Uber’s latest feature shows how badly it wants to replace owning a car

By  : techinsider – excerpt

Uber is experimenting with a ride option through its app that gives morning commuters a cheaper fare for longer trips into San Francisco.

For people in the areas of Palo Alto, Mountain View, and San Jose, Uber is offering rates of $20-$26 for rides into San Francisco between the times of 6 and 10 a.m. during weekdays. The fare is set ahead of time, which means it won’t be susceptible to surge pricing like normal Uber rides.

The cheaper fare is made possible through Uber Pool, the latest ride option in the app that splits the cost of a trip between multiple passengers traveling along a similar route. Uber Pool launched in New York City this past summer, and the company says the feature “guarantees you a cheaper fare” and “only adds a few minutes to your trip.”

For the new Pool to SF option, Uber charges an additional $10 per passenger, the cost of which can be split between friends through the app…

“If we can make Uber cheaper than owning a car, look at all the great things that happen: you no longer have parking problems in San Francisco,” he said. “You no longer have congestion because half of the riders in San Francisco are in an Uber Pool, which is kind of amazing.”… (more)

      Kind of amazing when you can convince a lot of people to buy your service and make you rich so you can buy more influence and power. No thank you!

Being older in a youthful San Francisco

By Sally Stephens: sfexaminer – excerpt

If you listened to a transistor radio in 1966, like I did, you heard James Brown sing, “This is a man’s world.” The song drove many to fight male chauvinism. If it was written in today’s San Francisco, Brown might instead sing, “This is a millennial’s world.”

San Francisco in 2015 is being planned by and for people in their 20s and 30s. Take a look around City Hall and you’ll see mostly young people staffing government and city agencies. Maybe it takes a certain youthful enthusiasm to deal with an irascible public, powerful special interests and noisy opponents.

The San Francisco millennials are designing is one that meets their needs, wants and expectations. Unfortunately, it’s also making life harder for older San Franciscans…

Or consider the ongoing tension between bikes and cars. A bike is a great way to get around when you’re young and fit. But as you get older, it gets harder to ride safely. You might discover that you can’t turn your head as far to the side to see what’s coming up behind you as you once could. The fear that even a minor spill could result in a broken hip keeps many seniors off bikes.

As you get older, you just can’t carry as much as you once could, so taking the bus to shop becomes harder. Uber, Lyft or ride-hail companies get expensive, if used frequently. Is it any wonder many Baby Boomers prefer to drive?

Yet San Francisco’s many millennial policy makers have decided to restrict cars in favor of bikes on many city streets, reduce parking and consolidate bus stops. While the planners’ young friends enjoy the bike lanes and faster transit, my fellow Baby Boomers and I have more and more difficulty getting around The City…

After working here for a few years, many of San Francisco’s young city staffers will likely move somewhere else, either for a job, family or just because they’re young and want to see more of the world. As they age, they won’t have to live with the consequences of the policies they are crafting in San Francisco today.

When they finally do get older, millennials who stay in San Francisco may well find themselves singing a different tune when they discover they designed a city that makes few accommodations for seniors like themselves… (more)

Well, just about any transit project is eligible to apply for Federal funds.

(Quick clarification – the Bay Area gets a lot of “formula” funds for transit.  How they are used are up to MTC and the transit agencies, but, in general, these are all spoken for – if they were transferred for other purposes, such as a major capital project, then that means a whole lot of over-the-hill buses would not be replaced at the ends of their useful life, a lot of rail lines will not be given required maintenance, etc.  In addition to the transit programs – of which 49 USC 5307 is by far the largest – there are also three highway “flexible” funds, with CMAQ and STP being the vast majority.  These can be used for transit, again, pretty much at the option of MTC, but, given the extreme underfunding of Bay Area road maintenance, unlikely to occur.  What we are probably talking about is the Federal discretionary capital grant program for transit, which is mainly 49 USC 5309 “new starts.”)

Since the Obama administration has pretty much changed the rules so that factors like ridership, etc., aren’t really part of the evaluation process any more, so, if the Bay Area made this a high priority, it would likely have a chance.  However, there is only so much money to go around nationally, and there is a limit to how much money any region is going to get, and there is an unlimited amount of other requests for this funding, so the real question is, how far up to the top of the list this will be.

The other interesting factor is that it is getting real questionable how much money for transit programs there is going to be.  With the Republicans controlling both houses, and the D’s not really into the program, there hasn’t been a new transportation authorization bill for quite a while, just short-term extensions and, right now, it is difficult to see how there will be a long-term extension any time soon.  Without that, not a whole lot of money for any new projects.  Not saying impossible, am saying makes it more difficult.

