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Today’s Headlines

  • San Francisco Supervisors Vote Could Boost Affordable Housing Requirements (SFExaminer)
  • Condo Infill Coming to 23rd and Clement Parking Lot (Hoodline)
  • Urban Air Market Returns to Hayes Valley (Hoodline)
  • South San Francisco Streets Need More Light (SMDailyJournal)
  • People Behaving Badly: Cars Driving in Bike Lanes (Kron4)
  • San Mateo Council Debates Renters Protections (SMDailyJournal)
  • Mixed Use Development Proposed Near San Mateo Caltrain (SMDailyJournal)
  • Uber Liable for Driver “Accidents”? (SFChronicle)
  • Rating Marin Transit and Other Infrastructure (MarinIJ)
  • State Dems Want to Spend $1.6 Billion on Housing (KQED)
  • Editorial: Fund VTA Operations to Get Ridership (MercNews)

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA
Get state headlines at Streetsblog CA

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BART’s Electrical Issues Not Yet Solved

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BARTs Group Manager, Vehicle Maintenance Engineer, at his desk at the Hayward shops.

Henry Kolesar, BARTs Group Manager, Vehicle Maintenance Engineer, at his desk at the Hayward shops.

BART’s power surge problem, which had been frying train electronics and took some 85 cars out of service at its height, has gone away and service is more or less back to normal. Here it is from BARTs own statement:

After swapping out the generation of train cars most prone to damage (our “C” cars) to help establish regular service again, the spikes in voltage along the track have gone away. So we have since moved the C cars back to add more cars to the line, and the problem has not reoccurred.

“The problem has gone away,” said Paul Oversier, Assistant General Manager of Operations, “but we need to get to the bottom of this. We don’t want our customers to suffer through another round of this so we need to get to the root cause.”

In other words, they haven’t fixed the problem. It went away on its own.

Henry Kolesar, Group Manager, Vehicle Maintenance Engineer at BART’s Hayward repair facility, gave Streetsblog a tour and showed us the parts that are causing the problems. Kolesar also endeavored to explain exactly what’s going on with the electrical engineering (and we think we get it).

The key component that got fried is called a thyristor. That’s already been widely reported. So what is a thyristor exactly? The motors on BART trains run on 1000 volts of power from the third rail. But BART trains are controlled by computers. The computers do all the calculations about how fast the motor needs to turn to assure that the train is going at the proper rate and that it’s stopping and starting exactly where it needs to. The computers figure out how much voltage to apply to the motors to achieve the proper speed and acceleration. Here’s the problem: the computers run on 36.5 volts.

So you need a device that can take the signal from the 36.5 volt computer and use it to regulate the 1,000 volts of power coming into the train motor. Obviously, you can’t just plug the motor into the computer’s circuits, or it would turn into a smoking glob of mush.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Why Federal Efforts to Link Transportation to Climate Change Matter

Cross posted from the Frontier Group

Photo: Wikipedia

Photo: Wikipedia

Twenty-five years ago this spring, I was a fresh-faced undergrad at Penn State enrolled in a course on existential threats to civilization, including climate change. We knew then (and yes, with a reasonable degree of certainty we did know) that emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases were causing the earth to warm in ways that could prove catastrophic.

We also knew that travel on America’s roads was a leading source of greenhouse gases on a global scale, and that transportation infrastructure decisions were capable of encouraging the use of high-carbon modes of travel that contribute to the warming of the planet.

Since then, an entire generation of Americans has been born, grown up, and sat through unnerving college lectures. America has added more than 715,000 new lane-miles of public roads (the rough equivalent of building a 255-lane wide road from New York to Los Angeles), and we have spent an additional $2.6 trillion (2014$) in capital expenditures on our highway system. Since those sunny spring afternoons in 1991, America’s transportation system has spewed more than 43 billion metric tons (carbon dioxide equivalent) of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, contributing to the mounting damage from climate change that is now being experienced around the world.

