Sunday, May 31, 2009
One of the things that we found out BART does better than anyone else is releasing thier real time data into space. Anyone can have access to it which is rare for transit agencies to be that transparent. Kudos to the team there for such excellent foresight that other agencies don't even want to even think about.
This part happens all the time: A construction crew putting up an office building in the heart of Tysons Corner a few years ago hit a fiber optic cable no one knew was there. This part doesn't: Within moments, three black sport-utility vehicles drove up, a half-dozen men in suits jumped out and one said, "You just hit our line."H/T Ryan Avent via Twitter
"These lines are not cheap to move," Georgelas said. "They said, 'You owe us $300,000.' We said, 'Are you nuts?' " The charges just disappeared.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
What's interesting is that in order to keep costs down, they are going with a single track leaving the option for double track on the abandoned rail ROW between the closest Trax Station and the Sugarhouse district, a denser part of the city. In addition to this gem, there was a hint that mayors would be pushing congress to streamline the funding process for streetcar lines with Salt Lake Mayor Becker taking the charge.
In two weeks, Becker plans to sponsor a resolution at the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Providence, R.I., calling on Congress to streamline the funding process for streetcars nationwide. Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, already has placed a cash request for the Sugar House project.
"We're hoping," Becker said, "that Congress will accelerate the investments."
Recently Congressman Blumenaeur wrote a letter to Secretary LaHood asking for smaller investments to be made in ready to go streetcar projects around the country. In addition to Boise, I imagine the small Sugarhouse project would be one of the many that could apply for the proposed $25 million grant that would be requested.
Next week, Crapo and Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., will send a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood asking him to designate $300 million in federal stimulus money for streetcar projects like Boise's.Below is the alternatives analysis map from UTA showing potential development projects on the corridor as well as possible places for crossover sidings where streetcars will be able to pass on the single track.
What will be interesting to see is if they can keep in the $50 million target for the two mile route. If they do, it will hopefully push others to try and keep costs low.
H/T Ed Havens
Thursday, May 28, 2009
SFCTA, or TA throughout this post, has basically closed out all hope of getting new starts funding for a rail line instead opting for a process for which they already have one project in and which under the new administration is likely to get changed back into a streetcar fund with more projects that got pushed to BRT under Bushco likely to get hopped by rail projects such as the recently funded Portland Eastside Streetcar extension because of their livability component. The next administration isn't going to be looking for projects on cost effectiveness alone but rather on what that project contributes to the community. When we take a long hard look at each of the things we hold important below I think that we'll come away with a sense that this is a project that could be better and should take the high road instead of the current low one.
But you all know I have a bit of a bias. I like riding the rails and advocating the construction of lines I think are worthy, especially those that others seem to contend should be BRT lines or Bus Repackaged Transit but should really be rail. The TA has tried to lay down some reasons why they can't build rail but really it just comes out looking and sounding like a little kid saying "It's just too hard". Since when did something being hard have anything to do with doing what is right? No is not the right answer here. Kind of reminds me of the SF Chamber.
Now this isn't to say that I don't have multiple thoughts going through my head about this stance. For one thing, BRT on the surface and a BART subway might not be such a bad thing for Geary. But then again my thoughts on that have some, as SFCTA puts it, "fatal flaws" (who uses that type of framing and language for a transit report anyway? Apparently the TA). The biggest one being the Geary Merchants who in their own self interest have (Again, similar to Market) opposed any kind of rapid transit whether it be BRT or rail for fear of the construction effects . So if they let it happen once, what is the likelihood of them letting it get ripped up again? What is the likelihood of going back with more funds to an area that already got an improvement of any kind? Likely never. My hypothesis is that if rail doesn't get built on Geary this time or an agreement is reached to press regional agencies to push it to the front of their priorties, rail will not be constructed in the corridor where it makes the most sense out of any other in the city for another 40 years. Perhaps when I'm 70 they'll consider it. That is just not acceptable and I'll tell you why.
There are a number of things I believe are important considerations that we are leaving out of the discussion when we just think of this BRT line as a transportation project. In fact, that's the sick math that is done in every city around this country when considering transportation impacts. It's often siloed away from land use and the people themselves and its impacts on quality of life are not really considered. A five minute decrease in travel time from end to end doesn't really matter to average joe (a 20 minute decrease would) but what does matter to him is money in his pocket,clean air to breathe, and the ability to step off of transit at his destination every day without hating Muni, which is often the case when you read the twitter feed for Muni. It's usually followed by "sucks" or another complaint. Instead of being the ones that own the system, we the people are often seen as customers to be served with a place setting of whatever the waiters are looking to serve on that day. Don't like it, go to the other store. The problem here with public transit is, there is no other store, but in fact, we the tax payers own this store.
So as owners of this store, what are we getting in return? Are we getting 5 minutes reduction in travel time or are we getting a healthier environment, a return to the greater community, more money in our own pockets for spending? Let's look at what WE should get out of this.
