New poll shows strong support for raising ‘Google Bus’ city fees

By : sfexaminer – excerpt

The second legal challenge to the program regulating “Google Buses” – formally known as commuter shuttles – is heading to the Board of Supervisors next week.

Anticipating this public debate, the Bay Area Council released a glowing public poll Wednesday morning, showing strong public support for these private shuttles.

“The Bay Area Council has seen shuttles as a very positive development on the transportation scene,” said Adrian Covert, policy director at the council, whose members include many local businesses.

In an interview, the council noted the benefits of taking as many as 60 cars off the road per shuttle bus.

“You can bet getting two million car trips off the road every year is going to have an important environmental benefit,” said Rufus Jeffris, a spokesman for the council.

But the poll of likely voters also shows the public strongly backs raising fees on the commuter shuttles – a point of contention from critics of the Commuter Shuttle Program, the formal name of the regulations of private corporate shuttles in San Francisco…

Critics filed a legal environmental challenge of the permanent shuttle program, which the Board of Supervisors will weigh in on next week. The Coalition for Fair, Legal and Environmental Transit, SEIU Local 1021, and citizens Sue Vaughan and Bob Planthold filed the challenge through their attorney, Rebecca Davis…  (more)

Let’s get on the bus

By : sfexaminer –  excerpt

The last week of 2015 has kicked up some noxious fumes over the low wages paid to our city’s newest transit drivers.

Muni is assuredly no one’s model metropolitan transit agency, with regular service delays and breakdowns, perpetual grime and random crime, and now we can add employee revolt to the mix. But for good and for ill, it is how we roll in The City. Despite the well-publicized problems, it remains the best — and, for many, only — way to travel through San Francisco.

For those who doubt there is social strife resting uncomfortably just under the surface in this city, spend some time aboard Muni. The transit lines pulse with the character and tensions of The City. Physical fights and harsh words between passengers are not uncommon, but neither are music, new insights and unexpected conversations. The transit lines certainly aren’t San Francisco in a microcosm but rather are The City in a pressure cooker — each ride seems potentially explosive and revelatory.

But if not all is serene in the passenger area, increasingly discontent is also growing for those behind the wheel…

In a series of interviews, operators and union reps told the Examiner that unrest is growing within the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency over the inequity of the latest contract. Experienced Muni operators typically make $60,000 to $70,000 a year, but the 800 Muni operators hired since July 2014 make 63 percent of that under the new contract — as low as $37,000 a year, before union dues and benefits. One full-time Muni operator told us he makes about $2,100 a month, after taxes… (more)

RELATED:
SF TWU 250A Union Official blasts SFMTA over Muni operator wages That Union Leadership Supported

A year in public transit: Muni’s triumphs, woes, and bike controversy in The City

By : sfexaminer -excerpt

For the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, 2015 was a year of one of Muni’s grandest service expansions.

It also saw the public crying out for transit projects meant to save lives.

SFMTA’s Muni Forward launched in April, creating the most expansive increase in transit service since the Market Street underground rail, SFMTA Director of Transit Operations John Haley told the San Francisco Examiner at the time.

More than 700,000 riders across The City saw increased service on 27 routes. The agency also renamed all “limited” bus lines to “rapid.”

Those reroutes also left some small neighborhoods behind, however, like transit riders on the south side of Lake Merced who saw commutes increase by an hour.

Reflecting on the year’s ups and downs, SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose wrote, “Our top priority will always be the safety of San Francisco’s transportation network.”

He noted SFMTA completed 24 “Vision Zero” pedestrian safety projects ahead of schedule, and plans to complete six additional projects by February 2016.

Despite these continuing efforts, the year’s deadly collisions began in March, when an auto struck and killed 87-year-old Alfred Yee on a section of Geary Boulevard slated for safety upgrades by SFMTA. In May, a Muni train struck and killed 12-year-old Andrew Wu, also on a street slated for safety upgrades.

