Reopening California: Here’s how commuting will change for drivers, public transportation when we go back to work

By Dion Lim : abc7news – excerpt (includes video)

Planned changes come as an eye-opening study from Vanderbilt is released, showing if three out of four workers chooses to take a car versus public transportation, drive times increase a whopping 42 minutes.

It’s one of the issues during Thursday’s Bay Area Council webinar with heads of various transportation agencies.

One change already implemented March 20th: The Bay Area Toll Authority decision to switch to all electric tolls on area bridges. That could continue.

“It seems to be working relatively smoothly… We’ll work with the commission on how we’re going to work toward to an all-electric toll future… Stay tuned for that,” says Therese McMillan, Executive Director for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission…. (more)

It is refreshing to hear transportation directors accept the major changes needed in their industry to avoid the spread of COVID-19. One hopes they will allow a lot more involvement by the drivers and riders in re-designing the new system. We also hope they will drop the anti-car actions.

Will the transportation agencies change from standing room only cattle-car vehicles to smaller, shuttle size vehicles with more space between the seats? Will city authorities and Muni riders insist on it? Will the Supervisors refuse to fund the larger vehicles? They are already threatening legislation to stop Muni fare increases.

RELATED:

‘Congestion pricing’ suspended on Bay Bridge, toll to remain at $6 everyday amid COVID-19 pandemic

Total shutdown of Muni service might be best way to curb COVID-19 spread, Union President says

Santa Clara Co. proposal would allow more employees to work from home after pandemic

Coronavirus concern: Total shutdown of Muni service might be best way to curb COVID-19 spread, Union President says

abc7news – excerpt

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — The Union President representing Muni bus drivers in San Francisco says a total shutdown of the system might be the safest way to go.

Roger Marenco is the president of San Francisco’s Transit Workers Union of America. He represents 2,300 drivers and is concerned about the safety of passengers and those drivers.

“I always tell everybody that the Muni buses, we are the bloodline that gives life to this city, but at this moment we have turned into the syringe that could potentially be infecting the city and county of San Francisco by transporting this virus,” Marenco said. “We need to stop the spread of this virus and maybe shutting the system down for a couple of weeks would be the way to go.”… (more)

Free “exclusive” Muni buses for Chase Center customers?

Opinion – Vote NO on D.

We thought the point of ”free Muni” for Chase Center ticket holders was for them to ride the Muni with the public, not to remove Muni from the public for the exclusive use of Chase Center ticket holders, yet, that appears to be what is happening.

People on 16th Street are watching your almost empty bus whiz by their bus stop without stopping, while you are waiting for the bus that got re-routed to supply the free ticket service for Chase Center customers.

You might ask the Mayor if that is what she had in mind when she applauded the program to give free Muni rides to Chase Center ticket holders.. Did she expect the ticket holders to “share” Muni rides with the public, or was she aware of SMTA’s plan to remove Muni buses from public access to provide an exclusive ride for ticket holders at Chase Center?

Next time the government comes asking for more Muni money (like Propostion D on the ballot now) consider who is benefiting from the funds when SFMTA is handing over pubic property for the exclusive use of private enterprises. If the public agencies want to coddle the private enterprises they are partnering with, they should get the money out to them, not the taxpaying public.

Why should we fork over more money for Muni when SFMTA is cutting public access to our streets and cutting Muni service to the paying public?

We suggest that people who object to this use of public property and funds vote against all new taxes and bonds that support public transit until there is a reverse in the trend to privatize public property and public services. The last thing we need is a class system approach to public transit. Vote NO on D.

Braking problem brings SFMTA expansion plans for Siemens purchase to a screeching halt.

Three strikes and the new Siemens are out!

1. Dangerous doors.
2. Braking problems
3. Coupling problems

What will it take to convince the disillusioned pubic that they can trust the Muni Monsters who created this chaos to fix it now that we know they hid problems for months, using the public as guinea pigs. Wait for the lawsuits.

RELATED:

Braking problems putting Muni’s new trains out of commission

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

At any one time, roughly half of Muni’s fleet of new train cars is out of service due to mechanical issues, transit officials acknowledged Tuesday…

Many supervisors voiced concern they were kept in the dark.

“I’m a little shocked we are asked to fund a $62 million contract and yet we are not hearing this type of information on what happened and what you have discovered,” said Supervisor Sandra Fewer… (more)

 

 

My turn: Public-private partnerships are an industry gimmick that don’t serve public well

By Cathrina Barros : calmatters – exccerpt

The start of a new legislative session inevitably brings calls from industry for lawmakers to authorize privatizing state highway projects through so-called “public-private partnerships.”

That would be a mistake.

Proponents claim multiple benefits such as cost savings and efficiency. But they fail to mention that previous highway projects in our state built with the same scheme they seek have not delivered as promised.

In fact, they are marked by taxpayer bailouts, cost overruns and bankruptcies.

Let’s take a look at the record…

People who want to hand public highway projects over to private interests claim that cost overruns are the responsibility of the developer, not taxpayers.

Tell that to the California Transportation Commission, which in 2017 spent $91 million to cover unexpected cost overruns to the Presidio Parkway developer… (more)

On a local level, SFMTA and their enterprise partners have taken over large swaths of public space in various public/private enterprises that are hard to pin down. It is extremely difficult for the public to access information on the financial details of these agreements, though many attempts have been made. Ask the taxi drivers how their medallion investments have turned out or the firm that financed them. What we end up with is privatization of public property. Rarely does the enterprise benefit the public. If anything, the public/private enterprises become an easy way to hide disbursement of funds from the public.