1. Environmental Impact
The Geary line currently carries ~55,000 a day on a number of limited and local bus lines that run under the number 38. Because the TA report doesn't actually give us ridership estimates on the alternatives because BRT is a foregone conclusion in their minds, we have to somewhat guess. They do give a clue as to what the percentages are for ridership in the subareas (p14) along the corridor and they are pretty low to what they should be. 28% of trips non auto is really good for any other part of the country. But can you believe that 72% of trips in the Outer Richmond are still made by car!? 61% of trips on the corridor are to other areas within San Francisco. That should tell you something about people feeling that they need to take the car because transit and their neighborhood sidewalk won't do it for them.
But with center running BRT, the prediction is that there would be 3,400 new riders on the corridor(including taking from the 5 and other parrallel lines) by 2015 (p26). This seems like a rather small number if the service were to be so much better. But if we're looking through the lens of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and particulates, pulling from other corridors and increasing your ridership by such a minimal amount doesn't seem worth it when you're talking about continuing to run on diesel instead of electricity.
But its not just the lack of skyrocketing ridership. It's the lack of access that keeps the demand for increased density on the corridor depressed. With greater access to downtown you're actually shifting the market outwards to an area that can support greater density on the commercial parcels that make up parts of the Geary corridor. And while it might look like it's all packed up on the corridor there are lots of parking lots and parcels that can change with the right incentives while preserving the surrounding neighborhoods. But with the shift in the market comes another reduction in GHGs. As Ed Glaeser often states, with our rather temperate climate and lowered energy use, it's actually more efficient from an energy standpoint to have greater housing unit allocation to places such as Geary and Broadway in Oakland than more to Antioch and Livermore.
Concentrating more jobs on the corridor(perhaps by getting the base of a Geary metro through SoMa) and granting faster access through a metro only reduces this further. With an increase in population also increases the specific base needed for neighborhood retail and restaurants including grocery stores. I know personally that the grocery store/dinner run is one of the trips that I take more than others. Perhaps not as much as the work trip but still a considerable percentage of trip making.
2. Resident/Merchant Impact
Aside from the carbon savings that would come with not having to use your car for more trips out on the Geary Corridor, there would also be greater incentive to get rid of a car all together and use a car sharing service such as Zipcar. Many more residents getting rid of their cars and pooling into zip cars would be a realistic result of more efficient rapid transit. Not only does this reduction allow you to cut your carbon, you're also moving around $10,000 a year into your wallet from insurance companies, auto repair shops, and those evil oil companies.
Consider the increase in ridership discussed above for BRT. About 3,400 new riders for the BRT option. Since we don't have subway or Muni Metro numbers I don't want to speculate too much as to make you roll your eyes at my point but with a Subway, I would guess a rise of at least 10,000 riders. Now I feel as if that is being conservative. And it's likely that if you built a BART line under Geary you could get that many more very easily. So think about all the money those people are saving and all the money that pumps back into the local economy. It's not going offshore to some oil country or to that insurance company in another state. It is likely that a large percentage of it will stay on Geary boosting local merchants and giving the city what Joe Cotright called the Green Dividend. This dividend increases when there is greater walking, biking, biking and transit.
The money that isn't spent on the Green Dividend can also be spent on housing. We all think of subsidized housing in the sense of inclusionary zoning and fee based funds for affordable housing but with such a great number of people saving money through quality transit, this investment we make in the city also acts as a subsidy for more affordable housing. It doesn't necessarily open up the market and lower prices but it does allow a renter or first time buyer to meet a greater threshold for what is affordable to them on their income. If we are giving people quality access, we're allowing them to have choices in where they live that allow them access to work.
Let's not also forget the neighborhoods as well. Many residents could feel threatened by such an investment providing better access to their neighborhood. The access granted will increase property values and shift/increase demand up the corridor from closer to downtown where transit access is better. It will also bring more density which people often equate with more traffic. But if we look at places like Arlington County in the DC region which chose to build a Subway, they were able to protect the surrounding neighborhoods on the corridor by defining a strict zone for dense development. The pattern has also created almost no new traffic on many of the streets because people have such great access to services and a direct line downtown and to other parts of the corridor. In fact, 72% of people who use metro in the R-B corridor get there by walking.
3. Access to Jobs
There is also the issue of connecting citizens to jobs. The faster you can get them to jobs in other parts of the region on transit, the more likely they will be to use transit to get there. Much of this was addressed in a post on San Jose's BART to San Jose project and another post that featured a report by Strategic Economics that I'll post the most interesting information about below again:
A preliminary analysis of transit ridership by industry and occupation in Portland, Oregon indicates that fixed guideway transit connects to more diverse employment opportunities than local bus. An Entropy Index was used to measure the diversity of incomes for occupations in industries with the highest percentage of transit ridership in the region. Entropy index scores are stated as a decimal and the lower the number, the more concentrated the occupational and income mix within that industry.This means that the broader group of incomes that lives in the Richmond would likely have better access to jobs outside of San Francisco without having to drive their cars. The difference is made in the speed that would be attainable underground from this area rich with residents to areas outside of the city.
As Table 1 shows, industries with high percentages of bus ridership also tend to have low Entropy Index scores for an overall average of 0.54. For the most part, these were industries with a high percentage of low wage jobs. However, industries where workers use fixed guideway transit and/or bus and fixed guideway transit to get to work had a much greater diversity income diversity with an average index score of 0.89. This analysis demonstrates that fixed-guideway transit provides connectivity to jobs with different income opportunities, and possibly greater opportunities for advancement, while bus provides the best connectivity for workers in predominantly low-income industries with little opportunity for advancement.
