Why Is Transit Ridership Falling?

Transit ridership took a turn for the worse in 2016. In all but a handful of cities, fewer people rode trains and buses, even in some places, like Los Angeles, that have invested significantly in expanding capacity.

It’s not just a one-year blip, either. In many American cities, the drop in transit ridership is an established trend. The big question is why.

Transit consultant Jarrett Walker at Human Transit wants more than vague speculation about the effect of low gas prices and ride-hailing services. He’s looking for more specific research about causes and effects — and soon:

Bottom line: We need research! Not the sort of formally peer reviewed research that will take a year to publish, but faster work by real transportation scholars that can report preliminary results in time to guide action. I am not a transportation researcher, but there are plenty of them out there, and this is our moment of need.

Here are my research questions:

  • Which global causes seem to matter?  Straight regression analysis, once you get data you believe.  Probably the study will need to start with a small dataset of transit agencies, so that there’s time to talk with each agency and understand their unique data issues.
  • What’s happening to the quantity of transit?  If ridership is falling because service is falling, this isn’t a surprise.  If ridership is falling because service is getting slower — which means lower frequency and speed at the same cost — well, that wouldn’t be surprising either.
  • How does the decline correlate to types of service?  Is this fall happening in dense areas or just in car-based suburbs? Is it happening on routes that are designed for high ridership, or only on those that are designed for coverage purposes (services retained because three sympathetic people need them rather than because the bus will be full).   Is it correlated to frequency or span changes? Heads up, local geeks! A lot could be done looking at data for your own transit agency — route by route and even (where available) stop by stop, to analyze where in your metro the fall is really occurring… (more)

I appreciate the thought that went into this article.  In my experience, people decide how to live their lives based on their personal needs, not based on datasets and studies. My questions would be of a more personal nature and I would put them to the public.

  • Why do you take public transit when you take it?
  • Why do you chose to take another transit option when you don’t?
  • Do your priorities align with SFMTA and City Hall priorities?
  • What Muni changes do you support?
  • What Muni changes do you oppose?
  • Do you prefer speed or comfort?
  • Would you rather stand on public transit if you get there faster?
  • Would you rather sit if it takes longer to get there?

Two-Wheelers on the Rails

Bicyclists are not the only ones who have problems with rails. All two-wheelers need to be careful around them. We just passed by a motorcyle on the ground with two people wearing helmets standing by it on Third Street. They were straddling two south facing lanes. We were driving north. They were near a well-lit intersection so we assume they were safe.

This is a reminder to everyone on two wheels to avoid driving on the rails. Just avoid them if you can, and if you must drive across them, try to do so at or near a 90 degree angle to avoid a spill. This is especially important in the rain.

Portland Anarchists Begin Fixing Roads & Potholes (Because the Government Won’t)

by Tyler Durden : zerohedge – excerpt

Authored by Derrick Broze via TheAntiMedia.org,

“Who will build the roads?” The question is a common response to the proposition that human beings can coexist peacefully in the absence of a government or even the concept of a State altogether. Anarchists often claim that in the absence of an institutionalized State, people will voluntarily organize and discover solutions to the problems they face, including the construction and maintenance of roads. One such group of anarchists decided to put their beliefs into action by repairing potholes in Portland, Oregon.

A Facebook page called Portland Anarchist Road Care claims PARC is an anarchist organization dedicated to putting “the state of the roads of PDX into the hands of the people.” The group’s page says they “believe in building community solutions to the issues we face, outside of the state.” They say they are working to change the stereotype of anarchists as road blockers and window smashers. PARC also accuses the city of Portland of failing to repair roads in a timely manner and failing to provide adequate preventative care for winter storms.

“Portland Anarchist Road Care aims to mobilize crews throughout our city, in our neighborhoods, to patch our streets, build community, and continue to find solutions to community problems outside of the state,” their Facebook page reads... (more)

Potholes are one of the most dangerous and expensive problems the SFMTA, DPW and City Hall continues to ignore. They catch pedestrians, bikes and motor vehicle drivers by surprise, causing accidents and damage and costing millions of dollar to the economy. No wonder people are upset and taking matters into their own hands.
Here is what you can do about it in San Francisco:
Adopt a pothole

SF Fire Department delayed streetscape projects over safety concerns

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

This maneuver was shot in the Haight. We documented acitvities around General Hospital as well. See for yourself how long it takes for the fire engines and trucks to pull into General. Should the Fire Department care how fast they move and how safe their passengers are?

