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    It’s likely that one of the reasons a cycling trip can be faster is because some bike lanes are under utilized, compared to auto lanes. Also cyclists have the ability to split lanes. And some of those cyclists don’t feel encumbered by red lights.

    I invite you to race me down Valencia or market – places where none of those conditions exist, and upon which you have zero chance.



    Me? No.

    Are 100% of car owners aligned with that? No. Look at the mess on 24th in Noe. What percentage of those cars came from within 10 blocks. A: a lot


    Dave Moore

    So that means that if you want a burrito and the car is there then you drive to get one, right?


    Dave Moore

    I don’t see how it’s “unfair”. If people are willing to spend longer buto drive, isn’t that worth knowing? I’m not saying to allocate space or funds only on this basis, but that at least tells you something about what people’s current preferences and tolerances are, as opposed to this report which doesn’t really to tell you much at all. It seems to be saying that people who live in a dense place walk a fair amount. Is that surprising in any way? If anything I’m surprised the number isn’t more like 90% of trips are by walking. Mine certainly are. Maybe it says more but the SFMTA isn’t sharing any of the raw data as far as I can tell. Is it out there? What constitutes a trip? In fact from the report it says that the average trip by foot is .9 miles. Does this make much sense? The average trip by foot is like 15 minutes long? They must have some minimum distance, but they’re not sharing it. I see this: but the last report listed is from 2000. It seems like they found a way to say “we hit a goal” by redefining the metric.

    It’s likely that one of the reasons a cycling trip can be faster is because some bike lanes are under utilized, compared to auto lanes. Also cyclists have the ability to split lanes. And some of those cyclists don’t feel encumbered by red lights.



    While I do somewhat agree with this, car sharing (ZipCar at the time) was a big factor in dropping the second car from my household, but the bigger factors were not needing it because of a change in job/commute and the added cost of parking. I can also say for certain that the ease of getting an Uber/Lyft compared to a taxi, has entirely taken away from walking/public transit/biking, and definitely generates trips that we would not have otherwise taken due to parking concerns or public transit inconvenience.

    There are definitely 30 minute walks that I would have taken gladly (one to a favorite Mexican restaurant) because a taxi was a pain to get, now ends up being an Uber/Lyft, because everyone is running late because they know they can just Uber/Lyft there.

    So basically, I don’t buy that the advantage is really that great. If there’s no parking in the city, where are these ride share cars coming from? Well, they are driving in from San Jose and Walnut Creek. And that’s great for traffic and the environment.



    While the individual trips may often be solo passengers, there’s also much more continuous use from the same vehicle servicing a larger number of people. Yeah, add in then that when you do need to park that one taxi, it’s only one spot vs. parking at both ends of every trip all those solo drivers would require. I’m not sure how many trips a single taxi makes in a day, but if we say 20 solo-passenger trips, that’s 19 car trips with parking required on each side, plus some of those cars don’t have to actually exist.



    The coroner is rarely able to get called travel to a scene and investigate in less than two to four hours. The coroner has full control. Your 30 minute demand is specious.



    Maybe the right number should be time spent doing each (walking, cycling, driving, riding transit).

    On the one hand, that’s unfair because in the densest parts of SF, the same cycling trip takes less time than driving to that destination. On the other hand, if you add up all those endless rides on the N-Judah and 38, riding transit would win hands down.




    Nothing generates more trips than car ownership. We only have one car. If the car is gone (or spoken for), and I want a burrito – I either make one, or walk/bike.



    I’m curious how this will play out when it’s finally implemented. The definite plus is that passengers will be able to offboard sooner when there’s a train in front of theirs in a station. However, I’m guessing that the 2nd train to pull in will allow boarding, then close doors and leave the station, rather than pulling up to the front of the platform first. This suggests that certain times of day it will make more sense to wait for a train in the middle of the platform, as the train you need might pull into either position. I’m also curious if double berthing will result in trains bunching up on the underground, although gaps between trains are not often a problem so I can’t imagine this really being an issue.


    Dave Moore

    I’m really struggling with how to interpret this. I can’t find the details, but It appears to be self reported, so what kind of skew does that put on the data, and has it been accounted for? Does “driving with others” include taking your kids? That seems very different from car pooling to work. If it’s really “trips” does that mean walking to the store on the corner counts the same as a drive, ride or transit trip across the city? That seems strange. But then again the choice to walk 3 blocks versus driving a mile is important because it indicates a desire and ability to do things more locally. Maybe the right number should be time spent doing each (walking, cycling, driving, riding transit). That might tell us more how our streets are being utilized and help us make better tradeoffs.

