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?

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.

The Streetcar Hustle

by : jacobinmag – excerpt

We need bold new transit projects. But Bill de Blasio’s streetcar plan shows we won’t get them by catering to private developers.

ig changes are coming to one stretch of the New York City waterfront. In his recent State of the City address, Mayor Bill de Blasio introduced an ambitious plan for a new streetcar system that would connect the city’s most populous borough, Brooklyn, to its largest, Queens. Citing “explosive growth on the waterfront in Brooklyn and Queens,” the mayor proclaimed: “Today, we take the next great step in connecting New Yorkers to the heart of our new economy for New York.”…

The plan’s price tag currently stands at $2.5 billion. Some of that cost would be borne by riders, whose fares would be pegged to the cost of a subway swipe, but most of it would be paid for through gentrification. According to the New York Times, “administration officials believe the system’s cost can be offset by tax revenue siphoned from an expected rise in property values along the route.” Seen from this vantage point, the streetcar proposal seems less a transportation plan than a real estate stimulus.

This is not exactly a surprise. As historians like Robert Fitch and Kim Moody have described, real estate barons have long manipulated New York City’s planning apparatus, often through their chosen “nonprofit” advocates. Entire subway lines, for example, were rerouted to correspond to the Rockefeller family’s particular real estate holdings.

Nor is this link between public investment and private gain a secret. In fact, planners are often taught to see the two as mutually reinforcing. New York University’s Mitchell Moss enthused that the streetcar system “is going to do more to encourage more housing than any other transit improvement currently underway.” Alex Garvin, a well-known planner and member of the group “Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector,” argued that “by creating a new light rail line in those neighborhoods, we could create an enormous opportunity for new investment.”

De Blasio highlights these benefits to property owners, but he also frames the plan as a gift to New York City’s poorest residents, many of whom have long been under-served by the city’s mass transit network. Brooklyn and Queens are home to millions of working-class people, many of whom could no doubt use an easier way to travel between those boroughs.

But the existing plan is inseparable from a longstanding project to remake the waterfront, and must be seen as part of a larger process of state-enabled gentrification and displacement…(more)

I could not have said it better. This article, written last year, pretty much sums up all we have been experiencing all ovr the cities. Here we have the blunt truths about why cities promote gentrification and the rise in property values, and how the systems promotes the welfare of the less than 1% of the population. As their fortunes rise, everyone else falls.

As we are witnessing a huge increase in homeless people on the street as the dense housing and mass transit systems move in and displace them. We can pretty well assume those programs and projects are responsible for the rise in homeless population on our streets because the rise in properties and ensuing rents that did not coincide with a similar increase in income for most people.

The new administration in Washington seems less likely to help ease the situation than the one that just left. At least Obama spoke well of the poor and acted as if he cared. Trump leaves no room for doubt as to how little he plans to do for the poor folks who put him in office hoping he would come to their rescue. His plan is more of the same on steroids.

What goes up must come down and get rebuilt for at least twice as much as we spent before.

Continue reading

The Coalition to Preserve LA

The whole country is rebelling against, social engineering, forced change, and loss of personal liberties. For a list of many other cities that are fighting this battle do a search for images for “save our neighborhood”

vote-yes-on-measure-s

The Coalition to Preserve LA is a citywide movement that aims to reform L.A.’s broken, rigged and unfair planning and land-use system through Measure S, which has been placed on the March 7, 2017, ballot. Details: http://www.voteyesons.org

For too long, deep-pocketed developers have controlled City Hall by shelling out millions in campaign contributions to L.A. politicians, who, in return, grant “spot-zoning” approvals for mega-projects that are not normally allowed under city rules.

Residents suffer the consequences — increased gridlock traffic, the destruction of neighborhood character and the displacement of longtime residents, including senior citizens on fixed budgets and lower-income Angelenos…(more)

RELATED:
Coalition to Preserve LA Wins Lawsuit; Forces Developers to Retract Lies :
Update: Read the Los Angeles Business Journal‘s coverage of the Coalition to Preserve LA’s winning lawsuit that stopped billionaire developers and their anti-reform campaign from telling outrageous lies to Angelenos via the city’s official ballot guide…(more)

Report dings SFMTA over chronic absenteeism

By Jerold Chinn : sfbay – excerpt

Persistent problems with employees not showing up for work at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is laid out in a report by the City Controller’s Office that the transit agency requested the office to conduct.

