Today’s Headlines

  • Sacramento Judge Tosses Lawsuit Against High-Speed Rail Project (SF Business Times)
  • Palo Alto’s "Planning and Citizen Engagement Process" on High-Speed Rail
    is a Failure (CHSRB)
  • Seimens AG Sees U.S. as Prime Market for HSR and Renewable Energy (Industry Week)
  • Mother Jones: "Memo to Urban Environmentalists: Don’t Fight Development, Embrace It"
  • Congestion Tolls to Begin This Fall for Solo Drivers in I-680 Carpool Lanes (SF Gate)
  • Transit Funding Measure Qualifies for November Ballot (The Source via Other Side of the Tracks)
  • Denver Police Choose Bike to Work Day for "Focused Enforcement" on Bicyclists (Denver Post)
  • Naomi Klein: "Gulf Oil Spill a Violent Wound Inflicted on the Earth Itself" (Guardian UK)
  • Changes on Fell Street Near Problematic Arco Station Coming Soon (BIKE NOPA)
  • San Mateo Wants to Move Caltrain Hillsdale Station to Expand Parking (SF
  • San Rafael Testing New Parking Meters Along Fourth Street (Marin IJ)
  • The problem with that Mother Jones column, and 555 Washington specifically, is that all these “dense urban” buildings have a TON of parking in their plans. As long as these developers continue to put 1:1 or even .75:1 parking to unit ratios in, I’ll continue to be against it.

  • Oh, and you forgot this piece of crap from the Ex.

    It’s not $1.6B to make transit faster, it’s $1.6B to give cars priority over transit. If we really cared about the future of this city, this country, and this planet, we’d close Stockton to private auto usage and make it a transit/pedestrian corridor and make a statement that we are serious about ending our dependency on oil (foreign and domestic). But we’d rather strangle MUNI further and add $9M in operating costs when we can’t even run our current system.

  • Are changes really coming to Fell Street? This plan, which its proponents and designers themselves say is basically bound to fail, to not be enough, is a waste of time in my opinion. Why do we have to institute incremental and piecemeal changes that do not get the job done to warm the motoring and neighboring NIMBYs up to such projects? We should lay out the facts about this dangerous situation, have a discussion about how this entrance needs to close for the good of the community and even the users of the gas station, and then do it. It is incredible the kind of delay some residents or business owners with concerns about parking spaces can create. Remember that one ‘bike-friendly’ business owner on 17th Street who is single-handedly slowing down better bike infrastructure on one of our main east-west routes?

  • marcos

    ‘“The northeast part of San Francisco is the densest, most crowded part of The City,” said Gabriel Metcalf, executive director of the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association. “Paradoxically, it’s the part of The City that doesn’t have a subway.”’

    The Northeast part of San Francisco is not the densest, most crowded part of the City, Mr. Metcalf. The Tenderloin is the densest, most crowded part of San Francisco. is the TL slated for a subway? Hell no, it is slated to have the non-BRT running through it. Why might that be? What are property values in the North Beach? What are they in the TL?

    Any questions as to why a developer lobbyist operation like SPUR would promote public investment in the already better off areas while leaving the poor folks to languish?

    For the record, I think that it would be worse to build the Central Subway as designed than to find another $250m to built it right, tight connections to Metro and BART at Market Street, extensibility by design for the transition to low floor cars with longer platforms and stations.

    A value-engineered subway will be crap. The TL needs to be an example of equitable investment in rapid transit. The Geary BRT will only provide incremental improvements in speeds, enough to save some money but not enough to instigate significant modal shift. In the TL, it will be as slow as the current limited, which is often stuck behind the previous local through the TL.

    Geary needs a four track mainline like NYC has, stops at Arguello, Masonic, Divisadero, Fillmore, Van Ness and Market, with express service through the TL and local service every few blocks like in Manhattan, the next dense neighborhood in the US to the TL.

    Anything else is enshrining cheapness in metal, glass and concrete–apparently SPUR’s mission in life–and offering up public benefits to those who already have so much more.


  • @mikesonn It’s an interesting point that no one ever brings up: by operating under the assumption that cars are entitled to the cheap, above-ground rights of way, we place the burden on transit to spend the billions of dollars on tunnels, aerial structures, etc. to achieve dedicated ROW.

