The SFMTA has a priority problem

Letter to the editor : sfexaminer – excerpt
comment on Plan for bike lane on Turk Street in Tenderloin being reconsidered

I’m horrified that our city government prioritizes bikes ahead of public safety. I have witnessed firsthand the disaster that the SFMTA has created, confiscating public infrastructure and re-purposing for a vocal minority. Watching from Davies Symphony Hall, we were shocked to see an ambulance unable to get through Van Ness due to the newly confiscated lanes for a ridiculous bus lane and bike lanes.

During a ride along with the SFPD, officers had to slam over speed humps and screech around bulb-outs getting to an emergency call. I can only imagine what that would do to an ambulance occupant. And recently I turned right onto Eighth Street and nearly slammed into a concrete island that appeared in the middle of the right lane.

Why are we putting billions of dollars toward street redesign when we can’t even maintain them, can’t even plant trees? When seniors and disabled object to street redesigns, why do their voices fall on deaf ears? Why are the Bicycle Coalition and the SFMTA so powerful that they dictate an anti-car policy that endangers public safety?

When the Fire Department objects due to public safety concerns, they should be prioritized first. I pale to think the nightmare we will endure when they next earthquake hits and our emergency services, food and water can’t get through. It’s clear we’ll get no sympathy from the mayor, the Board of Supervisors and especially not the SFMTA (now affectionately known as Motorist Torment Authority).

As a 28-year resident of San Francisco and a supporter of subway expansion, I find myself unable to vote for funding for the SFMTA. They only cause misery and favor the 3 percent (or less) vocal minority.

Jamey Frank, San Francisco… (more)

We have been told that the bike coalition provides precinct workers. Those of us who worked some precincts know this is not the case in the districts we worked, so that excuse will not fly any more. There were lots of non-bicycle coalition precinct workers and the one Bike Coalition candidate lost big in the district he ran in. These supervisors don’t owe SFBC anything. If anyone is owned it is us.

If there is a reconsideration of the bike lanes it may be because people who work drive emergency vehicles stepped forward, complained, and stated that they are not responsible for loss of lives due to traffic congestion that precludes them from being able to do their jobs of saving lives and property when they are called to do so.

The public should demand an incident report that documents the results of ER vehicles being held up in traffic. How many claims have been filed? I have personally observed fire trucks stuck on Van Ness, (before the lane reduction) and on King Street in front of the stadium.

Muni takes steps to reduce surge in bus crashes

By Jerold Chinn : sfbay – excerpt

Muni officials are taking steps to decrease the number of bus and light-rail collisions with private vehicles and objects on San Francisco streets.

During the last five months, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has seen a decrease in light-rail collisions. Bus collisions, though, are trending upward, according to data obtained from the transit agency by SFBay.

In February, the SFMTA reported that 113 buses either collided with another private vehicle or by hitting an object such as a pole or a transit shelter. In June, that number increased to 173 collisions, the SFMTA reports…

Some of the hotspots for vehicle collisions included Mission and Main streets, Fourth and Townsend streets, and along Third Street…

Check out the video on Third Street if you haven’t experienced it yet for yourself. This the worst, least safe street alteration we have seen. Try it in the rain for a real treat.

Buses Versus Fixed Objects

Objects such as poles and transit shelters are also getting in the way of Muni buses. Transit officials said they analyzed the data to find out where the most fixed object collisions occurred and to see with which objects Muni vehicles were likely to collide… (more)

The collisions wouldn’t have anything to do with the narrow lanes they are imposing on all the streets or the insane twists and turns they have introduced on all the formerly straight lanes with the insane idea that the streets would be “calmer” and safer for pedestrians because the “cars” would have to drive slower?  Someone should also inform the SFMTA geniuses that a certain percentage of the population is color blind so their pretty red and green streets look gray and mean nothing to those people. Maybe they should get some Muni drivers and emergency transit people involved in the street alterations since they are ones who have to drive on them. Don’t even get me started on the paint over potholes on Mission Street. There is only one answer to solving the problems described in this article. Fire the the people who are responsible and support the SFMTA Charter Amendment to bring some sanity into this insane department. Get all the details on StopSFMTA.com

CA: Marin Lawmaker Wants End to MTC, Regional Transportation Planning Agency

By MARK PRADO : masstransitmag – excerpt

Sept. 24–Marin Assemblyman Marc Levine has introduced a bill to eliminate a powerful regional commission, saying it’s not accountable to the public and has been largely ineffective in improving traffic.

