Regulate Chariot, charge fair-market value for use of government property

Op-ed by Susan Vaughan : sfexaminer – excerpt

Photos by zrants

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is an vital organization in The City’s efforts to combat climate change and income inequality. In its 2016 Annual Report, the SFMTA announced a 10 percent increase in service, daily ridership of 725,000 and one-year reductions of nearly 45 percent in carbon emissions…

In recent years, private, for-profit carriers that The City doesn’t regulate or regulates loosely, and that exclude many categories of riders, have proliferated on local streets: the technology shuttle buses, aka “Google” buses; transportation network companies (TNCs), such as Uber and Lyft, regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission; and now private transportation vehicles (PTVs)…

This is legal. In fact, in 2012 and 2013, local cab drivers sued the SFMTA over the cost of medallions (permits to operate taxis) arguing that the medallion fee — $250,000 — was an illegal tax. A legal brief, signed by City Attorney Dennis Herrera and Deputy City Attorney Wade Snodgrass, made the winning argument that the medallion “grants its holder the ‘special privilege’ of ‘us[ing] … public streets for private enterprise.” Elsewhere, they wrote: “California law … [authorizes] local government entities to allow the private use of public property, and to sell or lease public property, at market rates … in order to protect the public fisc.” In fact, in 2010 town hall meetings, the proposed medallion fee was identified as a source of revenue to support the SFMTA. But those medallion fees have dropped into negative numbers because of the competition from TNCs… (more)

The Board of Directors must include fair-market charges for every PTV — and shuttle bus — for “[t]he right to use streets as a place of business for private gain.”

Susan Vaughan is a local transportation advocate... (more)

How is Chariot different from Tech buses and hospital shuttles? Why are we dealing with so many different attitudes toward the same thing? Should not all these “private” transportation systems that transport the public be “regulated” is equals? The SFMTA should not be in the business of regulating private vehicles. They should stick to doing the one thing they can barely do. They should fill the holes in the road they dug up and they should manage the Muni. If the Muni were properly managed it would BE the choice of most people.

What does the director of the agency do with this time? He sits on many boards and does a lot of back slapping and self-congratulatory speeches, claiming he runs the best transit system in the world, while San Francisco traffic and businesses are being run into the ground by a construction nightmare of his own making.

City Hall is anticipating offering small sums of cash grants and low-interest loans to prop up the failing businesses long enough to get through the various hopelessly behind schedule construction projects, many neighborhoods opposed to begin with. Maybe we need to let the director go and work on his private projects and hire a new focused one who can get the jobs done effectively, ONE AT A TIME instead of 29 at a time.

If all the street construction projects went away tomorrow no one would care about the Chariots, tech buses, Muni, delivery trucks or taxis. The street constructions are creating the headaches for everyone and sucking up the Muni money. Kill the projects and you can have a free Muni.

 

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SF awards $3.2M in contracts to company connected to alleged bid-rigging, federal indictment

By : sfexaminer – excerpt

 

The City has awarded a new transportation contract to a company connected with a federal indictment and alleged bid-rigging scheme, the San Francisco Examiner has learned…

temporarily suspend contracts awarded to those under investigation, including federal indictment.

“If people have already been criminally charged with rigging the system,” Bush said, “they should not be let back in that system until they’re cleared.”

SEE RELATED: Defendants accused of bid rigging plead not guilty in SF federal court.

Butler’s indictment stems from the infamous Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow case, in which the FBI investigated politicians and contractors… (more)

Lots to talk about here but look at the contract. The contract is by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to the Butler Enterprise Group for public outreach. Isn’t the lack of public notice (or outreach), the one thing everyone complains about at SFMTA Board and Board of Supervisors meetings?

It appears we are being screwed by known political wonks with alleged criminal connections claiming to keep us informed, while failing miserably to do so. Take this information with you next time you go to the SFMTA Board Meeting to complain about the lack of notice regarding the latest abuse of power by the SFMTA.

