Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Future E-Line to Fort Mason

I went on a little jaunt this afternoon along the future E-Line to see what i could see. What I found was most interesting. As I got on the streetcar, as usual it was a crush load at the Embarcadero station so I hopped in the back door and paid when I got to the Wharf.


Several guys from New York City came on as well. They were to get off at Pier 39 so they gave me a fiver to pay with because they couldn't get to the front. I think they trusted me after I showed them that I had a pin on my bag that had the same MSR logo that was all over the inside of the car. After paying the five and my $1.50 the driver asked me where he could get the pin as I told him the story about the New Yorkers.



So I got off and walked down to where the new line would be extended to Fort Mason. I saw the tracks in the ground left from a bygone era and was wondering how slow the streetcar would have to go or how they would allow pedestrians and streetcars along the waterfront.


From the picture above, if you turn around and walk towards Fort Mason you can see the single track tunnel that was carved out for freight to the piers during the early years. Streetcar routes with tunnels or private ROW still operate, however this one was abandoned and never put into streetcar service.

South Portal Fort Mason Streetcar

As I was walking around to the other side of the tunnel I also saw a skunk on the hill above the Fort Mason docks. It was pretty brave of this fellow to be out in broad daylight (or dark foggy evening) but nevertheless there he was. I wasn't going to mess with him but he was at a pretty good distance.


Finally as I got to the other side I could get a clear view of the Golden Gate Bridge behind the West Portal of the streetcar tunnel. This is where the streetcar will move out to the Marina giving its residents their first rail link in over 50 years. How exciting!



Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Misleading Statistics & BRT Promotion

I went to a discussion today about BRT at Oakland City Hall where the former Mayor of Bogota Columbia spoke about his city and what they have done to promote living. He was a wonderful speaker and made a lot of great points about how a street should be safe for children and also how bike lanes should be a place where 8 year olds can ride and not have fears of getting hit by a car. I tend to agree that a white stripe in a road does not denote a bike lane. He didn't talk much about Bogota's famed Transmilenio BRT system and really I'm glad he didn't. BRT is still a bus and Columbia is a completely different country than the United States. I don't think we should be wasting money on a system where we underestimate the costs (replacing buses and pavement more often than projected etc) versus a tried and true system of getting people out of their cars with rail. In an earlier post i noted that the

However I was shocked by the blatant misrepresentations by AC Transit. In a slide show before the event they showed technology costs for Subways, Light Rail and BRT. Not surprisingly LRT was overestimated by a factor of two while BRT was underestimated by a factor of 3. I personally have never heard of a surface LRT system anywhere near the claimed $100 million. In fact, the most recent systems in Minneapolis and Los Angeles were around $60 million but only because of tunneling and viaduct construction. The most recently completed line, Denver's T-Rex was only $37 million a mile. As for BRT, it is completely underestimated. $10 million per mile is what they said but in Los Angeles it was completed for $22 million before extensive repaving because of damage from the buses and I'm not even sure if the right of way acquisition for the line was added into the costs since it was done with the pretense of light rail service eventually. Hartford's busway project is projected to cost $45 million per mile.

So I thought I might make a list of the things that BRT proponents don't tell you about that became apparent when listening to them speak:

1. They claim that its as good as a train but this is only if you add on all of the elements that come with light rail including level boarding, nextbus technology, their own right of ways, external fare recovery systems and signal pre-emption, you might as well build the system everyone wants anyway, not the one they are compromising on because such and such transit agency can't figure out how to make money off of capital investments. I feel no sorrow for agencies that don't get value capture.

2. With light rail projects, the whole street is generally reconstructed making pedestrian space more valuable with new sidewalks and amenities. BRT doesn't do this. In the renderings shown they do but when the project is completed do they do as promised. No. For example on San Pablo it's the same old bus with a red stripe on it. They did nothing to the ped space, didn't mess with the street and yet they still call it Rapid Bus. Clever marketing is bus repackaged transit.

