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Muni’s Sluggish 30-Stockton Finally Set to Get Greater Priority on the Streets

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Muni’s 30 buses should get some relief on Stockton Street. Photo: geekstinkbreath/Flickr

Muni’s notoriously sluggish 30-Stockton line is finally set to get some upgrades that will give buses higher priority on streets through the dense neighborhoods of Union Square, Chinatown, North Beach, and near Fisherman’s Wharf.

The plans, part of the SFMTA’s “Muni Forward” program, include transit-only lanes, bus bulb-outs and boarding islands, transit signal priority, and stop consolidation on Stockton, Kearny, and North Point Streets, as well as Columbus Avenue. On two street segments where traffic lanes are too narrow to fit buses, car parking and traffic lanes would be removed to provide more maneuvering space.

The 30, one of Muni’s slowest lines, averages a mere 3.6 mph between Market and Sutter Streets, according to a 2007 SF Chronicle article. Before leaving his position as a transportation reporter at the SF Examiner, Will Reisman raced the 30 at walking pace from Chinatown to Market – and won.

The 30-Stockton takes 11 minutes to travel the mile-and-a-half segment north of Market, according to Muni Forward manager Sean Kennedy. The SFMTA estimates that upgrades could speed up the ride through that segment by about 27 percent, and result in a more reliable ride for roughly 70,000 daily riders that use the 30, 45-Union, and 8x-Bayshore Express through there.

A smoother, faster ride would especially benefit transit-dependent residents of Chinatown, which has the city’s lowest rate of car ownership.

“It’s such an oversubscribed route,” said Cindy Wu, a community planner at the Chinatown Community Development Center. (Wu is rumored to be a top candidate for the mayoral appointment for the District 3 Supervisor seat vacated by David Chiu.) “Seniors and residents depend on it for everyday errands, whether it’s grocery shopping or going to the doctor.”

CCDC is “encouraged” by Muni’s proposals to improve surface transit, said Wu, and those are still necessary “even though the Central subway is coming in” to connect Chinatown, Union Square, and SoMa. The 30 and 45 lines have been on a one-block detour near Union Square for four years to accommodate subway construction.

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Court: Environmental Review for San Diego’s Highway-Happy Plan Inadequate

The California Court of Appeals yesterday confirmed a lower court ruling that the environmental impact report (EIR) for San Diego’s long-range regional transportation plan was inadequate. The EIR, said the court, underplayed the impact of the emissions that would result from its highway-building, sprawl-inducing plan.

SANDAG approved its regional transportation plan in October 2011. It was touted as the first transportation plan in CA to be completed under the auspices of S.B. 375, which mandates regional plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But critics charged that the plan contradicted state climate change policy by focusing on highway expansions, which would only reinforce regional car dependence and increase emissions. Several groups took it to court, including the Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club, and the Cleveland National Forest Foundation.

State Attorney General Kamala Harris later joined the suit. In 2012 a California Superior Court judge agreed with the plaintiffs, declaring that the EIR failed to acknowledge how the business-as-usual plan will increase greenhouse gas emissions.

The appellate decision says there are other problems with the environmental review. For example, highway expansions will increase pollution in nearby neighborhoods, but the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) “never connected the dots between that pollution and its public health impacts,” said Kevin Bundy, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity.

According to projections in the plan, emissions from land use and transportation would decrease until 2020, exceeding the targets set by S.B. 375. But after 2020, emissions would rise again, intersecting with the S.B. 375 targets somewhere around 2030.

“They acknowledged that in their environmental review,” said Bundy, “but what they didn’t acknowledge was that under state climate policy, and according to the best climate science, emissions have to go way down by 2050 — and stay down.”

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States That Ban Traffic Safety Cams Put Their Own Residents’ Lives at Risk

Speed cameras are credited with saving more than 15,000 lives over seven years in France. Image: Accident Analysis and Prevention

In Ohio, lawmakers are now poised to outlaw traffic safety cameras, needlessly obstructing efforts to save lives. Similar bills were taken up this year in statehouses in Iowa, South Dakota and Missouri. According to the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, 12 states have laws that forbid speed cameras under most circumstances.

If enacted, these laws will certainly end up costing a lot of innocent people their lives. A 2010 review of dozens of studies indicates that speed cameras always have a positive effect on street safety, typically reducing fatality rates by around 30 to 40 percent where they are installed. One of the most impressive case studies, on a national scale, is France.

