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?

Portland Anarchists Begin Fixing Roads & Potholes (Because the Government Won’t)

by Tyler Durden : zerohedge – excerpt

Authored by Derrick Broze via TheAntiMedia.org,

“Who will build the roads?” The question is a common response to the proposition that human beings can coexist peacefully in the absence of a government or even the concept of a State altogether. Anarchists often claim that in the absence of an institutionalized State, people will voluntarily organize and discover solutions to the problems they face, including the construction and maintenance of roads. One such group of anarchists decided to put their beliefs into action by repairing potholes in Portland, Oregon.

A Facebook page called Portland Anarchist Road Care claims PARC is an anarchist organization dedicated to putting “the state of the roads of PDX into the hands of the people.” The group’s page says they “believe in building community solutions to the issues we face, outside of the state.” They say they are working to change the stereotype of anarchists as road blockers and window smashers. PARC also accuses the city of Portland of failing to repair roads in a timely manner and failing to provide adequate preventative care for winter storms.

“Portland Anarchist Road Care aims to mobilize crews throughout our city, in our neighborhoods, to patch our streets, build community, and continue to find solutions to community problems outside of the state,” their Facebook page reads... (more)

Potholes are one of the most dangerous and expensive problems the SFMTA, DPW and City Hall continues to ignore. They catch pedestrians, bikes and motor vehicle drivers by surprise, causing accidents and damage and costing millions of dollar to the economy. No wonder people are upset and taking matters into their own hands.
Here is what you can do about it in San Francisco:
Adopt a pothole

Uber’s Self-Driving Cars Still Need a Lot of Human Help

By Maya Kosoff : vanityfair – excerpt

They can barely go a mile without human intervention, according to leaked documents.

Travis Kalanick has described self-driving technology as “existential” to Uber’s future as a company. But according to recent internal documents obtained by Recode and BuzzFeed News, Uber is still nowhere close to having a fully autonomous vehicle. Recode reports that during the week ending March 8, Uber’s self-driving cars traveled, on average, just 0.8 miles on their own before a human had to take over, in a process known as “disengagement.” That Uber’s cars cannot travel a mile without human intervention does not bode particularly well for a company whose future is predicated on its self-driving technology… (more)

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?

Ambitious plan for once-central S.F. crossroads

By John King : sfchronicle – excerpt (with graphics)

The 1500 Mission residential tower (top) would replace a thrift store and Goodwill headquarters at a confusing intersection.

The intersection of Market Street and Van Ness Avenue looms large on the map, with two of San Francisco’s best-known and broadest thoroughfares overlapping at a sharp angle.

The reality isn’t nearly so grand — a crossroads marked by a car dealership, a doughnut shop and two drab office blocks. Nearby, parking lots and ratty alleys rub against buildings that never aimed high and now are worn down. The street life is spotty at best, sketchy at worst.

All this would change under an evolving city plan that includes a cluster of towers on the skyline, a variety of public spaces below and as many as 7,280 housing units in between. And the first major project within the area could be approved next week — one that hints at a livelier future, but also shows how tough it is to fit ambitious visions into a complex setting.

If nothing else, the proposal for 1500 Mission St. — down the block from Market and South Van Ness Avenue — that goes to the Planning Commission on March 23 shows how this part of San Francisco could be transformed… (more)

If they want a traffic circle this might be the place to put one as there is plenty of real estate and the traffic is confusing at best. a traffic  circle might solve that confusion. Of course, the buses would have to take the circle as well unless they are rerouted. I have no idea how buses handle traffic circles. They may like them.

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?

 

 

SF installs diagonal pedestrian crossing at dangerous Chinatown intersection

By : sfexaminer – excerpt

After more than a year of repeated protests, San Francisco has installed full “pedestrian scramble” safety engineering improvements to a busy intersection in Chinatown.

