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?

U.S. Transportation department executive approved grant days before taking job with rail contractor

By Ralph Vartabedian : latimes – excerpt

A top Obama administration executive at the U.S. Department of Transportation approved a $647-million grant for a California rail project in mid-January and less than two weeks later went to work for a Los Angeles-based contractor involved in the project, The Times has learned.

The grant provides a significant part of the money required to install a $2-billion electrical power system on the Bay Area’s Caltrain commuter rail system, allowing the rail to retire its diesel locomotives.

The power equipment will eventually be used by the state’s bullet train from Los Angeles to San Francisco, making it a critical part of the $64-billion program. The California High-Speed Rail Authority has pledged about $713 million to help install the system, according to state records.

The grant was handled by Carolyn Flowers, the acting chief of the Federal Transit Administration.  Flowers announced the grant approval in a letter, dated Jan. 18,  to congressional leaders. The Times obtained a copy of the letter…

Thirteen days later, Flowers went to work for Aecom, a Los Angeles-based engineering firm. The company news release announcing her hiring says she will head its North American transit practice. Aecom provides program management services to Caltrain for the electrification project, according to Caltrain documents. It was formerly a regional consultant to the high-speed rail project as well.

On Friday, the federal transit agency said it had “deferred” a decision on the grant and said it would look at the matter in the next federal budget cycle. The decision may be an early sign of the Trump administration’s view of the bullet train project. The line is already under construction and will need significant federal funding moving forward.

The delay follows a letter from every Republican member of the California House delegation to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, asking that the grant be put off until an audit of the high-speed rail project is completed.
This is exactly what America hates about Washington, D.C… (more)

Don’t they call this the revolving door?

RELATED:
Carolyn Flowers-letter to congress 
Caltrain and High Speed Rail and FTA funding – Revolving Door Shenanigans

Uber’s terrible week gets worse; Google sues for alleged theft of self-driving technology

By Colin Deppen : pennlive – excerpt

Uber’s week started with a former employee alleging she encountered systemic sexual discrimination during her time with the company.

The week ended with Google filing a lawsuit against the ride-sharing service alleging the technology now fueling Uber’s self-driving fleet in cities like Pittsburgh was stolen. This as both companies remain locked in a costly and frenzied modern-day space race to perfect the nascent technology.

In the lawsuit filed Thursday, the Google self-driving-car group, now known as Waymo, , accuses Uber of using stolen technology to advance its own self-driving car development…

According to CBS News, the 28-page complaint accuses a former top manager for Google’s self-driving car project, Anthony Levandowski, of stealing pivotal technology that Google says is now being used to fuel Uber’s own fleet of autonomous vehicles for its ride-hailing service.

CBS adds that the alleged theft occurred in late 2015, before Levandowski left Google to found a startup called Otto that is “building big-rig trucks that navigate highways without a human behind the wheel.” Uber bought Otto for $680 million last year, and Levandowski is now overseeing Uber’s effort to develop and dispatch cars driven by robots… (more)

RELATED:
Does Uber have a sexual assault problem? Charge against Pa. driver highlights concerns

Look to Pier 70 to see Why San Francisco Voters do Not Trust City Hall

Op-ed by Zrants

You need to Look no further than the ‘Pier 70 Mixed-Use District Project’ to understand the anger and frustrations of neighborhood groups and ordinary citizens who spent hours and their time to work out deals with city planners to somewhat mitigate the negative effects of increased populations moving onto their tender turf, to be told that the plan has changed.

The project voters approved is being amended for a much less friendly design. Density levels are going up. Six stories are really nine stories. In fact forge the promises the voters counted on. Now that the project got through the election, they are scrapping it.

That is why, when voters get the chance, the only safe way to vote on a development project is to vote against it. Look the difference between 8 Washington and Pier 70. The voters voted against 8 Washington and nothing changed. The voters approved a plan for Pier 70 as it was presented by the developers but the design has changed since the vote.

An editorial by Don Clark that ran in the Potrero View outlines some of our primary concerns. To see the draft EIR and see for yourself, go here and scroll down the page:
http://sf-planning.org/environmental-impact-reports-negative-declarations

…The City and County of San Francisco intends to grant Forest City Enterprises rights to build a wall of nine-story buildings along the Central Waterfront, from 20th to 22nd streets, which would completely obscure scenic Bay vistas for many, if not most, Potrero Hill eastern slope residents.  As one travels down 20th Street from Missouri Street to Third, beautiful Bay views would disappear.  Imagine that the American Industrial Center, the red building with white columns at the corner of 22nd and Third streets, was doubled in height.  The replacement of four- and six-story structures with nine-story edifices would dramatically Manhattanize this historical waterfront… (more)

Building height limits are not the only promises being broken. One of the major concerns to neighbors and all who drive through the area was the increased traffic and congestion that SFMTA claimed they could handle. That no longer looks likely. Not only are the buildings going to be taller and contain more people, but, the DOT announced they are not funding the electrification of Caltrans and other transit projects until they conduct an audit to find out why there are such large cost overruns.

