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Posts from the "BART" Category

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This Weekend’s Traffic Frenzy: A Success for Sustainable Transportation?

The SFMTA created a temporary separated bike lane on the Embarcadero this weekend. Photo: SFBC/Flickr

This weekend’s massive convergence of events saw possibly one of SF’s largest influxes of travelers ever. And by many accounts, the city’s efforts to get visitors to come by transit, foot, and bike were largely a success.

No doubt, transit riders were packed: BART saw 319,484 riders on Saturday, blowing its previous weekend ridership record of 278,586 out of the water. SFMTA officials estimated Muni took on an extra 100,000 to 135,000 extra riders each day, according to the Chronicle.

The bike counter on Fell Street counted a record 4,000 bikes on Saturday. Image via SFMTA's Livable Streets Facebook page

The surge of bicycle traffic “Wiggling” it to the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival also broke the single-day ridership record for the SFMTA’s bicycle counter on Fell Street, which counted 4,000 bikes on Saturday.

Meanwhile, a Mercury News headline read, ”traffic woes [went] mostly unrealized” throughout the Bay Area.

Around the Embarcadero, the SFMTA tested out some of the strategies in the People Plan, which is aimed at facilitating car-free travel to the America’s Cup yacht races. The agency set aside a widened, physically separated area for pedestrians and bicyclists on the Embarcadero in the northbound direction. That allowed planners to test out the impacts of removing a traffic lane to inform plans for improvements during the main races next year, as well as any possible permanent changes further down the road.

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BART Survey: Promising Findings for Lifting the Rush-Hour Bike Ban

BART released results Friday from its survey of riders’ attitudes toward the pilot program that lifted the rush-hour ban on bikes each Friday in August. Although BART and media reports have called the findings “split” and “varied,” the responses in some key areas look promising.

The vast majority of the more than 7,500 respondents felt that lifting the ban had little or no impact on their commute. As BART board member Robert Raburn put it to the Chronicle: “Many of the passengers just shrugged it off and said, ‘What’s the difference?’”

Here are the survey highlights, as summed up in a statement from BART:

Findings tending to support eliminating the blackouts included:

  • 90% of respondents aware of the pilot who rode during the commute reported they did not personally experience any problems related to it. (Of the 10% who did experience problems, the most commonly cited problems were bikes blocking aisles, doorways and seats; bikes entering crowded trains; and bikes running into or brushing up against people.)
  • When asked if lifting the blackout would impact their likelihood to ride BART, 25% said they would be more likely to ride. (10% would be less likely to ride and 66% would be equally as likely to ride.) “Interestingly, almost half the respondents skipped this question, which could mean that they were not sure of the answer (unable to anticipate if they would change their behavior or simply thought allowing bikes would have no impact on their likelihood to ride BART)” the survey states.

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Bikes on BART, Day 1: All Signs Point to a Smooth Morning Commute

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With bikes let loose on this morning’s rush hour BART commute, all signs indicate that things went as smoothly — if not better — than usual. Our most recent search on the Twittersphere turns up not a single complaint, and reps from the East Bay and San Francisco Bicycle Coalitions, as well as BART, are reporting generally positive comments.

On a KQED radio forum this morning, East Bay Bike Coalition Executive Director Renee Rivera said one bike-to-BART commuter told her he had more room on his train, since he no longer had to compete with a backup of bike commuters that normally fills the cars up immediately after the end of the blackout period.

“He actually had an easier experience this morning,” she said. “It was less crowded, and it made me realize we’re actually distributing the bikes better throughout the system by allowing them during the commute hours.”

Whether you commute with or without a bike, be sure to let BART know how your trip goes as the pilot runs through four more Fridays.

Check out more photos from this morning on the SF Bike Coalition’s Flickr page, listen to the entire KQED forum here, and check out a video below just posted by BART.

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Advocates: Help Make BART’s Rush Hour “Bikes On Board” Pilot a Success

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[Update: BART released a video explaining the bikes-on-board rush hour pilot.]

