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Fixing the Mess at Geneva-San Jose/Balboa Park

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An aerial view of the study area. Photo: CTA

An aerial view of the study area. Photo: CTA

Last night, SFMTA held an open house at Lick Wilmerding High School to get community suggestions on what to do about the mess of tracks, ramps, road and pedestrian crossings on and around the intersection of Geneva and San Jose, adjacent to the Balboa Park BART and Muni stations.

From SFMTA’s project page:

The SFMTA is studying the area around the Geneva Avenue/San Jose Avenue intersection with the goal of developing short, medium and long-term improvements to transit access and safety for all users. Both Geneva and San Jose avenues are located on the City’s Vision Zero High Injury Network. This study will complement numerous projects underway in the immediate vicinity, including BART’s Station Modernization, the City’s Upper Yard Development and the City’s rehabilitation of the Geneva Car Barn. The study scope was developed in coordination with the Balboa Park Station Citizens Advisory Committee (BPSCAC) and District 11 Supervisor Avalos’ office.

This study will develop conceptual design improvements to address safety issues near the intersection. The analysis will include a focus on passenger access to Muni’s M Ocean View Line, which terminates within the Cameron Beach Yard on San Jose Avenue between Geneva and Niagara Avenues. This study will build upon past analyses and develop recommendations for improvements consistent with known plans.

Streetsblog readers will recall from an earlier post that BART is working concurrently to improve its part of the station (follow that link for more photos of the station and streets). For those not familiar with the area, the Geneva-San Jose intersection is part of a triangle of streets that also includes Ocean Ave. and is a crazy confluence of I-280’s on and off ramps, the K, the M, the J-Church, BART, and a gaggle of bus lines.
Read more…

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Safe Streets Advocates Urge ‘Yes’ Vote on Props J & K

VoteAmid an avalanche of issues on the November ballot, San Francisco voters face one question with consequences for each of us every single day: Should our city invest in safe, affordable transportation? To answer yes, we must pass both Propositions J & K.

At a time when so many people feel pressed by the soaring cost of living, this question is especially important. Transportation is the second-highest household expense in our city after housing. Everyone in San Francisco deserves access to reliable transportation, and this issue is particularly important for people struggling the most with the high cost of living.

That’s why advocates for safe, livable streets and affordable, reliable transportation support Propositions J and K. Proposition K would increase the city’s sales tax by three-quarters of one percent on goods and services excluding rent, utilities, groceries, health care and prescriptions. With a separate state tax expiring, the passage of Proposition K would increase the city’s sales tax rate from 8.75 to 9.25 percent, which is among the lowest in the Bay Area. However this small increase–$0.05 on every $10 spent on taxable goods, to be exact–would raise $154 million a year, half funded by tourists and visitors. Proposition J would ensure that those funds are dedicated exclusively to two of the most important issues facing our city: fighting homelessness and fixing our transportation systems.

It’s crucial to note, these measures work together: we won’t see the benefits of J without also passing K. Read more…

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VTA Measure B’s Bloated Highway Expansions Leave Transit Unfunded

Decades of failed highway expansions haven't discouraged VTA from seeking more. The agency would allocate $1.85 billion to highway projects if Measure B passes. Photo: Andrew Boone

Decades of failed highway expansions haven’t discouraged VTA from seeking more. The agency would allocate $1.85 billion to highway projects if Measure B passes. Photo: Andrew Boone

The Valley Transportation Authority (VTA)’s proposed 30-year Measure B half-cent sales tax is bloated with billions of dollars in highway traffic expansions. If Santa Clara County voters pass Measure B on November 8, $1.85 billion would be lavished on highway projects while less than half that amount would go to bus, light rail, bicycling, and walking improvements combined over the next 30 years.

“We have no intention of leaving them stranded at the curb,” said Silicon Valley Leadership Group President and CEO Carl Guardino of “non-choice” VTA riders who don’t own a car, during a debate Wednesday afternoon on Measure B at De Anza College’s Student Senate. “That’s why half of a billion dollars is for lifeline service and core transit service to meet their needs.”

While $500 million for better bus and light rail service might sound like a lot, that’s the amount Measure B would invest over 30 years, and it’s just 8 percent of total revenues. This is only half the investment needed only to restore bus service to 2001 levels [PDF]. Just $250 million over 30 years, or 4 percent of revenues, would go into fixing hazards faced by people walking and bicycling.

