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SFMTA Board Approves Contract for New Fleet of Muni Metro Trains

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A rendering of one of the new trains that Muni will purchase for its metro system. Image: SFMTA

The purchase of Muni’s next metro train fleet took a major step forward today as the SFMTA Board of Directors unanimously approved a manufacturing contract with Siemens.

Muni officials lauded the design of the new trains as far superior to the current, abysmally breakdown-prone fleet of light-rail vehicles, which were built by AnsaldoBreda. The fleet of 260 new trains will be manufactured by the German company Siemens at its Sacramento factory, and will roll out in phases starting at the end of 2016.

The contract approval “will put us on a structured, long-term course to take care of our most immediate and pressing service need right now — to fix the very heart of our transit service network,” said Muni Operations Director John Haley.

Muni metro riders can expect breakdowns to become much less common with the new fleet. The current Breda trains have a “mean distance between failure” rate of fewer than 5,000 miles, according to Haley, which means that they break down routinely. A city audit painted an even more dire picture, finding that Muni metro’s aging trains break down every 617 miles on average — far more often than any comparable transit system.

The Siemens trains have proven to break down every 59,000 miles in service elsewhere, more than double the minimum of 25,000 that Muni officials had set as a minimum for qualifying contract bidders. It’s also “more than twice around the equator,” said Haley.

As an example of the improvement of what Haley has called Breda’s “high-failure design,” the current trains have over 220 moving parts in the doors and raising steps alone. The Siemens trains have 20, Haley said.

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Sup. Kim Gives Warm Send-Off to SFMTA’s Seleta Reynolds, Headed to LA

Soon-to-be LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds speaks before the Board of Supervisors on July 8. Watch full video here, Reynolds’ item begins at 00:43.

For a quick preview of what Seleta Reynolds has to offer Los Angeles as the new chief of its Department of Transportation, watch this video of her commendation appearance before the San Francisco Board of Supervisors this week. Reynolds’ item begins at 00:43.

Supervisor Jane Kim, in a glowing speech, praised the departing San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency manager. Kim states, in part:

We will really miss your leadership, but mostly your passion advocating for residents here in San Francisco. And, we want to honor you today for the incredible groundwork that you have done that we will continue to push on to effect a culture change at the city level. Thank you for putting us on the map for pedestrian and bike safety.

Reynolds’ response includes:

I’ve been working on safety for pedestrians for 16 years. It’s really hard to compete with some of the cool, glamorous things that we have in transportation, things like bike share and cycle tracks and SFPark and smart signals, but I am so so thankful that pedestrian safety is finally getting its day.

Watch and listen to the full exchange starting at 00:43 here.

Seleta Reynolds was nominated by Mayor Garcetti to become General Manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation. She was recently confirmed by the City Council’s Transportation Committee and by the full Los Angeles City Council. She is expected to begin her tenure at LADOT on August 11.

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Bulb-Outs: Noe Valley’s Getting Them, Outer Balboa’s Got Them

Photo: SFMTA

Two business corridors are getting a boost from sidewalk bulb-outs: Balboa Street in the Outer Richmond recently had some finished, and 24th Street in Noe Valley will get them this fall.

The dozen-odd sidewalk extensions on outer Balboa were completed in May as part of a larger project under construction since last year that also includes a road diet and repaving. The SFMTA said that the switch, to two from four traffic lanes, both calmed traffic (as part of an area traffic calming plan) and provides wider lanes that Muni buses could actually fit in.

In April, Balboa also got a parklet, in front of Simple Pleasures Cafe at Balboa and 35th Avenue. The parklet is the second one in the Richmond, and the city’s second to occupy angled parking spaces.

The bulb-outs provide space for planters, although some neighbors were riled by their size relative to the sidewalk. One corner also features a monument that marks the Balboa corridor, which an SFMTA Facebook post called “an Outer Richmond gem.” The SFMTA wrote that staffers refer to the bulb-outs as ’Balbo-outs.”

In an SF Chronicle article last year, District 1 Supervior Eric Mar called the Outer Richmond strip “a quirky, great place,” and said “the project will bring new life to a very old neighborhood.”