4. City Fiscal Impact
Another reason for pushing for a subway would be the shifting of greater expense to the capital of this project rather than the corridor operations which as we all know around here tend to be stolen or used as an ATM machine. If this line is a Muni Metro subway, then operations costs on the corridor should go down with the allowance of 3-4 car trains. Two cars will not do it with the current fleet operating as we've seen from the recent data that shows the cost per passenger mile being higher for Muni Metro than the city buses.
With lower costs on the corridor than for buses or BRT, this should mean that more service can be obtained for less money. With BART you would likely see a similar finding but an even greater operational cost savings. In addition, greater density provides way to capture greater receipts from sales and property taxes for the city.
These are just a few of the reasons why I think we should start earlier rather than later on a Geary Subway. As I continued to write this ridiculously huge post (mad props to the Urbanophile who writes posts like this all the time), I started to think no one would read. Congrats if you got this far. I imagine that BRT on this corridor is a done deal because all the TA and everyone else for that matter is cared about is the up front costs instead of the long term value created by such an INVESTMENT. I'll have to get around to how I think we might be able to pay for this, and I have some ideas, but its definitely doable...hopefully before I turn 70. Let's stop neglecting the urban corridors in this region for the suburbs alone.
I was also going to go into the whole issue of how the TA's estimates for the current project are BS, how the BRT is underestimated and compared to a light rail line that they likely estimated based on reconstructing the whole street. But I'm not sure that's a detailed fight I want to get into right now. I'm sure it will come up later. My only comment today is that we need new people to do cost estimates and design these things, because it shouldn't cost this much to put back something that was there just 50 years ago.
Some fun reading:
Finally, my long term dream for the corridor which makes me think that BRT on the surface would be perhaps ok if we actually got a Subway from UC Berkeley to Geary.
I haven't quite gotten my head around Yonah's funding idea but check it out.
Shocker! Only 17% of downtown shoppers drive to San Francisco. Now can we stop playing the car game?
Tucson orders 7 cars from Oregon Iron Works. More American Made Streetcars! Boise might have an order in soon too.
Apparently the recession hasn't beaten down Charlotte's LRT too much. It might be that lunch crowd I saw when I was there.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Schuiling challenged the idea that land use changes are required to meet the state’s GHG reduction goals because the goal cannot be met by making cleaner vehicles, as the California Air Resources Board has suggested. “That is simply not true,” Schuiling said.But its not just transportation, it's building as well, but we need to look at this as a complete system. This singular focus on one method is somewhat maddening. I know there are a lot of people who are hoping for a magic green car or a magic green building but we're also forgetting our water usage and population growth among other things. We can't keep building lanes on our roads and we certainly can't keep growing out over all the farmland in the Central Valley or Napa. The best thing we can do is look for solutions to all these things and I feel that is compact development and transit options.
Now this is a demonstration of what is wrong with the federal process. It discourages transit agencies from seeking alternative sources of funding for a first line and ensures that lines will take a really really long time to build as the city waits for federal approval. An example I always give is the fact that the Seattle Streetcar (local funding) and Charlotte light rail line (federal funding) opened at approximately the same time in 2008. Yet Seattle began as an idea in 2005 and Charlotte before 1998.
Second is that a huge environmental document must be completed to build a streetcar for a street that once had a streetcar on it before it was ripped out. This seems arbitrary and un-necessary to me. If there is an environmentally sensitive area along the line then please do a study to make sure the impacts aren't great, but if we're talking about going down the center of a street, let's stop pretending like an environmental assessment is anything more than consultant money.
"China has risen to be the world's largest urban rail transit construction market," Jiao Tongshan, vice-chief of China Communications and Transportation Association, said at the conference. At present, 14 cities are building 46 urban rail lines, which total 1,212 km, he said.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
“Streetcar,” says Donohue. “It will make development in Over-the-Rhine happen. I think it’s cheaper than subsidizing every single unit in the neighborhood.”Now we all know that transportation investments create the impetus for investment in suburbs or cities. In the case of the streetcar, it will increase the pedestrian shed and create demand for greater density. But this comment seems out of whack to me. I can't quite place my finger on it but there is something not right about the inference that it might be an option to subsidize every unit explicitly. As if all urban development needs to be subsidized to happen. Maybe if they didn't have to build so much parking.
Hooper, an energy trader, said he would keep trying to “dog” Metro. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see it pop up on somebody else’s legislation in the dark of night,” he said Tuesday. Hooper said the Legislature “can take away Metro’s condemnation ability and their ability to tax people. I’m going to try to do all those things.”This is just a really shady way to do business. Christof, you really have your hands full down there...
Train station revival in Redlands. Wonder if ESRI has anything to do with this...
Peter Calthorpe is working in Toronto along the Subway extensions
Streetcar expansion in the Big Easy?
After the rocky start of the Music City Star Commuter Rail line, I'm really really surprised at this possible commuter rail expansion. It's in the long range plan but I thought long range meant 50 years.
