Red Lane Amendments and Efforts to Stop the Corporatization of our Streets

MissionReds

After months of letters, comments and neighborhood pushback against many elements of corporate takeover of our streets and public spaces, many people who shocked by the announcement that some of the Red Lanes in the city are open to use by private enterprise vehicles, such as tech buses, private shuttles, and any vehicle that carries more than 10 riders, based on the definition of a bus.

Supervisor Fewer, among others, scheduled hearings on the use of the Red Lanes that were re-scheduled a couple of times, and reset for early December. As many people were preparing for those meetings, we got the news that recent developments at the Land Use and Transportation Committee may have made those hearings unnecessary.  November 5, 2018, Aaron Peskin aide, Lee Hepner, introduced Amendment 18-862, that was passed unanimously to the Full Board by the Land Use and Transportation Committee:

Ordinance 180862 – Ordinance amending Division I of the Transportation Code to establish a procedure for Board of Supervisors review of Municipal Transportation Agency decisions related to Bus Rapid Transit projects that do not include transit-only areas or lanes for Municipal Railway vehicles, taxis, authorized emergency vehicles, and/or Golden Gate Transit vehicles; and affirming the Planning Department’s determination under the California Environmental Quality Act.

The tape of the meeting is below, go to Item 6: http://sanfrancisco.granicus.com/player/clip/31749?view_id=10&meta_id=642988

As a matter of introduction Mr. Hepler described the areas of concern that are under the purview of the Board of Supervisors, though they are not being added to this amendment at this time.

This is a paraphrased transcript of the meeting:

Within the text of Prop A, there is a provision that allows the Board of Supervisors to enact an ordinance that gives the Board the option to review SFMTA decisions regarding various curb space decisions, bicycle lanes, traffic mitigations and measures etc…

Background information:  Supervisors Peskin and Safai co-sponsored Ordinance 180089, to enact that review provision regarding curb use. That ordinance expressly exempted certain projects from review that were determined to be public interest projects, such as bike lanes, curb modifications for street sweeping, and bus rapid transit projects.

This new ordinance is taking on elements of the Bus Rapid Transit Projects that are not clearly defined in the code and providing guidance as to the scope of the board’s review authority of these projects. This proposal expresses this board’s desire to promote Bus Rapid Transport projects that are generally designed and implemented to further public transportation reliability.

The amendment clarifies the Board of Supervisor’s policy preference. The board would not review BRT projects that are designed for public transportation use, but would take review of BRT projects designed for use by private commercial shuttles, tour busses or other modes of private transportation that might actually impede the flow of public transportation.

The proposed amendment… replaces the words, “bus rapid transit project” with “bus rapid transit project that includes transit only areas or lanes for municipal railway vehicles, taxis, authorized emergency vehicles, and/or Golden Gate Transit Vehicles.”

SFMTA appears to have collaborated on this. The amendment passed to the full Board of Supervisors as is on the agenda for the November 13 Board of Supervisors meeting. We had no notice, but, this appears to be going through rather rapidly. In this case, that may be a good thing.

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First-ever woman named SF Muni chief

By Joe Fritgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

The first-ever woman to lead Muni at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency was appointed last week, following the retirement of a man dogged by sexual harassment allegations.

Julie Kirschbaum is the new acting SFMTA director of transit, which she announced to the agency’s transit division on October 29…

As acting deputy director, Kirschbaum managed day-to-day Muni operations, led a system-wide redesign and managed the transit planning and scheduling group, according to SFMTA…

Before Reiskin was hired, Debra Johnson was acting director of transportation, overseeing multiple departments. Carmen Clark also was interim executive director of SFMTA for a time, which oversaw Muni responsibilities. However, Kirschbaum is the first woman to take the reigns as Director of Transit at SFMTA, directly and principally responsible for Muni.

In the Bay Area, however, women-led transportation agencies are the norm. Grace Crunican is general manager of BART, and Tilly Chang oversees the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, which primarily serves as a congestion management and transportation planning body… (more)

We can only hope that a new era of respect for the workers and Muni riders will open the door to some much needed changes in the top-down management style of the department. We hope the new director will concentrate on running a cleaner, safer, more reliable transit system today and get out of the planning department. We hope the new director will direct the staff to do the public’s bidding instead of forcing the pubic to follow the staff’s schemes. Just give it a try for 6 months and see if the ridership levels to not go up and the public does not approve.

