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    Bathrooms on Caltrain is something almost everyone can agree on. It’s pretty scary that two board members voted against them.



    See below.



    (the slam dunk answer by the way is – “I guess you’ve never been on Caltrain when it hits the car of some jerk who drove onto the tracks”)



    We’ll see how much faster they really will be. And of course there may be delays, like people jumping in front of trains, that mean the actual elapsed time can be much longer.

    There should be bathrooms on any trip of more than an hour. The alternatives are worse. All of them.



    There’s three in each direction that are about that long



    Not after electriification.



    The timetable I can look at is not relevant. The bathroom issue is for the new, electric trainsets, which will run 35% faster.


    Jeffrey Baker

    To be fair, there is one 2.5 hour run.



    I suggest that you take a look at the timetable. For instance, the 5:28 pm train from SF arrives in Gilroy at 7:51 pm. That’s a journey time of 2 hours and 23 minutes.

    Even the SF-SJ trains can take up to 90 minutes. A long time if you threw down a couple of beers before getting on the train



    I don’t know but if you think it’s a problem then one idea would be to lower the fixed costs of driving (depreciation, insurance, tax, registration) and load those costs onto fuel.

    If it were revenue-neutral, the voters might just go for it, pro bono publicum.



    “Some of them run for up to 2.5 hours”

    Are you seriously putting out this piece of troll bait? I mean, pretty much everyone except a couple of Caltrain staffers and Joel Ramos wants the bathrooms, but this is pretty funny.



    How could the new CalTrain cars not have toilets? Some of them run for up to 2.5 hours. And not all stations have a toilet while you wait. Unless they want passengers peeing into bottles, of course.

    It’s a problem with BART. Twice I have had to get off a BART train to pee. One time the station had no toilet so I had to walk to the end of the platform and pee off the end, carefully avoiding peeing onto the 1000 Vdc third rail, of course.

    As for the EastBay piece, I feel the same way. In SF I’ll take BART, a street-car or a cable car. But it takes a lot to get me onto a bus. Just don’t like them.



    Re buses: I’d like to have Muni bus as an option to get to work, but it is seriously unattractive when it is only 5 minutes faster compared to walking the 4 miles between home and work.



    What happens in practice, is the presence of being in a mall drives consumption, with people buying more goods than they actually need. Which is great for stockholders, I guess.



    “So most drivers view costs in terms of gas, and it’s dirt cheap right now.”

    How do we change that? Because that mindset is inefficient and shrinks the pie


    Jeffrey Baker

    Re: Dumbarton Bridge, best thing to do would be to raise the toll. Or, if I was the mayor of East Palo Alto I’d put a toll on University, or demolish it. Why EPA allows a superfreeway to traverse a school zone is beyond me.



    This is a peculiarity American problem. We were just in BC Canada and while we saw some litter when we stopped our car at the side of the road, it wasn’t as much as on the American side of the boarder. The moment we crossed back into the US, roadside litter was everywhere. Disgusting. I think Canadians take greater pride in place, we need to do the same.


    Brain Inajar

    I am a member of WALC, the Westside Anti-Litter Club. We do WALC walks with cute little yellow vests. It is obvious that the area near the Irving commercial corridor (Central Sunset) is buried in trash resulting from the merchants who don’t do enough to clean up the surrounding streets. Lots of chicken bones from KFC, hot sauce packets from Taco Bell, boba tea cups and straws, cigarette butts, alcohol bottles, etc. Actually we have sort of a perfect storm, because we also have lot’s of dumping from transient residents, trash from homeless, and residents who support the reduction in street sweeping so that they don’t have to move their cars as often. Along 19th Ave (Highway 1) we also have lots of trash from passing cars. We have an industrial scale trash problem over here, and us volunteers alone can’t keep up. We have one DPW person (Sue) who picks up trash along Irving, but she doesn’t do the side streets. There is limited funding for her position. I would like to see the merchants step up and fund some side street cleaning. We definitely need it.



    As I explained to you earlier, the tax saving depends on the value of the shop. In one case, I saved $200 in tax on the purchase of a single item by buying it in a jurisdiction that I feel sure you’d disapprove of.

    And you’re missing the wider point – that there are other benefits in terms of time, effort, convenience and flexibility, as well as the principle of rewarding jurisdictions that are tax-friendly.

    A minority? The number of car registrations in the SF Bay Area is about equal to the population. Even in San Francisco, households who don’t have at least one car are out-numbered 3 to 1 by those who. Most use a car for shopping whether there is a tax saving or not.

    One day you might be able to claim otherwise, but not yet and not even close.



    In the aggregate, tax differentials will alter behavior. Indeed, tax polices are often driven by a desire to reward some behaviors and punish others. They probably should not, but they do.