I love love love when I can go on a trip and not set foot inside a taxi. Fortunately a lot more cities are connecting their airports to downtown with transit. I do wish more places would think harder about the long term implications of not having a station in the terminal such as in Dallas or Phoenix. Yeah it meant some tunneling but it makes things so much easier! I know there are a lot of people that hate the BART to the airport connection, but I love it and use it all the time. If you need to charge me more, go for it. USA Today runs the story on rail from airports.
Monday, May 25, 2009
Sunday, May 24, 2009
The restrictions mirror the rhetoric of rail critics, who say the location of the controversial University Line down Richmond and Westpark doesn’t conform to the referendum.Why is this El Paso Democrat trying to fight a battle that is already over? With all of the lines approved and the ridership estimates dependent on the whole system being constructed, this push against the University Line would effectively kill the system's expansion. While I'm sure that is what these folks intended, it shouldn't even be considered. Specifically because these critics are, as they always have, making things up.
The El Paso Democrat said they convinced him that the transit agency hadn’t complied with the referendum. He said he hadn’t talked with the agency, though, before adding the language. At issue is whether it’s lawful to build a line partially on Richmond when the ballot described it as being on Westpark.
Off the Kuff has more and urges those in the Houston area to contact Rep. Pickett to let him know what you think.
Update: The amendment has been removed.
Urban Transport has an interesting chart of Energy Consumption by sector.
Alan Pisarski decides to take on the affordability index. The PDF doesn't work, but you can get a gist of the findings and a rebuttal at Streetsblog, where Heritage kingpin Ron Utt has posted in the comments of Elana Schor's post.
It is odd that Elena was unable to get her question in during the 45 minute Q and A, especially as she was sitting next to me -- the meeting's host -- and I was handling the questions. Anyway, I'm excited about the exposure and soon we will be posting Alan's presentation so that her readers can make up their own minds.It's funny when Heritage folks think that Streetsblog is a forum where they can win friends after continueing to hate the basic premise behind it. Streets are for people. We must be making some headway if they are starting to complain about this stuff now. Good job Streetsblog.
More parking decks means more development downtown. Didn't you know that?
Jon Stewart is awesome.
Richard points out the Dutch form of accessibility planning that pushes zoning to follow the transportation infrastructure available.
Friday, May 22, 2009
Hitting back at the road socialism that the sprawlagists have been defending for years.
In a question-and-answer session following his remarks, Lahood expressed exasperation with the suggestion from some of his fellow Republicans that redirecting federal transportation money from highways to other modes of transportation amounted to government meddling in individual decisions.
"About everything we do around here is government intrusion into people's lives," he said.
About 150 of “riders” traveled the planned route, though this time it was by bus. The ride took us past 30 projects that are sprouting up from Mercado San Agustin, at West Congress and Avenida del Convento, to the Main Gate of the University. Rio Nuevo is indeed moving forward!
Thursday, May 21, 2009
CATS Cheif Keith Parker is leaving Charlotte for San Antonio (Why?). I wonder if its because they are going to do some rail building.
Can high speed rail really be called transit? And if not, is the transbay terminal a multimodal transit hub? Just a thought.
He not only lied about the bike numbers in his recent Newsweek column, he also doubled the cost in his head of the California HSR line. Apparently facts don't matter to George "Jean Shorts" Will.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
"We're seeing capitulation from the MTA," he added. "It doesn't matter if you have 1,000 or 10,000 advocates and a city charter that requires a transit first policy, if one grumpy merchant gives you the skunk eye, the whole thing gets set aside."Anyone else feel like tossing in the towel? When do we get leaders in this town that put moving people instead of cars first?
By the end of the first quarter 2009, the approved Chinese railway investment exceeds $292 billion including more than $175 billion investment in the process projects. The data shown in the recent “Research Report on the Investment in Chinese Railway Transport Industry, 2009” indicates that China plans to construct 40-thousand-kilometer railways with the total investments of over $730 billion by 2012.Is this real? Seems insane. I know they don't have to go through the environmental processes we do but that seems crazy. But if not, time to step up. Siemens AG will get a $1B train order while the United States sucks its Amtrak thumb.
Most demographic and market indicators suggest that growth and development across the country are moving away from the suburban and exurban fringe and toward center-cities and close-in suburbs.But why?
What's behind this shift? Empty-nesters don't need the big house and don't want to mow the big lawn. High gas prices are making long commutes less practical. The urban renaissance in big cities ranging from New York to Portland, Ore. — and the revival of charming, vibrant downtowns in small cities like Missoula, Mont. — is making the bedroom suburb and the strip mall seem positively dull.
Whatever the answer, a more general light-rail question should be presented to Vancouver voters, to cover all bases. There is no need for a vote on the new bridge itself (transportation infrastructure routinely is decided by transportation officials) or tolls (voters generally don't vote on user fees), but the light rail question is different. As we editorialized on Feb. 24, "Light-rail critics have complained loudly — and correctly — that people should be allowed to vote on the matter."Really? Why is light rail different? Why shouldn't transportation officials be allowed to decide about this transportation infrastructure? And why are critics the only reason to vote? I'm sure there are plenty of critics of the CRC. Why not let them vote as well if you really believe in such deep democracy. The answer is that the Columbian doesn't believe in anything except for the George Will doctrine. If its not a car, its not transportation.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
“I chose this location so that we could be right on the streetcar line. If you want to start looking at a return on investment, for the streetcar, then you can look at us. We’re going in here with the streetcar in mind,” says Rose.H/T Cincy Streetcar Blog
And more than a little ironic, seeing as Moses constructed his empire of roads and highways while serving for 26 years as the city’s Parks commissioner. One wonders what he would think of a Transportation commissioner who dismantled New York’s most famous street and turned it into a park.
