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?

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.

Adopt a Pothole

Don’t just complain about potholes. Do something about them.
Nextdoor conversations prompted a new site for adopting potholes.
Join us and adopt one of your own. https://dogpatch.dillilabs.com
Locate your pothole on the map and upload a photo of it.

File a complaint with DPW. Take a picture. Make note of the address. File a report on it with DPW using the Mayor’s 311 complaint system. You may call 311 and speak to an operator but this can be time-consuming. It may be easier to file a complaint online http://sf311.org to get it entered into the record. They claim that all feedback is linked to the 311 system and offer you a referral number, which you can use to check on the status of your pothole. If you use that system report back on how long it takes to get it fixed.

See how other people have dealt with their potholes.
There is a international effort to “adopt a pothole” you may want to look into. Google it and you will see a lot of complaints. My favorite is this one from India: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1dIdJ53T…
The creativity is endless. Here is another good one.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jx0OcpZ7…

Op-Ed SFMTA needs to fix more than just NextBus

By : sfexaminer – excerpt

We at San Francisco Transit Riders urge Board of Supervisors President London Breed to call for a hearing to hold the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency accountable for the failure of their NextBus prediction tool.

As we now know, the NextBus fiasco was a result of AT&T disabling the 2G network upon which NextBus depended. Back in 2012, AT&T announced that it would disable 2G as of Jan. 1, 2017. However, apparently no one at the SFMTA knew that or took it seriously.

Muni follows its schedule less than 60 percent of the time. So what makes Muni tolerable is having real-­time predictions; adding 20 minutes of uncertainty to a trip is not workable…

Lack of Internal Communications

In November, just more than a month before the NextBus failure, SFMTA’s chief technology officer, along with a NextBus representative, was promoting a new radio dispatch system coming possibly in March, according to a San Francisco Examiner article.

Seemingly, neither the chief technology officer nor the NextBus representative knew the existing system would crash well before their planned upgrades…

ack of Internal Commitment

At a meeting on Jan. 17, Director Ed Reiskin finally apologized. He acknowledged the episode was “a lesson for me in how important this service is to our riders. The reaction we got was amazing, and I don’t mean in a good way … it spoke … to how valuable having arrival predictions are for our riders.”

We wonder if Reiskin depends on Muni to get to work on time.

If we truly want to be a transit­-first city, we need transit that works well enough to attract ever more riders. We need the SFMTA to understand Muni’s key role in the daily lives of so many people who need to get to work, go to school and take their children to school.

We call for public hearings so there is public accountability. We are tired of the opacity and lack of management. We want a transparent plan forward, including a timeline addressing the City Controller’s report to ensure consistent staffing, consistent service and clearer internal management…(more)

When ENUF agrees with SF Transit Riders you know the SFMTA must be doing something wrong. it is time for some major changes. We have been complaining for years. Now we are  joined by the most pro Muni organization in town in calling for a  “Public Hearing” to discus the major problems the Muni riders are having with Muni. This should occur before any more budget items are approved since the power of the purse is the only thing the Board of Supervisors seem to be able to use to control this out of control agency.

This goes way beyond fixing NextBus and all those wonderful apps that do nothing to move people and good on the streets. We don’t need to be entertained or taught a new trick every day on our way to work. Transit should be consistent, not an adventure  game we play each day. Moving the buses and stops and traffic lanes around has gotten old and irritating, and we need a break from unwanted changes.

Muni riders to see reroutes, longer trips amid reconstruction of 100-year-old Twin Peaks Tunnel

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

Long-delayed Twin Peaks Tunnel repair work is finally on track again, and that means reroutes affecting some 81,000 daily transit riders.

For the thousands who rely on Muni’s K-Ingleside, L-Taraval and M-Oceanview light-rail lines, shuttles will replace normal service during the planned Twin Peaks Tunnel construction, with transfers to other buses needed to arrive at some regular destinations.