The size of the planters that came with the bulb-outs on Balboa irked many residents. Photo: SFMTA

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Map: SFMTA’s 900 On-Street Car-Share Parking Spots Coming Along

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A snapshot of the SFMTA’s draft map of 900 proposed on-street car-share parking spots. See the full map [PDF].

Updated with new version of the map here [PDF].

The SFMTA is rolling right along with its plans to reserve 900 on-street parking spots for car-share vehicles, which will bring a convenient alternative to car ownership to more of the city. The agency has published a draft map [PDF] of proposed car-share spaces throughout the city. The map isn’t final, but residents can start to get a sense of where they might see car-share pop up in their neighborhoods starting this year.

The SFMTA Board of Directors gave the green light to the first 25 car-share spots last week, with the rest expected to be approved in batches over the coming months. Dozens more spots have already cleared the first hurdle, having received preliminary approval at bi-weekly SFMTA public engineering hearings.

Car-sharing ultimately frees up more parking spaces. A growing body of national research shows that each car-share vehicle typically replaces nine to 13 private vehicles, and car-share users walk, bike, and take transit more often. The SFMTA says that those findings were confirmed by their experience with both a test program with 12 on-street car-share spots, as well as the hundreds of off-street car-share spots that have been in place for years.

“There’s an opportunity to free up 10,000 parking spots,” said Padden Murphy of Getaround, which allows car owners to rent their vehicles to their neighbors.

The on-street spots will be available to Getaround and to conventional car-share organizations, like ZipCar and City CarShare, that own and maintain fleets of shared vehicles. The on-street car-share program was spearheaded by the SFMTA in partnership with the non-profit City CarShare, which started the earlier on-street car-share pilot in 2011. The current SFMTA initiative extends the pilot by two years and expands its scale.

Nonetheless, the SFMTA Board did hear from a handful of detractors who don’t seem to buy the evidence, arguing instead that the program is an incursion on storage for personal cars and complaining that the SFMTA didn’t adequately notify neighbors about the proposal.

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Eyes on the Street: This Is Not a Sidewalk, It’s Parking

At first (and second) glance, this block in south SoMa appears to have cars parked across what clearly looks to be a sidewalk. The area in question is up on a curb, has curb-level sidewalks leading to it from the streets that intersect on either side of the block, and even has both a trash can and fire hydrant on it. If there’s somehow another a sidewalk there, it’s nowhere to be found.

The block in question is on Henry Adams Street, also known as the north end of Kansas Street where it meets the roundabout at Division Street. Patrick Traughber called attention to it on Twitter, perplexed by a scene of what could be easily mistaken as pedestrian space overtaken by careless automobile storage.

But the SFMTA assures us: ”What looks like a sidewalk is not; it is actually valid parking,” said agency spokesperson Paul Rose after I presented the photo and location to him.

“It is an odd configuration (curbed), but you can see the signs in the background that say 2-hour time limit,” he said. “The location is enforced for the time limit. In front of the public parking is a private business with their own parking spaces.”

Could’ve fooled me. It appears that this side of the street functions as a “shared” space for both pedestrians and drivers. The only sidewalk to be found is on the opposite side of the street, and it’s both elevated and separated by a guard rail.

Perhaps some folks with deeper historical knowledge of this area could fill us in via the comments. But one guess of mine is that this was a sidewalk decades ago, which was informally taken over for parking, then legitimized for that use by a past generation of city officials who would actually do such a thing.

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SFMTA to Add Bike Lane Buffer on Howard, Fix at Folsom On-Ramp

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Howard Street’s bike lane will be widened with a three-foot buffer zone this year. Photo: Frank Chan/Flickr

The SFMTA plans make upgrades to the Howard and Folsom Street bike lanes, a couplet of one-way bike routes that run through SoMa. A section of Howard will get a three-foot buffer zone added to its bike lane, as well as painted sidewalk bulb-outs. On Folsom, an intersection with the Bay Bridge on-ramp at Essex Street will be re-configured with a new bike traffic signal.