Update: Just an advisory role. But now there's also word that Keith Parker of Charlotte might head to San Antonio. Magical jumping CEOs. Nat Ford, you next?
“Regional economies drive states, Georgia and Minnesota included,” Rybak said, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle. “Our governor clearly does not get the value of the cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul, which is ironic because they pay a disproportionate amount of the budget that he’s trying to balance.”Another interesting piece is the willingness of the region to give back for civic goods:
It was Minneapolis’ business and philanthropic sector that started the idea of the “5 percent club.” Companies and individuals pledge to give 5 percent of their pretax earnings to charity and to philanthropic causes. As a result, the cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul have an extraordinarily strong arts and cultural community with first-class facilities.
Look Georgie boy, if you want to waste your wealth on transforming that corn field into a single family home go ahead, but last time I checked, the Great Society Subway has created actual tangible wealth in the parts of DC it touches. So give me a break about freedom, especially when the freedom you espouse costs me more as a taxpayer than the "behavior modification" you're so fearful of.
Of the 32 percent of respondents who live in the suburbs, 51 percent said they wish their community had a wider variety of offerings.
The top three amenities desired include access to convenient public transportation (23 percent), a broad array of housing options (22 percent) and a more walkable environment (22 percent). More than half (52 percent) of suburban residents say they would move to a community that offered more of those characteristics.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
"And one of the things we're trying not to do is create a cookie cutter, where everything is exactly the same," Rae said. "It really needs to be designed around the local and state needs."I hope that doesn't mean we rid ourselves of standards that make all these lines interoperable. The last thing we need is BART like decisions which make the line so specialized that it becomes more expensive in the long run. I have a feeling it's the issue of different speeds being allowed. Though it would be nice if the FRA would stop being such morons on the issue of split rail operations and buff strength requirements for those vehicles. That's another post.
As a side note but not entirely unrelated, the Wall Street Journal ran a piece on how places like Portland and Austin are hitting a mid-life crisis. They are getting such a huge influx of past college folks that there just aren't enough jobs for them. But why are people moving there? What makes these places cool?
Friday, May 15, 2009
The suburbs won again. This does not bode well for real BART extensions (not just overpriced people movers) that would, you know, run in places where there are LOTS of people. (Ahem, Geary). I wonder if a majority on that board will ever get it. It's not likely.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
"Some of these deferred maintenance issues quickly become safety issues," Rogoff warned. He urged the senators to strike a balance between funding new public transit projects -- for which "it's a lot easier to garner enthusiasm" -- and repairing the already broken systems in major cities.I agree that we need to fix what we have, but we should be expanding rapid transit at a greater clip. "Striking a balance" to me means fund less. It's already hard enough to fund new transit and there's a huge backlog to the tune of $250 billion, possibly more. What we should be doing is be striking a better ballance between highway and alternative transportation funding, such as Congressman Oberstar is advocating with modal parity.
For the rest of you: what's your excuse? Why would you continue to rely on such wasteful and expensive transportation options — a label that applies to both cars and buses — when you could use the most efficient vehicle ever invented?First off, a bus is nowhere near as wasteful as a car, especially here in San Francisco where many of our transit lines are electric and powered by hydro plants as well as packed to the brim with riders. Second, while I really love the fog in San Francisco, it's like the humidity in Houston that uses moisture to boil you alive, but instead chills you to the bone. It's not hard to wonder on a cold rainy day why someone might want to have the option of taking Muni. Transportation should be multi-modal to give people options. If we start to think our mode is the best for everything, we're no better than highway engineers and the sprawlagists.
I understand that it was probably supposed to be a rhetorical question, but I'd like to think we're in this together against the car culture that keeps modes of more efficient transportation from thriving. Perhaps many cyclists share this feeling, that Muni is not needed, however I believe that would be a dangerous mistake to make, and bust up a winning coalition that seems to have cars on the ropes, even if we do suffer setbacks such as today's budget fail.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
When asked what he thinks about the fact that Muni riders are paying more than drivers in this budget (estimates say the ratio is 4 to 1), Newsom responded that's only true "when the budget is taken out of context" and argued that over the years "it's been fairly balanced."O RLY Now?
