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Bike-Share Coming to SF and Silicon Valley This July

San Francisco and four cities in Silicon Valley will launch the region’s first bike-share system this July, implementing a new transportation option that cities around the world have embraced to expand access to bicycling.

A bike-share vendor demonstration at Civic Center in December 2010 (this is not necessarily what the system will look like). Photo: SFBC/Flickr

The system will include 500 bicycles at approximately 50 stations in downtown San Francisco, plus another 500 bikes and 50 stations located near Caltrain stations in Redwood City, Mountain View, Palo Alto, and San Jose. The scope is more ambitious than San Francisco’s previous proposal for bike-share, but smaller in scale than the world’s most successful systems.

“A large-scale citywide bike-share will make it easier for locals and visitors alike to see San Francisco by bike, and help our city reach the goal of 20 percent of trips by bike by 2020,” said San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Deputy Director Kit Hodge.

While the SFBC is looking forward to the pilot launch this summer, Hodge said it “also believe[s] that the pilot should be quickly expanded into a robust, big-enough-to-succeed phenomenon that have proven successful in Paris, China and London.”

SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose said San Francisco stations will be “centered in SF’s employment- and transit-rich Downtown/SOMA corridor between the Financial District, Market Street and the Transbay and Caltrain terminals with connections at Market Street BART stations and the Ferry Terminal.”

The system will launch “just in time for America’s Cup,” said Rose, as a key component of the “People Plan” announced by Mayor Ed Lee last April. Bike-share will be part of the initiative to encourage the hundreds of thousands of spectators expected to travel to the Embarcadero this summer to get around by foot, transit, and by bike.

The July launch was pushed back a few months from its original spring schedule, but Rose says the SFMTA is “confident that all the work we’ve done over the last year to ensure that the project meets the needs of all of our project partners throughout the region will yield a better result when we deliver the pilot later this year.”

The program is not San Francisco’s first plan for bike-share — a previous plan for a meager pilot of 50 bikes was dropped in late 2009 when Clear Channel backed out of a partnership with the city, after which then-Mayor Gavin Newsom pledged to launch a larger system. Santa Clara County’s VTA was set to launch the region’s first bike-share in 2010, but delayed its own program until it could be integrated into this broader regional system. Agencies are currently selecting a vendor to operate the system.

Stay tuned to Streetsblog for more details as the program develops. For more information, check out the SFMTA’s website, which includes this presentation [PDF].

Map of San Francisco bike share areas. Specific locations are to be determined. Image: SFMTA

Regional locations for bike share stations along the Caltrain line.

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VTA’s Vision for Bus Rapid Transit on El Camino Real

A new video from the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) lays out the vision for transforming El Camino Real into a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridor connecting the Palo Alto Transit Center and Downtown San Jose.

It’s part of VTA’s Valley Rapid project, a set of three BRT routes planned in Santa Clara County. The El Camino project will speed up the 522 bus line with transit-priority features as the Grand Boulevard Initiative revamps the corridor into a more walkable environment.

The project is expected to begin service in July 2016, the same year San Francisco’s first BRT route is set to open on Van Ness Avenue.

Check out the website for more details.

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MTC Grant Will Fund Expanded Regional Bike Share Program

Paris bike sharing program Velib. Flicr photo: Gilles

Paris bike sharing program Velib. Flicr photo: Gilles Couteau

Getting to work or school in the Bay Area by shared bicycle could be a reality soon, as the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), the Bay Area’s regional transportation planning body, awarded more than $4 million to a regional bike share program as part of $33 million for a host of innovative projects around the Bay Area meant to reduce driving and curb emissions.

The MTC has made a small but significant first step in addressing the greenhouse gas reduction targets mandated under SB375 and AB32. MTC Executive Director Steve Heminger acknowledged the connection between funding innovative pilots and the 15 percent per capita greenhouse gas reduction target adopted by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) for the Bay Area by 2035.

In his routine report to commissioners, Heminger said the MTC was the last of the four major municipal planning organizations to adopt the SB375 Sustainable Communities Strategies targets, so they had “the luxury of learning from everyone else’s mistakes.” Still, he argued, “we are off to the races.”