BART announced a pilot last week to lift the ban on bikes aboard rush-hour trains each Friday in August. The news is cause for celebration among bike advocates, who are calling upon bike-toting passengers to help make the pilot a success by setting a good example with courteous behavior. If the pilot proves successful, BART could move toward removing more blackout periods.

“Today we have a chance to win full-time access, something we have been working on for years,” said East Bay Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Renee Rivera in a post last week explaining the etiquette for bringing bikes on board. Both the EBBC and the SF Bike Coalition are searching for volunteers to help inform BART riders about the upcoming pilot and monitor how it works.

BART staff will evaluate whether to expand or end the pilot based on “feedback from riders, both cyclists and non-cyclists, and an analysis of operational issues, such as the amount of time a train remains at each station to accommodate bicycle boarding,” the agency said in a statement.

Of course, the rest of BART’s rules will still apply: No bikes will be allowed on the first car of a train, and riders must still avoid blocking doors, squeezing onto crowded cars, and causing delays in any way.

“BART’s pilot project follows the lead of the New York subway. In New York, bikes are allowed, with the caveat for passengers to be courteous and to use common sense,” BART board member Robert Raburn said in a statement.

The pilot is a promising sign of BART’s commitment to implementing its new bike plan, which aims to double bike-to-BART ridership within ten years. Although BART management has long resisted reducing blackout periods, advocates and agency staff say there’s a more open attitude under the new general manager, Grace Crunican.

BART said any permanent lifting of blackout periods will have to be approved by its board of directors.

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Transbay Transit Center to Fill Downtown With People, Not Cars

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The new Transbay Transit Center is expected to transform San Francisco’s downtown core by focusing new development around a massive regional transit hub in eastern SoMa. Scheduled to open in 2017, it will link 11 transit systems and eventually CA High-Speed Rail. Some have called it the ”Grand Central of the West.”

Renderings via TransbayCenter.org

The SF Planning Commission last week approved an influx of high-density office and housing redevelopment, including the West Coast’s tallest skyscraper, in the neighborhood surrounding the new station at First and Mission Streets, known as the Transbay Center District. To ensure that new workers and residents come by transit, foot, and bike instead of clogging the streets with cars, the plan would make sweeping streetscape improvements and limit the amount of car parking in the area.

“This is going to be one of the best examples of transit-oriented development in the world,” said Gabriel Metcalf, executive director of the SF Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR). “We’re going to be putting in $4 billion in transit infrastructure and then putting our tallest buildings right on top of it. It’s going to be studied and emulated all over the world if we get this right.”

The hub, which replaces the old Transbay Terminal, would connect to transit systems in all nine Bay Area counties, including Muni, BART, AC Transit, SamTrans, and Golden Gate Transit. Caltrain would operate on an electrified system connecting directly to the station, thanks to a recently-approved plan to extend tracks from the 4th and King station. Caltrain would share those tracks with high-speed rail trains.

Streets within the plan area — bounded by Market Street to the north, Steuart to the east, Folsom to the south, and just short of Third to the west — would be transformed with improvements for walking, bicycling, and surface transit.

Major streets — Mission, Howard, New Montgomery, Second, First, and Fremont Streets — would get wider sidewalks, road diets, transit lanes, and boarding islands. The planning department is also looking at creating a transit-only plaza on Mission between First and Fremont.

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Can BART’s Bike Plan Double Bike-to-Train Ridership in Ten Years?

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BART is updating its bicycle plan [PDF] and setting a new goal to double the rate of passengers who bike within ten years, largely by expanding secure parking and possibly relaxing its restrictions on bike access to trains and stations. The agency is asking the public to submit comments on the draft plan until May 27.

Bike parking at Embarcadero station. Photo via Oakland Local

Currently, four percent of passengers get to and from BART stations by bike. To bolster that rate, the agency is looking to roll out a targeted expansion of secure parking facilities, as well as reduce “blackout periods,” when bikes are banned on rush hour trains, and revisiting its ban on bikes on escalators. The agency even developed its own computer model, known as the Bike Investment Tool, to project the ridership increases derived from different types of upgrades at each station.