Levine, D-San Rafael, this week introduced legislation that would do away with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and its sister agency, the Bay Area Toll Authority. The commission is the Bay Area’s transportation planning agency, while the authority oversees seven state-run bridges.

In their place a new Bay Area Transportation Commission would be created. Unlike the Metropolitan Transportation Commission — created by the state Legislature in 1970 — whose members are appointed, the new commission would be elected, under Levine’s bill.

Levine said the change would benefit commuters in Marin and around the Bay Area. “Our traffic is some of the worst in the nation. We need a transportation commission that will put their energies into eliminating traffic gridlock,” Levine said in a statement. “The new Bay Area Transportation Commission will be responsive and accountable to our communities’ needs rather than operate as an appointed board. … This commission will provide the transparency and accountability that Bay Area commuters need and deserve.”… (more)

Let Marin Assemblyman Marc Levine know how you feel. And let your representatives in Sacramento know as well. Phil Ting seems to be of like mind of this matter.

Bay Area lawmaker introduces legislation to end regional transportation agencies

By Mark Prado : mercurynews – excerpt

Marin Assemblyman Marc Levine has introduced a bill to eliminate a powerful regional commission, saying it’s not accountable to the public and has been largely ineffective in improving traffic.

Levine, D-San Rafael, this week introduced legislation that would do away with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and its sister agency, the Bay Area Toll Authority. The commission is the Bay Area’s transportation planning agency, while the authority oversees seven state-run bridges.
In their place a new Bay Area Transportation Commission would be created. Unlike the Metropolitan Transportation Commission — created by the state Legislature in 1970 — whose members are appointed, the new commission would be elected, under Levine’s bill.
Levine said the change would benefit commuters in Marin and around the Bay Area. “Our traffic is some of the worst in the nation. We need a transportation commission that will put their energies into eliminating traffic gridlock,” Levine said in a statement. “The new Bay Area Transportation Commission will be responsive and accountable to our communities’ needs rather than operate as an appointed board. … This commission will provide the transparency and accountability that Bay Area commuters need and deserve.”
 MTC response Randy Rentschler, director of legislation and public affairs for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, said the agency’s board will likely take up Levine’s bill at its meeting next month… (more)
This could be the year of voter rebellion. Look at Washington and Sacramento is starting to get the message that the voters have had enough disfunction in government. Trust is at an all-time low. Let’s get some letter going out to our representatives.
Comments at the source and here are welcome.

San Francisco ticket camera program to become permanent?

By Keith Goble : landlinemanager – excerpt

The use of ticket cameras in the San Francisco area could soon get authorization to become a permanent fixture in a limited capacity.

California law allows the city and county of San Francisco to issue citations based on photos snapped of parking violations in transit-only lanes. Municipal Transportation Agency transit vehicles are authorized to be outfitted with cameras to record parking violations occurring in the nearly 15 miles of affected lanes.

Violators found in the Muni lanes face $100 fines.

The San Francisco program, which has been in place since 2008, is slated to conclude at the end of this year. In response, AB1287 would make the program permanent.

In addition, the program would be expanded to cover other moving violations that “impede or interfere with transit performance and public safety.” Specifically, added violations would cover vehicles driving in transit-only lanes, “block the box” violations in which vehicles obstruct intersections and crosswalks, and illegally parked or stopped vehicles at bus stops.

Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, said the transit-only lanes are crucial to helping Muni do more than crawl through congested streets…

Fines for getting caught running a red light are $480.

To view other legislative activities of interest for California, click here(more)

Let the folks in Sacramento know that you oppose AB1287. This is a typical trick SFMTA uses to harass drivers. First they create a traffic jam and then complain that the cars are to blame for slowing down Muni. Then they set up Muni-only lanes and fine cars for driving in them.