It appears that Governor Newsom is giving up on the largest boondoggle in recent memory that was supposed to be a public/private enterprise but never caught the imagination of any big money investors. He is suspending High Speed Rail, limiting it to the area that has already been built. Putting the rest of the project on ice. It seems that no one really expects that train to bring in the billions it will take to break even.

Supervisors call for financial aid fund for merchants harmed by construction

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

From Chinatown to Van Ness Avenue, long-running, much-delayed Muni construction projects have threatened businesses and even caused some to shut down.

Now San Francisco leaders may have a solution: cold hard cash.

The Board of Supervisors, acting in their capacity as the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, pitched the idea for a “city construction impact mitigation fund” Tuesday morning

Later in the day, SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin told the San Francisco Examiner the proposal could potentially throw a wrench into future transit projects.

Right now, “we’re doing record levels of public construction, the likes we have not seen,” he said. But if project costs go too high “depending on how you set the parameters, it limits the amount of work we could do.”

On Tuesday, however, nine out of the eleven supervisors either signaled future support for a construction mitigation fund openly during Tuesday’s transportation authority meeting or told the San Francisco Examiner that they support it… (more)

Right now, “we’re doing record levels of public construction, the likes we have not seen,” he said. But if project costs go too high “depending on how you set the parameters, it limits the amount of work we could do.”

DO NO HARM sounds like a better goal. Protect the businesses by limiting the projects. The goal to finish the projects not start them. The Supervisors could limit the number of contracts in each neighborhood by only awarding one at a time. Finish the Central Subway before cutting up any more streets within a quarter mile of it. If the project is overly complex, move the businesses into empty storefronts on other streets during the construction.

I remember hearing rumors about rules that used to exist that precluded more than one construction project per block. Limiting SFMTA projects to one per neighborhood would save the taxpayers money instead of adding to the cost. Maybe we should have some incentive built into the system that would award the contractor and the project manager for finishing the projects instead of starting them. All those workers can be directed to the few projects that are underway instead of spreading them thinning all over the city.

If you agree, write your supervisors. This could be the key to solving many of our traffic problems faster than anything else we can do. Less construction would get traffic flowing again. Limiting the noise and dust in the air would improve our healthy and relive the stress on our streets while protecting our businesses.  And best of all, it would cost us nothing because doing less costs less.

SF scales back airport taxi ban

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

The City is scaling back a plan to ban most types of cabs from San Francisco International Airport that was pitched in October as a way to help save the struggling taxi industry.

Under the first plan, only cabbies using the existing 560 taxi permits, or “medallions,” purchased through the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency for roughly $250,000, would be allowed to pick up passengers from SFO.

That would have left some 900 other drivers with medallions, some of whom obtained them in previous decades for free, barred from picking up passengers at SFO…

In the face of objections from taxi drivers, however, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is now pulling back that ban, just a bit.

The agency will allow an additional 570 medallion holders who obtained their permits after 1978 access to SFO, in what SFMTA called a “compromise” measure in an email to the taxi industry sent Thursday…(more)

SFMTA seems to feel they must make a point of disagreeing each time the public asks for something. “YES” is not in their vocabulary.

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.

Citing management failures, city withholds funds for Salesforce Transit Center expansion

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

A city transportation body voted Tuesday to suspend “all further financial assistance” for work on the Salesforce Transit Center, citing a lack of faith in the project’s leadership.

It is the latest delay to transit center funding, after $200 million was held up by a Board of Supervisors committee last Thursday for clarification purposes. That funding will return for a vote this week at the board.

The San Francisco County Transportation Authority Board, which is comprised of the Board of Supervisors, voted unanimously to delay $9.6 million in funds to the Transbay Joint Power Authority until The City can evaluate what led to the discovery last month of cracks in two steel beams, shutting down the newly constructed $2.2 billion transit center…

Supervisor Aaron Peskin said it is vital that The City plans the multi-billion dollar project effectively, making it essential to re-evaluate the transit center’s leadership before the next phase of transit center design begins.

“The right time to get it right is in the beginning,” Peskin said…(more)

The solution to dealing with the accountability problem is to pass a Charter Amendment to restructure the departments that are responsible for the transportation mess that seems to be pushing us toward a private corporate takeover of our streets. The shadowy regional TJPA has been a thorn in our sides for a while. Now we see the results of their efforts. What will it take for citizens to act? Ask the candidates for supervisor what they will do when they are in charge.

Muni cuts ties with contractor who pleaded guilty to bid-rigging, federal fraud

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

San Francisco’s transportation agency is severing ties with Derf Butler, a city contractor who pleaded guilty to bid-rigging and federal fraud last week.

Butler, named in a federal indictment as the owner and president of Butler Enterprise Group, was also named in the federal trial of Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow when court documents revealed transcripts of FBI wiretaps where a colleague claimed Butler bribed a San Francisco official.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency told the San Francisco Examiner Monday it has terminated its outstanding contracts with Butler Enterprise Group following Butler’s guilty plea in U.S. District Court last week. The company was awarded two $1.6 million public outreach contracts by the SFMTA in August last year, even after Butler himself was federally indicted in April 2017 for an alleged bid-rigging scheme to defraud the U.S. Department of Energy. The company also previously was a subcontractor on the Central Subway project… (more)