A couple of recent laws that were passed that citizens should know about are: mentioned by Den Clark: California Senate Bill 743 eliminated scenic protections from transit infill projects, which the City quickly applied. The November 26, 2013 Planning Department Summary, Attachment A, shows that the Planning Department has removed consideration of scenic vistas from most of San Francisco’s waterfront (http://sfmea.sfplanning.org/CEQA%20Update-SB%20743%20Summary.pdf)

Send comments to Lisa Gibson Lisa.Gibson@sfgov.org on Pier 70 Mixed-Use Project by Tuesday, 5 PM February 21, 2017. Sample letter from Peter Linenthal (eir-pdf-new)

The Developer, Forest City, is publishing a Design for Development document which will be presented to the Planning Commission in an informational hearing on March 23rd. There will be an opportunity then for public comment. The Final EIR will take months and will go to the Planning Commission as part of the final approvals. There’s a lot we don’t know yet. The Draft EIR has a Maximum Residential Scenario and a Maximum Commercial Scenario and Forest City is doing a phased development which makes it especially difficult to know what to expect.

San Francisco Needs a Break from Stressful Disruptions on our Streets

Op-ed by Zrants

There is a capacity problem no matter how you try to move because the development policies are not in sync. The theory that housing fees will cover the expense of producing capacity has not panned out. The plans are flawed. The developer fees do not cover the costs and they come too late.

There are too many forces driving the increase in traffic on all the modes.
People moving here are pushing people who live and work here out to the suburbs forcing more people to commute in to work, while many new residents are commuting out.

Add all the contractors and others who have to drive in to work whose businesses were pushed out, by those moving in, and you have a lot more regional traffic than we had a few years ago. All it took was a shuffle or two of the housing deck to rack up the rents and property values to create this mess.

The public wants relief now SFMTA has its head in the future, planning ways to disrupt and rearrange traffic and buses instead of buying buses and hiring drivers to add capacity now. They are racking up tax dollars in studies and experiments while blaming everyone but themselves for the traffic they created. Have you tried to suggest anything to them?

SFMTA coud care less about shuttles, Ubers, Lyfts, Charriots, taxis, carshares, bikeshares, and other distractions unless they can figure out a way to profit off them. That is why the public is taking the shuttles on.

Opening Up to New Traffic

Alex Kriese : sffogline – excerpt

…Chase Center will not only be the Golden State Warriors’ home arena, but will also host another 200 hundred concerts and events other than basketball games. This new stadium will increase the number of jobs in San Francisco on event days, but will also increase the traffic in an already crowded part of the city. The Chase Center will be located near Piers 30 and 32 and across the street from the UCSF medical center, which many people believe will cause a huge increase in traffic in the North East corner of the City. Not only will traffic increase, but the noise will also. The increased noise from Warriors games and other concerts and events held during the year might impact some of the patients who are being treated at the medical center nearby..

Although the overlap is only a few weeks at a time, if both the Giants and Warriors play home games on the same day, the traffic implications seem daunting. In addition to the Chase Center, AT&T Park holds 42,000+ people. With only an additional 200 parking spots dedicated to the new arena, an influx of 60,000 bodies dispersing simultaneously after a pair of coincidental home games would cause an immense traffic jam that could rival LA’s rush hour. BART and Caltrain stations, which are already brimming on Giants game days, may feel the need for “pushers” like in Japan, people who are paid to help push and shove people into trains to make them all fit. It may be a little overdramatic but the thought of it is funny.

In due time, we shall see how San Francisco and the respective sports organizations plan to alleviate any added headaches to the fans and residents…(more)

This is one of the worst mistakes the city has made in years. Let’s spend a fortune on a new stadium next to the water on landfill with rising sea levels anticipated and see which disaster strikes first. Pushers indeed.

 

Grand Plans to Unclog Highway 101 in Silicon Valley

nbcbayarea – excerpt – (includes video)

How many hours do you plan to spend in traffic in a week?

There are plans to reduce your commute time and it includes changing some lanes on U.S. Highway 101 in Silicon Valley.

Caltrans, the San Mateo County Transportation Authority and other agencies are set to discuss a plan Thursday to link “managed lanes” on U.S. Highway 101 in Santa Clara County to new ones in San Mateo County…

A number of major Silicon Valley employers, including Facebook, Genentech and Stanford University are pushing for more carpools, public transit and other mechanisms to get more cars off Highway 101 and I-280, the Silicon Valley Business Journal reported.