As with every other car driver, Gavin seems to forget that auto transportation has been funded above and beyond transit for so long that saying they are even over time is quite a stretch. Not to mention the stealing from Muni that's been going on lately. It's a double whammy to hit transit riders with higher fares when they are still getting screwed by single occupancy vehicles every day on San Francisco streets slowing down thier trip. Transit riders should get greater benefits for doing the right thing, not penalized. If motoring cost more and we actually had a balanced transportation system we might see more people using transit. In living here, I'm not at all surprised by Adron's finding at Transit Sleuth:
This report from the Federal Transit Administration shows some interesting information which I'll use in a coming blog entry. With that in mind I’ve posted it here. Portland is at #7 in this list, which amounts to TriMet basically. The really shocking thing though, is the massive drop off after the top 5. I also find it somewhat shocking how much lower San Francisco is than New York in trips per capita.I guess I'm not shocked. Most of the neighborhoods in San Francisco are served by buses with no real rapid transit spine. If we had a real Metro system such as Vienna or Barcelona has, we'd likely have ridiculously high ridership and less surface congestion for buses. I'd bet about a million people would take the subway every day if we had a real system. Not bad for a population of 700,000K give or take a few folks. Not to mention that would be virtually carbon free movement because of the Hydro power.
Sorry I got off on a bit of a tangent there but this is all to say that giving Muni riders a fare hike without asking drivers to share the burden of a tough budget time is highly autocentric (4x) and shows really how deep into the Emerald Aristocracy these folks go. The problem is that Gavin doesn't take Muni, so why should he care? Unfortunately, that's how it usually works.
Monday, May 11, 2009
How you plan your region will make a difference in its competitiveness for the future. While Atlanta might blow off Charlotte, I wouldn't be so quick to cast them off.
“We could’ve easily become a Knoxville, Greensboro or Richmond,” McCrory said. “Instead we compete, fortunately, with Denver, Dallas and Atlanta.”
Charlotte, the Queen City, maintains pretensions of one day surpassing Atlanta as economic King of the South. Sam Williams, head of Atlanta’s Chamber of Commerce, says dream on.
“We don’t really compete tooth-and-nail with Charlotte because the companies we go after (are) in the international trade, logistics and biomedical fields and they’re not looking to go to Charlotte,” he said. “Dallas, Tampa and northern Virginia — those are our consistent competitors.”
But some observers say recent missteps by Atlanta — over traffic, transit, water, the environment and politics — may enhance Charlotte’s position.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
As we've discussed on this list, only by switching from liquid fuels to non-motorized and electric transportation can we meet any of our energy independence or climate goals.
And only by reducing dependence on individual vehicles to a greater reliance on mass transportation can we transition to a nation of great cities and regions.
Here are some tools to think about in framing methods of getting there--
1. Local electric distribution utilities never lost the legal right to power electric transportation; all 50 states have a common method of enabling electric distribution utility financing of all or part of the necessary systems, which is a rate filing to help finance these systems. This offers opportunities for cities, transit operators, developers, metropolitan planning organizations and states to build new kinds of financing mechanisms to more systematically support local and regional surface transportation infrastructure. A similar case can be made for local governments and special service districts (which own and operate almost all of the nation's airports outside of NJ, MD, Alaska and HI) to partner with the electric utility industry to support the infrastructure necessary for inter-city high speed rail.
2. Deregulation of the electric utility industry has been a mixed bag, but in over a dozen states a fait accompli. So in a sense this is an opening to partner with contemporary holding companies too. These companies need to re-certify their "market-based" rate making authority every three years with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, another opening for the new administration to address potential urban consequences of energy and climate policies.
3. PUCHA was repealed in the 2005 Energy Policy Act ( one outcome has been at least 100 municipalization efforts, 20 successful, most recently Winter Park Fl, but the repeal also opens up the potential for other kinds of ownership too)
4. A national debate on the future shape and location and purposes of the electrical grid has started and needs an urban voice, no less than does the analogous debate about transportation infrastructure.
5. A push by leaders in the public accounting profession and in the investment community for more transparency in State and municipal accounting led to the creation of the Government Accounting Standards Board in 1984, and their rules on accounting for infrastructure investment, aka Statement 34, implemented from 1999 to present, lay a first-time basis for disclosure of the life-cycle costs associated with different types and patterns of major capital investments. More recently, a push for better state and local disclosure in the waning days of the Bush administration, has been taken up in the Senate and House Banking committees. This is a real opportunity to show well how the hidden assets of cities and urban places perform.
Lots of different people! The next question is how do they get to and from BART, and the answer is interesting. BART recently released a that releases data about who uses the system. I picked out some of what I feel is interesting data from the report:
1. The Majority of trips (88%) during peak hours were for work related trips. They break them out for mid day which is more even for other types of trips but certain stations have certain trip patterns such as shopping at Powell or medical at Rockridge and MacArthur.
2. 68% of BART riders have a car available to them and 21% of riders have parking available to them for free at their destination. However 42% of the folks who travel on BART only in the East Bay have access to free parking.
3. 58% of riders have been doing so for over a year.
4. What I found the most interesting, BART which was designed for the Automobile gets a large amount of car trips from home as the origin. Some places have less such as 18th Street which gets 81% of passengers from walking. 12% of people at Ashby bike to the station(Berkeley is full of more bikers to BART in general).
The reason the origin is interesting is the reason why the destination is interesting as well. The design of the system tells how it is being used. While designed for cars from the burbs, the areas that are urban get more walking trips. And the destinations are walking destinations too meaning that the more places we can connect with BART, the more people will take the line if close to employment. Also, if you have more urban stations, people use them for short trips.
