Save Muni Calls Out Defects in the new LRVs

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Date: March 26, 2019

Ed Reiskin,
Director of Transportation
San Francisco MTA

Save Muni recognizes that Muni needs new Light Rail Vehicles (LRV’s) to replace the aging fleet of Breda cars. However, the first cohort of the new Siemens cars, which are now in service, are a huge disappointment and clearly need design changes to better serve San Francisco transit riders.

The SFMTA seems to have focused on cramming as many riders as possible into the cars with uncomfortable seating and poorly designed multipurpose areas. More importantly it appears that no attention was paid to the ability to quickly safely, and smoothly couple cars to achieve the 3-and-4 car trains that the Market Street Subway was designed for.

Save Muni members have identified some other problems with the new cars. 1) jerky acceleration which leads to the danger of rider injuries:.2) inability to provide a level step onto subway platforms 3) flawed interior design that leads to sliding on the bench seats: 4) inadequate numbe kr of stanchions and straps 5) poor door configuration which hinders boarding, especially for disabled riders: 6) narrower pantograph width which will lead to both vehicle and overhead wire damage.

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Transit Authority Tour

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In the War Room

On December 11, SaveMuni members were treated to a tour of the County Transportation Authority’s control center at 1455 Market Street. The center is currently being upgraded to fully monitor and control the entire fleet of bus and streetcar vehicles. Eventually there will be redundant control facilities at Turk Street (OCC) and West Portal so that the system can be run from any of the three locations in an emergency. Recently a fire alarm required the evacuation of the TA facility; the OCC site was able to take over and manage everything on its own.

Ron Forrest (right)

Muni Operations Manager Ron Forrest answered our questions in the “War Room” before showing us around the facility. Ron comes to us fresh from having run the Atlanta transit operation, which has some pretty incredible on-time statistics. The War Room is equipped with about a dozen cabled laptops and is is a gathering place for MTA and other city officials when there is an emergency or a civic event that threatens to stress the system.

There are many things in the works right now, but perhaps the most critical is upgrading the communications system so that multiple controllers can be talking to multiple drivers at a time. Incredibly, with the current system, only one controller may be speaking with a driver at a given time. The new radio system should be operational on all vehicles by April.

There are cameras on all vehicles and along heavily used (downtown) routes. Of course, Muni riders will tell you that the heavily used routes are not generally where they have problems. In-vehicle cameras do not currently provide live feeds to the controllers.

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The Future of Transportation in San Francisco

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Saturday, September 29, 2018, 10 am to Noon, Koret Auditorium, SF Main Library

The Forum will address increasing congestion on San Francisco’s streets and the deterioration of public transit. Muni carries roughly the same number of passengers in 2018 as it did a decade ago, despite increased city population and the economic boom. What can be done to make it easier to move around the city? The Forum features four presentations by transportation experts who will share their ideas for reducing congestion and improving public transit.

Jonathan Hopkins, Executive Director of Commute Seattle, will describe how his city has been the only one in the nation to increase transit ridership since the recession

Jerry Cauthen, Transportation Consultant, former Senior Engineering Manager and Transportation Vice President, Parsons Brinckerhoff, will talk about ways to improve public transit service and ridership in San Francisco.

Mollie Cohen D’Agostino, from the Institute for Transportation Studies at the University of California at Davis, will share results of her group’s study of transportation networking companies (Lyft and Uber) in San Francisco and other American cities.

Bob Feinbaum, Chair of Save Muni, will describe the role for congestion pricing in San Francisco, aided by a video featuring Jonas Eliasson, head of transportation for Stockholm, which adopted congestion pricing more than a decade ago

Share Your Ideas: A moderated discussion of questions from the audience.

Doors open at 9:30 AM. Enter at the Grove Street library entrance (tell Security you’re attending the forum). Coffee/ snacks available at the café opposite the auditorium. Sponsors: Save Muni + Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods. Contact: Bob Feinbaum, bobf@att.net

Extend Caltrain to downtown San Francisco

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Chronicle op-ed by Bob Feinbaum

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.

Getting DTX underway

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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.

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