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.

Opinion: Stay-at-home order points to traffic solution

Opinion By David Price : padailypost – excerpt

If there’s a bright side to the coronavirus stay-at-home order, it’s the empty freeways.

For years the public has been debating how to deal with increasing traffic on our roads. Most of the things local governments tried didn’t work. Carpool lanes, ramp metering, more mass transit. None of it reduced traffic.

And every year it seemed, there was another tax on the ballot to improve transportation. Residents, frustrated with traffic congestion, passed nearly all of the taxes. But these taxes never produced the relief the government promised even though the sales tax is 9%.

Now, finally, we have a solution. A solution we stumbled upon by accident…(more)

Many workers may choose to save taxpayers millions of dollars and themselves hours of commute time by working at home.

 

Transit Has Been Battered by Coronavirus. What’s Ahead May Be Worse.

By Emily Badger : nytimes – excerpt

“The number of scenarios that we have to plan for is staggering.”

Fare revenue has vanished across the country as transit riders have. Even those essential workers still taking the bus or train aren’t generating much money for agencies strained by the coronavirus pandemic. Many systems have moved to free service, or stopped policing fares. It’s just too risky for bus drivers if anyone comes near the farebox a foot away.

As dire as this moment seems, however, something more worrisome lies ahead…

Uber and Lyft taxes, gas taxes, highway tolls, advertising dollars — all of these ways communities fund transit are shrinking. In Philadelphia, free rides for older passengers are paid for in part by revenue from the state lottery. During the last recession, even lottery proceeds plummeted

“The number of scenarios that we have to plan for is staggering,” said Jeffrey Tumlin, the director of transportation for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

What if agencies have to maintain this strange status quo, running nearly empty buses for second-shift nurses, into the summer? What if unemployment reaches 30 percent? What if they idle vehicles for so long they fall out of working condition? What if they must lay off the only mechanics who know their way around streetcars?… (more)

Hate to say “I told you so”, but for some time there have been obvious signs that the system is not sustainable.

 

New Yorkers hold full Thanksgiving turkey feast on subway train

by Joy Henry : wave – excerpt (includes video)
New Yorkers held a Thanksgiving feast on the subway’s L line on Sunday, November 24, complete with a table full of turkey, sides, (non-alcoholic) bubbly, and electric candles…(more)

Looks like NY subway doesn’t ban eating and drinking.

RELATED:

NYC commuters enjoy Thanksgiving feast on subway car

rdnewsnow

NEW YORK — Thanksgiving came early for a group of New York City commuters who enjoyed a holiday feast on a subway train.

Video footage shows riders standing behind a white-clothed table covered with plates of turkey, mashed potatoes and cornbread in the middle of a Brooklyn-bound L train on Sunday.

Stand-up comedian Jodell “Joe Show” Lewis tells the New York Post he organized the Thanksgiving dinner to “bring a little excitement to commuters” and feed any New Yorkers who might be hungry.

Lewis says he chose the L train after he saw how “dreary and upset” riders were at the inconvenience of a construction project that has cut service on the line… (more)

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.”

Smart Trains Cancelled Monday For Safety Reasons

By Bay City News Service : sfgate – excerpt

Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) has canceled commuter train service for Monday because of the ongoing Public Safety Power Shutdown impacts on local city traffic signal systems governing roadways that cross SMART railroad tracks, and to clear trees downed by high winds from the tracks.

When PG&E turns the power back on, local jurisdictions will have to reactivate all traffic control systems and synchronize them with SMART railroad crossing warning lights and gates, according to a SMART news release.

For updates, visit SMART’s website at SonomaMarinTrain.org or call (707) 794-3077… (more)

This is why people don’t want to give up their cars. You can’t trust the public transportation service to get your out when you are told to evacuate. You can only rely on your own vehicle, and in some cases, the bigger the better.

RELATED:

Golden Gate Transit Makes Changes To Southbound Bus Service
Escalators Out Of Service At Four Bart Stations As Precaution

Electric-Car Owners Hard Hit by Massive California Power Shutdown

By : caranddriver – excerpt

Tesla’s Elon Musk promises battery and solar solutions for the many EV owners who can’t charge their cars.

  • Nearly a million Californians are now without power as the electric company deliberately shut it off this week, fearing high winds would spark wildfire.
  • The affected area in Northern California surrounds Fremont, home of Tesla, and a great many electric-car owners who can’t charge their vehicles as usual.
  • Tesla’s Elon Musk is swapping in battery Powerpacks and solar power for Superchargers in the region as fast as he can get permits, he claims on Twitter…(more)

Of course if they have solar installations on their roofs, they can charge the cars using their own power during the day and suck off the car during the night. That is if they are free to arrange a schedule to fit that reality. If their job is reliant on energy anyway, they may be off work. Many possibilities for off-the-grid power solutions will no doubt surface soon.

Ask Ed Reiskin

What’s next at SFMTA? Tomorrow is your chance to call into KQED Forum and ask Ed Reiskin some of those questions you have been wanting to ask regarding the state of the SFMTA and his roll in making it what it is today. Ed is scheduled to be on KQED Forum Friday, March 8 at 10 AM and you may call in with questions at: 866 733-6786  or email the Forum program: forum@kqed.org

 

 

 

 

Lengthy Ford GoBike approval process could get even longer

By Joe Fritzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

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Bike stands on Bryant Street are emtpy in the day. Staff fills them at night.

Members of San Francisco’s transportation board have asked transportation staff to delay the installation of a Ford GoBike station in Glen Park, citing a lack of neighborhood outreach…

Ford GoBike’s expansion has been slowed citywide by the concerns of neighbors and San Francisco’s elected officials, the San Francisco Examiner reported previously. Recently, however, that freeze-out has begun to thaw: The Marina District will see its first two Ford GoBike stations installed in March, for instance.

There are 152 Ford GoBike stations in San Francisco right now with about 1,900 available bikes, but a full planned build-out would place 320 stations and 4,500 available bikes in The City…(more)

Thanks to the people who showed up to speak on this subject at the SFMTA Board meeting today. At a time that Muni is failing in its efforts to gain ridership and keep their buses and trains running on schedule, it pains the public to see so much SFMTA staff time and energy being put into supporting a corporate giant like Lyft, who owns the GoBikes now. Why are city employees spending public dollars and energy to force this corporate giant down the throats of the citizens who oppose it?

Lyft should hire lawyers and the public attorneys should support the efforts of the citizens who pay their salaries. How much did this hearing cost the public today? How many staff hours went into the preparation and presentation and how much was spent developing the reports and statements in behalf of the corporate giant?

RELATED:
Supes, neighbors block Ford GoBike’s citywide expansion
Ford GoBike expansion fuels neighborhood conflict as Lyft plans bikeshare growth