3. They don't tell you that rail infrastructure lasts for over 50 years, perhaps more. Buses last 12 years if that but they don't add in the costs of buying new ones over and over while rail cars are used continuously. They don't tell you that buses are heavier than big rigs sometimes and crush the pavement even worse yet don't include that in costs. Taxpayers have to pay for that but it's a hidden tax that doesn't get reported.

4. They don't tell you that the bus ride is going to be the same jolting start stop bouncing even on the smoothest of roads. The guy reading the paper on the bus won't be able to because of the motion sickness. Anyone who's been on a bus, especially AC Transit 51, knows that you can't keep standing even if you're able bodied. It takes a two hand grip to stay vertical.

5. They also don't tell you that they expect gas prices to remain the same or come up with some whiz bang technology that is going to magically lower gas and diesel prices. I don't care how magically low the sulfer particulate escapage is on the bus, it's still emitting on the street where people are walking, and the internal combustion engine is still slower and less effective than an electric motor. This talk of hybrid's and fuel cells is a joke. Hydrogen of course is only as clean as the energy that is used to create the Hydrogen because it doesn't just grow on trees. Hybrid's are just fuel generators that feel electric engines. However electric overhead wires can be fueled by any number of alternative energy sources. Muni gets 30% of its power from alternative energy making it cleaner than most. Calgary uses 100% wind energy to fuel their light rail. I would be remiss to mention that most LRT lines are fueled by coal power plants but that fact that they can be converted in short order and don't give off local particulates which studies along freeways have shown affect kids the most is most appealing compared to a bus.

6. The people who advocate for BRT are people that generally don't ride the bus. In fact if you ask anyone whether they want to ride a bus or a train guess what the answer would be. Never mind that full BRT costs the same as LRT done right but at times when its more expensive people have been choosing Light Rail. More often than not they are anti transit like RandalL O'Toole or Wendell Cox. Government in bathtub drowning is their goal. But they like rules and regs that benefit them, just not you. The auto lobby in DC loves BRT, they can probably see it as another 20 years of profits and sprawl until people wake up. I get why the Mayor's of Bogota and Curitiba did it and I applaud them because they changed their cities in amazing ways. But why is it that the only thing we learn from them is about a cheap bus?

7. Light Rail operating costs per passenger mile are much less on light rail than on bus. Explained here, enough said.

8. BRT on freeways is just going to allow the cars in at some point. Creating a rail network says no cars ever in this space. In fact, the Harbor Freeway busway was supposed to be bus only, guess what? Now it's an HOV lane.

9. BRT advocates would have you think that low floor = accessible. On the contrary, buses do not pull up flush to the platform like rail does. Try as they might, it doesn't work out they way they promise and it wreaks havoc on accessibility.

10. I will continue this list at some point because i haven't really made half the points i'd like to but the bottom line is this. BRT is just bus repackaged transit pushed by folks that don't really like transit to begin with. They want it to stay for the poor so why not give the poor a third world system. Well we need to step up and invest like China, Japan, and Europe.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Candidates Part 2

The other day I looked at what the candidates were saying about transit. It looks like we got some more information about Bill Richardson over the last few days from the Northwest. The Northwest Progressive Institute is blogging about Mr. Richardson and his transit views which seem good. Someone should post these views on his website so more people can find out about them. From NWPI:
Richardson also pledged to keep Amtrak going and concluded by saying that he would be "a President with a national transportation policy: focused on light rail, bullet trains, more efficient transportation."

Monday, May 28, 2007

Southwest & High Speed Rail

We're getting closer to high speed rail here and California and over on Intermodality Christof is discussing it as well for Texas. I'm pretty sure that Southwest will fight tooth and nail but perhaps it would be in their best interest to build and operate the train themselves. Then as they lose airshare they gain rail share. There was an article in the Austin American Statesman about them not having anywhere new to go...well what about all the smaller metro regions that would thrive with HSR like Bryan College Station TX, Waco TX, or Bakersfield CA? I think that's a business model they might want to pursue. Does anyone else think that this would be a viable option when they run out of places to go with planes? I think it would open up a whole new market for them they just don't see with their smarty pants up in corporate that don't think about the freeways as possibly taking some of their business. They should. If they built their own alternative energy generation along the route they would win major brownie points as well.

