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.

Forum on future of interstate highways coming to SF

By : sfexaminer – excerpt

Bay Area residents are being invited to participate in an ongoing study on the future of interstate highways, which will provide recommendations on the country’s highway system plan for the next 50 years.

The study is being organized by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Transportation Research Board, who at the request of Congress are holding a number of events across the country. The events offer the public the chance to participate in how best to plan, fund, operate and maintain the 60-year-old, nearly 47,000-mile freeway network in the decades ahead.

For those who are interested in providing their views, the study is coming close to home next weekend. On Feb. 23 and 24 the Transportation Research Board will be hosting a forum open to the public. The first meeting will be held Thursday, Feb. 23, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., in the Yerba Buena conference room at the Bay Area Metro Center at 375 Beale Street in San Francisco. The second meeting will be held at the same location on Friday, Feb. 24, from 9 a.m. to 12 noon… (more)

If you are concerned about the state of the country’s highways and how the funds for roads are being spent, it is a good idea to write letters, send comments and show up if possible.

Merchants, community organizations sue to block Geary BRT project

By : sfexaminer – excerpt

The Geary Bus Rapid Transit Project has been in the works for more than a decade, but a newly filed lawsuit wants local courts to “slow down” the project.

An environmental lawsuit against the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and San Francisco County Transportation Authority project was filed Friday in San Francisco Superior Court, taking aim at the controversial project that is intended to improve public transit from the northwest side of The City to downtown.

The SFCTA declined to comment, and the SFMTA could not be reached for comment…

The suit was brought by San Franciscans for Sensible Transit, a nonprofit touted by Geary Boulevard merchant David Heller, a staunch opponent of Geary BRT.

“This action is brought to stop a grave error in judgment from taking form as a bus thruway [sic],” the claim states, “which destroys the quality of life and economic health of the Richmond District of San Francisco.”… (more)

There are a lot of people who oppose the Hybrid Alternative Geary BRT, the mess on Van Ness, and the Red Lanes on Mission. We need a break from constant changes on the streets and musical chairs with bus stops. We need a return to civility, but it is hard to be civil when you are stressed by having to deal with constant change. We need a moratorium on disruptions. This suit is a strike against maximum change and disruption, in favor of a cheaper, less damaging alternative. Who wants to spend an extra $300 million dollars and endure years of turmoil when you don’t have to?

SF for Sensible Transit prepares Lawsuit to block MUNI BRT throughout San Francisco

missionstreetdiscussion

At the heated meeting on the Mission Red Lanes, Ed Reiskin holds the red folder we handed him, containing comments from over 4500 signatories of the StopSFMTA petition. How many do you think he bothered to read? Regardless, these comments are in the public record. Keep them coming. (Ignore the spam on moveon.)

What does it take to stop SFMTA’s destruction of our streets and businesses?
The voters resoundingly opposed the sales tax increase and federal funds could dry up soon, but that hasn’t stopped the SFMTA and their counterparts from digging up more streets. They gridlocked Van Ness and Polk and are aiming for Lombard and the Golden Gate Bridge next. Does it take a lawsuit to stop them?

The redcarpetmess.org website and the petition page have been updated and include a new video introducing San Franciscans for sensible transit. Please share this link with anyone who supports a more sensible approach to transportation in San Francisco:  https://youtu.be/1aezGHnmsD8.

Fight is gearing up over Geary BRT plan tomorrow at City Hall

SFMTA Picks the Wrong time to Demand Fast Tracking $360 million dollar Bus Lanes when residents want to time to deliberate on cheaper plan.

Just as Cogress prepares to remove public health care programs and slash social security allowances that sustain millions of people, SFMTA demands fast tracking  approval for their $350 million dollar controversial Geary BRT Hybrid design. The plan’s opponents want to save money and protect our local economy. Tell the Board of Supervisors what you want to do with $300 million dollars. Read about the alternative plan here: www.sfsensibletransit.org

Attend the Special Transportation Authority Board Meeting at City Hall on the Geary BRT  Thursday, January 5,  2 PM

Letter from San Franciscans for Sensible Transit:

Thursday January 5 at 2pm the County Transportation Authority Board of Commissioners (the Supervisors)will meet in Room 250 of City Hall to consider approving the Final EIR and selection of the recommended $300 million construction project from Palm-Arguello through 27th Avenue of Geary Boulevard.

Many people have written to oppose the hearing. The documents are over 1000 pages and were only available during the holidays. And the January 5 date prevents the newly elected Supervisor of District One, Sandra Fewer, from participating because she will not be sworn in until next Monday Jan 9. She opposed the construction project and wanted questions asked. Voters of District One agreed.

Whether one is firmly opposed or not to the project, the January 5 meeting should be protested. To ignore the vote of 80% of District One for the top two contenders who questioned the project is contrary to our democratic principles.

Please write the Supervisors (who sit as the Board of the TA) asking for them to defer the decision to give time for the four new Supervisors to hear the issues. Many of you have written excellent letters and for those still could, Supervisors’  email addresses are below. If you can, please attend the January 5 meeting to have your voice heard.

Bob Starzel
San Franciscans for Sensible Transit   www.sfsensibletransit.org

Write your own message or see a sample letter here: https://discoveryink.wordpress.com/letters-and-comments/geary-brt/

Email the following:

Subject Line:  Vote to Postpone Vote on Geary BRT Final EIR Scheduled for January 5

Dear Supervisors/Board Members of the SF County Transportation Authority,

I strongly urge you as members of the Transportation Authority to vote to postpone your consideration of the Geary BRT Final EIR for at least 30 days after the currently scheduled SFCTA meeting on January 5, 2017.