This is a dangerous game they are playing because the transit only lanes confuse the drivers who don’t know what the rules are. They take turns from the middles lanes instead of pulling over to the curb lane to turn.

Are Google Buses Already Legal? Yes and No

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfweekly – excerpt

Disrupt the law, legalize later.

That’s the modus operandi of tech companies such as Airbnb and Uber, which innovate in ways old-fashioned laws often don’t address. It’s also seemingly the tactic used by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to justify its pilot program to legally allow corporate shuttles, like the infamous Google buses, to use Muni bus stops.

Except maybe Google bus illegality is more clear cut than initially thought. California’s state vehicle code right now specifically outlaws any bus from using public bus stops, save for school buses, according to a state lawmaker.

State Vehicle Code 22500(i) was explicitly called out by Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach), who is seeking to change the law in favor of corporate shuttles. Allen introduced AB 61, which would change state vehicle code to allow local transit agencies (such as the SFMTA, which runs Muni) to grant permission for private entities to use municipal bus stops. The change would allow for even more Google bus-style shuttles to proliferate on city streets across the state.

But the bill’s existence raises an interesting question: Why seek to legalize something unless it is illegal? And if it’s illegal, then how are those corporate shuttles getting away with pulling over at Muni stops across San Francisco?… (more)

AB 61 – Assembly Member Travis Allen: is sponsoring a bill that many in San Francisco oppose. Read and decide for yourself: https://legiscan.com/CA/text/AB61/id/1055426

Send comments and letters to the committee members:

State reps on the Senate Transportation and Housing Committees: http://stran.senate.ca.gov/

State Assembly Committee on Transportation:
http://atrn.assembly.ca.gov/

More links are here.

 

Oregon Senate bill would mandate bicycle licenses and registration

by : bikeportland – excerpt

… An Oregon legislator has introduced a bill that would mandate licenses for everyone over 18 years of age who rides a bicycle and would require them to pay a $10 fee to register their bikes. The bill would also prohibit the use of “state highway fund” dollars on “bicycle” projects and repeal ORS 366.154 (a.k.a. the “bike bill”).

Senate Bill 177 has been introduced by Senator Brian Boquist (R-12) “at the request of” a constituent. That “at the request of” part is important because it appears the bill is what’s known as a “constituent bill”. In other words, this isn’t a bill the senator himself is pushing for — he has merely accepted it and moved it along into a committee to appease a vocal constituent. In this case, the constituent is a man named Ted Campbell…

You can view the full text of the bill here(more)

This is a good conversation to have. Cyclists need to follow the rules. Licenses will help with enforcement. If cyclists get their way and there are fewer cars on the road, the cyclists will be paying for the roads. They might as well start paying for bike paths now. Licensing is the first step.

Needless to say California needs to license bikes. Who in Sacramento will bring that up?

Transportation funding faces key test after Mayor Lee flips on VLF increase

By   : sfbg – excerpt

Facing a deadline of tomorrow’s [Tues/10] San Francisco Board of Supervisors meeting to introduce measures for the November ballot, advocates for addressing the city’s massive long-term transportation funding gap still hope to introduce an increase in the local vehicle license fee, even though the once-supportive Mayor Ed Lee has gotten cold feet.

While Lee and all 11 of the supervisors support a $500 million general obligation bond that would mostly go toward capital improvements for Muni — a measure almost certain to be approved by its July 22 deadline — the local VLF was originally presented by Lee as a companion measure to fund Muni, street resurfacing, and bike and pedestrian safety improvements.

But when Lee got spooked by a poll in December showing 44 percent voter approval for increasing the VLF and the need to actually do some campaigning for the measure, he withdrew his support and left cycling, streets, and safety all severely underfunded. A report last year by the Mayor’s Transportation Task Force pegged the city’s transportation infrastructure needs at $10.1 billion over 15 years, recommending just $3 billion in new funding to meet that need, including the embattled VLF measure… (more)

Even the SFMTA is confused by those crosswalk countdown signals

No wonder everybody’s confused by those countdown clocks at crosswalks that alert pedestrians to how many seconds remain before the solid red “don’t walk” hand lights up. Even the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency can’t get it right.