And if you don’t like what they are doing with your money, vote to reverse, remove, or cut the powers of the SFMTA next time you get a chance. You might even want to vote against the next round of taxes proposed for the SFMTA

San Franciscans want happy trails — not rocky roads

by Aaron Peskin: marinatimes – excerpt

Budget season has drawn to a close, and the city has made a significant investment in our city streets with the Board of Supervisors approving an additional $90 million in road work and resurfacing funds to be spent down over the next two years.

These are the funds that will be used to repave our city streets (600 blocks annually), extend or repair our sidewalks, paint our bike lanes, and fill pesky potholes. San Francisco Public Works is hiring more workers, and San Francisco has slowly increased its Pavement Condition Index Score…

The wrong signs get posted for the wrong projects on the wrong streets, construction equipment lies inactive for months in on-street parking spots, while a seemingly never-ending parade of orange-and-white striped A-frame signs line the streets letting merchants and residents know that they should brace for yet another construction project that might or might not have an actual public benefit. At the very least, it could be coordinated much better.

In addition, the hearing revealed that some repetitive projects are dropped from the city’s database, in violation of the city’s moratorium on digging up the city streets more than once in a five-year span. For example, the corner of Green Street and Columbus Avenue has been dug up at least four or five times in the last six years, yet San Francisco Public Works did not have that data for those jobs on file.

I am working with Supervisors Jane Kim and Norman Yee on legislation that would create stricter conditions for subcontractors and would trigger a construction mitigation fund for projects that run over budget or drag on endlessly.

The time has come to make sure that we are managing San Francisco taxpayer money responsibly when it comes to our city streets; these safety and road resurfacing projects are priorities that shouldn’t have to be painful… (more)

This pretty well covers the frustrations that residents and businesses are feeling with the street construction repair program being set up and “managed” by the SFMTA. The subcontractors were a problem for the residents dealing with street trees and damaged sidewalks and the Supervisors solved that one. Now it is time for them to take on the street subcontractors.

At the top of the list of issues, is the lack of skilled labor in the construction business due to the overwhelming number of projects underway. We are doing too much too fast and the quality of the work is suffering because of the unrealistic pace. This is why we need to slow it down. We will be having talks this month over various options for solving this problem. Thanks to supervisors Peskin, Yee and Kim for taking this on.

NO NOTICE: A number of other issues were raised at the meeting described here. One is the most familiar of all that accompanies every complaint being raised from “overnight” tow-away signs to sudden contractors tearing up sidewalks without a visible permit – NO NOTICE ahead of the sudden pop-up construction work. Obviously the multi-million dollar noticing system that SFMTA is using to communicate with the public is failing to do the job. We need a new procedure of noticing.

As Supervisor Breed pointed out at the meeting, unnecessary controversial bulblouts and other street “improvements” are going onto small side streets with no accident history under the guise of “Safe Street improvements.” The SFMTA staff had no real excuse for this when quizzed on the matter.

A similar issue is ongoing with regard to the hated Red Lane “experiments” that were put into areas of the city, in including Mission Street, that were not designated as “experimental” areas, and the required “studies” for the “experiments” were not done in a timely fashion.

Concerned citizens conducted their own “unpaid” studies and discovery, and obtained documents showing an uptick in accidents on certain Red Lanes were not included in the final reports given to the state agency in charge of approving the extension of the Red Lane “experiments”. The SFMTA cherry picked the test areas that proved the Red Lanes improved the speed of the buses yet neglected to “share” the data that showed an increase in accidents on some of the “experimental streets.

Complaints were filed and if the judicial system works, the matter should be investigated.

Red transit-only lanes have no use in West Portal

By Sally Stephens : sfweekly – excerpt

MissionReds
Merchants blame the experimental Red Lanes on Mission Street for 30% loss of business. Photo by zrants.

One Red Lane too many : SFMTA is using Red Lanes like these on Mission Street to remove “blight” like thrift shops, small unique craft businesses and repair shops all over town as loss of easy access and parking divers customers away.

Studies of displaced communities all over the world prove that gentrification is killing neighborhoods and the unique community character that created the charm the new residents think they are moving into. Views are a past memory as new towers scrape for the clouds and fog moves inland as the trees that blocked it are removed for the hilltops.

