Reopening California: Here’s how commuting will change for drivers, public transportation when we go back to work

By Dion Lim : abc7news – excerpt (includes video)

Planned changes come as an eye-opening study from Vanderbilt is released, showing if three out of four workers chooses to take a car versus public transportation, drive times increase a whopping 42 minutes.

It’s one of the issues during Thursday’s Bay Area Council webinar with heads of various transportation agencies.

One change already implemented March 20th: The Bay Area Toll Authority decision to switch to all electric tolls on area bridges. That could continue.

“It seems to be working relatively smoothly… We’ll work with the commission on how we’re going to work toward to an all-electric toll future… Stay tuned for that,” says Therese McMillan, Executive Director for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission…. (more)

It is refreshing to hear transportation directors accept the major changes needed in their industry to avoid the spread of COVID-19. One hopes they will allow a lot more involvement by the drivers and riders in re-designing the new system. We also hope they will drop the anti-car actions.

Will the transportation agencies change from standing room only cattle-car vehicles to smaller, shuttle size vehicles with more space between the seats? Will city authorities and Muni riders insist on it? Will the Supervisors refuse to fund the larger vehicles? They are already threatening legislation to stop Muni fare increases.

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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?

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.

 

SF County Transportation Authority and Parking Authority Commission Meeting and presentation

Tuesday, January 28, 9 AM – ppt presentation on Workshop.

1455 Market Street, 22nd Floor SFCTA Conference Room
Special SFMTA Board and Parking Authority Commission
Presentations and discussions on future priorities and goals.
“State of San Francisco” Discussion Panel discussion with Sean Elsbernd, John Rahaim, Ben Rosenfield & Jeff Tumlin

RELATED:

Highlight’s of Today’s Big SFMTA “2020 Board Workshop” All-Day Meeting – LOOK HOW MUCH WE SUCK, BUT JUST GIVE US MORE MONEY ANYWAY – A Whirling Dervish of Self-Contradictory Transit Spin, 169 Pages

Here’s the PowerPoint they’re going to go through today at the
SFMTA 2020 Board Workshop:

With author’s comments on the presentation...(more)

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.

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.

SF D5 supervisor candidates split on transit issues

By Matthew S. Bajko : bear – excerpt

The two leading candidates in San Francisco’s heated contest for the District 5 supervisor seat both are vocal critics of the city’s mass transit system and its less-than-stellar service in the Haight, Cole Valley, and Fillmore neighborhoods.

In separate editorial board meetings with the Bay Area Reporter this month, both Supervisor Vallie Brown and tenants rights activist Dean Preston told of waiting at Muni stops and being unable to board either a cramped bus or packed N-Judah subway car headed toward downtown. They both related how their fellow stranded passengers resorted to taking private transit options instead…(more)

BART official responds to Netflix original that takes aim at US’s failing transit systems

By Drew Costley : sfgate – excerpt

BART was briefly mentioned on the newest episode Hasan Minhaj’s “Patriot Act” on the state of public transit in the United States, but how much of what he talks about it in the episode applies to the state of public transit in the Bay Area?…

In a recent episode of Netflix’s “Patriot Act,” comedian Hasan Minhaj bemoaned the state of public transit in the United States, blaming the billionaire Koch brothers for stifling attempts by several major metropolitan areas to upgrade their public transit systems.

“I want to talk about public transportation. Look, it’s not just destroying my life,” Minhaj said. “Everyone hates public transportation.”… (more)

Failure of public transit is a tragedy not a comedy.

Let’s face it. The public transit system is failing. Not due to a lack of funds. Over a billion dollars a year for Muni is a problem, not a solution. They can’t hire enough drivers so they hire 55 PR flack to spin that story instead. Let’s blame the public for one thing. Let’s blame the public for voting for not having the wisdom to figure out who is to blame. The question we need to ask is, “who his benefiting from the failure of the pubic transit system? That is the culprit that needs to be taken out.

Woman caught in Muni door, dragged to tracks files claim against SF

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

Sunset District resident suffered collapsed lung, broken ribs, spinal and pelvic fractures

After a month of silence, the woman dragged by a Muni train has filed a claim against The City seeking payment for her medical expenses and distress.

Choi Ngor Li, a Sunset District resident, has identified herself as the person who infamously found her hand caught in the door of a brand new Muni train and was then pulled to the tracks of Embarcadero Station.

A video of the April 12 incident, first revealed in an investigative report by the San Francisco Examiner, made headlines worldwide.

Li’s claim alleges negligence on the part of the Muni operator who drove the train away while she was trapped in it, negligence on the part of a nearby station agent who failed to help her and negligence on the part of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency for allowing the train doors to operate despite “failed safety tests.”… (more)

Braking problem brings SFMTA expansion plans for Siemens purchase to a screeching halt.

Three strikes and the new Siemens are out!

1. Dangerous doors.
2. Braking problems
3. Coupling problems

What will it take to convince the disillusioned pubic that they can trust the Muni Monsters who created this chaos to fix it now that we know they hid problems for months, using the public as guinea pigs. Wait for the lawsuits.

RELATED:

Braking problems putting Muni’s new trains out of commission

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

At any one time, roughly half of Muni’s fleet of new train cars is out of service due to mechanical issues, transit officials acknowledged Tuesday…

Many supervisors voiced concern they were kept in the dark.

“I’m a little shocked we are asked to fund a $62 million contract and yet we are not hearing this type of information on what happened and what you have discovered,” said Supervisor Sandra Fewer… (more)