As of Dec. 14, there were 20 pedestrian deaths in collisions in 2015…

Bikes dominated news this year when SFPD Captain John Sanford began a “crackdown” on bicyclists near the Panhandle in June. Cyclists protested in August, which led to the new Bike Yield Stop Law, courtesy of Supervisor John Avalos.

By year’s end the infamous “Google Buses,” properly called the Commuter Shuttle Program, became permanently regulated by the SFMTA, despite two legal challenges.

Public outcry prevented Muni power lines from being torn down for the Super Bowl City festival, after the Examiner first reported the proposal.

SFMTA launched two new transit lines this year: a new historic streetcar line, the E-Embarcadero, in July, and the 55-16th Street in January.

Late in the year SFMTA announced its buses will switch to from biodiesel to renewable diesel fuel. Since 2010 Muni reduced greenhouse gas emissions in its fleet by 19 percent, according to SFMTA… (more)

 

 

Union blasts SFMTA over Muni operator wages

By 

Muni operators’ union leader says the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency needs to be “on blast” for its treatment of drivers.

Eric D. Williams, president of the Transport Workers Union Local 250-A, spoke with the San Francisco Examiner in response to a story in Monday’s paper, which detailed how Muni workers hired in the last year had their pay cut nearly in half under a 2014 contract. But now, a year later, those drivers are sounding a cry, saying they can’t make ends meet on that pay.

“We’ve got to put the agency on blast for what we’re doing to our members,” Williams said.

The SFMTA previously told the Examiner that Muni operators are among the highest paid in the nation and that they enjoy generous benefits.

While most Muni operators make anywhere from $60,000 to $70,000 a year, according to public records, 818 Muni operators who were hired after July 1, 2014, make 63 percent of that pay under a relatively new contract quirk.

Those operators are paid as low as $37,000 a year, before union dues and benefits.

An operator’s salary is then increased in “steps” over five years. After five years, operators earn full pay. That step payment system is the source of contention for Muni drivers, some of whom say they can’t afford basic goods for themselves or their families.

By contrast, AC Transit has a step in its salary for operators between three and four years. Before July 2014, SFMTA operators’ step salary period was 18 months.

Williams said the reduced pay may lead to drivers quitting Muni. And less drivers, he said, mean late buses… (more)

 

Ready for 1.2 Million Shuttle Stops Clogging Streets?

By Patrick Monette-Shaw : westsideobserver – excerpt

SFMTA MAKES TECH BUSES PERMANENT

After publishing my November article describing problems with the trial of “tech” shuttle buses all over the City, including on the West Side, and noting that problems may rapidly worsen if the program is made permanent, that’s just what SFMTA’s Board of Directors did when it approved a permanent program on November 17 ignoring a detailed Secondary Analysis highlighting deep flaws in the October 5 Evaluation Report of the 18-month trial period.

…the problem with blocked Muni zones is about to worsen come February 2016, since the MTA Board also approved … smaller shuttle bus operators who provide free intra-city rides to also use Muni red zones…”

Concerned citizens may want to make a point of reading the full Secondary Analysison-line.

After MTA’s Board received impassioned testimony from members of the public opposing making the Commuter Shuttle Program permanent, it did so anyway, including allowing the permanent program to expand from 124 shuttle zones to up to 200 shuttle zones.

 

Not one of MTA’s Board of Directors bothered questioning in depth SFMTA’s Shuttle Project Manager, Hank Willson, about data in the October 5 MTA Evaluation Report concerning problems with commuter shuttles interfering with red Muni bus zones.  Worse, none of MTA’s Board of Directors even thought to ask questions about the Planning Department’s second EIR Exemption letter.