According to the report, the SFMTA had the second highest employee absenteeism rate out of the 10 departments in The City with the largest budgets and spent approximately $42 million in leave pay during the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

Tonia Lediju, director of city audits, wrote in a letter to the SFMTA’s Board of Directors and Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin, on what the transit agency’s management was lacking in curbing chronic employee absenteeism:…

The report states that absence management program is key to minimize the negative effects of absences such as an increased in costs of unscheduled absences, increased pressure of other employees covering for absent employees and services not being delivered.

In this case, un-delivered services means canceled Muni runs, which cause longer wait times for passengers, the report said…

The public can read the full report on the controller’s office website(more)

Will the SFMTA follow the City’s Controller’s suggestions and deal  with the personnel problems that are at the root of the slow and missing service riders have been complaining about for years before sinking  more taxpayers dollars into more expensive, disruptive street projects  like the $350 million Geary BRT plan? Will the Supervisors consider delaying the decision to approve the most expensive solution until trying the cheaper sensible one first? Details on the citizens cheaper approach:
http://www.sfsensibletransit.org/

Solving personnel problems should be the first step they take.  Can they follow the Controller’s advice and do the right thing for once? Can the SFMTA serve the needs of the public and save the city from
further debt and traffic disruptions? Stay tuned…

Transit officials offer tweaks to Geary BRT project

By : sfexaminer – excerpt

A major overhaul of how buses and other traffic negotiate Geary Boulevard is set to reach a significant milestone early next year.

The Geary Bus Rapid Transit project, which aims to make buses behave like trains by repurposing a lane of car traffic exclusively for buses, released its final environmental impact report Dec. 9, which may be approved in early January.

Along the way, the project’s planners received thousands of public comments, from fiery verbal lambasting at meetings — where a box filled with paper public comments was stolen, then returned — to online surveys, to meetings with multitudes of community groups…

On Jan. 5, the EIR will go to the SFCTA board for approval. After that, the SFMTA will bring individual elements of the project to neighbors for further public input, which will require individual approvals by the SFMTA Board of Directors to move forward.

Some Geary Boulevard neighbors have asked the SFCTA commission to delay approval of the environmental report so they have more time to read and analyze it.

The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce also sent a letter to the transportation authority asking for the board to delay action on the final EIR until February or early March, and wrote that meeting during the holidays “does not serve the public interest.”

Responding to the request for delay, Supervisor and Transportation Authority Commissioner Eric Mar said, “The significant community outreach done and many community meetings with those in the audience, and staff work, has been years in the making.”.

“There have been endless delays,” he said…(more)

THERE IS NO RUSH! There have been endless delays for good reasons. Each time there is a delay, the public has more time to suggest a better plan. Already many of their suggestions have been incorporated into this project and more alterations are needed on the Geary BRT. There is a sensible much cheaper plan supported by the public.

Who is rushing to approve the SFMTA $350 million dollar plus Geary BRT Hybrid Plan when there is a much cheaper version that will save the taxpayers up to $300 million? Who is rushing to approve more money for the SFMTA?

This is the department has bungled the design at Glen Park twice and still hasn’t gotten it right yet. The buses are getting hung up on the curbs.

This is the department that is planning to cut service and raise rates for cash-paying riders, and remove seats from the new faster-moving buses, so that Muni riders will be forced to walk further and stand instead of sit as they speed along city streets on public transit vehicles.

This is the department that lost the sales tax increase that included $100 million dollars for the Geary BRT.

This is the department that needs to be put on a cash diet before it eats the rest of the businesses on Mission, Van Ness, Polk, and Geary.This is the department that can’t figure out how to balance Ubers with taxis and the rest of the traffic mess and will eventually be out teched out by self-driving cars.

This is the department that wants to tell our fire department to buy smaller vehicles to run on narrow streets that do not meet state standard widths.

The emergency responders are getting caught up in the traffic mess.

This is the department that just “discovered” the large number of Ubers on our streets that the rest of us have known about for months. They probably needed to conduct an expensive study to “find” them and prove they exist. We just looked around and figured it out for ourselves.I could go on, but you get the idea.