    Whether a higher sales tax drives people to buy high-value items in another county, state or on-line will vary by person or even by instance for the same person. You also need to account for the sense of principle – I like to reward jurisdictions that have lower taxes over and above the value of the saving.

    Your last paragraph and its thinly veiled personal attacks just confirms what I noted earlier. You are so totally convinced that you are right and that anyone who disagrees with you is wrong, that you quickly lose interest when someone comes up with arguments you cannot refute, and instead try and discredit them.

    And whether you agree with my reasoning or not, it’s important for you to understand these lines of thought if you ever hope to convince anyone who isn’t already in your camp.



    No, those people are wrong if they think that they will save money on sales tax by driving to the mall. That’s not an opinion, that’s a fact, easily determined by comparing the two numbers to each other and seeing which one is larger.

    Of course, some people may decide to do it anyway, because some people are irrational and would prefer to give a larger number of dollars to the auto industry than a smaller number of dollars to fund services in the city they live in. Fortunately, those people are in the minority, as most people make rational decisions based on time and cost when planning the routine aspects of their lives.



    No, that’s not what I’m arguing. What I’m arguing is that your statement that more people will drive to Serramonte to shop if the sales tax passes is almost certainly false, because the difference in sales tax does not make enough of a cost difference that it’s worth the extra time and expense for people who don’t already drive to the mall to start doing so. If you already choose to drive to the mall to shop, then you will continue to do so after the sales tax had passed, so it won’t change your behavior one iota.

    This argument has nothing to do with anyone imposing their beliefs on you or forcing you to change your lifestyle. You simply want to believe that it is about that because it feeds into your own persecution complex.

    I’m suddenly reminded why it’s pointless to respond to your posts. The pattern is inevitably as follows: you make a bullshit statement, someone calls you on it, you fail to justify your position on a factual basis, you divert the argument somewhere else. It’s a complete waste of time to respond to you, and the only reason anyone does respond is because it’s grating to see such obvious falsehoods being posted on this forum. So, I’m done with this discussion.



    I understand the fixed versus variable costs issue. For me they arise differently. If I am considering buying or replacing my car, then I take into account the fully-loaded total cost of ownership. At least in theory, I may determine that it would be cheaper to use a combination of cabs, Uber, car-share services and rental cars, along with public transport.

    But even then I have to take into account the freedom, flexibility and convenience that a car gives me, the greater independence from others, the fact that I often don’t ride alone, carry large heavy items around, and have to transport kids, elderly parents etc.

    And also take into account that I really like cars.

    But if I already own a car then it is the marginal and incremental cost of a trip that matters. If my family of four take a trip to LA, then I figure that as the price of 20-30 gallons of gas and compare that to, say, the cost of 4 air tickets and the car I’d have to rent anyway.

    “Those people are wrong”? Sorry but to win a debate you have to actually win it, and not just declare yourself the winner.

    Finally, an anecdote. My elderly father-in-law drives rarely and slowly. It’s not unusual for him to ask me to take a look at his car because he says it isn’t running well. What do I do? Take it for a 70mph run for 20-30 minutes. And usually it then runs better, and I tell him I tinkered with the timing or the injectors, when in reality all I did was give it a good clean out. Make of that what you will but there are actually reasons for it.



    In your case, it isn’t. But there is a world of difference between, say, a single guy who buys a few things in his neighborhood on the way home from work and a family who have to do a major shop at the week-end.

    For me to duplicate my weekly Serramonte shopping run in San Francisco then, with or without a car, it would probably take me twice as long. And involve me carry heavy bags over long distances. And probably paying more for items.

    What you’re really arguing is for me and others to totally change their lifestyle. And in many cases that is either impossible or just undesirable.



    Every shop I need is within a 1-2 block walking distance. How is that less time efficient than driving to the mall?



    Sure, but those fixed costs still apply whether or not you think about them when going to the mall. So again, it’s not in anyone’s financial interest to drive to the mall to save a buck on sales tax. Some people might think it is, for the reasons you mention, but those people are wrong.

    Likewise, the idea that you need to take a car on a freeway once a week to keep it working has no basis in reality. It’s not a dog and it doesn’t need to go for a run, however much you try and anthropomorphise it.



    Agreed that it depends how you cost driving. You’re taking the fully-loaded cost per mile, which is certainly what I would claim when using my car for work.

    But most people don’t think that way. Much of the cost of owning a car is fixed (depreciation, interest, insurance, registration) and remains about the same whether you drive 1,000 miles a year or 20,000 miles a year.

