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    The Observer is a fairly left-wing source so you are guilty of the very same bias claim you made about me.

    Rents are driven by a complex set of factors and it’s not possible to isolate just one (rent control) and determine its effect. The closest we can come to that is compare cities of a similar size and notice the difference between the rents of each. Rents are highest in cities with rent control.

    Ultimately rents are set by the balance between supply and demand. It doesn’t much affect demand unless a city also has vacancy control, which is illegal under state law. But it absolutely does affect supply because, as noted, many landlords will not rent out their units long-term if they are controlled. I am living proof of that and there are many others like me.

    The other factor is that tenants with rent control resist moving. That constrains turnover, the vacancy rate and so, again, drives up rents at the margin.

    I happen to agree that NIMBYisn is another factor that drives up rental costs as well. SF really has the worst possible combination – rent controls with NIMBYism. A double blow to affordability.



    As a second year operator for Muni, I make under $40,000 a year, pre-tax, inclusive of overtime. If you don’t like riding the 9, 14, or 49, you should try driving them for 8-12 hours a day…its an unparalleled delight.



    You didn’t ask me if throwing money at MUNI is good for MUNI. You asked me if there was a study showing what the priorities of the citizens are.

    Why are you responding to my response by changing the subject?



    All valid uses.

    You imply you were doing short term lets before. Did you have your use permit? Were you paying the ToT? What changed? If you were in compliance, this stuff should be a non-issue, n’est pas?



    Slush money for the general fund – in other words the money that SF uses to make it a city people want to visit.

    Regulating short term lets is absolutely a good thing. We use zoning or HOAs or whatever to produce some housing stock where residents can move in and understand they don’t have short term neighbors. We tax short term lets because they have an impact that we mitigate with money collected from taxes. We put review on the landlord to assure some level of protection for the short term tenants.

    I agree with your premise that the press to make sure the regulations are met are not because that’s “proper” and “fair”, but because the people pushing those regulations think they are doing so to solve a problem that wasn’t sourced by airbnb.


    Donovan Lacy


    I just didn’t understand why you threw in the last comment. I have read a fair number of your recent responses and they tend to be on point, so I assumed that you added that last comment for a reason.

    I can understand your argument that higher average speeds can lead to greater capacity, assuming that increased track availability is utilized, however I don’t think that you can discount the fact that faster (on time) trains lead to more customers and more revenue. If you haven’t already you might want to read through some of the Amtrak numbers for the Acela Express (

    As an alternative mode of transportation trains are competing primarily with automobiles, and if they are not at least comparable in travel times, people are not going to ride them, regardless of much capacity they may have,



    Citing the Cato foundation’s opinion on rent control is rather like citing Donald Trump’s opinion on immigration; as a libertarian think tank, it’s far from an unbiased source. I prefer to base my conclusions on data rather propaganda, and from said data it’s pretty clear to me that there was no significant change in the rate of increase of rents before and after the implementation of rent control, and the volitility in rents seen in recent decades is primarily attributable to the boom and bust tech economy and lack of available housing.

    The lack of available housing is primarily a consequence of NIMBY resistance to new construction in the city. This in turn may be partly attributable to rent control, as someone who enjoys the benefits of rent control has no real reason to support new construction as they will not benefit from the resulting stabilization of market-rate rents. But that’s only part of the reasons people in this city oppose new housing, and I’d rather focus on tackling NIMBYism as a whole than just one part of it.


    Karen Lynn Allen

    Anyone in San Francisco interested in hosting a public bench, check out:

    Chronicles our family’s bench:



    You’re really asking me what I have already done, as I largely stopped doing short-term lets 2-3 years ago when this furore in a teacup started. Examples:

    1) Shorter-term rentals, i.e. rentals that are longer than 30 days (so no ToT) but still of limited term. Foreign visitors on 3-6 month visas are perfect

    2) Rent to an entity rather than a person, so rent control doesn’t apply. For instance I have rented directly to tech companies who rotate employees in and out

    3) Move into your controlled unit and instead rent out your non-controlled condo or SFH

    4) Sell as TIC



    I don’t disagree with that, although the ToT is not “used to support all short term rentals”. It’s just slush money for the general fund.

    But as noted elsewhere, at least in San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley (the main Bay Area cities that have rent control) fewer short-term lets does not mean that those units revert to long-term lets. Rather the owner has already decided not to do long-term lets because of rent control, and instead seek other uses.

