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.

State Legislature & Governor Approve 18 New Housing Bills & Eliminate Single Family Zoning

By Sharon Rushton : marinpost – excerpt

On October 9th, Governor Gavin Newsom signed 18 bills designed to promote housing production. A number of these housing bills take away local control of land use, substantially increase housing density and population potential, and establish streamlined ministerial approval processes for housing projects, thereby exempting these projects from public engagement and the California Environmental Quality Act approval process.

And SAY GOODBYE TO SINGLE FAMILY ZONING!

The subsequent housing densification and population growth will increase the risk of adverse impacts on the environment, public health and safety, traffic congestion, infrastructure, utilities (water supply), public services (schools), views, sunlight, privacy, neighborhood character, and quality of life.

The bills will create unfunded mandates due to the fact that there is no funding for dealing with the above listed significant impacts. Communities will be forced to substantially increase taxes to try to alleviate the adverse impacts, although many will be unavoidable… (more)

RELATED:

Newsom Rejects California Housing Bill that would have raised Billions for Projects

By Hannah Wiley : sacbee – excerpt

… The legislation would have, for the next 30 years, shifted millions of dollars from local property tax revenues to pay for a variety of affordable housing projects. Local jurisdictions would have applied for the funding, to be used for initiatives like transit-oriented development and infrastructure planning…

State Sen. Jim Beall, a San Jose Democrat and author of SB 5, said the legislation would have added financial urgency to the state’s housing crisis… (more)

This is relevant to the changes coming to our streets because the Land Use and Transportation are now being driven by a joint effort to force changes through transit controls. The Transportation Authorities are now in the Housing development and funding business. These bills are a part of the larger plan to divide, disrupt and control. Elect people you trust to listen to your needs when you can.

Gov. Newsom’s Executive Order Authorizing Theft of Voter-Approved Gas Tax Money

By Katy Grimes : californiaglobe – excerpt

Order violates Prop. 69, while eliminating highway expansion and repair projects

Through an Executive Order, California Governor Gavin Newsom has redirected gas tax money to fund railway systems and other projects. The gas tax revenue would have repaired and upgraded the state’s broken highways and roads.

Californians pay the highest gas prices in the nation, most of which is taxes…

Governor Newsom signed Executive Order N-19-19 September 20, directing the already controversial gas tax money away from fixing local highways in favor of rail projects

Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) recently explained that in the 2020 Transportation Plan are two projects that would have increased stretches of Highway 99 from four to six lanes in the Central Valley. Patterson says that a Cal Trans’ report even notes the “bottleneck” created at these sections along this major freight corridor.

“Instead of building capacity on our highways to move people and freight, Governor Newsom is funding his pet rail projects throughout the state,” Patterson said. “This theft of funds meant to improve our roadways is a glimpse into the future of transportation in our state and Newsom continues to execute his September 2019 Climate Change Executive Order. The Central Valley is just the beginning. Other road projects will likely be next.” …

(more)

I have a question for the Governor regarding the emergency plans for evacuating people in an emergency who are completely reliant on the public transportation systems such as buses and trains. How does he expect them to get out of harms way in the event of a major fire without their own means of transportation? How does he expect them to haul out their precious documents, food and water and other supplies without a vehicle of their own?

We saw the results of complete streets that removed traffic lanes in Paradise. We are seeing the results now of a major breakdown in emergency response efforts brought on by the PG&E blackouts. How does funneling road and bridge repair money into a rail system aid the millions of people who rely on streets and roads for emergency response teams and evacuations? Why is our government destroying our greatest assets? The first thing emergency responders do when the power is off is drive out to warn people. They need roads to do that. You are not going to send buses and trains.

Free “exclusive” Muni buses for Chase Center customers?

Opinion – Vote NO on D.

We thought the point of ”free Muni” for Chase Center ticket holders was for them to ride the Muni with the public, not to remove Muni from the public for the exclusive use of Chase Center ticket holders, yet, that appears to be what is happening.

