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Posts from the Marin County Category


Muni’s 76x-Marin Headlands Express Service Begins This Weekend

Image: SFMTA

The 76-Marin Headlands, a lightly-used route that has the lowest on-time performance of any Muni line, will be converted into a new route starting tomorrow that is expected to improve reliability, run more frequently, and better serve popular destinations. The revamped line, dubbed the 76x-Marin Headlands Express, will also run on Saturdays in addition to the old schedule of Sundays and holidays.

The 76x is expected to shave 15 minutes off the run between downtown San Francisco and the Headlands, with 19 fewer stops. The route’s SF terminus will be moved from the Caltrain Station at 4th and King Streets to Market and Sutter Streets. On the other end, the line will extend three-quarters of a mile to the Point Bonita Lighthouse.

The line’s on-time performance has nowhere to go but up: It currently arrives at just 10 percent of its stops within the on-time window, defined as the period between one minute before the published arrival time and four minutes after. The overhaul of the line, approved by the SFMTA Board of Directors this month as part of the Muni Transit Effectiveness Project, should improve its reliability. Few people ride the 76, but this upgrade will help demonstrate the effectiveness of stop consolidation, a strategy that could improve performance on many more Muni lines.

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Raise Fees for Parking, Not Riding the Ferry

Ferry riders traveling to San Francisco may see rates rise. But the better solution might be to raise revenues by increasing parking rates. Photo: The Greater Marin

Like many transportation agencies across the country, the Golden Gate Bridge and Highway District is struggling with debt.

In order to help offset the $87 million poured into a road reconstruction, today GGBHD will debate whether to raise rates for ferry riders.

But there’s a better way, says David Edmondson of the Greater Marin blog: charge for parking, not riding the ferry.

As long as the parking lot is free, this is the wrong move for the District. Charging for parking would discourage driving to the ferry terminal and encourage people to bus or carpool, freeing some of the parking lot for mid-day ferry drivers, putting more people on buses and bikes, and perhaps even boosting, rather than suppressing, ferry ridership.

My very rough calculation, based on the findings of county-wide land values in the Tiburon Housing Element, places the parking lot’s market value at between $48 million and $55 million, assuming 45-unit-per-acre housing. If the land were leased from GGBHD, it would add around $1 million to $2 million per year of direct income, and around $1.3 million in new fare revenue, assuming transit is the primary mode of transportation for the residents. In all, it would equate to around 8% of the ferry’s cost.

Parking lot development [requires] long-term conceptual thinking. Tomorrow’s vote is just about whether to raise the fares of ferry riders, and the answer should be a firm no. Raising the price of parking would have a number of positive knock-on effects to commuting and parking patterns at both Sausalito and Larkspur by improving parking turnover availability for mid-day riders, while encouraging carpooling, biking, and busing, making more efficient use of the lots and the travel systems in place.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Pedestrian Observations looks at how the different geographic constituencies represented by Richard Florida, Joel Kotkin and Rick Santorum have shaped their respective philosophies. Carfree Days says Seattle’s neighborhood greenways program is helping meet the needs of an important category of cyclists: families. And N8than comments on the phenomena in which some cash-strapped places are returning asphalt roads to gravel.


Marin Cycling Booster Shifts Gears After 13 Years

Deb Hubsmith speaks to a large crowd celebrating the opening of the Cal Park tunnel.

Deb Hubsmith, a cycling zealot whose political savvy blazed many North Bay bike paths over the past 13 years, will step down as advocacy director for the Marin County Bicycle Coalition to focus on the national Safe Routes to School program she founded.

Hubsmith will remain an advisor to the Marin coalition while handing off most of her lobbying work in July to Andy Peri, who’s served on the group’s advocacy team for five years.

With bicycling growing rapidly in Marin — the number of weekday cyclists rose 135 percent during her tenure — Hubsmith said it was a good time to make a change in the local organization.

“At the national level, however, we’re struggling with a new Congress, many of whom are trying to eliminate bicycle and pedestrian funding,” she said in a statement. “It’s time for me to have an increased focus on national level policies.”

She expressed confidence her national work “will help bring more funding” for cycling facilities in Marin. Her efforts have already helped to bring $100 million in funding to Marin to build bikeways, tunnels and other projects.

As a founding board member, Hubsmith served as MCBC’s first executive director from 1998-2005, establishing the group’s position as an early leader in the national alternative transportation movement.

She championed the $27 million Cal Park tunnel project for 12 years. At its opening in December, she called it proof that “vision, tenacity and will can truly make miracles happen.”

She was also instrumental in securing $25 million in federal funding for Marin’s part of the Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program.

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Cyclist Outcry Forces Delay on GG Bridge Speed Limit Vote

Golden Gate Bridge District directors meet today. Photo: Tom Murphy

Golden Gate Bridge directors today tabled their staff’s surprise proposal for a 10 mph speed limit for bicycles after outraged cycling advocates denounced the plan as everything from a “half-baked idea” to a “solution in search of a problem.”

The bridge’s Building and Operating Committee received more than 60 complaints prior to the hearing, then heard another hour’s worth of criticism from several prominent bicycling organizations that were intentionally excluded from a year-long, $25,000 study of cycling safety.

