RAB Discussion at CSFN

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On Tuesday June 19th, at a meeting of the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods (CSFN), San Francisco Planning Director John Rahaim and SaveMuni’s Gerald Cauthen presented the arguments for and against Mayor Edmund Lee’s “RAB Study” (which is geared to facilitating the full build-out of Mission Bay).   Mr. Rahaim believes that now is the time to look at Mission Bay in a comprehensive and long-term way.    He noted that he personally would not support any plan that delayed the downtown extension of Caltrain (DTX) for more than two years.

Mr. Cauthen stressed the importance of the DTX project and pointed out that 30 months of RAB planning have produced no definitive proposals, no cost estimates, no traffic counts and no hint of how many years or decades RAB would delay DTX.  Cauthen also questioned RAB’s desire to remove the north end of the I-280 freeway and asked that the streets destined to bear the brunt of 8 lanes of freeway traffic be identified.

A resolution currently before the CSFN would give RAB planners until September 15th to conform their plans to the DTX project as currently configured and aligned.

Driverless Cars Could Wreck Livable Cities

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Guest Editorial: Driverless Cars Could Wreck Livable Cities

By Jason Henderson

CarShareHigherRez-580x435

A tweet by Jon Orcutt illustrates why driverless cars offer little towards sustainable cities.

Over the past year driverless cars have been promoted as a panacea for livable cities. The storyline is that driverless cars will help reduce car ownership, free-up urban space for walking and biking, and help reduce death and injury. The USDOT has joined the parade with its “smart city challenge,” awarding Columbus, Ohio a $40 million prize to implement a demonstration project that includes incorporating driverless cars.

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SaveMuni joins Warriors arena lawsuit

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From Business Wire:

Opponents of Warriors Proposed S.F. Arena Win Another Court Victory
Judge Rules Transit Advocacy Group Can Join Litigation Opposing Mission Bay Arena

Major Hearing on Mission Bay Alliance Lawsuits this Friday in S.F. Superior Court Against Warriors, City of San Francisco

June 15, 2016 02:11 PM Eastern Daylight Time
SAN FRANCISCO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–One of the leading San Francisco transit advocacy groups can join opponents of proposed Golden State Warriors Arena as a Plaintiff in the litigation to keep the arena out of Mission Bay, according to a ruling by San Francisco Superior Court Judge Garrett Wong.

“The ill-considered RAB proposals would dump tens of thousands of additional cars a day into vulnerable parts of San Francisco and add billions of tax-payer dollars to the cost of getting Caltrain into downtown San Francisco”

Judge Wong ruled Thursday that SaveMuni, a dedicated association of transit activists, environmentalists and neighborhood leaders, will be allowed to legally join the fight against the Golden State Warriors.

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Paratransit Roundup

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paratransitbus

At SaveMuni’s May 16th meeting, SFMTA Paratransit Coordinator Jonathan Cheng briefed the group on San Francisco’s paratransit program and the services it provides.  The program operates for 365 days a year and is designed for people who do not have the ability to ride ordinary Muni buses.  It has 13,500 registered riders who make approximately 700 trips a year.  The SFMTA’s Paratransit program is comprised of “SF Access”, a “Shop Around” program and a taxi service.

1.)  “SF Access” takes ADA eligible riders to any destination within the Muni service area, but sometimes requires one or more transfers between vehicles. Riders must schedule their “SF Access” trips at least 24 hours in advance but can if they desire schedule their trip up to seven days in advance.  Approximately 87% of all “SF Access” trips are on-time. A trip is considered on time when the rider is picked up within the 20 minute window, which extends from 5 minute before and 15 minutes after the scheduled pick up time.

2.)  Group Shuttles:  There are also regularly scheduled group shuttles to certain designated facilities, which saves riders time and is often paid for by the facilities themselves. For instance a “Shop-A-Round” service takes elderly and disabled people to stores and helps them do their shopping.  The Shop-a-Round program is not federally mandated but is available to all (65+) seniors as well as to ADA eligible individuals with RTC cards

3.)  Taxi Service.  ADA eligible paratransit users are also provided with a limited amount of door-to-door taxi service every month.  Cab companies are not required to have handicapped-accessible vehicles, but do receive a $10 bonus per trip, and other incentives, for providing the service.  As with the other services, taxi drivers must be able to assist users in getting back and forth between the doors of their origins and destinations and the taxi.

