SF wants access to Uber and Lyft data to tackle traffic congestion

By Joe Fitgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

Two San Francisco government groups are taking aim at traffic congestion allegedly caused by ride-hail companies Uber and Lyft.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin on Tuesday introduced resolutions at both the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, which he chairs, and also at the San Francisco Board of Supervisors calling on state legislators to grant cities the ability to peek at trip data from ride-hail companies.

Mayor Ed Lee quickly signaled his support for the resolution Tuesday.

I think asking for data is good, and that data should inform us in how to relieve that (traffic) congestion,” he told the San Francisco Examiner.

That data is sent to the California Public Utilities Commission, but for years they have shielded it from public view.

The CPUC granted confidentiality of trip data to Uber and Lyft after the companies argued the data could be used by one another to gain a competitive advantage.

Requests for data “continue to be denied by the CPUC,” Peskin told the transportation authority board on Tuesday.

Both the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and the SFCTA have repeatedly asked the CPUC for Uber and Lyft trip data, and were denied...(more)

The over saturation of Ubers and Lyfts could be solved by stopping the unwinnable war on cars. If the money that has gone into lane removal, bus stop musical chairs, and traffic alterations was spent on purchasing more buses, adding bus lines, and replacing bus seats you would not have the loss of ridership that you have seen since the SFMTA initiated programs to alter bus routes, eliminate stops and remove bus seats. Do you want to walk further to a bus stop and then stand on the bus when you can be sitting in a car? Why do you think people are avoiding Muni and BART on the weekends. No matter how much paint you put on the pig it is still a pig. This pig wreaks of false assumptions that are turning into a big pile of public debt.

An environmental and transit-first agenda requires many hats

by Aaron Peskin : marintimes – excerpt

Photo of Mission Street Red Lanes by Zrants

There’s a lot on my plate, not just as a supervisor, but with many of the other hats I get to wear through public service.

Last month, I was honored when Senate Pro Tem Kevin de León appointed me to the the California Coastal Commission to represent the North Central Coast, which includes the counties of San Francisco, Sonoma, and Marin. This month I am slated to be appointed by the Board of Supervisors to be San Francisco’s representative on the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC), where I’ve been serving as an alternate to Supervisor Jane Kim. Earlier this year I was appointed to serve on the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority Board by the Association of Bay Area Governments. Last, but certainly not least, I was unanimously elected chair of the San Francisco Transportation Authority (SFCTA) by my colleagues earlier this year.

I’m proud to serve in many capacities at a time when we must respond quickly and act decisively to combat the draconian cuts of a madman — especially if we’re going to address the real impacts of climate change. It’s hard to know where to begin with the federal administration’s latest assault on the people of the United States of America and California. But as a lifelong environmental advocate and longtime public transit nerd, you can be sure that I will be prioritizing the fight to protect both of these public assets… (more)

The first step to solving the transportation problem is to admit the mistakes that have been made and what is not working so you can fix those problems. The second step is to figure out why public transit is so expensive. SFMTA admits their system is unsustainable. They can’t afford more riders, which explains why they keep cutting service, while pretending like they are improving it. Adding riders increases their costs.

Any business that operates at a loss is doomed to failure. City Hall must take its head out of the sand and solve this problem. If it can’t, just let the private sector take over and get out of the way. Stop spending millions on PR and back slapping projects. Quit moving bus stops and re-designing the streets. Do nothing for a awhile but run the Muni.

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?

SF planning first-of-its-kind laws for ‘jitney’ private bus system Chariot

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

For as long as there have been autos, private “jitney” buses have operated on San Francisco streets. Jitneys carried passengers to the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915, and many Muni lines today run on former private bus lines.
By the 1970s, private transit by the Bay declined. The last known historic jitney driver in San Francisco who owned a single private bus, Jess Losa, reportedly hung up his hat last year.

But those private buses have since returned to their former prominence with the aid of tech apps — like Chariot, the Ford-owned private bus company that started in San Francisco…

Now more than a century after jitneys first appeared, The City is planning new laws to regulate them, updating patchwork regulations strewn across multiple city agencies due to historical accident.

Earlier this month, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency revealed its plans for private bus services at a SFMTA Citizens Advisory Council.

Chariot is the only private bus service left in San Francisco, SFMTA staff told the council, so for now the new laws would exclusively regulate just that company — but regulations would cover any similar services that may arise in the future…

Why are jitneys treated differently from tech shuttles? They are both private commercial enterprises. Jitneys do a lot less damage to the street, take up less space and get around the narrow steep streets a lot easier than the large buses and tech vehicles. Jitneys are one option for the public to choose from to get around town.

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

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.

Op-Ed SFMTA needs to fix more than just NextBus

By : sfexaminer – excerpt

We at San Francisco Transit Riders urge Board of Supervisors President London Breed to call for a hearing to hold the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency accountable for the failure of their NextBus prediction tool.

As we now know, the NextBus fiasco was a result of AT&T disabling the 2G network upon which NextBus depended. Back in 2012, AT&T announced that it would disable 2G as of Jan. 1, 2017. However, apparently no one at the SFMTA knew that or took it seriously.

Muni follows its schedule less than 60 percent of the time. So what makes Muni tolerable is having real-­time predictions; adding 20 minutes of uncertainty to a trip is not workable…

Lack of Internal Communications

In November, just more than a month before the NextBus failure, SFMTA’s chief technology officer, along with a NextBus representative, was promoting a new radio dispatch system coming possibly in March, according to a San Francisco Examiner article.