So, how then to take the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (U.S. DOT) move last week to begin consideration of rules that would set non-binding performance measures for greenhouse gas emissions from transportation? Does it represent an important policy opening or a huge disappointment, given the scale and speed of climate change?

Time will tell and, as NRDC’s Deron Lovaas suggests in the comments to this Streetsblog post, the Obama administration’s announcement last week is merely the opening bell in what is sure to be an intense fight over how strong the new greenhouse gas performance measures will be and what format they will take.

Regardless of the ultimate form of the rules, however, the Obama administration’s action is significant, if only because it signals the renewal of public debate around the connection between transportation infrastructure decisions and global warming.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Are Millennials Racing to Buy Cars? Nope

Crossposted from City Observatory.

Hot on the heels of claims that Millennials are buying houses come stories asserting that Millennials are suddenly big car buyers. We pointed out the flaws in the home-buying story earlier this month, and now let’s take a look at the car market.

The Chicago Tribune offered up a feature presenting “The Four Reasons Millennials are buying cars in big numbers,” assuring us that millennials just “got a late start” in car ownership, but are now getting credit cards, starting families and trooping into auto dealerships “just like previous generations.”

Similar stories have appeared elsewhere. The Portland Oregonian chimed in: “Millennials are becoming car owners after all.”

Not quite a year ago, we addressed similar claims purporting to show that Millennials were becoming just as likely to buy cars as previous generations. Actually, it turns out that on a per-person basis, Millennials are about 29 percent less likely than those in Gen X to purchase a car.

We pointed out that several of these stories rested on comparing different sized birth year cohorts (a 17-year group of so-called Gen Y with an 11-year group of so-called Gen X). After applying the highly sophisticated statistical technique known as “long division” to estimate the number of cars purchased per 1,000 persons in each generation, we showed that Gen Y was about 29 percent less likely than Gen X to purchase a car.

More generally though, we know that there’s a relationship between age and car-buying. Thirty-five-year-olds are much more likely to own and buy cars than 20-year-olds. So as Millennials age out of their teen years and age into their thirties, it’s hardly surprising that the number of Millennials who are car owners increases. But the real question—as we pointed out with housing—is whether Millennials are buying as many cars as did previous generations.

The answer is no.

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Today’s Headlines

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA
Get state headlines at Streetsblog CA

Streetsblog USA
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Tell the Feds: Don’t Turn City Streets Into Highways

Will the Obama administration prod state DOTs to abandon the destructive practice of widening roads and highways, or will it further entrench policies that have hollowed out cities and towns, increased traffic and car dependence, and made America a world leader in carbon pollution?

Should state transportation departments be encouraged to speed cars through a street like Broadway in downtown Nashville the same way they would a more rural highway? New federal rules might. Photo: Google Maps via T4A

New federal rules threaten to give state DOTs more license to treat urban streets like Broadway in downtown Nashville like highways. Photo: Google Maps via T4A

That’s what’s hanging in the balance as U.S. DOT opens public comments on its newly released “performance measures” that states will use to assess their transportation policies. The rules proposed by DOT take the same basic approach to traffic congestion that American transportation agencies have taken since the 1950s — a strategy that usually concludes more asphalt is the answer. And they don’t do much of anything to address greenhouse gas emissions.

It’s important to weigh in and tell the feds that the draft rules need to change, says Stephen Lee Davis at Transportation for America:

There’s a direct connection between how we decide to measure [congestion] and how we choose to address it. If we focus, as this rule does, on keeping traffic moving at a high rate of speed at all times of day on all types of roads and streets, then the result is easy to predict: our solutions will prioritize the investments that make that possible, regardless of cost vs. benefits or the potential impacts on the communities those roads pass through.

USDOT plans to measure vehicle speed and delay seven different ways, while ignoring people carpooling, taking transit, walking & biking or skipping the trip entirely.

