Pro-DTX Press Conference a Success!

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To focus on the Downtown Caltrain Extension project (DTX) and the overriding need to complete it as soon as possible, the following 12 organizations held a press conference on the steps of SF’s City Hall on Wednesday June 24, 2015:

Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods
Sierra Club
Livable City
San Francisco Tomorrow
RailPAC (Rail Passengers Association of California)
TRAC (Train Riders Association of California)
SaveMuni
Bay Rail Alliance
Mission Bay Alliance
Transdef
Friends of Caltrain
Bay Area Transportation Working Group

For a synopsis of why this issue is so important click here

Are Mission Bay plans in conflict with DTX?

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No….not at all….if properly phased and coordinated.  However, instead of getting behind the early extension of Caltrain into downtown San Francisco, a small continent in the San Francisco Mayor’s office seem determined to sow doubt about the future of the project (DTX).  Their position seems to be that in order to proceed with their ambitious plans to fully build out and  beautify Mission Bay, it would be necessary to add billions of dollars to the cost of extending Caltrain and to delay the extension by 15 years or more.  This is not simply true.  There is no inherent conflict between extending Caltrain now and developing Mission Bay.   On November 2, 1999, the voters of San Francisco overwhelmingly approved Prop H.  Prop H called  for a very high municipal priority to be placed on getting Caltrain up and running in San Francisco’s new Transbay Transit Center as soon as possible. That was fifteen and a half years ago!   Instead of allowing individual staff members to throw up unnecessary roadblocks, we call upon the Lee Administration get fully behind the DTX project and provide it with the political support and funding it needs and deserves.

DTX Support Rally

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DTX_1

When: Wed, June 24, 11:00 a.m.

Where: Steps of SF City Hall

Every day 280,000 Peninsula cars go back and forth across the San Mateo/San Francisco County line, clogging city streets, delaying Muni service and generating greenhouse gas emissions.  According to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority this traffic onslaught is projected to increase to almost 310,000 cars a day by 2035. The need for a better and faster way of getting to San Francisco from the South is obvious.

Extending Caltrain (the Peninsula commuter rail system) to San Francisco’s new downtown bus and train center will achieve this objective.  Fortunately the Downtown Caltrain Extension Project (DTX) is now well along. All the environmental clearances and  federal approvals are in place.   Thanks to a $400 million Stimulus grant from the federal government, the Center’s huge below grade “train box” needed to accommodate Caltrain and future high-speed trains has been excavated.  With adequate funding the DTX project could advance into its final design/build phase within a year, thereby making it possible to have Caltrain up and running in SF’s new Transbay Transit Center by 2022 or 2023. All that’s lacking is the local political support needed to acquire the remainder of the funding.

It’s time to build the 1.3 mile DTX tunnel.  Doing so will connect the 78-mile existing Caltrain system to 10 other local and regional rail lines and over 40 bus lines in San or adjacent to Francisco’s new Transit Center.
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SaveMuni’s 2015 Program

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SaveMuni has been working on its 2015 program for some time. Our objective is to highlight certain key improvements that for various reasons have not received the priority and attention they deserve. The 11-point set of objectives below is not fixed in concrete and may change from time to time. Our intent is to help put the spotlight on the most important dozen or so actions needed to raise Muni and the other public transit systems operating in San Francisco to their full potential. Here’s the program:

(1) Double transit ridership in San Francisco from today’s 25% of all trips to 50% of all trips by 2025.

(2) Immediately make the Caltrain extension to the new Transbay Transit Center San Francisco’s Number One capital funding priority.

(3) Raise Muni’s on-time performance to 85 % by 2025.

(4) To increase transit speed, reliability and ridership, implement a strong, city-wide transit preferential streets program.

(5) Allocate at least 75 % of the funds to be raised by Proposition A to Muni and another 10 % to the downtown extension of Caltrain

(6) Double the Market Street tunnel’s Muni Metro passenger-carrying capacity by such long overdue improvements as acquiring longer rail vehicles and/or deploying 4 and 5 car trains and modernizing the subway signaling system.

(7) Ensure that all Muni vehicles meet federal “State of Good Repair” standards at all times.

(8) Revise and improve the Muni Forward (formerly known as the Transit Effectiveness Program) by restoring comprehensive service to all neighborhoods, and by increasing weekend, evening and Owl service.

(9) Strongly oppose wasteful, single-purpose schemes such as the proposed M-Line subway into the Park Merced development and the proposed extension of the Central Subway to Fisherman’s Wharf.

(10) Ensure that at no time are bicycle and other street and sidewalk improvements designed and laid out in a manner that would impede Muni vehicles, fire trucks and other first responders.

(11) Frequently remind the SFMTA that its first and most important responsibility is to operate a comprehensive public transit system that reliably serves all of San Francisco and all San Franciscans.

Roundup of SFMTA Mistakes

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trainwreck

Not everything the SFMTA does is wrong.  In fact, among the staff there are some good people trying to do good things.  However this agency regularly takes actions that make no sense. What happens when weak projects are permitted to advance, even in the face of new information and changed circumstances? Here are four recent examples.  Read more here.

