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?

Monster mashed: Developer pulls plug on contentious 1979 Mission project, puts land up for sale

By and : missionlocal – excerpt

Community groups make play for coveted 16th and Mission site

Maximus Real Estate Partners, the developer that for nearly seven years has endeavored to build a 331-unit project 16th and Mission derided by opponents as “the Monster in the Mission,” has put the property up for sale. And now a group of community organizations say they’re bidding to purchase it.

“The Plaza 16 stands victorious in its fight against the Monster in the Mission,” said Chirag Bhakta of the Plaza 16 Coalition, a consortium of activists and community organizations who have long opposed Maximus’ project.

On Monday, he was joined with other members of the coalition at Mission Housing Development Corp.’s office to make the announcement.“The victory sends a clear message that projects of this magnitude that don’t meet community needs are not acceptable and will meet opposition,” added Roberto Alfaro of the coalition… (more)

This looks like the place to put another navigation center or service center for people who were previously taken care of across the street. Why wait to use the empty space that already has utility services and could be used on at least a temporary basis by the community that is serving the displaced people in the Mission. There are a few milling about there all the time. Maye open up a pubic shower and laundry facility. Lots of ways to use the space on a temporary basis that would the neighbors and the the neighborhood.

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.

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)

 

Three Studies That Show Density Doesn’t Determine Car Travel

by Fanis Grammenos : opportunityurbanism – excerpt

These three works cover the gamut of geography: from international cities to U.S. urbanized areas to 60,000 census tracts and to specific community developments. In these works, we look at findings that relate specifically to the question of density and its association to commuting by car. This geographic range allows assumptions to be tested at all levels (theory to practice) and all scales (regional to local)…

Expected Differences and a Surprising Similarity
A paper by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University sets out to determine how three distinct definitions of “city” and “suburb” affect the outcomes of analyses and, ultimately, the quantitative representation of their characteristics. It offers an opportunity to examine any one of 29 characteristics (covering economic, socio-demographic and physical) using a large statistical base…(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.

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.

Free “exclusive” Muni buses for Chase Center customers?

Opinion – Vote NO on D.

We thought the point of ”free Muni” for Chase Center ticket holders was for them to ride the Muni with the public, not to remove Muni from the public for the exclusive use of Chase Center ticket holders, yet, that appears to be what is happening.

People on 16th Street are watching your almost empty bus whiz by their bus stop without stopping, while you are waiting for the bus that got re-routed to supply the free ticket service for Chase Center customers.

You might ask the Mayor if that is what she had in mind when she applauded the program to give free Muni rides to Chase Center ticket holders.. Did she expect the ticket holders to “share” Muni rides with the public, or was she aware of SMTA’s plan to remove Muni buses from public access to provide an exclusive ride for ticket holders at Chase Center?

Next time the government comes asking for more Muni money (like Propostion D on the ballot now) consider who is benefiting from the funds when SFMTA is handing over pubic property for the exclusive use of private enterprises. If the public agencies want to coddle the private enterprises they are partnering with, they should get the money out to them, not the taxpaying public.

Why should we fork over more money for Muni when SFMTA is cutting public access to our streets and cutting Muni service to the paying public?

We suggest that people who object to this use of public property and funds vote against all new taxes and bonds that support public transit until there is a reverse in the trend to privatize public property and public services. The last thing we need is a class system approach to public transit. Vote NO on D.

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.

Despite ‘Car-Free’ Hype, Millennials Drive a Lot

By Laura Bliss : citylab – excerpt

Despite the buzz around ride-hailing and bike lanes, car ownership among younger Americans looks a lot like that of older Americans.

Millennials, so famous for killing things, were poised to deliver the death blow to America’s auto addiction. We were supposed to put off our driver’s licenses, choose Lyfts over car loans, and settle in cities rather than suburbs, using mass transit and bike lanes instead of the traditional private car. We were supposed to make greener choices than our gas-guzzling older kin.

But research based on years of data rather than trend stories and anecdotes paints a different picture of how Generation Avocado Toast chooses to get around, compared to its predecessors.

A working paper posted by the National Bureau of Economic Research this week offers an empirical examination of Millennial car ownership and driving practices against the backdrop of earlier generations. Controlling for factors like marriage and living in city, it finds that Americans born between 1980 and 1984 are just as likely to own cars compared to, say, their parents’ cohort. What’s more, when driving habits are measured in terms of vehicle-miles traveled, some Millennials really are the worst…

But when factors like educational attainment, marital status, number of children, and whether they’ve settled in a city are factored in, it turns out Snake People actually rack up slightly more VMT than Baby Boomers did.…(more)

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