Transit New regulations for jitneys leave ban on Muni competition in flux

By Joe Fitgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

San Francisco transportation officials approved The City’s first-ever regulations for jitneys Tuesday.

The regulations will require private transit to provide wheelchair accessible vehicles and to submit operating data to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, among other new rules.

A controversial ban on allowing private transit routes to mirror Muni routes is still in flux, however, and SFMTA staff said the provision to curtail duplicate service needs more work behind the scenes.

The SFMTA Board of Directors approved the regulations Tuesday after a heated discussion, and asked staff to come back to the board with its final proposal to ban competition with Muni…(more)

What do routes have to do with competition when the whole point of the service is “on-demand” pick-up and drop off. There is no competition since Muni doesn’t offer that service. The routes a vehicle travels on between the pickup and drop off spots is irrelevant to the beginning and ending points, and probably has more to do with traffic flow than anything else.

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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.

 

Two-mile-long Van Ness bus lane project faces two-year delay

By : sfexaminer – excerpt

The two-mile-long Van Ness Bus Rapid Transit project is facing an almost six-month construction delay.

“The project has been delayed due to an increase of wet weather since the project started,” said Paul Rose, a San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency spokesperson, “as well as contractual challenges in getting a utility contractor on board.”

Left turns along Van Ness Avenue between Mission and Lombard streets were eliminated when construction began in 2016 to create bus lanes which are intended to speed up buses for thousands of Muni riders… (more)

As some of us have noted, there is a shortage of competent experienced contractors and construction workers due to the unreasonable number of government projects. There are no more construction workers to do any more work.

It doens’t take a brain surgeon to figure out that the “new economy” education system is producing too many hackers and computer geniuses and not enough talented plumbers and electricians to meet the demand for the fast-paced development City Hall expects.

Unlike software contractors, who can fake results an blame the hardware, it is hard to fake an electrical or plumbing system. If the city wants to be in the construction business they need to train more construction workers to work in the real world instead of the virtual ones.

Hopefully City Hall will figure out soon that there is no point in digging any more holes until they fill the big ones causing all the damage to our city. Do us all a favor. and “FINISH WHAT YOU STARTED BEFORE DIGGING UP ANY MORE STREETS.”

National Association of City Transportation Officials

NATO – excerpt

Mission: NACTO’s mission is to build cities as places for people, with safe, sustainable, accessible and equitable transportation choices that support a strong economy and vibrant quality of life… (more)

NACTO’s core principles and priorities for city transportation in state and federal legislation and regulation are:

  1. Promote safe transportation systems
  2. Support sustainable funding and financing for transportation projects
  3. Bring project decisions closer to the taxpayer, at the local level
  4. Reduce the impact of transportation on climate change
  5. Increase equitable transportation access for all people and all modes
  6. Prepare for automated vehicle technology… (more)

One of the many Organizations that SFMTA and our city officials are involved with, where policies are made on a national/international stage.

Bike Talk on Homeless and the Hairball

: streetsblog – excerpt

Plight of Homeless Elicits Compassion from Bicycle Community

Melodie, a woman in her late 50s who lives in a camper along one of the streets leading into the Hairball, pleaded with city officials and advocates to just give homeless people some sanctuary and peace. “There’s no where else to go,” she said to a group of some 40 bike and homeless advocates who attended a San Francisco Bicycle Coalition panel last night on homelessness in the Hairball…

When the bike paths opened three years ago, Streetsblog and the Bicycle Coalition celebrated it as a victory for the safe-streets community. But, as Streetsblog has covered previously, the bike lanes are now overrun with encampments, rendering them all but impassable. Last night’s meeting, which brought together advocates and city officials at the Episcopal Church of St. John the Evangelist in the Mission, was intended to address some of the concerns…

For Kelley Cutler with the Coalition on Homelessness, the Hairball conflicts are part of a nationwide issue that’s going on in every corner of the country. “They’re dealing with the same thing in Alaska, where it’s freezing.”…

“The takeaway is that people living in encampments are our neighbors and to treat people with dignity and respect,” said Emily Cohen with the San Francisco Department of Homelessness. Her department, she explained, is setting up so-called ‘Navigation Centers’–city run shelters where social workers help reconnect homeless people with relatives, jobs, medical care, and, hopefully, get them set on a path back to a permanent roof over their heads. The idea is to clear the hairball encampments not by chasing them away, but by helping them rejoin society. “We don’t approach a camp until we have the beds at the navigation centers to do it–so it’s a real offer of someplace to go,” she explained.