    Regulating short-term lets is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as it is not excessively intrusive. But doing that just to try and force or lackmail property owners into doing long-term lets would be repugnant. The state’s Ellis Act has already ratified the important constitutional principle that a local government may not pass laws that compel business owners to continue in that business



    So even if this forced me to stop doing short-term lets, my units are still not going back onto the controlled market.

    What would you do instead?



    this doesn’t make short term rentals a de facto good thing. or a de facto bad thing.

    The problem I have is when someone sets up shop as a short term rental owner but tries to do so on a different playing field from other short term rentals. If you are going to play there, you need to follow regulations, follow zoning, and pay the ToT that is used to support all short term rentals.

    What tends to happen is that following the rules in place makes the short term rental business less profitable, and some potential short term rentals go back to long term.



    Throwing more money at Muni is hardly a recipe for improving Muni. We do that every year, and in greater relative amounts than any other city. Sadly much of that gets sucked up in higher pay and benefits for operators and not for better service and quality.

    Even with more funding, closing the most loss-making services can still be appropriate for the greater good of the city.



    Donovan, I was referring to transit systems, since that was the context here. Murph was (I think) trying to claim that the faster trains (actually trains that stop less) attract more revenue and customers.

    That may be true at the margin. However, the problem CalTrain has is not insufficient demand. The trains are often crowded. But rather a lack of capacity. CalTrain isn’t engaged in marketing in pursuit of greater profits the way, say, Proctor and Gamble might.

    So the real reason for higher average train speeds is greater capacity. The same train can be used more times a day.

    Discussions about how to fund critical national infrastructure is really a different discussion, because generally infrastructure isn’t funded by fares, tolls aside.



    Yes. The study was called “Proposition B”



    Wrong, there is a huge inventory of research showing that rent control in particular, and price controls in general, only work in the short-term as a response to emergencies, disasters and war. While long-term they suppress the construction, supply and provision of housing, thereby driving up the cost.

    Studies have shown that 93% of economists support this view – almost as high as the percentage of scientists who believe in global warming. Here is a good place to start your education:

    In fact even the article you cite debunks your claim, here:

    “That’s the amount the rent has gone up every year, on average, since 1956. It was true before rent control; it was true after rent control. It wasn’t entirely true during the 2000 tech bubble, but it was still sort of true and it became true again afterward.”

    Bruce is correct. As a property owner who has done short-term rentals in the past, the main reason was not because it is more money. It isn’t when you include extra costs and hassle, and null periods. It is so I can avoid the punitive drawbacks of rent control.

    This change will be good for CraigsList and bad for Airbnb. But there is no way that I would be willing to deal with rent control. So even if this forced me to stop doing short-term lets, my units are still not going back onto the controlled market. I’m not a masochist.



    Is there a study that shows what the priorities of the citizens were on this subject? Isn’t the reality that there are always conflicting priorities?

    My assumption had been that there is at least some economic imperative behind Muni, such that there are limits to the amount of subsidy that can be given to routes that are under-utilised.

    And the fact that similar cuts were made in neighboring counties, as David explained, is indicative this wasn’t just a specific SF problem.



    There’s no consensus that rent control is the cause of the housing shortage. The data simply doesn’t support that theory. This is the best thing I’ve read on the subject:


    Donovan Lacy

    I assume that when you say that “It’s not as if any of these systems actually run a profit anyway”, you are referring to our local, state and federal highways, as it’s not as if any of these systems, including the tollroads actually run a profit.



    The routes were scaled back because Room 200 had other priorities, regardless of what the citizen’s priorities were.



    Interesting premise in the Streetsblog choice of wording: “New Law Could Open Properties Currently Used as Airbnbs”. Or, said more clearly: New law hopes to force more short term rentals to be long term rentals. The implied problem being that available long term rentals are scarce and, no surprise, expensive.

    What irks me is that almost unanimously, when you ask experts who study economics, the experts agree that rent control law is the culprit for scarcity of available long term rental units. Denying scientific consensus is just as bad with this as it is with climate change denial at the other end of the political spectrum. (And the Board of Supervisors were unanimous in their science denial.) I guess humans are human.



    Ah, but which came first? The chicken or the egg?

    Are people unhappy with the buses because of the scaled back schedules and routes? Or were schedules and routes scaled back because people were unhappy with them and didn’t use them?



    You are confusing actual utilization with theoretical capacity. And marketing with operations.

    Faster journeys may stimulate some extra demand, as do lower fares, on-board wi-fi and other factors. But the real reason why operating companies offer faster speeds is to be able to run more trains per day with the same rolling stock, thereby increasing capacity.

    After all, it’s not as if any of these systems actually run a profit anyway.