“Creating controversy and outrage among cyclists is hardly the proper way to engage the community,” San Francisco Triathlon Club member Dino Piacentini told the committee. “I’m a little concerned about the anger and frustration in the community.”

After hearing concerns from the bicycle groups, and several more from district directors, the committee put off the vote indefinitely, directing its staff to work with the cycling community to refine the proposal, a process that is likely to take months.

While cyclists won a reprieve, they’ll still have to slow down on the bridge this summer. On May 9, the bridge will close its bike-only western sidewalks for four months of maintenance work, forcing thousands of daily cyclists to share the jammed eastern sidewalks with up to 10,000 pedestrians. Director Barbara Pahre suggested a need for an interim plan to deal with the crowding, but no ideas came forth.

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Cal Park Tunnel Opening Ceremony Sees Hundreds of Cyclists

Some of the first cyclists to ride through the tunnel after the ceremonial opening. Photos: Tom Murphy

Some of the first cyclists to ride through the tunnel after the ceremonial opening. Photos: Tom Murphy

Hundreds of joyous Marin County cyclists pedaled through the Cal Park Hill tunnel Friday afternoon as officials cut the ribbon on a $27 million holiday present that supporters hailed as a national model for green transportation.

The 124-year-old railroad tunnel, sealed after a fire in 1990, connects the Larkspur Ferry landing to San Rafael, trimming 10-15 minutes from the trip for the average cyclist. A separate, enclosed tube will allow light-rail trains to reach Larkspur when the SMART system is built years from now, the next step in what several speakers referred to as “the vision” for transportation.

“This is truly a testament for our vision of a multimodal transportation system for Marin County,” said San Rafael Mayor Al Boro. “It links bicycles, pedestrians, buses and passenger trains, ultimately with a choice of how they want to go to and from their destination.”

The striped bikeway features four video cameras, emergency phones, ventilation, LED lighting, cell service and fire alarms. In addition to the 1,106-foot tunnel, class 1 bike paths connect to Sir Francis Drake Blvd and Anderson Road, bringing the total length of the project to 1.1 miles. It will be open daily from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. with expectations of up to 800,000 riders per year.

“It’s such a world-class facility that it’s going to be a model for the nation,” said Deb Hubsmith, the advocacy director for the Marin County Bike Coalition (MCBC) who led a twelve-year grassroots campaign to reopen the tunnel.

“It’s taken all kinds of collaborations and agencies to bring it together,” she told Streetsblog in an interview. “It shows that vision, tenacity and will can truly make miracles happen.”

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Cal Park Tunnel Opening Today Culminates Nearly Two Decades of Planning

The Cal Park Tunnel as it looked in July. Photo: ## Poskanzer##

The Cal Park tunnel as it looked in July. Photo: Jeff Poskanzer

After 17 years of planning, the Cal Park tunnel will open to Marin County cyclists today, providing a shorter, safer route between San Rafael and the Larkspur Ferry for an estimated 800,000 riders a year.

The 1.1-mile project includes class 1 bike lanes to connect the 1,106-foot bore with Sir Francis Drake Boulevard on the south and Anderson Road in San Rafael. The bike tunnel itself is just 11 feet, 4 inches wide, but reflects state-of-the-art design that transformed the 124-year-old railroad tunnel into a 21st century model for green transportation.

“It has its own lights. It has its own ventilation system. It’s got its own fire alarm system,” said Erin Hohenshelt, a staff engineer for Jacobs Associates who has spent 11 months on the tunnel, which had degenerated into a crumbling cave filled with mud, rock and rotten timbers. Now, there’s even cell service.

In a real sense, the opening of the tunnel connects vision with reality for Patrick Seidler, president of Wilderness Trail Bikes and Transportation Alternatives for Marin. Seidler used to sneak rides on his Stingray through the tunnel when he was growing up in Marin. The tunnel was closed in 1990 after a fire started by drifters. But it wasn’t long before Seidler and others started talking about opening it for cyclists.

“In 1993, we published an article that laid out the vision for re-opening all the tunnels in Marin County with the old rail lines, because the rail lines provided direct connections throughout the county. The cities grew up around them,” he said. “Rail transportation really defined Marin County from 1884 to 1937 when the Golden Gate Bridge was built.”

He thinks today’s ribbon-cutting, scheduled for 3 p.m. on the tunnel’s southern end, will help others see the potential for using the old rail lines as transportation corridors.

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Cyclists Celebrate Reopening of Upper Conzelman Road in Marin Headlands

Photo: Tom Murphy

Project Headlands engineer Brian Dobling of the Federal Highway Administration was among the cyclists enjoying crystal clear views from the Marin Headlands on Saturday. Photo: Tom Murphy

Despite the threat of thunderstorms, scores of cyclists climbed the Marin Headlands on Saturday as the Golden Gate National Recreation Area celebrated the completion of the first year of a four-year effort to upgrade roads for cyclists, cars and pedestrians.