The work was originally slated to start last fall, then again in January, and now finally the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency quietly announced last week that track-work on the 100-year-old tunnel will begin in April…

The Twin Peaks Tunnel is a vital connector between the west side of The City and downtown, serving some 81,000 daily riders on the K, L and M lines each day, all of whom will need to adjust to a new, temporarily altered commute.

There will be five scheduled shutdowns to complete the tunnel rehabilitation, each lasting 11 to 15 days long. The constructi…(more)

 

To Win the War on Cars, San Francisco Weaponizes Real Estate

by : wired – excerpt

I’ll start with the bad news, because I think you can take it: You can’t beat San Francisco traffic. As long as people want to live in this idyll by the bay, tech companies set up shop off Market Street, and bars offer expensive drinks made with fruit shrubs, cars and tech buses will choke its roads.

“Anecdotally, the only major cities unfettered by congestion are terribly declining Rust Belt ones,” says Marlon Boarnet, an economist and urban planning researcher with the University of Southern California. (Think Detroit, Buffalo, Youngstown.) “In our most thriving cities, we can’t make the congestion vanish because the cities are thriving.” San Francisco’s booming so hard, the only place in the US where you’ll find worse traffic is Los Angeles.

What San Francisco believes it can do, however, is improve life in the city by making it easier to get around without a car. This week, its Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance requiring developers to stock new residential or commercial projects with more alternative-transport perks than ever before. This is no all-out war on vehicles, but rather an attempt to cut down on the number and length of car trips the natives take each day.

And if it works, San Francisco’s data-driven approach could become a template for other American cities hoping to turn big talk about transportation innovation into big action, and big results…

You’ll have to be patient: This program won’t bear serious fruit for 10 to 20 years, given the pace of development. The first projects built under the new rubric won’t get off the ground for another 18 to 24 months. But San Francisco planners say they’re already getting calls about the ordinance from other cities interested in taking this approach for a spin. And for the family that gets access to an in-apartment storage spot for their car-share friendly car seats (two points!), the lifestyle changes will happen a lot sooner. Too bad they’ll still have to find ways to entertain toddlers while stuck in traffic… (more)

The SFMTA and City Hall have been spinning this wait for results for over 10 years and so far the traffic and congestion both on the streets and on the buses has gotten worse. Taking care of the citizens is an afterthought in the rush to turn San Francisco into a innovative world class city built by and for robots.

The public transit systems are already at capacity. The SFMTA and BART solution is to cram more bodies in to the buses and trains by removing the seats, making it harder for many who rely on public transit to take it.

They really want those old and infirm people to leave and make room for the young and wealthy they think are on the way. This is creating a class war in what used to be the most liberal city in America. San Francisco housing is for sale to the highest bidder.

Today they announced approval of the Traffic Demand Management (TDM), and the sheriff evicted a 100 year old woman from her home. She is being thrown out like trash onto the street. Older people generally don’t survive such a move for long so many see this as a death sentence. Expect a protest at City Hall.

Last time the SFMTA came begging for tax dollars the voters refused to cough it up. Some indication of disgust with that department and an awakening of the populace that no longer blindly trust SFMTA and City Hall.

Unspent Muni bond draws ire of SF supervisors

By Joshua Sabatini : sfexaminer – excerpt

Board of Supervisors President London Breed, with the support of Supervisor Aaron Peskin, requested a hearing Tuesday to determine why the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which operates Muni, isn’t spending the $500 million in bond money voters approved in November 2014 even when there is so much need.
“Almost two and half years later, do you know how much of the $500 million has actually been spent to improve our transportation infrastructure?” Breed asked. “Twelve — $12 million. Twenty-seven months later, the MTA has spent 2 percent of the bonds we all authorized—the bonds we all said were urgently needed.”
Breed noted that the unused bond money is incurring interest payments and the value is decreasing with time, but also emphasized the importance of spending the funding on pressing needs…(more)

We deserve a list of the projects this money is being held for and details on how that money was allocated. The process is flawed. Too much emphasis is being put on future projects while nothing is being done to increase capacity or maintain the fleet of buses we have today. Our SFMTA has no interest in running the system they are charged with running efficiently or economically. All they care about is their new planning department and the latest digital gizmo they can put in the bus shelters to entertain and placate us. Thanks to the Supervisors for demanding some answers.