    Ted King

    The ugly reality about the SFMuni portion of the Market Street Subway is that it’s a HAND-ME-DOWN from BART. The ball-less wonders who accepted it didn’t make an effort to convert the platforms from subway-style (high) to match the existing low platforms that were in use elsewhere in the city. So we’ve had two generations of failure prone Hi-Lo’s (Boeing + Breda) and we will see what happens with the next generation.

    P.S. Boeing could have fought off their severe case of NIH disease and licensed mark II PCC’s from Tatra / Skoda. Of course, that’s too rational and possibly un-American.


    Ted King

    @RichLL – “And in fact if it is less than a couple of miles I’d rather walk.”

    Your “unreliable” coupled with the above strikes to a peeve of mine. The NextMuni displays in many shelters are engaged in outright FRAUD by promising buses that never show up. And the dispatchers are endangering potential riders by failing to add current and topical advisory messages to the viewers about alternate routes they should be considering (e.g. 12 Folsom vs. 27 Bryant) due to canceled runs. I regularly walk about a mile to a mile and a half because shank’s mare is way more reliable and HONEST.



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    david vartanoff

    So in the period MTC reported on, AC axed nearly all evening, weekend and all overnight service for roughly 5 years. After that period, AC restored skeletal services evenings, and weekends, but has since done several rounds of route elimination/realignments. Although they are currently rolling out some service upgrades, they are axing the heavily used Rapid routes on both Telegraph and East 14th.

    In the same period, Muni for years did de facto service cuts by faking budgets resulting in 10-25% of service not operating any given day, followed by a major route slaughter early this century.
    Both agencies abandoned some neighborhoods, and in periods of severe funding shortfalls, simply didn’t put the advertised buses on the street. All the while MTC made sure BART had funding.
    Surprise! Riders got the message; bus transit was not reliable.

    Now MTC wants the bus agencies to become “more efficient”???


    david vartanoff

    All of the “easy fixes” were recommended to Muni 15 years ago. Nothing happened–the cars still block the M ,the cops don’t ticket them, gates were not installed, neither transit signal priority of preemption were installed.

    As to the value of getting the trains into their own tunnel–Boston and New York figured that out in 1896 and 1904 respectively. The facts remain, fully separate ROW permits faster throughput and encourages greater ridership.

    Of course $3.5 B is too much–Switzerland just finished35 miles x two tracks for $12 B–but US projects are primarily handouts to the crony kleptocrats.

    Rouite issues: yes the M should go to Daly City BART, if the subway happens,, then yes the M becomes the trunk line alternating with the N they could each have trains every 4 minutes in rush. Doing that w/ 4 car trains would eliminate crowding. Having the L and K either combined or as shuttles from West Portal, with a quick convenient transfer to frequent longer and less likely to be delayed Ms in the new subway should be an improvement all around. And yes the J should go back to running on the surface of Market Street.

    Final note. Yes, of course Geary should get restored rail service reserved ROW westof Masonic, full subway east to the FIDI.



    Caltrain has tripled their “throughput” after they introduced faster service.

    The throughput of a slow empty train is zero


    City Resident

    I agree with your comment except for the suggestion about eliminating stops between St. Francis Circle and Stonestown. Perhaps one day, if a subway replaces the M, it would make sense to eliminate the M stops at Ocean and also at Eucalyptus (especially if service on the 57 is then increased). Until then, at least one of these stops should remain. Every school day, hundreds of Lowell students and staff (and probably also Mercy students and staff) use the Eucalyptus stop. It may very well be better used than the St. Francis Circle stop. At a minimum, the Eucalyptus stop should remain open during pre-school and after school hours.



    You’re looking at it from the point of view of the consumer, which is fair enough as far as it goes. So yeah, sure, if driving takes half the time of a train, you’ll drive. I get that.

    But from the point of view of the transit operator, it’s about throughput. And the faster I can get you in and out of the system, the more other people I can transport, and the more fares I can collect. Other things equal, speed helps that

    As for the bullets, that name is a total misnomer. What they really are are slightly less slow slow trains. And if they didn’t exist, you’d just rot a little longer on the train, just like you did before the “bullets”.



    Well, I know that tech shuttle drivers and airport shuttle drivers make 40K a year or less, with crap benefits. I hear that Muni operators make twice that, with gold-plated pension and health benefits, natch.

    Does their job suck? Sure. But so do the jobs of many other people who didn’t graduate high school and who probably make minimum wage.

    There’s a lot more wrong with Muni than its insane cost structure. But the fact that the average Muni ride costs ten bucks to operate just adds indignity to the agony.