Overall, the plan has been widely praised: the SF Examiner called it a wise strategy to reduce emissions and “encourage smarter, denser growth around existing stations and new extensions” by reducing demand for car parking.

Bike advocates said they’re encouraged by the agency’s commitment to installing more secure bike parking, and that reducing blackout periods is also key to boosting ridership for those who need it. San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Leah Shahum said the organization “commends the BART leadership for stepping up their commitment to encouraging more bicycles on and to the BART stations. By implementing this new plan, BART is sure to draw even more new customers and lessen its overall cost per rider by encouraging more bike-transit trips replacing car-transit trips.” The SFBC is calling on members to urge BART staff to eliminate blackout periods.

Steve Beroldo, BART’s Bike Program manager, said staff is “going to look very hard at the blackout periods, see if there are some where we can narrow them down a little bit and do some experiments to see what’ll happen if more people are on board.” He and advocates noted that Grace Crunican, the agency’s new general manager, seems more willing to experiment with changes than previous management. BART also expects to roll out new train cars with more dedicated bike space in 2017.

Even with reduced blackout periods, space aboard trains will always be limited, said East Bay Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Renee Rivera, adding that the greatest barrier to “dramatically increasing the numbers of people accessing BART by bike” is the lack of “excellent, abundant, secure parking at the stations.”

“The surveys that BART has done show that half the people who bring their bikes on BART bring them on because of the lack of secure parking at the station,” Rivera said. As a model, she pointed to the wildly successful, valet-attended Berkley Bike Station outside Downtown Berkeley BART, and other rack installations inside paid areas. Oakland’s 19th Street BART station is also set to get a bike station within a year.

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Mapping a Fully Transit-Connected Bay Area

Brian Stokle's map envisions how the Bay Area region could possibly be connected by future transit projects -- some planned, some only envisioned -- including high-speed rail, BART extensions, and BRT lines. Image via The Atlantic Cities

Imagine the freedom of being able to hop on a nearby train or bus to reach virtually any place in the Bay Area (and beyond) on an integrated network of reliable transit.

That’s the vision cartographer Brian Stokle sought to lay out in a map featured in the latest issue of SPUR‘s monthly magazine, The Urbanist. In a recent article in The Atlantic Cities, Urbanist editor Allison Arieff says that the map, along with another map of existing regional transit that Stokle created, “have generated a lot of conversation (and some controversy) — which is exactly what they were meant to do”:

The majority of the projects, routes, and modes shown in Stokle’s proposed “Future” map (or some might argue, “Utopian”) reflect current Bay Area planning. However in some cases, the mode or route has been changed. In other instances, some new routes have been suggested. For example, BART to Livermore and Dumbarton Rail are two projects that are not included in this map. Instead, access to Livermore from BART is provided by bus rapid transit, and the Dumbarton corridor is served by rapid bus service. New projects that are not currently part of planning, or are in their early phases include projects like the Oakland Emeryville streetcar down Broadway, Capitol Corridor crossing at Vallejo, and 101 Rapid in the Peninsula.

Some ideas are old, some more novel. In San Francisco, the controversial Central Subway (now under construction) is shown extending all the way to Lombard and Van Ness to meet the coming BRT line, which is also extended to connect the Transbay Terminal to Marin County via the Golden Gate Bridge (where a BART line was fought off in the 60′s).

What would it take to bring a comprehensive vision like this into reality, and which projects could be feasibly built? Regional planners are currently figuring that out as they develop the Bay Area’s 25-year Sustainable Communities Strategy and Regional Transportation Plan. Next month, staff from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the Bay Area’s transportation financing agency, will present a list of the transit projects they determine to be the most beneficial and cost-effective to build in the coming years. Stay tuned to Streetsblog for more on that.

