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Posts from the "Transportation Funding" Category

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Gov. Brown Could Sign Bill to Help Finance Sustainable Development in CA

Governor Jerry Brown is poised to sign a bill that would enable cities and counties in California to finance regional smart growth plans and sustainable transportation improvements through the creation of Sustainable Communities Investment Authorities.

SB 1, authored by State Senator Darrell Steinberg, is aimed at restoring some of the financing mechanisms lost after Brown eliminated Community Redevelopment Agencies last year. Steinberg introduced a similar bill in 2012, but it was vetoed by the governor, who said it was too early to create new agencies with powers similar to the ones he’d just ordered dismantled.

Steinberg looks on as Brown signs a budget cutting bill in 2011. Photo:Zimio

The bill is aimed at helping municipalities implement their newly-adopted Sustainable Communities Strategies, which were mandated in 2008 with the adoption of SB 375. That bill, also authored by Steinberg and signed by then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, was the first piece of state legislation in the nation to order the creation of plans to curb suburban sprawl and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation.

As regional agencies adopt these regional plans — the most recent of which was Plan Bay Area – it’s becoming more apparent that their implementation will depend on the funding needed to provide grant incentives for development near transit hubs and the walking, biking, and transit improvements to support them.

“The state is finally promoting regional planning for sustainable communities, but with few resources to get the job done,” said Stuart Cohen, Executive Director of TransForm, a statewide nonprofit that advocates for sustainable transportation and housing policies. “SB 1 will help cities deliver walkable, affordable communities with great transportation options. What’s more, the bill includes critical language protecting residents and supporting production of new homes affordable to all Californians. SB 1 recognizes that a successful community must provide for all its residents.”

Jackie Cornejo, director of the Construction Careers Project at LAANE (Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy), called SB 1 “an ambitious bill that seeks to create a whole new vision of equitable development for every community in our state.”

“We are very excited to be working on a bill that will leverage Los Angeles’ massive build out of transit and promote sustainable development nearby so we can all live and play near our work, have access to good jobs and affordable housing,” she said.

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How Will SF Fund the Sustainable Transport System a Growing City Needs?

Within a few decades, San Francisco’s streets will be even more clogged with cars, more dangerous for walking and biking, and Muni will burst at the seams as more people try to get around. That’s the future city officials warned about at a hearing yesterday, painting a grim picture of traffic-choked streets if nothing is done to change the status quo of paltry funding for walking, biking, and transit.

“The growth is coming to San Francisco, the people who are here aren’t leaving, and more jobs are coming,” said SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin. “I think we got away for a few decades with not making investments in our transportation system” and other infrastructure, he said, “but we’re beyond a point where we can get away with it anymore.”

As we’ve reported, the city’s transportation and street infrastructure has $3.1 billion in unfunded maintenance needs over the next ten years, $2.2 billion of which is to bring Muni up to a “state of good repair.” Looking at all of the transit systems in the Bay Area, the budget gap is $18 billion over the next 25 years, and that’s just maintenance — adding the capacity to transport a larger population will cost more.

Those numbers don’t include funding to implement the SF Pedestrian Strategy, the Bicycle Strategy, the Muni Transit Effectiveness Project, traffic signal upgrades, and other street redesigns, each of which would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, said Reiskin. None of the measures currently in the works to increase transportation funding would come close to meeting the projected needs.

Over the next 25 years, San Francisco is projected to add 92,410 housing units and 191,000 jobs, said Planning Director John Rahaim. Those figures come from Plan Bay Area, a strategy to focus regional population growth near transit and job centers that was approved last week by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and is set to be updated every five years.

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Advocates: Next SFCTA Chief Needs to Collaborate for a Sustainable Future

Some time this month, a new executive director is expected to be chosen to head the SF County Transportation Authority, filling the shoes of José Luis Moscovich, who resigned from the position late last year citing health reasons. In selecting a new leader, sustainable transportation advocates say, the Board of Supervisors should seek a candidate who can improve the agency’s collaboration with other city and regional planning agencies.

The SFCTA plays a key role in determining whether the city moves towards a future that’s more livable, or continues the car-dependent status quo. The agency manages San Francisco’s transportation finances, including revenue from the Prop K local transportation sales tax, and it oversees long-range transportation plans and major projects like the bus rapid transit lines on Van Ness Avenue and Geary Boulevard. The SFCTA would also administer any potential congestion pricing scheme.

