Wednesday, September 19, 2007

We Need Subways, But How Will We Pay For Them?

Los Angeles
Now here's an idea, lets pay for transit lines like we used to, tie them to real estate. Obviously this isn't a way to pay for the whole line (unless zoning was lifted and there was a development free for all) but it should be considered for partial funding. It's possible that a development fund could be put together to fund stations, or private developers could bid to build high rises with the stations. I'm sure there are a lot of other innovative ways to create a TIF district. Maybe there could be a roof tax for every new unit along the line. Anyone have any innovative ideas for funding transit?

San Francisco
Speaking of subway dreams, Polk Street Blog reminds everyone that there will be a BRT planning session for Van Ness in San Francisco. I'm kind of upset that I'm going to miss it because I would have gone and raised some issues with the BRT scheme. This is one of the lines that I think should be a Subway and for two reasons(they both might fit into the same reason):

A. Van Ness is the main through street to get from 101 South to the Golden Gate Bridge. The street is already crowded and on many days traffic does not move an inch. I'm not asking for a freeway because that would be a dumb idea (one that almost happened). But taking away two lanes on the busiest North-South street in town for buses that will still get caught in cross traffic every block? Could ITS realistically keep up with that? There are 31 crossings from Fort Mason and Market street which is only 2 miles.

B. I want to get to the other side of the city in less than 45 minutes and I don't think that is possible on the surface streets. By other side of the city I mean 3 miles between my house(white dot) and the bar where I watch UT play football(Orange Dot) and my friends Mark and Ade live(Orange Circle). It's like I have to plan a day just to see them without driving my car. Taking the J to the 47/49 is a fun bumpy people watching experience, but I imagine I could cut this trip to 25 minutes with a subway which would make it about the same convenience as my car (more so because I don't have to park).

So zone up Van Ness and do it with TIF districts. Make the Van Ness/Geary/Subway to the Sea a state TIF project to see if it works. If it doesn't work as well as it should, well these are good projects that should be funded anyways, if it does work, it can act as a model for cities around the country who might want to build a subway line or extension.

I've made this map before but just so people can see what I'm talking about check out the map below. The blue line is BART, the Red lines are existing MUNI Metro lines. The red dashed lines are planned rail extensions and the yellow dashed lines are subway projects I wish would happen so I can eat dim sum on Geary or watch the UT games on Union without spending 2 hours on the bus and J.

Ridership on the largest bus lines in SF is in this article.


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