    The variable costs are mostly related to gas and maintenance, and even some of the maintenance is time-dependent rather than mileage-dependent. Metal rusts and fluids degrade whether you use the car or not. Even non-use can cause problems and IMO it’s good to give a vehicle a good blast down the freeway once a week, rather than do 100% stop-go city driving.

    So most drivers view costs in terms of gas, and it’s dirt cheap right now.



    On the contrary, going to a mall is very time-efficient because all the stores I need on a weekly basis are close to each other and walkable from each other. The drive is quick as well, given 280, and parking is easy.

    Compare that with visiting the same stores in SF, which would involve a number of trips, not all of which would be easy by car, but which would be time-consuming by Muni or walking.

    Throw in the fact that we’re talking about moving 2-4 people and tens of pounds of weight of shopping, and the numbers are compelling even without a sales tax saving. It saves time and effort.



    Did you miss this important story in the San Mateo Daily Journal?

    New electric trains to have one restroom: Caltrain board approves facilities on future fleet



    The other issue, aside from how much you value your time, is that driving costs more than just the cost of gas; 58c/mile, according to AAA. So that makes a ~20 mile trip to Serramonte and back cost about $12, which pushes your break even point up to $2,400.



    Have to admit you have a point. Because as you have displayed very adequately – your time is worth nothing.


    Eric W

    Thanks you Jeff! LOS is dead!


    sebra leaves

    Great new way to clear the city of people the people who are most likely to fight the gentrification efforts at City Hall. If you can’t convince them to give up their cars, homes, or jobs and move out, raise the sales tax and see how that works.



    I’m aware that the system has changed some since a few years ago, and that parents are now more likely to get a neighborhood school.

    But even so, I do not believe that all kids can attend their local school under the revised system. There is still an ideological imperative that drives the allocation process.

    The simplest and most traffic-friendly solution would be to define catchment areas for neighborhood schools and that is it. The city has consistently refused to do that even while busing policies have become discredited and racial quotas have been outlawed.

    The city just can’t help itself but meddle.


    sebra leaves

    An increase in sales taxes as they are removing bus stops and bus seats is the biggest insult so far to the Muni riders. If this is SFMTA’s idea of a friendly Muni I hate to think what their idea of an unfriendly Muni looks like.

    Removing bus stops was bad enough because people are forced to walk
    longer distances carrying carrying their packages than they were
    previously. Now they are forced to walk longer distances carrying loads
    and then stand for long periods of time with their packages on moving
    vehicles? And they want to charge extra for using cash to pay to ride
    the Muni. Where do they stop harassing us?

    This is not right. This
    is why we need to pass the Charter Amendment and replace the MTA Board
    with people who understand the needs of human beings. Write your supervisors. Sample letters are here:



    As you may know, they’ve since switched to a system that gives preference to your neighborhood school. I think you’re using talking points from last decade.



    “there are thousands of kids who commute dozens of miles daily to private schools and after school activities. That’s just plain silly and a waste of both kids and their parent’s time, especially when that daily journey passes right by closer alternatives that are just as good.”

    I agree, but you know who the biggest culprit is? SFUSD and their absurd school allocation system. First my kids were allocated to a school they could not walk to even though there are two decent schools within walking distance to my house.

    So then, rather than drive them across town to a less than stellar school and neighborhood, I put them in private school but, for one of them, that still meant driving.

    A perfect example of political correctness and misplaced ideology directly making traffic congestion worse.



    Well, the combination of electoral power (unlimited wants) and resistance to higher taxes (limited resources) is a problem that doesn’t even have much to do with highway construction.

    Just the unlimited wants part is what we’re talking about with highway construction…it demands spending, eminent domain, land, etc.

    There are many things people want. Doesn’t mean we have to give it to them, even if it is possible. Often it isn’t.

    People don’t want ‘more lanes’, they want a faster commute from where they live to where they work. They want less traffic in their way. Simply building more lanes has been shown to be self-defeating even in areas which aren’t growing:



    No, I get it, but I still think it is a “chicken and egg” issue. The roads induce demand but the demand induces the construction. It’s more like a vicious cycle and nobody can switch off the music.

    Look, I’d rather stick pins in my eyes than live in a ranch home on a suburban sub-division. But I cannot credibly deny that a lot of people want that, and overcoming their combined electoral power and resistance to higher taxes is not trivial.

    As Galbraith said long ago, we Americans seem comfortable with private affluence and public squalor.



    Serramonte from my house is about a half gallon of gas round-trip. Call it 2 bucks. So if I spend $400 I am flat on the deal, and it’s not hard to spend $400 on a week-end big family shop.

    It’s also easy because you park once and it’s all there, or park twice if you go to Target just across the freeway as well.There is a huge amount of retail right outside every major route out of SF (Corte Madera, Emeryville and Serramonte) and there’s got to be a reason for that.