You may have seen this logo on the side of Muni buses and signs for projects funded through the SFCTA.

“It’s really critical that the TA director can get the city agencies to cost-effectively change people’s travel behavior, and encourage walking, cycling, and transit with new development so we don’t go backwards in terms of pedestrian safety, congestion, and pollution,” said Tom Radulovich, executive director of Livable City.

Radulovich says a lack of coordination between agencies like the SFCTA, the SF Municipal Transportation Agency, the Planning Department, and the Department of Public Works often stymies the city’s progress on livability and transit improvements. He pointed out, for example, that when re-paving streets, DPW often doesn’t implement pedestrian safety improvements that are called for in the city’s street design standards, meaning money doled out by the SFCTA for street rehabs goes wasted.

“They’re rebuilding dangerous, ugly, deadly traffic sewer streets as traffic sewers,” said Radulovich. “As we’re spending these hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild streets, to see them rebuilt better, safer, and re-balancing the modes towards walking, cycling, and transit is really important. The TA could be doing a better job of coordination, funding, and making sure that standards are understood and adhered to.”

Supervisor John Avalos, who chairs the SFCTA Board, said the need for the next leader to collaborate better is “a really good point.”

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Neglecting Muni Costs the Economy at Least $50 Million Per Year

Photo: Aaron Bialick

Every time a Muni train breaks down or a bus is stuck in car traffic, San Francisco pays big time.

City staffers are beginning to tally up the economic toll of Muni delays, and presented [PDF] some alarming figures at a hearing yesterday called by Supervisor Scott Wiener.

In April, riders were delayed a cumulative 86,000 hours, or, as SF Weekly calculated, 19 years and eight months. That amounts to an economic loss of $4.2 million, or $50 million per year, according to the City Controller’s Office. And that’s a conservative estimate — it doesn’t account for delays outside of rush hours or the loss of potential customers who might otherwise use Muni to shop if the system were more reliable, a Controller’s Office staffer said.

“The system’s struggles have real-life consequences for our city,” said Wiener. “When service is unreliable, people are delayed and frustrated in getting where they’re going, leading to negative economic impacts and reduced quality of life.”

Last week, the N-Judah — Muni’s busiest line — shut down twice in two days due to damaged overhead wire equipment, leaving trains sitting on the street for most of a 24-hour period. Such meltdowns not only have internal costs for Muni, like overtime labor to run shuttle buses as a substitute for train service and the cost of repairing equipment. They also cost commuters time, and repeated delays lead them to consider other ways of getting around — or to question whether to make a trip at all.

“The bottom line,” said SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin, “is the transportation system matters to people when they’re choosing where to live, where they work, what modes of travel they’re going to use, and how they’re going to allocate their household budget between housing and transportation.”

With Muni being deprived of funding for decades — a situation that’s only getting worse — the system’s outlook is grim. Here are the stats, as reported by Muni and summed up by SF Weekly, since July:

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Livable City: Ticket Fee a Smart Way to Fund Transit to Warriors Arena

A rendering of the proposed Warriors basketball arena on the Embarcadero. Image: Golden State Warriors

Transporting folks to and from a new Warriors arena, condo, and hotel development planned for Piers 30-32 along the Embarcadero will require smart planning and the money to fund improvements for transit, walking, and biking to avoid clogging the waterfront with cars.

But Muni typically gets shorted when it beefs up transit service to bring fans to major sports and music events around the city, says Supervisor Scott Wiener, who yesterday proposed adding a $1 to $3 transit surcharge to tickets for such events. Wiener asked the City Controller’s Office to study the impacts of such a fee, and he says preliminary estimates indicate it could bring in anywhere from $3 million to $22 million per year for Muni, depending on the size of the fee and which venues pay it.

“Muni doesn’t have enough light rail vehicles, its vehicles frequently break down, and service has degraded,” Wiener said in a statement. “With a growing population and a possible new sports/concert arena at Piers 30-32, now is the time to ensure that Muni can meet not only today’s transit needs, but also the transit needs of the future.”