Safety concerns from the San Francisco Fire Department have led to the delay of numerous street safety projects across The City, according to public records obtained by the San Francisco Examiner.

Those emails were first obtained and reported by Human Streets, a new nonprofit advocacy journalism organization. From protected bike lanes on upper Market Street and street safety changes to Turk Street and speed bumps meant to slow down drivers, numerous safety projects crafted by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency were slowed — for weeks or months — as the Fire Department aired concerns about its ability to run emergency vehicles on modified streets…

In January, SFMTA Transportation Planner Patrick Golier wrote an email to his colleagues, “I have raised the issue of SFFD’s unresponsiveness” on a site visit to overview the Upper Market Project, which included protected bike lanes.
Golier was concerned pushing back a hearing on Upper Market bike lanes “would create an enormous amount of work plus would make us look bad with our stakeholders.”…

In emails to the SFMTA from 2015 to 2017, the (fire) department expressed concern that new street designs would create difficulties for all manner of emergency vehicles…

Fire truck drivers, he wrote, are “forced to slow down and go over one side of the bump. This causes the apparatus to reduce substantial speed and with the weight of the apparatus is difficult to rebuild any kind of speed going up the hill.”…

Balmy also wrote it is “not unreasonable to assume” emergency vehicles carrying patients could hit speed humps while EMT’s administer life-saving care, which could “adversely affect patient treatment.”
Last year, the fire department proposed a “blanket ban” on approving SFMTA’s creation of speed bumps throughout all of San Francisco…

Fire department spokesperson Jonathan Baxter said that blanket ban is still being discussed.

“The San Francisco Fire Department is encouraged by the innovative thinking of SFMTA to develop ways to enable safe bicycle transportation in the city of San Francisco,” Baxter told the Examiner. “Only in those instances where safety standards are materially compromised do we recommend exploring additional options.”… (more)

RELATED:
San Francisco fire officials block critical safety upgrades on city streets.
The fire code is being used to water down life-saving measures.. (more)

Safety is relative. One must set priorities. Some would say the safety of the sick or injured people in the speeding ER vehicle deserve care and respect and a speedy delivery to their destination, and if inconveniences others so be it. That is why everyone is supposed to allow the speeding vehicle with the siren and flashing lights to pass. They have the right of way.

After yet another epic jam, it’s clear Seattle’s decisions about traffic must include cars

by Seattle Times editorial board : seattletimes – excerpt

In the photo above – San Francisco Fire Truck stopped all lanes of traffic on Potrero to get into the parking lot at General Hospital in a parking exercise. What will happen when the street is full of traffic during an emergency? More fire department exercises here.

Last Monday’s traffic debacle is another opportunity to discuss whether Seattle’s making the right decisions about traffic.

As the city of Seattle explains away its response to last Monday’s traffic debacle, area residents are shaking their heads and wondering when it will happen again.

They felt the same way after a 2015 fish-truck crash crippled the city. Mayor Ed Murray promised that Seattle would respond better in the future, based in part on an accident-response manual it was developing.

“The steps we are taking will help improve our response time and get traffic flowing after incidents as quickly as possible,” he said then…

Yes, Monday’s crash of a propane truck that closed Interstate 5 was an extraordinary event. Emergency responders are to be commended for preventing further injury.

Even so, the incident and paralyzing traffic that affected tens of thousands of people was a painful reminder of essential needs that Seattle, the regional hub, must fulfill.

It’s also another opportunity to discuss whether Seattle should place a higher priority on reducing congestion. No question it should. That would improve traffic overall and better position the city for accidents.

Because Seattle straddles state freeways at their busiest points, it should be ready to absorb the traffic when they’re disrupted…

Monday’s gridlock highlighted the folly of Seattle’s utopian, anti-car transportation planning.

