Trouble-plagued Transbay Center votes to extend, augment contract for longtime program manager

By : misisonlocal – exxcerpt

The $2.2 billion Transbay Transit Center has long been envisioned as the Grand Central Station of the west — but is presently referred to derisively as San Francisco’s billion-dollar bus stop after structural problems shut it down shortly after its 2018 opening. This morning, its board voted to extend and increase the contract for its longtime program manager, URS Corporation.

By a 6-1 vote of the Transbay Joint Power Authority Board of Directors, with only Matt Haney dissenting, the board picked up an option to extend URS’ present agreement through June of 2024, and to increase its budget by $14.6 million to a max of $50.6 million.

“They’ve been working on this project for a while, and some things have not gone well,” Haney noted prior to the vote… (more)

That is an understatement. The SF Board of Supervisors is sticking to a plan to do something about the failed transit system that is misspending tax-payer dollars and the Trans Bay Terminal is a poster child for that. No surprise that the district supervisor would not support a business as usual model in his district.

Transit Has Been Battered by Coronavirus. What’s Ahead May Be Worse.

By Emily Badger : nytimes – excerpt

“The number of scenarios that we have to plan for is staggering.”

Fare revenue has vanished across the country as transit riders have. Even those essential workers still taking the bus or train aren’t generating much money for agencies strained by the coronavirus pandemic. Many systems have moved to free service, or stopped policing fares. It’s just too risky for bus drivers if anyone comes near the farebox a foot away.

As dire as this moment seems, however, something more worrisome lies ahead…

Uber and Lyft taxes, gas taxes, highway tolls, advertising dollars — all of these ways communities fund transit are shrinking. In Philadelphia, free rides for older passengers are paid for in part by revenue from the state lottery. During the last recession, even lottery proceeds plummeted

“The number of scenarios that we have to plan for is staggering,” said Jeffrey Tumlin, the director of transportation for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

What if agencies have to maintain this strange status quo, running nearly empty buses for second-shift nurses, into the summer? What if unemployment reaches 30 percent? What if they idle vehicles for so long they fall out of working condition? What if they must lay off the only mechanics who know their way around streetcars?… (more)

Hate to say “I told you so”, but for some time there have been obvious signs that the system is not sustainable.

 

Banning cars on SF’s Market Street changes little. But Valencia Street is a different story

By Carl Nolte : sfchronicle – excerpt

The routine with a stethoscope at the doctor’s office is simple, but important. “Take a deep breath,” the doctor says. “Now hold it.”

That’s good practice for humans and good for cities. San Francisco just took a very deep breath — it banned private cars on the downtown portion of Market Street for the first time since Market became the city’s main drag 147 years ago…

You have to hand it to the bike advocates. Though only 4% to 5% of all trips to work in San Francisco are made by bicycle, groups like the Bicycle Coalition have been extremely effective in making their case. They are organized and get results, as you can see for yourself, on Market Street and soon a major street near you.

So what’s the solution? Should we close off streets like Valencia, or the Embarcadero, eliminate parking and declare war on private cars?

I think we should wait and see how Market Street works out, and then slowly and carefully work out a plan so that private cars, bikes and scooters can share the streets, which, after all, belong to all the people… (more)

With cars banned on SF’s Market Street, top official eyes next target: Valencia

By Rachel Swan : sfchronicle – excerpt

As the dream of banning cars becomes a reality Wednesday on San Francisco’s Market Street — an idea dating to when horse-drawn buggies jockeyed for space among puttering Ford Model Ts — one top transportation official is already pitching ideas for the next car-free thoroughfare.

During a San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board meeting Tuesday, Chair Malcolm Heinicke called for automobiles to be purged from Valencia Street, a bustling strip in the Mission District.

“I’m not very patient here. I want the next one,” Heinicke told The Chronicle outside the meeting where he and the other six directors discussed themes for the coming year.

He predicts that Market Street sans cars will reap huge benefits for pedestrians, cyclists and buses. Analyses by SFMTA suggest that Muni’s buses and streetcars will run 15% to 25% faster. Planners also expect to substantially reduce collisions, providing a safe path for the 500,000 people who walk along Market Street daily.…

His pitch had activists cheering on social media. But the vice president of the Valencia Corridor Merchants Association was stunned.

