Roger Marenco, the new president of the Transit Workers Union 250 A will be sharing his ideas for better transit service and answering questions at the next Save Muni meeting on August 20 at the Northern Police Station (Turk and Fillmore). The meeting starts at 5:30. (I’ll send you a full agenda the week before the meeting)
San Francisco has been waiting for more than 100 years for trains from the Peninsula to arrive downtown. Left up to compliant planners and complacent politicians, decades more will pass before Caltrain comes to the newly built Salesforce Transit Center.
San Francisco politicians fall all over themselves giving verbal support to the downtown extension. But when it comes to leadership necessary to build the project, they are nowhere to be found.
Instead the city’s supervisors have been strangely quiet about the efforts to undermine the current, environmentally cleared route from Caltrain’s Fourth and King streets terminus to downtown.
In 2015, Mayor Ed Lee directed the San Francisco Planning Department to conduct a study to bolster his intention to move the Caltrain downtown right-of-way to Third Street to serve the Warriors’ new arena and allow his developer backers access to the lucrative 20-acre rail yards site.
Included was a proposal to tear down the off-ramps from Interstate 280 without any notion of where the 70,000 to 90,000 cars per day would wind up. Nearby communities feared traffic would clog neighborhood streets and caused such an uproar that the plan’s backers quietly shut down that half-baked idea.
After 40 months of juggling and financial manipulations, a new study has emerged. Even after taking account of “value recapture” (a fancy way of estimating possible development revenue that might arise sometime in the future) the planners couldn’t justify the huge cost of their Third Street alternative — nearly 2½ times the project’s current budget.
So planners recommended yet another alternative. The Pennsylvania Avenue Caltrain alignment would take trains via tunnel from 22nd Street to the Salesforce Transit Center, but adds $2.2 billion to the cost of the project. Planners gave no hint of a commitment from the city to shoulder the additional costs, as Berkeley did in the 1970s when that city approved bonds to put BART tracks through the downtown underground.
And, of course, the study recommended relocating the rail yards to a still unspecified location.
San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors will be confronted with a decision sometime in coming weeks. The best course of action would be to proceed with the current plan, which keeps tracks on the surface from 22nd Street to the current station at Fourth and King streets. Then, when San Francisco identifies the money to construct the tunnel south of the station, the city could proceed with the full Pennsylvania Avenue option.
The open question is whether the supervisors and the new mayor will exert the leadership necessary to move the most important regional transit project in the Bay Area forward, or let it languish amid a welter of fanciful possibilities.
The Bay Area Transportation Working Group (BATWG) and many San Francisco transit advocacy groups have long supported the Caltrain Downtown Extension project (DTX). DTX will create a high quality north-south alternative to driving into San Francisco. It was defined in November 1999 by 69.9 percent of the voters of San Francisco as the No. 1 transportation capital improvement priority.
Yet for the last 40 months the multi-agency Rail Alignment and Benefits study has unnecessarily delayed and obstructed DTX. And the disruption is continuing. The May 29 RAB release continues to place extra costs and other obstacles in front of DTX. Here are some ways of accelerating the process:
1) Instead of adding costs, the focus should be on cutting costs.
o The ill-considered move to add $300 million to $400 million to the cost to “protect” Second Street from cut-and-cover construction should be relegated to the Transportation Stupidities Hall of Fame. The subway connection between Fourth and King streets and the new Transbay Transit Center (TTC) should be tunneled where appropriate and excavated from the surface where appropriate. With good engineering, this can be done without undue interference to either Second or Howard streets.
o The $100 million “tunnel plug” added to facilitate possible future construction of a Pennsylvania Street tunnel was not part of the original DTX plan and therefore should be cut from the DTX budget. If and when additional funding becomes available, additional portions of the rail system can be depressed. Spending $100 million now to facilitate a future connection that might or might not ever be needed makes no sense.
The June Save Muni meeting will feature a discussion with Julie Kirchbaum or Sean Kennedy of Muni Operations. The meeting offers a chance to ask questions regarding the new streetcars, improving the Muni metro service, restoring neighborhood service and other issues. The meeting will take place on Monday June 18 from 5:30 to 7:30 at the Northern Police Station, Turk & Fillmore.
Appoint Secretary for the meeting
3. Transportation in the Breed Administration
4. RAB and DTX
5. Guest: Julie Kirchbaum or Sean Kennedy of Muni Operations (6:00)
May 4 2018
Mayor Farrell and Supervisors,
Save Muni urges the Board of Supervisors to take the unprecedented step of rejecting the MTA’s 2019-2020 budget and returning it to the MTA for adjustment.
We believe that staffing and budget increases for this one department are not warranted given the limits placed on other city department…
MTAs proposed staff increase of 277 comes on top of continuous increases over the past decade resulting in an agency with over 6,000 employees making it the second largest city department. We believe that the agency needs an independent management audit to look at the effectiveness of its current structure before considering additional staffing..
MTAs recent performance has been at best mediocre. The Agency has a history of poor project decisions and even poorer project management.