A host of people and groups from all across the map, including T4America, have already explained in detail how a singular focus on delay for drivers paints an incredibly one-dimensional picture of congestion. Focusing on average delay by simply measuring the difference between rush hour speeds compared to free-flow 3 a.m. traffic fails to count everyone else commuting by other modes, rewards places with fast travel speeds at the expense of places with shorter commutes and less time spent behind the wheel overall, and completely ignores how many people are actually moving through the corridor.

By reinforcing the old approach to congestion, U.S. DOT’s rule could give states more license to widen main streets in urban areas, Davis writes:

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Proposed East Bay Bike-Share Sites Announced

Proposed bike-share stations near downtown Oakland.

Proposed bike-share stations near downtown Oakland.

Note: This story has been corrected since it was originally posted. Thank you to sharp-eyed readers.

Bay Area Bike Share released a map of proposed sites for bike-share stations in the East Bay today. Proposed sites for expansion into San Francisco and San Jose have already been released, but these are the first ones for Berkeley, Oakland, and Emeryville. The total number of bikes planned in the three cities is 1,300, with 800 of them in Oakland and 100 in Emeryville, to be rolled out by the end of 2017.

Phase 1, about 25 percent of the final East Bay expansion, will include 350 bikes at 34 stations.

Proposed bike-share stations near the UC Berkeley campus.

Proposed bike-share stations near the UC Berkeley campus.

A map of the initial proposed East Bay hubs, available here, shows them mostly sited along a spine between downtown Berkeley and downtown Oakland. Five stations surround the UC Berkeley campus’ south and west sides, with another located across from Berkeley High School and the downtown Y, and a seventh a little further south on Telegraph at Blake street.

From there, the corridor of proposed sites generally follows Telegraph Avenue, incorporating BART stations and outlying hubs along 40th Street into Emeryville and on the western side of Lake Merritt.

Amtrak stations are left out of the first phase, though, and so are the West Oakland and Rockridge BART stations.

It looks like a good start, if your destinations are all near Telegraph or in downtown Oakland. With luck, further expansions to connect these hubs to other destinations will come sooner than later.

Having bike-share available close to the new Telegraph Avenue parking-protected bike lanes will be a game-changer for that area and we hope it will create some urgency to finish the new facilities further towards Temescal.

What do you think? Are these in the right places? Bike-share needs a somewhat dense network of hubs to be useful, but it’s also necessary to put the hubs in places near where people want to go. Is this a good start?

Bay Area Bike Share is still accepting suggestions for station locations here. Comments can be made here, or at local public libraries, which will be presenting information about the expansion at the following times:

From April 26 through May 9, during regular open hours:

  • Berkeley Library

    • Central Branch, 2090 Kittredge St
    • Claremont Branch, 2940 Benvenue Ave
  • Emeryville
    • Town Hall, 1333 Park Ave (through May 11)
  • Oakland Library

    • Main Branch, 125 14th St
    • Asian Branch, 388 9th St

Also on May 3 from 4 to 6 pm, at the Temescal Branch Library, 5205 Telegraph in Oakland.

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Livable Streets Events

This Week: Sounds in Our Cities, Bayview Sunday Streets

sblog_calendar1Here are this week’s highlights from the Streetsblog calendar:

