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Posts from the "Transit Advocacy" Category

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Bicyclist, Supes Prez David Chiu Announces Bid for San Francisco Mayor

David Chiu surrounded by supporters on the steps of City Hall. Some were waving "Bicyclists for David Chiu" signs. Photo: Bryan Goebel.

David Chiu, the car-free President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, declared his candidacy for mayor on the steps of City Hall this morning, promising to make sustainable transportation one of the cornerstones of his campaign.

“We’re the city that invented the cable car, but while we call ourselves a Transit-First city, we are sick of gridlock, we are sick of potholes and we’re sick of Muni,” Chiu told a crowd of more than 100 supporters. “As your candidate for mayor who doesn’t own a car, who gets to City Hall either on the number 49 or on my bicycle, I think we can do better.”

Chiu’s entry into the mayor’s race is expected to substantially raise the profile of sustainable transportation. Although many of the other major candidates have transportation listed as an issue of importance on their websites, Chiu is the only candidate (that we know of) who doesn’t own a car and gets around mostly on his electric bicycle.

Cheryl Brinkman, a transit advocate who sits on the SFMTA Board of Directors, gave a rousing endorsement for Chiu at today’s campaign kick-off, along with Supervisor Eric Mar.

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Board of Supes Resolution Urges Free Muni Passes for Low-Income Youth

Flickr photo: catbagan

A growing number of low-income youth who depend on public transit in San Francisco are finding it harder to afford the trip to class, but a resolution introduced by Supervisor David Campos this week could pave the way toward providing free Muni passes for the rest of the school year to thousands of students who are regular Muni riders.

“For many poor families in San Francisco, public transportation is actually the only option,” said Mattias Mormino, the project coordinator at the Single-Room Occupancy (SRO) Families United Collaborative, a community-based organization that partners with the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) to provide transportation for homeless and displaced students. ”It’s not like they can choose to leave the car in the garage.”

A survey [pdf] of SFUSD high school students showed nearly 70 percent commute by public transportation while the number of students who come from families with incomes low enough to qualify for free or discounted lunches is up to 61 percent this year.

Despite those numbers, last May the SFMTA Board  voted to increase the price of Youth Muni Fast Passes from $10 to $20. Recently, the SFUSD Board cut fifty percent of the district’s school buses, eliminating another transportation option for many students. As more families face economic hardships and federally-supported student transportation programs are cut, Mormino says the number of families struggling to afford transporting their children to school is growing by the month.

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Growing Movement To Save Caltrain From Potentially Devastating Cuts

Flickr Photo: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/cobrasick/##Nick Fisher##

Flickr Photo: Nick Fisher

The mobility of Caltrain’s 40,000 daily riders on the Peninsula and the South Bay could drastically suffer under deep service cuts being considered to close a $30 million budget gap, but a movement to get the commuter rail service agency out of the red and on a path toward long-term sustainability is gaining momentum.

“Everyone says it’s ironic, because it really is one of the best performing transit agencies in the whole Bay Area, but it’s the one potentially in the most trouble because we lack any dedicated funding,” said Yoriko Kishimoto, a Palo Alto councilmember and Friends of Caltrain organizer.

Last Friday, a summit brought together a number of transportation officials, advocates, neighborhood groups, riders and public officials hoping to rescue Caltrain. This Saturday, Friends of Caltrain, a “grassroots coalition of cities, neighborhood groups, employers, environmental groups, transit advocates and, most importantly, residents and transit riders” in the Bay Area, are helping to organize the “Save Our Caltrain!” Summit to address the agency’s lack of dedicated regional funding.

“Caltrain is threatened with bankruptcy, or just as bad, it could die a slow death by entering a downward spiral of reduced service and reduced ridership,” said Kishimoto. “Caltrain ridership is the equivalent of at least three full lanes of traffic on US 101…[It] is essential to the Peninsula’s quality of life, our commute alternatives, and economic vitality and the three counties must come together to work on solutions.”

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N-Judah Transit Bulb Proposal To Go Before SFMTA Board Next Week

This new rendering shows 9-foot sidewalks instead of the previous 5-foot ones. Image: SF Planning Department, City Design Group

This new rendering shows 9-foot instead of 5-foot sidewalk extensions. Image: SF Planning Department, City Design Group

A proposal [pdf] to significantly improve sidewalk conditions for N-Judah riders in Cole Valley is headed to the SFMTA Board for approval with some modifications. As we wrote in November, the current sidewalks on Carl Street at Cole and Stanyan can’t accommodate the thousands of passengers who use the stops daily, so riders waiting for trains often stand in the street, and are forced to weave through parked cars to board.

The proposal has been revised and would extend the sidewalks by 9 feet on all three proposed transit bulbs on Carl Street (see the photo below the break), which “allows seamless boarding of trains.”  On the southwest side of Carl and Cole, the inbound bulb would stretch for 113 feet instead of the original 165 feet. The entire length of a two-car train is about 150 feet.