BART Running out of Transbay Carrying Capacity

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2ndTransbayTube

It’s been well known for at least 25 years that BART’s transbay section was a choke point, destined to run out of people carrying-capacity sooner rather than later.  In fact conditions in the existing tube are already jammed during many hours of the day.  It is currently estimated that because of the improving economy, regional population growth and assorted BART extensions, the vital transbay section will reach its carrying-capacity limit by 2025.  That’s less than 10 years away.  And yet, under the best of circumstances it would take at least 40 years to put a new subaqueous passenger rail system on line.  So what does the Region do during the intervening decades?   No one knows.

And then there’s the matter of cost.  It would reportedly cost between $20 and $25 billion to build a second rail tube under the Bay, complete with connecting subways on both sides of the Bay.

Keeping the economies of the Central Bay Area viable will require that this matter be addressed with courage, wisdom and determination before any more time is lost.  The fact that transportation officials at last seem to be taking the problem seriously comes as welcome news.

SF Proposition A

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Heavily influenced by a massive pro-Prop A spending campaign, the San Francisco voters approved Prop A on November 4, 2014. Prop A authorizes San Francisco’s government to sell $500 million in transportation General Obligation bonds. Including interest on the bonds, Prop A will cost the tax payers of San Francisco over a billion dollars.

According to Matier and Ross’s pie chart, most of the proceeds of Prop A are destined to be spent on items having little to do with Muni or other public transit:

propapiechartMoreover, virtually none of the $500 million in Prop. A funding is currently allocated to addressing San Francisco’s most pressing transportation problems; namely

  • positioning Muni to keep up with San Francisco’s population (+34% projected by 2040) and employment growth (+  29% projected by 2040). Source: Mayor’s Transportation Task Force
  • getting buses and LRV’s jammed with riders out of traffic congestion
  • easing the peak period crush in the Market Street subway
  • extending Caltrain to the new Transbay Transit Center, therefore giving 280,000 daily Peninsula motorists a classier and less troublesome way of getting into San Francisco
  • putting the SFMTA’s financial house in order.

Given the vague language of Prop A, SFMTA still has a choice.  It can continue to follow the lead of the Mayor’s inexperienced Transportation Task Force of 2012/13 and consequently waste much of the $500 million raised by Proposition A.

monopolyguy

Or it can tackle the major transportation problems facing San Francisco at this time.  How SF’s government responds to these challenges is crucial to the future of San Francisco.

Transbay Capacity Crunch

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bart-train

BART’s ridership is projected to rise from its current level of over 400,000 riders a day to 700,000 riders a day or more by 2040. This increase is reportedly far beyond BART’s transbay carrying capacity.

To delay the inevitable, BART plans to remove a substantial number of seats in order to make room for more standees and bicycles.   Despite these measures, which are certain to render the service less satisfactory for many riders, recent estimates are that BART will run out of transbay-carrying capacity by about 2025, at which time the lack of adequate passenger rail service between Oakland and San Francisco will begin to constrain the economies of the Central Bay area.  So far Alameda County, San Francisco County and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission have chosen to put off dealing with this oncoming crunch.

Read more here.

Are Mission Bay Plans in Conflict with DTX?

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No….not at all….if properly phased and coordinated.  However, instead of getting behind the early extension of Caltrain into downtown San Francisco, a small continent in the San Francisco Mayor’s office seem determined to sow doubt about the future of the project (DTX).  Their position seems to be that in order to proceed with their ambitious plans to fully build out and  beautify Mission Bay, it would be necessary to add billions of dollars to the cost of extending Caltrain and to delay the extension by 15 years or more.  This is not simply true.  There is no inherent conflict between extending Caltrain now and developing Mission Bay.   On November 2, 1999, the voters of San Francisco overwhelmingly approved Prop H.  Prop H called  for a very high municipal priority to be placed on getting Caltrain up and running in San Francisco’s new Transbay Transit Center as soon as possible. That was fifteen and a half years ago!   Instead of allowing individual staff members to throw up unnecessary roadblocks, we call upon the Lee Administration get fully behind the DTX project and provide it with the political support and funding it needs and deserves.

From Silk Purse to Sou’s Ear

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Remember when we were being told that the tunneled Central Subway would be “out-of-sight, out-of-mind”?

That was in the Fall of 2013.

stocktonstreetconstruction0213*304

Fast forward to the Fall of 2014:

present_day_-_stockton__geary

Here’s what the SF Chronicle had to say on the subject on September 29, 2014:

“It may have been the most fashionable meeting ever held at City Hall — as representatives of Neiman Marcus, Chanel, Barneys New York, Dior, Bulgari and  Arthur Beren Shoes met Wednesday with Mayor Ed Lee to tell him that the Central Subway construction was killing some of Union Square’s best-known high-end stores.

“At issue is the ongoing tearup of Stockton Street to make way for the Union Square Station and the loss of parking, deafening noise and dust from the heavy machinery that go along with it. Combine those with narrow and often unlighted walkways in front of the stores, and customers are staying away in droves.

“Lee promised a personal look at the situation, but overall the news was not encouraging….”

When asked how much longer Union Square would be torn up by the Central Subway project, the SFMTA representative ruefully acknowledged that it would affect “two winter seasons in addition to this one coming up.”  (February 15, 2015:  one down, two to go)