The purpose of the meeting, according to a Facebook page dedicated to the managed lane project, will be to discuss the scope of issues to be addressed in the draft environmental document, range of alternatives under consideration and the potential environmental effects of potential modifications within the corridor. The community is invited to submit questions, concerns and advice to: Yolanda Rivas, Caltrans Office of Environmental Analysis, P.O. Box 23660, Oakland, CA, 94623-0660; e-mail: sm101scoping@dot.ca.gov.

The deadline is Nov. 18. Thursday’s meeting is being held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at San Mateo City Hall, 330 W. 20th Ave(more)

Funding blocked for transit center amid concerns of sinking Millennium Tower

By : sfexaminer – excerpt

The fallout of San Francisco’s sinking downtown Millennium Tower broadened Tuesday when millions of dollars for the second phase of the nearby Transbay Transit Center was blocked amid concerns The City will once again be on the hook for ballooning costs.

Earlier this year, the the Board of Supervisors approved a $260 million bailout for the Transbay Joint Powers Authority’s Phase 1 of the Transbay Transit Center. Months later, the 58-story Millennium Tower near the center and under TJPA oversight was revealed to have sunk more than three times its forecasted sinking, prompting a lawsuit and city investigations.

Meanwhile, city leaders are slamming the brakes on the second phase of the multi-billion dollar transit project.

On Tuesday, the head of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, Mark Zabaneh, said he wanted $6.77 million in Proposition K sales tax revenue to move ahead with the $3.9 billion Phase 2 of the project… (more)

SPUR Talk: Transportation Challenges for Downtown Tech Companies

by : sfstreetsblog -excerpt

A panel at SPUR discussed how downtown tech companies Airbnb and Salesforce help their employees get to work .

The San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR), hosted a lunchtime talk in downtown San Francisco today, with representatives from Salesforce and Airbnb, about how the companies help employees commute between work and home. Unlike tech giants based outside of downtown San Francisco, neither company makes heavy use of private buses–so-called Tech Shuttles–and instead depends on public transit such as BART, buses and Caltrain.

“Our San Francisco campus is right down the street,” said Lauren Bennett, Senior Program Manager for Transportation at Salesforce. Her company has seven buildings in downtown San Francisco with nearly 7,000 employees, she explained, adding “That gives us access to two BART stations and the regional Transbay Terminal…we don’t have a last-mile problem.”

That’s probably why a third of its employees get to work by BART, with another 20 percent getting in by various bus and other transit providers. That’s part of a corporate strategy. “We think our employees want to work in urban areas and like the city as an amenity,” she said. And they don’t try to insulate their employees from the surrounding area. “We don’t have a cafeteria. We want people to get out, walk around and spend money in small businesses,” she said…(more)

Golden Gate Bridge, Ferry and Transit Fares Increase

Most tolls on the Golden Gate Bridge will increase 25 cents on Friday.

Fares on Golden Gate Transit buses and Golden Gate Ferry service also will increase 4 percent Friday, Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District spokeswoman Priya Clemens said.

The FasTrak toll on the bridge will increase to $6.50 for two-axle vehicles, $7.50 for Pay-by-Plate and to $4.50 for carpool vehicles.

The one-way adult fare for the Larkspur Ferry will increase 50 cents to $11 and to $11.75 one-way on the Sausalito Ferry.

One-way Clipper fares on the ferries will increase 25 cents to $7.25 on the Larkspur and $6.25 on the Sausalito ferries.

The one-way fare for youth 5-18, seniors 65 and up and for disabled riders will increase 25 cents to $5.50 on the Larkspur Ferry and to $5.75 on the Sausalito Ferry. Children ages 4 and under ride free, but there is a two-child limit per fare-paying adult.

The toll increase will help balance a projected five-year deficit of $33 million, Clemens said…. (more)

All these increased fares and fees along with the Bay Bridge work that is creating massive traffic jams this summer may not help the Bay Area transit authorities’ plans to request more taxes and approval of more debt from the votes in November. That along with a reduction in services and removal of seats on the the new vehicles may push the voters over the edge. No one wants to be treated like a caged animal and we are starting to get to that level with these new standing room only vehicles. Who do they paln to serve? Not the elderly or physically challenged or families or shoppers and travelers with baggage. This leads us to belive that the real goal is to push more peopel toward the private sector options, as indicated in this article that describes the “smart city” approach to privatize and robotize transportation, being designed and tested in Columbus, Ohio by Alphabet: Alphabets sidewalk labs working to revolutionize public parking and transportation in american cities