  • Monday: Bicycle Advisory Committee Meeting. The committee meets to talk about projects and policies to make recommendations to the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors, the SFMTA, and other agencies. April 25, 6:30-7:30pm, City Hall, Room 408, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, San Francisco.
  • Monday: Berkeley BeST Transportation Plan Community Meeting. Learn how Berkeley is putting together a transportation plan and give your input on the best priorities. Monday, April 25, 5:00-8:00pm, North Berkeley Senior Center, Hearst and MLK Jr Way, Berkeley.
  • Tuesday: San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Board Meeting. The coalition’s all-volunteer board will meet to discuss the latest policy issues. For more information and to read the agenda, go to Tuesday April 26, 6:30-8:30pm, SF Bicycle Coalition, 1720 Market, San Francisco.
  • Wednesday: San Francisco Bicycle Coalition New Member Meet and Greet. For members who’ve been with the coalition for less than a year, come and meet your fellow bike advocates. Snacks and beverages provided along with indoor bike parking. April 27, 6:00-7:30pm, SF Bicycle Coalition, 1720 Market, San Francisco.
  • Wednesday: The Role of Sound in Our Cities. Whether it’s the chirp of a crosswalk signal to the echo of noise from vehicles, sound plays a vital role in wayfinding in urban environments. For the blind and visually impaired, however, sound is essential. Join SPUR for a discussion about the interweaving of blindness, sound and cities from experts. Wednesday, April 27, 6 pm, SPUR Urban Center, 654 Mission Street, San Francisco.
  • Wednesday: Gilman Street Interchange Open House. Alameda County Transportation Commission and the City of Berkeley present long-awaited alternatives for fixing the complicated, unsignalized intersection of Gilman Street and I-80, which include an innovative double roundabout design recently approved by Caltrans. Wednesday, April 27, 6:30 pm, North Berkeley Senior Center, Hearst and MLK Jr Way, Berkeley.
  • Thursday: Women Bike Happy Hour. Walk Oakland Bike Oakland (WOBO) and Bike East Bay host their second Women Bike Happy Hour. This is an opportunity to drink up with some other bike-riding women, trans and femme folks. “Bring your bikey and bike-curious friends! Bike parking will be plentiful” says the group. Thursday, April 28, 5:30-7:30pm, at Bar Cesar, 4039 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland.
  • Sunday: Sunday Streets in the Bayview and Dogpatch Neighborhoods. Sunday Streets creates miles of car-free streets for people to get out and be active. There will be “Activity Hubs” offered by local nonprofits and community groups plus booths and displays from local merchants. For a list of activities, visit: Sunday May 1, 11-4pm on Third St from 18th to Yosemite Ave.

Keep an eye on the calendar for updated listings. Got an event we should know about? Drop us a line.


Today’s Headlines

  • NOPA to Consider Protected Bike Lanes on Fell and Oak Along Panhandle (Hoodline)
  • SF Rents Hit Plateau (SFChron)
  • SF Green Building not so Green (SFExaminer)
  • Huge Tower Set to Break Ground in November (Socketsite)
  • Interim Boss for Transbay (BizJournal)
  • Bay Area Bike Share Expands in East Bay (SFChron)
  • New BART Car Runs into the Dirt (SFist, SFBay)
  • BART Marketing uses Prince’s Death to Self Promote? (SFWeekly)
  • Proposed Transportation Tax Would Fund Caltrain Grade Seperations (MercNews)
  • Castro Muni Escalators Get Fancy (SFist, Hoodline)
  • Editorial: Get Past NIMBYs to Solve Housing Crisis (SMDailyJournal)

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA
Get state headlines at Streetsblog CA


Transit Riders Union Party for Better BART and Muni Service


Thea Selby MCs a discussion with Tim Papandreou, Eugenia Chien and Jeff Tumlin. Image: Streetsblog

Thursday evening the San Francisco Transit Riders Union (SFTRU), an advocacy group pushing for better, more reliable transit, held its “Make Transit Awesome Party” at the DG717, a co-working space in downtown. The event was a combination fundraiser and chance to hear from some of the most influential people in transportation.

The centerpiece of the event was a panel discussion with Tim Papandreou, Chief Innovation Officer at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, Jeff Tumlin, Principal and Director of Strategy for Nelson Nygaard Consulting, and Eugenia Chien, who writes the popular Muni Diaries blog. Thea Selby, chair of the SFTRU board, moderated the panel. One of the first things discussed: why is it so hard to get transit improvements and what can advocates do to change that?

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