“Currently, the Muni underground is overwhelmed whenever there’s a Giants game. With the addition of the new arena, the strain on Muni service will be even more severe.”

Tom Radulovich, executive director of Livable City and president of the BART Board of Directors, said the proposal “would certainly help Muni run the extra service,” for which the agency often pays transit operators overtime.

Radulovich pointed out that the surcharge wouldn’t necessarily come out of fans’ pockets, since venue managers would likely lower their ticket prices to match the going rate. “If they could charge two bucks extra on a ticket already, they’d be doing it,” he said. “They price them to fill the seats.”

An even better proposal, Radulovich noted, would be for event tickets to include a free Muni ride to encourage attendees to take transit instead of drive.

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Supervisor Mar: Abysmal Funding for Bicycle Infrastructure “Not Acceptable”

It looks like Supervisor Eric Mar is ready to make some noise about the need to fund the SFMTA’s vision for a major expansion of bike-friendly streets — which Mayor Ed Lee hasn’t prioritized at all since the agency released its Draft Bicycle Strategy earlier this year.

Supervisor Mar speaking at last week's Bike to Work Day rally. Photo: Aaron Bialick

At yesterday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Mar issued a request to the City Budget and Legislative Analyst and the Controller’s Office for a report on potential opportunities to increase the abysmal amount of funding currently devoted to bicycle infrastructure — 0.46 percent of the city’s capital budget.

“It’s time that the city walks the walk when it comes to funding bike improvements,” said Mar. “Less than a half of one percent is not acceptable.”

While pro-bike talk from elected officials abounded at last week’s Bike to Work Day rally, Mar noted that ”there were no commitments to step up and deliver the funding that our fledgling bicycle network needs.”

In February, when Mar asked Mayor Ed Lee how he planned to help fund the SFMTA’s Bicycle Strategy – a vision for making bicycling a mainstream mode of transportation – the mayor made it clear that he has no plans to back up his pro-bike rhetoric with a commitment to implementation.

With the SFMTA set to approve its next two-year budget a year from now, “Now is the time where we can start planning and working proactively to make these plans a reality,” said Mar.

Mar pointed to SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin’s remarks at last October’s NACTO Conference in New York, reported by Streetsblog, when Reiskin stated that “the most cost effective investment we can make in moving people in our city is in bicycle infrastructure.”

The efficacy of bicycle infrastructure is already evident in neighborhoods like the Inner Richmond, which Mar represents, where bicycle commuting increased by 167 percent from 2000 to 2010. During that time, bike lanes were installed on Arguello Boulevard and Cabrillo Street. Mar also pushed for the recent implementation of the Fell and Oak protected bike lanes, which now provide a safer commuting route for District 1 residents. “I think the improvements to bike lanes, making them safer for families, has had a real impact in the Richmond,” said Mar.

“We know that improving the bicycle network in San Francisco leads to healthier communities, less car congestion, less pressure on Muni lines already at capacity, healthier commuters, and many other economic benefits,” he added.

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Sup. Wiener: Muni Will Only Get Worse Under City’s Ten-Year Spending Plan

Supervisor Scott Wiener is sounding the alarm that Muni, already the slowest transit system in the country, will only get worse over the next ten years unless officials at City Hall take the initiative to devote more resources to the city’s decrepit transit vehicles and infrastructure.

Under the the latest iteration of the city’s ten-year Capital Plan, a draft of which was approved by the Board of Supervisors last week, Muni will only see more of the breakdowns and crowding that have plagued the system due to decades of underfunding, said Wiener.

While the $330 million currently set aside in the plan for Muni is an increase over the city’s historic spending levels of “basically zero,” Wiener lamented the fact that it comes nowhere near filling the system’s backlog of repairs and equipment replacements, which the SFMTA estimates would require $510 million every year within the ten-year period.

“I think it’s important for all of us to understand that that is not even close to what we need even to improve service levels today, let alone with a growing population and a ten-year older system,” Wiener said at a recent meeting of the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee.

