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?

SF Fire Department delayed streetscape projects over safety concerns

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

This maneuver was shot in the Haight. We documented acitvities around General Hospital as well. See for yourself how long it takes for the fire engines and trucks to pull into General. Should the Fire Department care how fast they move and how safe their passengers are?

Safety concerns from the San Francisco Fire Department have led to the delay of numerous street safety projects across The City, according to public records obtained by the San Francisco Examiner.

Those emails were first obtained and reported by Human Streets, a new nonprofit advocacy journalism organization. From protected bike lanes on upper Market Street and street safety changes to Turk Street and speed bumps meant to slow down drivers, numerous safety projects crafted by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency were slowed — for weeks or months — as the Fire Department aired concerns about its ability to run emergency vehicles on modified streets…

In January, SFMTA Transportation Planner Patrick Golier wrote an email to his colleagues, “I have raised the issue of SFFD’s unresponsiveness” on a site visit to overview the Upper Market Project, which included protected bike lanes.
Golier was concerned pushing back a hearing on Upper Market bike lanes “would create an enormous amount of work plus would make us look bad with our stakeholders.”…

In emails to the SFMTA from 2015 to 2017, the (fire) department expressed concern that new street designs would create difficulties for all manner of emergency vehicles…

Fire truck drivers, he wrote, are “forced to slow down and go over one side of the bump. This causes the apparatus to reduce substantial speed and with the weight of the apparatus is difficult to rebuild any kind of speed going up the hill.”…

Balmy also wrote it is “not unreasonable to assume” emergency vehicles carrying patients could hit speed humps while EMT’s administer life-saving care, which could “adversely affect patient treatment.”
Last year, the fire department proposed a “blanket ban” on approving SFMTA’s creation of speed bumps throughout all of San Francisco…

Fire department spokesperson Jonathan Baxter said that blanket ban is still being discussed.

“The San Francisco Fire Department is encouraged by the innovative thinking of SFMTA to develop ways to enable safe bicycle transportation in the city of San Francisco,” Baxter told the Examiner. “Only in those instances where safety standards are materially compromised do we recommend exploring additional options.”… (more)

RELATED:
San Francisco fire officials block critical safety upgrades on city streets.
The fire code is being used to water down life-saving measures.. (more)

Safety is relative. One must set priorities. Some would say the safety of the sick or injured people in the speeding ER vehicle deserve care and respect and a speedy delivery to their destination, and if inconveniences others so be it. That is why everyone is supposed to allow the speeding vehicle with the siren and flashing lights to pass. They have the right of way.

Outreach Launches This Spring to Finalize Details for Geary Rapid Upgrades

by Kate Elliott : sfmta  (includes graphics)\

We’re gearing up to start the first set of Geary transit upgrades later this year.

In the coming months, we will launch further outreach for the Geary Rapid Project, which focuses on early improvements on the stretch of the 38 Geary route between Market Street and Stanyan streets. In the meantime, we will finalize the design and construction of longer-term improvements for the Geary Boulevard Improvement Project.

With the Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) approved unanimously by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) Board in January, lead management of the project is transitioning from the SFCTA to the SFMTA, which will design and implement Geary improvements as two separate projects… (more)

Outreach is a joke, or  I should say an insult. Angry people gave up on talking to the SFMTA wall and filed a lawsuit to stop the excesses in this project. the case is making its way through the courts now and many are praying the ruling will stop this and other controversial projects.
Taxpayers revolted in the fall when asked for more money to show their displeasure in how the SFMTA is spending the money but they have hungry contractors to feed and more high-paid planning staff to hire so they could care less what we want.
SFMTA is removing stops and bus seats and constantly forcing the public to deal with their baggage and can’t figure out why ridership is slipping. They are especially short on the weekends and evenings. Why would anyone want to spend their time off on the Muni after putting up with it all week?