Since the French government began its crackdown on speeding about a dozen ago, annual traffic fatalities have been reduced by more than half, from 7,242 in 2002 to 3,250 in 2013. That is more than double the rate of improvement in the United States over the same period. Researchers attribute a major portion of that reduction to the installation of about 3,000 speed cameras across the nation.

Following the adoption of a new set of street safety policies by President Jacques Chirac in 2002 — including stricter penalties for traffic violations — and the installation of cameras in 2003, enforcement of speeding increased dramatically, from about 100,000 tickets per month to about 500,000. About 87 percent of those citations were issued by cameras.

In a 2012 study in the Journal of Accident Analysis and Prevention, researchers set out to determine how many deaths and injuries were prevented by France’s wide-scale adoption of automated speed enforcement, developing statistical models to isolate the effect of the cameras. In the first two years following implementation, they estimate that speed cameras prevented 4,498 fatalities.

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Seattle Advocates Convince City to Make Major Avenue Safe for Biking

Roosevelt Way in Seattle is slated for a slew of safety improvements, including a protected bike lane. Image: The Urbanist

Roosevelt Way in Seattle is slated for a slew of safety improvements, including a protected bike lane. Map: The Urbanist

A crucial Seattle street is getting the protected bike lane treatment thanks to the hard work of local advocates.

Roosevelt Way is a direct and convenient bike route to get downtown, writes Scott Bonjukian at Network blog The Urbanist, but it also has a high rate of cyclist injuries. At first, a proposed redesign did not include a protected bikeway, but timely advocacy convinced the city to upgrade its plans, Bonjukian reports:

Roosevelt Way is a one-way southbound street with two drive lanes, two parking lanes, and a painted bike lane. The street carries bus routes and the speed limit is 30 mph. Roosevelt is one of the most dangerous streets for cyclists in the entire city; between 2007 and 2014, the street has seen at least 63 bike-car collisions. But Roosevelt Way is popular with bicyclists because it is the fastest and most direct route to Downtown via the University Bridge, which is one of only two Ship Canal crossings in the area.

University Greenways, a neighborhood group that advocates on bike and walking safety, examined the 30 percent design drawings (PDF) last month. (Disclosure: I am a volunteer with the group.) At that point, the project did not include a protected bike lane at all, despite the City’s Bicycle Master Plan designating the route for a buffered facility. The group also conducted a walking audit of the project area. In a letter to SDOT (PDF) and a guest post on Seattle Bike Blog, they highlighted a laundry list of problems that the City should focus on, and some of those are being addressed. Many new curb ramps and sidewalk bulbouts will be built at intersections to comply with ADA guidelines and to reduce crossing distances.

In a surprising response, the 60 percent design drawings (PDF) released this month shows SDOT will remove the right-side parking lane south of NE 45th Street (where the most bike-car collisions have been) and replace it with a 7-foot bike lane and 5-foot buffer with plastic, reflective bollards. Similar to the rapid construction of Downtown’s 2nd Avenue cycle track in September, SDOT is going above and beyond by creating this lane almost immediately instead of waiting until the full repaving next year. This is a great victory for bicyclists both in the neighborhood and citywide, and illustrates how grassroots efforts can influence the outcome of multi-million dollar projects.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Greater Greater Washington reports that Montgomery County, Maryland, is considering legislation to mandate safer design standards for all streets in urban areas. The City Fix explains why Brazil’s streets are getting a little safer, though they remain extremely dangerous compared to European countries. And Urban Milwaukee says that plans are progressing for that city’s long-awaited streetcar.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Muni Struggles to Improve Condition of Aging Metro Fleet Until New Trains Arrive (SFGate, SFBay)
  • Sean Parker Says He Funded Cars-First Prop L to Conduct a Poll (SFGate)
  • New SF Bicycle Coalition Video Features Business Owners Who Love Bike Lanes
  • SFMTA Explains Why NextBus Displays Sometimes Show “Ghost Buses” (Moving SF)
  • Water Taxi Operator Gets Larger Boat to Accommodate Growing Demand (NBC)
  • Mid-Market Named Dirtiest Stretch of Street in SF (SFGate)
  • Thanksgiving in Bay Area Expected to Bring Third Worst Holiday Traffic in Nation (Curbed SF)
  • Oakland Protesters Take Over I-580 After Ferguson Shooting Announcement (Oakland North, SFGate)
  • Riders Weigh in on BART’s New Oakland Airport Connector (Oakland North)
  • PTA: East-West El Camino Real BRT Should Be Paired With North-South Transit Improvements
  • Man Driving Wrong Way on Hwy 101 in Novato Hits and Kills Other Driver and Self (Marin IJ)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Officials Celebrate BART’s Shiny, Costly New Oakland Airport Connector