5. BART Customers follow the makeup of the region in terms of income and ethnicity.
So there is much more information in there, but these were what I found most interesting. I think really it teaches us that we need to be intelligent in how we design systems. If we put more stations near destinations, more people will use the system.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
It looks like Austin has screwed itself yet again, this time by applying for federal funding to build rapid bus along the best corridor for light rail in the city. So if you live there don't expect anything that goes where lots of people go outside of downtown or riverside for perhaps another generation. I'm disappointed in it myself and it's getting harder to find a reason for me to ever move back. As bad as it is here in San Francisco (and it's pretty bad by international standards), it's way better than Austin, which for all its progressive action can't seem to shake the state off its back or get rid of the leaders at Cap Metro who are just begging for the transit agency to be dissolved. The bad PR is adding up. Just like the Oakland Airport Connector study by Transform, they call this street running bus BRT. Please stop. Either that or name it what it is, bus repackaged transit.
These lines look familiar?
Looks sorta like a certain transit plan we had in New Starts in 2001.
For a region who's been under the gun for spiking Fastracks costs they aren't doing themselves any favors asking for 39% and 28% for the Airport and Gold Line corridors. With Congressman Oberstar looking for modal parity, making highways and transit always pay the same share, it seems like only asking for this much match is silly. Now this might have something to do with the fact that you can only have one project at a time and currently they are funding the West corridor. Yet Houston has two corridors in currently which could get funding. Places like Utah have even made deals to get multiple lines funded. They shouldn't have to go at it mostly alone, just like the federal highways system, these lines are of utmost importance to regional productivity. It seems like they should get thier due as well.
It's also funny how the new starts report never seems up to date even when it comes out. With Sunrail "not quite dead yet" and the Silver Line III tunnel dead things seem to be decided pretty fast. In any event, I'm sure I'll have more things to talk about with this report but just wanted to share my initial reactions.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
We mentioned to Adams that the 71-year-old Bates was going even further: The Berkley mayor has traded in his 2001 Volvo for a transit pass and walking shoes. "Seriously?" Adams said. "He's really doing that? No driving at all?" None.
Adams paused, obviously feeling out-maneuvered in the race to become America's greenest mayor. "How big is Berkeley?" he asked. "Because Portland is 143 square miles?"With a chuckle, he relented. "OK," he said, "I'll take his challenge for one month."
Wha?! Who in their right mind would take that challenge? Oh perhaps someone who is not a member of the Emerald Aristocracy. Many people here in San Francisco talk a green game, but can they back it up? Plug in hybrids aren't going to cut it in this race. You gotta do more.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Thankfully, Metro had the foresight and built the Orange line to Light Rail Spec, so that in the future it will be relatively easy to convert it from bus to rail. All we need is the support of the people in the valley and its done.
I also believe Metro used state funds earmarked for rail projects when constructing the orange line, and there is a mandate that the corridor must be converted to rail by 2015 or metro must pay back the funds. We might see the conversion start within the next couple years, especially with Valleyites being choked in traffic and their envy of trendy urban/suburban communities like Culver City and Santa Monica getting rail and them being snuffed by metro.
I thought to myself, this seems a little strange. Can't be true. But check out Kimberleigh Richards post and got to her page on Prop 108.
Specifically, §2701.06 reads (again, emphasis mine): The money in the fund, upon appropriation by the Legislature, shall be available, without regard to fiscal years, for acquisition of rights-of-way, capital expenditures, and acquisition of rolling stock for intercity rail, passenger rail, and urban rail transit and for capital improvements which directly support rail transportation, including exclusive busways which are converted within 10 years after completion of construction into rail lines, grade separations to enhance rail passenger service, and multimodal terminals.Part of the deal seems to be that the MTA needs to pay back money to the state that was used to buy the ROW if its not rail in 10 years. How much is this?
This obligation was acknowledged by then-CEO Franklin White in his October 21, 1994 memo to the MTA board of directors in which he responded to questions raised at the October 13 Planning and Programming Committee meeting:
Question: Does the MTA incur any financial loss if it does not build a rail project along this line?
Response: MTA ... has an obligation to pay the State of California $44.8 million in the event that it does not proceed with a passenger rail project on the SP right-of-way, unless CTC agrees to waive such repayment.
As of the end of 2007, the "then-present value" of the original $44.8 million was $67.4 million; if the inflation rate remains approximately the same, by October 30, 2015 (the tenth anniversary of the Orange Line beginning passenger service) it will be $83.1 million. While no one can say for certain whether or not the CTC would waive the repayment (which would presumably come due on that date, based on the Prop 108 language), the state's budget problems in the intervening years seems to predict that they would.
Very interesting. I wonder if this would actually happen or if its just a law that is not enforceable. I'm assuming that they would not make MTA pay it back. But who knows. Anyone know more about this?
Netherlands has been building a intercity light rail network for the past years, reusing previous sections of tram lines, metros and heavy rail and extending them with new sections of elevated rail and tunnels. The RandstadRail currently operates on the southern region of the “round city”, namely connecting the Hague to its suburbs and Rotterdam.Check out the photos at the link. I think it's a great idea to have regional railways that turn more into light rail in city centers. This is what Austin would have had to a certain degree with the first light rail proposal in 2000. A light rail line with limited stops in the burbs with greater connectivity in the center city.