    I think the commute mode share is a bit more informative. It more normalizes time, as many studies have shown that people fall into time buckets. Most want to be within 30 minutes of work, by whatever mechanism they choose. It also measures usage at maximum, when tradeoffs are most necessary.

    And Aaron couldn’t let an otherwise pretty even handed report go by without quoting another sorta accurate but meaningless number. ” 88 percent of households added to SF between 2000 and 2012 were car-free.” That is not what has been shown by that report. All it said was that 88% of the net growth in households was accounted for by growth in households that didn’t have a car. It’s not surprising when we are adding parking at a lower rate than households, while removing automobile travel lanes. Especially when most of the added households were in already dense areas.



    Good point, on Federal law.



    Is there some glitch in the website? This article is from 2014, right?



    Also, the knowledge you can reliably catch taxis (whether a traditional taxi or an Uber/Lyft…which is basically just a taxi with its own app) wherever/whenever you need to go is a major factor in people deciding:

    1) they can go carless by cobbling together different transit needs at different times


    2) they don’t need that second/third car



    CEQA is only for California and so it is not a catchall for environmental impact of development. There are national protections for endangered species and habitats, the environmental protection act, endangered species act, and other environmental laws are intended to protect a salmon run or other natural resources. That said I do not know the intricacies of environmental law and I would also be interested in having someone who knows environmental law to explain this further.



    soooooo. close.

    This delay actually is the first one that sort of sounds plausibly explainable.



    How is one person in a Taxi, Lyft, or Uber any better than a single person in a car.

    You answered your own question – “the only public advantage of these modes is reduced parking”. That’s a huge advantage. Get rid of a 100 car parking lot and we can have a public park with rain permeability, or housing for 100′s of people.



    What’s very funny about this is that there are trees on the Caltrain line which could be removed. Meanwhile, many of the residents of Atherton live in huge mansions which presumably required the removal of far more trees, without any CEQA problems.

    Let me ask this – if there were a lane being added to 280 or US-101 that required a tree to be removed, would Atherton sue?



    That – or they know that more service for them makes the system broken, so by demanding something that looks “good” and “green” they can try to hijack the whole thing and kill it.



    (@Andy Chow: you’re right, I forgot about the tree replanting; that helps)
    @ coolbaby: RE your 1st paragraph, thanks that starts to address my question.
    RE the 2nd, I fully understand how beneficial this specific project is, folks! This case just brings up a point I hadn’t thought about before: where a hypothetical transit project gets to bypass CEQA in a case where it should be required – if, for example, it ends up installing a river crossing that blocks a major salmon run. Surely this design wouldn’t be permitted – but if CEQA isn’t the mechanism to prevent such a decision, what is? Or maybe, as you suggest, CEQA is the mechanism and the exemption only applies to LOS impacts? So there’s clearly a gap in my understanding: seeking clarity from someone who definitively knows. Thanks!



    My understanding is that the CEQA exemption for transit projects doesn’t cover the list of concerns you have so much as it is an exemption from having to account for and mitigate all of the impacts on auto trips and changing the standard of measure away from LOS. Caltrain is going through environmental review for the electrification even if it is exempt from CEQA:

    Also, new transit projects such as HSR will have impacts on habitat, erosion, etc. Most transit projects, including this one, are taking place are already established right of way and in built out environments. The environmental impact is negligible compared to the benefits of increased service and reduced local air pollution, as well as the potential for renewable energy to be used to power the system.



    Yes, all true. But what of my larger point? Forget this specific example. What if the environmental impacts were far more substantial? Transit projects, if poorly designed, can have hugely damaging impacts, just like any other construction project. What are the safeguards that poorly-designed, environmentally damaging transit projects won’t be permitted? (Think erosion, waterway degradation, wetland damage, endangered species impact, etc, etc)



    For the most part I wouldn’t recommend copying most of SF’s strategies, as SF is far too cautious in rolling out infrastructure improvements. Planned improvements are often un-democratically “watered down” when a vocal minority complains because they’re afraid of change. And the mostly milquetoast city leadership capitulates. It’s really holding back growth of non-car trips in the city.

    Lisbon and SF do share a surprising amount of similarities (sometimes when I was walking around Lisbon the hills, dry weather and coastal microclimates almost made me feel like I was back in California!)
    ^ Lisbon’s waterfront in front of 25 de Abril bridge

    …but if you look at the data the undisputed leader in bike strategies is the Netherlands.