    Anyway watch the line of cars from SF backed up at the mall exit on a Saturday morning and it is clear that many many people in the city do it.

    Re Medford, I’d agree, that’s a 400 mile drive. But if you go to Oregon regularly, as I do, it’s kinda on the way. While the racket of buying cars in Oregon to save the sales tax is well known and we don’t need to amplify that here.



    This is a very important point. We are seeing induced traffic demand on freeways in metro areas around Cleveland and Columbus Ohio despite the fact that there has been no net increase in population. What’s happened instead, is that housing and commercial development patterns have favored greenfield over infill and now people are driving more per capita then then used to accomplish the same tasks. When you encourage people to live in places where you need to drive 5 miles to purchase a gallon of milk from places where they could walk to the store, guess what? More people drive further. That’s induced demand.



    I don’t think you’re grasping the whole Induced bit. When you build out for people driving in SOV’s from their sprawling ranch homes which need 8 lanes in each direction, that’s what you’ll get. But I’m not a lecturer or book on the topic.



    Anyone who drives ten minutes to save a half cent in sales tax, and isn’t making a huge purchase such as a new car, is not acting in their financial interest.

    Likewise, anyone who drives 400 miles to save 9.5% in sales tax, and isn’t making a huge purchase such as a new car, is not acting in their financial interest.



    After the first PBA go around with public outreach, which resulted in public conflict and push back, they are trying again, hoping with this update to appear more approachable. What remains is still a orchestrated event designed to prevent opposition to the MTC/ABAG view of the future, and channel participants into their “scenarios”. Classic Delphi Technique methodology.



    I’d build up the east-side of SF to Manhattan/Hong Kong densities, but the voters won’t have it.



    If the sales tax prop passes in SF in November then the sales tax rate in SF will leapfrog that in San Mateo, so I’d guess there will be more ten minute trips down 280 to Serramonte, not less.

    Or more road trips up I-5 to the malls of Medford, OR, where there is no sales tax.

    Or more non-Amazon on-line purchases, ditto.



    Yes, we’re pushing the boundaries of capacity. The most pragmatic options are to build more infill housing, retail, and commercial space. This is currently happening all over the bay area. One of the side effects of increased density is reduced distance between various endpoints for typical trips because more options are popping up within a fixed radius as the area’s density increases. That makes less glamorous but more efficient options like walking, biking, and bus transit more viable which in turn counteracts the increase congestion from increased density.

    To move more people we can cheaply allocate lane space to more efficient modes. Not glamorous or ideal, but it gets the job done. Eventually you reach a density where better transit like subways make financial sense.

    Part of the solution is a matter of residents adapting their lifestyle. For example today there are thousands of kids who commute dozens of miles daily to private schools and after school activities. That’s just plain silly and a waste of both kids and their parent’s time, especially when that daily journey passes right by closer alternatives that are just as good.

    Shopping habits can change. Delivery services and finer grained shopping alternatives will crop up to address the needs.

    Our current lifestyles have a lot of room to improve efficiency without sacrificing quality.



    Do we sprawl even more? Do we infill and build high in SF, where the roads cannot be widened, slapping down all the NIMBY’s, and build several Central Subways?

    Those are pretty much the two alternatives, with various shades of grey in between. Which one do you choose?



    what’s the alternative?

    Maybe San Francsiscans will stop shopping at Serramonte and start shopping in their neighborhood again. Communism, I know.



    Your problem is that you’re equating “new people” with “new vehicles”. The former is pretty much inevitable, the latter is not.

    Let’s say you have 1 million people in a metropolitan area, 80% of trips are made by private auto, and the freeways are at capacity at peak times. Now let’s say that you add 100,000 new residents, but you choose to massively invest in biking, walking, and transit, and you choose to locate those residents in dense urban areas where such modes are viable alternatives to driving. Most of the new residents and some of the existing residents choose biking, walking, and transit as the best ways to get around. The drive alone mode share drops to 73%, which means that the number of drivers on the freeways remains constant, and no increase in road capacity is needed.

    Now let’s imagine that you increased road capacity instead of biking, transit and walking, and encouraged new residents to live in the suburbs rather than the urban core. Most of the new residents and some of the existing ones will switch from transit to driving, because at least initially the new freeway capacity will make driving more attractive. You might move the mode share to 87% driving, which means that you now have 150,000 extra people driving, far more than the 100,000 you planned for. So pretty soon you need to widen the freeway again. That’s induced demand, and it continues until you can no longer keep widening the freeways because it’s too expensive or simply impractical. This is where LA got to 20 years ago, and they’ve been smart enough to to start trying to move the needle back the other direction, albeit very slowly.