Your "tax" dollars at work. Why can't we keep it at home?
Prepared by the Emirate’s Department of Transport, with assistance from Mott MacDonald and Steer Davis Gleave, the master plan aims to create a comprehensive public transport network connecting Abu Dhabi island and the international airport with the UAE’s planned new capital city. The main proposals include:
- 590 km of regional high speed railway linking Abu Dhabi with neighbouring emirates and countries;
- 130 km of metro lines linking key areas in Abu Dhabi, including the airport, the new capital city, Yas Island and the central business zone;
- 30 tram projects in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain totalling 340 km;
- highway improvements totalling 1 560 route-km;
- demand management measures to support the infrastructure, including parking management and possible congestion charges.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
I still like this commercial from Madrid much more... if you're trying to sell a lifestyle, this seems to be a better way.
Monday, May 4, 2009
“Why not invest in the light rail system as the community has been asking for 20 years,” said Robert Terrell, a member of the Washington Street Corridor Coalition, a group of organizations that have been fighting to replace a segment of the Orange Line that was removed in the 1980s.Sound familiar San Francisco??? Oh yes. The Geary Subway that was promised after the B Geary line was ripped out is going to be a BRT line now as well. Will we ever learn?
Apparently the TA really likes BRT on Geary. Whatever. After riding the bus on the HOV/BRT lane from LAX to Union Station I realized why the rubber tires just don't cut it. I couldn't read the news on my Iphone without getting seriously ill. I feel bad for the people who will have to ride that bouncefest in from the Richmond every morning. Sure it will be a faster bouncefest, but a bouncefest nonetheless.
The next sick part though, the completely ridiculous cost estimate of $5 billion dollars for surface subway. If it really does cost $100 million a mile and it's a ~6.5 mile line with ~2 miles of subway, why the hell would 2 miles cost $4+ billion dollars???!!! And why does it cost $100 million a mile on the surface? It's not like the T-Third with drawbridge retrofits. Someone at the TA is a little too close to those medical hash dispensaries. Plz to have new engineers!!!
I guess it really doesn't matter. The Richmond is never going to get a Metro, BART or otherwise. I'm sorry guys, you've been deemed second class citizens to the TA and Muni. Well maybe third class, because everyone who rides Muni is already second class.
And we wonder why a ton of suburban roads get built?
The city of Charlotte has 75 percent of Mecklenburg's population, but only has 1 of 9 voting members on the MTC.~~~
I think we need new engineers in the bay area. All these cost estimates are insane. The airport connector is just another example of it. If there is one place I would like to see intelligent design, it's here. And 80 foot buses? Come on Transform, you know thats not possible. The Orange line had to get special permission from Caltrans to run 65 footers, just five feet longer than the usual artics.
If Microsoft wants a light rail extension so bad, why can't they pay for it. It's thier own fault that they located so far away from the center of the region. Job sprawl has consequences, one of them being high capital cost for extensions. Papa Gates should foot the bill for this one.
Does the Peninsula want to pay for a tunnel? I'd be interested in seeing a poll on the issue of a tunnel. I wonder if the NIMBY's would get rejected for thier high cost plans.
Sunday, May 3, 2009
Here's the new Devil's Slide bypass:
A shot of the Outer Parts of the City looking North Northwest:
Towards downtown over the Mission:
Kind of strange downtown shot. The light in all of these is a bit on the blue side.
Del Mar Station is the one where the train goes underneath the Apartments designed by Moule Polyzoides.
Pasadena Cares about Alternative Transportation and Health
Hot Day at Mission Meridian Station, could have used some Ice Cream from this place:
Connectivity to the bus is key...
Anyone wonder why they need a subway on Wilshire?
Finally, there are a few videos. Two from Del Mar and one from the Police car that they kept running while they were checking tickets on the Mission Station Platform. What a waste of taxpayer dollars!!!
Every time I go somewhere I'll try to get out and visit people and places. In this instance, I took out in Downtown Minneapolis and along the Gold Line in LA. Here's some highlights. If you want to check out all the pictures, go to the flickr feed for Transit Nerds.
First here are some shots in Minneapolis:
Dental Offices on the Light Rail Line seem to appreciate that fact.
The Post Office was Art Deco, and very photogenic. Yes that's me in the reflection. Cool huh?
The New I-35 Bridge
Mill City Development with cool exterior elevator
Obligatory LRV photo
The next posts will be Los Angeles and Aerials.
But supporters of the Portland expansion as well as transit advocates nationally said that making the announcement so early in the new administration and allowing the Portland project to leap over other projects sends an unmistakable message of federal support for transit.It's interesting to see how the cost-effectiveness measure will be used by the Obama FTA. Considering the problem is that there isn't enough money for all projects, there will have to be a way to figure out which projects deserve funding and which don't. Will it be now the lack of livability planning with transit?
Wyden and DeFazio, both Democrats, were more direct.
"The real answer is, elections matter," Wyden said. "The priorities are different now, and they are very much more in tune with the needs of the people of Portland."
DeFazio agreed. "The Bush administration had set up a black box test that no streetcar proposal would have ever been able to pass," he said. "They were not following the law, and this administration is."