    This statement:

    “A survey of 4,500 people across the US confirms that people who routinely use “shared modes” of transportation (e.g. bikesharing, carsharing, and ridesharing) were more likely to use public transit. These individuals were less likely to drive, more likely to walk, and saved more on overall transportation costs.”

    is not at all inconsistent with the hypothesis that people who use ridesharing would otherwise take transit for that trip.



    Have you ever driven a bus in heavy traffic? How often do you have to deal with the cross-section of crazy that bus drivers routinely deal with? The whole economy in SF is inflated. How much does everyone else make? And I don’t want to hear about “total compensation package” because no one actually thinks about their own salaries in such terms.



    I see. That is why people take local Caltrain runs instead of the bullets – because they don’t care about speed as long as they get there.




    “So the question is: are buses really losing their utility in the new transportation paradigm, where we have bike and ride share to help people travel shorter distances with ease?”

    I think it is not so much about utility. After all, buses have the most extensive route network. It’s more about soft factors. Taking a bus is a distinctly less pleasurable activity than taking any other form of transport that I know of. I’d rather take a cablecar, streetcar, BART train, CalTrain, Amtrak, cab, ferry or even (aside from airport security) a flight rather than take a bus.

    Or drive, of course.

    And in fact if it is less than a couple of miles I’d rather walk. (I don’t ride a bike or take Uber, but they are probably more pleasant as well). Buses are, frankly, dirty, uncomfortable, slow, crowded, unreliable, smelly and, at times, dangerous.

    A couple of the routes are OK. The 37 is like having your own personal bus. The 30 isn’t full of crazy people, at least until it hits ChinaTown and someone gets on with a dead goat or a kitchen sink. I’d rather stick pins in my eyes than take the 9, 14 or 49.

    And the bus operators make how much?


    Karen Lynn Allen

    Thanks for the link. I hadn’t heard of Nextransit and their proposed plan. The model they propose looks sensible and very doable, especially the first step which would produce substantial immediate benefits at almost no cost.


    alberto rossi

    And yet we could realize 90% of the benefits of your “new muni metro” plan without spending $3 billion.



    Yeah, I’ve seen that plan. The problem is that in step 1 of the proposed re-organization you immediately create a transfer penalty for everyone who boards at any of the surface stops and is heading to one of the subway stations (and visa versa) with no benefit in terms of travel time. I know you’re selling the idea in terms of enhanced capacity in the subway, but I’m sure the residents of the outer neighborhoods won’t see it like that.

    Essentially you’re handling the vehicle capacity mismatch between the subway and the surface portions of the system by severing the two, so we can add extra cars to trains in the subway without having to support extra cars on the surface. I’d rather deal with the vehicle capacity mismatch by increasing vehicle capacity on the surface to get the capacity of those lines closer to what is available in the subway. There’s no reason why we can’t have three-car trains on every surface line that needs them.

    When we do get to the point where splitting lines out of the subway is necessary (which will be a long way in the future), I would rather do it by incorporating the N into a second Muni Metro subway that that also supports a Geary line. The line would go underground at Embarcadero/Howard, next to the existing portal, and curve west under Mission to serve a 1st/Mission station. Then one branch would cross Market and head west under Geary, serving Union Square and Van Ness/Geary before surfacing in the center of Geary east of Gough. The other branch would continue west under Mission, cross Market near Octavia and head west under Hermann, and feed into the N line at Duboce Park. By this point we probably would have already undergrounded the N between Carl/Cole and 9th/Judah, giving a clear shot to the beach for three or four car trains.


    Michael Smith

    Even worse is that the current subway proposal will never ever happen (there is no funding available for this overly costly design) and will prevent other effective solutions (giving transit true priority, or a much lower cost tunnel) from being implemented.

    The sooner this project dies, and it will, the sooner we can work on more cost effective solutions that can actually be implemented.



    And that’s the plan.

    Pull the J out of the tunnel, end at Church, future growth along Fillmore/Webster north to Geary.

    Pull the K and the L out of the tunnel, combine the lines, future growth along Geneva to Bayshore Caltrain.

    Pull the N out of the tunnel, expand eastward along Duboce where 101 currently stands, connecting to Soma & Caltrain.

    Now you have a dedicated M-Market line, fully automated, no merging, no weather-related issues, opportunity for vehicle acquisition that optimizes for subway use (wide doors, fully open gangways, platform-length trains), and you can manage above ground service at exactly the frequencies required to meet capacity and service needs.



    I personally love Nextransit’s plan:



    There’s plenty of space for above ground transit and stops in San Francisco. I personally have argued to keep the L and K above ground and combine them to form a single line, allowing the M to become a true urban subway line.