Cohen said they’ve made significant progress in the Hairball. “We did an assessment in August–there were 60 people living in the area, and now we’re down to 35 or 45,” she said, adding that they placed people into navigation centers, with “four more placements taking place this week.”…

Meanwhile, the California Department of Transportation owns most of the land under the freeway and Hairball, explained Luis Montoya, with the Livable Streets division at the SFMTA. Montoya explained how the Hairball was never designed by any one agency, and was instead layered on over several decades during the freeway building era–that’s why the whole thing is such a disjointed physical and administrative mess. One of the bike paths is controlled by the SF Department of Public Works, but the rest belongs to Caltrans, he said. “We have no jurisdiction over it. And we’re not consulted when changes are made.”…

So homeless people set up camp on the bike bridges–the only part that Caltrans doesn’t control…

Indeed, from Streetsblog’s perspective, it remains a mystery as to why Caltrans insists on leaving areas under freeways fenced off and unused, often covered in garbage, but will take such extreme measures to clear out the homeless from the one place where nobody would otherwise bother them–and where they have a chance to stay dry in the rainy season. It’s a horrible existence, but it’s not improved by regularly throwing out all their possessions and tossing them onto a bike path or a sidewalk or a street. That said, it sounds as if the city has been pretty inhumane and extreme too at times–Melodie said the Department of Public Works sometimes clears them off the bike path by blasting them with water in the middle of the night…

“There’s nowhere for us to go,” said Melodie, fighting through tears. “And that’s how come we’re under the freeway. We’re just trying to get out of your hair, so you can get on with your life, so you can get to work … that’s why we’re down there. And they’re hosing us down with water at 4 a.m.!”… (more)

 

 

 

 

Transportation Madness

By Commentary Paul Kozakiewicz : richmondreview – excerpt

Lately, I have been wondering why the city’s transportation agency has been running roughshod over merchants and local residents across town, and acting in total disregard for the wishes of most San Francisco residents.

Whether it’s the Geary Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), or the L Taraval streetcar line, the public and local merchants are ignored as being minor disruptions to the agency’s self-proclaimed higher ideals.

The SF Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) has created a scorched-earth policy, destroying or hurting businesses on Third, Mission, Taraval and Irving streets and Van Ness Avenue. It refuses to conduct economic impact studies before closing and tearing up streets just to shave a minute or two off bus and streetcar times. It ignores the pleas of seniors, people trying to raise a family, and anyone else who stands in its way.

And it is beyond the reach of voters and elected officials…

The SFMTA was granted special SF Charter status, and divorced from oversight by elected public officials, in 1999. I bet most of the people reading this column have no idea who is running one of the largest departments in the City, with almost 5,000 employees and an annual budget of $1 billion.

The story of how we got to where we are today is ugly.

Mayor, supervisors abdicate transportation responsibilities…

Who is running the SFMTA?

Prop. E is seven pages long, with mostly additions and a lot of deletions of the old laws. It is specific, however, on who should run this massive super-agency…

Currently, it appears as if none of the seven members of the board of directors, or the operations director, have much experience in transportation. They are mostly political insiders whose experience is working within government in some limited capacity…

I think running a large transportation conglomerate is above Reiskin’s pay grade. And, the board of directors running this important show are political appointees, mostly with expertise in subjects other than transportation. It boggles the mind.

The directors of the SFMTA are Cheryl Brinkman (chair), Malcolm Heinicke, Gwyneth Bordon, Lee Hsu, Joel Ramos, Christina Rubke and Art Torres. Their biographies are available at the SFMTA’s website at http://www.sfmta.org

And the city’s taxi industry has not fared well under the SFMTA’s oversight…

The aftermath

Here we are, 17 years after the passage of Prop. E, and the SFMTA is a monster of its own creation. The development of the Geary BRT would be funny, except for it being real. I’ve documented the Geary BRT story exhaustively since late 2006, when I spent my Christmas vacation trying to figure out why the SFMTA was coming into the neighborhood talking about a “voter mandate” to build a Geary BRT, which was never wanted by most of the people who work and live in the district…

• Representatives of the SFMTA refused the request of local merchants to include an economic impact statement in the Geary BRT’s environmental report;…

The second phase would tear up Geary, hurt local businesses, remove left-hand turns, remove parking spaces and increase traffic on all other Richmond streets.