In the meantime, check out Stokle’s map of the existing regional transit network — one of SPUR’s ideas for saving transit – after the break.

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Six Ideas for Saving Bay Area Transit

[Editor's note: This article is re-published with permission from the transit-themed March issue of The Urbanist, the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association's (SPUR) monthly member magazine. The article, written by SPUR Regional Planning Director Egon Terplan, is based on a discussion paper developed by the SPUR Transportation Policy Board. Read the full paper at spur.org/tsp.]

Improving transit by changing financing, fares, speeds, metrics, territory and maps.

Every day, Bay Area residents and visitors take more than 1.4 million trips on one of 27 different public transit operators. But for more than a decade, the costs to operate these transit systems have been increasing far faster than any improvements in the service. Unless we make changes now, the system will not be sustainable in the future.

Regionwide, transit carries one in ten people to work. It costs more than $2.2 billion to run these 27 transit systems each year. More than $700 million comes from fares and $1.5 billion is a direct subsidy from a hodgepodge of sources (sales taxes, federal funds, state gas tax revenues). By looking out to 2035, these systems will face a combined $17 billion capital deficit and an $8 billion operating deficit.

In recent years, the costs of running these transit systems have increased far faster than inflation, even as ridership on some bus systems has declined. About 14,000 people work full time for the region’s public transit systems. Wages and fringe benefits account for more than three-quarters of the operating and maintenance costs of transit, and the cost of fringe benefits in particular is rising fast. At the same time, budget shortfalls, unpredictable revenues and service cuts are degrading the quality of public transportation. Transit systems face competition from an underpriced alternative — driving — and often operate in low-density and auto-oriented environments that are not conducive to growing ridership.

Unless there is some change to costs and revenues, with corresponding improvements in service, the viability of transit in the Bay Area is at risk. Recognizing this looming crisis, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), the regional agency that funds transportation, launched the Transit Sustainability Project (TSP).

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Dancers Bust Some Sweet Moves on Muni, BART

I thought we’d get you in the mood for the weekend by leaving you with this fun video via Muni Diaries. Isn’t it sweet? From the YouTube description:

This is a collaboration between Neverstop and YAK FILMS to remix an old school black and white dance video from the Underground in London into a new TURF style video in the San Francisco BART and MUNI systems. Music remixed by Sammy Bananas of Fool’s Gold Records.

I’m off to enjoy the blazing sun and redwoods on the Russian River. Have a great weekend!

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SPUR: How Will 1.7 Million More People Cross the Bay?

Crossing the Bay from SPUR on Vimeo.

SPUR has produced a new video that asks: How will 1.7 million more people cross the Bay? From the SPUR blog:

In the last century, visionary planners made major investments linking San Francisco and the East Bay. When the 20th century dawned, the only way to get from San Francisco to Oakland was by ferry. We built the Bay Bridge during the Great Depression and the BART tunnel in the early 1970s. It’s been nearly 40 years since then, and the Bay Area has grown by 2.7 million people. Yet we’ve added no new capacity. Even the new Bay Bridge, currently under construction, won’t help: It will be much more resilient to earthquakes, yet no bigger than the bridge it replaces.

SPUR’s first recommendation is to get more people on buses by building what would be a relatively cheap short-term solution: a contra-flow westbound bus lane on the Bay Bridge that would accommodate up to 10,000 new passengers an hour. Its second recommendation calls for incremental improvements to BART, including a better train control system along with trains that have more doors. The third is a long-term recommendation that would require big capital dollars: constructing a second transbay tube to boost BART’s capacity, and potentially accommodate high-speed rail.

The video is SPUR’s first entry into animation and video making. It’s a product of the organization’s 2009 project and report, “The Future of Downtown,” which focused on reducing job sprawl and strategies to expand job growth in San Francisco’s transit-rich downtown. It argued that downtown SF, namely SoMa, has “by far the greatest near-term potential to accommodate regional employment growth with a low carbon footprint.”

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