Chariot Is Suspended in San Francisco, and the Transportation Biz Is Still Hard

By Aarian Marshall : wired – excerpt

Chariot, the Ford-owned van commuter service that crowdsources its routes from passengers, is the subject of some controversy in San Francisco, the city where it was born. For its 3,000 to 4,000 daily riders, Chariot is a valuable, non-personal-car form of mass transit, a cost-effective-ish alternative to the city’s sometimes sluggish and limited public transportation system (a rush hour ride is $5, compared to Muni’s $2.50). For others, the service’s vans are a straight-up nuisance: loudly idling near their homes, belching exhaust, double parking on already crowded streets, and hanging out stops meant for city buses.

So it was with a mixture of joy and despair that San Franciscans greeted the news that Chariot had been suspended in California. (It also operates in Seattle, Austin, and New York.) Late Thursday afternoon, as rush hour bore down upon the City by the Bay, the California Public Utilities Commission yanked the service’s operating license. Chariot had failed three routine inspections by the California Highway Patrol, as officials found not all of its drivers had the right licenses to operate the company’s 14-person passenger vans. “We are committed to always providing our riders with safe and reliable service, and we comply with regulatory orders even when we disagree with them,” the company said in an email sent to riders… (more)

Red Lane Experiments

Where does the SFMTA get the right to put Red transit-only Lanes on Mission Street and how do we get rid of them if we don’t like them?

Caltrans CTCDC, (California Traffic Control Devices Committee) authorizes “experiments” on public streets. One of the Geary merchants attended one of their meetings on March 3, 2016 and expressed his concern over the red lane experiments. Since that meeting, many San Francisco citizens have written letters to the CTCDC opposing them.

Authority Questions : It seems that SFMTA does not have the right to just paint the streets red at will. The right to conduct experiments on our public streets is granted by CTCDC and comes with conditions, including requirements for timely execution and analysis of the effects of the tests.

Questions regarding the tests areas: When CTCDC Chair Greenwood inquired as to whether the installation of the red transit lanes had expanded beyond the areas approved by the committee Mr. White replied that the installation had been used specifically in the 24/7 lanes rather than the part-time lanes. I’m Not sure what that means, but, he went on to say the only place where the lanes had been expanded beyond those shown on the map was Market Street from Fifth to Third, for consistency.

Why did Mr. White fail to mention the red transit-only lanes on Mission Street south of 16th Street?  According to the map and list of allowable streets I have seen, this portion of Mission Street is not included in the experimental areas. We are looking forward to a December 6 meeting with the CTCDC in Sacramento. More on that later…(more)

Firefighters concerned about narrowing SF streets

By Eric Rasmussen : KTVU – excerpt

The recent efforts to make San Francisco streets more pedestrian friendly may have the unintended consequences of slowing the response time of fire trucks answering emergency calls.

San Francisco streets can be frustrating and dangerous for pedestrians and drivers alike. Just ask San Francisco firefighters.

KTVU recently rode along with teams on two hook-and-ladder trucks in the city. They said some tight streets are getting tighter.

“They’re making bike lanes and putting palm trees in the middle, taking out a lane of traffic,” said firefighter Jim Fewell as he navigated down a stretch of Cesar Chavez.

Streetscape plans for the busy thoroughfare include a wider median, trees and something called “corner bulb outs.”…

But San Francisco firefighters argue the changes could make navigating city streets even more difficult.

“We don’t want to keep piling on these challenges,” said San Francisco Fire Dept. spokesperson Mindy Talmadge. “That will affect our response time.”

Response times are already ticking up.

According to the department, first units are arriving on scene in about five and a half minutes after a call is received. That is as much as eight seconds slower than during the first part of last year… (more)

I hope the folks who are pushing narrow streets against the concerns of emergency personnel don’t mind the extra time it will take to pick them up and deliver them to the hospital next time they need that service. I think I speak for the rest of us and I would prefer to make it easier for them to do their job.

Mustache Disguise Kit: Rideshare Vehicles Move Undetected Through the City

By Rachel Swan : sfweekly – excerpt

Last Thursday, a Lyft driver squired two women to a Mission District dive, violating at least three rules in the process. “You guys care if I keep this in the back seat?” he asked, dangling the telltale pink mustache that’s supposed to hang from the grille of every Lyft car. Other violations included driving straight ahead from a right-hand turn lane, or when he forgot to fist-bump the passengers, disregarding what local legend says is a mandatory company salutation…
But that’s only one in a litany of fears that the SFMTA presented, two weeks shy of the Sept. 5 date to codify rules for rideshare enterprises (now called Transportation Network Companies)…
With secrecy and selectivity in their systems, rideshares have little incentive to serve the public interest, SFMTA director Edward Reiskin writes in the filing. He and other transit authorities believe that these companies won’t co-exist peacefully with taxis until both groups are held to the same standards…
Yet even those proposed amendments won’t level the playing field. Because start-ups are regulated by the state, rather than by individual cities, they’re not burdened by municipal boundaries. A taxi driver taking someone from San Francisco to Oakland can’t pick up a hail on the way back; a Lyft driver can. To SFMTA Director of Taxis and Accessible Services Christiane Hayashi, that disparity alone makes the whole system unfair.
“Whether or not you put a moral overlay on it,” she writes, “the hard economic fact is that it is driving the professional drivers out of the industry.”… (more)

RELATED:
Lyft Sued for Unfair Competition and Labor Violations (Update)
Lyft’s response: “The lawsuit is without merit and we look forward to resolving it quickly and effectively.”…
The rideshare battles that took place outside City Hall a few weeks ago have now moved, unequivocally, into San Francisco district court…
Now it’s for courts to decide whether that business model truly serves the public interest… (more)