On Howard, the three-foot-wide bike lane buffer will come from narrowing the street’s three traffic lanes, one of which is about 15 feet wide, down to roughly 11 feet, SFMTA staff said at a community meeting yesterday. That differs from last year’s pilot project on parallel Folsom, in which one traffic lane was re-purposed to expand the skinny bike lane to 10 feet, including a buffer zone.

The Howard project can be implemented this year, much more quickly than most bike lane projects because the SFMTA won’t remove traffic lanes and thus incur a lengthy environmental review, said SFMTA Livable Streets Section Leader Darby Watson. The inner section of Howard east of Sixth Street, however, is narrower, and traffic lane removal would be necessary. Watson said that the SFMTA plans to look at improving that section next year.

A handful of painted sidewalk bulb-outs, similar to those installed on Sixth Street, will also be added at corners on Howard at Sixth and Tenth Streets, to slow drivers’ turns. SFMTA staff noted that they won’t include fixtures within the painted bulb-outs, like the boulders and concrete planters that were placed in the painted bulb-outs along Sixth Street in November. In fact, those fixtures will be removed, since they’ve been trashed and are too costly to maintain.

The Howard improvements are branded as one of the 24 Vision Zero projects the SFMTA pledged to implement over 24 months. “These are targeted improvements to help safety where we know there are a lot of collisions,” said Neal Patel of SFMTA Livable Streets.
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Latest Haight Street Plans Replace Most Stop Signs to Speed Up Muni

All but one stop sign (at Cole Street) would be replaced with other treatments under the SFMTA’s plans to speed up Muni. Image: SFMTA

The Planning Department has an online survey about the Haight Street proposals, available until July 3.

City planners recently presented their latest plans for Haight Street, which include two overlapping projects from two agencies. The Haight-Ashbury Public Realm Plan is the Planning Department’s effort to expand sidewalks and add aesthetic treatments along the Upper Haight (between Central and Stanyan Streets), while the SFMTA’s Muni Transit Effectiveness Project will speed up Muni’s 71-Haight/Noriega and 6-Parnassus buses along the entirety of Haight.

Haight and Asbhury. Photo: Drumwolf/Flickr

The SFMTA has proposed to remove all but one stop sign on Haight, replacing most of them with transit-priority traffic signals and others with traffic calming measures that encourage drivers to yield to pedestrians. That, along with transit bulb-outs and removing some bus stops, could cut travel times for Muni riders on Haight by about 3 minutes, said Muni TEP Planning Manager Sean Kennedy. A separate project, currently under construction, adds a contra-flow bus lane on Haight’s easternmost block and is expected to shave off several more minutes.

Kennedy said that Muni plans to increase the 71′s peak frequency, from every 10 minutes to 7 minutes. “If we can make some of these improvements to pedestrian safety and travel times, we think we can make that [increase] mean something — instead of just getting a bunch of bus bunching,” he said.

The transit bulb-outs, and other sidewalk extensions, are expected to provide some much-needed breathing room on Upper Haight — particularly at Haight and Ashbury Streets, a world-famous tourist attraction.

“If you’ve walked down Haight Street, you know it’s cluttered and crowded,” said Alexis Smith, project manager for the Planning Department. “What’s the pedestrian LOS here?,” she said, referring to the Level of Service transportation planning metric used to measure congestion for drivers. “These intersections would be failing if we had a metric for that.”

“Even local foot traffic is too much for Haight Street sidewalks, and any influx of tourists just overwhelms the street,” said Katherine Roberts, a livable streets advocate who lives nearby in Cole Valley. “In my view, it is shameful that the city treats its residents and visitors like this.”

Roberts pointed out that city planners could go much farther to create a more attractive Haight Street by banning private autos, while still allowing Muni buses, delivery trucks, and tour buses. “Then you’d have plenty of room for widened sidewalks, bike lanes, parklets, bike corrals, greenery, et cetera,” she said.

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Muni to Launch a New, More Legible Map

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A snapshot of the new draft Muni map. Image: SFMTA

Tired of looking at Muni’s cluttered map? Good news: The SFMTA plans to roll out a new, more legible map of the Muni system.