We asked the agency’s spokesman, Paul Rose, to clarify matters after a spate of letters to the editor in The Chronicle debated whether pedestrians are allowed to enter the crosswalk throughout the countdown or not.

Rose told us in Sunday’s City Insider column that the countdown is “an awareness tool” for pedestrians and that they cannot be ticketed for entering the street as the countdown clock flashes, even as it approaches zero.

“They can start whenever they want,” Rose said.

Shockingly, just because a government official says something doesn’t mean it’s right.

Sure enough, several readers e-mailed to say Rose had it flat wrong and that pedestrians cannot legally start crossing after the countdown clock has started. They may only enter the crosswalk when the walking person is illuminated in white lights, but can finish crossing if they’ve already entered when the countdown begins.

Rose acknowledged his flub. “I passed on wrong information,” he said. “I’ll leave it at that.”

One city official who does know the in’s and out’s of crosswalk signals is Commander Mikail Ali of the San Francisco Police Department, who e-mailed to say pedestrians cannot enter the crosswalk after the countdown has begun — or risk a citation or being struck by a vehicle.

One thing isn’t so clear: whether countdown clocks work. Ali said some studies show they’re helpful for pedestrians, while others show they contribute to erratic behavior on the part of walkers such as trying to sprint across the street with two seconds left on the clock.

Pedestrians behaving erratically in San Francisco? There’s something we can probably all agree on…. (more)

We finally have something everyone agrees on. Lack of consistency does not make the streets any safer. It breeds confusion, which leads to erratic behavior.

There are state laws on the books which could be followed if we all agreed to abide by them and quit trying to create exceptions.

The SFMTA has avoided following state laws by setting up quasi-legal exceptions under the guise of pilot programs and now we see the results. Different driving patterns and changing lanes from one street to another has added to the confusion and the stress levels.

Elected officials should take note of this and restrain the SFMTA from any further deviations from state laws. That way we could all go back to following the same set of rules.

Next, we need to communicate more clearly with the public what the state rules are.

Traffic signals are designed to do more than start and stop traffic. They should give us the ability to predict the behavior of everyone else on the road. When no one knows the rules you have a lot of stressed people acting erractically. How do we get back to the point where everyone knows the rule?

We start by agreeing on what they are.

Let’s start by following the state laws and limit the number of “exceptions to the rules”.

  • Yellow lights should be timed so that a pedestrian crossing the street has enough time to reach the other side before the light turns red, not set for a couple of seconds to catch cars running red lights. 
  • Countdowns should be treated like yellow lights. Maybe the countdown color should be yellow instead of red and the hand should go away.
  • Everyone should stop at red lights, and stop signs.
  • Whoever is in the intersection first should have the right of way to pass through it regardless of how they got there. Civilized behavior is the safest approach.

Tow truck regulations limited by appeals court

By Bob Egelko : sfgate – excerpt

The ruling means S.F. can charge license fees only to companies whose main office is in the city – even though other firms can still tow cars here. Photo: Chris Hardy, SFC

A state appeals court has limited San Francisco’s authority to regulate tow trucks, saying a city can license and collect fees only from towing companies located within its borders.

San Francisco, like many cities in California, requires tow truck companies and drivers to get permits and pay fees in order to do business in the city, regardless of where they are headquartered. The California Tow Truck Association challenged the city’s regulations and won a ruling Wednesday from the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco.

A 1985 state law allows local authorities to license and regulate towing companies whose “principal place of business or employment is within the jurisdiction of the local authority.” That means San Francisco can charge license fees only to companies whose main office is in the city, the court said.

The Legislature clearly “intended that the regulation come from a single local jurisdiction” rather than the multiple cities where the trucks might be sent, said Justice Maria Rivera in the 3-0 decision….

San Francisco could ask the state Supreme Court to review the ruling. City Attorney Dennis Herrera‘s office declined to comment…  (more)