“I personally think it would be devastating to our business,” said Jonah Buffa, co-owner of Fellow Barber at 18th and Valencia streets. Many of his customers arrive by car, whether driving their own vehicles or riding an Uber or Lyft… (more)

Let’s find out if Market Street merchants really pick up business as Heinicke expects before we role out the plan to further streets.

Mohammed Nuru, head of SF Public Works, arrested by FBI

By Joshua Sabatini : sfexaminer – excerpt

The head of San Francisco Public Works Mohammed Nuru has been arrested by the FBI on suspicion of public corruption, according to multiple sources.

Records show Nuru, 57, was booked into County Jail on Monday for felony safekeeping, meaning that he has a case pending in federal court.

Nuru no longer appears to be in custody at County Jail as of Tuesday morning. It is unclear whether he remains in federal custody.

Nuru was arrested alongside Nick Bovis, the owner of the famed sports bar Lefty O’Doul’s, which closed in Union Square in 2017.

Bovis, 56, also appeared in County Jail records Monday…(more)

RELATED:

NBCbayarea : Sources confirmed to NBC Bay Area that Nuru was arrested Monday under allegations that he took bribes associated with airport concession contracts.

 

San Francisco’s Market Street Is Going ‘Car Free’ Next Week — 7 Things You Need to Know

by Dan Brekke :  kqed – excerpt

Next Wednesday, Jan. 29, private vehicles will no longer be allowed to travel the busiest stretch of San Francisco’s Market Street, from near Van Ness Avenue all the way to the waterfront.

The prohibition on private vehicles marks the first tangible step in an ambitious city plan to remake its principal boulevard into a thoroughfare that will emphasize transit and feature a wide range of physical changes to make the street safe and user-friendly for pedestrians, cyclists and others who don’t happen to be moving through the city in cars…

For more information, we’ve got links:

Car-less wide empty streets are not the prescription for saving retail businesses on Market Street and the additional 1 cent sales tax increase being cooked up for the region should kill whatever is left if the voters approve that. There must be a plan for Market Street once they remove the cars and retail. Any hints on what that is are appreciated. Maybe there is a clue in the Plan 2040 or 2050 whatever year they are working on now.

Voters face hundreds of local tax measures

calmatters – excerpt

California voters have seen a deluge of local government tax and bond measures in recent elections and will face even more this year.

The California Taxpayers Association has counted 231 local sales and parcel tax increases and bond issues (which automatically increase property taxes if approved) on the March 3 primary ballot alone.

Hundreds more are headed for the November ballot as local officials capitalize on the higher voter turnouts of a presidential election year…

Do cities, counties and school districts really need all of the new taxes they want voters to approve, given the strong increases in revenues from existing taxes they’ve enjoyed during nearly a decade-long economic boom?…(more)

RELATED:
‘Tax exhaustion’ may be on the horizon
Court must fix tax vote ambiguity

Why is it so hard for the Bay Area to build megaprojects?

By Benjamin Schneider : curbed – excerpt

Major infrastructure projects are necessary for the Bay Area to address climate change and keep its growing population moving

When the newly opened Salesforce Transit Center closed to repair cracked steel beams in September 2018, local-news junkies and transportation boosters felt a sense of deja vu. The steel beam situation was eerily similar to the saga of the defective “steel rods” on the eastern span of the Bay Bridge, which needed structural reinforcement just as the new bridge was about to open. Both projects shared another defect: ballooning budgets that bore no resemblance to initial estimates.

These recurring difficulties with the Bay Area’s megaprojects have become the stuff of negative headlines around the country, and are seized upon as ammunition by opponents of visionary infrastructure projects. But a frank reckoning with the state of megaproject delivery in the Bay Area is just as important for supporters of mass transit and green infrastructure as it is for the naysayers. With even more (and more complex) projects on the horizon—including the high-speed rail, which will connect LA with SF via the Central Valley, and a second Transbay Tube—the Bay Area needs to get megaproject delivery back on track.

Curbed SF spoke to experts in this field to better understand where the Bay Area’s megaprojects have gone wrong, and what they can do differently in the future. It all starts with extensive preplanning, according to Karen Trapenberg Frick, a professor of city and regional planning at the University of California, Berkeley, who wrote Remaking the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge about the arduous replacement of the eastern span…

“As soon as we’re angling for the first dollar, when this thing’s real, we need to establish independent external peer review,” she says. With both the Salesforce Transit Center and the Bay Bridge, comprehensive, external oversight only came after major problems were detected. Planning and peer review can also help with budgeting and project management. Experts should be in the room with planners and policymakers, telling them, “These projects are hard, they take a long time, they’re going to cost more than we think,” says Trapenberg Frick….