    The M here is far more than West Portal and 19th Avenue, it’s an extension of our most valuable asset: the Market Street corridor. Having a crosstown backbone of pure subway service would absolutely revolutionize that corridor in San Francisco and change how we leverage that asset and, frankly, change how we think about transit in San Francisco. To my mind, this project is a critical continuation of the subway project that moved trains underground from Embarcadero to Castro.



    Roger, with all due respect, I don’t feel like this article does this project even remote justice.

    Cost considerations are important, but San Francisco needs a real transit network, and that includes subway growth. Our underground tunnel from West Portal to Embarcadero is the best transit asset Muni has in San Francisco today, and it took the upfront investment to make it happen. The idea that we could complete this vision to create the city’s first true crosstown subway would create an incredible transit backbone of high speed, high-capacity, consistently spaced, fundamentally reliable transit to San Francisco. I don’t think I can overstate the importance of that.

    This is far more consequential than having trains stop less often above ground. We should not be looking at transit as simply trying to address the minor short fallings of today, we must also be building transit that meets the latent demand of today, and builds a vision for the riders of tomorrow. Signal priority alone ignores these benefits entirely.

    Let me give you an example. Vancouver, in 2001, created the 98 B-Line BRT service to replace a busy bus route. This line had signal priority, center-running lanes, wider spaced stops, boarding platforms, and 6-minute frequency. All of the improvements resulted in a jump from 18k to 20k riders per day (about a 10% increase) and a 15% increase in speed, saving up to 9 minutes along the 50-minute corridor. While useful, that’s not the sort of service that changes a city. Less than a decade later, in 2009, Vancouver replaced the 98 B-Line with a fully-automated subway: the Canada Line. Ridership skyrocketed. 135k riders per day, a 700% increase. Travel times dropped by 75%. It quadrupled the frequency of service with the same number of vehicles. The cost per passenger mile for operations dropped almost 10x.

    We already have an incredible transit pipeline under Market Street, but we can’t use it to its full advantage today. We need the kinds of transportation projects that revolutionize our experience in the city, that allow us to grow a better network off of, and give us a canvas to grow our city around. We need transportation that helps us meet our affordability goals, our housing policy visions, and our sustainability needs. And that’s what we’re talking about here.

    These are the kinds of projects that transit-first advocates should be championing, not trying to water down.



    Signal pre-emption would only work when pedestrians aren’t present. You can pre-empt a traffic signal, since it only takes a few seconds to turn red, but once a pedestrian countdown has started – and they need to be long for a road this wide – you can’t just pre-empt it mid-cycle. So even if you don’t care about LOS at all, you can’t eliminate intersection delay for surface-running trains.

    There are, as Roger points out, ways to reduce train delay, but the surface will never be as fast as a subway.



    This article feels like a ridiculous attempt to try and dumb-down the role of a subway from a transit network standpoint. Would anyone argue that signal priority would have been the right way to go on Market Street instead of undergrounding? That BART should run surface trains with signal priority instead of subway and elevated tracks?

    This city needs real transit, not Portland LRT-scale transit. Major cities all continue to build subways because it’s the right solution for speed, reliability, capacity, land use, and growth.. It’s easy to say the M that exists today should be better than it is, but the idea that it works against building a real world-class transit trunk line for San Francisco is silly.

    I think it’s fair to argue that we should combine the L-K into a single route from the Zoo to Balboa Park, keep it above ground, and give it signal priority (and extend it eastward along Geneva to Bayshore), but to argue that the M with signal priority is a better solution than a subway for San Francisco shows a total lack of understanding of how transit networks operate.



    Alternative transport paying to improve auto LOS plays out over and over. Just because a piece of infrastructure carries a trolley doesn’t mean that the project was done to benefit transit. In Campbell the VTA light rail tracks were elevated as they pass over Hamilton Ave solely to avoid impacting auto LOS along Hamilton. That project included an elevated station costing millions.

    Almost every pedestrian overcrossing built was done for the benefit of auto LOS. Most pedestrians would prefer to cross a street at grade even if they have to wait for a light. Yet those pedestrian overcrossings are paid out of funds earmarked to improve pedestrian accommodation.

    Not only are pedestrians accommodated with mere crumbs from transportation budgets, even those crumbs are snarfed up by projects that benefit automobiles.



    Not every road over which the state has authority is a state highway. Not sure if this is the case for Geary or not



    There is a plan to upzone part of the area served by the M. Park Merced, specifically. They’ll be building dozens of new buildings and thousands of new housing units in the coming years.