    Of course the Dutch don’t have hills like SF/Lisbon do but when I was in Lisbon I noticed that, like SF, there are a fair amount of pretty flat or entirely flat areas which also correspond to

    1) dense neighborhoods


    2) otherwise desirable destinations (such as the waterfront)

    3) In addition, transit + bike strategies can help people with the uphill part of their trip.

    As for point #1, you don’t need, say, 20% bike modeshare in Monsanto Forest Park in Lisbon to achieve 20% bike modeshare in Lisbon as a whole. Just as SF doesn’t need 20% modeshare in Twin Peaks to achieve 20% citywide.

    All this being said, I share the other commenters’ skepticism here about the surprisingly low bike modeshare numbers in the report. By impressionistic standards bike modeshare has definitely been increasing over the past several years–this is especially evident on key corridors:


    Andy Chow

    The cities being used as a soapbox by HSR opponents is a problem (with city taxpayers paying litigation costs).


    Andy Chow

    I think Caltrain is complying with CEQA properly. Caltrain is not claiming any exemption or somehow not disclosing what the impacts are. Electrification is a benefit for the environment. Tree removal harms the environment, but the overall impact resulting from both activities are somewhat subjective. If you live in Atherton, the tree may seem to be more important, and if you live a few miles north where diesel pollution is a problem, electrification will help.

    Electrification is a permanent benefit, but tree removal (with replanting of trees as mitigation measure) is a temporary impact.



    This. If we think this is even remotely good design, then we’re never going to get very far. What parent would let a 12 year old ride a bicycle there? I certainly wouldn’t. Hell, what person would want anyone they care about to bike there?

    I’m not one to make the perfect the enemy of the good, but this is a case the new design is nowhere near “good”, it’s merely slightly less terrifying than before. Hardly something to brag about.



    Thank you Bruce Halperin!



    On a different tack:
    Yikes, I think I’m just seeing my first downside of the CEQA exemption for transit projects. Clearly, electric is ‘greener’ than diesel, since it provides the ability to power the trains via carbon-free sources. But even more clearly, tree removal is by definition not ‘green’.

    I’m a huge proponent of transit, and have generally applauded the CEQA exemption. But whatever you or I may think of these towns’ justifications for suing, it troubles me to think that transit projects in the future won’t be required to consider the impacts of design decisions such as tree removal. Surely they wouldn’t be allowed to culvert a stream in the name of transit without review, correct? Where’s the line, and who draws it? After all, it would stand to reason that there are lazy or poor design engineers who work on transit projects, just as there are on highway projects, no?

    It seems that an important benefit of CEQA analysis is that it forces consideration of multiple designs, ultimately leading to a better outcome. Center-mounted poles seem quite reasonable: saves space, uses less material, preserves CO2-sucking function of trees, dampens train noise…

    Can anyone familiar with CEQA exemption comment?


    Michael Morris

    There cities aren’t “special” in any way. Every city on the
    caltrain corridor will have to deal with the construction and noise, and every
    city will benefit from the faster trains, so why is it that only 2 towns feel
    the need to sue? Is their community being destroyed while other cities are



    Menlo Park will not be suing – Atherton will. Official per marian Lee at Caltrain board meeting this morning



    Because of a few anti-HSR NIMBY constituents, Palo Alto is only marginally less schizophrenic in its posture vis a vis Caltrain electrification.


    Bernardo Pereira

    According to data revealed at Velo-city 2013 in Vienna, SFMTA claimed that 3,5% of trips in 2012 were by bicycle, to be tripled to 10% by 2018.
    Something in the above figures just doesn’t match. For further research, look up “How San Francisco is tripling bicycle mode share in 6 years” in Velo-city 2013 presentations.
    We’ve been following SF’s mobility strategy here in Lisbon, Portugal, due to some density, geographic and topographical similarities, which affect our mobility systems, thus the interest. Nonetheless what seemed to be a good performer, even by Western EU standards, isn’t so much so. E.g. with this data, for walking and public transport SF is much worse off than Lisbon, and quite a larger share of cars as a percentage of the total.
    For bicycle mobility at best it’s only 3x better off, with the strategy presented we had estimated it to reach up to 30x higher values.



    I don’t see why Taxi and Ride Share count as shared modes. How is one person in a Taxi, Lyft, or Uber any better than a single person in a car. The driver of the car service doesn’t really need to get anywhere, and trips are generated between fares that would not otherwise exist. Really, the only public advantage of these modes is reduced parking. I would really really group Taxi/Ride Share with the blue on the graph.