Austin Dreaming

Originally uploaded by Transit Nerds
While Austin had the ASG plan and Envision Central Texas, there hasn't been any talk of the Space Race there in any format. After the commuter rail is completed where do they go? Streetcar? Will it get built and is it really the foot in the door that will lead to light rail? Might light rail come back? It might be time for a big vision from the grass roots on up. In the space race it seems that places with big visions are getting far and places that are complaining about gas prices are not. The vision is not just talking about where lines should go but rather three key components...

1. Affordability - Everyone knows that gas prices are going up and working families are going to be hit hardest. But they don't really have transit options that allow them to save money and time in Austin. I know when i stay with my friend in the Arboretum, there is no meaningful way for me to get downtown. So taking a cab is the only option unless i want to have someone pick me up. I can't see people taking cabs every day or waiting an hour for the #3 bus to get downtown. The express bus is for commuters only.
2. Energy Independence - Everyone is talking about energy in terms of CAFE standards and alternative energy, but people need to get that our built environment is a huge part of our energy consumption. This is how we need to talk about transit. Not only is rail efficient, but it's effective in networks...not one line here and there. So in order to deal with energy issues, we need to have a frank discussion about the energy savings of a transit network, specifically when it comes down to creating transit corridors and land use decisions. A rail network will allow these corridors to grow and perhaps pay for part of the infrastructure cost of implementing it.
3. Mobility - We would be remiss to leave this one out. People need to be able to get places. This means that lines need to connect to each other in a meaningful way that allows people to get to where they want to go efficiently. Efficient high speed transit will do it.

Now don't get me wrong, as I always say, Automobiles have their place, especially Mayor Wynn's plug-in hybrids but they still as i've said before promote sprawl and energy inefficient land use patterns and transport. Here in San Francisco I own a car but perhaps drive it once a week and fill up my tank about once a month. $4.85 gas just doesn't matter to me. And it shouldn't affect everyone everywhere else so drastically either.

Dreams: So here is a random vision for transit in Austin. This is basically thoughts on paper about how Austin might grow a network so that more people use it transit. I'm guessing this network would be pretty expensive, but think of all the money we've tossed into highways. I imagine the economic impact of this network would far outweigh its cost.

Blue - A light rail spine is the first step to this
Orange - The orange line goes into the student jammed riverside then to the airport. This will connect students to school and travelers to international destinations without having to get in a car.
Red - Commuter rail lines. These are not typical diesel commuter rail lines. These should be electric and every 20 minutes off peak. They should connect to job centers like Dell in Round Rock and San Marcos San Antonio and perhaps the airport
Yellow - Express bus networks. This needs to be a part of the network. We have roads so we might as well use them, especially in areas that probably don't have heavy transit usage but perhaps would grow with better service.
Purple - Rapid Streetcar network. This network of streetcars would run along major corridors helping to redevelop them into mixed use centers where people can walk from their neighborhoods to get groceries or catch a streetcar downtown or to activity centers. Parts of the streetcar network will run on light rail ROW to increase headways between major centers downtown while some will be bi-directional with passing sidings at stations and track signaling so that they have their own right of way. It will also be cheaper to build while still being able to operate at 10 minute headways.

So this is an idea. I did it just for kicks because this is what I'd like to see happen in order for Austin to enter the transit space race. But let's do a quick hypothetical. Say that 40% of Austinites (from the 2000 census) were using transit on a daily basis. If they increased their location efficiency enough to reduce their driving by 5000 miles per year at 20mpg that would be a savings of $1000 at 4$ per gallon. If added all together, that $1000 of 40% is $276 million per year. Over the lifecycle of the network which can be 50 years, this amounts to $13.8 billion dollars in savings or $50,000 dollars per person who uses it, not including benefits to property owners etc. Of course it's just hypothetical like I always do but this is how we need to look at costs. Not how much does it cost but what do we get out of it?