The small collection of cobblers, repair shops and bookstores left on West Portal, are slated for extinction because they are on a “transit rich” street. Red Lanes are the answer to curb these hangers on. They must go to make room for more high rise units of housing, coffee shops, gyms and bike shops. Everything else will be delivered by Amazon drones soon, unless they get permission to have the self-driving vehicles roam the sidewalks.

One size doesn’t always fit all. Most of us know that, but the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has yet to learn that lesson.

The SFMTA recently received federal approval to expand red transit-only lanes to 50 streets throughout The City. While most are in the highly congested downtown and South of Market areas, others are not.

West Portal Avenue is one of the shortest streets included in the expansion. Two Muni light-rail trains and two bus lines travel at least one block on the street.

I go to West Portal nearly every day to shop, eat or meet friends. I see lots of trains and buses, but I rarely see one stuck behind a line of cars slowing it down. The trains move easily — sometimes, too fast — down the street. So, why does the SFMTA want to put red lanes there?

The Federal Highway Administration considers red transit-only lanes — like those painted on Mission Street — to be an “experiment” in speeding up mass transit. Indeed, the proposed expansion is also considered an experiment.

A few months ago, the SFMTA released a study of red lanes on three streets in The City’s northeast section and declared them a grand success. According to its blog, the SFMTA considers red transit-only lanes to be the “new standard” for city streets.

But this new standard may not be a good fit for West Portal…(more)

It is up to the residents and businesses to stand up and say San Francisco will not tolerate any more Red Lanes or experiments on our streets. People in the eastern neighborhoods tried to warn everyone and they were ignored. Now they are coming after everyone on the West side. It is time to act. Let you supervisor, Mayor and state and federal reps know if you are fed up and want to stop being the guinea pig for transportation experiments. Roll back the Red. Join the Sensible Transportation movement: http://www.sfsensibletransit.org/

Is California about to Clobber Local Planning Control?

By Zelda Bronstein : citywatch – excerpt

PLANNING–The gradual decimation of local voice in planning has become accepted policy in Sacramento. The State Senate is now considering two dangerous bills, SB 35 and SB 167, that together severely curtail democratic control of housing.

SB 35: Housing Accountability and Affordability Act (Wiener)(more)

SB 35 is pro-traffic congestion. It would prohibit cities from requiring parking in a “streamlined development approved pursuant” to SB 35, located within a half-mile of public transit, in an architecturally and historically significant historic district, when on-street parking permits are required but not offered to the occupants of the project, and when there is a car share vehicle located within one block of the development. Other projects approved under the measure would be limited to one space per unit… (more)

Please consider signing this Petition to Oppose SB35:  https://www.change.org/p/assem blymember-aquiar-curry-oppose-sb-35-unless-amended

And write letters if you can to the Assemblymembers listed here: http://assembly.ca.gov/assemblymembers

Sample message:
PROTECT LOCAL CONTROL OVER ZONING.

California citizens oppose by-right laws that override our local zoning and use policies and guidelines. Our city government has spent a lot of time and energy to create a specific plan and the citizens have had a hand in the decision-making process. It is not right for the state to step in and override our efforts. Many cities want to opt out of the by-right rules. That should tell you SB35 is not popular. We oppose this legislation.

Sincerely,

(signature), Concerned Citizen

 

 

Uber and Lyft get the last laugh – all the way to the bank

SF City Hall and SFMTA used Uber and Lyft to kill taxis and attempt to remove cars. Now the ride-shares outnumber Muni. They created the Monster. Let’s see how they tame it.

A collection of photos of SF streets by zrants

RIDE-SHARES TECH BUSES OR TAXIS AND PRIVATE VEHICLES: SFMTA welcomed ride-shares as their allies in their attempt to drive SF residents out of their cars. SFMTA removed and privatized on-street parking. Planning removed off-street parking from future developments giving developers a huge windfall in profits. Developers did their part by offering Uber and Lyft credits instead of on-site parking, jacking up the demand for car-shares. The demand for car-shares, created by the parties in their haste to eliminate private cars, is driving the number of car-shares and increasing regional traffic as the car-share drivers are coming in to drive us around the city. Don’t even get us started on the tech bus problems that are effecting everyone around the Bay Area not just SF.

