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SPUR Talk: Transportation Challenges for Downtown Tech Companies

A SPUR panel discussed how downtown Tech companies Airbnb and Salesforce help their employees get to work . Photo: Streetsblog.

A panel at SPUR discussed how downtown tech companies Airbnb and Salesforce help their employees get to work . Photo: Streetsblog.

The San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR), hosted a lunchtime talk in downtown San Francisco today, with representatives from Salesforce and Airbnb, about how the companies help employees commute between work and home. Unlike tech giants based outside of downtown San Francisco, neither company makes heavy use of private buses–so-called Tech Shuttles–and instead depends on public transit such as BART, buses and Caltrain.

“Our San Francisco campus is right down the street,” said Lauren Bennett, Senior Program Manager for Transportation at Salesforce. Her company has seven buildings in downtown San Francisco with nearly 7,000 employees, she explained, adding “That gives us access to two BART stations and the regional Transbay Terminal…we don’t have a last-mile problem.”

That’s probably why a third of its employees get to work by BART, with another 20 percent getting in by various bus and other transit providers. That’s part of a corporate strategy. “We think our employees want to work in urban areas and like the city as an amenity,” she said. And they don’t try to insulate their employees from the surrounding area. “We don’t have a cafeteria. We want people to get out, walk around and spend money in small businesses,” she said.

Airbnb has a similar strategy. “Airbnb was born and bred South of Market,” said Rob King, Facilities Coordinator at Airbnb. “It was started with air mattresses on the floor in SoMa; we’ve always been an urban company right in the heart of cities.” But the SoMa location comes with its own last-mile challenges. “The Caltrain station and BART are both .8 miles away,” said King, “Transbay is 2 miles and it’s 2.5 for the Ferry Terminal.”
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A Call to Save Stockton Street

Societies can rise or fall based on the quantity and quality of their public spaces. New decent public spaces are rare and precious is the day when there’s a chance of a new one. Does it matter if you live near that proposed space? No. Any new public space is a beacon to the world, showing that we need and can have public spaces everywhere.

So let us celebrate the possibility that this street…Stockton-Before
…could become this… Read more…

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A Month After Kate and Heather’s Deaths, Mayor Lee Takes Action

The vigil for Kate Slattery. Photo: Streetsblog.

Last month’s vigil for Kate Slattery. Photo: Streetsblog.

It’s a little over a month since two cyclists were killed in one night on San Francisco’s streets: Kate Slattery, who was killed South of Market, and Heather Miller, who died while riding in Golden Gate Park. Today, in a rare move, Mayor Edwin Lee, after talks with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, issued an Executive Directive to bring safety improvements to the locations where they were killed.

The Directive includes instructions for:

  • SFMTA to deliver near­-term safety improvements on 7th and 8th Streets in the next nine months
  • The SF Recreation & Parks Department (SF Rec & Park) and SFMTA to deliver near­-term safety improvements to reduce speeds and vehicular through­-traffic on JFK Drive in the next six months
  • SF Rec & Park and SFMTA to initiate a study of expanded traffic calming and traffic restrictions in Golden Gate Park within the next three months

More details on the complete directive in a moment. First, some background.

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition started pushing right away to get some action in response to the horrors of June 22. Streetsblog readers should take a moment and add to their letter-writing campaign by clicking here.

Brian Wiedenmeier, the Bicycle Coalition’s new executive director, has been in near constant contact with the Mayor’s office, SFPD, and SFMTA. In his own words:

Over the last month, the Mayor’s office has reached out to us, along with several city agencies, to meet regularly and develop a plan of action in light of the tragic fatalities on June 22. Informed by what we are hearing from our members through the 1,500 emails directed to the Mayor, we are approaching those meetings with the goal of seeing prompt, specific safety improvements delivered not just to the sites of two fatal collisions, but to streets across San Francisco.

We are urging the Mayor to demonstrate his commitment to Vision Zero by ensuring city departments take immediate actions to implement protected bike lanes, deliver significant safety improvements to the streets that saw the tragic fatalities of the past month, ensure SFPD focuses enforcement on the most dangerous traffic violations and speed the delivery of Vision Zero projects.

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Advocates Renew Push for West Alameda Estuary Bike and Pedestrian Bridge

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Cyndy Johnsen (glasses) and Lucy Gigli in the coffee shop "office" of BikeWalk Alameda. Photo: Streetsblog.

Cyndy Johnsen (glasses) and Lucy Gigli in the coffee shop “office” of BikeWalk Alameda. Photo: Streetsblog.

There are few places in the Bay Area where the expression “you can’t get there from here” more aptly applies. Stand at the estuary at Jack London Square, and one can see the west Alameda piers clearly, just a half-mile away. But try to get there and it turns into a two-mile-plus circuitous trek that requires back tracking towards Oakland to the entrance of the tunnels. By bike or on foot, it means a miserable, loud, and uncomfortable journey through the Posey Tube, with its narrow sidewalk and railing.