Non-profit challenges SFMTA

The SFMTA is not a good public institution to deal with. That’s why a group of concerned west side residents and merchants joined together to create the nonprofit organization SF Sensible Transit…

Members of the organization tried for months to negotiate with representatives of the SFMTA, but to no avail. Finally, in desperation, they filed a lawsuit to stop implementation of “phase 2” of the Geary BRT…

Please join Sensible Transit or make a donation in care of: San Franciscans for Sensible Transit, P.O. Box 210119, SF, CA 94121. Or, go to the website at www.sfsensibletransit.org.

It’s for all the right reasons.

Thank you.

Paul Kozakiewicz is the publisher of the Richmond Review and Sunset Beacon

 

Political muscle and dealmaking got Prop. E passed

By Paul Kozakiewicz : richmondreview and sunsetbeacon – excerpt

Political muscle and deal-making got Proposition E passed, which created the SF Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA). The proposition was on the November, 1999 ballot.

According to an article in the SF Examiner, SF Mayor Willie Brown worked hard during a re-election year to muster support for Proposition E. The work paid off. The SF Board of Supervisors voted 10-1 to put the measure on the ballot. Supporting the plan was a combination of progressive and moderate supervisors: Tom Amman, Alica Becerril, Amos Brown, Leslie Katz, Barbara Kaufman, Mark Leno, Gavin Newsom, Mabel Teng, Michael Yaki and Leland Yee. Only supervisor Sue Bierman voted against the plan.

In the ballot pamphlet supporting their position, the 10 supervisors said, “Proposition E will make Muni much more accountable for service delivered. It will take strong steps to reduce traffic by finally making transit a real alternative to the automobile, and it will ensure Muni is fully funded to meet the City’s transit needs for years to come.” None of those goals have come to pass…

If political muscle can create it political muscle can kill it. Make sure you grill all the supervisor candidates on how they plan to take back public control of the agency and then hold them to their promise.

Proposition E is a SF Charter revision, which means it is a part of the City’s guiding document and can’t be changed without a vote of the people. It had the support of many of the city’s political leaders, including SF Mayor Willie Brown, state Sen. John Burton, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Assemblyman Kevin Shelley and the Democratic and Republican parties. They all called for improving bus service in the City, but they gave up control over the agency responsible for performing the task, changed the city’s Transit First Policy to be hostile to private vehicles, and created a super-organization responsible for thousands of employees – without supervision from any elected officials. No one is held accountable at the SFMTA…

Prop. E also gave the SFMTA the power to tax, which it tried to do in the November 2016 election by requesting a half-cent sales tax increase for transit projects that the agency refused to spell out. Trust us. Just give us the money, the SFMTA said. The voters, in their wisdom, said “no!”  Prop. E was passed by San Francisco voters on Nov. 2, 1999, by a 61- 39 percent vote… (more).

I you want an excuse for owning a car, you need to look not further than the fires in the north to see why a car is you best refuge in a disaster. All these thousands of people in shelters got there by private vehicle. The public transportation system is the first to close down during a crisis event that requires mass evacuations, and who wants to carry you life in a backpack? In the event of an emergency, your vehicle is your emergency vehicles and possibly your home for a while.

RELATED:
Transportation Madness

Brewing bikeshare battle may threaten SF’s Ford GoBike contract

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

Harrison17th

These unpopular GoBikes line 17th Street line in the Mission with private corporate bikes,  removing parking for everyone, including private bike owners. They are blessed by SFMTA’s private deal with Motivate. photo by zrants

It’s not just a bump in the road. The latest conflict between stationless bikeshare companies and San Francisco has seemingly hit a full-on obstacle course.