OK, let’s step back and take a wild turn.  Let’s say that the objective is to create a transit system that will carry the most people, get it done the quickest, and do it at the lowest cost to taxpayers.  Not really the way things are done, of course, particularly in the Bay Area, but, just as a thing to think about.  OK, going down that road, the way to go is to run long-haul commuter buses on an I-580 HOT lane from the Central Valley to the existing BART end station.  Such lines can be started within two years (the biggest time-taker is getting the buses delivered, now that the roadway is getting close to completion), there are just about no costs for the right-of-way, and this is the type of transit service that has the highest farebox recovery ratio – over 90% is not at all uncommon, although I’m not going to make that kind of prediction without a lot of study.

This would have also been the right way to go before BART went over the hill to the Tri-Valley.  Of course, it was never even considered as an option.

– TR, Transit specialist

This pretty much back up what many of us have been saying for some time. The SFMTA and other municipal transit authorities are not in the transportation business, they are in the construction business. They are also in the empire building business. The more the construct the bigger the public debt to the industry grows since the maintenance and operations costs escalate accordingly. This is why many people are saying NO MORE MONEY for the bottomless pit that claim, “if we build it they will come.”

To the desert valley where there is no water?

Oakland Sticks to Backward Thinking

By  : eastbayexpress – excerpt

Oakland’s elected officials have long viewed themselves as progressive and forward-thinking. But when it comes to creating transit-friendly neighborhoods, building affordable housing, and protecting the environment, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the city’s leaders are way behind the curve.

As Express senior writer Sam Levin explained in a recent series of in-depth articles, Oakland is still stuck in the 20th century when it comes to transportation and the city’s longstanding love affair with the automobile. Oakland has almost no money for affordable housing, and the city should be doing all it can to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but instead, it’s still mandating that developers promote car culture, requiring them to spend huge amounts of money on constructing large parking garages — that often end up sitting partially empty — right next to BART stations… (more)

If there are empty parking garages near BART stations, where are they? There are probably a lot of people who would like to know. The author should post that information.

Report: Report: California’s drivers are the nation’s most stressed

By Gary Richards : contracostatimes – excerpt

California’s improved economy has brought commutes to an unprecedented slowdown from one end of the state to the other, making drivers here the most stressed out in the nation.

A nationwide report released late Tuesday found that motorists in California’s congested population centers spend nearly two work weeks a year stuck in creep-and-crawl traffic — nearly double the national average.

According to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute and a West Coast traffic organization called Inrix, which surveyed traffic on 471 urban streets and highways across the country, an estimated $160 billion is lost annually in wasted fuel, lost income and lost time across the country while motorists cling to a steering wheel instead of a computer mouse.

The worst area is Washington, D.C., at 82 hours of lost time, but the top 10 is a roadmap from Northern California to Southern California: Los Angeles comes in No. 2 with 80 hours of delays, followed by San Francisco-Oakland with 78, New York at 74 and the San Jose area at 67. Riverside rounds out the top 10 at 59. Compare that to the national average of a measly 42 hours.

The California numbers have jumped five hours since 2010 and are expected to steadily creep higher over the next several years.

A number of solutions are in the works to ease some of the gridlock and encourage solo commuters to carpool or take public transit to work: Later this year BART will open a new line to the Santa Clara County border, a “Smart Highway” project on Interstate 80 from Richmond to the Bay Bridge will offer route alternatives, and the Interstate 880 carpool lane will be extended south of Oakland. Double carpool lanes are planned for Highways 85 and 101, and Interstate 580 in the Tri-Valley will get those plus express lanes… (more)

The three pronged approach sounds like what got us where we are. The only new idea is to stagger the work hours. At the rate we are robotizing jobs there won’t be many left soon anyway. All we will do is sit at home and wait for delivery. Stop removing traffic lanes and eliminating parking and you can clean up the traffic much faster. In fact, just replace all the lanes you removed and all the parking you took out and we would be much better off.

You can start spending the money on maintaining the fleet of municipal vehicles you have and quit hiring managers to clog things up. Fire the entire complete streets crew that is moving mature trees from the side of the street on Van Ness to the middle of the street, and putting in a BRT in the middle of the street. That little project is designed to make a lot of wealthy contractors more wealthy and cost the taxpayer billions of dollars while clogging the major North South state highway that connect s the Federal Freeways through San Francisco for years. Nothing they are planning will relieve the traffic.

SAN FRANCISCO SUPERVISOR WIENER AUTHORS LEGISLATION TO CUT TOW COSTS

By Carolyn Tyler : abc7news – excerpt (video)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015 12:00AM
SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — If your car is towed in San Francisco, you’re going to be paying some of the highest rates in the country to get it back, but now for one group of motorists — those whose cars were stolen — it appears some relief is on the way.

Back in the 1980’s and 1990’s, San Francisco residents were reimbursed the towing expenses for stolen cars, but that changed in 2005, perhaps due to the economy.

Adding insult to injury, San Francisco resident Luis Rodriguez will spend big bucks to get his Chevy Malibu from the towing yard. Every month on average, nearly 200 stolen vehicles end up at AutoReturn.

San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener said, “It’s a real hardship — especially for lower income people who rely on their car as a lifeline to get to work — to have to pay a lot of money to get their car, when they didn’t do anything wrong.”