Sunday, May 27, 2007

What the Candidates Say Or Don't Say

Wow. This is abhorrent. All this talk of Global Warming and energy savings etc and no talk of urban form or transit. It is worse than I thought it was. I mean I know it's not sexy to everyone, but man these guys could have me leaning their way with a comprehensive rail initiative, or even mentioning transit. I guess i expected too much.

Barack Obama discusses renewable energy, fuel economy standards, and cleaner coal. What a joke. I was starting to like him, this is too bad.

Hilary Clinton says we need alternative energy and apparently has an "Apollo Like" plan for energy independence. Anyone want to guess if it includes electric rail? She, like Obama also wants better fuel standards but come on you guys, better fuel standards still allows sprawl which is ridiculously inefficient. It's like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

John Edwards believes in renewable energy, changing the auto industry yadda yadda yadda. Again he doesn't understand the effect of the built environment on energy usage.

Bill Richardson believes in the same as the above.

This is disturbing and made me go and immediately sign the petition to draft Al Gore. He gets it and is probably the only one who really understands what it will take to get this country back on the right track. I started out this post with the intention of looking at all the candidates but the Republicans were just too ridiculous to even link to in terms of what they were talking about. I guess it's telling when some of them still don't believe in evolution. I was also hoping for more from the Democratic candidates. With over a year to go perhaps some of them will get it but I'm not going to count on it.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

City of Beer and Buses

So Milwaukee Wisconsin is having the same debate that every city has when they are deciding whether to hop on the mass transit horse. The Leader of the County wants buses because they are more effective for "those people" and the Mayor wants a streetcar system, I'm guessing as a foot in the door for light rail. Well they should all just stop and go for the gold. I don't understand why these folks don't just invest in their communities. Light rail is an excellent investment. Look what it has done for Minneapolis. A shot in the arm along Hiawatha Avenue is what they needed and they got it. Now they can't talk enough about the Central Corridor and Southwest Corridor. The only thing that stands in their way is well...shortsighted government leaders. Tim Pawlenty and Scott Walker should just go away. In fact they should move to Cincinnati and live with Stephan Louis. That city is probably last on the list of large cities where people want to live in the United States, specifically when they get out of college. Why? Because there is no thinking and dreaming going on there, only people that say no. I don't know how these people got voted in, but in the next election I hope people throw out the bathtub drowning conservatives and vote for whoever has big dreams and wants to invest in their future.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Zombies in the Subway!

As I was walking by Union Square on my way home from work today I noticed a strange occurrence. There were folks with duct tape, blood and ripped clothes trying to get into a Victoria's Secret while the cable cars were going by. I even noticed one of them holding a cardboard sign that said "Rights for Ded People". Yes it was spelled ded. Then they made their way down to the Market Street subway. This Zombie Mob one of the any number of crazy things that happens in San Francisco every year. Pillow fights and treasure hunts are not uncommon. Now if only there were random transit rider uprisings to fix Muni. Perhaps that would raise some eyebrows from the local government, because ghost trains and late trains don't seem to bother them.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

This Is What It Has Become

While I am biased towards transit, I think the Texas Legislature's latest action shows what is happening all over the United States. The investments that need to be made in infrastructure are being stymied by people who just think about themselves. Texas is run at the moment by Republicans. Most of them are from rural areas that have no need for transit and any time they hear tax they turn and run. In light of the fact that many people would like to have the chance to vote in order to raise taxes for commuter rail in Dallas, it sickens me that they won't even get the chance. What's worse, someone else decided whether you could pool your resources to get a valuable service. This isn't a democracy, but rather a government run by thugs and self interested businessmen. Most in the legislature don't work or if they do its for a law firm or real estate business where they have already made a lot of money. I mean are you serious, not even letting people vote for a tax for commuter rail??? It's not like they were approving the tax, just the vote. Yet they made Austin vote for Light Rail in 2000. What a bunch of hypocrites.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The FTA Class of 2001

In doing research for work I this afternoon I came across the class of 2001 for the FTA New Starts Program. The Class of 01 in Preliminary Engineering and Final Design of the FTA New Starts Process was an impressive class. Included:

