Reviving SF’s taxi industry: The city is looking at solutions

By Michael Cabanatuan : sfchronicle – excerpt

San Francisco’s taxi industry, bludgeoned in recent years by Uber and Lyft, needs to catch up with the changing times to survive.

That’s the assessment of a pair of consultants whose report, released Wednesday, recommends that the Municipal Transportation Agency, which regulates the city’s taxi industry, work with cab companies to improve their service and reduce the number of taxis on the streets to match reduced demand but increase the number of cabs capable of carrying persons with disabilities.

What it doesn’t recommend, despite the wishes of taxi drivers, is what the city and the agency are not allowed to do: Regulate the transportation network companies, specifically Uber and Lyft, that have nearly decimated the taxi industry since their drivers arrived in San Francisco over the past decade.

That oversight falls to the state Public Utilities Commission, not the city…

“the MTA is really looking to get the right regulations in place so that the taxi industry can compete,” Toran said.

To accomplish that, the report recommends taxi companies become more customer-friendly by offering mobile-phone apps…

Those companies should also be released from current restraints that prohibit them from offering special or discounted rates …

To help boost interest in operating taxi vans to carry wheelchairs, an often time-consuming effort, the report recommends that drivers be offered up to $300 a month to help buy a van and the same amount per month to cover maintenance and operating costs… (more)

 

 

Advertisements

Opinions on Regional Measure 3

Pro/Con: Will $3 bridge toll hike fix traffic or worsen it?  Backers, opponents debate the proposals in Regional Measure 3 on the June ballot…(more)

Regional Measure 3 improves Bay Area highways, transit: Voters should reject RM3, and demand instead a plan focused on transit, shared rides and bikes..Ballot proposal will directly benefit commuters throughout the region, no matter which direction they are traveling…(more)

Opinion: Bridge toll hike would condemn Bay Area to gridlock: …Voters should reject RM3, and demand instead a plan focused on transit, shared rides and bikes…unless you vote no on  Regional Measure 3, MTC will persist with its failed strategy…(more)

Report recommends SF slash available taxis to save industry

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

NBTaxis

Taxis in North Beach by zrants

San Francisco may slash the number of available taxi medallions — which dictates the number of cabs — by one-third, in a bid to “reinvigorate” the industry.

That’s one of a number of major recommendations released Wednesday from a respected taxi-industry consultant commissioned by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which regulates taxis but not ride-hails like Uber and Lyft.

It’s those tech titans that have the taxi industry and SFMTA concerned, as the old guard of drivers-for-hire lose significant ground in nearly every respect: There are twelve times more ride-hail trips across The City than taxi trips, according to city data, including lucrative rides to and from the San Francisco International Airport. To revitalize the industry in 2017 the SFMTA commissioned taxi industry expert Bruce Schaller, principal of Schaller Consulting, to analyze trends in San Francisco — and recommend a way out.

“How does the MTA as a regulator help the taxi industry innovate and step up?” Kate Toran, head of taxi services at SFMTA, told reporters in a press briefing Wednesday. That, she said, is the crux of this report… (more)

Public Transportation Industry Generates Profit out of Public Debt.

Op-Ed

When analyzing public debt sources, don’t leave the Transportation Industrial Complex out of your list of bloodsucking debt boosters. Look at who supports the candidates running for office, but, don’t stop there. Look at the product developers and manufacturers that are selling parking systems, paint, concrete, and parking meters and traffic control systems and all the other fancy new toys our cities are buying on credit. All those fancy apps and up-to-date signs and electronic gizmos are boosting sales and draining pubic coffers. Sit in on a meeting of experimental devices and you can hear the electronic cash register zing.

San Francisco’s largest employer is the city of San Francisco and the largest department is the SFMTA. This year, all city departments and agencies were told to cut back on new hires, but, SFMTA is trying to add more. Their budget is 1.2 billion dollars and that is just their spending money. The long term debt is indecently high and has been for too long. Do we really need more than 6,000 people to run the SF Muni system? If there is a cheaper, has disruptive alternative, the SFMTA will never approve it. They need the Cadillac model of everything.