Of note, the 41% increase in shuttles the Planning Department anticipates may worsen incidents in Muni red zones, which MTA’s Board didn’t even discuss, let alone discuss in depth.  Extrapolating data from MTA’s October 5 Evaluation Report, things may rapidly worsen:…

And not one of the SFMTA’s Board of Directors bothered asking whether the Evaluation Report may have low-balled data in the Evaluation Report… 

Compelling Public Testimony During Hearing

One member of the public who testified on November 17 indicated he is a lawyer who uses the shuttle buses.  He noted not only that his tech company employer is able to, but would be more than happy to, pay higher fees to help fund public transportation infrastructure…

Ignoring the Elephant in the Room:  Transbay Terminal as “Hub”

Ignoring the elephant in the room, SFMTA has all but turned a blind eye towards considering making the commuter shuttle bus program use a “hub” approach, as most transportation planners have used since the mid-1800’s.

Did SFMTA simply forget that the San Francisco County Transportation Authority and the Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA) are building the $4.5 billionTransbay Transit Center a transportation hub?

San Francisco’s Transbay Terminal is a transportation complex in San Francisco that opened in 1939 but was relocated on August 7, 2010 to build the Transbay Transit Center.  Its function during the past 75 years was being a transportation hub.

During public testimony on November 17, at least five members of the public advocated that SFMTA use a central hub location for shuttle bus operators…

In other words, rather than creating one, or a few, central hubs, SFMTA simply turned the major and minor arterial streets of San Francisco all over the City into “spokes” — that poke into the flow of Muni buses and cause greater traffic congestion — and converted up to 200 restricted Muni red bus zones into commuter shuttle “hubs” scattered across the City…

Muni Drivers Locked Out of Process

TWU Local 250-A president Eric Williams testified during the MTA Board’s November 17 hearing, that the shuttle program was a “done deal no matter what we say in here, bought and paid for [by the tech companies].”…

SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin:  “Open Mouth, Insert Foot”

Comically, two days after the SFMTA Board approved making the shuttle program permanent, the San Francisco Chronicle carried an article on January 19 reporting on the MTA’s Central Subway project, in which MTA’s director, Ed Reiskin, noted:

As the second-most-densely populated city in the country (New York City is first), I think our roadways are nearly at capacity, and our streets are not going to get any wider.”…

It is widely expected that the Coalition for Fair, Legal, and Environmental Transit will appeal the absence of a second EIR for making the commuter shuttle program permanent to the full Board of Supervisors, since the potential for unlimited expansion is the heart of the issue going forward.

And for all anyone knows, Superior Court Judge Garrett Wong may — hopefully — rule that a full EIR was required for the pilot program and should have been performed, and a permanent expansion definitely requires a full EIR.

An increase to 1.19 million commercial commuter shuttle buses stopping in Muni red zones, plus an additional as yet unknown number of smaller “free” shuttles” the SFMTA Board approved using Muni red zones, must surely have quality of life, housing displacement, roadway wear-and-tear, and other environmental impacts that must be mitigated through an EIR.

Contact members of the Board of Supervisors and urge them to require a full EIR!.. (more) 

 

 

 

 

Hidden Costs of Affordable S.F. Public Transit

By Sophie Murguia : sfpublicpress – excerpt
Low-income residents relying on  v lose economic opportunity

San Franciscans spend less on transportation than residents of any other Bay Area city. But there are hidden costs for public transit riders: unreliable trains, long, slow commutes and unsafe pedestrian routes.

Muni service is slow citywide, but it can be particularly burdensome for lower-income riders who must repeatedly switch lines or buses just to travel a few miles to downtown. Lacking transportation options or flexibility for when they must be at their jobs, they often trade comfort, promptness and even safety for affordability.

“If you think of affordability in terms of what you pay out of your pocket, you’re going to get wrong answers sometimes,” said Elizabeth Deakin, a professor of city and regional planning at the University of California, Berkeley. “What you want to think about is the overall time and cost combination that people can afford to pay with the incomes that they make.”