Houston LRT - Above Projections at 40,000
Denver Souteast Corridor - Just opened and over projections 33,000 riders
Minneapolis Hiawatha - 34,000 riders
Phoenix LRT - Under Construction
Salt Lake's First Extension
Seattle Central Link - Under Construction
Portland Interstate Max - Increased Bus Ridership by 100%
San Diego Mission Valley East - Now known as the Green line, way over projections

The list goes on. But i got really sad when i noticed a familiar face that died along the way. Austin. Likely to be up there with these other lines rolling over its projections due to it's alignment, it was supposed to take 37,000 people each day. You can't tell me that is doing too little. But it makes me wonder, what if Austin went back to the original 2000 plan as M1ek always says. We missed a huge opportunity there and here is the worst thing about it. We gave $369 million dollars to someone else in the list above. It probably went to Minneapolis or Portland. Next time I see them, I might ask Jim Skaggs and Gerald Daugherty why they stole our money. Or perhaps Mike Levy, why does he and those other two clowns hate Austin so much that they would not help us get money we pay in gas taxes back to our city for transportation improvements. This lack of respect, just like Tom Delay's blockage of funding for Houston's line, makes me sick.

And who else is in bed with these guys? Ben Wear. He isn't a journalist, but rather a shill for Jim Skaggs and company. In this article he uses Skaggs name again as a source. One of my favorite bands, Piebald, has a line in one of their songs that is apt for him and Skaggs: "We are the only friends that we have". In my old blog I noted that his name is found almost every two months in a Statesman article against Capital Metro sales tax or rail. He must be the only opponent, well him, Mike Levy and Gerald Daugherty. I wish I could use lexis nexus again for this. If anyone can use it let me know because we should nail him to a wall with the rest of them for throwing out almost $370 MILLION DOLLARS! He complains about money for rail here and there, but he lost us that money. And for that neither he nor Daugherty should ever be forgiven or allowed in the city limits. Let them live and shop in the burbs if they hate Austin so much.

If you want to go on a wayback machine trip, even before M1ek, Louis Black told us so. But if you want to look forward, CAMPO is taking critiques of it's 2030 plan. Flood it with comments on light rail.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Blog Hype

Here are some articles that folks might want to read

Cristof at Intermodality discusses transit balkanization.

The Portland Transport Blog.

Check out the blogroll as well at Transit Miami.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Curitiba Transport Chief Throws BRT Under the Bus

Whoa. This article is an amazing expose of Curitiba in the New York Times Magazine that was touched on earlier in the blog. But the best part comes here...
“That competition is very hard,” says Paulo Schmidt, the president of URBS, the rapid-bus system. During peak hours, buses on the main routes are already arriving at almost 30-second intervals; any more buses, and they would back up. While acknowledging his iconoclasm in questioning the sufficiency of Curitiba’s trademark bus network, Schmidt nevertheless says a light-rail system is needed to complement it.
What?!?! Light Rail to compliment the mighty BRT of Curitiba??? This is going to do two things. 1. This will drive folks like Bill Vincent crazy and perhaps they'll start slamming Mr. Schmidt like Bush slams former allies Karl Rove style which will show that they are super fanatics that will do anything to promote the BRT sham. 2. The pro-BRT folks aren't going to like this very much because it shows that even the BRT needs help from rail. For years they have been trying to resist rail in Curitiba believing that it would be a big blow to their efforts to get BRT in the United States. Seems like this might be one of those watershed moments when hopefully we see the beginning of the end of "The bus that looks like a train" argument.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Two Coasts and No Car

Today was the most amazing day of transit and flight ever. Here is a review, wake up at 4:30 am ET and walk to Suburban station in Philadelphia. Take the R1 commuter train (electric of course) to the Airport. I hop on an airplane and fly to Atlanta then San Francisco. Since I wanted to be back in time for my friend's graduation, i needed to be in Berkeley by 2:00 and my plane was to land at 12. In between, i needed to go home and drop my stuff, eat, and get to the other side of the bay. So I had to choose between my car and BART. I chose BART. I rode BART to 24th and mission and walked the half mile to my place. After taking a shower I ran out the door and back to the BART station. As I got to the station the Dublin-Pleasanton train was pulling in. I took it to the Lake Merrit station and transferred to the Richmond train that came 3 minutes later. I got to Berkeley at 1:45 and got to the Greek Theater at the top of the hill for the graduation 5 minutes before 2pm and about 12 hours after I woke up. What is most amazing about this is that i didn't need a car. Because of the amazing mobility options in the city in which i live and which i visited. If we are to become a country that is mobile, there need to be transportation systems that even on a Sunday schedule will allow us to get where we want to go. In order to get there in most places things need to change. Obviously.

