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Guest Editorial: Safety Must Come First on Taraval

croppedTaraval

Concrete boarding islands (right) make streets safer than letting people board in the middle of the street (left). Photo: SFMTA

Every day 29,000 Muni riders and countless walkers travel on Taraval Street, one of the city’s 12 percent of streets responsible for over 70 percent of traffic deaths and life-changing injuries. On average, every five and-a-half weeks someone is hit while walking on Taraval.

This afternoon, walkers and MUNI riders will have a once-in-a-generation chance as the SFMTA Board of Directors considers a proposal to reshape this deadly street into a safe place for everyone.

But whether the SFMTA will deliver a life-saving project, or a watered-down conciliation that will continue to put our fellow community members’ lives at risk, is yet to be seen.

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Vision Zero Committee Hears Radio Spot and Other Efforts to Curtail Speeding

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Supervisors Yee and Campos at the Vision Zero Committee of the Transportation Authority. Photo: Streetsblog

Supervisors Yee and Campos at the Vision Zero Committee of the Transportation Authority. Photo: Streetsblog

Note the ‘call to action’ at the end of this post.

Thursday afternoon, Supervisors Norman Yee and David Campos, commissioners on the County Transportation Authority Vision Zero Committee, heard updates from SFMTA officials on plans to install safety infrastructure and increase educational awareness on the dangers of speeding. They also discussed Mayor Ed Lee’s Executive Directive to, among other things, install speed humps in Golden Gate Park and protected bike lanes South of Market. Safety advocates also spoke, keeping up the pressure on city agencies to follow through on promised improvements.

John Knox White, Transportation Planner at SFMTA, gave a detailed update on the status of the Vision Zero Communications Outreach Program. “We’re trying to change San Francisco’s culture,” White told the committee. “We’re trying to change to a culture that embraces public safety.” Read more…

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SPUR Talk: Developing the Oakland Waterfront

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SPUR looked at the Brooklyn Basin and the transformative effect it will have on the Oakland waterfront. Image: Signature Properties.

SPUR looked at the Brooklyn Basin and the transformative effect it will have on the Oakland waterfront. Image: Signature Properties.

SPUR hosted a lunchtime forum today at its Oakland location to discuss the $1.5 billion Brooklyn Basin development. The panel, which was moderated by SPUR’s Oakland director Robert Ogilvie, included Mike Ghielmetti of Signature Development Group, Matt Franklin of MidPen Housing, and Patricia Kernighan, who represented District 2 of Oakland during the authorization phase of the “Oak to Ninth” (now called Brooklyn Basin) waterfront housing development.

“I was 12 when we started,” joked Ghielmetti about how long it takes to get such a large scale project going, to a chuckle from the audience. “The project is fifteen years in the making. It was originally port land, about 65 acres, largely divided from the city of Oakland.”

Indeed, that’s part of what makes the project so challenging. The Oakland waterfront, as the panelists bemoaned, is effectively chopped off from the rest of the city by the 880 freeway, the Union Pacific tracks, and BART’s tracks and yards. “It’s almost a half-mile from Oakland and the rest of civilization,” said Ghielmetti. “We wanted to reunite this area by creating a neighborhood and linkages.”

To do that, his development firm, the City of Oakland, and a variety of advocates set out to build some 3,000 new residences, with supporting services such as dry cleaners, coffee shops and, it is hoped, a grocery store. But first there was the challenge of cleaning up the soil, which, Ghielmetti said, was contaminated with pretty much everything short of plutonium. “What we inherited looked like this,” he said, pointing to a picture of concrete and debris that still dots much of this landscape. “It was highly contaminated…heavy metals, hydrocarbons…we’re still looking for Jimmy Hoffa out there.”
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BART Board Candidates Discuss Future of Bay Area Transportation

The SF Transit Riders Brian Stokle moderated a discussion among BART board candidates for District 9 and 7. Photo: Streetsblog.

The SF Transit Riders’ Brian Stokle moderated a discussion among BART board candidates for District 9 and 7. Photo: Streetsblog.

Yesterday evening, the San Francisco Transit Riders held a “BART Board Director Candidate Forum” at the Mission Pool & Playground Clubhouse in the Mission District.

From the SF Transit Riders:

We are hosting the forum for the candidates to introduce themselves and respond to SFTR and public questions. This is an important time in BART’s history. Its aging system is facing the challenges of ever more crowded trains. With these BART Board elections and the $3.5 billion BART bond to improve safety and increase train reliability on the same ballot, there are many issues to discuss at the forum.

Thea Selby, chairwoman of the SF Transit Riders, spoke with Streetsblog prior to the event. She explained that the forum was intended to help educate the voters about what each candidate stood for, without her organization taking sides. “To my knowledge this is the only educational forum,” she said. It was also part of “Transit Week,” a push by the advocacy group to change perceptions of riding the bus as something people only do when they don’t have a better alternative. “We want to remind transit riders they can be proud of producing less congestion and pollution and helping San Francisco meet its climate change goals,” she said.