San Francisco’s transportation agency is preparing to issue its first permit to a competitor of Ford GoBike, potentially threatening a contract between the Bay Area and the $65 billion Ford Motor Company…

Technically, the contract is not with Ford, it is with Motivate, owned and operated by Related. Motivate has an $8 million deal with Ford. See details on that deal or look it up yourself: Holding Company that owns GoBikes

But that permit allegedly runs afoul of an exclusivity contract Ford entered into with The City, along with its administrator of the bikeshare program, Motivate…

Though no entity has formally sued another, the possible threat of legal action from Motivate and Ford has allegedly driven the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to begin a “dispute resolution process” between the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and Bay Area Motivate LLC, according to sources with knowledge of the situation…

Though no entity has formally sued another, the possible threat of legal action from Motivate and Ford has allegedly driven the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to begin a “dispute resolution process” between the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and Bay Area Motivate LLC, according to sources with knowledge of the situation… (more)

Here we appear to have fight over a yet-to-be-developed market. Where is the research that proves the public is anxious to rent bikes? How many people want to ride bikes who don’t own their own? Why has MTC and SFMTA involved SF voters in a complicated legal battle over a clientele that does not exist in an effort to remove public parking from the streets? Don’t they have a Muni service to run?

Why did the MTC and SFMTA sign exclusive deals (not sure these rise to the level of being legal contracts) with private entities without public knowledge or input? Why were the voters and residents left in the dark until the blue bikes appeared on the street? Do the voters prefer GoBikes and Scoots in their neighborhood or residential parking permits? Think about this as you think about who you want to represent you at City Hall.

SF residential parking permit changes put on hold

Jerold Chinn : sfbay – excerpt

Major changes to San Francisco’s 40-year old Residential Parking Permit Program are put on hold after transit officials raised concerns about several schools in The City not being notified about parking permit changes.

Last Tuesday, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors was to decide on changes to the RPP program, including changes that would limit schools in The City from obtaining more than 15 parking permits for faculty.

Kathy Studwell, residential permit parking program manager at the SFMTA, said seven schools in The City currently have more that 15 parking permits.

The change would take effect in July 2019, said Studwell.

SFMTA Director Malcolm Heinickie asked Studwell if those seven schools had been notified yet.

Studwell said: “We will be notifying them.”…

Nicky Jacobson, a resident in the Dogpatch and a member of the Dogpatch Parking Task Force, did not support the plans for the neighborhood.

Jacobson said she did not like the idea of taking the petition process out of the hands of residents and businesses: “We know as business owners and residents know what goes on on our block.”

Another issue that bothered some directors, which was mentioned by Jacobson, was the way the SFMTA staff had notified interested parties about the proposed changes of the RPP program…

SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose said a date had not been set yet on when the SFMTA board will take up the item again… (more)

And that pretty well sums up the attitude of the SFMTA staff, that fails to notify and fails to listen to the public. The Mayor and Board of Supervisors are getting leaned on pretty heavily and they are sending pressure to the SFMTA Board and Director and conducting a number of hearings. Next step is for neighborhood groups to hold some hearings in their neighborhoods to get a better idea of how the residents and businesses feel about the results of the many SFMTA streetscape projects that are killing businesses and making voters miserable. In those cases where supervisors are leaving, the voters have a chance to vote for a new attitude at City Hall. Ask the tough questions of all our candidates before you choose the next one. If you are in an even district, you will soon have that opportunity.

 

Union Street Merchants upset with Van Ness BRT project

by John Zipperer : marinatimes – excerpt

The ongoing Van Ness Transit Corridor Improvement Project has a clumsy name only a bureaucrat could love, and many merchants on Union Street definitely don’t love one of the project’s features: the loss of a left-turn onto Union Street from Van Ness. They say it has hurt business on their street because of a loss of traffic; drivers on Van Ness just find it easier to drive onward and shop elsewhere. One idea being mooted is seeking about $1.5 million in compensation from the city for their loss of business…

Karnilowicz doesn’t know what will happen regarding compensation, but the situation is not going to go away. He points to a presentation by the city’s Controller’s Office, which studied the impact on local businesses of similar construction projects by measuring the change in sales taxes; in one, West Portal, there was a 12 percent drop in sales tax. “That’s like a 12 percent [decline] in income,” Karnilowicz says; for some businesses, “that’s what their profit margin is.”…(more)

Just say NO to more taxes next time SFMTA comes begging for more. Merchants and pissed off residents who want to live and work in San Francisco should continue opposing tax increases for transit projects to send a clear message to City Hall that they are fed up with streetscape projects. Send letters and comments and complaints to your supervisor and the candidates running for office. Make sure they hear your demands for a freeze on new construction until the current projects are completed. Don’t be shy with your state reps either. Let them know you don’t buy the “we need more money for transit” line when you see more streets being torn up every day. City contacts: https://discoveryink.wordpress.com/san-francisco-officials/
State contacts: https://discoveryink.wordpress.com/state-legislators/