The SFMTA said it reduced the length of the longer inbound bulb to alleviate concerns about the loss of parking, which will translate into giving back one parking space. As it stands now, four parking spaces on that section would be removed, and the proposal itself would allow for the removal of a total of eight spaces on Carl. Some neighbors remain concerned about removing those spaces and continue to oppose the plan.

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California’s Climate Laws Undermined by Weak Transpo Policies, Investment

California's lack of good transportation policies and transit investment points to a failure in Sacramento. Photo: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/aquafornia/2731909303/##aquafornia##

California's lack of bold transportation policies and transit investment points to a failure in Sacramento. Photo: aquafornia

A new report from NRDC and Smart Growth America — which examines what all 50 states are doing to curb greenhouse gas emissions from transportation — lauds California as the most progressive state on policy, but points out that its transportation and spending priorities don’t match the bold blueprints, particularly as it relates to public transit.

It all points to Sacramento, where legislators have continuously raided the only dedicated fund for transit, leading to massive cuts statewide.

The report praises the state’s smart-growth law, SB375, as a model for other states, noting that “it puts in place a strong framework that can be used to drive better coordination between transportation and land use, and, of particular relevance to this analysis, to do so in a way that reduces GHGs.” It remains uncertain, however, “whether SB 375 will deliver results on the ground as opposed to just changes in planning documents.”

In September, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) adopted ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and 2035, a move that will compel the state’s metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) to better integrate land use and transportation planning. The real test for SB375 will come at the local level as MPOs draft plans to meet the targets.

Unless the state prioritizes investments in sustainable transportation, California’s progressive policies will continue to be undermined.

“Huge cuts to public transit threaten these (policy) gains and could lead to even more devastating consequences for California communities and the economy,” said a joint press release from Smart Growth California, NRDC, TransForm and the Sierra Club of California. “In California, transportation policies and spending decisions are not in line with the state’s bold commitments to reduce the amounts of carbon dioxide and other emissions being pumped into the air.”

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AC Transit Riders Fight For Their Right to Ride, 55 Years After Montgomery

Colin Miller of Urban Habitat holds up gravestones in memory of bus lines that have been cut. Photo: Reginald James

Colin Miller of Urban Habitat holds up gravestones in memory of bus lines that have been cut. Photo: Reginald James

Editor’s note: This story is being re-published from Race, Poverty and the Environment, a magazine produced by the social and environmental justice non-profit, Urban Habitat.

Fifty-five years to the month after the start of the Montgomery bus boycott, people of color can sit wherever they want on the bus—when and if one arrives. Bus operators all over the country are slashing routes in response to deepening deficits. This loss of service denies people who depend on transit their civil rights in deep, daily, grinding, unmistakable ways.

Bus riders in Oakland and throughout western Alameda and Contra Costa Counties have lost nearly 15 percent of their AC Transit routes in 2010. Deeper cuts were forestalled by the drivers’ union, Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 192, which refused to agree to a new contract unless the agency postponed further service reductions for at least three months. Now it looks like those cuts will be back on the table in January, and riders and drivers plan to protest at tomorrow’s AC Transit meeting.

“We are the heart throb of this city,” AC Transit driver Lorenzo Jacobs said, speaking at a May 2010 public hearing against the cuts. “When you start cutting service, you’re cutting opportunities out there for people who are doing whatever they’re doing in their lives. When you cut lines, you’re affecting people’s lives, their everyday lives,” he said.

The service cuts directly impact Oakland youth, who need AC Transit to get to school because the district doesn’t run yellow school buses; they hurt seniors and people with disabilities who can’t drive, and low-income families who can’t afford cars. Lack of mobility cuts off opportunities for work and education, enforces inequality and persistent segregation. African-Americans and Latinos are far less likely than whites to own cars. Nationally, around 62 percent of city bus riders are African American and Latino. Nearly 80 percent of AC Transit riders are people of color.

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Mayor Newsom, SFMTA Announce More Muni Service Restorations

IMG_0065.jpgThe SFMTA says F-Line historic service will be better integrated into the schedule to increase headway efficiency. Photo: Myleen Hollero/Orange Photography.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom announced today that Muni will restore 61 percent of the service it cut in May, or about 178,781 service hours, after identifying about $15 million in funding sources and "operational savings," which involves scaling back stand-by hours, or non-driving time, for operators.

"The good news today is Muni riders will experience more frequent and reliable service starting on September 4th," Newsom said in a statement, which was released after he made the announcement on KCBS radio. "This represents real progress towards our shared goal of fully restoring Muni service by this time next year."

Early last month, the SFMTA Board voted to restore half of the 10 percent service cut it implemented in May. Since then, the Mayor's Office and the SFMTA said they identified additional funding sources from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the San Francisco County Transportation Authority. In addition, the SFMTA will initiate some "service efficiency" changes that would result in about $900,000 in savings. That allowed them to tack on 11.1 percent in additional restorations, and make today's announcement.

