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.”

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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.

An estimated 100,000 homes are sitting empty in the San Francisco metro area

By Amy Graff : sfgate – excerpt

Here’s a number that will make anyone trying to find a place to live in the Bay Area frustrated: An estimated 100,025 households are sitting vacant in the San Francisco metro area.

The number comes from a study released this week by LendingTree, an online service connecting consumers with lenders and banks. The company based in Charlotte, N.C., looked at the vacancy rates in the nation’s 50 largest metropolitan areas, revealing some interesting findings…(more)

 

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.

Smart Trains Cancelled Monday For Safety Reasons

By Bay City News Service : sfgate – excerpt

Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) has canceled commuter train service for Monday because of the ongoing Public Safety Power Shutdown impacts on local city traffic signal systems governing roadways that cross SMART railroad tracks, and to clear trees downed by high winds from the tracks.

When PG&E turns the power back on, local jurisdictions will have to reactivate all traffic control systems and synchronize them with SMART railroad crossing warning lights and gates, according to a SMART news release.

For updates, visit SMART’s website at SonomaMarinTrain.org or call (707) 794-3077… (more)

This is why people don’t want to give up their cars. You can’t trust the public transportation service to get your out when you are told to evacuate. You can only rely on your own vehicle, and in some cases, the bigger the better.

RELATED:

Golden Gate Transit Makes Changes To Southbound Bus Service
Escalators Out Of Service At Four Bart Stations As Precaution

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.

SF D5 supervisor candidates split on transit issues

By Matthew S. Bajko : bear – excerpt

The two leading candidates in San Francisco’s heated contest for the District 5 supervisor seat both are vocal critics of the city’s mass transit system and its less-than-stellar service in the Haight, Cole Valley, and Fillmore neighborhoods.

In separate editorial board meetings with the Bay Area Reporter this month, both Supervisor Vallie Brown and tenants rights activist Dean Preston told of waiting at Muni stops and being unable to board either a cramped bus or packed N-Judah subway car headed toward downtown. They both related how their fellow stranded passengers resorted to taking private transit options instead…(more)

Chase Center: A giant roomba that is still a bad idea

By Stuart Schuffman : sfexaminer – excerpt

Given this incredible propensity for screwing up huge projects, none of us should be surprised that The City went ahead with this absurdly placed arena.

With the official opening of the Warriors’ new home, the Chase Center, just a few weeks away, I’d like to take this moment to remind the Bay Area what an absolutely stupid idea it was to build this thing. For a town that likes to pride itself on being on the forefront of everything, San Francisco is irredeemably shortsighted when it comes to urban planning…

Given this incredible propensity for screwing up huge projects, none of us should be surprised that the city went ahead with this absurdly placed arena, despite plenty of public outcry…

From when this arena was first announced, much of the opposition to it centered around not just the fact that we’ve somehow decided to make traffic even worse for 50+ extra days a year, but the question of “How can emergency vehicles get through.”… (more)

For the last 10 years the Port and the SFMTA have conspired to turn SF into Battery Park West. Nothing they have done to improve the Bay or access to it has improved anything. We now have complete gridlock as planned. And that is not just private vehicles we are talking about. Try moving on the T-Line, The L-Tarval, or the BART. People are tired of the game. What is going to happen if PG&E shuts down service for a day? Five days? Better have an exit plan. It will not be pretty.

BART official responds to Netflix original that takes aim at US’s failing transit systems

By Drew Costley : sfgate – excerpt

BART was briefly mentioned on the newest episode Hasan Minhaj’s “Patriot Act” on the state of public transit in the United States, but how much of what he talks about it in the episode applies to the state of public transit in the Bay Area?…

In a recent episode of Netflix’s “Patriot Act,” comedian Hasan Minhaj bemoaned the state of public transit in the United States, blaming the billionaire Koch brothers for stifling attempts by several major metropolitan areas to upgrade their public transit systems.

“I want to talk about public transportation. Look, it’s not just destroying my life,” Minhaj said. “Everyone hates public transportation.”… (more)

Failure of public transit is a tragedy not a comedy.

Let’s face it. The public transit system is failing. Not due to a lack of funds. Over a billion dollars a year for Muni is a problem, not a solution. They can’t hire enough drivers so they hire 55 PR flack to spin that story instead. Let’s blame the public for one thing. Let’s blame the public for voting for not having the wisdom to figure out who is to blame. The question we need to ask is, “who his benefiting from the failure of the pubic transit system? That is the culprit that needs to be taken out.