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Lines I Tried

So i took a ride yesterday on the 36 Trolley. Got off at UPenn and walked to the Subway. From the Subway I took the 100 out to the Suburb of Bryn Mawr (sp) Out there it's the suburbs. It's a lot different and lower density than your typical Texas suburbs even. Pretty crazy.

What struck me however is the amount of blight on some of the subway stops. Philly is a cool city but there is definitely a lot more they can do to fix up some of the neighborhoods. That is if they want to be fixed.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Time Changing R1

It's 5am California time. Time changes, specifically east coast to west coast always rock me. It's like I am in a different world.

Yesterday I took the R1 train from the airport and walked around Philly. It's an electrified commuter line into the central city. The seats are nice and big and there is a ticket man who actually punches your ticket. Never had that done before. It was a pretty fast trip too.

Also when walking around Philly I noticed there are lots of tracks still in the ground. They are definitely not new and sometimes look like they need some work but it's amazing they are still around which kind of speaks to the permanence of the lines and why developers are hopping at the chance to build near new ones.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Here I Come Girard Avenue

I'm off on the red eye to Philly tonight. Should be a fun week at the Congress for the New Urbanism. I'm sure I'll see lots of friendly and perhaps some unfriendly faces there. Always love a good debate as well. I'm most interested to see the Girard Avenue Trolley. After years on hiatus, the cars have been rehabilitated as has the track in some spots. I'll take some pictures of this as well as other lines in Philly. I hope to blog every day, but it might be short.

Monday, May 14, 2007

A Huge TOD

Pentagon City is about to get a huge TOD. 3,200 Units is a lot so it might take a while to build. But this will give a huge ridership boost to the two metro lines.

Kettler, one of the Washington areas leading diversified real estate development and property management companies, announced today that it has purchased 19.6 acres in Pentagon City from affiliates of Vornado Realty Trust for approximately $220.4 million. Kettler closed on the initial 11 acres today for $104.3 million, and plans to purchase the remaining acreage over the next year.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

BRT Lobby Lobs Accusations

An article in the Philadelphia Inquirer states that BRT is better than rail for addressing a number of urban ills. However this misinformation attempt by the BRT Lobby led by Bill Vincent is starting to get scared by the rapid expansion of rail. I imagine they feel like they have to turn up the talk since they are getting pushed back into a corner by actual riders and citizens who don't want more buses.

The first whopper comes from Vincent himself, vehemently explaining that BRT can bring the same amount of riders as rail, however as proven in Los Angeles, the Orange Line only attracts half of the riders it should when compared with the population living around the Gold Line LRT. Also, his claim that you can cut greenhouse gases with diesel buses versus electric railcars is laughable at best. In San Francisco where the Muni is run at least partly by renewable energy, this argument falls on deaf ears. In Oakland its another story as the local folks think that a network of BRT will bring people out of their cars, however the first rapid line on San Pablo is just a bus with a red paintjob.

He also compares a number of rapid transit projects with each other and compares cost per passenger in operating cost. But what he doesn't say is the cost of replacing buses every 12 years versus double that for rail, the costs of replacing pavement torn up by heavy vehicles, and the type of BRT project that he is comparing to a type of rail project. Comparing the New York Second Avenue Subway to the Silver Line is hardly an accurate apples to apples comparison given the capacity constraints of 60 foot buses versus multi car trains and cost sharing with the Big Dig. In the past, BRT projects like the Pittsburgh Busways and the Los Angeles Harbor Freeway busway have failed to garner the passengers that were promised. In fact, the LA Harbor Busway has now been changed into an HOV lane instead of a dedicated bus only lane due to low ridership. In an interesting 2003 transit comparison, Houston's 6 HOV busways carried 43,225 transit passengers, but Portland's Max System with 3 corridors carried 79,600. While the HOV lane carried almost 75,000 people in individual vehicles, that increased auto use also contributed to sprawl and arterial congestion when they got off the freeway. On the other hand, Portland's light rail system has aided a massive downtown revitalization and led to lower congestion costs to each person that costs in Houston.