Holding onto 500 million while crying for more money. This is why the public does not trust the SFMTA and why they voted against the last sales tax pitch. At some point the voters were promised road repair in one of those sales pitches and we didn’t get it.
Everyone complains about potholes. Muni riders complain about how bumpy the ride is. Guess why it is bumpy? The potholes are destroying their shocks along with everyone elses. Use that money to fix the potholes before painting the streets or changing any more lanes. There are streets all over town with no plans to do anything to them. Fix those first.

RELATED:
SFMTA thrown under the bus over disuse of bond funds

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.

Who is San Francisco’s next transit-centric supervisor?

By sfexaminer – excerpt

With the departure of Supervisor Scott Wiener to the state Senate, transportation experts in the Bay Area are seeing a vacuum in San Francisco.

During his time as supervisor, Wiener, a staunch transit advocate, formed a Late Night Transit Working Group aimed at low-wage workers, ushered in Proposition B in 2014 to tie local transportation funding to population growth, tried to get a vehicle license fee that Mayor Ed Lee opposed on the ballot, brought back the Castro shuttle, authored the Subway Master Plan urging San Francisco to continuously build subways and helped (along with other politicians) usher in the Gator Pass, a transit pass for San Francisco State University students.

Suffice to say, transportation makes Wiener’s wheels turn.

After four new supervisors were elected in November, the San Francisco Examiner asked each of them a host of controversial transportation issues to see if any would try their hand at filling Wienezr’s shoes. .. (more)

Read the entire article and comment at the source. It is good to see this new group of supervisors are not feeling as dependent on the Bike Coalition to set the agenda as their predessers did. The new supervisors seem to be listening to their constituents more. We understand that one of the biggest losers is now on the SF Bicycle Coalition Board, and his supervisor most certainly owes that organization nada.

We anticipate major changes in budget allocations, as health, housing, justice, and other issues take precedent this year. San Francisco needs to do more with a lot less money and that means dropping the most expensive solutions in favor of the least expensive one for a change.

No New Measures Planned To Prevent Drivers From Entering Sunset Tunnel

by Saul Sugarman : hoodiine – excerpt

colevalleyportal

I can see the problem. The “Do not Enter” sign is poorly placed between the two streets. It appears to apply to Carl Street, not the paved street going into the tunnel. They could try to move the sign to the other side of the walkway and put on on both sides of the tunnel. They could also apply some red paint to it.

N-Judah riders have already suffered their fair share of delays in 2017 thanks to wayward drivers who try to make it through the Muni-only Sunset Tunnel. Two attempts to cross the dark corridor have gone down just this month.

Thankfully, no one has been injured in the past seven years, but for now, the SFMTA has no plans to remedy the problem. Agency spokesman Paul Rose said efforts made this past year — including the installation of speed bumps and “DO NOT ENTER” signs at either end of the tunnel — should be enough to deter confused drivers.

“It’s a situation we’ll continue to monitor and make adjustments to in order to prevent and minimize the impacts of cars being stuck in or outside the tunnel,” Rose said.

He noted there have been approximately 24 attempts to cross the tunnel since 2010. In addition to the signs and bumps, gates on either end remain closed when Muni is not in service… (more)

They should try the Red Paint treatment there. It’s hard to imagine that they can’t figure out some way to point the drivers in the right direction. maybe they need better easier to navigate other streets nearby. A wide, clearly lit street that looks driver friendly. Ask a driver, not SFMTA staff to figure it out how to direct traffic.