How many other cities are going into debt to service their public transportation industry? San Francisco can’t be alone in this predicament. How many public servants can society support and why is there so much pressure being put on the public to depend on the government for transportation when it costs so much less for people to transport themselves? Forcing non-users to support the public transit system makes it easier to hide the extremely high cost of this program and the debt that the public is taking on.

We need a leaner, meaner transportation department. Instead of being forced to provide an affordable, reliable basic transportation system for people who need it, the SFMTA is blowing billions of dollars on the most expensive, least reliable, high tech system they can dream up. And they have no limits or boundaries until the voters wise up and demand a change. A couple of our Supervisors are working on an Ordinance and possible Charter Amendment to address some of the complaints citizens are lodging against the SFMTA.

Ask your public officials how much the public transportation system they are trying to force down your throat is costing each citizen in your county, and vote NO on RM3 when it comes up, to cut the powers of the regional MTC and send a message to the transportation industry and the government that supports it to cut costs.

Figueroa, finally. Here’s what 10 years and $20 million can do for 4 miles of street.

: scpr and kpcc – excerpt (includes audio)

A $20 million project to remake a four-mile stretch of Figueroa Street with better access for walkers, bikers and transit is nearing completion after 10 years of planning and setbacks.

A lawsuit and construction delays, in part to relocate utility lines, slowed the work. The project also began under the Community Redevelopment Agency but was shifted to the Los Angeles Department of Transportation when the CRA closed down.

The My Figueroa project area runs from 7th Street in the heart of downtown south to Exposition Park, covering short portions of 11th Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard… (more)

New SFMTA budget to expand staff by nearly 300, buck hiring freeze mandate

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

The agency that oversees Muni, parking enforcement and The City’s streets approved a $1.2 billion operating budget for 2019 and 2020 with 277 new positions Tuesday despite a call by the Mayor’s Office to avoid adding staff.

The budget for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency was approved by its Board of Directors and is expected to go before the Board of Supervisors for final approval…

The City Controller’s Office projects a $521 million budget shortfall by 2020 should no changes be made to The City’s obligations. Both the former Acting Mayor London Breed and current Mayor Mark Farrell affirmed Lee’s position, which called for city departments to maintain current staffing levels.

Importantly, the SFMTA is an independent agency from The Mayor’s Office. Unlike Public Works or other city agencies, it sets its own budget…

Some SFMTA divisions will shrink, including one overseeing the creation of bike lanes and road changes called Sustainable Streets(more)

Ready to clip the SFMTA’s wings yet, or at least cut their purse strings? Demand the Supervisors do not approve the bloated SFMTA budget. Send it back.

SFMTA must cut back on “improvements” and controversial backroom contracts. Every district supervisor has a record of complaints regarding the SFMTA’s antics. $62 million dollars to increase the length of a T-Train stop and millions more for a switchback that will cut service to the Bay View,  for starters.

Demand a Charter Amendment on the November ballot unless the Board of Supervisors approves an ordinance to control the agency that will not quit spending.

Support the Mayoral and Supervisor candidates that support a big changes at the SFMTA during the June election.

 

California CPUC is to blame for the corporate takeover of our streets. We need new leadership at the CPUP.

Video by Spenser Michael, PBS NewsHours : KQED  – excerpt (video included)

This story ran in 2014.

Every weekday morning, dozens of sleek buses roll through the heart of San Francisco, picking up a cargo of workers commuting south to companies like Google, Facebook and Apple. But critics say the buses are clogging city bus stops and are symbolic of the disparity in wealth between the new tech workers and the long-time working class residents… (more)

Matters have gone from bad to worse. The SFMTA turned public parking spaces over to the buses and now we dealing with more buses and TNCs. As the street parking disappears a new parking need arises for delivery services.