“Don’t, unless absolutely necessary, try to invent anything new. Look at what is being done in other places where costs are low and performance is high, and just copy it.”

(more)

Considering all the problems we have seen unfold with megaprojects, the public should not trust the government process based on “optimism bias” as the author so aptly puts it.

Much the problem, as in the case of the Millennium tower, comes from lack of communication, between departments, designers, and engineers. Perhaps an earlier peer review would help.

Hiring experts who have successfully completed projects is a no-brainer as, is using existing systems.

Why traffic laws are not being enforced

Comments from a concerned citizen

The city outgrew the infrastructure and LOS (level of service) some time ago. There are too few police, firemen, Muni drivers, teachers, 911 emergency call center operators, etc. for the current level of population. Not only do we have more people living in San Francisco, the population swells during the day making it impossible for the traffic control officers to do a proper job. To make matters more difficult, City Hall dedicates huge amounts of money to planning for future growth instead of fixing the problems we have today. SFMTA can’t hire and train enough operators but they did manage to push their PR department from 4 employees to 55 to try to convince you that you should be happy with “their service”. Are you?

Keeping police officers on the streets is one aspect of the development policy that the CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) was supposed to take into consideration, and did until recently. Now they just create a record that shows they took CEQA into consideration and found that they could do nothing to mitigate the “harm” that might come from the new project under consideration and approve it anyway. You may thank your state government and the courts for overriding the local government laws and policies and protections our residents voted for to keep a healthy balance between growth and services. Now we just have forced growth.

If you are paying attention to local Planning Commission hearings you have heard residents and local neighborhood organizations warning about the lack of infrastructure growth to support the increased population. Instead of taking these concerns into consideration, our state representatives have rewritten laws to avoid slowing growth to match LOS (the level for service needed to serve the community.)

In the next few days you will see a number of street actions that are an attempt to bring this unbalanced growth to the attention of the public and an attempt to suggest a better plan going forward to return the city to a more pleasant standard of living. You will also see some new faces running for office that offer a different narrative.

If you don’t like the way things are, you might consider making some changes when you can.

Gov. Newsom’s Executive Order Authorizing Theft of Voter-Approved Gas Tax Money

By Katy Grimes : californiaglobe – excerpt

Order violates Prop. 69, while eliminating highway expansion and repair projects

Through an Executive Order, California Governor Gavin Newsom has redirected gas tax money to fund railway systems and other projects. The gas tax revenue would have repaired and upgraded the state’s broken highways and roads.

Californians pay the highest gas prices in the nation, most of which is taxes…

Governor Newsom signed Executive Order N-19-19 September 20, directing the already controversial gas tax money away from fixing local highways in favor of rail projects

Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) recently explained that in the 2020 Transportation Plan are two projects that would have increased stretches of Highway 99 from four to six lanes in the Central Valley. Patterson says that a Cal Trans’ report even notes the “bottleneck” created at these sections along this major freight corridor.

“Instead of building capacity on our highways to move people and freight, Governor Newsom is funding his pet rail projects throughout the state,” Patterson said. “This theft of funds meant to improve our roadways is a glimpse into the future of transportation in our state and Newsom continues to execute his September 2019 Climate Change Executive Order. The Central Valley is just the beginning. Other road projects will likely be next.” …

(more)

I have a question for the Governor regarding the emergency plans for evacuating people in an emergency who are completely reliant on the public transportation systems such as buses and trains. How does he expect them to get out of harms way in the event of a major fire without their own means of transportation? How does he expect them to haul out their precious documents, food and water and other supplies without a vehicle of their own?

We saw the results of complete streets that removed traffic lanes in Paradise. We are seeing the results now of a major breakdown in emergency response efforts brought on by the PG&E blackouts. How does funneling road and bridge repair money into a rail system aid the millions of people who rely on streets and roads for emergency response teams and evacuations? Why is our government destroying our greatest assets? The first thing emergency responders do when the power is off is drive out to warn people. They need roads to do that. You are not going to send buses and trains.