    I’d encourage everyone to go check out the interesting models of Walt Disney’s never-built EPCOT city at the new museum in the Presidio. Only transit and sidewalks were to be built above ground, with all private vehicles travelling in underground tunnels; it’s a very fascinating concept, apparently more than 50 years ahead of its time as we are still nowhere close to implementing these ideas. Imagine if instead the streets were dedicated to Muni and it was up some some private developer to shell out billions to build an underground tollway!

  • marcos

    @SteveS, you are violating an article of faith amongst the livable streets acolytes, that of “tunnels for transit only!”

    The main impediment to speedy transit on the surface is the angular grid. Obviating the grid by going underground prioritizes speeds for transit while relegating private autos to negotiate the turns and deal with cross traffic.


  • Signal priority would solve that issue. Also, reducing (or eliminating) traffic on Stockton would mean that buses don’t have to wait 3 light cycles for all the traffic in front of them to clear the intersection.

    I get what you are saying marcos, but we can’t keep spending billions of dollars to tuck away transit. Spend a tiny fraction and make our streets work. And if you want to talk “tunnels for transit only”, look no further then the Stockton tunnel.

  • I really wish the city would put some effort into making SFgo actually work before these new projects get rolled out. Hint: This would also save them millions on operational costs from improved vehicle speeds!

    You get thousands of out-of-towners coming into the city on BART for every ballgame, the perfect opportunity to show them that we have a great transit system that they should use every time they visit, and then they get to watch our “state of the art” T line stop at every light and take 16 minutes to get them the 8 blocks to the ballpark

  • GoGregorio

    The problem with running transit at surface level is manifest in VTA’s silly light rail system. When trains are running through downtown (which all trains must do), the speed is restricted to, I believe, 20 mph. The trains get fairly good signal priority, but even so I find it’s faster for me to take the 66 bus, which runs alongside the rail, because the 66 doesn’t have such speed restrictions.

    I’d assume that the reason for the speed limit is the presence of pedestrians, which no good downtown should attempt to limit, and which will be absent underground. If VTA light rail ran underground through downtown San Jose, I’d magine it would be a much more efficient system.

    Imagine a lrv roaring down Stockton Street at 40 mph. We’d consider it wildly unsafe. Yet if the same speeds were achieved in the Central Subway, we might say it needs to be sped up.

  • GoGregorio, point taken, but who says we need to run LRV on the surface of Stockton? The 30/45/8x should still be run but with pre-paid boarding at some of the busier Chinatown stops.

    Another thing lost in the CS debate is the fact that 30/45 service will be drastically cut. What about service to Russian Hill, Cow Hollow, and Marina? What about bus service to North Beach even, since this joke will stop 8+ blocks away at Washington St at the bottom of Chinatown.

    And there will be lost connectivity with the cross routes – 1, 2, 3, 38, ALL the Market street lines.

  • marcos

    @mikesonn: ‘I get what you are saying marcos, but we can’t keep spending billions of dollars to tuck away transit.’

    The cost to build the IRT Park/Lexington Avenue line in 1904 was $200,000,000 per mile (express tracks and all) in 2000 dollars.

    That was not an expense, there was no money “spent,” it was an investment, an investment that continues to pay dividends a century later by many measures and will continue to add value to New York City for decades, centuries to come.

    I don’t believe in tunnels for transit only. That is an article of faith amongst the transportation nonprofiteers. I am not a nonprofiteer.

    Living near Mission and Duboce, I’d be very happy to see US-101 turn into a toll road going underground between Mission and Valencia and pop out of the ground at the Golden Gate Bridge, with one exit/entrance at Geary and Masonic with trucks prohibited on surface Van Ness and Lombard.

    I do believe that BRT only gets you incremental gains, and if we want to see the mode shift that we’re all talking about, that we’ll need to make a significant investment in a subway network. This problem was solved a century ago in Europe and NYC and it is really astounding to me that today this record of accomplishment is not valued by transit advocates in SF.

    Even it not feasible, when advocates set their goals to be identical with staff, then the overton window closes and we are limited to staffs’ best imagination. We need to set our sights higher, closer to our ideal, not censoring ourselves first, and force staff to meet us halfway.


  • I’m not against a tunnel on Geary, or really on Stockton. And I totally agree with your earlier statement about spending a bit more to do it right, but they aren’t going to do that. They will keep their 125′ deep tunnel under BART and 5-8 min walk connection to Powell station. I’m against pushing poor expensive transit just for the sake of pushing transit. We are only going to cripple the system if this thing gets built. It isn’t an investment in the future, it is a shot in the foot while cutting off the other.