Nothing the state, county, city agencies have done with the millions of dollars in federal, state, regional, county, or city taxes, fines and fees, has put a dent in the traffic problem.

California citizens all over the state are calling for a halt in the failed projects until major changes are enacted to stop the flawed plans that are not working.

RELATED: National coverage has been building on this subject for years.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zs7N0023ziw

Fast forward to 2018:

We now know a lot more about the “healthy economy” and it is unhealthy for most people.

California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) does not work for the public. At their last meeting they determined that because they are spending less money than anticipated on enforcement, the fees should be lowered on the Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) they are supposed to regulate.

Cities have no way to combat this agency. The only thing they regulate is the routes and the stops.

This is a perfect example of why we need to stop the state from usurping power from local governments. As the state legislature gives itself the right to regulate land use and traffic laws though such bills as Wiener’s SB-827 and 828, neighborhoods are being turned into futuristic holding cells for transients out to make a fast buck. They better grab fast, because they are killing the golden goose. Cities are crumbling under the weight of expectations and unrealistic priorities.

California has a number of regulatory agencies that make the rules and enforce them at their own discretion. There is no separation of powers here. San Francisco’s Municipal Transit Authority has a similar problem. Too much power and too much money has a bad influence on performance. The process does not work for the public. It works for the corporations and their lobbyists who control the agencies.

Because over 2% of the corporate bus trips cross into other local jurisdictions, they are regulated by the state. This encourages more regional traffic, not less, as TNCs scramble to grab those rides.

Uber’s new CEO admitted that his company is in competition with Muni and wants to run the city bus programs. We need  new cop in town and City Hall who can work some magic in Sacramento by taking back local control.

As it stands now the only thing the voters can do is stop the flow of money into the coffers of the agencies until City Halls get the message that the plan is flawed and the citizens are not going to take it anymore. The next tax on the ballot for transportation will be the regional RM3 bill that would increase bridge tolls to pay for more of same.

Fighting back means replacing people who are responsible for this untenable situation, and have not learned by their mistakes. It is one thing to posit an idea that doesn’t work. It is another to pretend like the world is your oyster when millions of people are suffering because of a flawed plan based on false assumptions.

We now know that algorithms can be manipulated thanks to Donald Trump and the Mueller investigation that uncovered massive manipulations by facebook algorithms. Next time someone tells you they based a zoning plan or a traffic pattern future project on an algorithm run for the nearest exit. Computer models are only as good as the input. When there are no recent studies based on current conditions, the computer models are flawed and the algorithms meaningless.

There is a new kid on the block intent on fighting back with renewed public outreach. http://brokenheartsf.com is taking on the buses that are ravaging the Noe Valley neighborhood. See the recent action at the last stop at 29th and San Jose. Marvel at the chutzpah of the huge empty buses as they head for the 280 freeway.

State legislators need to take control the CPUC just as our Supervisors need to control the SFMTA. Let them know how you feel.

 

 

Poll: SF residents split on transit-only ‘red carpet’ lanes

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

San Francisco remains divided on the “red carpet” transit-only lanes that are appearing throughout The City, according to a new poll conducted for the Chamber of Commerce…

The poll results differ only slightly from last year, despite heated opposition from some Mission District, Taraval Street and Geary Boulevard neighbors, where transit-only lanes have either been installed or may be installed soon.

And those lanes may soon proliferate to 50 other San Francisco streets, according to documents previously obtained by the San Francisco Examiner….

Erick Arguello, president of the Calle 24 Latino Cultural District council, said the poll would have different results if it were conducted in The Mission, where some merchants and residents say the red lanes harm business by discouraging drivers from coming to the area.

“From what I hear on the ground, it’s a very different story,” Arguello said, of the neighborhood. “There’s a lot of resentment in the Mission corridor.”

That resentment was part of what drew 300 marchers in support of the cultural district to rally at SFMTA offices at 1 South Van Ness and at City Hall on Jan. 25, among other concerns.

