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

Costly Transbay Transit Center in busload of trouble

Matier and Ross : sfchronicle – excerpt

…“The elephant in the living room is solving the operating subsidy problem, which could be as large as $20 million a year — and without a source of revenue,” said Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who chairs San Francisco’s Transportation Authority…

Taxpayers and bridge commuters will probably be on the hook to pick up millions of dollars in costs, although the exact amount still isn’t known…

“We expect to have an operating deficit,” said Mark Zabaneh, executive director of the public Transbay Joint Powers Authority, which is building the center.

Without the foot traffic that high-speed rail could draw, the mall is looking a lot less attractive to potential renters. That means the authority may have to offer sweetheart deals to lure stores — which, of course, means less money…(more)

The City has a lot of nerve coming to the voters and tax payers begging for funds to operate a transit center many never wanted in the first place. When do we quit digging holes to fill and just fill the ones we have already dug?

Given the choice between paying for health care and paying for street diets and sidewalk widening, which do you think the voters would prefer? Housing and transportation are not the only think we need and the sooner City Hall wakes up to that fact the sooner we can start to repair the damage.

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.

Adopt a Pothole

Don’t just complain about potholes. Do something about them.
Nextdoor conversations prompted a new site for adopting potholes.
Join us and adopt one of your own. https://dogpatch.dillilabs.com
Locate your pothole on the map and upload a photo of it.

File a complaint with DPW. Take a picture. Make note of the address. File a report on it with DPW using the Mayor’s 311 complaint system. You may call 311 and speak to an operator but this can be time-consuming. It may be easier to file a complaint online http://sf311.org to get it entered into the record. They claim that all feedback is linked to the 311 system and offer you a referral number, which you can use to check on the status of your pothole. If you use that system report back on how long it takes to get it fixed.

See how other people have dealt with their potholes.
There is a international effort to “adopt a pothole” you may want to look into. Google it and you will see a lot of complaints. My favorite is this one from India: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1dIdJ53T…
The creativity is endless. Here is another good one.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jx0OcpZ7…

Would higher gas tax fill our spreading potholes?

By Gary Richards : mercurynews – excerpt

With heavy storms wreaking havoc on California roads to the tune of $600 million — damages that Caltrans says could top $1 billion by spring — Bay Area traffic heavyweights joined forces Monday to push for higher gas taxes and auto registration fees to raise $6 billion a year for the state’s dilapidated roads.

“It is fiscally irresponsible to wait until our roads fail,” said State Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, chairman of the state Senate Transportation Committee, at a press conference to garner support for his gas tax bill. “We can’t ignore repairs. Eventually, we have to pay.”

SB-1 would hike the state gas tax by 12 cents a gallon over three years, charge electric cars an annual fee of $100 and increase the registration for all vehicles by $38. San Jose would be one of the big winners, getting $39 million a year from Beall’s measure, with $19 million more coming from the Measure B sales tax approved in November. San Jose transportation director Jim Ortbal called it a game changer, “huge.”…

Republicans and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, however, oppose any tax increases and, instead, want to divert money from the high-speed rail project and the state’s general fund to filling potholes…

But Beall doesn’t want the general fund touched for road repairs. “That’s a non-starter,” he said. “No way.”

Coupal suggests taking nearly $9 billion in bonds from high-speed rail for road construction.

“If voter approval is deemed necessary,” Coupal said, “that measure passes in a heartbeat.”… (more)

Here comes Lucy again with the football. What are the chances she will not pull it away again?

RELATED:
Gas tax proposed to help pay for much-needed San Jose road repairs: (video included)

North Dakota reconsiders 70-year ban on parking meters

By James Macpherson, AP : sfchronicle – excerpt

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — When an angry farmer was ticketed for not feeding a parking meter, he launched a one-man crusade that made North Dakota the nation’s only state that bans the meters on all public streets.

Now the governor is quietly trying to end the nearly 70-year ban in hopes of revitalizing downtowns, and the farmer’s granddaughter is fighting to uphold her family’s legacy… (more)

Mayor Steinberg’s driver hits midtown biker

On a trip between City Hall and a school board meeting on Tuesday evening, Mayor Darrell Steinberg’s driver hit a bicyclist at a notoriously hazardous intersection in midtown.

The mayor’s staff said there were no serious injuries and the mayor was not driving when the accident occurred near the intersection of 24th and G streets.

