vehicles. Others say the bulb-outs will help reduce pedestrian injuries and fatalities, as they slow down traffic and improve pedestrian visibility.

Either way, North Beach Neighbors President Trish Herman wants more information presented to the community before bulb-outs are installed. “In my opinion, they’re trying to shove this down everybody’s throat,” she said.

The previous meeting, on April 30th, included testimony from three firefighters opposed to bulb-outs (they did not speak on behalf of the Fire Department, but as individual citizens). They expressed concern about potential delays in emergency response times and damage to fire trucks. Among the crowd of a few dozen neighbors, several shared concerns that the bulb-outs would further clog traffic, and one was worried about bulb-outs placing pedestrians closer to traffic, which would actually decrease safety.

At this next meeting, representatives from the San Francisco Fire Department and SF Public Works will speak. Herman hopes a representative from the SFMTA will be there as well, though she said there was some confusion on that, because they initially scheduled a meeting for the same time and date upstairs from the North Beach Neighbors meeting. “We’re unsure whether the MTA will come and speak,” she said. “If they don’t, I’ll present what they presented to us at our board meeting.”… (more)

Herman said her goal is to get hard facts on the effects of traffic calming on a community and to determine whether it will be good, specifically, for the complex intersections in North Beach. “I’m saying that one size does not fit all,” she said, noting that bulb-outs in the Castro have caused traffic back-ups. She said she filed a Sunshine Ordinance request with the SFMTA for documents with proof that bulb-outs work, and the packet she received consisted of studies from 2001 and 2005. “We’re dealing with old data,” she said.

Removing parking spaces for the bulb-outs is another concern. “They’re not considering the vehicle public,” Herman said. “Parking has been removed at high rates throughout the city.” She expressed particular concern for elderly and disabled people, for whom walking and biking isn’t always a realistic option. Another concern is people coming from across the Bay Area who support the business base in North Beach, and need to park to frequent shops and restaurants. “Muni is so grossly inefficient,” she said. “North Beach is a difficult neighborhood to get to using Muni.”… (more)