In a statement, SFMTA spokesperson Erica Kato said the SFMTA is “excited” by the findings from the Chamber poll…

The poll, taken among 500 San Francisco voters in January, also found wide support for other transit projects, except those involving bicycles.

Seventy-eitght percent of those polled supported the extension of the Central Subway, which is still under construction, from Chinatown to Fisherman’s Wharf, while 16 percent were opposed. Seventy-seven percent supported constructing a tunnel to extend Caltrain and high speed rail from Mission Bay to the Transbay Transit Center and 14 percent were opposed.

Bike lanes proved more divisive, however, with 47 percent in support of removing traffic lanes in “various locations around the city” to install bike-only lanes and 46 percent opposed…(more)

We need to treat our streets the way we treat our land use issues with the same public involvement, scrutiny and opportunity to appeal all projects. There is a system that citizens who want a residential parking permit must so through to obtain a permit to park near their homes. 50% of the residents on the block must approve the permits. Why is the SFMTA not making the same requirements of all the private entities they are writing contract agreements with to impinge on our curbs?

At this time when the supervisors are considering changing the SFMTA powers and authorities that the public has been requesting for years, they need to hear from everyone who has been negatively impacted by the process the SFMTA is using to push through projects. Let them know how you feel about the use of your curb space on your block and request a fair system for pubic debate on all changes suggested for your block.

Gas tax repeal sponsored by Assemblyman Travis Allen fails to qualify, but another effort could reach the ballot

By Casey Tolan : mercurynews – excerpt

A ballot measure to repeal California’s controversial new gas tax sponsored by Assemblyman and Republican governor candidate Travis Allen failed to submit signatures by its deadline this week. But voters could still have a chance to have their say on the law in November, as a separate ballot measure to repeal it continues to gather signatures.

Allen’s campaign was unable to collect signatures due to a series of legal battles with Attorney General Xavier Becerra last year over the wording of the ballot measure, Allen said in an interview Friday afternoon…

separate ballot measure campaign to repeal the gas tax — sponsored by Allen’s Republican rival for the governor’s office, businessman John Cox, and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — is still collecting signatures and has a May 21 filing deadline. That petition has gathered 400,000 signatures of the necessary 585,407, the campaign said in a statement Friday.

Allen said he would support that campaign, and that all funds raised by his ballot measure campaign — $87,188, as of the latest filing in September — would go to the Howard Jarvis campaign and to legal costs. His campaign will send all of his donors a form to sign to support the other anti-gas tax ballot initiative. “The movement to stop Jerry Brown’s massive tax increase is larger than any one person or any one group,” Allen said…

poll conducted by the Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies last month found that 52 percent of likely voters in California backed the repeal… (more)

 

Proposal for $9 tolls on Bay Bridge, $8 on other bridges gets big boost

By Lizzie Johnson : sfgate – excerpt

Night-Bridge

Sunset cruise on the Bay Bridge photo by zrants

A measure to raise Bay Area bridge tolls to $9 on the Bay Bridge and $8 on others over several years took a major step forward Wednesday when a key transportation committee unanimously recommended putting it before voters in June…

But to get before voters, the recommendation will need approval from the full Bay Area Toll Authority, which usually follows the committee’s lead. A vote is expect Jan. 24.

If the authority gives the measure the go-ahead, the Board of Supervisors in each of the nine affected counties will make the final vote to place it on each county’s ballot for June 5 as Regional Measure 3. If it passes, the toll hikes will affect only drivers on the Bay Area’s seven state-owned bridges. The Golden Gate Bridge would be excluded. Commuters who cross two bridges to get to their destination would receive a 50 percent discount on their second crossing if they have a FasTrak pass…

The measure also includes a proposal to create an inspector general whose job would be to examine BART finances and operations…(more)

Good to know that they will use the increase in bridge funds to hire another high-paid consultant. That sounds like a winning strategy for workers who are paying an average of 40% of their shrinking incomes on housing. I’m sure they will jump at the prospect of paying higher bridge tolls.