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Mayor Lee’s “Study” seeks to derail Caltrain Extension

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RAB-Phase-1-Caltrain-Alignment

Southern Pacific completed its new headquarters building at Market and Spear Streets in 1916.  The new structure included provision for a future passenger rail terminal that was never built.  However people continued to talk about the need to extend the Peninsula trains  (now known as Caltrain).   By 1970, with the north-south freeway traffic between San Mateo and San Francisco counties steadily increasing, it was obvious that something needed to be done.  A series of studies of the proposed extension ensued, with the intent of identifying the best extension route and the financing needed to add the last 1.3 mile link to the 78-mile existing Caltrain system.

By 1999, San Francisco voters had reached a consensus. Proposition H, which passed by a vote of 69.3% required that San Francisco’s elected politicians and transportation officials make the Downtown Caltrain Extension (DTX) their highest transportation priority. Detailed planning, environmental assessments, and scores of community meetings resulted in the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s designation of DTX in 2013 as one of the Bay Area’s two transit priorities in line for federal New Starts funding.

Unfortunately, for the past 15 years San Francisco city officials, while paying lip service to the Caltrain extension, have done virtually nothing to advance the project.  In fact, in 2014, the Planning Department began a multi-year study which is actually undermining the prospects of bringing Caltrain downtown. The Department’s Railyards/I-280 (RAB) study conducted its first public meeting on February 23, 2016, eight months behind schedule, at a raucous session on Potrero Hill. Furious neighbors chastised the secretive planners, particularly for failing to provide any cost or other details of their plans and for their proposal to tear down the north end of I-280.  Also controversial were proposals to relocate the existing railyards to some as yet undefined remote location, and to spend billions of dollars relocating the Caltrain tracks to accommodate Mission Bay developers, particular the developers of a proposed basketball arena.

Private estimates of the RAB proposals put the resulting extra public cost at over $6 billion.  And while San Francisco dithers, the anticipated federal New Starts funding of $650 million needed to help complete the Caltrain extension hangs in the balance.

A new administration in Washington next year will bring new priorities for transportation so the hard won place on the list for federal funds for the Caltrain extension may well be lost. By waiting passively in the wings, the city’s elected politicians threaten to derail a vital regional project that has been over a century in the making. Or they could step up and be counted as genuine backers of the vital DTX project.

Modernizing Caltrain

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caltrainmod1

In March, SaveMuni invited Caltrain’s Casey Fronson to tell us about the Caltrain Modernization Program. We were excited about what we heard.

Caltrain operates the 51 miles of track between San Francisco and San Jose once known as the San Francisco and San Jose Railroad, which has been in use for the last 150 years. The line has experienced big growth since 2004, when the “Baby Bullet” trains were introduced, speeding up service. Currently the cars are getting very full around rush hour, especially on the morning northbound trains. It will be hard to get much more growth out of the current diesel locomotives, which start and stop slowly and need a lot of space between them, and 2/3 of which are already due for retirement.

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Shuttle Buses…a Call to Arms!

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On Friday, February 1, 2016, the SFMTA’s Major/Minor Arterial Plan governing the actions of  the private operators of the over-sized corporate commute buses (sometimes called hi-tech buses or Google buses) finally went into effect.   This new program sets forth a set of specific operating rules and the challenge is now one of enforcing those rules.  Please join me in watching for and reporting violations.    

If you spot a violation, record the date, time, location, travel direction, Placard Number, Bus operator/bus number and the nature of the violation and send me the information in an e-mail. <zabredala3@yahoo.com>.  Or if you prefer you can send your complaint directly to the SFMTA.  Because of the SFMTA’s lax and sporadic enforcement of previos operating rules the private operators have a long history of thumbing their noses at city rules and regulation.  For this reason it is likely to take a concerted effort to bring down the violations.  Thanks, Ed

Here are the new requirements:

Street Operations:

Commuter  buses 40 to 45 feet in length will be restricted to the following streets in the Noe Valley Area:

MAJOR Arterials:
+ Market Street
+ 16th Street
+ Guerrero  (Market to 18th)
+ Mission
+ San Jose (South of Guerrero – Cesar Chavez)

MINOR Arterials:
+ Divisadero
+ Castro to 26th
+ 24th  (Castro to Potrero)
+ Valencia
+ Folsom
+ Dolores

Only commuter buses 35 feet or less will be permitted to use residential streets.