Kearny and Clay streets, where 77-year-old Ai You Zhou was struck and killed while crossing the intersection in 2015, is the latest spot in The City to receive the pedestrian engineering treatment, which replicates pedestrian crossing patterns in China… (more)

It can take a while, but both pedestrians and drivers like scrambles. They are the least confusing and the most safe of any crossing process in the traffic “tollbox” and we would like one at 16th and Mission as well. How log will it take to get one there?

Seattle Plans to Improve Road Safety by Replacing Traffic Signals with Stop Signs

by Charlie Sorrel : xist – excerpt

Just this one trick works remarkably well in reducing speed, crashes, and pedestrian fatalities. But for truly safe intersections, you need to remove the signs altogether.

Seattle may ditch traffic signals in order to make its streets safer. This counterintuitive move should slow traffic, and make drivers more attentive around intersections. And if you live in Seattle, you can send your suggestions for suitable intersections to the local government.

The problem with traffic signals is one of entitlement. If you see a green light, you speed on through, not even giving much thought to the fact that you’re even at a road junction. Worse, if the light changes as you approach, you’ll either jump on the gas, or jump on the brake, either of which can be dangerous for you and other road users. Traffic signals, then, make for efficient intersections, but not safe ones.

According to the Seattle DOT, the city has over 1,000 traffic signals, and it plans to replace up to ten of them of them with four-way stop signs, with more to come if the trial works out. Not only do stop signs force drivers to pay attention, and slow down, it also makes the area unattractive as a through-route, so drivers may instead opt for a bigger, light-controlled road nearby. If properly planned, this can be a powerful traffic-shaping tool… (more)

 

Contradictory Reports presented at Special SFMTA Meeting

shuttleson24th

People are asking for data about the Tech Buses. Here is some data that was presented by the SFMTA this week by the City Controller and the SFMTA.
It is interesting to read both reports and see how the Controller Report contradicts many points in the SFMTA PR spin presented at the same meeting. You can find some links to those reports here:

SFMTA Board Special Meeting Tuesday, February 7, 9 AM – agenda
Green Room War Memorial Building, 401 Van Ness Ave.
Labor negotiations and closed session followed by presentations of current projects.
Financial Overview – presentation
Items 7-9 SFMTA Board Workshop – presentation

How the media buy claims that the Bay Area has the worst traffic in the country and the best public transit is beyond me. The two would seem to cancel each other out, but, we live in a world of fake news and alternate facts. People believe what they choose to believe until they experience something different. Right now many of us are experiencing a lot of large vehicles with darkened windows roaming through our streets like a foreign invasion.

Many business reports are showing a decline in the tech and construction industries. (look it up for yourselves) At the same time, there is also an expected loss of revenues coming from the federal coffers over the next four years that could seriously impact many projects the city was planning to fund, including those proposed by the SFMTA. These issues are largely based on international financial chaos and political uncertainties.

The tech buses may not be needed much longer. If these uncertainties continue and there is a decline in ridership they should downsize the buses and fleets to reflect that change.

The corporations that run the shuttles on our city streets should be responsible for generating reports on the number of buses and passengers that use these shuttles, much as the short term rental services are being required to do now. As far as I know the reports are being generated by public volunteers.

Requiring reports would be a good first step in solving this problem.

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Not Even Donald Trump Can Save Twitter:
huffingtonpost – excerpt
…In a press release, C.E.O. Jack Dorsey called 2016 a “transformative” period for Twitter—a positive spin on a year filled with negative headlines. In the past several months, Twitter cut 9 percent of its staff; shed businesses like Vine, which didn’t make money; explored the idea of a sale but couldn’t find a buyer; struggled with its very public abuse and harassment problems as trolls chased high-profile users such as actress Leslie Jones off the platform; sold its Fabric developer business to Google; and lost several executives, including C.O.O. Adam Bain. (Twitter’s talent exodus continues to this day: just this week, two more execs left the company.)… (more)

Can Uber Outrun Its Own Future?
huffingtonpost – excerpt
Burning through cash in a race to escape the economic realities of the ride-hailing market, Uber is looking to a future without drivers—and now without cars, either...(more)

Yahoo Says Sale to Verizon Delayed Until Second Quarter
bloomberg – excerpt
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