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.

Smart Trains Cancelled Monday For Safety Reasons

By Bay City News Service : sfgate – excerpt

Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) has canceled commuter train service for Monday because of the ongoing Public Safety Power Shutdown impacts on local city traffic signal systems governing roadways that cross SMART railroad tracks, and to clear trees downed by high winds from the tracks.

When PG&E turns the power back on, local jurisdictions will have to reactivate all traffic control systems and synchronize them with SMART railroad crossing warning lights and gates, according to a SMART news release.

For updates, visit SMART’s website at SonomaMarinTrain.org or call (707) 794-3077… (more)

This is why people don’t want to give up their cars. You can’t trust the public transportation service to get your out when you are told to evacuate. You can only rely on your own vehicle, and in some cases, the bigger the better.

RELATED:

Golden Gate Transit Makes Changes To Southbound Bus Service
Escalators Out Of Service At Four Bart Stations As Precaution

State Legislature & Governor Approve 18 New Housing Bills & Eliminate Single Family Zoning

By Sharon Rushton : marinpost – excerpt

On October 9th, Governor Gavin Newsom signed 18 bills designed to promote housing production. A number of these housing bills take away local control of land use, substantially increase housing density and population potential, and establish streamlined ministerial approval processes for housing projects, thereby exempting these projects from public engagement and the California Environmental Quality Act approval process.

And SAY GOODBYE TO SINGLE FAMILY ZONING!

The subsequent housing densification and population growth will increase the risk of adverse impacts on the environment, public health and safety, traffic congestion, infrastructure, utilities (water supply), public services (schools), views, sunlight, privacy, neighborhood character, and quality of life.

The bills will create unfunded mandates due to the fact that there is no funding for dealing with the above listed significant impacts. Communities will be forced to substantially increase taxes to try to alleviate the adverse impacts, although many will be unavoidable… (more)

RELATED:

Newsom Rejects California Housing Bill that would have raised Billions for Projects

By Hannah Wiley : sacbee – excerpt

… The legislation would have, for the next 30 years, shifted millions of dollars from local property tax revenues to pay for a variety of affordable housing projects. Local jurisdictions would have applied for the funding, to be used for initiatives like transit-oriented development and infrastructure planning…

State Sen. Jim Beall, a San Jose Democrat and author of SB 5, said the legislation would have added financial urgency to the state’s housing crisis… (more)

This is relevant to the changes coming to our streets because the Land Use and Transportation are now being driven by a joint effort to force changes through transit controls. The Transportation Authorities are now in the Housing development and funding business. These bills are a part of the larger plan to divide, disrupt and control. Elect people you trust to listen to your needs when you can.

Debate on SF Measure D

This debate was filmed by Regional Video and posted for public viewing on youtube.

Dedicated tax needs 2/3rds to pass. Guess what they will do with the money.

Chase Center: A giant roomba that is still a bad idea

By Stuart Schuffman : sfexaminer – excerpt

Given this incredible propensity for screwing up huge projects, none of us should be surprised that The City went ahead with this absurdly placed arena.

With the official opening of the Warriors’ new home, the Chase Center, just a few weeks away, I’d like to take this moment to remind the Bay Area what an absolutely stupid idea it was to build this thing. For a town that likes to pride itself on being on the forefront of everything, San Francisco is irredeemably shortsighted when it comes to urban planning…

Given this incredible propensity for screwing up huge projects, none of us should be surprised that the city went ahead with this absurdly placed arena, despite plenty of public outcry…

From when this arena was first announced, much of the opposition to it centered around not just the fact that we’ve somehow decided to make traffic even worse for 50+ extra days a year, but the question of “How can emergency vehicles get through.”… (more)

For the last 10 years the Port and the SFMTA have conspired to turn SF into Battery Park West. Nothing they have done to improve the Bay or access to it has improved anything. We now have complete gridlock as planned. And that is not just private vehicles we are talking about. Try moving on the T-Line, The L-Tarval, or the BART. People are tired of the game. What is going to happen if PG&E shuts down service for a day? Five days? Better have an exit plan. It will not be pretty.

BART official responds to Netflix original that takes aim at US’s failing transit systems

By Drew Costley : sfgate – excerpt

BART was briefly mentioned on the newest episode Hasan Minhaj’s “Patriot Act” on the state of public transit in the United States, but how much of what he talks about it in the episode applies to the state of public transit in the Bay Area?…

In a recent episode of Netflix’s “Patriot Act,” comedian Hasan Minhaj bemoaned the state of public transit in the United States, blaming the billionaire Koch brothers for stifling attempts by several major metropolitan areas to upgrade their public transit systems.

