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?

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

Uber’s Self-Driving Cars Still Need a Lot of Human Help

By Maya Kosoff : vanityfair – excerpt

They can barely go a mile without human intervention, according to leaked documents.

Travis Kalanick has described self-driving technology as “existential” to Uber’s future as a company. But according to recent internal documents obtained by Recode and BuzzFeed News, Uber is still nowhere close to having a fully autonomous vehicle. Recode reports that during the week ending March 8, Uber’s self-driving cars traveled, on average, just 0.8 miles on their own before a human had to take over, in a process known as “disengagement.” That Uber’s cars cannot travel a mile without human intervention does not bode particularly well for a company whose future is predicated on its self-driving technology… (more)

Outreach Launches This Spring to Finalize Details for Geary Rapid Upgrades

by Kate Elliott : sfmta  (includes graphics)\

We’re gearing up to start the first set of Geary transit upgrades later this year.

In the coming months, we will launch further outreach for the Geary Rapid Project, which focuses on early improvements on the stretch of the 38 Geary route between Market Street and Stanyan streets. In the meantime, we will finalize the design and construction of longer-term improvements for the Geary Boulevard Improvement Project.

With the Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) approved unanimously by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) Board in January, lead management of the project is transitioning from the SFCTA to the SFMTA, which will design and implement Geary improvements as two separate projects… (more)

Outreach is a joke, or  I should say an insult. Angry people gave up on talking to the SFMTA wall and filed a lawsuit to stop the excesses in this project. the case is making its way through the courts now and many are praying the ruling will stop this and other controversial projects.
Taxpayers revolted in the fall when asked for more money to show their displeasure in how the SFMTA is spending the money but they have hungry contractors to feed and more high-paid planning staff to hire so they could care less what we want.
SFMTA is removing stops and bus seats and constantly forcing the public to deal with their baggage and can’t figure out why ridership is slipping. They are especially short on the weekends and evenings. Why would anyone want to spend their time off on the Muni after putting up with it all week?

Eighth Avenue targeted for ‘neighborway’ redo

By Jerold Chinn : sfbay – excerpt

A popular street for pedestrians, bicyclists and even tour buses in San Francisco’s Richmond District to get to and from Golden Gate Park may soon see changes transit officials say will make the street more bike- and pedestrian-friendly.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency held an open house on Saturday at the Richmond/Senator Milton Marks public library to share ideas with the public on ways to slow down vehicles and reducing traffic on Eighth Avenue from Lake to Fulton streets.

Transit officials are calling it a “neighborway” project, where the transit agency focuses on making improvements on residential streets by using traffic calming measures such as traffic circles in the middle of the intersection, speed humps, upgrading crosswalks and applying traffic restrictions to motorists.

Eighth Avenue is one of the first neighborway projects…(more)

Targeted is right.The SFMTA declared war on cars so that is an apt phrase. They are losing as more displaced workers pour into the city daily, along with thousands of Ubers and Lyfts. Some drive from as far away as LA, and instead of parking, they drive around. How does increasing commute times and distances solve the state’s emissions problem? Are circling cars better than parked cars?

Neighborways are a perfect example of projects San Francisco does not need. What is on Eighth Ave. that needs protecting? Isn’t there a bus route on it? Why slow a street with a bus on it if they want the buses to travel faster?

Instead of trying to force crosstown traffic, including buses, trucks, and visitors off major streets onto smaller ones, why doesn’t SFMTA go back to the original plan of creating bike paths through the city on streets that are not heavily traveled by motor vehicles?

Listen to the riders who quit taking Muni to find out why they quit and fix their problems instead creating new ones. What was the number one complaint about Muni before they removed the seats? Crowded buses with standing room only. How does removing seats fix that problem?

Ambitious plan for once-central S.F. crossroads

By John King : sfchronicle – excerpt (with graphics)

The 1500 Mission residential tower (top) would replace a thrift store and Goodwill headquarters at a confusing intersection.

The intersection of Market Street and Van Ness Avenue looms large on the map, with two of San Francisco’s best-known and broadest thoroughfares overlapping at a sharp angle.

The reality isn’t nearly so grand — a crossroads marked by a car dealership, a doughnut shop and two drab office blocks. Nearby, parking lots and ratty alleys rub against buildings that never aimed high and now are worn down. The street life is spotty at best, sketchy at worst.

All this would change under an evolving city plan that includes a cluster of towers on the skyline, a variety of public spaces below and as many as 7,280 housing units in between. And the first major project within the area could be approved next week — one that hints at a livelier future, but also shows how tough it is to fit ambitious visions into a complex setting.

If nothing else, the proposal for 1500 Mission St. — down the block from Market and South Van Ness Avenue — that goes to the Planning Commission on March 23 shows how this part of San Francisco could be transformed… (more)

If they want a traffic circle this might be the place to put one as there is plenty of real estate and the traffic is confusing at best. a traffic  circle might solve that confusion. Of course, the buses would have to take the circle as well unless they are rerouted. I have no idea how buses handle traffic circles. They may like them.

SF planning first-of-its-kind laws for ‘jitney’ private bus system Chariot

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

For as long as there have been autos, private “jitney” buses have operated on San Francisco streets. Jitneys carried passengers to the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915, and many Muni lines today run on former private bus lines.
By the 1970s, private transit by the Bay declined. The last known historic jitney driver in San Francisco who owned a single private bus, Jess Losa, reportedly hung up his hat last year.

But those private buses have since returned to their former prominence with the aid of tech apps — like Chariot, the Ford-owned private bus company that started in San Francisco…

Now more than a century after jitneys first appeared, The City is planning new laws to regulate them, updating patchwork regulations strewn across multiple city agencies due to historical accident.

Earlier this month, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency revealed its plans for private bus services at a SFMTA Citizens Advisory Council.

Chariot is the only private bus service left in San Francisco, SFMTA staff told the council, so for now the new laws would exclusively regulate just that company — but regulations would cover any similar services that may arise in the future…

Why are jitneys treated differently from tech shuttles? They are both private commercial enterprises. Jitneys do a lot less damage to the street, take up less space and get around the narrow steep streets a lot easier than the large buses and tech vehicles. Jitneys are one option for the public to choose from to get around town.

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

Costly Transbay Transit Center in busload of trouble

Matier and Ross : sfchronicle – excerpt

…“The elephant in the living room is solving the operating subsidy problem, which could be as large as $20 million a year — and without a source of revenue,” said Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who chairs San Francisco’s Transportation Authority…

Taxpayers and bridge commuters will probably be on the hook to pick up millions of dollars in costs, although the exact amount still isn’t known…

“We expect to have an operating deficit,” said Mark Zabaneh, executive director of the public Transbay Joint Powers Authority, which is building the center.

Without the foot traffic that high-speed rail could draw, the mall is looking a lot less attractive to potential renters. That means the authority may have to offer sweetheart deals to lure stores — which, of course, means less money…(more)

The City has a lot of nerve coming to the voters and tax payers begging for funds to operate a transit center many never wanted in the first place. When do we quit digging holes to fill and just fill the ones we have already dug?

Given the choice between paying for health care and paying for street diets and sidewalk widening, which do you think the voters would prefer? Housing and transportation are not the only think we need and the sooner City Hall wakes up to that fact the sooner we can start to repair the damage.

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.

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