The Washington Report–COVID-19 Crisis Edition: NMA E-Newsletter #589

By Rob Talley : motorists – excerpt

Editor’s Note: The Washington Report is a regular feature of the NMA’s quarterly Driving Freedoms member magazine. Our representative in DC, Rob Talley, wrote the original version of this newsletter for the spring issue of the magazine before the pandemic halted its publication. So Rob recently updated his dispatch to include more recent developments on Capitol Hill,..The outlook in Washington for any issue, much less transportation policy, was completely upended with the outbreak of the coronavirus and associated US responses beginning in February…

Before the national crisis, House and Senate policymakers were working on transportation-related legislation that would have established funding levels for major highway and transportation safety programs for the next five years. In 2019, the Senate Committee working on the legislation passed a bipartisan proposal that authorized $287 billion in funding over five years.

In January, key Democratic leaders released a much more comprehensive infrastructure framework that would authorize $760 billion in funding. A significant portion, $329 billion, would go toward highways infrastructure according to discussions with staff working on the proposal. Another $105 billion would go toward improving public transit. Also included were non-traditional transportation proposals such as funding $34.3 billion worth of clean energy investment, and modernizing the electric grid to allow for more electric vehicle charging stations. House Republicans have not endorsed the proposal, expressing concerns about the expansive nature of the bill and objecting to some of the priorities.

While policy differences are an overarching problem in finding middle ground, the difference in funding levels is also a significant hurdle to passage. Even the more modest Senate proposed a $287 billion funding level that requires new funding mechanisms as the current gas tax fails to keep up with infrastructure funding needs. Before the pandemic, policy leaders were looking at options that include the vehicle miles traveled tax and even surcharges on electric vehicles to cover EV road use, but these have proven politically sticky…(more)

One assumes the financial priorities have shifted since the pandemic struck and the Federal government will take a break from non-essential funding until is known about the virus. The one thing we do seem to know is that we don’t know enough yet. We need to rely on our scientists and medical talents to help us through this crisis and we need to put a much stronger focus on educating and supporting science and medical staff to prepare for a less stressful future.

Opinion: Stay-at-home order points to traffic solution

Opinion By David Price : padailypost – excerpt

If there’s a bright side to the coronavirus stay-at-home order, it’s the empty freeways.

For years the public has been debating how to deal with increasing traffic on our roads. Most of the things local governments tried didn’t work. Carpool lanes, ramp metering, more mass transit. None of it reduced traffic.

And every year it seemed, there was another tax on the ballot to improve transportation. Residents, frustrated with traffic congestion, passed nearly all of the taxes. But these taxes never produced the relief the government promised even though the sales tax is 9%.

Now, finally, we have a solution. A solution we stumbled upon by accident…(more)

Many workers may choose to save taxpayers millions of dollars and themselves hours of commute time by working at home.

 

Why is it so hard for the Bay Area to build megaprojects?

By Benjamin Schneider : curbed – excerpt

Major infrastructure projects are necessary for the Bay Area to address climate change and keep its growing population moving

When the newly opened Salesforce Transit Center closed to repair cracked steel beams in September 2018, local-news junkies and transportation boosters felt a sense of deja vu. The steel beam situation was eerily similar to the saga of the defective “steel rods” on the eastern span of the Bay Bridge, which needed structural reinforcement just as the new bridge was about to open. Both projects shared another defect: ballooning budgets that bore no resemblance to initial estimates.

These recurring difficulties with the Bay Area’s megaprojects have become the stuff of negative headlines around the country, and are seized upon as ammunition by opponents of visionary infrastructure projects. But a frank reckoning with the state of megaproject delivery in the Bay Area is just as important for supporters of mass transit and green infrastructure as it is for the naysayers. With even more (and more complex) projects on the horizon—including the high-speed rail, which will connect LA with SF via the Central Valley, and a second Transbay Tube—the Bay Area needs to get megaproject delivery back on track.

Curbed SF spoke to experts in this field to better understand where the Bay Area’s megaprojects have gone wrong, and what they can do differently in the future. It all starts with extensive preplanning, according to Karen Trapenberg Frick, a professor of city and regional planning at the University of California, Berkeley, who wrote Remaking the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge about the arduous replacement of the eastern span…

“As soon as we’re angling for the first dollar, when this thing’s real, we need to establish independent external peer review,” she says. With both the Salesforce Transit Center and the Bay Bridge, comprehensive, external oversight only came after major problems were detected. Planning and peer review can also help with budgeting and project management. Experts should be in the room with planners and policymakers, telling them, “These projects are hard, they take a long time, they’re going to cost more than we think,” says Trapenberg Frick….

“Don’t, unless absolutely necessary, try to invent anything new. Look at what is being done in other places where costs are low and performance is high, and just copy it.”