Today’s $33 million in Climate Initiatives Program grants go to projects that were ranked based on cost and benefit analysis, as well as potential for innovation. The regional bike share program piggybacks off the Santa Clara Valley Transit Authority (VTA) bike share pilot, which has been in development for more than a year. VTA secured a $500,000 grant from Regional Measure 2′s Safe Routes to Transit program to fund design and capital costs for an initial deployment of approximately 100 bikes. VTA had convened a working group and a feasibility study and had enlisted the support of private sector employers, such as Google, Apple, Adobe and Cisco.

“VTA is committed to smart, sustainable strategies that invest in the urban cores and transit corridors that promote walking, bicycling and transit,” said VTA Board Chair and San Jose City Council M ember Sam Liccardo.  “The pilot bike-share program will make the commute for Santa Clara County residents greener and more affordable.”

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Santa Clara VTA Proceeds with Bay Area’s First Bike Share Pilot Program

Despite the much ballyhooed talk by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom that his city will implement a public bike share pilot (two years of talk that has garnered numerous press hits), the first bike share program in the Bay Area will likely be implemented by the middle of 2010 in Santa Clara County by the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA).  While small size may still be a liability to its success and long term funding sources must be determined, the VTA is miles ahead of other transit operators in completing the process necessary to deliver a pilot.

The VTA has wrapped up its market research data collection, is completing its business model, and will release its final analysis report by the end of this year for a pilot project intended to link three Caltrain stations in Mountain View, Palo Alto, and San Jose with multiple satellite destination points, such as Stanford and San Jose State Universities and job centers like Moffett Park and San Jose City Hall. 

The VTA used an initial $75,000 from their general budget to hire Economic and Planning Systems (EPS) to conduct the planning work, but applied for a $500,000 Safe Routes to Transit grant to implement the pilot, money that will come from bridge tolls collected by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC). VTA has learned that the project has been ranked for funding, though it might not get the money for a month or two.

"Bikes in general are given short shrift in suburban sprawling areas," said Chris Augenstein, Deputy Director of Planning at VTA. "We can do a lot more to make bicycles a real mode and integrate them into everything we do."

While the VTA insists it is too early to start speculating about how many bikes would be involved in the program, they've conducted over 1200 surveys at target areas, with particular focus on Caltrain riders and corporate partners who sit on their Bike Share working group, including Yahoo! and Adobe. When pressed on a number of bikes, Augenstein said that Paris' Velib bicycles cost over $3,000 each and suggested I could do the math to figure out how many bikes the MTC grant would buy (over 150, though other start-up costs must be factored in). He also said the VTA was studying advertising models with companies like Clear Channel (which runs Barcelona's Bicing bike-share program) or JC Decaux (which runs Velib) to offset operating and expansion costs.

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Will San Jose’s New Bicycle Plan Mark Shift From Years of Car Privilege?

San Jose is on the verge of adopting its new bicycle plan at the next City Council meeting on November 17th, which, as anyone who has cycled in San Jose knows, would be a welcome change from decades of traffic engineering focused almost solely on automobility.

"What I'm hoping we're seeing here is a sea-change at the city of San Jose, where there's priority on the pedestrian, bicyclist and transit rider, because historically it's been the opposite," said Michele Beasley of the Greenbelt Alliance, an advocacy group that supports transit, cycling, and pedestrian safety.

The new bike plan would mark a significant break from the past, with policy objectives to double the number of on-street lanes from 250 miles to 500 miles, add 5000 new bike racks, bring bicycle mode share to 5 percent, and achieve League of American Bicyclists (LAB) Gold-level Bicycle Friendly Community status, all by 2020. San Jose has tripled bicycle mode share in the last three years, up to 1.2 percent, which puts the city 15th among the largest 70 cities nationally, according to the San Jose Department of Transportation (DOT).

Still, even the top official at the DOT admitted his agency's track record on bicycle infrastructure has been less than stellar.  "Clearly, San Jose has many decades of sprawling, auto-oriented community development to overcome, but the transportation policy tanker is turning," asserted Hans Larsen, acting Director of the DOT, who told Streetsblog he wasn't surprised by the vociferous anger expressed by readers in our post on San Jose's innovative approach to LOS reform.

City Councilmember Sam Liccardo, who represents Downtown San Jose and has been a force for turning anemic references to bicycles in San Jose's transportation policy documents into a full-fledged master plan, said that the city should capitalize on latent demand for cycling infrastructure.