The map was drafted over ten years, in the spare time of cartographers David Wiggins and Jay Primus, who also manages SFpark for the SFMTA. The two are donating their work.

“It’s really a labor of love for them,” Julie Kirschbaum, Muni’s operations planning and scheduling manager, told the SFMTA Board of Directors today. Kirschbaum said the map will show up on Muni shelters and on printed maps, as part of a larger branding effort called Muni Forward.

The map “helps visualize the service hierarchy,” said Kirschbaum. “Customers can see where there’s more service, and where there’s less service.”

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SFpark Releases Pilot Report, Considers Giving Revenue to Local Streets

SFpark cut car traffic by nearly 30 percent — just one of the program’s numerous benefits. Image: SFMTA

SFpark has released new comprehensive stats collected during its two-year pilot program phase, documenting the numerous benefits that it garnered by pricing parking according to demand. SFpark is being watched closely by cities around the world, since it’s the first program to thoroughly test demand-based parking pricing principles first professed by UCLA’s Donald Shoup. But the SFMTA hasn’t yet adopted one of Shoup’s key recommended strategies: Giving some of the revenue to local community benefit districts to help win support for parking meters.

An SFpark multi-space parking meter behind City Hall. Photo: SFpark

In the areas where SFpark was tested — Civic Center, the Embarcadero, Downtown, the Mission, the Fillmore, the Marina, and Fisherman’s Wharf – the SFMTA found that SFpark resulted in cheaper parking prices overall, more readily available parking, many fewer parking citations, and much less time wasted by drivers circling around, looking for open parking spots:

  • Average on-street meter rates dropped by $0.11 per hour, or 4 percent;
  • Average garage rates dropped by $0.42 per hour, or 12 percent;
  • Target occupancy of 60-80 percent was met 31 percent more often;
  • Blocks were full (i.e., no available parking) 16 percent less often;
  • Average time spent searching for parking decreased by 5 minutes, or 43 percent;
  • Meter-related citations decreased by 23 percent; and
  • Vehicle miles traveled, and greenhouse gas emissions from cars circling for parking, decreased by 30 percent.

SFpark has been widely lauded wherever it has replaced existing, flat-rate parking meters, but it’s a different story when it comes to expanding parking meters to new areas. Due to fierce neighborhood resistance, the agency abandoned its plans to install SFpark meters in Potrero Hill and Dogpatch, and watered down and delayed its plans in the northeast Mission. In each of these areas, street parking is mostly free and nearly saturated, with drivers circling for an average of 27 minutes during weekdays in the northeast Mission.

Sharing some meter revenue with neighborhoods could help debunk the prevailing assertion that parking meters are just a revenue ploy for Muni. But the SFMTA has never seriously considered the idea because, as then-SFMTA CEO Nat Ford put it to Streetsblog in 2010, “Our financial situation is so dire that I need to get every penny that we have.”

But the SFMTA’s current chief, Ed Reiskin, told Streetsblog yesterday that “it’s something we’re going to look at.”

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Speaking With SFMTA’s Seleta Reynolds, Nominated to Head LADOT

Seleta Reynolds (center, blue scarf) speaking about pedestrian safety improvements planned for San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood, during a 2014 Walk to Work Day event. Photo courtesy of Walk San Francisco

Earlier today, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti nominated Seleta Reynolds to be the new general manager for LADOT. Streetsblog announced the nomination earlier today via this brief article, which includes the mayor’s press release.

Reynolds currently works for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), where she leads three teams in the Livable Streets subdivision responsible for innovation, policy, and coordination for complete streets projects citywide. Reynolds also serves on the Transportation Research Board’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Committees, and the WalkScore Advisory Board. She is a past president of Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals. Prior to joining the SFMTA, Seleta managed the San Francisco and Seattle offices of Fehr & Peers, and worked for the City of Oakland Public Works Agency.

Streetsblog caught up with Reynolds on the phone this afternoon. Reynolds described herself as a “long time reader of Streetsblog L.A. and the Streetsblog family” and “really excited” to be coming to Los Angeles.

We asked her to name some of the accomplishments she’s most proud of from her work at SFMTA:

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