Save Muni’s Objectives for 2017

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(1) Rededicate itself to making extending Caltrain to the new Transbay Transit Center San Francisco’s Number One transportation improvement priority.

(2) Increase Muni’s speed, reliability and ridership.  Implement and enforce transit only lanes, at least during the morning peak commute period.  Raise Muni’s on-time performance to 85 % by 2020.  Restore comprehensive service to all neighborhoods and increase weekend and evening service by at least 15%.  Cap patron transfer wait times at one-half the headway of the least frequent line.

(3) Double the Market Street tunnel’s Muni Metro passenger-carrying capacity by taking the steps needed to operate 4 and 5 car trains in the subway, including modernizing the subway signaling system, developing a successful way of coupling and uncoupling rail cars at the portals and creating unimpeded LRV surface operations.

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Transportation Crisis in San Francisco

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In an article entitled “SF wants less car-friendly development ” (Examiner 11/29/16), Joshua Sabatini provides a nice summary of what the City’s transportation planners want to do to reduce traffic congestion in San Francisco.  The problem with their plans is that they won’t work.  What is being proposed is akin to trying to fly an airliner using just the ailerons.  (Not a good idea, especially if you’re in the airplane).  What’s currently in vogue in San Francisco illustrates what’s wrong with City Hall’s response to its growing transportation crisis.

Most transportation planning is left to people who are well-intentioned but inexperienced.   As a result the proposed solutions tend to be half-baked and over-simplified.

o   “San Franciscans drive too much; we must walk more”.  (Sounds good)

o  “The restraints on parking will ease traffic”.  (Given Lyft and Uber, how exactly does that work?)

o  “More people should ride Muni”.  (Unless Muni gets better, why would they?)

o  “We need more bicycle lanes”.  (Or is it more bicyclers?)

o  “Putting new development near transit and automating our cars will solve the problem”.  (Both actually add traffic)

All of the above warrant discussion and consideration.  But none comes even close to fully addressing the real problem.  If people are to leave their cars at home there will have to be non-automotive travel alternatives that work.  Here are five considerations that tend to get shoved under the rug:

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EIR’s and the Damage They Cause

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(Updated October 3, 2016)

In the middle part of the last century, brutally insensitive highway-building and other major projects were ripping California to shreds. If you’re too young to remember this, take a trip across the Bay and observe what Highways I-880, I-580, I-80, I-980 and 24 have done to Oakland.

In 1970, to protect California cities and countrysides from the wanton destruction being caused by highway-builders, destructive pubic developments and the industries of pollution, the State Legislature passed the California Environmental Quality Act.  In principle this made good sense.  The idea was that all attributes of a highway or other major project were to be described, publicized and evaluated ahead of time…..before the bulldozers arrived.

Unfortunately this spawned a whole new industry of eager Environmental Impact Report (EIR) planner/writers, too often unschooled in the complexities of major engineering enterprises. Despite being managed by technically-challenged planners, the EIR soon came to be regarded as a convenient place for finding all aspects of a conceptual design.  In the ensuing years this led to many major design errors and distortions of fact.  Reports were often poorly-organized, poorly-written, and full of irrelevancies and redundancy.  More importantly, key design elements such as surveys, geotechnical analyses, structural engineering, traffic counts, ridership projections, construction schedules and costs were and still are often buried among thousands of pages devoted to delineating and describing every conceivable environmental and other aspect of the candidate project.

Time has shown that an important specialty report buried in a two-thousand page EIR does not carry the same weight as a well-publicized, stand-alone document.  To make matters worse, such “specialty” work is often doled out to sub-consultants who lack the qualifications and experience to complete their assignments successfully.  The inevitable result of this careless approach to architectural and engineering aspects of major projects often includes major design mistakes, unrealistic schedules and unsupported “low-ball” cost estimates.  When combined with politicians anxious to sell a potentially unpopular project, the practice becomes doubly damaging.