The incident occurred at an intersection with a two-way stop. The mayor’s Ford Fusion didn’t have a stop sign, but a cyclist coming from 24th Street ran the stop sign, said Zachary Yeates, a Steinberg staffer who was in the car…

Hansen confirmed that he intended to ask the city traffic engineer to conduct “an immediate investigation” and “quickly make changes if warranted.” Hansen said that he’s also pushing to educate bikers on following traffic laws, and that it would take both a “culture change” and infrastructure improvements for Sacramentans to successfully share roads(more)

Uber’s Auto-Loan Program Is Basically Indentured Servitude

by Paris Marx : thebolditalic – excerpt

The troubled gig-economy company breaks new ground in exploitation.

Until recently, Uber drivers had to own their own vehicles (10 years old or newer) and pay all their vehicle-related expenses out of their earnings. Yet as Uber has grown, the vehicle requirement has proven to be a major barrier to growing the number of drivers on the platform — at least partly because drivers have an incredibly high turnover rate, a testament to the fact that driving for Uber is generally not very stable or lucrative work. Recently, the company has found a solution: facilitating car loans directly for drivers so they can rent a car from Uber in order to drive for Uber — in effect, paying back the company as it pays them.

Uber’s Subprime Auto Loans

The largest US ride-sharing platform, Uber has been infused with billions of dollars in investment and, as a result, is in rapid growth mode, relentlessly hiring drivers around the country. Getting a driver’s license is a relatively easily learned skill in the United States — hence, finding drivers is not necessarily a problem for Uber; rather, finding drivers who own cars that meet Uber’s vehicle requirement is. Thus, over the past few years, Uber has made a number of deals to experiment with offering vehicle leases to drivers before finally launching its own auto-loan company, Xchange Leasing, in 2015 to offer subprime loans to drivers. “Subprime,” in finance speak, refers to the credit status of the lessee: “prime” borrowers are desirable ones with a high probability of paying back loans on time, whereas “subprime” borrowers are less than optimal for banks — and hence usually suffer higher premiums, interest rates and more predatory contracts to make up for their undesirability as clients… (more)

This looks like the perfect Ponzi scheme. Use investor’s money to multiply your investments. In this case, invest in cars, mark them up and lease them to your “contractors” at a profit. How long before the ‘contractors” pull out or go on strike and leave Uber holding the debt?

RELATED:
Naked Capitalism has published a five-part series on the economics of Uber… t sheds light on the lack of profitability in the current business model, and how fares are subsidized with billions in losses and VC money to try to achieve a monopoly position.

California bicyclists would be allowed to roll past stop signs under proposed law

By sfexaminer – excerpt

Cyclists in California would be allowed to pedal past stop signs — without stopping — under legislation proposed by two lawmakers who say it would make the roads safer.

The two-tiered approach to the rules of the road — one for cyclists and one for cars — is unlikely to ease growing tensions over sharing California’s roadways.

Bike advocates have won such victories in the Statehouse as requiring drivers to yield a three-foot radius of manoeuvring room to cyclists or face fines. Motorists meanwhile have expressed frustration that they see certain cyclists pick and choose which laws to follow.

Assemblymen Jay Obernolte (R-Hesperia) and Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) introduced their measure on Friday that would allow bicyclists to treat stop signs as merely yield signs — proceeding with caution if conditions are safe.

In effect, it would legalize the so-called California roll, although just for bicyclists…(more)

This law AB-1103 Bicycles: yielding has been through the legislature a number of times and has not passed yet. It will create more problems than it will solve and is not supported by all cyclists:

  1. Will this apply to 2-way stop signs or just 4-way stop signs? How will cyclists know the difference?
  2. Does anyone think cyclists will slow down more than they do now to look before “rolling” through?
  3. Legislators should include a clause that requires cyclists to purchase licenses and insurance to cover damages resulting from passage of this new law.
  4. This will be particularly difficult for drivers of large vehicles like buses and trucks, who can’t easily see bikes or stop on a dime when they do.
  5. How can SFMTA speed buses though intersections when they must worry about hitting cyclists rolling through stop signs?
  6. This will negatively impact the safety of other cyclists, pedestrians, tourists and young people who will find it even more confusing to walk safely on the streets than they do now.
  7. Wait for the lawsuits to come in.

Details on the AB-1103 – An act to amend Section 21200 of the Vehicle Code, relating to bicycles – Introduced by Assembly Members Obernolte and Ting (Coauthors: Assembly Members Bloom, Chávez, and Kiley)

Principal coauthor: Senator Wiener

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