As the SF Examiner has reported, even if voters approve two proposed revenue measures in November 2014, the Capital Plan would include a combined $790 million over the next ten years for transportation and street infrastructure — nowhere near the $3.1 billion backlog, $2.2 billion of which the SFMTA says is for Muni:

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New CPMC Hospital Deal: Smaller Campus, But More Car Parking for Its Size

The new plan for California Pacific Medical Center’s Cathedral Hill campus at Van Ness Avenue and Geary Boulevard calls for a far less massive facility than originally planned, but the number of car parking spaces per bed will actually be higher.

A rendering of CPMC's originally proposed 555-bed Cathedral Hill campus at Van Ness and Geary.

Under the new agreement announced by city supervisors yesterday, the size of the hospital will be cut nearly in half, from 555 beds to 304 beds. But the number of parking spaces included in its garage won’t be downsized at the same ratio, shedding only 210 of its 1,200 original spaces — a 20 percent reduction, according to the SF Examiner. So while the facility may bring in less car traffic as a whole, it will actually be more car-centric compared to the original plan.

“There’ll be a lesser impact on transit from traffic, but it’s only because they made the hospital smaller, not because they got any smarter about transportation,” said Livable City Executive Director Tom Radulovich.

Of the location at Van Ness and Geary, Radulovich says, “If you were going to pick a spot that’s not on Market Street where you could do the most damage to transit, Van Ness and Geary is pretty much it.”

The $14 million that CPMC has agreed to pay the SF Municipal Transportation Agency to help fund Van Ness and Geary Bus Rapid Transit projects was also reduced from the $20 million included in the development agreement as late as November, according to the Chronicle (though it’s still more than the $10 million Mayor Ed Lee originally asked for in 2011).

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Supes Find Compromise in West SoMa Plan’s Housing/Transit Tussle

City supervisors have reached a compromise on a contentious measure in the zoning plan for the western South of Market District that would have diverted some developer impact fees away from transit and street improvements to fund affordable housing.

Trinity Place housing development at 8th and Mission Streets, just outside the border of the West SoMa Plan. Photo: sftrajan/Flickr

By increasing the number of subsidized affordable apartments that residential building developers will be required to provide in large projects, an amendment introduced by Supervisor Jane Kim removed the 33 percent cut in developer impact fees for transportation upgrades originally proposed in the West SoMa Plan, while also satisfying residents’ calls to increase the amount of affordable housing for low-income residents in the area. The plan was passed unanimously by the Land Use and Economic Development Committee yesterday, and the full Board of Supervisors is expected to consider it in the coming weeks.

Kim, who introduced the amendment that settled the housing/transit tussle, said the solution makes more sense now than it did during the plan’s eight-year development, when the real estate economy was in worse shape. At the time, planning participants thought that imposing more costly housing requirements would dissuade developers from building new housing at all. But with today’s development boom, those requirements are expected to be more palatable. “After doing some number crunching” with community members and housing advocates, she said, ”we were able to get some consensus.”

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West SoMa Plan May Direct Funds to Affordable Housing at Transit’s Expense

A provision in the new zoning plan for the western South of Market District has come under scrutiny by city supervisors because it would direct a larger share of developer fees for some projects to go towards affordable housing at the expense of transit and street improvements.

An affordable housing development at 8th and Howard Streets. Image: David Baker + Partners Architects

When the West SoMa Area Plan went up for approval by the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development Committee on Monday, it originally called for one-third of some developer impact fees that normally go toward transit, streets, and open space to instead be spent on affordable housing. An amendment from Supervisor Scott Wiener has tentatively scuttled that provision by setting the revenue levels closer to those in the larger Eastern Neighborhoods Zoning Plan. The plan is set to return to the committee for approval on Monday, where Wiener’s amendment could still be rescinded. After committee, it must be approved by the full Board of Supervisors.

Wiener said that while he’s a strong proponent of raising subsidies for affordable housing, an increase in population will come with an added strain on the transportation system at a time when transit is already woefully starved of funding. “To me it’s very counterintuitive, and I don’t think it’s good policy, to reduce transit impact fees when we’re increasing population,” he said. “Whether it’s transit, or it’s pedestrian safety upgrades, our capital needs are so dramatic.”

Jane Kim, supervisor of District 6, which includes West SoMa, said she sees the need to increase transit funding, but stood by the original provision because it was agreed upon by a majority of residents who participated in the plan’s development. She sees it as “a net gain for the city.”

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