Only about 20 riders showed up for a 9 a.m. group ride, but dozens of others enjoyed the stunning vistas and fresh blacktop along fast-rising Conzelman Road as the chill gray morning morphed into a sunny autumn afternoon.

“Throughout the day, there’ve been hundreds,” said Project Headlands engineer Brian Dobling of the Federal Highway Administration, who was among those who rode up aptly named Hawk Hill.

“This is a heavily used for training by recreational cyclists and hard-core users,” he added. “There was a guy who stopped by here this morning who was on his fourth lap.”

FHWA is pumping $8.75 million into Phase 1 of the project, which will continue in February, forcing more peak-season shutdowns on some of Southern Marin’s most popular bikeways.

The work just completed included the addition of bike lanes along East Road; repaving of McCullough road, which crosses the saddle into Rodeo Valley; and resurfacing of the dramatic, one-way plunge from the Hawk Hill tunnel to Fort Barry and the old Nike missile site.

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Ride Will Celebrate Reopening of Upper Conzelman Road in Marin Headlands

The mother of all views of the Golden Gate Bridge has to be the ride up and over Conzelman Road on the Marin headlands west of the bridge.

On Saturday morning, cyclists get the first shot at a group ride – without cars – up Conzelman kicking off at 9 a.m.   The ride celebrates the reopening of Upper-Conzelman Road as part of the initial phase of construction improvements along the Marin Headlands.

“This is really to say thank you to the bicyclists who have been so patient and wonderful during construction in this popular riding area,” said Alexandra Picavet, spokeswoman for the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.  “We know many people love that ride.”

People will gather at 8:30 a.m. on the Northwest Bridge parking lot, where Conzelman intersects with Alexander Avenue at the north end of the bridge.   The park service will stop auto traffic at 9 a.m. to give bikes a 30 minute head start to shoot up to Hawk Hill overlook where there will be food, some free bike accessories and information booths about the next phase of improvement projects.

Keep in mind this ride is just as tough as ever, even with improvements.  It is steep and not for the novice rider trying their wheels for the first time.  The steep, single-lane downhill at Hawk Hill will give any newbie the shakes.

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Landscapers Used Banned Pesticide on New Marin County Bike Path

AlamedaDelPradoLanes.jpgPhoto: MCBC
Marin County's ribbon cutting and celebratory ride Monday in the Alameda del Prado bike lanes - a long-missing link in the county's North-South bikeway - was followed by the revelation that landscapers used a weedkiller banned under the county's strict pesticide law.

The $950,000 project closed a mile-long gap between Ignacio Boulevard and the Pacheco Pathway along Highway 101. About $850,000 of the funding came from a federal Non-motorized Transportation Pilot Program grant to the county.

"This is a project that's been needed by cyclists in the area for over 20 years," said Kim Baenisch, executive director of the Marin County Bike Coalition.

After the CalPark Tunnel renovation and Lincoln Hill pathway are completed this fall, cyclists in Marin will have an uninterrupted 10-mile bike path through some of the most congested areas of the county.

The project, which had been in the planning stage for over five years, was complex and expensive because it entailed narrowing of the median strip, undergrounding utility lines and paving bike lanes in each direction.

It was while replanting the median strip in June that a contractor, Baumann Landscaping, applied about 100 pounds of Ronstar G, a weedkiller that is banned from use on Marin County projects, according to a report Tuesday in the Marin Independent-Journal. The newspaper's plant sits at one end of the new bike path.

Ronstar G is widely used legally throughout California on both public and private lands, and is sold through home garden centers. However, in 1998, Marin County barred the use of pesticides on county projects that contain chemicals recognized by the federal EPA as a human carcinogen or possible human carcinogen. Ronstar G fall into that category.


Engineers Lay Out Costs of Reopening Alto Tunnel to Bicyclists

_1.jpgDeb Hubsmith of MCBC addressing Public Works Asst. Chief Craig Tackaberry (far left). Photo by Tom Murphy.
Addressing a crowd of more than 100 people Wednesday, engineers said it could cost $40 million to $52 million to reopen the crumbling 125-year-old railroad tunnel between Mill Valley and Corte Madera for cyclists.

The nearly half-mile-long Alto Tunnel was just one of three bike route improvement plans outlined in a newly released study, part of the Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program.

The other two routes are well known to any cyclists who've ridden north of Mill Valley. An existing path over Horse Hill skirts Highway 101 and twisty Camino Alto climbs 450 feet of hill above the tunnel and is a popular segment of weekend training loops for many riders. Improvements on these two routes would cost roughly $5 million each.

But some cyclists shy away from Camino Alto because of its narrow lanes, speeding cars and afternoon traffic jams.

Cyclists have dreamed of reopening the Alto Tunnel as the last barrier to a nearly flat connector between the two towns and a key link to a greenway stretching from the Golden Gate to Cloverdale.

The 16-foot-wide tunnel would link existing bike paths on both sides of the hill. Southern Pacific Railroad sealed the 2,172-foot passageway in 1971, dooming its redwood supports to rot in the stagnant, moist darkness. A cement plug filled 125-feet at one end in 1975 and in 1981 a southern portion collapsed, leaving engineers to guess at the true difficulty of reconstruction.