Read more…

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Subway Metadata Master Plan

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A "heat map" of where San Franciscans want to see subways. Image: ConnectSF

A “heat map” of where San Franciscans want to see subways. Image: ConnectSF

Yesterday afternoon the Land Use and Transportation Committee of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors heard a presentation from transportation officials on efforts to design a “Subway Master Plan,” a long-range blueprint for a subway network for San Francisco.

From a release on the meeting from Supervisor Scott Wiener’s office:

Today at the Land Use and Transportation Committee, City transportation agencies delivered a presentation on their work to create a Subway Master Plan. Supervisor Scott Wiener called for the development of the Subway Master Plan last year, and authored an ordinance requiring the policy be developed. At the hearing, the Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA) and the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) presented the initial findings – which they have called the Subway Vision — that they have been developing over the last year.

Streetsblog readers will recall that in August the SFMTA and other agencies launched a web page that invited people to draw subway lines and stations where they would most like to see them. The computers then combined the “over 2,600 unique submissions that ranged from a single line to a comprehensive system,” explained Sarah Jones, SFMTA’s Planning Director. “The most consistently drawn lines were in prior plans we reviewed, but also saw some other areas being opened up.”
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Public Gets a Look at BART’s Future

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Rain didn't stop hundreds of BART customers from coming to MacArthur Station to see the new train car. Photo: Streetsblog

Rain didn’t stop hundreds of BART customers from coming to MacArthur Station to see the new train car. Photo: Streetsblog

Yesterday afternoon, some 1,600 people braved the rain to check out BART’s new rolling stock at an open-house at MacArthur Station in Oakland. BART is doing a total of four open houses. The first one was Saturday, in Pleasant Hill/Contra Costa Centre Station. From the BART web page:

The Fleet of the Future is closer than ever to becoming a reality for BART riders. Your chance to get an up close look at a test train for the new fleet is coming. BART will hold a series of FREE open house events in October. The Open House events will occur on a station platform at these dates and locations:

  • Saturday, October 15th at Pleasant Hill/Contra Costa Centre Station 11 am- 4 pm
  • Sunday, October 16th at MacArthur Station 11 am – 4 pm
  • Saturday, October 29th at Dublin/Pleasanton Station 11 am – 4 pm
  • Sunday, October 30th at El Cerrito del Norte Station 11 am – 4 pm

The new train cars will expand the BART fleet and provide much-needed crowd relief.  The goal is to order a total of 1,081 cars, which would increase the number of seats in the BART fleet by 49 percent.

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Ballot Primer for an Election that Will Drive You to Drink

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A standing-room only crowd drank beer and listened to the experts at SPUR breakdown SF's ballot measures. Photo: Streetsblog

A standing-room only crowd drank beer and listened to SPUR’s experts break down SF’s ballot measures. Photo: Streetsblog

Yesterday evening, over 220 people squeezed into the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association’s (SPUR) downtown S.F. location to hear the organization’s policy experts explain which ballot measures they are endorsing. With 25 measures on the San Francisco ballot this November 8, each of the six SPUR experts spent just a few minutes on each decision–and it still took nearly two hours to get through them all.

Thankfully, they also offered bottles of beer at the door.

Here’s a sampling of some of the most Streetsblog-relevant “yes” recommendations:
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Rail~Volution: All-Things-Rail Conference Comes to San Francisco

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Press-Release-Header-1200x565Some 1,200 planners, engineers, managers and transit journalists crowded into the San Francisco Hyatt Regency this week for the Rail~Volution conference. From the conference press release:

The…conference brings together thought leaders and innovators to discuss the relationship between public transit and land-use, examine best practices in transit-oriented development, and look at how to maintain diversity and inclusion in the face of a changing urban landscape. With 22 mobile workshops and over 75 thought-provoking presentation and discussion sessions, the conference goes beyond the traditional sit-and-listen experience. Workshops will focus on such topics as “Anti-Displacement: Tools for Preserving Affordability Near Transit,” “Hot Topics in Streetcar Systems” and “All Hail Car Sharing! Shared Use Mobility From an Environmental Perspective.” Other sessions include “Two Wheels Are Better Than Four: Expanding Your Network Through Bicycle Connectivity” and “Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Smorgasbord: Three Cities Dish on Their BRT Experiences.”

Yesterday morning’s plenary session featured SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin. He welcomed the attendees, who came from all over North America. The morning session focused almost entirely on housing cost and supply issues–and transit’s role in solving them. “We can really think about how and what we do can address those challenges,” said Reiskin. “Not to say transportation and planning are magic bullets, but I do think they can and should be part of the solution and we should use a lens of not just how can we make our cities more livable, but can we make our cities more livable for everyone?”