City withholds Salesforce Transit Center funding as allegations of mismanagement mount

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

San Francisco city officials are withholding $9.6 million meant to fund expansion planning for the Salesforce Transit Center, in a bid to hold its leadership accountable for alleged mismanagement of the $2.2 billion project.

The move to delay the funding Tuesday came the same day as a lawsuit filed by a major contractor, and amid new revelations that the transit center may lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertising revenue due to its closure following the discovery of two cracked beams holding up its rooftop park in late September…

“We are taking a little ‘time out,’” Peskin told the Examiner Tuesday. … (more)

My mind is boggled. I can hardly think. Someone is finally questioning the rush to prop up failing projects with more tax dollars. TIME OUT is the right move. We need a chart to follow the action with these fast-paced legal maneuvers coming from all directions.

TJPA just got a strong wave of descent rippling through their regional quarters as the change order system is turned off. If a few hundred buses rattling though the center are going to crack beams, imagine what the vibrations of fast moving trains will do. And has anyone considered how much weight will rain add to the rooftop garden? We might find out next week.

At least we know who is NOT to blame. The motor vehicle drivers and the taxpaying public, unless you blame them for passing the legislation that funded this regional monster ie: passing regional tax and the bridge toll bills. How many new “world class” exhibits in bad designs can any city handle in a decade?

 

 

Meet the man who says he can fix Muni. For real.

By Joe Eskenazi : mssionlocal – excerpt

‘Retired civil servant’ Mike Cheney’s plan is so not-crazy, it just might work

“Dude, do you know how much those things cost me? Apiece?” This is a de facto rhetorical question from Mike Cheney. Most are. He immediately answers it. “Eleven bucks! Eleven!”

That’s a fair amount of money to spend for a retired Muni diesel mechanic with multiple grandchildren — but if it leads to one of this city’s most intractable problems being solved, it’ll be worth it.

So, that’s why Cheney prepared a comprehensive “2018 Proposal To Re-align Muni Goals & Operations,” printed up a handful of $11-a-pop copies, and hand-delivered a few of the svelte, 21-page booklets to the office of Mayor London Breed. That’s her quote right on the cover: “Muni has to work well for the people of San Francisco, so that it is their first option.”….

What if it turned out Muni could speed up buses and trains — and wouldn’t even need to buy new equipment, tear up the streets, or even eliminate stops?

Well, it can. It could install skip-stop route schedules.

This is a system in which Bus A picks up passengers at Stops 1, 3, 5, 7 and so on and Bus B picks up passengers at Stops 2, 4, 6, and 8. This has worked all around the world; it increases capacity and speeds up service… (more)

Please read the article and comment on the source. The Fix Muni First folks will appreciate the low cost method suggested here to solve the crowded bus and speed problems and the money watchers will appreciate the savings, that could lower riders fees and/or finance more routes.

This plan seems to cover everyone’s needs except the corporate entities planning to take over and control our streets. Residents and merchants appreciate the lack of Red Lane constraints, and Muni drivers should be less stressed as well.

Mike’s ideas sound too good and lack the sexy street diets favored at the SFMTA Board. Who are our elected officials going to serve, the public, or the corporations? Will our Mayor appoint a true visionary with a lifetime of Muni experience like Mike Cheney to the MTA Board our will she select a corporate shill intent on retaining the failed policies that are driving people off the public buses into their vehicles?

Some other suggestions that are drawing a lot of public support for safer conditions on our streets:

  • Return consistency to the streets of San Francisco. Nobody can watch for pedestrians, scooters, bikes, cars, trucks and buses weaving in and out of lanes while reading street signs and directions.
  • Lanes need to be straight and flow smoothly from one block to the next. Following lane changes is creates additional distractions.
  • Bring back the safer one-way streets with predictable curbside bus stops.
  • Extend the timing of yellow lights and hold the red light for a couple of seconds before turning it to green to give stragglers a little more time to clear the intersection.