Despite extensive street re-configurations, the share of trips taken by bicycle hasn’t grown. Yet the number of vehicles owned, drivers and miles driven continue to grow — as does congestion.

Seattle will always be a busy city with lots of traffic within and through its borders. So infrastructure planning should be based on overall need, not ideology and special-interest lobbying.

Policy should be guided by total capacity and demand, not cherry-picked statistics and wishful assumptions(more)

How big of a disaster will it take to wake up City Halls to the dangerous failures street diets are?

 

You can read the link below if you want to see streetsblog’s reply to the Seattle Times assertions. They have a cute graphic with less cars and a single bus in the bus lane to “prove” that more bike lanes reduce cars. I am only going to point out one thing.

Just because City Hall pays millions, (I’m sorry, billions) of dollars to put in “safe” bike lanes does not mean that a lot of bikes are going to fill them. As you drive down the most streets you may passing one of two bikes at the most on each block while hundreds of cars stream past. By making it difficult for cars and buses to share the road, you further create gridlock in the bus lanes as the buses pile up on each other in the red zones.

We cannot afford to continue to support this failed system as we gear up for budget cuts and important battles like providing health care to those who are losing it.

What will it take to end the car wars?

Truck Crash on Freeway Paralyzes Traffic. Seattle Times: Ditch the Bike Lanes!

– These articles were sent by a reader. Keep them coming.

Mayor Steinberg’s driver hits midtown biker

On a trip between City Hall and a school board meeting on Tuesday evening, Mayor Darrell Steinberg’s driver hit a bicyclist at a notoriously hazardous intersection in midtown.

The mayor’s staff said there were no serious injuries and the mayor was not driving when the accident occurred near the intersection of 24th and G streets.

The incident occurred at an intersection with a two-way stop. The mayor’s Ford Fusion didn’t have a stop sign, but a cyclist coming from 24th Street ran the stop sign, said Zachary Yeates, a Steinberg staffer who was in the car…

Hansen confirmed that he intended to ask the city traffic engineer to conduct “an immediate investigation” and “quickly make changes if warranted.” Hansen said that he’s also pushing to educate bikers on following traffic laws, and that it would take both a “culture change” and infrastructure improvements for Sacramentans to successfully share roads(more)

California bicyclists would be allowed to roll past stop signs under proposed law

By sfexaminer – excerpt

Cyclists in California would be allowed to pedal past stop signs — without stopping — under legislation proposed by two lawmakers who say it would make the roads safer.

The two-tiered approach to the rules of the road — one for cyclists and one for cars — is unlikely to ease growing tensions over sharing California’s roadways.

Bike advocates have won such victories in the Statehouse as requiring drivers to yield a three-foot radius of manoeuvring room to cyclists or face fines. Motorists meanwhile have expressed frustration that they see certain cyclists pick and choose which laws to follow.

Assemblymen Jay Obernolte (R-Hesperia) and Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) introduced their measure on Friday that would allow bicyclists to treat stop signs as merely yield signs — proceeding with caution if conditions are safe.

In effect, it would legalize the so-called California roll, although just for bicyclists…(more)

This law AB-1103 Bicycles: yielding has been through the legislature a number of times and has not passed yet. It will create more problems than it will solve and is not supported by all cyclists:

  1. Will this apply to 2-way stop signs or just 4-way stop signs? How will cyclists know the difference?
  2. Does anyone think cyclists will slow down more than they do now to look before “rolling” through?
  3. Legislators should include a clause that requires cyclists to purchase licenses and insurance to cover damages resulting from passage of this new law.
  4. This will be particularly difficult for drivers of large vehicles like buses and trucks, who can’t easily see bikes or stop on a dime when they do.
  5. How can SFMTA speed buses though intersections when they must worry about hitting cyclists rolling through stop signs?
  6. This will negatively impact the safety of other cyclists, pedestrians, tourists and young people who will find it even more confusing to walk safely on the streets than they do now.
  7. Wait for the lawsuits to come in.