Seemingly, neither the chief technology officer nor the NextBus representative knew the existing system would crash well before their planned upgrades…

ack of Internal Commitment

At a meeting on Jan. 17, Director Ed Reiskin finally apologized. He acknowledged the episode was “a lesson for me in how important this service is to our riders. The reaction we got was amazing, and I don’t mean in a good way … it spoke … to how valuable having arrival predictions are for our riders.”

We wonder if Reiskin depends on Muni to get to work on time.

If we truly want to be a transit­-first city, we need transit that works well enough to attract ever more riders. We need the SFMTA to understand Muni’s key role in the daily lives of so many people who need to get to work, go to school and take their children to school.

We call for public hearings so there is public accountability. We are tired of the opacity and lack of management. We want a transparent plan forward, including a timeline addressing the City Controller’s report to ensure consistent staffing, consistent service and clearer internal management…(more)

When ENUF agrees with SF Transit Riders you know the SFMTA must be doing something wrong. it is time for some major changes. We have been complaining for years. Now we are  joined by the most pro Muni organization in town in calling for a  “Public Hearing” to discus the major problems the Muni riders are having with Muni. This should occur before any more budget items are approved since the power of the purse is the only thing the Board of Supervisors seem to be able to use to control this out of control agency.

This goes way beyond fixing NextBus and all those wonderful apps that do nothing to move people and good on the streets. We don’t need to be entertained or taught a new trick every day on our way to work. Transit should be consistent, not an adventure  game we play each day. Moving the buses and stops and traffic lanes around has gotten old and irritating, and we need a break from unwanted changes.

Look to Pier 70 to see Why San Francisco Voters do Not Trust City Hall

Op-ed by Zrants

You need to Look no further than the ‘Pier 70 Mixed-Use District Project’ to understand the anger and frustrations of neighborhood groups and ordinary citizens who spent hours and their time to work out deals with city planners to somewhat mitigate the negative effects of increased populations moving onto their tender turf, to be told that the plan has changed.

The project voters approved is being amended for a much less friendly design. Density levels are going up. Six stories are really nine stories. In fact forge the promises the voters counted on. Now that the project got through the election, they are scrapping it.

That is why, when voters get the chance, the only safe way to vote on a development project is to vote against it. Look the difference between 8 Washington and Pier 70. The voters voted against 8 Washington and nothing changed. The voters approved a plan for Pier 70 as it was presented by the developers but the design has changed since the vote.

An editorial by Don Clark that ran in the Potrero View outlines some of our primary concerns. To see the draft EIR and see for yourself, go here and scroll down the page:
http://sf-planning.org/environmental-impact-reports-negative-declarations

…The City and County of San Francisco intends to grant Forest City Enterprises rights to build a wall of nine-story buildings along the Central Waterfront, from 20th to 22nd streets, which would completely obscure scenic Bay vistas for many, if not most, Potrero Hill eastern slope residents.  As one travels down 20th Street from Missouri Street to Third, beautiful Bay views would disappear.  Imagine that the American Industrial Center, the red building with white columns at the corner of 22nd and Third streets, was doubled in height.  The replacement of four- and six-story structures with nine-story edifices would dramatically Manhattanize this historical waterfront… (more)

Building height limits are not the only promises being broken. One of the major concerns to neighbors and all who drive through the area was the increased traffic and congestion that SFMTA claimed they could handle. That no longer looks likely. Not only are the buildings going to be taller and contain more people, but, the DOT announced they are not funding the electrification of Caltrans and other transit projects until they conduct an audit to find out why there are such large cost overruns.

A couple of recent laws that were passed that citizens should know about are: mentioned by Den Clark: California Senate Bill 743 eliminated scenic protections from transit infill projects, which the City quickly applied. The November 26, 2013 Planning Department Summary, Attachment A, shows that the Planning Department has removed consideration of scenic vistas from most of San Francisco’s waterfront (http://sfmea.sfplanning.org/CEQA%20Update-SB%20743%20Summary.pdf)

Send comments to Lisa Gibson Lisa.Gibson@sfgov.org on Pier 70 Mixed-Use Project by Tuesday, 5 PM February 21, 2017. Sample letter from Peter Linenthal (eir-pdf-new)

The Developer, Forest City, is publishing a Design for Development document which will be presented to the Planning Commission in an informational hearing on March 23rd. There will be an opportunity then for public comment. The Final EIR will take months and will go to the Planning Commission as part of the final approvals. There’s a lot we don’t know yet. The Draft EIR has a Maximum Residential Scenario and a Maximum Commercial Scenario and Forest City is doing a phased development which makes it especially difficult to know what to expect.

Muni riders to see reroutes, longer trips amid reconstruction of 100-year-old Twin Peaks Tunnel

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

Long-delayed Twin Peaks Tunnel repair work is finally on track again, and that means reroutes affecting some 81,000 daily transit riders.

For the thousands who rely on Muni’s K-Ingleside, L-Taraval and M-Oceanview light-rail lines, shuttles will replace normal service during the planned Twin Peaks Tunnel construction, with transfers to other buses needed to arrive at some regular destinations.

The work was originally slated to start last fall, then again in January, and now finally the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency quietly announced last week that track-work on the 100-year-old tunnel will begin in April…

The Twin Peaks Tunnel is a vital connector between the west side of The City and downtown, serving some 81,000 daily riders on the K, L and M lines each day, all of whom will need to adjust to a new, temporarily altered commute.

There will be five scheduled shutdowns to complete the tunnel rehabilitation, each lasting 11 to 15 days long. The constructi…(more)

 

Future Plans unveiled at SFMTA Board Special Meeting

Tuesday, February 7, 9 AM – agenda
Green Room War Memorial Building, 401 Van Ness Ave.
Labor negotiations and closed session followed by presentations of current projects.
Controller report: Financial Overview – presentation
SFMTA Board Workshoppresentation