 

‘Eroding the Confidence’: SF Mayor Breed Blasts Muni Officials For Flawed Service

By Sam Brock : nbcbayareanews – excerpt (includes video)

One day after San Francisco Mayor London Breed blasted the Muni director in a letter, accusing him of “eroding the confidence” of riders in the system, the mayor took a ride on Muni and continued her criticism.

Breed said Tuesday you can’t push people to use public transportation and then have the transit not work. From widespread delays in service to the recent death of a construction worker, Breed said she’s fed up, and her concerns are echoing through City Hall… (more)

SFMTA Board reacted to the Mayor’s threats and the public’s outrage by ignoring it.

First, they ignored public request to limit the Geary BRT Red Lanes to Muni and taxis only, and retain some popular bus stops.

The Board approved recently unveiled plans to allow non-public transportation corporations access to Transit only Red Lanes.  Liz Brisson, SFMTA’s Project Manager for the Geary Project, claimed the definition of a bus is a vehicle transporting 9 or more people. This is news to many people who opposed the non-Muni vehicles at the meetings. When was this definition written and why was this intent not explained in previous presentations of the Geary BRT plan?

Were the Supervisors aware of this when they approved Phase I of the Geary BRT?

Will this new information be factored into the case against Phase II of the Geary BRT currently under litigation, or will City Hall settle the case rather than continue to fund the legal battles of this devious department?

Not only did we learn that Transit only does not mean public transit only, but, we also learned that the claims of time savings in the red lanes is not supported by factual analysis of existing red lanes. Perhaps we now can see the reasons why that may be the case. It seems that all red lanes are not created equal. It seems that the only time pubic transit only applies is when the lanes are “protected” inside a physical barrier. Otherwise you must read the signs to determine who is allowed on the red lanes. This begs the question, why paint the lanes red when the color is meaningless? Who is making a profit off this paint job?

After the startling bait and switch revelations and the Geary BRT approval, the Board went into private session for Ed Reiskin’s job review. As expected, the Board ignored the Mayor’s comments on the Director’s poor leadership and mismanagement of contracts.

The SFMTA Board commended Ed Reiskin on his work with the department, failed to scold or reprimand him for any of his mistakes or misdeeds, included those he admitted to, and announced their continued support for his leadership of the disgraced department.

What will our Mayor do about this rogue board and department that insults our intelligence by repeated attempts to deceive us? Will she appoint a strong new Director to the Board to replace the recently departed one hired by the department to handle the public through public outreach? Will the Board of Supervisors hand the decision over to the public in the form of a Charter Amendment? Will our Mayor support this option? You may want to weigh in if you have an opinion. Contacts with City Hall are here:  https://discoveryink.wordpress.com/san-francisco-officials/

REALATED:

Private buses have driven in city ‘transit-only’ lanes for years — with the city’s blessing, and in spite of the law

By Joe Eskenazi : missionlocal – excerpt

… Does it make sense to allow private buses or other such vehicles in red carpet lanes — or not — on a Byzantine, lane-by-lane, project-by-project basis? If you’re a transit layman, you’d probably say “no.” And, it turns out, if you’re a transit expert you’d say “no,” too…

The city’s administration of its “transit-only” lanes has only grown more haphazard and opaque in the past dozen years — not that the citizens who came out Tuesday to yell about the Geary Rapid Project (or, quite possibly, the commissioners they were yelling at) ever realized this was happening…

But is it legal? That’s confusing, too… (more)

 

Should private shuttles be able to use Muni-only lanes?

By Tim Redmond : 48hills – excerpt

MTA says yes — but the public can weigh in Tuesday.

San Francisco transit planners have been working for years on a proposal to create bus-only lanes on Geary Boulevard. It’s called Bus Rapid Transit, and the idea is that – since we (unfortunately) don’t have a subway line underneath the Geary corridor, we can do the next best thing by creating lanes just for Muni.

Time the traffic signals right, keep cars out of the way of buses, and people can ride faster from the Richmond and the Western Addition to downtown…

The plan comes up for discussion at the MTA’s meeting Tuesday/21 – and there’s a twist…

Activists have discovered that Muni’s current proposal would allow not only Muni buses but private shuttles, like Chariot and the Google buses – to use the city’s public transit-only lanes.