That tack continued with a chock-full-of-data presentation by Kim-Mai Cutler, journalist and columnists for TechCrunch. She explained that Eichler-built, single-family homes were once available to working-class families in the Bay Area. “In 1950, a home in Palo Alto was 1.5 times the median income, or about $9,400,” she said. “Today if you looked at an Eichler, it’s more than $2 million.” Read more…

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Endorsement: Reinvest for a Safe and Reliable BART

Image: Wikipedia Commons.

Image: Wikipedia Commons.

Streetsblog San Francisco recommends a yes vote on Measure RR, the $3.5 billion bond measure to keep BART safe and reliable.

Measure RR will replace and repair the core infrastructure of BART by upgrading its 1960s train-control system, renewing existing stations, replacing over 90 miles of worn-down rails, improving electrical power systems, and enhancing BART’s ability to withstand earthquakes.

Not only will these investments deliver essential safety and reliability benefits, they will also allow BART to increase capacity. A modern train control system will enable BART to run trains faster and closer together, accommodating nearly 200,000 additional daily riders. With BART ridership set to grow 75 percent by 2040, we need to act now to meet the demands of the future. Additionally, moving more people by train relieves pressure on our congested roads, so whether you ride BART or not, Measure RR benefits you.

Measure RR also has environmental benefits. Electrical upgrades will allow more on-site solar power at BART stations and yards, and help BART deliver on its goal of being the first subway system in the country to power itself with 100 percent renewable energy. With fewer drivers on the road, Measure RR will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.

Realizing these positive policy efforts hinges on the passage of Measure RR.

Read more…

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SPUR Talk: High-Speed Rail on its Way to Northern California

Bridging the Fresno River. This is just one of several locations where work is under way on the California High-Speed Rail project. Photo: CaHSR Authority

Bridging the Fresno River. This is just one of several locations where work is under way on the California High-Speed Rail project. Photo: CaHSR Authority

High-Speed Rail construction is well underway in the Central Valley, said Ben Tripousis, Northern California Regional Director for the California High Speed Rail Authority, during a forum at the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association’s (SPUR) Mission Street center. “The High-Speed Rail question has shifted from ‘if’ to ‘when,'” he told the packed house at today’s lunchtime presentation.

He showed videos and photographs of the ongoing construction included in this video from the California High-Speed Rail Authority:

This fully funded phase contains “119 miles with…seven active sites with more to come in the Fall,” he explained. He also showed a video about a printing business and a boxing gym in Fresno that were successfully relocated to make way for the tracks. He said now that earth is being moved and concrete poured, some of the opposition is fading, but it will never go away altogether. “There’s no shortage of horror stories how projects like this ‘railroad’ people,” he said. “We continue to work very hard to include local communities.”

Streetsblog readers will recall that under the new HSR business plan, released earlier this year, the Authority is now doing environmental work and preparing for construction to link the Central Valley to San Francisco via Gilroy and the Caltrain corridor. Bridging the gap from Bakersfield to Los Angeles and Anaheim will come in a later phase. This decision was made after the Authority determined that an initial operating segment could get running faster, and serve more people, by focusing on the northern end of the alignment first.

That means “fully electrifying the Caltrain commuter service.” Electrifying Caltrain will permit HSR to share tracks to downtown San Francisco. He explained how Caltrain will eventually run at 110 mph, thanks to HSR-funded upgrades.

Read more…

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Was the Turning Point on Taraval a Teachable Moment?

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The contentious "Safeway Stop" on the L-Taraval. Photo: Streetsblog

The contentious “Safeway stop” on the L-Taraval. Photo: Streetsblog

A week ago today, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency decided unanimously to move forward with concrete boarding islands on the L-Taraval. And maybe, just maybe, it was also a concrete turning point towards finally putting safety first.

As Streetsblog readers know all too well, every time SFMTA develops transit improvements as part of its Muni Forward program, the agency encounters enormous pushback. It comes from competing agencies, local politicians, and from a loud minority of angry stakeholders. And whether it’s the Mission, Masonic, or Van Ness, it’s this pushback that gets covered in the mainstream press.

The resulting political pressure causes delays, watered-down projects, and—more often than not—a failure to adhere to the voter approved “transit first” policies dating back to the 1970s. In other words, a minority of self-interested and ill-informed people are given more political sway than the voters. Read more…