In the past it was not this way.  Geotechnical reports, long recognized as vital to the success of projects, were prepared with care and given close attention.  Engineering firms had control over all elements of their engineering designs.  The checking of drawings and other design elements was rigorous and comprehensive.  Cost estimating was a careful and exacting process, geared to accurate results.  This disciplined approach is still used today….by competitive bid construction contractors, for whom guess work and carelessness would soon put them out of business.

When buried in EIRs, the subordinated but critically-important design, cost and scheduling elements of projects often do not receive the scrutiny, review and evaluation they deserve.

Muni K & M Line Changes – Rebutting the MTA’s Plan

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The SFMTA has been developing plans for the K and M Lines for many months.  Here is an alternative plan which, we think makes more sense:

Southwest of 15th Avenue, the K and M tracks would descend into subway and pass under the St. Francis Circle Intersection. Northeast of 15th Avenue the tracks would be unchanged.

After passing under St. Francis Circle the K-Line tracks would ascend to the surface in the median of Junipero Serra to join the existing tracks.

After passing under St. Francis Circle the M-Line tracks would remain depressed under Ocean Avenue and the northbound lanes of 19th Avenue, and then ascend to the surface in the median of 19th to join the existing tracks. (Or, if the SFMTA went ahead with proposals to eliminate the Winton stop, the line could remain in subway)

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Vote NO on Props J, K

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Prop J/K:  BAIT and SWITCH… 

Those behind san Francisco Props J & K have used the understandable desire on the part of many to aid the homeless to divert more than $100 million from cash-strapped city services to the SFMTA, a huge agency to which we have already given billions of dollars in sales taxes, bonds, fares, parking fees and fines.  For the following reasons, SaveMuni strongly opposes this deceptive set of local ballot measures.  Vote No on Props J and K:

  • Despite the State law requiring that tax raising measures pass with at least a 2/3rd vote, Prop K, because of its unique pairing with Prop J, would pass with only a simple majority vote.
  • Despite the fact that under State law it is illegal for a State proposition to cover more than one subject, the sponsors of Prop J have chosen to incorporate no less than four distinctly different subjects involving four different City departments.
  • Instead of more sales tax revenues to be wasted or otherwise misspent on vaguely-defined pet projects, there should be better management of the City’s bloated $9.6 billion annual budget, which already exceeds that of many states and small countries.
  • Despite San Francisco’s already-in-place $241 million a year homeless budget, its homelessness problem continues to expand and get worse. 
  • Despite the billions of dollars already spent on Muni “improvements” Muni’s average vehicle speed has dropped by 13%, it’s schedule adherence over the last year has hovered around a dismally low 60%, its per capita ridership has declined and San Francisco’s traffic congestion problems have gotten worse.  Yet only 12.6% of the Prop. J/K sales tax increase would go toward fixing Muni.

What San Francisco needs is smarter priority-setting and better decision-making, not more taxes.  Vote No on Props J and K. 

Transit First at Last

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SaveMuni has often been critical of the SFMTA. However this time it has earned our thanks and commendation. But first a little history.

On March 19, 1973, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors adopted one of the country’s first “transit-first” policies. In those days idea of “transit-first” was virtually unheard of. However to harried Muni riders whose jammed buses continually crept along in congestion, it sounded like manna from heaven. Henceforth Muni’s bus loads of people were to be given a higher priority on crowded city streets, and the riders cheered.

But nothing happened. Decades went by with little change on the clogged roadways where it was most needed. Continue Reading

RAB Discussion at CSFN

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On Tuesday June 19th, at a meeting of the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods (CSFN), San Francisco Planning Director John Rahaim and SaveMuni’s Gerald Cauthen presented the arguments for and against Mayor Edmund Lee’s “RAB Study” (which is geared to facilitating the full build-out of Mission Bay).   Mr. Rahaim believes that now is the time to look at Mission Bay in a comprehensive and long-term way.    He noted that he personally would not support any plan that delayed the downtown extension of Caltrain (DTX) for more than two years.