  • marcos

    The problem is that that Breda car has left the short platformed station.


  • And that just points out the waste of the central subway: they are spending this $1B per mile to build the difficult part of the line passing below downtown, then stopping where they could probably keep going for something closer to $300M/mile and build a line with some real connectivity.

    BRT is another issue; for high-speed operation it’s actually better suited for high density suburbs, where it has seen the greatest success since you can greatly minimize the cross traffic, use aerial structures, etc. But it has value in lower density urban areas like we have in the western neighborhoods as well. The point is not that it gets you 100% the speed of a subway for 20% the cost in an urban environment, but that it gets you maybe 60% the speed for 20% the cost. And it compares extremely favorably to on-street LRV, where you get basically the same speed for much less cost.

    But for either BRT or on-street LRV to work, you need a good signal system, and SFgo has been a completely failure here. I don’t know why more emphasis isn’t put on it, as not only will it be essential to BRT, not only is it the primary cause of the failure of the T line, but it affects even the in-subway performance of all our lines, since except for the Castro shuttle they all must make the on-street portion of their trip on time to delivery subway trips on time. I’d encourage everyone to take an LRV all the way to the Zoo or to Sunnydale and see what miserable use we are making of these expensive vehicles!

  • marcos

    @Steve, no. The metro runs at like 35mph on a good day underground, compared to a surface speed of around 7mph (remember, the 9mph average includes the metro).

    BRT would shave off about 10% from a 38 run and, yes, is more suited to suburban transit than density. To top it off, BRT will end at Van Ness, leaving the TL as is with a few TPS treatments.

    I’d long suggested that we run a kosher LRV system, keeping the underground apart from the surface cars. Yes it would involve a transfer, but that cost would probably be outweighed by reliability and speed in the subway.

    As far as the Central Subway goes, opponents have lost that battle. Unless they realize that and focus on how to make it less worse when those dollars get spent, we will be saddled with a poor subway on a less desirable corridor instead of a better/less worse subway on a less desirable corridor.


  • Ok marcos, what do you suggest us “opponents” start fighting for/against?

  • marcos

    1. Longer stations capable of handling a transition from high to low floor cars.

    2. Sane connection to Market Street transit.

    3. Extension to completely replace the 15/Third.


  • @marcos That’s exactly my point: LRVs are running at abysmally slow above ground right now. Presumably BRT will be just the same speed as on-street LRV if SFgo is not improved. These lines could get a massive speed boost if we fixed signalling to the point they never made a non-revenue stop, and looked at station design and stop spacing on the older lines. Conversely if we don’t fix signalling, there is no reason to think BRT will not be the same failure the T line has been.

    A radical alternative for achieving separation of subway from surface would be to shut down surface LRV operations and replace them with BRT vehicles: you might actually speed up service a little, you would have low-floor accessible vehicles, and much lower costs (which money could be reinvested in building more real subway!).

  • So we have to give up fighting it, accept MTC’s heavy handed fate, and watch MUNI die? And who says we aren’t also fighting for that and something to be done with Stockton in the mean time?

  • marcos

    @SteveS: ‘These lines could get a massive speed boost if we fixed signalling to the point they never made a non-revenue stop, and looked at station design and stop spacing on the older lines.’

    I do not believe it will be possible in San Francisco to engineer a signaling scheme to safely allow surface travel without non revenue stops or to achieve anything close.

    BRT is a fashion for suburbs less dense than San Francisco’s west side being applied to a built out environment that can only be considered suburban when compared to the east side. I do not believe that simply because a tool works in one situation that it will work in another.

    BRT is speculative. Subways are known to work, most contemporary cities around the world have subways and are extending their networks.

    @mikesonn: ‘So we have to give up fighting it, accept MTC’s heavy handed fate, and watch MUNI die? And who says we aren’t also fighting for that and something to be done with Stockton in the mean time?’

    to quote the immortal political philosopher Kenny Rogers:

    You gotta know when to hold ’em
    Know when to fold ’em
    Know when to walk away and
    Know when to run


  • Deep marcos, haha. But yeah, I know what you are saying. That is why I think the focus needs to shift to making the best of Stockton street in the mean time. But I also think that if Russian Hill, Cow Hollow, and Maria knew of their impending pseudo cuts, they might raise a stink. Then again, Alito-Pier is their supervisor so maybe not.

  • On that note about improving Stockton in the mean time – once people see a working Stockton, they are going to be really upset that we are spending $1.6B (+++ in years to come) on something that doesn’t need to get built.