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San Mateo County Highway 101 Expansion Moves Ahead With Express Lanes

Options for Highway 101 in San Mateo County include widening it from 8 to 10 traffic lanes to install standard carpool lanes or express lanes, or converting an existing lane into an express lane. Image: TransForm

Options for Highway 101 in San Mateo County include widening it from 8 to 10 traffic lanes to install standard carpool lanes or express lanes, or converting an existing lane into an express lane. Image: TransForm

San Mateo County’s effort to expand Highway 101 from eight to ten traffic lanes moves ahead next month when an $11.5 million update of the project’s environmental review begins. County transportation officials had planned since 2009 to expand the highway with standard carpool lanes, but agreed last year to consider installing Express Lanes as well, an option favored by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC).

Express lanes are free for buses and carpools, but charge a toll to solo drivers during congested hours to ensure the lane remains free-flowing, and have been installed on Highways 680, 880, 580, and 237. If built on Highway 101 in San Mateo County, express lanes would someday extend for 58 miles from San Bruno through San Mateo and Santa Clara counties to Morgan Hill.

“The idea here is that we would create a more reliable travel time within that lane and that overall we increase the person throughput,” explained San Mateo County Transportation Authority (SMCTA) Deputy Project Manager Leo Scott to the agency’s Board of Directors in May when the express lane options were announced.  “We only expect more trips later, and with limited right-of-way, the best use of [Highway 101] is to get more people in fewer vehicles.”

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Update on BART Work Between Glen Park and Daly City

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BART was closed this past weekend for repairs from Glen Park to Daly City. Photo: Streetsblog.

BART was closed this past weekend for repairs from Glen Park to Daly City. Photo: Streetsblog.

While the rest of the Bay Area was heading to the beach this Labor Day weekend, BART was working around the clock between Glen Park and Daly City, repairing tracks and switches. This was the fourth weekend closure necessary for the work. As before, bus bridges were provided between Daly City, Balboa Park and Glen Park stations.

From the BART release on the closures:

We have to close the tracks between Glen Park and Daly City stations on multiple weekends between the end of July and October including Labor Day weekend. We will be making vital repairs to our tracks including adding sound dampening equipment to the curved trackway in order to reduce noise from the trains. Crews will work 24 hours a day during the shutdown. Other work will include improvements to Balboa Park Station and tree trimming along the trackway.

So how are things going? “The work is on schedule if not ahead of schedule. We may be able to drop the last weekend (Oct. 15-16) but are keeping it on the schedule as now for tentative, just in case,” explained Alicia Trost, a spokeswoman for BART, in an email to Streetsblog. “The other two weekends (9/17-18 and 10/1-2) are still planned.”

One can hear BART trains passing from miles away, as wheels cause the rails to resonate. It can be positively deafening inside the trains or close to the line. The above video is from BART and it explains what causes the noise–and what the agency is doing to quiet things down as part of this work.
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SFMTA Wants Your Help Planning San Francisco’s Subway Future

A rendering of Muni's new rail cars, coming soon. Image: Siemens.

A rendering of Muni’s new rail cars, coming soon. Image: Siemens.

Now’s your chance to go full transit geek.

SFMTA has launched its “Subway Vision” web page as a first step in developing a long-range transportation plan for the next fifty years. Or as they explained it in their release:

We want you to help draw the San Francisco subway map of the future.

We’ve teamed up with the San Francisco Planning Department and other city partners to launch a new website where you can help shape the city’s plan for future subway — our Subway Vision for the next fifty years. It’s part of the foundation we’re laying for an effective, equitable and sustainable transportation network for the future of San Francisco.

To get this right, we need your input on priorities – whether it’s extending the Central Subway to Fisherman’s Wharf, building a second Transbay Tube for BART into Mission Bay or extending the Market Street subway across the city to allow for longer trains.

Streetsblog took a quick and dirty stab at it (see the results below).

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Guest Editorial: Eisenhower’s Parking Policies No Longer Work for San Francisco

Street parking on Nob Hill. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Street parking on Nob Hill. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The last time San Francisco looked comprehensively at how we plan for parking, Eisenhower was president, gas was 25 cents a gallon, and we hadn’t even started building BART. It was an era when cities came to be dominated by drive-ins and drive-thrus, when streetcar lines were were being torn up, and new freeways were bulldozing old neighborhoods. As a result, our city’s parking policy still acts as a viagra for traffic, pollution and unaffordability.