Eighth Avenue targeted for ‘neighborway’ redo

By Jerold Chinn : sfbay – excerpt

A popular street for pedestrians, bicyclists and even tour buses in San Francisco’s Richmond District to get to and from Golden Gate Park may soon see changes transit officials say will make the street more bike- and pedestrian-friendly.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency held an open house on Saturday at the Richmond/Senator Milton Marks public library to share ideas with the public on ways to slow down vehicles and reducing traffic on Eighth Avenue from Lake to Fulton streets.

Transit officials are calling it a “neighborway” project, where the transit agency focuses on making improvements on residential streets by using traffic calming measures such as traffic circles in the middle of the intersection, speed humps, upgrading crosswalks and applying traffic restrictions to motorists.

Eighth Avenue is one of the first neighborway projects…(more)

Targeted is right.The SFMTA declared war on cars so that is an apt phrase. They are losing as more displaced workers pour into the city daily, along with thousands of Ubers and Lyfts. Some drive from as far away as LA, and instead of parking, they drive around. How does increasing commute times and distances solve the state’s emissions problem? Are circling cars better than parked cars?

Neighborways are a perfect example of projects San Francisco does not need. What is on Eighth Ave. that needs protecting? Isn’t there a bus route on it? Why slow a street with a bus on it if they want the buses to travel faster?

Instead of trying to force crosstown traffic, including buses, trucks, and visitors off major streets onto smaller ones, why doesn’t SFMTA go back to the original plan of creating bike paths through the city on streets that are not heavily traveled by motor vehicles?

Listen to the riders who quit taking Muni to find out why they quit and fix their problems instead creating new ones. What was the number one complaint about Muni before they removed the seats? Crowded buses with standing room only. How does removing seats fix that problem?

SF planning first-of-its-kind laws for ‘jitney’ private bus system Chariot

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

For as long as there have been autos, private “jitney” buses have operated on San Francisco streets. Jitneys carried passengers to the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915, and many Muni lines today run on former private bus lines.
By the 1970s, private transit by the Bay declined. The last known historic jitney driver in San Francisco who owned a single private bus, Jess Losa, reportedly hung up his hat last year.

But those private buses have since returned to their former prominence with the aid of tech apps — like Chariot, the Ford-owned private bus company that started in San Francisco…

Now more than a century after jitneys first appeared, The City is planning new laws to regulate them, updating patchwork regulations strewn across multiple city agencies due to historical accident.

Earlier this month, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency revealed its plans for private bus services at a SFMTA Citizens Advisory Council.

Chariot is the only private bus service left in San Francisco, SFMTA staff told the council, so for now the new laws would exclusively regulate just that company — but regulations would cover any similar services that may arise in the future…

Why are jitneys treated differently from tech shuttles? They are both private commercial enterprises. Jitneys do a lot less damage to the street, take up less space and get around the narrow steep streets a lot easier than the large buses and tech vehicles. Jitneys are one option for the public to choose from to get around town.

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.

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.

California bicyclists would be allowed to roll past stop signs under proposed law

By sfexaminer – excerpt

Cyclists in California would be allowed to pedal past stop signs — without stopping — under legislation proposed by two lawmakers who say it would make the roads safer.

The two-tiered approach to the rules of the road — one for cyclists and one for cars — is unlikely to ease growing tensions over sharing California’s roadways.

Bike advocates have won such victories in the Statehouse as requiring drivers to yield a three-foot radius of manoeuvring room to cyclists or face fines. Motorists meanwhile have expressed frustration that they see certain cyclists pick and choose which laws to follow.

Assemblymen Jay Obernolte (R-Hesperia) and Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) introduced their measure on Friday that would allow bicyclists to treat stop signs as merely yield signs — proceeding with caution if conditions are safe.