A single ride on Muni now costs $2.25, up from a dollar in 2000. And because more than half of Muni’s 702,000 weekday riders make less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level (or $23,540 for individuals, $31,836 for a family of two), rising fares have a disproportionate effect on low-income San Franciscans. But the single-ride Muni fare remains on par with mass-transit fares in most major U.S. cities, and Muni offers reduced-fare programs to help ease the economic burden of transit for those who need it most… (more)

Keep the MUNI Lines Up on Market Street During Super Bowl Week

November 18, 2015 by

SF Hospital Bus Cut Spurs Petition, New Surveys

By missionlocal – excerpt – (maps)

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) will be conducting a survey and focus group to study the controversial rerouting of the 33-Stanyon bus line away from San Francisco General Hospital (SFGH), a SFMTA official says.

The additional layer of input comes after more than 300 advocates signed a petition speaking out against the change. The new 33 line would track east, into the Dogpatch, instead of south, along Potrero Avenue, where it currently drops off riders going to the hospital.

The 9R-San Bruno Rapid will serve Potrero at increased intervals, but riders coming from western neighborhoods will have to transfer from the 33 onto the 9 at 16th Street… (more)

SF supervisors approve Muni security contract, after no ethics violations found

By sfexaminer – excerpt

No ethics violations found, but ethical concerns remain

A $38 million security contract to guard Muni rail yards was approved by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, amid accusations of ethical lapses in the contract process.

“It doesn’t quite pass the smell test,” Supervisor Malia Cohen said of the contract at the board meeting.

The controversy swirled around the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s lead contract negotiator and director of security, Chris Grabarkiewctz. A prior employee of Cypress Security, he was given awards lauding his ability to generate great amounts of profit from his negotiating contracts with the SFMTA.

Now he serves the reverse role, negotiating contracts for the SFMTA with Cypress Security against its sole competing bidder, Andrews International…

Reiskin told supervisors they could reform ethics laws, or the SFMTA may make its own rules to protect against alleged conflicts of interest. “To the extent that this [contract] procurement has raised issues, we may consider going above and beyond the law,” Reiskin told the board…  (more)

Reiskin told supervisors they could reform ethics laws? Suggested going above and beyond the law? Since when does Reiskin tell the supervisors what they can do? Someone needs to remind him that he works for the elected city officials, not the other way around. A reduction in his salary might help to remind him where he stands.

San Fran: Should Google Be Allowed to provide FREE Bus Rides for Its Employees–or do UNIONS Control All Transportation

By Stephen Frank   – excerpt

City Attorney’s office tries to stall Google Bus trial hearing 

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodrigue, SF Examiner, 3/15/15

Petitioners of a lawsuit against San Francisco’s commuter shuttle pilot program last week challenged a motion by the City Attorney’s Office to have more time to respond to the suit.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency created the pilot program last year to study the impact of the so-called Google Buses, private shuttles that transport tech workers to campuses around the region. The buses have attracted ire in San Francisco as symbols of tech-industry gentrification.

The Coalition for Fair Legal and Environmental Transit filed suit last year against Google, Apple, shuttle providers and The City to stall the program, alleging they failed to study impacts of exhaust in the air and stress on the asphalt. They also argue rents skyrocket near the shuttle stops, displacing people with the luck of living near them.

Last Wednesday’s filing came as Superior Court Judge Garrett L. Wong was on vacation. The trial is set for June, but the City Attorney’s Office pressed for a key pre-trial hearing on March 27 to be pushed back.

Wong will hear arguments Monday for rescheduling the hearing.

The effort to delay the hearing coincides with a State Assembly committee hearing on AB61, a bill which would legalize aspects of the commuter shuttle pilot program statewide. Approval by the committee may add legitimacy to the city attorney’s arguments that the pilot program is allowable, some insiders said…

… the bill’s language may in fact aid the petitioners’ case since it acknowledges that aspects of the shuttle pilot program are illegal… (more)

When you displace and inconvenience a majority of the population in order to privilege a minority group, you will not be welcome.  How many shuttles can San Francisco residents take?