Details on the AB-1103 – An act to amend Section 21200 of the Vehicle Code, relating to bicycles – Introduced by Assembly Members Obernolte and Ting (Coauthors: Assembly Members Bloom, Chávez, and Kiley)

Principal coauthor: Senator Wiener

BART Removing Thousands Of Seats, Approves More Bike Parking

cbslocal – excerpt

OAKLAND (CBS SF) – More bikes and fewer seats on trains continue to be priorities for the BART board of directors, which voted Thursday to increase the number of bike parking spaces and to remove thousands of seats from hundreds of trains…

Based on the increased number of tickets that could be sold as a result of the project, BART officials estimate that the agency could pull in as much as $9.6 million per year.

The seat removal, anticipated to take anywhere from nine months to one year, is intended to ease overcrowding until BART can add additional cars to its fleet. That process is currently expected to deliver 230 new cars to BART by the end of 2018 and wrap up by 2023.

“This is the most cost effective, highest impact way we can increase capacity,” said Director Nick Josefowitz, who noted that the proposal is “somewhat controversial.”…

The sole dissenting vote, however, came from Director Joel Keller, who doubts the revenue generated by the project will be anywhere near the estimated amount.

“We’re not going to increase the fare box by $9.62 million by taking out a bunch of seats,” Keller said. “We’re not expanding the ability of the fleet to take on new riders… This proposal is intended to accommodate the existing ridership.”

Keller also voiced concerns that the project was based, in part, on a survey of several thousand passengers, 54 percent of whom said they liked the option the BART board approved Thursday.

“We’re inconveniencing a lot of the riders who never had the opportunity to weigh in on this to get brief relief for a year,” Keller said…(more)

*    Half the BART trains will have 7 seats removed.
*    One seat removed provides room for 3 more passengers.
*    The cost is paid for by a federal grant.
*    Cost will be $1 1/2 million.

Traffic Flow Change – Terry A. Francois Blvd. and 3rd Street

3rdstbridgeTraffic stopped for boat entering Mission Creek

“Port Planning has been working with SFMTA staff on the Terry Francois Boulevard (TFB) Cycletrack which will eventually include a bike lane on the Lefty O’Doul Bridge (the bridge at 3rd Street). The bike lanes will solve several issues including removal of the middle double lane on the bridge that has been difficult to manage and dangerous.  Unfortunately removal of this lane will result in the removal of the left turn lane onto TFB from southbound Third Street.

“I’m told that installation of the bike lanes are still at least 12 months out, but the SFMTA board has approved removal of the left turn lane for safety reasons.   SFMTA has agreed to not move forward with removal of the turn lane until Mission Rock Street is open to the public which we don’t believe will occur before March.  Once I receive more information on the timing of this work, I will pass it along as well as a contact for SFMTA should you have any questions regarding the project.”

Bikeshare company may drop thousands of bikes on SF streets without permits

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

“Disruption” is tech term with which San Francisco is all too familiar.
Now, China-based bikeshare company Bluegogo may follow in the footsteps of Uber, Airbnb and other tech companies by launching in San Francisco without permission or permits, following the “disruption” template established by so many others.

If Bluegogo, which recently has signaled its apparent upcoming expansion into San Francisco, repeat its business model seen in other cities worldwide, the company may place tens of thousands of bicycles on San Francisco streets that will be available for rent via an app –– seemingly without first asking permission to use city sidewalk.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who has longed battled with “disruptive” companies like Airbnb, told the San Francisco Examiner it was problematic Bluegogo has not contacted city officials.

“This is the age old tech arrogance,” Peskin said, which is a “‘do what they want and answer their questions later’ business model that has gotten everybody from Airbnb to Uber in trouble.”

Peskin said he directed the City Attorney’s Office to look into remedy to address Bluegogo’s potential scofflaw actions. The Mayor’s Office was unaware of Bluegogo’s expansion into San Francisco.

John Cote, spokesperson for the City Attorney’s Office said, “We’re aware of Bluegogo’s interest in San Francisco. We’re working with our clients to evaluate the situation. Any company that comes to the city has to follow the law, and we have tools at our disposal to ensure that happens.”… (more)