Cars, trains and uncertainty: How coronavirus will change Bay Area transit

By Rachel Swan : masstransitmag – excerpt

In a region where the whole economy depended on pumping everyone downtown, crowding was a sign of success. Then the coronavirus swept in, forcing workers to stay home and upending the norms of highways and transit in ways that no one had ever expected.

Apr. 27–For years, Bay Area commuters shared a daily ritual. They packed cheek-by-elbow into a stuffy BART train, or pushed their way onto Muni Metro, or crammed together in buses that seemed to lurch with all the weight.

In a region where the whole economy depended on pumping everyone downtown, crowding was a sign of success. Then the coronavirus swept in, forcing workers to stay home and upending the norms of highways and transit in ways that no one had ever expected.

Muni officials shut down the light rail at the end of March, wrapping the entrances in caution tape. BART, facing losses of $37 million a month, cut service in half. Freeways and bridges emptied out. Commuting may look strikingly different when these systems hobble back, retooled for an era of remote work and social distancing.

Riders who loved the bustle and conviviality of transit are now grappling with a rush hour that resembles the 1970s, when people tended to isolate themselves in cars…(more)

Not sure that people ever enjoyed the hustle and bustle part, especially since their eyes were glued to their phones and little communication was going on between riders last time I was on a BART. The author is forgetting the negatives that were moving people off the public transit system prior to the shutdown, i.e. almost daily breakdowns, route shifts, Muni stop and seat removals, constant disruptions, rowdy passengers, and worse.

Rachel is right about the future of transit. It cannot continue as it has been. Trust in Muni will not bounce back for people with a choice. Drivers who can stagger their drive times will and riders will travel less. That trip to Noe Valley for the special cheese may turn into a walk to the closet option near home or a drive to a shop with easier parking.

The question now is how will our government respond? Will it be business as usual, or will our representatives agree that Mom should drive the kids to school rather than put them on a bus.

Will the city authorities who supported transit agency investments in non-Muni enterprises like affordable housing projects, continue to support those efforts while demand for both transit and housing is put on hold during a probable economic downturn? How will the bond markets reacts to the “new normal” when it comes to financing large public projects?

 Raising taxes fines and fees is not going to work in the “new normal”. What will work best for the public when we come out of this?

Sweeping Civil Rights Lawsuit Alleges Racial Bias In Implementation Of California Climate Policies

By Michael Shellenberger : forbes – excerpt

Top civil rights leaders are suing California for climate policies they say disproportionately harm its poorest residents, particularly Latinos and African Americans.

“California politicians are using anti-racist and environmentalist words to hide the regressive impact of their climate policies on the poor and people of color,” said John Gamboa, the co-founder of The Two Hundred, a coalition of prominent civil rights leaders, which filed a lawsuit against the California Air Resources Board (CARB) in Superior Court…

“California’s climate leaders have decided to intentionally increase traffic congestion — to lengthen commute times and encourage gridlock — to try to get more people to ride buses or take other forms of public transit,” the legal complaint alleges…

Lefcoe, who is not involved in the case, said the lawsuit’s challenge to transportation policies is particularly powerful. “Automobiles are the survival mechanism for low-income people,” noted Lefcoe. “If you try to increase the cost of automobiles, you hurt low-income people...(more)

This is one of the most interesting lawsuits to come out that ties low and middle income earners to private vehicles. Given the new distancing guidelines and the importance of drive-through services this is an important case. Allegations of misuse of the cap and trade funds is an interesting component.

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

An estimated 100,000 homes are sitting empty in the San Francisco metro area

By Amy Graff : sfgate – excerpt

Here’s a number that will make anyone trying to find a place to live in the Bay Area frustrated: An estimated 100,025 households are sitting vacant in the San Francisco metro area.

The number comes from a study released this week by LendingTree, an online service connecting consumers with lenders and banks. The company based in Charlotte, N.C., looked at the vacancy rates in the nation’s 50 largest metropolitan areas, revealing some interesting findings…(more)

 

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.

L.A.’s Transit Guru, Denny Zane, Slams Sacramento for Targeting California’s Single-Family Homes

livableca

In this fascinating September interview by David Abel of The Planning Report, former Santa Monica city official Denny Zane, who is widely viewed in Los Angeles as the region’s biggest transit promoter, slams Sacramento for overstepping its role on housing, and creating anger, resentment and disgust in cities statewide:

Denny Zane: “We created a more attractive option with moderate density on the boulevards or in [Santa Monica’s] downtown. We got 3000 units built in our downtown, about one-third deed-restricted affordable. Neighbors have never opposed these projects.

“The state should try to learn from those strategies. Leave the R1 alone; there are better opportunities on the boulevards and in downtowns, especially as brick and mortar retail contracts from online shopping—And it’s closer to transit and less likely to risk displacement of existing renters.

“Look at the cities that have been effective, that have done it well, and try to encourage those strategies rather than a one-size-fits-all imposition that just makes everybody angry and resistant.”

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.

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.

Assembly Bill 891 is on the Governor’s desk to sign now

cbslocal – excerpt (includes video)

All California Counties, Big Cities, May Need To Create Parking Lots For Homeless

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – California’s biggest cities, including Sacramento, and all 58 counties will need to provide safe parking locations for people who live in their cars, if a new bill becomes law.

Assembly Bill 891 would require cities with more than 330,000 people to establish a safe parking program by June 1, 2022. The Department of Transportation and Director of General Services would identify where those safe parking lots would be located. They’d look at state surplus properties and then post a lost of those properties on its website by June 1, 2020. Those properties would then be sold, exchanged, or leased to cities and counties.

Once the safe parking programs are established, cities and counties would work with local nonprofits to make sure those who live in their cars know about the option… (more)

This is one of many bills awaiting the governor’s signature. I want people to know how it may be handled. Please note the failure to sign the bill does not mean cities cannot pass their own legislation, and they well may.

 

Just how awful is the California Department of Motor Vehicles?

By Susan Shelley : whittierdailynews – excerpt

Just when you thought the news about the California Department of Motor Vehicles couldn’t get worse, it got worse.

In February, the state Legislative Analyst’s Office released its review of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s transportation budget. The report reveals that the state’s Motor Vehicle Account has an “operational shortfall” of $400 million in the current year and is projected to be insolvent two years from now.

The Motor Vehicle Account receives most of its revenue from fees for vehicle registration and driver’s licenses, and the money goes mainly to support the activities of the California Highway Patrol and the DMV.

The LAO reports that the governor’s budget includes proposals intended to help the Motor Vehicle Account’s bleak condition, including shifting some expenditures to the state’s general fund. But it won’t be enough. The administration’s own projection foresees a shortfall of $40 million in 2021-22 and $150 million in 2022-23…

Submit your guess, and your opinion, to your elected representatives in Sacramento.

If you don’t have them on speed-dial yet, go online to findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov and get their names and contact information… (more)

Credit cards, payment plans, shorter lines: California lawmakers move to fix DMV

By Bryan Anderson : sacbee – excerpt

Is this enough to fix the DMV problem?

California lawmakers are moving to address some of the biggest problems at the state Department of Motor Vehicles. A number of proposals aimed at reducing wait times and improving service have recently been introduced.

These are some of the bills worth watching:

  • CREDIT CARDS, PAYMENT PLANS: AB 867 (Jim Wood, D-Healdsburg)
  • CAR REGISTRATIONS: SB 460 (Jim Beall, D-San Jose)

(more)