In addition, from 1990 to 2005, 73% of the ridership increases have come from increased rail usage. Even with the consent decree in LA and much investment in buses around the country, bus ridership has stayed flat while rail ridership has soared.

While some of those who promote BRT mean well, most of them believe transit is for the poor are out to kill good rapid transit. The citizens of this country as evidenced by the transit space race have shown their preference, its up to us to make sure those investments get the best possible return.

Friday, May 11, 2007

A Tourist in Your Own City

At my office in Oakland my coworker and I enjoy a show called Battlestar Gallactica. I'm trying to catch up with the season 3 and at lunch we discuss what happened but the main character (Edward James Olmos or Admiral Adama) was interviewed in the LA Weekly about his role after the 1992 riots in Los Angeles.

One of the most curious sights captured by TV news cameras during the 1992 Los Angeles riots was that of actor Edward James Olmos standing on West Adams Boulevard, near the First AME Church, holding a broom. It was Friday morning, the day that Governor Pete Wilson would ask for federal assistance to help restore order and Rodney King would ask if we all could get along. Olmos had spent much of the preceding 36 hours on the go, shuttling between TV and radio appearances, imploring listeners to stay in their homes. “If you’re going to go out and get something because you can,” he remembers saying, “at least come back to your house once you’ve got what you want.” Then, as the sun rose on day three of the violence, he started sweeping.
He also made some comments about the old pacific electric lines that used to criss cross the region. He seems to sum up the streetcar experience quite well. So Olmos/Adama has today's quote of the day regarding his trips on the Red Car. "You were like a tourist in your own city". I know that's what i feel like when I ride the J-Church next to my home in San Francisco, I just couldn't put it into words.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Steny Hoyer: Transit and Energy

Today house majority leader Steny Hoyer wrote an article for The Hill which set forth a new program for transit and energy independence. My reaction: it's a start but it isn't worth anything really. I like the fact that there will be $2 billion dollars for transit. But its just a one time infusion. It should be an annual infusion, not just a one time push. We aren't going to be able to turn the tide on over 50 years in billion dollar highway investments with just one little measly $2 billion dollars. There needs to be a fundamental shift to allow regions to build meaningful transit systems or expand existing systems. I'm amazed at the transit space race right now at how aggressive cities like Denver, Portland and Seattle are at building out their networks. The larger the network, the more people will ride. But it's not just people riding, it's connecting these investments to land use. That is also a place where the federal government can step in.

From the Hill...

On this point, let me be specific: We must find ways to encourage Americans to park their automobiles and take advantage of public transportation, where possible and when feasible. That’s why the PROGRESS Act adds a special, one-time $2 billion stimulus grant for the expansion of public transit services through the existing urban grant program.

In addition, the bill includes an incentive for commuters to choose transit by boosting the current transit benefit to match the federal parking benefit exclusion, which is currently $205. Furthermore, it supports the growth of commuter rail by including a process for resolving rail use agreements when access to rail lines becomes an impediment to establishing local commuter rail systems or routes.

And finally, on the issue of public transportation, the PROGRESS Act promotes the development of new and expanded intercity rail passenger service through the use of guaranteed loans and rail bonds to help state and local governments that want to expand rail service as an alternative to vehicle travel.