  • patrick

    @marcos, just to clarify, when you said “I do not believe it will be possible in San Francisco to engineer a signaling scheme to safely allow surface travel without non revenue stops or to achieve anything close.” did you mean not possible politically, or technically? I assume you mean politically, and you are probably right. Technically it wouldn’t be particularly difficult.

    I’ve been told T-line already has the equipment for signal prioritization, but that it’s not enabled, which seems pretty insane. If they used it they would reduce trip times by about 20-25%.

  • marcos

    @patrick, with so much cross traffic and so many parallel and intersecting transit lines, no, I do not think that it is technically possible to get a “massive speed boost” on the surface, in San Francisco.

    Politically a modest speed boost can be obtained for $100m or so per corridor. That might allow Muni to save some money by reducing runs by making them faster, but I do not believe it will be sufficient to draw a mode shift, and that is what counts.

    The T-Third IS BRT on steroids and it has performance on the order of magnitude as bad as the J Church, eyeballing it. If we can’t get speed gains at the level claimed for BRT on the Third Street line, then we’re not going to get it through the Inner Richmond, J Town and TL.


  • SFgo is already installed in many of the important corridors, so there is no significant cost to enabling better signalling there, just a need for better priority setting and troubleshooting. If you prioritize the rapid lines over local and community lines, you have only a handful of places in the entire city where two rapid lines cross and potentially one vehicle has to stop to wait for the other.

    For example, the 38 and 14 each have only five intersections with other rapid lines on their entire six+ mile runs. The N has three, the L one and the T zero!

  • marcos

    @SteveS, are there examples in other comparable dense urban cores where signal timings have achieved “massive speed gains” on the surface like BRT advocates claim?

    I didn’t think so.

    There’s nothing wrong with promoting novel concepts, but until they are tested in the complexity of the real world, they’re just concepts.


  • patrick

    @marcos, I guess we should define things a little more, I see a modest improvement as somewhere from 5-20% improvements, and a massive improvements in the range of 20% or more. When we talk about 0 non-revenue stops I don’t mean across the entire MUNI system, just on the main lines (LRT, 38, etc…), and yes, in certain areas it may be impossible, at least without massive infrastructure changes, but those areas are few and far between.

    And you don’t have to spend any money on some of the lines, if what SteveS says is true, then the 38 could see at least the upper range of improvements without any money spent, just get the signal prioritization right.

    As I mentioned the T could realize major improvements the same way. I’ve personally measured the time spent at stop lights, and found on my 25-30 minute trip from Cesar Chavez to Embarcadero station anywhere from 4-7 minutes is wasted by stop lights. The existing signaling infrastructure should be able to entirely eliminate that.

    I’m not sure what you mean by T being BRT. It’s clearly LRT. Perhaps not very well designed, but the only significant difference between LRT & BRT are the vehicles and the rails. I think the T could have done just as well as BRT given the level of ridership, but that’s water under the bridge.

    Some of the other lines would require money to make improvements, any LRT line that has to deal with stop signs would need lights installed, but that would yield a pretty significant improvement, assuming proper signal prioritization. I think it’s crazy that there are still lines today that have to deal with stop signs.

    Many improvements could be seen via TEP implementation and bus ROW enforcement, and boarding/ticketing procedures.

    The train control system needs to be replaced with a functional one.

    Anyways, I don’t really see any technical problems, just political / leadership ones.

  • marcos

    @patrick, until we see a change of verb tense from the conditional to the perfect, its all blather. These treatments have never been applied successfully in a dense urban core, they are suited to suburban distances or perhaps LA levels of density, none of which we have in San Francisco.

    If the complexity of the bicycle plan revealed unsuspected impacts on Muni based on the removal of auto lanes for bike lanes, then I suggest that you all seriously underestimate the complexity of the built environment in which you’d place BRT.

    Subways are the only way to go, anything else might offer up some cost savings from speed boosts, but will not be sufficient to induce mode shift. Without mode shift, we’re screwed.


  • patrick

    what treatments? rear boarding is used all over the world to speed boarding, POP systems are used all over the world to speed boarding. Reducing dwell time clearly increases speed.

    I’ll agree that certain situations require a subway, but I’m talking in general here. Perhaps you are talking about the CS in particular. I’m not opposed to the CS, in fact I’m mildly in favor of it. Although I do think there’s some serious room for improvement, and I also think it’s not particularly necessary at this time, especially given that it falls short of North Beach, but if they do extend it there, then I’d be much more in favor of it.