PARKING OR TRAFFIC: The parking problem for some is eliminated, but, there are more cars driving around NOT PARKING than there were before the parking was eliminated. Given the choice between parking and traffic, which is worse? You are going to have one or the other. Decide City Hall and clean up your act.

RETAIL OR DELIVERY: Instead of private people running their own errands shopping in their own cars, and bringing their purchase home, we now have delivery services running those errands for us and double parking of delivery trucks all over town. You do want that pizza hot, don’t you? You can’t expect your new computer, TV, or stove to be delivered by bike. Those come by truck now. Instead of mail once a day, we have multiple deliveries a day from multiple sources, adding both traffic and double parking to our streets. We have replaced retail jobs with delivery jobs. Is that the kind of neighborhood and city we want to live in? Where we interact by digital media instead of human contact? How many jobs may be eliminated by robots?

LOCAL SERVICES OR REGIONAL: We find that we have more traffic than ever pouring into the city. Many of our service companies, such as repair and construction crews used to work out of local warehouses and parking lots have been forced out and must now drive into the city to serve us. This jacks up the price of those services, many emergency in nature, electricians and plumbers, PDR and other businesses reliant on vehicles. Now your plumber must commute in to stop that leak. This leads to more damage and more costly repairs. Don’t even think about getting that roof repaired or your sidewalk attended to with any haste. Fast, cheap or reasonable remodels are a distant past memory.

PLAYING THE GREEN CARD: For those of you who have not followed the history of this anti-car movement, we may direct you to the beginning, which started with a treatise and the uniting of a number of non-profits that run the city. Details are too many to address here now. There was an idea that by stuffing people into large dense cities you could somehow reduce greenhouse gases and save the planet. One the way to that perfect future plan, an amazing happened. The car manufacturers cleaned up their cars and the engines got more efficient, so we are using less fuel and polluting less in our cars. The cost of gas is also going down, as the demand diminished. Many alternate fuels are coming on the market. Thus the green card is no longer sufficient to fight cars.

PLAYING THE SAFETY CARD: This brings up the need for a new reason to remove cars. Cars are dangerous. To prove that, most of the state and federal requirements for safety such as lane width, road signs traffic laws, have been altered to the point where few people even know what they are any more. This is called chaos. This is how the SFMTA really makes its mark on our city. No one creates chaos and hatred among the people on the streets like the SFMTA. They are geniuses at playing the safety card against us. Everything they do is geared to confuse and annoy us. Starting by turning our perfectly normal streets into battlefields of zones based on some strange markings that no one understands. They blame each accident on the lack of safety on that corner and target it for change.

PLAYING THE CHAOS CARD: Now that we have animosity on the streets and mass confusion because of rules and regulations no one understands and confusion over the street markings, SFMTA decided it is time to really stir things up by “calming” our straight, easy to navigate and see lanes into movable targets. The days of warning when lanes are merging are over. If you don’t pay attention to the lanes curing in and out of bulbouts, parking, bike and red lanes, you are in trouble. All your attention must go to following the lanes and it is hard to pay attention to the lane changes and the pedestrians, bikers and others who think they have “the right of way” all the time. People who don’t live here can’t wait to leave. They are completely confused.

WORST CASE SCENARIOS: It is one thing to design streets for everyday experience and assume that the power to the Third Street rail lights that “manage” the merging traffic on and off of rail lanes will always works, but, it is another to deal with the reality of unexpected emergencies and power outages. We understand that decisions have been made to ignore the warnings of our emergency respondors in favor SFMTA “specialists” and “experts” on how the emergency vehicles will deal with the realities of emergencies as they arise and become stuck in traffic, or, worse yet, cannot reach fires in high rise properties due to the fact that they have been downsized. According to then Supervisor Wiener, the Fire Department should purchase smaller vehicles capable of handling the narrow streets. Someone must be held accountable when there are repercussions to these short-sided decisions.