Buses will not be permitted to operate on weight-restricted streets.

or stop in taxi zones

Bus-mounted placards:

Each registered vehicle has a unique bus identification number:

o  Placards showing this number will be placed on all four sides of the vehicle.

o  Placards are blue with black identification numbers (xx-xxxx)
The first xx designate the bus company
The last four  xxxx designate the assigned number.
*if the first number is 0 the bus is less than 35 feet  and therefore is allowed to operate on residential streets.
*if the first number is 5 the bus is more than 35 feet  and is therefore  allowed to operate only on the Major and Minor Arterials listed above
o  Placards are to be painted with reflecting paint so that they are more visible at night.

o  Placards are to be tamper proof and designed to tear if removed from a vehicle

Approved Stop Locations

Designated Muni stops and White Zones with a posted sign indicating that commuter buses are authorized as permitted users during the hours of 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. or 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.  There may  be a few locations that allow stops at both time periods.  If so, the signage will so indicate.

Call to Arms:

Because of lax and sporadic SFMTA enforcement the private operators have a long history of thumbing their noses at city rules and regulation; so it will take a concerted effort to bring down the violations.  If you spot a violation record the date, time, location, travel direction, Placard Number, Bus operator/bus number and the nature of the violation.   Please send me an email and we will figure it out.

Thanks, Ed

SFMTA Ignores Muni Metro Crowding

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L Taraval Street Scenes

Muni includes many heavily used bus lines.  But the workhorse of the system is, or at least should be, the Muni Metro subway/surface system.

A fully grade-separated subway typically carries hundreds of thousands of riders a day.  Tokyo’s 9 lines carry an average of over 1,000,000 riders per day per line.  The Paris Metro’s 19 lines carry an average of 260,000 riders per line per day.  New York’s 22 subway lines average over 250,000 riders per line per day.  What makes this possible are long trains traveling frequently at regular intervals.

The Muni Metro is not fully grade-separated and station constraints limit the length of its trains.  Therefore the five Muni Metro lines cannot generate the huge riderships that are achieved by many subways throughout the world.  However, Muni Metro’s peak period carrying capacity is currently less than half of what it was designed to be and could again be.  In fact the five Muni metro lines today average only a little over 30,000 thousand riders per line per day, roughly a third what they could and should be carrying.  The Market Street subway is no longer doing the job it was designed and built to do.

This unacceptably low ridership is not because people don’t want to use the system.  It is estimated that were it not for excessive peak period crowding, Muni Metro’s ridership would climb by at least 40,000 riders a day. In other words, tens of thousands of would-be Muni Metro riders are pushed off the Muni Metro system every day because of excessive peak period crowding.  With traffic increasing and Muni surface vehicles slowing down, the lack of a fully functional Muni Metro system is becoming a bigger and bigger headache for anyone trying to get around in San Francisco.

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RAB Study a Complete Bust

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railyard

The Mayor’s Railyard Alternatives and I-280 Boulevard Feasibility (RAB) Study has been kept under wraps for many months. In fact the study has been ongoing for over two years, proceeding in back rooms under the auspices of the SF Department of City Planning (DCP). The process has featured a series of closed door meetings participated in by a large collection of public agencies including the DCP, Mayor’s office, SF Municipal Transportation Agency, SF County Transportation Authority, Transbay Joint Powers Authority, Peninsula Joint Powers Authority, Metropolitan Transportation Commission, California High Speed Rail Authority, Federal Transportation Authority and others.

Recently the sponsors of the Study declared themselves ready for the Big Unveiling. The first public meeting of the RAB Study occurred on February 23, 2016…well over two years after the initiation of the project and 8 months behind schedule.

Advance Briefing of SaveMuni. At Save Muni’s request Ms. Susan Gygi, RAB’s Project Manager graciously agreed to update SaveMuni on the status of the Study on February 17th, emphasizing that she would not be free to talk about the information to be imparted on February 23rd. We agreed and on the 17th Ms. Gygi confined herself to explaining the background, timing and financing of the Study and to answering questions from SaveMuni members, mostly related to what Matier and Ross revealed about Study objectives in their Chronicle article on May 11, 2015. The February 17th presentation meeting was video-taped by Mr. Ken Bukowski, the former Mayor of Emeryville. The tape makes for some interesting viewing. See https://youtu.be/d8dab77JZug

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