To: Board.of.Supervisors@sfgov.org, clerk@sfcta.orgLondon.Breed@sfgov.org, Aaron.Peskin@sfgov.org, Malia.Cohen@sfgov.org, Mark.Farrell@sfgov.org, Jane.Kim@sfgov.org, Eric.L.Mar@sfgov.org, Katy.Tang@sfgov.org, David.Campos@sfgov.org, Norman.Yee@sfgov.org, kanishka.karunaratne@sfgov.orghillary.ronen@sfgov.orgsandra@sandrafewer.comahshaforsupervisor@gmail.com, jess.montejano@sfgov.org, conor.johnston@sfgov.orgmargaux.kelly@sfgov.org, John.Avalos@sfgov.org, sunny.angulo@sfgov.org, Dyan.Ruiz@sfgov.org, chelsea@sandrafewer.com,

Please blind cc:  bstarzel@gmail.com, saveourltaravalstops@gmail.com

Attend the meeting: Thursday, January 5,  2 PMDetails
Room 250 City Hall,
Special Transportation Authority Board Meeting

Write your own message or see a longer sample letter here: https://discoveryink.wordpress.com/letters-and-comments/geary-brt/

See the OpEd in Sunday’s Examiner at http://www.sfexaminer.com/geary-brt-expensive-pledge-past/

Van Ness lanes remove trees, hurt Union Street shopping

By John Zipperer: marinatimes – excerpt

The construction on Van Ness Avenue intended to improve mass transit and safety has irked neighborhood businesses and residents.

Beginning on Dec. 19, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) began removing the overhead electric system for buses on Van Ness between Market and McAllister Streets. Through the end of the month, SFMTA closed off a lane in each direction between Jackson and Greenwich streets, began moving median trees, and working on different sections of the street.

Union Street merchants were upset at the closure of left-turn lanes from Van Ness onto Union, occurring just a couple weeks before Christmas and right in the middle of holiday shopping. The Union Street Association complained that “Business traffic is down, and this is one of the main reasons why,” and it urged merchants to contact city officials for help. Meanwhile, local residents expressed concern about the loss of the meridian trees on Van Ness… (more)

Van Ness Bus Rapid Transit Project receives $75M in federal funds

By Nuala Sawyer : sfexaminer – excerpt (inlcudes graphics)

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced Tuesday that it would award $75 million in federal grant funds toward the Van Ness Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Project.
The two-mile project will include the creation of bus-only lanes on Van Ness Avenue, an important north-south corridor in the center of San Francisco that accommodates both the 49 and 47 bus lines. Van Ness Avenue also hosts North Bay buses run by Golden Gate Transit.

SEE RELATED: Nine Muni stops on Van Ness Avenue to be eliminated for upcoming Bus Rapid Transit construction

In addition to separated lanes specifically for buses, Van Ness Avenue will also receive nine bus boarding platforms, new bus shelters, new Muni buses and resurfaced roadways… (more)

Join the Red Lane opponents:
http://www.redcarpetmess.org/ and http://www.sfsensibletransit.org/

File complaints with the many officials who are responsible for this. Locals here: https://discoveryink.wordpress.com/san-francisco-officials/
State and Feds here: https://discoveryink.wordpress.com/federal-contacts/
Use the 311 system to file an official complaint with any of the City Departments.
You can either call 311 and speak to an operator or to file a complaint online (http://sf311.org/) to get it entered into the record. All feedback is linked to the 311 system and offers you a referral number, which you can use to check on the status of your complaint.

Comment on the source if you can.

 

Feds award millions to Van Ness Avenue bus improvement project

By Lizzie Johnson : sfgate – excerpt

The Obama administration said Tuesday that it was awarding San Francisco $75 million for a project to improve one of the city’s busiest public transportation arteries.

Work has already begun on the $223 million Van Ness Bus Rapid Transit Project that will result in the installation of dedicated transit lanes and station-like stops for what will be the city’s first bus rapid-transit line. When the project is complete, buses will run every four to five minutes, shaving several minutes from riders’ trips.

The grant is coming from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration. The rest of the Van Ness Avenue project is being covered by local, state and other federal sources.

“The new BRT line will provide a convenient connection to the Muni light rail system, and it will improve access to jobs, health care, and opportunity throughout the Bay Area,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a statement…(more)

Comment on the source if you can.

 

Transit director: ‘Unknown’ if Trump threat to federal funding will hurt Muni, SF streets

By : sfexaminer – excerpt

The recent win of President-elect Donald Trump has sent sanctuary cities into a scramble, with San Francisco agencies asking: Will Trump cut major funds for San Francisco?

The question gained real gravity after Trump pledged to cut funding from sanctuary cities across the U.S., who aim to shield undocumented immigrants from federal agents. Mayor Ed Lee declared last week that San Francisco would remain a sanctuary city.

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin told his employees in a mass email Wednesday that threats to Muni’s funding are “unknown.”

In the email, which Reiskin sent Wednesday morning as a post-election message to his staff, he outlined potential peril. “We do receive a considerable amount of federal funds as part of our capital budget,” he wrote.

That funding comes in the form of grants disbursed by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, in part, and is the basis for most all of the SFMTA’s capital projects, such as the Central Subway in Chinatown or the proposed Bus Rapid Transit routes on Geneva, Geary and Van Ness avenues… (more)

Good time to write the federal representatives and let them know how you feel about these projects. DOT contacts: TBD

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