As the City debates a Transportation Demand Management ordinance aimed at taming traffic congestion, now is the time to update San Francisco’s parking requirements, from the ground up. The City has decided it’s time to tackle congestion, and commissioned a survey of research on what works. The research concluded that “available parking is perhaps the single biggest factor in people’s decision to drive. The research shows that just building housing on a transit line doesn’t reduce automobile use, but reducing parking does.” We’re also in the city’s worst-ever housing affordability crisis, and parking requirements are a key culprit in driving up housing costs. Refreshing San Francisco’s parking policy critical to growing an affordable, sustainable city with vital and dynamic neighborhoods.

San Francisco should stop forcing parking on homes and businesses that do not need or want it. Paying for superfluous parking drives up housing and business costs, and worsens the city’s housing shortage and our escalating commercial rents.

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Streetsblog Talks with Jeff Tumlin About Oakland’s Transportation Future

Jeffrey Tumlin, Principal and Director of Strategy at Nelson\Nygaard Consulting, outside a restaurant near Oakland City Hall. Photo: Streetsblog.

Jeffrey Tumlin, Principal and Director of Strategy at Nelson/Nygaard Consulting. Photo: Streetsblog.

Jeffrey Tumlin, Principal and Director of Strategy at Nelson\Nygaard Consulting, has until early next year to put together a Transportation Department, pretty much from scratch, for the City of Oakland.

“A better Oakland starts with better streets today, in every part of our city,” said Mayor Libby Schaaf, in a prepared announcement. “We need a world-class transportation department to take a fresh look at our streets, and provide Oakland residents with safer, healthier and more accessible ways to get around, to and from work and school. Equitably enhancing our streets and adding to the array of viable transportation options in Oakland increases the vibrancy of our urban community.”

Tumlin is charged with setting up the department and putting all those goals in motion, as the interim director of the new DOT. Easy, right? Uh, no. From where Streetsblog sits, it seems pretty daunting. If anybody can do it, it’s Tumlin. He’s famous for his work on planning projects all over the world and his uncanny ability to make the wonkiest transportation stuff easily digestible to the general public. That’s important, considering how many voters–and the politicians who represent them–still think better transportation equals widening highways.

Tumlin asked Streetsblog for a sit down to talk about what he’s up to. And when a rock-star of the safe-streets movement asks Streetsblog for a lunch meeting outside Oakland City Hall, he gets it.

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Streetsblog: So Jeff, what brings you to Oakland?

Jeffrey Tumlin: My charge is actually fairly simple, first thing I have to do is create a DOT for Oakland. There’s currently one employee, that’s me. We need to create an organization. We need all of the details of the organization chart, including how to split administration functions from Public Works and have the resources to adequately staff our administration functions. Do we organize it functionally or by service delivery? Do we organize the org chart according to conventional silos, or do we turn it 90 degrees and organize it by project team or service delivery. Both structures have profound advantages and disadvantages.

SB: 90 degrees–come again?

JT: Is our primary orientation around skill and function area, or is it around service delivery? In a capital project, you can set it up so one group is in charge of planning, another does design, another does operations, and another builds it. And there’s a hand-off that occurs when it moves from phase to phase. Another way of addressing it is instead of organizing a group of people who do nothing but, for example, budgets, instead organize a project team.

SB: So instead of a design department, a planning department, and a bike lane department, you structure it so you have an office for, let’s say, the Telegraph Avenue Complete Streets project, and people from all those specialties are inside that office?

Oakland will be getting more parking-protected bike lanes like this one demonstrated by Bike East Bay. But will the potholls get repaired? Photos: Melanie Curry

Oakland will get more parking-protected bike lanes like this one demonstrated by Bike East Bay. But will the pavement be repaired? Photo: Melanie Curry

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Panel Asks: How do We Get More Diversity in Bike Advocacy?

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SFBC director Brian Wiedenmeier introduced Janice Li, Renee Rivera, Lateefah Simon and Tamika Butler for a discussion about racial equity in the bike advocacy movement. Photo: Streetsblog.

SFBC director Brian Wiedenmeier introduced Janice Li (who moderated the panel), Renee Rivera, Lateefah Simon, and Tamika Butler for a discussion about equity in the bike advocacy movement. Photo: Streetsblog.

Yesterday evening, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC) held a discussion about diversity as part of its “Bike Talks” series at the Sports Basement Grotto on Bryant Street. Janice Li, Advocacy Director for SFBC, moderated a panel comprised of Lateefah Simon, President of the Akonadi Foundation, Tamika Butler, Executive Director of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, and Renee Rivera, Executive Director of Bike East Bay.

The formal discussion about the lack of diversity in the bike advocacy community was preceded by a social with snacks and drinks. “I’ve been very up-front that issues of racial and economic justice are important to me personally, and I am interested in how the SFBC’s work can reflect those values,” said Brian Wiedenmeier, in a conversation with Streetsblog. Wiedenmeier, in several presentations, has stressed his wish that the SFBC broaden efforts to increase the diversity of its membership. “We have a strategic planning process we’ll be kicking off this fall and I think this event is a great way to begin that conversation with our members,” he said.

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