“We know a bridge is the only solution that is really going to solve Alameda’s west-end traffic problem,” said Lucy Gigli, President of the volunteer organization BikeWalkAlameda, in a meeting with Streetsblog at Julie’s Coffee & Tea Garden on Park Street, one of the organization’s unofficial offices. “It’s the most favorable solution that will meet the long term goals.”

That’s why Gigli, Cyndy Johnsen (another advocate and volunteer with the group), and BikeEastBay are pushing for a bike and pedestrian bridge across the estuary–one similar to the Bay Farm Island Bicycle Bridge, which spans the San Leandro Bay inlet to the Oakland Estuary. That bridge, which was completed in 1995, is roughly 860 feet long and cost $3.5 million. It is also the only bike-and-pedestrian drawbridge in the U.S. The bridge to Jack London would be longer, of course, and, according to an initial study, would cost roughly $60 million. “People say it’s too expensive, but people don’t really know; some say if it’s just for bikes and peds, who’s going to use it?” said Johnsen.

But the arguments for building the bridge are clearly delineated in BikeWalkAlameda’s material:

  • The Posey Tube/Oakland Connection is identified as the number one priority in the City of Alameda Bicycle Master Plan.
  • Pedestrians and bicyclists are limited to the Posey Tube walkway, which is so narrow that it cannot accommodate wheelchairs, bike trailers, or two passing bikes even with the increased width created in 2016.
  • Tube capacity is limited and congestion is growing.
  • A ride or walk through the Tube exposes one to sooty walls and smelly, toxic fumes.
  • For this short crossing, bus access is limited and costly ($2.10); the bus capacity for bicyclists is limited to only two or three bikes per bus.
  • During peak hours, bike racks are often full, which makes the service unreliable for bicyclists.
  • The bus and shuttles do not provide alternatives to the tubes and are subject to traffic delays.
  • The Estuary Crossing and Target shuttles have limited hours and 30-minute headways.

From the shortline of Jack London Square, west Alameda is tantalizingly close, but getting there by bike or foot is an ordeal. Photo: Streetsblog.

From the shoreline of Jack London Square, west Alameda is tantalizingly close, but getting there by bike or foot is an ordeal. Photo: Streetsblog.

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More Grumbles at Final Hearing on Taraval Changes

Some 60 people came to address a Friday morning hearing on proposed changes to the L-Taraval. Photo: Streetsblog.

Some 60 people came to address a Friday morning hearing on proposed changes to the L-Taraval. Photo: Streetsblog.

SFMTA, at long last, held its final hearing on the proposed Muni Forward safety and speed improvements to the L-Taraval. The two-hour meeting, which started at 10 a.m. at City Hall, was attended by some 60 people.

Streetsblog readers will recall the last large hearing for Taraval was held in February and, as with many of these big public hearings, there were outbursts, groans, and grumbles.

This meeting was more under control, thanks to Mike Hanrahan with the hearings section of SFMTA. “Two minutes is plenty of time if you’ve thought about what you want to say,” he said to the audience, prepping them for the comment period. He then introduced Michael Rhodes, who gave some brief background on the project and explained some amendments. Almost immediately, grumbles came from the audience and someone tried to ask a question. Hanrahan reminded them the comment period is coming up and, “We can’t have interruptions.” Read more…

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Streetsblog Talks with Supervisor Jane Kim, Part II

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D11 Supervisor Jane Kim at her desk in City Hall. Photo: Streetsblog.

D6 Supervisor Jane Kim at her desk in City Hall. Photo: Streetsblog.

Two weeks ago, Streetsblog did a Q&A with San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim. Kim was on a trip to New York and arranged to do the interview by phone. Unfortunately, the connection was intermittent, there was some miscommunication, and the interview had to be cut short. A few days later, Kim asked Streetsblog if we could continue the conversation. Fair enough. (Since Kim is in a tight race for the California State Senate seat for District 11 with Supervisor Scott Wiener, Streetsblog will do another interview with him as well).

In this follow up, Streetsblog talked with Kim about the State Senate, the search for a new police chief, Transbay and more topics of importance to livable streets advocates. But first on her mind was Tuesday night’s marathon budget negotiations, which didn’t turn out entirely as she would have liked.

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Streetsblog: So the Board was here past 10 pm–the budget passed and there will be a sales tax increase on the November ballot.

Jane Kim: I supported the point-five sales tax measure, because it’s a swap out of our existing sales tax.

SB: But not the .75 percent increase that passed?

JK: I wanted the city to look at alternative revenue. It [a sales tax] is ultimately a regressive tax. I don’t want to depend on that for essential city services,

SB: What else then?