At the SFMTA Board meeting today Transit Director John Haley explained the changes in a presentation (PDF) titled "Service Restoration Plan." He said one of the agency's priorities was to make sure they could restore service while effectively managing it. He acknowledged that a lot of pieces need to fall in place to make the restoration a success.

"Over the last several months when it comes to schedules and service levels we've all become masters of the two minute drill. We are on a very tight and unforgiving schedule to get this to a successful level of execution on the 4th of September," he said, adding that for the first time in six months new operators are being trained and the agency recently implemented a new absentee policy that will help them better manage the day to day workforce.

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Win for Union as Judge Issues Injunction in AC Transit Labor Dispute

An Oakland judge granted a temporary injunction late this afternoon that prevents AC Transit from unilaterally imposing its last, best and final offer on the agency's 1,100 bus drivers, saying it not only has the potential to cause harm to the operators and their families, but to the agency's 236,000 riders.

"ATU's members will be subject to work schedules that require them to be behind the wheel for longer times, to be at work for lengthy hours, and to drive unfamiliar routes without training on those routes," Judge Judith D. Ford wrote. "All these factors not only disrupt the employees' lives and expectations, but also have the potential to result in conditions that are not safe for the drivers or the riding public."

The ruling followed a two-hour court hearing Friday in which lawyers for AC Transit and Amalgated Transit Union Local 192 locked horns over who is suffering the most irreparable harm. In her ruling, Ford called AC Transit's claims that it will be harmed "speculative."

"While it is clear that AC Transit is in financial straits, it is not apparent from the evidence that making immediate changes to employees' run schedules, and the other changes AC Transit has undertaken, are necessary to avoid service cuts, schedule changes or layoffs."

After more than three months of negotiations between ATU and AC Transit failed to produce a new contract (the old one expired June 30), union officials were successful in getting a judge to order both sides into binding arbitration. The dispute intensified when AC Transit's Board of Directors decided to go ahead and implement the new contract, which included changes to work rules and route assignments and a hike in health insurance contributions.

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Parking Tax Revenue Measure for Muni Makes Its Way to Supervisors

IMG_1249.jpgPhoto: Myleen Hollero/Orange Photography

A parking tax increase that could send $19.2 million to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency moved a step closer to the ballot Tuesday, as Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi introduced the measure before his colleagues on the Board of Supervisors.

Mirkarimi made the move at the behest of the SFMTA Board, which voted last week to request that the supervisors introduce the ballot measure on the agency's behalf. It would include a 10-percent increase in the commercial off-street parking tax -- that is, the tax on parking in commercial garages and lots -- and would also close a loophole that allows valet parking services to go untaxed.

"I think it's important in answering the question as to how we are able to generate revenue for the MTA," said Mirkarimi. "This is one consideration I would like us to seriously review. The last two years we have struggled to keep Muni running in the face of historic budget deficits."

Mirkarimi warned that the measure faces competition from other tax measures the supervisors are considering, the rest of which would not directly benefit the SFMTA. Not all of them will make it to the ballot. "I understand that a number of taxes potentially will be submitted for today," he said. "I also believe that in the menu of considerations for taxes, all may not make the final cut."

Several of the supervisors introduced a sweeping SFMTA reform ballot measure last month that would dedicate $40 million from the city's general fund to the SFMTA, but Mirkarimi and others have expressed reservations about that set-aside, so the parking tax could have a future as part of that reform measure as well.

As Streetsblog reported in March, the parking tax may be the most politically viable revenue ballot measure the SFMTA could pursue right now, and many of the city's transit advocates support it for its clear nexus between discouraging parking and increasing funding for Muni service.

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Transit Advocates Will Push Lawmakers to Rethink Transit Funding Cuts

IMG_0109.jpgCuts to transit funding could mean longer waits than ever. Photo: Michael Rhodes
It's no secret that transit agencies across California are reeling from years of raids on state transit assistance funds. A third of the MTA's $129 million budget shortfall this spring resulted from those raids, a $42.8 million loss for the agency, and statewide, nearly $3.4 billion in transit-dedicated funding has been diverted from local agencies over the past three years. Just two months after a court ruling that found that raiding to be illegal, without requiring the funds to be returned, transit advocates are planning to let the Legislature know how deeply the cuts have impacted transit, in the hope that lawmakers won't scheme to raid the funds again as California inevitably faces future budget crises.

At California State Assembly Committee on Transportation meetings this morning and Tuesday, the California Transit Association (CTA) and public transit agency representatives will discuss the challenges that state funding cuts have imposed on transit providers. Today's hearing is at the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board Room. The Tuesday hearing takes place in the Sacramento Regional Transit District Board Room.

The CTA especially hopes to alert lawmakers to the reality that future cuts would undermine California's greenhouse gas reduction goals set out in the state's landmark greenhouse gas reduction bills, AB 32 and SB 375 - a disconnect that even some environmentally-conscious lawmakers seem to overlook.

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