“I want to talk about public transportation. Look, it’s not just destroying my life,” Minhaj said. “Everyone hates public transportation.”… (more)

Failure of public transit is a tragedy not a comedy.

Let’s face it. The public transit system is failing. Not due to a lack of funds. Over a billion dollars a year for Muni is a problem, not a solution. They can’t hire enough drivers so they hire 55 PR flack to spin that story instead. Let’s blame the public for one thing. Let’s blame the public for voting for not having the wisdom to figure out who is to blame. The question we need to ask is, “who his benefiting from the failure of the pubic transit system? That is the culprit that needs to be taken out.

New Muni trains delivered with defective doors

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

Rider caught in door, dragged onto tracks and hospitalized due to lack of vital safety mechanism

At least some of Muni’s newest light rail vehicles — part of its more than $1.1 billion future train fleet — appear to have been delivered with doors that clamp down and lock on objects and people, documents obtained by the San Francisco Examiner reveal.

That door defect may have seriously injured a Muni rider last week… (more)

Thankfully we still have a free press. Do we need more proof that the system is broken? This is not good news for the those who approved the fast-tracked purchase of the unpopular Siemens cars. Will use the one tool they have to curtail the SFMTA? Will the Board of Supervisors refuse to sign the SFMTA budget?

A public department that ignores the public it serves is not a well-run department. It appears the SFMTA wants speed and they riders want safety and comfort instead. The public demands better. Speed is not the answer.

Who at City hall stop this insanity? Who will admit to a coverup? Will someone finally fall on their sword and take the blame? How will SFMTA’s director and PR czar spin this one?

Will City Hall finally let the public speak for themselves and consider their wisdom? Thanks to everyone who tried to bring reason to the department that has no ears and uses its power and public funds to silence those who do speak out.

RELATED:
Muni Official: ‘Deep Concern’ About Operator Not Spotting Woman Caught in Train Door

 

Ask Ed Reiskin

What’s next at SFMTA? Tomorrow is your chance to call into KQED Forum and ask Ed Reiskin some of those questions you have been wanting to ask regarding the state of the SFMTA and his roll in making it what it is today. Ed is scheduled to be on KQED Forum Friday, March 8 at 10 AM and you may call in with questions at: 866 733-6786  or email the Forum program: forum@kqed.org

 

 

 

 

Transbay Terminal — yet another problem. Train space might be too small

By Phil Matier : sfchronicle – excerpt

The Transbay Transit Center may not have enough room in its underground rail station to handle Caltrain service.

San Francisco’s Transbay Transit Center may have a new problem on its hands — not enough room in its $700 million underground train station to handle the projected Caltrain rail service when, or if, it arrives.

“That’s what we are looking into now: what level of projected future service we will have and how much the station will accommodate,” said Caltrain spokesman Seamus Murphy.

At issue is the two-story-high, three-block-long train “box” that sits under the terminal. It was built as part of a plan to bring both Caltrain’s Peninsula rail service and California high-speed trains directly into the terminal via a 1.3-mile tunnel to the Caltrain station at Fourth and King streets…(more)

Don’t hold your breath, but, what more can go wrong with this that has not happened yet?

Uber and the Ongoing Erasure of Public Life

By Nikil Saval : newyorker – excerpt

Uber has become a subsidized alternative to the public-transportation systems that it claims to support.

Last September, Uber rolled out a rebranding campaign. A new television commercial showed car doors being flung open and the young and the old crowding in, flying out, and ending up in a small open-air mercado or at a lake. Though there were a few drivers, the image presented was of ceaseless, liberating mobility for passengers, anywhere in the world. Uber changed its logo, too, to a demure sans-serif display—white against a black background, its only flourish a modest pair of mirrored stems attached to the “U” and the “b.” This was a significant change. Since 2016, the phone app and the stickers that identified Uber-enabled cars had enjoyed an image designed partly by the co-founder and then-C.E.O. Travis Kalanick: a circle bisected with a cord, placed against the background of a colorful tile. When tilted ninety degrees counterclockwise, some design and technology journalists noted, it looked unmistakably like a human bent over and seen from behind.

The era of what has been referred to as Uber’s “asshole” logo happened to coincide with the company’s longest stretch of bad press, including multiple reports of sexual abuse inside the company and by its drivers. In 2017, the company’s investors ousted Kalanick. His successor, Dara Khosrowshahi, has made considerable efforts to improve the company’s image in advance of a likely I.P.O. this year. Last October, Khosrowshahi, like many corporate leaders, pulled out of a summit held by Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, in Riyadh, following the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. (Uber still benefits from vast infusions of Saudi funding.)… (more)

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