Stop the SFMTA: Write letters to request a delay and show up if you can to protest in person. Sample letter is here: https://discoveryink.wordpress.com/letters-and-comments/geary-brt/

Meeting details:

Scheduled for Wednesday, January 4, 6:00 PM, SFCTA, 1455 Market St., 22nd Floor: The Geary BRT Citizens Advisory Committee will vote to support certification of the Geary BRT Environmental Impact Report (EIR). More info: http://www.sfcta.org/geary-bus-rapid-transit-citizens-advisory-committee-january-4-2017

Scheduled for Thursday, January 5, 2:00 PM, Room 250, City Hall: SF Supervisors, as board members of the SF Transportation Authority, will vote to certify the Geary BRT EIR  (2nd item)  More Info: http://www.sfcta.org/special-board-january-5-2017

 

 

SF’s Vision Zero: intuitive, radical, and failed

By : sfgate – excerpt

Vision Zero, San Francisco’s declared goal of eliminating traffic deaths by 2024, has failed so far. 25 people, including 12 people walking and 3 biking, have been killed on our streets this year, compared to 24 by this point in 2014, when the goal was set.

Like many of the most powerful and attractive ideas, Vision Zero is radical but also deeply intuitive: Of course people shouldn’t die on our streets. It’s not just that they shouldn’t die—they don’t have to die. Sweden, where Vision Zero was created in 1997, has cut pedestrian deaths by half and now has a rate of traffic deaths less than one fourth that of the United States…(more)

This is not news. Ed Reiskin admitted this months ago. The US government has come up with studies showing that a huge uptick in deadly accidents are being blamed on apps. Convincing people to go back to defensive behavior might be a better approach. Everyone needs to look where they are going, not assume they are going to seen.

Transit director: ‘Unknown’ if Trump threat to federal funding will hurt Muni, SF streets

By : sfexaminer – excerpt

The recent win of President-elect Donald Trump has sent sanctuary cities into a scramble, with San Francisco agencies asking: Will Trump cut major funds for San Francisco?

The question gained real gravity after Trump pledged to cut funding from sanctuary cities across the U.S., who aim to shield undocumented immigrants from federal agents. Mayor Ed Lee declared last week that San Francisco would remain a sanctuary city.

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin told his employees in a mass email Wednesday that threats to Muni’s funding are “unknown.”

In the email, which Reiskin sent Wednesday morning as a post-election message to his staff, he outlined potential peril. “We do receive a considerable amount of federal funds as part of our capital budget,” he wrote.

That funding comes in the form of grants disbursed by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, in part, and is the basis for most all of the SFMTA’s capital projects, such as the Central Subway in Chinatown or the proposed Bus Rapid Transit routes on Geneva, Geary and Van Ness avenues… (more)

Good time to write the federal representatives and let them know how you feel about these projects. DOT contacts: TBD

Prop. L would divide City Hall influence over Muni and streets

By : sfexaminer – excerpt

Some city supervisors want more say over Muni and San Francisco’s streets.

To that end, Proposition L on the November ballot would split the appointments on the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which runs Muni, between the Mayor’s Office and the Board of Supervisors.

Currently the mayor makes all seven appointments. If voters approve Prop. L, three of those appointments would go to the supervisors.

Also under Prop. L, the Board of Supervisors would need only a simple majority of six members to approve or veto SFMTA’s budget; now it needs seven.

The measure was authored by Supervisor Norman Yee, and is seen as one of a suite of other measures that would chip away at the power of the Mayor’s Office…(more)

We are hearing rumbles of discontent all over town, from Muni riders being ticketed for not knowing they needed a transfer to prove they paid, to standing Muni riders being tossed around on the hills on crowded buses. Many are irate over the seat and stop removal plans. Drivers have been annoyed for years and now SFMTA has gone too far in ignoring their riders as well. Why are we paying more for less service?

Cutting service, removing traffic lanes and parking, was already cutting into business, and now the SFMTA wants to raise sales tax, further pissing off the merchants and people who still try to buy from local shops. The voters are SMART ENUF to figure out that the SFMTA is the one that needs to go away.

SFMTA spends their time lobbying for money for “innovative transportation solutions” when Muni riders just want more buses, not innovations, pilot projects and “experiments” like the Red Lane treatments. By the way, how many people were told that the Red Lanes are an experiment? If that experiment fails, they have to be removed.

Thanks to the SF Examiner for supporting Proposition L and No on K.

How Uber Plans To Conquer The Suburbs

: buzzfeed – excerpt

With a pilot program in Summit, New Jersey, the ride-hail giant is looking to replace commuter parking lots.

Summit, New Jersey, a bedroom community to New York City, will begin subsidizing Uber rides for residents traveling to and from the local train station starting Monday — a move the town initiated to avoid building a new parking lot, a multimillion-dollar effort. For Uber, the partnership is another step in a series of strategic moves to extend its reach to the suburbs… (more)