(more)

Considering all the problems we have seen unfold with megaprojects, the public should not trust the government process based on “optimism bias” as the author so aptly puts it.

Much the problem, as in the case of the Millennium tower, comes from lack of communication, between departments, designers, and engineers. Perhaps an earlier peer review would help.

Hiring experts who have successfully completed projects is a no-brainer as, is using existing systems.

Electric-Car Owners Hard Hit by Massive California Power Shutdown

By : caranddriver – excerpt

Tesla’s Elon Musk promises battery and solar solutions for the many EV owners who can’t charge their cars.

  • Nearly a million Californians are now without power as the electric company deliberately shut it off this week, fearing high winds would spark wildfire.
  • The affected area in Northern California surrounds Fremont, home of Tesla, and a great many electric-car owners who can’t charge their vehicles as usual.
  • Tesla’s Elon Musk is swapping in battery Powerpacks and solar power for Superchargers in the region as fast as he can get permits, he claims on Twitter…(more)

Of course if they have solar installations on their roofs, they can charge the cars using their own power during the day and suck off the car during the night. That is if they are free to arrange a schedule to fit that reality. If their job is reliant on energy anyway, they may be off work. Many possibilities for off-the-grid power solutions will no doubt surface soon.

Glen Park GoBike station could add congestion to an already chaotic intersection

By Sally Stephens : sfexaminer – excerpt

An intersection in the Glen Park neighborhood has become the poster child in the fight over the placement of bike share docking stations in neighborhoods.

During morning and evening rush hours, the block of Randall Street between Chenery and San Jose Avenue is a mess. The narrow street is clogged with commuters trying to get to I-280, school buses, and parents double parking their vehicles to drop off kids at Dolores Huerta ElementarySchool (formerly Fairmount).

Motorists entering Randall from Chenery often have to back up into the intersection so buses and trucks going the other way can get through. Adding to the chaos, school kids — without the benefit of crossing guards — run across the Randall/Chenery intersection to a market to get drinks and snacks before school…

Now the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is considering putting a GoBike docking station on that intersection next to the school. Supporters say that the location is highly visible and has ready access to Chenery, the traditional bike route to the Glen Park BART. Its location will provide a “transit opportunity” for parents, teachers, and school staff, encouraging them to get out of their cars… (more)

I am getting confused now. This article leads one to believe that the SFMTA is taking some control over placement of these bike stations, and that some areas of the city are getting some notice before the bikes go in. That is not what we have been hearing from the SFMTA. They have been claiming they have nothing to do with the bike stations going into neighborhoods where they re not wanted. Now they are taking responisbility of “doing outreach.”

Do the bike/car/scooter rental corporations have the right to take San Francisco streets and sidewalks? Where are the documents that obligate San Francisco citizens to give up our access to our streets? Show us the documents. Who signed these documents and when? Was there any public discussion about the privatization of our city public property prior to handing it over to the enterprise? Where are the financial statements that show how much money these companies, who claim to be public/private enterprises, are making? If the public payments depend on them making a profit, they public has a right to see the financial records. We need an audit of there books.

 

Show us the Contract

Show us the Ford/GoBike/Motivate/Lyft Contract

17thArkansas

Corporate takeover of 17th Street at Arkansas by zrants

Show us the contract and explain why it immune to amendments. We have witnessed a lot of amendments to a lot of contracts that were signed by the SFMTA on our behalf. What is sacred about this Ford/GoBike/Motivate/Lyft contact? Where is that contract? Who signed that contract? When and where and under what circumstances?

A number of surveys and recent public polls have shown a preference for station-less bike rentals such as Jump and Scoot. If that is the preference of the renters and that is the preference of the general public, why are we expanding Ford/GoBike/Motivate/Lyft stations in San Francisco? Is this another failed business model being propped up by investors at the public’s expense?

If the state CPUC is involved, it is time to talk to our governor wannabe’s about how they plan to fix that problem when they are elected. This is one of the largest thorns in our sides and it appears to be one of the governors’ responsibilities to release that entity from controlling our “shared” rental corporate entities tight control over our streets. http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/

We are happy to report that our Board of Supervisors has taken some steps in the right direction to engage the public by creating a process that the public can use to review and appeal the planed sites. See details here: https://metermadness.wordpress.com/actions/process/

RELATED:

Uh oh! They’re using the ‘share’ word again: Ford GoBike Expansion

Op-Ed By Patrick Maley : sfexainer – excerpt

San Francisco has a resource curse. We are walking, biking, and riding (and also sitting or lying) on the most valuable public right-of-way in the world. Just as oil rich countries suffer waves of invasion and corrupt leadership as others seek control of their wealth, San Francisco has seen waves of extractivist companies bundling cash to elected officials for control of the road, leaving the traffic, the pollution, and the noise for the unlucky residents to deal with. If the companies can take the public commons and reserve it for the use of the wealthy (while paying nothing to the city but “cost recovery” for rubber-stamping this plunder) they’re as good as gold. This is the story of most of what the SFMTA calls “emerging mobility services and technologies.” A good rule of thumb is that if a company is using the word “share,” it probably means they’re robbing you… (more)

 

Here is a novel approach to solving the escalator mystery

Why don’t we stop building escalators until we find the answer to why they don’t work in San Francisco but do work in other cities.