Wiener has authored legislation with the backing of the Municipal Transportation Agency. If approved, starting this December through next March there would be changes. And when the towing contract comes up for renewal, it is also expected to include the new previsions.

Muni’s $266 SFMTA administrative fee would be waived for San Francisco residents and cut in half for non-residents. The $225.75 towing fees would be waived for everyone. And rather than the current four hours you’re given to get your car before the storage fees accumulate, residents will have a 48 hour grace period. The grace period will be 24 hours for non-residents… (more)

Bay Area Public Transportation

By Thuy Vu and Scott Shafer : kqed – excerpt – (video clip)

Getting around the Bay Area can be difficult. Traffic is a mess and public transportation isn’t always easy. KQED NEWSROOM’s Scott Shafer and Thuy Vu talk to the leaders of BART, Caltrain, Muni and VTA about what is and isn’t working with the Bay Area’s biggest transit systems.

Guests:
• Grace Crunican, general manager of BART
• Ed Reiskin, director of transportation of San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency
• Jim Hartnett, general manager of San Mateo County Transit District
• Michael Hursh, chief operating officer of Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority… (more)

SFMTA Seeks To Reduce Bike Parking Due To Lack Of Utilization

Socketsite – excerpt
Following the collection of over six months of data tacking the utilization of bike racks installed in the 18 parking garages managed by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), the agency’s Parking Division has requested a reduction in the required number of racks to be installed in at least seven (7) of the garages due to “significant slack capacity” for the racks which are already in place.

The Union Square, Sutter Stockton and Civic Center garages are among those facilities for which reductions in the number of bike parking spaces required to be installed have been requested, with observed average daily utilization rates of 26.5 percent, 48.1 percent, and 14 percent for their existing racks respectively.

Keep in mind that businesses and buildings which have installed private racks, such as Twitter, Dolby and City Hall, have impacted the demand for publicly-accessible bicycle parking.

A City ordinance adopted in 2013 upgraded and increased the number and quality of bicycle parking spaces required for City-owned buildings and parking garages based on expected demand… (more)

Voting on SFMTA contract for armed private security guards postponed

By Bay City News : kron4 – excerpt

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) – The San Francisco Board of Supervisors postponed a vote today to approve a $38 million contract for private security guards for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency because the contracts include $7 million for guards armed with handguns who are required to receive only 16 hours of training.

A number of the supervisors, including David Campos, Malia Cohen and Jane Kim, said that armed guards with limited training in heavily trafficked public transit areas may present a public safety hazard and doesn’t align with the city’s values… (more)

Nutting out the nuttiness of bike-car relations

: the age – excerpt

Cyclists and motorists are like the Sunnis and Shi’ites in Iraq – they share the same territory but just can’t get on. However, the schism twixt Australian cyclists and motorists is more baffling, because many of them are one and the same. Most cyclists also drive cars, many motorists also ride bikes, so just what happens mentally when a cycling motorist spits the dummy over a motoring cyclist is a challenge for any psychiatric conference…

Cyclists and motorists are like the Sunnis and Shi’ites in Iraq – they share the same territory but just can’t get on. However, the schism twixt Australian cyclists and motorists is more baffling, because many of them are one and the same. Most cyclists also drive cars, many motorists also ride bikes, so just what happens mentally when a cycling motorist spits the dummy over a motoring cyclist is a challenge for any psychiatric conference.

Our psychiatric conference might examine the grudge factor at play here – cyclists and motorists share the same territory, yet cyclists pay no registration fees and they carry no visible ID like a car registration plate, so the errant cyclist can pedal off with impunity. This disparity is accentuated when the motorist is sitting in a traffic jam – say, in Alexandra Parade, waiting eternally for the East-West Link to be built – and sees cyclists breezily pedalling past. Grrr. Shades of someone elbowing in to a queue ahead of you. At times like these the more educated of these log-jammed petrol-heads might mutter unkindly about Karl Drais, the 19th-century German baron who, with his chief game-keeper Otto Shillinger, is credited with inventing the first two-wheeler, a device nicknamed the dandy-horse and patented in January 1818. This was at least 70 years before first car appeared, so the baron would never have envisaged the 21st-century conflict between horsepower and dandy-horse.

Back to our conference. While nutting out the nuttiness of bike-car relations, the shrinks should surely take note of the strange configurations that road authorities provide for the warring tribes…

Fact is, any collection of shrinks would go nuts trying to fathom the leapfrogging mindsets as pedestrian switches to motorist to cyclist to pedestrian again. I twigged to the inherent paradox of bicycle safety in the 1980s, after interviewing cycling legend Sir Hubert Opperman at his home in Wantirna. I recall his wife, Lady Oppy, showing me the indoor cycle machine she had bought the knight after becoming concerned at his safety on the increasingly congested roads. A few years after we published that interview I read that Oppy had died. At 92, he had a heart attack while pedalling on his indoor cycling machine… (more)

This Aussie put the bike v car conundrum rather well.

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