THE AFTERMATH: In the haste to remove cars from SF streets, SF invited in the newest tech and anti-car planning teams they could find. They failed on all counts. By any metric or measurement you care to name, the entire program is a failure. We have a much worse regional traffic problem than before. We have a lot more vehicles on our streets.

We have many infuriated drivers and Muni riders, removed off-street parking and building owners are offering Uber and Lyft credits to lure in tenants of those parkless housing developments. Why should anyone be surprised that Ubers and Lyfts are replacing the traffic the city used them to eliminate.

WHO DETERMINES THE FUTURE OF OUR CITY: The public needs to speak up and let City Hall know how they feel about these issues. The plan is flawed and it is up to us to demand an examination of the flawed plan. Hearings are being called. We will be alerting you to those hearings. Please write letters and come to speak out at the hearings if you can. What is your solution to solving this problem?

FewerPotholes repair effort kicks off in the Richmond District

Sarah B. : richmondsfblog – excerpt

Have more potholes to report? Be sure to use 311 to let the city know. You can call 311 or use their handy mobile app which lets you mark the location accurately and even upload a photo. Photo by zrants.

Last month, we asked you all to submit reports of your peskiest potholes in the neighborhood as part of the #FewerPotholes campaign. The project was created by District 1 Supervisor Sandra Fewer who convinced DPW to commit a dedicated crew to the Richmond District to repair potholes reported by residents…

The #FewerPotholes repair effort kicked off last Friday with Mayor Ed Lee, Supervisor Fewer and Public Works Deputy Director Larry Stringer donning hard hats and picking up shovels to fill in the first pothole on 27th Avenue between Geary and Clement…

“I’ve heard for months that the state of our roads and the number of potholes were of concern to residents in my neighborhood,” said Supervisor Fewer…(more)

RELATED:
Motorcyclie Mama : Even if you don’t live in the Richmond District, you can still ask the DPW to take action: According to their website, people who report potholes via 311 can expect them to “repair any pothole that is our responsibility within 48 hours during week days.” So go ahead, report those potholes, and let us know how it goes!

Report but don’t hold your breath. I filed a report with photos of the ones on Carolina at least 3 months ago, and that street is still a mess.

 

 

Twin Peaks Tunnel repair back off track

By : sfexaminer – excerpt

Muni’s confused staff is confusing everyone with their signs. They need to get out of the construction business and get back to running Muni services for the people who need it or hand it over to someone who knows how to run it. photo by zrants.

For riders taking the 80,000 daily trips on three of Muni’s light-rail vehicle lines, slow-moving trains and delays are a way of life.

Now, work planned to repair the Twin Peaks Tunnel — which would lessen those Muni slowdowns — is itself delayed, the San Francisco Examiner has learned.

The delay will also cause other Muni construction projects to start later than planned, as these projects are often timed in sequence…

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has terminated its $32 million contract with NTK Construction, Inc., for that repair work, after the agency met “logistical issues” planning tunnel shutdowns that would have necessitated 40,000 riders to take replacement shuttle buses…

Those repairs are needed, staff wrote, to “lift the speed restriction currently in place for trains moving through the tunnel and cut down on unexpected service disruptions.”

For eight years, that restriction was 35 mph, and a year ago became 40 mph, but may jump to 50 mph after repairs, said John Haley, SFMTA’s director of transit…

The SFMTA confirmed another construction project has been rescheduled due to the Twin Peaks Tunnel Replacement Project delay, as work at Junipero Serra Boulevard and 19th Avenue was “supposed to align with the Twin Peaks shutdown for pedestrian improvements, but will have to be rescheduled to perhaps beyond July,” said SFMTA spokesperson Erica Kato.

Multiple projects may ultimately be rescheduled, Kato confirmed(more)

There are no more construction crews left to do maintenance because they are all working on street diets and bus lanes and adding more assets that have no maintenance plans of their own. Some of us saw this coming and tried to steer the SFMTA toward maintenance and away from expanded capital improvements.