In effect, it would legalize the so-called California roll, although just for bicyclists…(more)

This law AB-1103 Bicycles: yielding has been through the legislature a number of times and has not passed yet. It will create more problems than it will solve and is not supported by all cyclists:

  1. Will this apply to 2-way stop signs or just 4-way stop signs? How will cyclists know the difference?
  2. Does anyone think cyclists will slow down more than they do now to look before “rolling” through?
  3. Legislators should include a clause that requires cyclists to purchase licenses and insurance to cover damages resulting from passage of this new law.
  4. This will be particularly difficult for drivers of large vehicles like buses and trucks, who can’t easily see bikes or stop on a dime when they do.
  5. How can SFMTA speed buses though intersections when they must worry about hitting cyclists rolling through stop signs?
  6. This will negatively impact the safety of other cyclists, pedestrians, tourists and young people who will find it even more confusing to walk safely on the streets than they do now.
  7. Wait for the lawsuits to come in.

Details on the AB-1103 – An act to amend Section 21200 of the Vehicle Code, relating to bicycles – Introduced by Assembly Members Obernolte and Ting (Coauthors: Assembly Members Bloom, Chávez, and Kiley)

Principal coauthor: Senator Wiener

Creating ‘Tech shuttle’ hubs would reduce conflicts with Muni buses

By sfexaminer – excerpt (includes maps of possible hub locations)

Moving tech shuttle pickups off of San Francisco streets and into so-called “hubs” would reduce shuttle conflicts with Muni buses and significantly decrease shuttle presence in neighborhoods.

But doing so would come with steep tradeoffs, perhaps placing thousands of cars back on the road by tech employees who may not find the hubs convenient and stop riding the shuttles…

Those are among the findings of a much-anticipated report on the impact of creating tech shuttle hubs, released by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency last Friday.

The current Commuter Shuttle Program, as run by the SFMTA, is a voluntary regulatory program that 17 shuttle companies and 789 vehicles are registered to abide by. This encompasses inter-city hospital shuttles as well as the infamous tech shuttles, which transport tech workers to Silicon Valley and back during commuter hours.

Currently those shuttles weave in and out of neighborhoods to pick up passengers at 110 stops across San Francisco, though many stops are concentrated in Noe Valley, the Mission, and other neighborhoods favored by tech workers… (more)

To this argument: Tech employees who may not find the hubs convenient and stop riding the shuttles…”

I reply: Indeed removal of the local street tech routes MAY stop some people from riding shuttles, if they have to take a Muni or other service to get to the hubs. But, they MAY NOT as well. If we can test for one option, why not test for the other? A six month test that removes tech buses from small city streets such as 24th Street, is just as reasonable a proposition as a test six months “anything goes” pilot project, is is not?

 

 

Parking scofflaws can’t escape Muni bus cameras

By Heather Knight : sfchronicle – excerpt

Every San Francisco driver has thought about it in this congested, hectic city where scoring easy parking is rarer than a sunny day in July. It’s OK to double-park in the bus stop to fetch your dry cleaning or pull over in a transit-only lane right, right? Just for a moment?

A word to the wise: Don’t do it.

Unlike those infamous BART train cameras that don’t actually work, the more than 800 forward-facing cameras affixed to every San Francisco Muni bus work just fine. And last year, they led to a whopping 3,625 tickets to all those ne’er-do-wells who blocked a vehicle’s path.

 Since the first cameras were tested in 2008 — they were made permanent on all buses in 2015 —there have been a total of 24,125 tickets mailed to owners of cars that were parked illegally or pulled over where a bus camera could photograph them…

Chiu is continuing his crusade to change road behavior with cameras. He recently introduced legislation that would allow San Francisco and San Jose to test a pilot program in which cameras would be used to ticket speeding drivers.

Chiu has an incentive to make the city’s roads as clear as possible. He commutes from his condo in the Candlestick Point area to Sacramento — and it can take 2½ hours or more during rush hour.

“The congestion on our streets and highways is crushing,” Chiu said. “We have to innovate new ways to move around efficiently, reliably and safely.”

The longtime bicyclist and Muni rider had to buy his first-ever new car for the grueling commute. It’s a Toyota Prius, and Chiu, being a good Democrat, picked dark blue….(more)

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