Environmentalist and transit advocate Sue Vaughan (who has also written for 48hills) asked at an MTC Citizens Advisory Committee meeting in July whether private shuttles would be allowed to use the BRT lanes. MTC staff didn’t have an answer at that point – but a series of follow-up emails obtained by Vaughan show that the department believes under current rules, any private company that runs a bus with a capacity of more than ten people (including the driver) would count as “transit” and would be allowed on what were originally described as Muni-only lanes… (more)

The national press has been covering the anger and actions against privatization of public streets for years. SF Board of supervisors passed Ordinanace 180089 to give voters some control over access to curbs. There hearings on the horizon along with the Controller reports we have requested for months.

What does SFMTA do? Blame Muni for the slowdown and hand over more traffic lanes to private enterprise, not covered by the ordinance. while spending hours of staff time developing an elite program for corporate e-bikes, and deserting vast numbers of Muni riders during the largest transit crisis in years.

Must the public demand the removal of Reiskin and a vote on a Charter Amendment to roll back SFMTA autonomy to get relief? Will Mayor Breed appoint a strong new MTA Board Director to the current regime at the SFMTA Board, who will return Muni’s attention to making Muni an attractive reliable functioning option?

You can only pretend the emperor is dressed for so long. It is hard to take a bus that does not arrive to pick you up. It is past time to replace the leadership at SFMTA.

RELATED:

Letters to SFMTA Board:

http://www.sfexaminer.com/private-transit-not-belong-dedicated-bus-lanes/

https://metermadness.wordpress.com/red-lane-experiments/private-transport-should-not-be-allowed-to-use-transit-only-lanes/

 

 

Muni memo reveals internal agency struggle to solve operator shortage

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

The backbone of San Francisco’s commute, Muni, is suffering a citywide slowdown.

But that transportation crisis might have been averted, some transit officials allege, if warnings of operator training shortages late last year had been heeded.

Internal strife within the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency over how to handle that shortage was revealed by an internal memo obtained by the San Francisco Examiner in a public records request…

Irwin Lum, a past president of the Muni operator union, TWU Local 250-A, said the email showed SFMTA “tried to put too many changes in at once.”

“The training department couldn’t handle it,” he said. But he also noted that Kirschbaum and the transit department should have anticipated the training department would not have been able to keep pace with all the historic service boosts they were trying to implement at Muni.

“I think her expectations were too high,” Lum said. “This place don’t function like that, you know what I mean?”… (more)

Cancel all new projects until the ones that are unfinished are complete.

We sound like a broken record repeating over and over again, “SLOW DOWN. Quit adding more layers of confusion on the over-burdened public that doesn’t want or need any more changes to deal with.”

All changes is not good. A reliable system should be SFMTA’s top priority.

San Francisco residents want and deserve a city that moves freely, not a state-of-the-art testing ground for tech. No one wants to get up in the morning to ask their phone how they are getting to work today. Your productivity falls immediately once you start in a stressful confused state.

RELATED:

Muni failed to warn mayor’s office of induced service meltdown, sources say

By Joe Eskenazi : missionlocal – excerpt (includes graphics)

A chart documenting Muni’s missed hours of service. The yellow arrow indicates June 25, the date of the Twin Peaks tunnel closure. Graphic by Steve Pepple.

On Monday, Mission Local published an article with documentation revealing that Muni has inflicted citywide transit mayhem by shunting buses and drivers off its most crowded lines to patch service during the long-planned Twin Peaks tunnel closure. Some of San Francisco’s busiest bus routes have been hamstrung with unannounced, de-facto cuts of up to 33 percent, resulting in thousands of hours of missed service, long waits, packed vehicles and legions of agitated riders…

As such, even high-level city officials — like the rest of us — didn’t realize the ensuing months of abysmal transit service wasn’t just Muni business-as-usual until they read about it in the newspaper: First, in late July, in the Examiner, and then on this site this week, with additional data and details…(more)

 

 

Muni suffering major citywide service gaps due to operator shortage

By : sfexaminer – excerpt

Muni is suffering a major citywide slowdown.

An operator shortage has left scheduled buses sitting still at Muni yards, engines cold. Those “not outs,” Muni operator-slang for a bus or train “not out in service,” have caused drastically long wait times for service across San Francisco for months, public data obtained and analyzed by the San Francisco Examiner shows.