"If we can implement this plan, it will set San Jose on a course to achieve a place among the great cycling communities in the nation, if not the world," said Liccardo. "Our weather, topography, and demographics make San Jose poised for enormous growth in biking mode share--we've tripled our number of riders in recent years--but it will take determination and resources to alter our streetscape and create a more bike-friendly ecosystem."

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San Jose Provides Model for Bay Area Growth and Transportation Needs

pbo31_sj_bus_small.jpgPhoto: pbo31

In our ongoing coverage of the adverse affects of traffic engineers' over-reliance on automobile level of service (LOS) measurements, we've examined how new amendments to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) would allow local jurisdictions greater freedom in choosing whether they want to develop their cities for cars or for transit, cycling, and livable streets.  Simply put, if the CEQA amendments are codified, cities all over the state could become more like San Jose.

While San Francisco labors with the development of its auto trip generation (ATG) metric and could spend a year or more setting a development impact fee that would go to improving transit, cycling and pedestrian safety, San Jose completed a citywide transportation environmental impact statement (EIS) in 2002 and adopted its vision for sustainable, transit-oriented growth in 2005 [PDF]. What's more, this transportation and land-use plan moves San Jose ahead of the curve compared to other cities in meeting the requirements under AB 32 (carbon reduction targets) and SB 375 (limiting sprawl).

"We want to grow up, not out," said Hans Larsen, Acting Director of San Jose's Department of Transportation (DOT), noting the city couldn't accommodate the 400,000 new residents expected by 2030 within San Jose's current boundaries by adding more sprawling developments and more traffic. "We had a policy conflict between our growth plan, which was really smart-growth, and our transportation management policies, which have historically been oriented toward providing enough capacity for cars."

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High Court Rejects Appeal of Ruling Declaring Transit Fund Raids Illegal

397376904_5262ecc965.jpgMuni has lost $180 million over three years because of PTA fund raids. Flickr photo: skew-t
In what the California Transit Association called a resounding victory for transit providers and riders, the California Supreme Court has rejected Governor Schwarzenegger's appeal of a lower court ruling declaring raids on transit funds illegal.

"The Supreme Court has affirmed once and for all what we always maintained was true: that it's illegal to shift dedicated state transit funds away from transit agencies and their riders," said Joshua Shaw, Executive Director of the CTA. "This decision validates our position that this practice has been illegal since even before 2007, and that the definition of mass transportation adopted by lawmakers since then to mask these diversions is illegal."

As we've written, the governor has repeatedly raided the Public Transportation Assistance (PTA) fund while in office, to the tune of $1.19 billion in 2007-08 alone, while touting himself as a green governor who's leading the fight against global warming. Had Schwarzenegger not touched the fund, the MTA would have received nearly $180 million over the last three years, BART would have gotten $30 million last year, and AC Transit upwards of $26 million in 2008.

Said MTA Chief Nat Ford: "California has made a strong commitment to be in the forefront of environmental leadership, and properly funding public transportation is crucial to building a sustainable future. The state Supreme Court's decision should help transit agencies like the SFMTA better serve existing customers and make our services more attractive to Californians who are looking for ways to make healthier, more environmentally-friendly transportation choices."

The CTA, in partnership with other transit agencies, said it now hopes to work with the Schwarzenegger administration and the Legislature to restore the funds.

"We're very hopeful that the high court's decision will now enable us to work with lawmakers to restore these funds and help us to meet the ever-increasing demands for transit services in California," said Michael Burns, the general manager of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority.

H.D. Palmer, a spokesperson for the governor's Department of Finance, said he was disappointed with the ruling but that it is the end of the legal road. He said the issue will go back to the lower court to "determine a remedy" and added "there will be no hard and fast ruling." Palmer said it will likely mean "we'll have to figure out how to come up with an additional billion dollars in budget solutions by the end of the year." 

It's unclear how soon transit agencies could see the funds replenished. The CTA's Shaw was quoted in the Mercury News as saying it's possible the repayment could be spread out over several years.