BART’s new Oakland Airport Connector at Coliseum Station. Photos: Melanie Curry

The ribbon was cut Friday on BART’s new $484 million Oakland Airport Connector, with a ceremony complete with the requisite speeches, live music, and even a raffle. Free rides were given to everyone who came.

The new cable-propelled system is elegant, clean, quiet, and relatively quick. But it’s also a shining example of how BART can misplace its funding priorities by building a new flyover train to serve relatively few passengers while neglecting — and increasing — the maintenance costs of the starved larger rail network, as transit advocates argued throughout the years it took to plan and build the OAC. Its $6 fare will leave everyday BART riders paying for the lion’s share of its operating costs of $18 to $21 per trip.

“Despite the obvious needs, BART has gone forward with seemingly thoughtless projects like the airport connector,” Joél Ramos, TransForm’s regional planning director. “I use the word ‘thoughtless’ because they didn’t give alternatives fair consideration. BART never seriously considered a system integrating dedicated bus lanes, something we know to be efficient and reliable.”

The $6 train trip from the Coliseum BART station to the airport costs twice the fare of the now-defunct AirBART bus, and almost three times the fare of AC Transit’s 73 bus route (an underpublicized airport connection). And it doesn’t include the fare to anywhere else on BART.

The OAC travels at a sedate 30 mph, taking about eight minutes to get from the Coliseum BART station to the Oakland airport, including a pause in the middle to switch cables. That stop seems long enough to take on passengers, but there’s no station there — just the green corrugated-iron wall of the cable wheelhouse. The lack of a station is just one of the train’s many missed opportunities.

Meanwhile, BART’s everyday riding experience is in decline, belying its image as a state-of-the-art rail system: Trains are overcrowded at peak hours, doors sometimes won’t open, lights won’t work, and other equipment failures lead to increasing tube-clogging delays.

At Friday’s celebratory ceremony, however, little mention was made of the downsides of diverting resources to the OAC at the expense of the larger system. Officials made speeches focusing on benefits like fewer car trips to the airport, an easier way for travelers to get to San Francisco, and increased transit service for the development planned around Coliseum BART Station.

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Why Aren’t American Bike-Share Systems Living Up to Their Potential?

U.S. bike-share systems, which tend not to have dense networks of stations, also tend to lag behind other bike-share systems on ridership. Graph: Institute for Transportation and Development Policy

As policy director at the New York City Department of Transportation from 2007 to June, 2014, Jon Orcutt shepherded the nation’s largest bike-share system through the earliest stages of planning, a wide-ranging public engagement process, and, last year, the rollout of hundreds of Citi Bike stations.

That makes Orcutt, formerly of Transportation Alternatives and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a leading U.S. expert on bike-share. In a recent exchange about what some cities are passing off as bike-share, Orcutt told he has some concerns about how bike-share systems are being rolled out in cities around the U.S. Intrigued, I asked him to elaborate in an interview.

Here’s what he had to say about what separates a successful bike-share system from one that’s not meeting its potential:

So you’ve come to some conclusions about how certain bike-shares are functioning?

They’re not my conclusions. There’s a fair amount of research out there now and you can see pretty clearly what some of the variables are. There’s a huge variation across cities, especially in the United States.

Can you summarize the research?

The most useful metric is rides per bike per day. You can compare a system with 600 bikes to 6,000 bikes in different size cities pretty easily. You just see, how many rides is it getting?

I’d say the breaking point internationally is about three-and-a-half or four rides. High performing systems are seeing four rides per day on average or more, and then there’s everybody else. A lot of them in the United States are under two.