Traffic congestion continues to worsen and Muni ridership has failed to increase even with substantial population growth and robust economic activity. The budget needs more focus on transit service and emphasis on better coordination of road projects to facilitate transit movement.
We believe that a number of specific issues with respect to the budget need to be addressed:
1) Lack of adequate time for the public to review the budget. The budget book was not available until very shortly before the MTA Board hearing, which made considered review impossible.
There was no meaningful narrative about the budget changes. Expenditures were not linked to specific programs and staffing levels.
The use of operating reserves to balance the current budget is unsustainable and flies in the face of intelligent fiscal planning. Instead we urge the MTA to reduce current costs and to identify new sources of revenue.
By returning the MTA budget to the Agency for revision, the Board of Supervisors will send a powerful message that MTAs current way of doing business needs to change.
Save Muni urges the Board to send that message.
Chair, Save Muni
The Core Capacity Transit Study was conducted under MTC auspices and released on September 1, 2017. The main purpose of the Study was to identify potential travel improvements on the Bay Bridge and in the San Francisco transit corridors leading to the Bridge.
A Good Beginning: The study team developed a concise and effective set of Evaluation Criteria with the emphasis on travel efficiency and cost effectiveness. The study team also did a good job of outlining the severe transportation constraints that are already beginning to plague transbay travelers and that, if ignored, that would eventually constrain the economies of the central Bay Area.
Current Status – Final Report Released: Many months have passed since the early scoping meetings. On September 1, 2017 the Final Core Capacity Report was issued. Unfortunately it does not appear to provide the well-justified list of improvements needed to achieve Study objectives.
General: The Report is well organized but unduly repetitious. Too much attention is paid to already ongoing projects in a way that made it hard to tell which projects are old and which are new. The Consultants did a good job of showing how the relentless growth of regional population and jobs, particularly in San Francisco, requires an aggressive near term transbay improvement program. However the Report is weak on citing the pros and cons of its dozens of proposed solutions, many of which appear to have been adopted from the internal wish lists of the participating transportation agencies.
Updated from a July post: On July 3, 2017 the SF Examiner reported on the SFMTA’s continuing program for placing Muni surface vehicles in transit-only lanes. This is something that has been talked about in San Francisco ever since the City enacted its “Transit First” policy over 40 years ago. Now the SFMTA is actually implementing the policy and in this it has SaveMuni’s strongest support.
Since each section of each street is different, local conditions deserve consideration. That notwithstanding, given the interests of San Francisco at large, the first priority must be on expeditiously getting busloads of people out of heavy traffic congestion, especially during peak driving hours. (In some cases all day lanes are certainly necessary. On other streets bus-only lanes between the hours of 6:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. might suffice. If so it would have two distinct advantages over the all day approach. First, it would in most cases eliminate the conflicts between the SFMTA and the affected small businesses. Second, it would greatly reduce enforcement costs.
As the transit service get faster and more reliable, there is certain to be a resulting up-tick in ridership. Are there enough buses? If so, good. If not, SaveMuni can be counted upon to support the augmentation of the Muni fleet as required.
In some places (along portions of Market Street for instance), bicyclists impede the flow of buses, often putting themselves at risk in the process. That shouldn’t happen. Buses packed with riders should take preference over bicyclists, and bicyclists should travel only in places where it is safe to do so.
Following are excerpts from a timely StreetsblogSF article describing how Toronto cleaned up its previously gridlocked main street.
It’s been just a few short months since most of the car traffic was cleared off King Street, giving the city’s busiest streetcar route an unimpeded path. The impact of the project has been transformative. Local transit officials report that faster and more reliable rail service has resulted in a dramatic boost in ridership. Before Toronto banned through traffic, the King Street streetcar carried 65,000 riders a day. According to the Toronto Transit Commission, peak hour ridership is now up by 25%.
The redesigned street allows drivers to access King Street but compels them to make right turns after a short distance. The Globe and Mail reports that car traffic has declined more than expected and the City of Toronto reports that without car traffic getting in the way, transit is moving much faster. Rush hour trips take about four minutes less from end to end, an improvement of about 16%. Reliability has also improved, with the number of delayed trips down by 33%.
Overall public opinion “seems to be firmly on the side of keeping the car restrictions in place. A recent poll showed strong public support for the pilot project.”
Watch this short Video; it’s worth it:
The intersection of Van Ness and Market is so well served by public transit that it is known as the “Hub”, short for “Transit Hub”. What City Hall is now planning for the Hub would transform it into a congested mess.
The City Planning Department estimates that almost 1,700 additional parking spaces could be constructed in the immediate vicinity of Van Ness and Market. If so, developers would derive profits both from their prime transit-oriented locations and the parking.
Add to this the so-far uncontrolled impact of Uber and Lyft. At least 45,000 Uber and Lyft vehicles now operate in San Francisco, which account for over 200,000 auto trips a day. It does not take much imagination to recognize what 1,700 additional off-street parking spaces and hundreds of daily Uber and Lyft pickups and drop-offs would do Van Ness and Market.
If there’s to be no projection against excessive traffic at the Hub, then where?