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Muni Claims It Will Clarify Its Photography Policy Soon

After reports of fare inspectors and drivers telling Muni passengers they can't take photos on Muni's buses and trains, the MTA is being forced to craft a photo policy and make it public. The San Francisco Appeal and WHAT IM SEEING both have stories today about Muni's elusive policy, which MTA spokesperson Judson True told the Appeal will be posted online soon, and "will say that non-commercial video and photography will be OK as long as it doesn't disturb transit."

If that's the case, it will put Muni in the middle or front of the pack nationally, depending on the specifics. New York City's MTA may be the leader in that regard, since its policy states that photography is always okay, and ancillary equipment such as tripods can be used by members of the press. The CTA in Chicago has a similar policy, though it's less clear whether members of the press require special credentials.

Boston's MBTA may be the most draconian. Citing terrorism concerns, its policy states that while non-commercial photography is okay, transit police will ask all photographers for identification, and will escort photographers off the premises if they refuse to provide it. According to a post from a local blogger, Boston transit police have gone beyond the policy's bounds in some instances.

Read about other local agencies' policies after the break.

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Muni and BART Dump ‘Dump the Pump Day’ This Year

dumpthepumpvisual.jpgThe Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority's promotion of Dump the Pump Day 2008. Flickr photo: Metro Library and Archive
The Bay Area’s two largest transit agencies are passing this year on a national event intended to get drivers to ride transit for a day.

Muni and BART won’t be participating in National Dump the Pump Day today, an event sponsored by the American Public Transportation Association and intended to raise awareness of the economic and environmental benefits of riding transit.

Last year, BART drew a record number of riders on a combined Dump the Pump/Spare the Air free transit day. The 2007 Dump the Pump Day led to a more modest bump for BART, without the incentive of free trips.

Neither BART nor Muni disputed the inherent effectiveness of transit awareness campaigns, but each cited their own reasons for staying out this year.

Muni did participate in Dump the Pump Day in 2006, but the agency is now inclined to create its own campaign, said Murray Bond, the MTA’s deputy director of external affairs. “Instead of buying ads now to use what basically are canned national campaigns, we’re going to run our own campaign after the new fiscal year starts on July 1,” said Bond.

He said Muni would run ads it shot last fall, which are more provocative and eye-catching than those produced for Dump the Pump Day.

“This is San Francisco. When we do things here, we try to do things upbeat, to get people’s attention,” said Bond. “Not that Dump the Pump isn’t good, but we think this thing, it’s all visual.”

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MTC Approves Sweeping Regional Plan, Debates New Toll Lanes

Bus_and_bike.jpgPhoto by bvohra via Flickr
The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) yesterday approved its 25-year "Change In Motion" Regional Transportation Plan (RTP), after more than two years of work coordinating with the 26 regional transportation operators, the public, and the many authorities under its control. A slew of bicycle and transportation advocates lined up to thank the MTC for the more than $1 billion it has committed to completing the regional bicycle network and increased funding for Safe Routes to School (SRTS) and Safe Routes to Transit (SRTT) programs.

Andrew Casteel, Executive Director of the Bay Area Bicycle Coalition, urged commissioners to start funding SRTS, SRTT and bicycle network improvements within the first two years of the RTP.  Citing climate action plans in Portland, Oregon, to realize 20 percent of all trips in the city by bicycle by 2030, Casteel said, "The more available infrastructure for bikes, the more people will shift into bikes as a mode of transportation.  The investment in bicycling can be done quickly.  Completing out that network has a lasting effect after it's put there.  It does continue to create that mode shift."

Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Christine Culver echoed praise for increasing funding for the regional bicycle network and for SRTS and SRTT funding, explaining how she traveled by bicycle to Golden Gate Transit from Marin into San Francisco, then took BART to Oakland.  "I like Safe Routes to Transit; this rocks!"

While most of the public comment was laudatory, some expressed concern the RTP fails to make meaningful inroads in meeting climate change goals set out in AB 32 and SB 375.  Stuart Cohen, Executive Director of TransForm, called it a "test run," and said the commission needs to reevaluate the way it plans RTPs and should think outside the box.

"Our objectives used to be congestion relief and mobility, and now it's saving our planet and some pretty imperative stuff," said Cohen. "There's a lot of discussion about how far regions can go in really addressing vehicle miles traveled. What is becoming clear is that if any region is going to lead the way, it's going to be ours.  There's not a lot of innovation that I'm seeing coming out of the other MPOs."

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