Many requests are made for cheap safety improvements like paint on cross walks and added traffic signals. Nobody can suggest anything to the SFMTA. They have an excuse for why they can’t do anything the public requests.

In a recent article in the Ingleside-Excelsior Light, Safai is quoted as saying that he gets requests for adding more crosswalks to the most dangerous streets. Many people have asked for more traffic signals, but, according to the SFMTA these simple relatively inexpensive solutions are held up due to their lack of staff and the fact that they can only add 10 traffic signals a year in the entire city.

These excuses are coming from an agency that has over 50,000 employees and over a billion dollar a year budget. They can’t figure out how to do the small cheap projects that public wants because they spend all their time working on solving perceived problems that may crop up in the future.

Until the voters and taxpayers stop these large projects, or convince the supervisors to quit funding them, we will never get our simple requests for traffic signals and crosswalk markings. SFMTA needs to move some of their high paid planning staff into the traffic signal and sign painting department and quit ignoring the public.

Muni changes course on millions in bond funds

By Jerrold Chin : sfbay – excerpt

Muni is shifting millions in bond funds away from delayed transit improvement projects and toward improvements of bus yards and other agency facilities… Bus barn in the Mission, photo by Zrants

Delays in spending a voter-approved 2014 bond measure on transportation infrastructure in San Francisco has prompted transit officials to reprogram some of the bond money into other projects that are ready to go and in need of funds.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors approved redirecting $26.2 million from the first bond issuance of the 2014 Transportation and Road Improvement General Obligation Bond from Muni transit improvements to Muni facility upgrades.

Along with the reprogramming of the bond money, directors also are requesting to a second issuance of $92.8 million from the Board of Supervisors…

The SFMTA will spend $21.1 million in upgrading its Burke Warehouse facility that will eventually house overhead wires and provide extra capacity storage for the transit agency.

Another $11 million will go towards the second phase of Islais Creek project. The project includes the construction of a 65,000 square foot motor coach maintenance and operations facility, according to the SFMTA.

Other projects the second bond issuance will fund toward the electrification of Caltrain ($20 million), the BART canopy project ($3 million), and a number of bike and pedestrian safety projects…(more)

 

Tired of that pothole? Report it today and DPW will fix it in June as part of Fewer Potholes Month

By Sarah B : Richmondsblog – excerpt

IMG_1289

I adopted Carolina (between 16th and 17th Streets) because the street is one large pothole that and wins the prize as the largest continuous pothole in town. photo by Zrants.

We’ve all been there. You’re driving down a street in the Richmond District when, BAM, your wheel hits a pothole, rattling your vehicle and making you grit your teeth in frustration. Inevitably you ask, “Why can’t this city keep our roads in good shape?”.

Our new District 1 Supervisor Sandra Fewer wants to do something about it. She has declared June to be “Fewer Potholes Month” in the Richmond District and has convinced the Department of Public Works to commit a repair crew EXCLUSIVELY to the neighborhood for the month to repair all potholes reported by residents.

That’s where you come in – we need your pothole reports!…(more details and the application form attached.)

Our state government passed a gas tax to fix the roads so let’s fix the potholes. Thanks to Supervisor Fewer for taking this on. Other supervisors need to join the “Fewer Potholes” movement. Invite your constituents to adopt their favorites.

This is the one thing everyone agrees on. Potholes effect ALL MODES of travelers, creating dangerous conditions for everyone who must deal with them. This often involves by swerving in and out of lanes to avoid them or slowing down as you approach them, and creates unnecessary friction between cars and bikes. Bus riders complain of “bumpy rides” and lose precious moments as the drivers are forced to slowing down or swerve to avoid them on the narrow streets. We spend millions of dollars a year on repair bills. Fix the Potholes now! Report details:

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.

New App Helps Dogpatch Residents Report Neighborhood Problems

by potreroview – excerpt
In March, a new website, Dogpatch Solutions Tracker, launched at https://dogpatch.dillilabs.com. A community service aiming to improve neighborhood safety and cleanliness, the site features a digital map application where registered users can pinpoint such concerns as potholes, graffiti, trash, and vandalism in Dogpatch and Potrero Hill…(more)