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Congress Gives Itself More Free Parking Than Its Own Rules Allow

How much are these free parking spots worth? More than the $250 per month in tax-free parking benefits that Congress allows. Photo: JMT

As TransitCenter and the Frontier Group reported last week, the federal government pays a huge $7.3 billion subsidy to people who drive to work by making commuter parking expenses tax exempt. There are countless reasons for Congress to scrap this poorly-conceived, congestion-inducing subsidy. While policymakers consider the big picture, they also ought to examine how their own parking benefits are administered.

Here’s the short version: Congress is breaking its own law, and it’s shorting the Treasury hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, by providing free parking far in excess of the allowable limits.

USC 26 Section 132f of the tax code allows employers to provide each worker with up to $250 in free parking per month tax-free, which can add up to $3,000 in tax-free perks per employee each year. That’s a pretty big amount to pay people for exacerbating congestion, but the parking at the U.S. Capitol is worth significantly more than that.

It’s hard to know exactly how many free parking spaces we’re talking about. The Architect of the Capitol and relevant committees don’t like to talk about it, but Lydia DePillis reported in the Washington City Paper a few years ago that a plan for the southern part of the Capitol complex completed in 2005 shows that the House office buildings alone have 5,772 parking spaces assigned to them.

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Rochester Residents Add Their Own Bus Stop Seating

This "bus stop cube" was one of two tested recently in Rochester to help give bus riders a place to rest. Photo: Rochester Subway

Reconnect Rochester put out this “bus stop cube” to give riders a place to take a load off. Photo: Rochester Subway

Rochester residents are experimenting with a simple idea to make riding the bus a little more comfortable.

Mike Governale at Rochester Subway reports that a group called Reconnect Rochester is testing out two brightly colored “bus stop cubes” to give bus riders a place to rest at stops that currently have no seating. Governale went around interviewing bus riders at cube sites. Here’s what they had to say:

The volunteers at Reconnect Rochester recently tested a prototype bus stop seat shaped like a cube at two locations: The PriceRite at Dewey & Driving Park and N. Union St. at the Public Market. As the video above shows, the results were very positive.

These women [pictured above] had just finished shopping and were waiting for their #10 bus when they were introduced to the CUBE seat. One of the women said that when she’s waiting for her bus, sometimes her legs give out. And she says the bus stop cube is the perfect height for her. She said many of the standard benches throughout the city are actually too low for her to get up out of easily.

Reconnect Rochester also shot this video of live interviews with bus riders — the reviews were mostly good. The group is asking community members to pin spots on an interactive map to recommend future locations for cubes. They’re also seeking donations to support the project.

Elsewhere on the Streetsblog Network today: Bike Walk Lee says the principles outlined at the recent Vision Zero symposium in New York should help guide street safety efforts in Southwest Florida. I Bike TO asks whether Toronto should build bike infrastructure for “cyclists” or for people of all ages and abilities. And the Urbanophile weighs in on Tony Hsieh’s bid to transform downtown Las Vegas into a live-work neighborhood.

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Today’s Headlines

  • SFMTA Finishes Painting Market Street’s Transit-Only Lanes Red (SFBay)
  • More on the SFMTA Board’s Approval of Transit Signals and Bulb-Outs on Haight (HoodlineExaminer)
  • Charging Disabled Placard Holders for Parking Will Curb Abuse, C.W. Nevius Reminds Us (SFGate)
  • Does the Board of Supervisors Lack a Sense of Urgency on Making Streets Safer? (SFGate)
  • Businesses Are Using Smaller Delivery Vehicles, and Cities Like SF Stand to Benefit (CityLab)
  • Oakland Airport Connector Successfully Opens (SFGate, NBC, LAT, SFBay)
  • Speeding Oakland Driver Kills Two on Sidewalk (CBS); Woman Killed on Highway in Castro Valley (ABC)
  • Berkeley Mandates Gas Pump Stickers Warning of Air Pollution; SF Considering Them, Too (Oak Trib)
  • 3 Cities Consider Protected Bike Lanes on El Camino Real (PTA); Atherton Adopts Bike/Ped Plan (Alm)
  • Cyclelicious: Santa Clara County Groups Want to Use Transpo Tax Money for Better Transpo Options
  • SMART Gets Grant to Plan for Bike Parking at Stations (Marin IJ)
  • The Greater Marin’s David Edmonson: Transit-Oriented Development in Marin is Not a New Idea (MIJ)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA