Monday, August 10, 2009

We Don't Want Faster Transit

In a recent meeting with Merchants on Geary street, they believe that access would kill their businesses.
The first of their reservations is that construction will scare away customers; and second, that faster transit will encourage bigger buildings which will spell disaster for small businesses. Reservation number one is reasonable; but number two is whaaaaa? Is your argument seriously "we need slower buses because small businesses can only survive if nobody can get to where they're going on time"?
Really? That's the exact reason why I never go to the Richmond. Because it takes to freakin long to get there without a car! Seriously people, how long do we need to go in these circles before we realize that rapid transit in San Francisco would facilitate the movement of not just people, but money into merchants wallets from other neighborhoods. There are many nights when I think I might want to go to the Sunset or Richmond to get a bite to eat but I don't want to waste 2 hours on Muni. Might as well cook at home. Fast transit does not kill business, slow transit does.


Cap'n Transit said...

I think there's some justification for concern. The main thing is that if small buildings are replaced by big buildings, the businesses in them have to relocate, or else close for a while. I've seen many businesses close for good instead.

From the original article, not the Curbed summary, it sounds like this is genuine concern, not an attempt to kill the plan masked as concern.

"Another issue that was widely discussed was the preliminary study's conclusion that numerous vehicles would avoid Geary and travel on ancillary streets, like Fulton and California streets, to reach their destinations."

Okay, that's just lame.

Sam said...

I was at the meeting, and the primary concern of most people (that talked) was traffic spillage. Even when Zabe (the planner) showed a slide of projected spillage by street, people questioned the numbers or exaggerated the negatives. For example, California is projected to get 1.5 more cars per minute, yet most of the people were saying "OMG!!!!!! That's almost 100 cars an hour!" without figuring out that 100 more cars an hour is less than a 10% increase and would likely not even be noticed by the average person.

In regards to the larger buildings - there are dozens of vacant spots in existing buildings now, as well as all sorts of surface uses that would likely be rebuilt long before other buildings (car lots, gas stations, etc). Their concerns were the usual buzzwords - Manhattanization and gentrification, without any description on how they thought they would be hurt.

Matt Fisher said...

BRT is a real form of rapid transit when compared to a slow local bus, but I hate defining "BRT" as being any non local bus in mixed traffic 100% of the time. I wish there was rail on Geary, but as they say, "Welcome to the real world". After all, it can't come cheap.

Pan, I'm sure your idea of rapid transit is a subway, which I would ultimately like to see, but are you being deferential to BRT on Geary?

Matt Fisher said...

Oh, another thing: I'd attach to this Van Ness and the route of the AC Transit BRT project in the East Bay. Obviously, I would prefer rail over buses for these, but again, same idea... the money just isn't there right now. ;-(

Jon said...

Imagine if they did ALRT like the Canada Line in Vancouver under Geary Boulevard... the Canada Line seemed to be built lightning fast and has most of the route underground including under downtown and under False Creek (the rest is elevated). The cost was $1.9 billion which seems quite cheap considering its all grade seperated and again mostly subway. Its opening almost 4 months early (apparently opening a week from today). And it will operate either at a profit or break even since it is automated and has no operators or station agents. The Canada Line runs about every 5 minutes and I believe during rush hour at 90 second headways. 25 minutes from both Richmond, BC and the airport to the end of the line in downtown Vancouver at the waterfront. I bet end to end down Geary a comparible line could operate the full length of the route in well under 20 minutes. The Canada Line is 11 miles long with 16 stations. Geary corridor is at most 7 miles long and would definitely have less than 16 stations. Can digging under downtown San Francisco and under Geary be much different than digging under downtown Vancouver and Cambie Street (plus under False Creek which is a pretty decent sixed waterway)? The 38 carries what 50-75,000/day? and takes a minimum of 50 minutes to go 6.5 miles (source wikipedia: muni). A line like the Canada Line is so the answer for the Geary corridor, it completely blows my mind that this a quality fast grade seperated solution is completely off the table.

Justin said...

Jon: The Canada Line is not ALRT. And many corners were cut to keep the budget at 2 Billion. There are single track portions in Richmond, a good chunk of the tunneling was done using Cut and cover to save money, and the platforms are quite short(40 metres).
Also, there is no guarantee that the line will generate profit. It hasn't even opened yet. Being automated does not automatically guarantee savings, and profit. You still need to maintain the automation system, and computers, and that requires highly specialized technicians. Turnstyles are going to be installed in 2010 for all stations. The supposed savings from lack of station agents can be easily lost from fare evasion, which is rampant in Vancouver. The Canada Line will NOT be operating at 90 seconds during rush hour. There isn't enough trains to operate that frequency of service.
The frequencies are: 6 min until 9:00 am, 9:00 to 6:00 4 min, 6:00 until 11:00P.m 6min, and 10min from 11:00 to end of service. Which is still pretty good.
I never understand the allure of 90 sec. You can achieve that easily without automation. Heck, a tramline in Budapest operates at around 90 seconds with 54 metre long trams! The Canada Line isn't the great metro that everyone thinks it is. Lots of corners were cut to build this line.
I do not know if it is true, but since the contract for revenue does not start until August 31th(When the line was originally supposed to open), the private operator would pocket all fare revenue from August 18th to the 13st. Pretty sneaky, if it's true.

Jon said...

ok its not 'ALRT' but its something very close to it. I dont dispute there are some flaws with the canada line but imagine if with all its strengths and weaknesses you had the canada line running under geary in SF.

i dont know if it will make a profit but its expenses will be lower since it doesnt have someone making $25/hour plus benefits on every train that you run. and of course the faster it is the fewer trains you need to run anyway. hell for the geary line for its relatively short length and at maybe 10 minute headways, you probably wouldnt need to run more than 4 trains at a time in service especially if you went for longer trains than those on the canada line. (yes i realize that would then mean longer platforms).

ok so i was wrong the canada line wont run that frequently but i do know one of the skytrain rail lines in vancouver, possibly it was the expo line, is designed to be able to run at 90 sec headways. my whole point is they built a relatively inexpensive grade seperated rail transit line in a corridor that is somewhat comparible to geary.

Justin said...

A line running every 6 minutes on average is not going to incur a large operating expense with drivers.
Considering that you are going to have to pay for specialized technicians to maintain the automation systems, and trains, I would argue the operating cost savings would not be significant for an automated line with such low frequencies. The higher capital costs will most likely offset any savings anyways.
Automation works well for lines with huge ridership, and high frequencies, such as RATP's Line 1.
I just looked at the BRT plans, and I think BRT will work just fine on Geary.

Matt Fisher said...

Yes. I don't like BRT being used as a substitute, and I'm quite worried about this, since no places have really converted to rail their busways yet. But on the other hand, rail costs a fortune and takes longer to implement than BRT, so BRT on Geary is at least a pragmatic solution in the short term. And at least it will eventually be rail.

In fact, I feel BRT would not be a bad idea in New York City for the short term, either. BRT is "better than nothing". But don't tell us it is better than any rail mode. I'm not seeking to wage "mode wars". At the very least, BRT can provide needed transit improvements in the short term in corridors that need them very badly.

This is from somebody living in Ottawa, who has now become less trustful of the Transitway and arguments by proponents of BRT, rapid bus, whatever. At least the rapid bus is better than nothing.

Justin said...

I am reading the Geary BRT Study, and apparently the busways will be built "rail ready."
What is really meant by that, I have no idea.

Alon Levy said...

no places have really converted to rail their busways yet.

What do you think the 1920s- and 30s-era subway lines in Queens and Eastern Brooklyn replaced - horses?

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

Oh come on Alon, don't be so literal. :) And those horsecart lines weren't dedicated busways. I was told by a consultant that works on BRT and LRT that conversion will never happen. I don't know how true that is given Curitiba's recent subway foray but it won't be anytime in the 30 years after the busway is constructed that's for sure.

Alon Levy said...

Meh. The way it worked in prewar New York was, first they put buses; then, when ridership justified it, they put trolleybuses; then streetcars; and then subways or els.

The Geary Corridor is busy enough that it can go straight to subway, but everywhere else, it'd be best to electrify first and see which corridors justify more investment.

Justin said...

"Meh. The way it worked in prewar New York was, first they put buses; then, when ridership justified it, they put trolleybuses; then streetcars; and then subways or els.

It's makes so much sense. Build what the demand warrants. Too bad, people would rather build subways everywhere, and design systems that are so expensive, no one wants to pay for it.

Matt Fisher said...

I don't tend to think BRT is a good idea. It appears rather bad to me. Especially since I don't eat at KFC anymore. Too damn greasy.