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

For San Franciscans With Suspended Licenses, Time For Traffic Ticket Amnesty Is Running Out

by Teresa Hammerl : hoodline – excerpt (video included)

Traffic Ticket Amnesty Program from SF OEWD on Vimeo.

Traffic Ticket Amnesty Program from SF OEWD on Vimeo.

Over 10,000 San Franciscans—many of whom live in the city’s lowest-income neighborhoods—have suspended driver’s licenses. Without the ability to drive, many have found it difficult to secure employment, take children to school, access social services, or even see family and friends.

Under an amnesty program signed into law by California Governor Jerry Brown, people with suspended licenses can get a second chance. Introduced in 2015, the program can reduce debt from unpaid traffic tickets incurred before 2013 by 50 or 80 percent, depending on a person’s income, and help offenders reinstate their driver’s licenses.

But on March 31st, the program will end—and local agencies are concerned that many who need it aren’t aware and have yet to take advantage.

Before the final deadline hits, the Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) and the Financial Justice Project (an initiative of the City Treasurer’s Office) have launched a multi-lingual outreach campaign to increase the number of residents who apply for the amnesty program.

“In San Francisco, we want to ensure that every resident affected has access to amnesty and equal access to job opportunities—leading to a pathway out of poverty,” said Todd Rufo, director of the OEWD, in a statement… (more)

 

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?

U.S. Transportation department executive approved grant days before taking job with rail contractor

By Ralph Vartabedian : latimes – excerpt

A top Obama administration executive at the U.S. Department of Transportation approved a $647-million grant for a California rail project in mid-January and less than two weeks later went to work for a Los Angeles-based contractor involved in the project, The Times has learned.

The grant provides a significant part of the money required to install a $2-billion electrical power system on the Bay Area’s Caltrain commuter rail system, allowing the rail to retire its diesel locomotives.

The power equipment will eventually be used by the state’s bullet train from Los Angeles to San Francisco, making it a critical part of the $64-billion program. The California High-Speed Rail Authority has pledged about $713 million to help install the system, according to state records.

The grant was handled by Carolyn Flowers, the acting chief of the Federal Transit Administration.  Flowers announced the grant approval in a letter, dated Jan. 18,  to congressional leaders. The Times obtained a copy of the letter…

Thirteen days later, Flowers went to work for Aecom, a Los Angeles-based engineering firm. The company news release announcing her hiring says she will head its North American transit practice. Aecom provides program management services to Caltrain for the electrification project, according to Caltrain documents. It was formerly a regional consultant to the high-speed rail project as well.

On Friday, the federal transit agency said it had “deferred” a decision on the grant and said it would look at the matter in the next federal budget cycle. The decision may be an early sign of the Trump administration’s view of the bullet train project. The line is already under construction and will need significant federal funding moving forward.

The delay follows a letter from every Republican member of the California House delegation to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, asking that the grant be put off until an audit of the high-speed rail project is completed.
This is exactly what America hates about Washington, D.C… (more)

Don’t they call this the revolving door?

RELATED:
Carolyn Flowers-letter to congress 
Caltrain and High Speed Rail and FTA funding – Revolving Door Shenanigans

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.

Would higher gas tax fill our spreading potholes?

By Gary Richards : mercurynews – excerpt

With heavy storms wreaking havoc on California roads to the tune of $600 million — damages that Caltrans says could top $1 billion by spring — Bay Area traffic heavyweights joined forces Monday to push for higher gas taxes and auto registration fees to raise $6 billion a year for the state’s dilapidated roads.

“It is fiscally irresponsible to wait until our roads fail,” said State Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, chairman of the state Senate Transportation Committee, at a press conference to garner support for his gas tax bill. “We can’t ignore repairs. Eventually, we have to pay.”

SB-1 would hike the state gas tax by 12 cents a gallon over three years, charge electric cars an annual fee of $100 and increase the registration for all vehicles by $38. San Jose would be one of the big winners, getting $39 million a year from Beall’s measure, with $19 million more coming from the Measure B sales tax approved in November. San Jose transportation director Jim Ortbal called it a game changer, “huge.”…

Republicans and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, however, oppose any tax increases and, instead, want to divert money from the high-speed rail project and the state’s general fund to filling potholes…

But Beall doesn’t want the general fund touched for road repairs. “That’s a non-starter,” he said. “No way.”

Coupal suggests taking nearly $9 billion in bonds from high-speed rail for road construction.

“If voter approval is deemed necessary,” Coupal said, “that measure passes in a heartbeat.”… (more)

Here comes Lucy again with the football. What are the chances she will not pull it away again?

RELATED:
Gas tax proposed to help pay for much-needed San Jose road repairs: (video included)

BART says it needs more money because weekend ridership is down

ktvu – excerpt – (includes video)

– BART officials say commute ridership is up but weekends, off-peak and short rides have slipped so much, it’s dragging the whole system’s numbers down.

Slipping ridership means less revenue and the possibility that fares could increase.

The news came as a shock to commuters, who say business on BART seems to be thriving.

“You can’t get on trains most of the time going home riding three stations upstream just to get a seat on the train,” said Dave Smart of Walnut Creek.

BART says it’s already $5 million in the red for the first half of the fiscal year and projecting a $15-25 million shortfall going forward.

One solution may be to raise base fares, an idea that doesn’t sit well with Hentemann. “That makes me a little upset because they’re cramming us into the BART trains; they’re taking seats away, we’re tired after working all day long we want to get home. We want to sit down and they want more money. Give us a break.”

Bevan Dufty sits on the BART board and represents District 9. He says the board does not want to hike fares, especially with the passage of November’s Measure RR… (more)

BART needs to listen to their clients and give them what the want, not try to sell them what BART thinks they need. Quit expanding and start maintaining what they have.

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