    Hey, wait…aren’t the electric-powered trains quieter than the diesels? Is this just a straw dog so they can extract more $$ from Caltrain for improvements?
    I hope these trains just blow through these self-serving islands of entitled suburbia in the future.



    I’m glad Atherton is interested in more service to its station! I can only assume that they’re in the process of developing a station area land use plan to replace the large-lot mansions with dense, mixed-use, mixed-income development to support the extra service.



    This is so stupid. Caltrain has been there for 150 years. You can’t move next door to a train and then complain about the noise. Especially if you can sell your home for over $1MM.



    It’s good to see that the city is willing to take the low hanging fruit and do these projects where it’s only paint on the ground. However, while the cycling environment gets better for existing riders, these changes will in no way encourage the “willing but concerned” group to use bicycles for transportation. If the city is serious about getting mode share for trips by bicycle up to 20% within the next decade, SFMTA and DPW will need to stop dithering about planning and actually build more protected infrastructure along the corridors that connect public transport like Caltrain with other parts of the city.

    Proposition L went down in flames in the last election, so our political leadership should know that there is broad support for making these modifications, particularly among residents of SOMA, the Mission, and much of the central part of the city. Stop messing about with studies and start putting in protected bikeways.



    No, that’s clearly Caltrain livery.



    Atherton and Menlo Park contain some of the most persistent, rabid and litigiously-minded anti-HSR NIMBYs you’ll find anywhere … two recent Atherton mayors are co-founders or board members of the anti-HSR group CC-HSR. Anti-HSR attorney Mike Brady and his notoriously anti-HSR Menlo Park neighbors (such as Morris Brown) live in multi-million dollar condos adjacent to the tracks in the Stone Pine Lane area. They were profiled in the March 31, 2010 issue of the Menlo Park Almanac in the following cover story:

    Stop that train!
    Why three unlikely enthusiasts from Menlo Park just may be the best hope for opponents of high-speed-rail



    I must say, I was perplexed that their demands were for MORE service. On its face, I’m excited that cities are pleading for more service, but more service implies that you want/have a public clamoring for this.

    I don’t know the travel patterns of MP and Atherton, but at least the latter, I feel this is a ‘…make my area more attractive on paper (for my property investment) even though I don’t plan on using the public transit asset that I’m challenging.’ << and perhaps that's not the worst sentiment by any means, but at the expense of other investments, perhaps not the most noble of lawsuit impetuses.



    …which means the convention is off. I only say that with the hypothesis that the laymen–who’s not a transit geek–would understand these terms. They’re meant to be simple and curt, but end of being unhelpful.


    Jeffrey Baker

    I used to have the opposite problem. I felt that “limited” service had a negative connotation.



    Great to know that. My main gripe about terming these lines with names that both connote expediency is not really going to be a helpful distinction for average users. I’m a stickler for words.


    Mario Tanev

    Previous SFMTA reports had put driving at 62%. I think the methodology change that the latest report has employed has accounted better for pedestrian trips. So pedestrian trips were previously undercounted and that has been corrected. That has perhaps squashed the share of all other modes.


    Andy Chow

    I think that these two cities are holding a hard bargaining position (the assertion that electrification is not an independent project is also a bargaining position) to see what they can get from Caltrain. A lawsuit would basically let a judge to make the determination and the cities may get nothing. If the outcome is a change in design or additional mitigation measures, rather than trying to delay the project at all costs, a lawsuit is not the preferred choice to achieve the desired outcome.



    It is a picture of a European EMU with the Caltrain logo photoshopped on.



    Agreed, that would be ideal.



    Hyper-litigious society: this is why we can’t have nice things.



    Palo Alto has a group of residents that has been agitating for a “quiet zone” at the Alma Street crossing near Caltrain’s San Francisquito Creek bridge next to the historic protected city namesake “El Palo Alto” redwood tree.

    The Palo Alto Daily News (not freely available online) recently ran a cover story about how Palo Alto’s city attorney advised there were liability risks for the city setting up such a FRA-authorized quiet zone. In short, regulations governing quiet zones essentially create liability for cities that implement them in case of claims arising from grade crossing incidents.

    Palo Alto council will hold an official study session this coming Monday, February 9th. For background reading, here’s the City Council’s Staff Report: Study Session on Railroad Quiet Zones in Palo Alto.



    Still don’t like riding in a skinny lane between two sets of moving cars. We need to keep these lanes curb-side, and have separate cycles for right turning cars and straight going bikes.