People on 16th Street are watching your almost empty bus whiz by their bus stop without stopping, while you are waiting for the bus that got re-routed to supply the free ticket service for Chase Center customers.

You might ask the Mayor if that is what she had in mind when she applauded the program to give free Muni rides to Chase Center ticket holders.. Did she expect the ticket holders to “share” Muni rides with the public, or was she aware of SMTA’s plan to remove Muni buses from public access to provide an exclusive ride for ticket holders at Chase Center?

Next time the government comes asking for more Muni money (like Propostion D on the ballot now) consider who is benefiting from the funds when SFMTA is handing over pubic property for the exclusive use of private enterprises. If the public agencies want to coddle the private enterprises they are partnering with, they should get the money out to them, not the taxpaying public.

Why should we fork over more money for Muni when SFMTA is cutting public access to our streets and cutting Muni service to the paying public?

We suggest that people who object to this use of public property and funds vote against all new taxes and bonds that support public transit until there is a reverse in the trend to privatize public property and public services. The last thing we need is a class system approach to public transit. Vote NO on D.

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)

 

 

UPDATE: State launches investigation into Muni doors that trapped and dragged a woman

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt (includes video)

State regulators have launched an investigation into Muni’s allegedly malfunctioning doors and broken couplers.

The California Public Utilities Commission, which oversees rail safety in California, has confirmed to the San Francisco Examiner its staff launched a probe into both issues.

The California Public Utilities Commission, which oversees rail safety in California, has confirmed to the San Francisco Examiner its staff launched a probe into both issues.

“Yes, we are aware and we’re investigating what occurred and why,” said Constance Gordon, a spokesperson for the CPUC. “We’re looking at both the door concerns and the coupler pin issue on the new SFMTA cars.”

Both stories hit this week in two investigative reports: Muni’s door problems were exposed by the Examiner, and its coupler pin issues were exposed by NBC Bay Area. NBC Bay Area first reported the state investigation(more)

How many mistakes does the SFMTA have to make before someone shows the director the door? Can we start applying expectations of honesty to our local officials? When does a false or misleading statement rise to the level of a lie?

We anticipate some lively discussion at the Board of Supervisors meetings this week. We will be shocked if they approve the purchase of these vehicles at this time, but, not holding out breath either.

 

New Muni trains delivered with defective doors

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

Rider caught in door, dragged onto tracks and hospitalized due to lack of vital safety mechanism

At least some of Muni’s newest light rail vehicles — part of its more than $1.1 billion future train fleet — appear to have been delivered with doors that clamp down and lock on objects and people, documents obtained by the San Francisco Examiner reveal.

That door defect may have seriously injured a Muni rider last week… (more)

Thankfully we still have a free press. Do we need more proof that the system is broken? This is not good news for the those who approved the fast-tracked purchase of the unpopular Siemens cars. Will use the one tool they have to curtail the SFMTA? Will the Board of Supervisors refuse to sign the SFMTA budget?

A public department that ignores the public it serves is not a well-run department. It appears the SFMTA wants speed and they riders want safety and comfort instead. The public demands better. Speed is not the answer.

Who at City hall stop this insanity? Who will admit to a coverup? Will someone finally fall on their sword and take the blame? How will SFMTA’s director and PR czar spin this one?

Will City Hall finally let the public speak for themselves and consider their wisdom? Thanks to everyone who tried to bring reason to the department that has no ears and uses its power and public funds to silence those who do speak out.

RELATED:
Muni Official: ‘Deep Concern’ About Operator Not Spotting Woman Caught in Train Door

 

Ask Ed Reiskin

What’s next at SFMTA? Tomorrow is your chance to call into KQED Forum and ask Ed Reiskin some of those questions you have been wanting to ask regarding the state of the SFMTA and his roll in making it what it is today. Ed is scheduled to be on KQED Forum Friday, March 8 at 10 AM and you may call in with questions at: 866 733-6786  or email the Forum program: forum@kqed.org