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Guest Editorial: Don’t Charge Big Bucks for Block Parties

Block parties enrich neighborhoods. So why not encourage them? Photo: Adam Greenfield.

Block parties (1400 block of 12th Avenue in SF seen here) enrich neighborhoods. So why not encourage them? Photo: Adam Greenfield.

Block parties change lives.

When neighbors reclaim their street for a day and turn it into a car-free social space, all types of folks come out. Children run freely and neighbors who have been strangers for 20 years meet at last. Culture changes in an instant: Streets become safer, social ties strengthen, neighbors are happier and healthier.

Given these benefits, you’d think local authorities would be falling over themselves to encourage block parties. And many cities are. Hats off to Seattle for this statement on its Block Party Application webpage: “Block party permits are completely free for applicants… in an effort to strengthen neighborhood spirit and support increased pedestrian use of the right of way.”

Unfortunately, many American cities are not so sympathetic. Recently, I conducted a survey of every American city with a population of over 300,000. I discovered that some cities are charging up the wazoo for neighbors to organize block parties. The biggest humbug is Austin which charges $558. Bear in mind that the most common permit cost is $0 and the median cost is $20.

Embarrassingly, my own city of San Francisco charges $167, the nation’s fourth highest fee.

Here are the top five: Read more…

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SPUR Talk: Gabe Klein on Technology and Past and Future Cities

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Transportation guru Gabe Klein presents to an audience at SPUR in Oakland. Photo: Streetsblog.

Transportation guru Gabe Klein presents to an audience at SPUR in Oakland. Photo: Streetsblog.

Gabe Klein, entrepreneur, writer and former head of transportation for Chicago and Washington DC, spoke yesterday afternoon at the Oakland office of the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR) about how technology can be guided to shape the future of our cities.

He put up a slide with a chilling number on it: 1.24 million–the number of people killed in car wrecks every year globally. That number will reach 3.6 million by 2030, as driving becomes more prevalent in the developing world. He wondered why people tolerate so much carnage. “We [the US] lost 35,000 people on the road last year–an increase of 10 percent because gas was cheap and people were driving more.”

Sadly, those alarming numbers don’t even account for deaths from automobile pollution or rising sea levels and other effects of global warming. “The transportation sector is spewing out more [greenhouse gas emissions] than everything else,” Klein said. Global warming “…is man made. We’re the only country with people who think it’s not real; convenient if you’re a Koch Brother, but not for the rest of us,” he quipped.
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San Mateo Holds First Bike Ped Advisory Committee Meeting

San Mateo County's new Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee meets quarterly at San Mateo City Hall. Photo: Andrew Boone

San Mateo County’s new Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee meets quarterly in San Mateo City Hall Conference Room A. Photo: Andrew Boone.

San Mateo County’s new Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee kicked off its first meeting on Thursday evening at San Mateo City Hall. Ellen Barton, San Mateo’s Active Transportation Coordinator, proposed that they develop criteria for safer street striping ahead of the county’s annual resurfacing program. Other projects they discussed included establishing bike parking standards, evaluating progress of the county’s 2011 bike/ped plan [PDF], developing Safe Routes to Schools programs, and supporting the county’s annual bike and pedestrian count.

“It’s an American dream that you can bike or walk to school,” said 17-year Woodside resident Susan Doherty, who represents Safe Routes to Schools efforts on the committee. “And we’d like it to be a dream as opposed to a nightmare.”

“The county presents a tremendous challenge because it’s both rural and urban,” said Redwood City resident and long-time safety advocate Bob Page, one of only two members of the public in attendance. “I hope that the advisory committee will play a vital role in fostering communications and cooperation within and among the cities in developing safe regional bikeways.” Read more…

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Accomplishments and Looking Ahead at the Golden Wheel Awards

Scott Wiener addresses the audience during the Golden Wheel Awards. Photo: SFBC.

Scott Wiener addresses the audience during the Golden Wheel Awards. Photo: SFBC.

Last night the Golden Wheel Awards were presented at the San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center in downtown San Francisco. This year’s winners: Nicole Ferrara, Executive Director of Walk San Francisco, and Assemblyman Phil Ting.

The event, which was attended by some 300 planners, city staffers, advocates, and other officialdom, celebrated recent accomplishments in making San Francisco a more people and bike-friendly place. But it was also a fervent call to action.

To kick off the ceremony, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition’s new executive director, Brian Wiedenmeier, talked about his main goals for the organization. “People who bike in San Francisco should look like people who live in San Francisco. We must include more people of color and lower income residents,” he said. “I pledge we will continue to fight hard for protected bike lanes throughout the city. On Market Street alone we call for fully separated and protected bike lanes from Embarcadero to Octavia.”

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