Public transit must play a central role if America is going to declare its energy independence. Increasingly, we are seeing more Americans relying on the public transportation options that help them to work, play and participate fully in the American experience.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Dream Crushers and Traffic

So a big pet peave of mine is when people tell you that something isn't possible when it more than likely is when you work at it. For example, if you tell a nation that there is no way they can rebuild their transit infrastructure in a meaningful way, what hope is there to do it. In the United States today people are too concerned with the short term fix rather than the long term goal and that really annoys me. In my former running life, years upon years of miles are built up on your legs to be able to run fast. Those guys at the olympics in the marathon train their whole lives to be there and no one ever told them to stop or that the road was too long. And if they were told that they simply ignored the naysayers. I'm not sure if i'm butchering this quote but a friend of mine has it up in his house. "Those who will try to convince you to abandon your dreams have already abandoned theirs."

On another note, I drove to work today. On Wednesdays I go visit my grandmother in suburbia and sometimes i take my car. Some days are nice for walking the three miles or biking, but BART doesn't allow bikes when i go to work so i have to sneak it on if i want to do that. They need runaround vehicles or bike rental at the station. I would totally use it.

But the main point was that driving out of San Francisco towards the maze there was no traffic. I mean there were cars but they were moving. There were cars at the toll plaza but not many. It was amazing. Did the shift to transit and other routes really make that big a difference? Are people just so lazy and lemming like that they drive their cars even if they have a good transit alternative? What this says to me is that the answer is yes. How long will induced traffic take to pick back up is the question.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

BRT Meets in the Morning

I saw on the SFist that there was a meeting about the Geary BRT. I would have gone however the meeting was in the morning during work. I'm rather annoyed because i would have hoped that I would have been able to make some comments about the need to make it LRT ready and push for the downtown subway segment. But alas I would have had to skip work to make comments. Perhaps they allow emails. Why is it that only certain activists are allowed to attend meetings? Skipping work? Geez.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Environmental Quality and Existing Infrastructure

The Maze situation in California has brought up an interesting situation. In their attempt to get it done quickly, it seems as if they will waive the CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) requirement in order to get the freeway rebuilt faster. It makes me wonder, why do we need to do laborious EI statements with light rail and streetcars that will be using existing roadways. It's not as if you're going to increase impervious cover or cause more pollution. Yes there are certain situations where extensive EIS should be performed but if a downtown circulator system is to be built in existing streets, why would we need a piece of paper to tell us what we already know? Am I way off base in thinking this?

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Team Transitman

Be a part of the revolution, join TRANSiTMAN on his quest to change the world by riding the bus! I think this is great. This could be a way of pulling adults and kids alike who might not be into transit, but would like to learn more.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Governor Gets Behind High Speed Rail

The Governor of California finally throws some support behind high speed rail. Geez it took him long enough. All we needed was a tanker truck to blow up and a bunch of people to get on BART for the Governor to see how important this is. All I have to say is stay out of this fight Southwest. Those guys kept good city connecting rail out of Texas, so they better not try it here...however i'm sure they will.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Phoenix Ups the Ante

Drawing on an opportunity to expand a freeway and light rail at the same time, the City of Phoenix has decided to chip in funds to fund a study of light rail on the I-10 Corridor. I often wonder the effects of running rail in the center of the freeway. It should really be on an arterial, however depending on the design it might work, i repeat might.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

BART Absorbs Riders

Because of the freeway connector that was destroyed by a tanker truck explosion, commuters have been flocking to BART. Monday was the highest ridership ever on BART. Imagine what would have happened if there were no transit. A similar situation in Chicago occurred when freeway repairs were being made parallel to the brown line.

Trains carried an estimated 375,200 riders on Tuesday, eclipsing the previous record of 374, 900 passengers set in 2000, according to a BART news release.

Transit Space Race Commentary

Bus Chick notes a picture that was taken at a Seattle Truck Dealer. The sign reads "Headed to Portland, Check out Their light rail, 25 years ahead of ours, what's up with that?"

Yeah, what is up with that?

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Minnesota Legislature Turning Up the Heat

Using Union Depot as a hub, the state legislature passed a bill that would fund $334 million dollars worth of projects. However the governor doesn't want to have any of it, asking for only $81 million. Funding will go to the Central Corridor, High Speed Rail to Chicago, the Rush Line Commuter Rail, the Red Rock Corridor and the redesign of Union Depot as a hub of all this activity. It's getting exciting in the land of 1000 lakes.