Is it a design flaw? Is it a management issue? Is there a built in obsolescence feature such as some people suggest? A giant sucking magnetic force that renders all escalator’s unable to function properly? How can we continue to build systems that never work? Let’s just stop building them until we figure out why.

How we people going to deal with broken escalators at the Central Subway stations when they malfunction? Will they put up with a steep long climb?

Find a city where escalators work, find what who designed them and why they work there, and try to use a proven design and contractor in San Francisco and on the BART systems. Solve the mystery before continuing to build more broken elevators.

San Francisco has no idea what to do about ‘goofball’ e-scooters, email records show

By Sahsa Lekach : mashable – excerpt

San Francisco has been scooter-less for months…

A public records request of scooter-related emails from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, or SFMTA, from March through late July, shows that the city’s scooter triage was in full throttle within weeks of the battery-powered vehicles hitting city streets.

One transit planner emailed over this Jalopnik article (“I Tried San Francisco’s Electric Scooter Share And It Was A Nightmare”), saying, “Having not tried it yet myself, I found this one illuminating, if not unsurprising.” Another transit official made his thoughts clear with a quip about efforts to “further regulate this emerging goofball mode.”… (more)

How much time and taxpayer money is SFMTA spending to bring this new controversial business to fruition? We already heard that the there is an uptick in injuries that has triggered a new pilot project or study to determine the health effects of these toys on the streets and sidewalks. When does the public get to vote on how our money is being spent to “promote disruption” in our city? How many staff hours are we paying for to run an “enterprise entity”? IS the SFMTA making a profit on any of this after all the expenses are accounted for?

RELATED:

Scooter Safety: UCSF Doctors to Track New Injuries

By Vicky Stein : ucsf – excerpt

As motor-assisted scooters, bikes, and mopeds become a familiar sight across San Francisco, researchers at UC San Francisco want to know how these devices are affecting injuries in the city.

Anecdotally, researchers say they have seen an increase in both minor and major injuries as technology sends pedestrians on one, two, three or four wheels into the street, accelerating to speeds of 15 to 30 miles per hour… (more)

Is the Uber and Lyft Business Model in Jeopardy?

By Glenn Rogers : westsideobserver – excerpt

On April 30, 2018 the California Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeal’s judgment, changing existing law determining how an independent contractor can be identified. The case, Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles, may completely redefine what is and what is not an independent contractor.

Dynamex, which is a same day pick-up and delivery company, treated all their workers as employees before 2004. However, as a cost saving measure, they changed the status of their workers to independent contractors after that date. In January 2005, Charles Lee — the sole named plaintiff in the original complaint entered into a written independent contractor agreement with Dynamex to provide delivery services. He filed this class action as the sole class representative challenging the legitimacy of Dynamex’s relationship with its independent contractor drivers… (more)

Now that Uber and Lyft have outcompeted taxis, their next goal is to outcompete with mass transit, which is suffering a diminished ridership from Uber and Lyft daily.”

 

There are so many articles on the Uber Lyfts that ignore the threats coming from so many more whose names may flash be in a brief moment as they glide past you in the havoc of traffic. Some will run on two wheels some of four and some may even try for three, but they all have one thing in common, their primary business plan is to take your slice of the traffic lane pie away. When you find yourself left with little wiggle room you may remember this warning. If you already feel cramped and in the mood too so something about it, your first move should be a call to your supervisor’s office to complain, or a trip down to City Hall to file an appeal under Ordinance 180089, or, a CEQA appeal, whichever fills your needs.

Emerging Mobility in San Francisco

from the SFMCTA website: https://www.sfcta.org

Many new technologies and services have appeared on San Francisco’s streets over the past few years, from ride-hail companies, to scooter sharing, to on-demand delivery services.

This month, we released a new report evaluating how these services line up with issues like equity, sustainability, and safety. One major take-away: We found that companies that share data and partner with the City on pilots are better at helping meet City goals.

Learn more: Watch the video and read the report.


Let your supervisor know what you want to do about these corporate entities that are emerging on our streets? Do we want to lose your right to park at the curb? Do you trust the SFMTA to manage the corporations that are threatening to take over the streets?

Are these new jobs, working for Uber Lyft and the rest, any better than the old jobs they are displacing? Were the taxi drivers worse off then the rideshare drivers who are barely making a living wage? Who is benefiting and who is losing out as the SFMTA barrels through the city killing one retail entity after another with their “street improvement” projects?