On any particular weekday almost a hundred buses — ones meant to run — sit unused due to a lack of operators. The usual lines for downtown buses have grown into crowds. Lucky riders find themselves packed ever-closer to their fellow passengers while unlucky riders see full-to-the-brim buses pass them up outright.

Riders have seen wait times lag on the most crucial commuter lines: 48 minute waits on the 1BX, 24 minute waits on the 38-Geary, 27 minute waits on the 1-California. Major slowdowns have hit all of San Francisco’s neighborhoods, from rich to poor, cutting across all of the diverse populations that rely on Muni for work and school… (more)

For some time people have been suggesting SFMTA slow down street construction projects and emphasize improving Muni service and operations. Have we reached the point where this may be the best solution?

This is not a problem of cash flow or shortage of funds. This is a problem of SFMTA priorities and policies not meeting the goals and needs of the public. As the public loses confidence in Muni service and reliability they are turning to private vehicles, ride-hails and other transit options. Perhaps this is the goal of SFMTA. Perhaps they want to turn over the public transit system to the corporate giants who are clamoring to take it over.

Transportation gentrification: How Bus Rapid Transit is displacing East Oakland

by youth scholars at Deecolonize Academy and POOR Magazine : sfbayview – excerpt

We youth scholars from Deecolonize Academy and POOR Magazine submitted 14 FOIAs – Freedom of Information Act requests – to 14 departments in the City of Oakland, only to receive a series of messages from two of the departments saying, “We have no documents,” and no word from the others.

On Jan. 16, we will be making a demand to the City of Oakland and AC Transit that, with the money they received for BRT, they support Oakland residents to be able to stay here as reparations for the millions of dollars they are receiving to displace us out of here. If you would like to join us, please email poormag@gmail.com(MORE)

This article basically sums up what we have been observing and reporting on for the last five or six years. Public transit funds are being used to displace “vested” residents here and on a world-wide basis. The gold standard has been replaced by the biggest LAND GRAB in history. Instead of relying on cornering a commodity, the robber barons are rapidly grabbing up the one truly limited resource on earth.

They started by grabbing control of our public streets, claiming our once free streets “streets are not free”. Once they “take” our streets, they take our homes, that they refer to as “housing”, claiming we can’t afford  any more.

Unfortunately, our early warnings were correct. Now what can we do about it? This series of articles offers helpful information and suggestions on ways to fight back.Let your political leaders know that you know what they are doing,and who they are serving whether they know it or not.

Some action items and contacts at the state and city level:
https://discoveryink.wordpress.com/sf-actions/

Low-income housing units lost in Oakland, study shows Anti-eviction Mapping Project shows how housing for poor people is being replaced with housing for tech workers…(more)

Why split the SFMTA?

I believe the Supervisors did not appreciate the type of open-ended contract they discovered when they investigated the Van Ness BRT project. I’m not going to describe it here. You can watch the many hearings that have been conducted on the contracts and delays. I’m not going into the financial shenanigans.

Other investigations into major mistakes made on projects such as the ones on Potrero next to the General Hospital lead to questions about communication within the department and SFMTAs dealings with other city agencies. At a public neighborhood meeting we discovered that the Project Manager for Potrero Ave. is also Project Manager for at least one other large project. This leads us to believe that they have bitten off too much to do well and need to put all new project starts on hold while they finish the ones the ones they have going now.

Disputes with the Fire Department and other city agencies involved in emergency operations along with daily transit meltdowns concern people who are responsible for handling a major disaster. How will a gridlocked city handle the next earthquake or other disaster that cuts off power when so much of our lives are electronica now. There is no evacuation plan. The plan is to shelter in place. That doesn’t work under all circumstances.

While you are at it, pay attention to public comments, especially where the bus stop removals and other inconveniences are opposed. Spitting SFMTA (not Muni) has less to do with cars and more to do with providing the service the Muni riders want instead of ignoring them. A business that ignores its customers will not survive long. In this case, the sales tax increase failed because no amount of lies and excuses will convince people they should pay more for less, especially when the salaries are not keeping pace with the tax increases.

The voters much approve the split and restructuring of the SFMTA by ballot.

RELATED:
Supervisors want to split municipal transit agency in two — here’s why