Mr. Cauthen stressed the importance of the DTX project and pointed out that 30 months of RAB planning have produced no definitive proposals, no cost estimates, no traffic counts and no hint of how many years or decades RAB would delay DTX.  Cauthen also questioned RAB’s desire to remove the north end of the I-280 freeway and asked that the streets destined to bear the brunt of 8 lanes of freeway traffic be identified.

A resolution currently before the CSFN would give RAB planners until September 15th to conform their plans to the DTX project as currently configured and aligned.

Driverless Cars Could Wreck Livable Cities

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Guest Editorial: Driverless Cars Could Wreck Livable Cities

By Jason Henderson

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A tweet by Jon Orcutt illustrates why driverless cars offer little towards sustainable cities.

Over the past year driverless cars have been promoted as a panacea for livable cities. The storyline is that driverless cars will help reduce car ownership, free-up urban space for walking and biking, and help reduce death and injury. The USDOT has joined the parade with its “smart city challenge,” awarding Columbus, Ohio a $40 million prize to implement a demonstration project that includes incorporating driverless cars.

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SaveMuni joins Warriors arena lawsuit

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From Business Wire:

Opponents of Warriors Proposed S.F. Arena Win Another Court Victory
Judge Rules Transit Advocacy Group Can Join Litigation Opposing Mission Bay Arena

Major Hearing on Mission Bay Alliance Lawsuits this Friday in S.F. Superior Court Against Warriors, City of San Francisco

June 15, 2016 02:11 PM Eastern Daylight Time
SAN FRANCISCO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–One of the leading San Francisco transit advocacy groups can join opponents of proposed Golden State Warriors Arena as a Plaintiff in the litigation to keep the arena out of Mission Bay, according to a ruling by San Francisco Superior Court Judge Garrett Wong.

“The ill-considered RAB proposals would dump tens of thousands of additional cars a day into vulnerable parts of San Francisco and add billions of tax-payer dollars to the cost of getting Caltrain into downtown San Francisco”

Judge Wong ruled Thursday that SaveMuni, a dedicated association of transit activists, environmentalists and neighborhood leaders, will be allowed to legally join the fight against the Golden State Warriors.

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Paratransit Roundup

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At SaveMuni’s May 16th meeting, SFMTA Paratransit Coordinator Jonathan Cheng briefed the group on San Francisco’s paratransit program and the services it provides.  The program operates for 365 days a year and is designed for people who do not have the ability to ride ordinary Muni buses.  It has 13,500 registered riders.  The SFMTA’s Paratransit program is comprised of “SF Access”, a “Shop Around” program and a taxi service.

1.)  “SF Access” takes ADA eligible riders to any destination within the Muni service area, but sometimes requires one or more transfers between vehicles. Riders must schedule their “SF Access” trips at least 24 hours in advance but can if they desire schedule their trip up to seven days in advance.  Approximately 87% of all “SF Access” trips are on-time. A trip is considered on time when the rider is picked up within the 20 minute window, which extends from 5 minute before and 15 minutes after the scheduled pick up time.

2.)  Group Shuttles:  There are also regularly scheduled group shuttles to certain designated facilities, which saves riders time and is often paid for by the facilities themselves. For instance a “Shop-A-Round” service takes elderly and disabled people to stores and helps them do their shopping.  The Shop-a-Round program is not federally mandated but is available to all (65+) seniors as well as to ADA eligible individuals with RTC cards

3.)  Taxi Service.  ADA eligible paratransit users are also provided with a limited amount of door-to-door taxi service every month.  Cab companies are not required to have handicapped-accessible vehicles, but do receive a $10 bonus per trip, and other incentives, for providing the service.  As with the other services, taxi drivers must be able to assist users in getting back and forth between the doors of their origins and destinations and the taxi.

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