    If you are talking about some other situation, please explain what you mean by “subways are the only way to go” in regard to public transit in SF.

    If we are talking specifically about signal prioritization, It’s perfect tense on T line. For political reasons it is not being used. I’ve already laid out exactly what could be done to make a major increase, as well as improvements for other lines that could also result in significant improvements.

    Are you looking for some specific examples of success stories for signal prioritization?

    Info about Zurich:

    A study of prioritization in a number of cities in several different countries:

    In fact you don’t have to go outside of SF to see signal prioritization success stories, unfortunately they are all for the benefit of cars: Look at Fell & Oak, or Pine & Bush, or Golden Gate Ave. The same signal timing strategy can be used for the benefit of rail or buses.

  • Patrick,

    Just out of curiosity, what in your view are the political reasons why signal prioritization is not being used on the T line? My family has given up taking Muni to the Caltrain station or to ATT Park because of how achingly slow and miserably unreliable the service to those points can be. We bike instead. (Thank you, SFBC valet bike parking volunteers at the ball park!)

    It is mysterious how even with an entirely protected right of way and relatively few stops, Muni would still lose to an ox-cart in a race from the Embarcadero to 4th and King.

  • TF


    I take the light rail to CalTrain all the time and it’s fine – maybe about 10 minutes from Embarcadero.

    I’ll take it over a bus any day, in terms of frequency, reliability, speed and comfort.

    Although when the Central Subway is completed, your journey time will certainly be less. but it really isn’t as bad as you claim.

    And where is SFMuni fast anywhere in the City? If you dislike the streetcars, you must really, really hate the buses.

  • marcos

    @Patrick if the city cannot get it together to implement low hanging fruit consensus treatments which are at hand, then it will be a bit much to expect that they can run a system efficiently which requires hitting on so many cylinders, as it were.

    The subway runs at 35 mph, T line around 16. Maybe you get 10% for tps. Is there a win for all Door boarding on 3d st? Don’t think so.


  • The distance from the Embarcadero to 4th and King is 1.6 miles. When this takes the scheduled 10 minutes, it means Muni is traveling at only 9.6 miles per hour even with a protected right of way and only 3 (count ’em, 3!) intervening stops. Going 1.6 miles on the 24 down Divisadero takes a scheduled 13 minutes, a rate of 7.4 mph, but this is with very mixed, congested traffic and a stop every other block (sometimes every block.) (My guess is the 24-Divisadero bus must stop at least 12 times in the course of 1.6 miles.)

    I appreciate that everyone’s experiences with Muni vary. In our situation, ATT Park is 4 miles from our house. After years of taking Muni, my husband has vowed never to take it to a Giants game again after it took him an hour and forty minutes to get home last month. Biking is a far quicker and more reliable option, even at night. The Caltrain station is 3.3 miles from our house. For my son, if he takes Muni to Caltrain, he has found through painful experience that he has to leave at least forty minutes in advance so as not to miss his train (and this is with using Nextbus so he doesn’t have to wait at all starting out.) If he bikes, it takes 15 minutes with little variability. In my experience, it can take an hour to get home from Caltrain via Muni.

    I find Muni is fairly efficient if a) I can take a single bus to where I’m going without any transfers, b) if I go anywhere downtown, and c) if I avoid the T past the Embarcadero. I also avoid the F line unless I’m in the mood for an extremely leisurely ride and bus drivers shouting at me to watch out for pickpockets.

    The Central Subway, if it is indeed ever built, would require an additional transfer for me to get to 4th and King and so would unlikely save me any time whatsoever. In my opinion it is a project both poorly conceived and poorly designed. Having trains begin and end at the new Transbay terminal at 2nd and Mission will improve my Muni access to Caltrain dramatically, probably cutting the time it takes me to get there in half. As federal and state monies dry up in the unavoidable economic contraction ahead, I am hoping we can still manage to get that 1.3 miles of tunnel dug. Eliminating that last mile problem (and hence making Caltrain more convenient to commuters and others who presently drive up and down the Peninsula) will do more for lowering CO2 emissions than any other mile we care to dig.

  • @taomom I agree and think you are actually being generous rounding to ~10 minutes. Muni’s published schedule states that it takes 16 minutes to get from Embarcadero station to 4th and King, which is a distance of 8 long blocks once you come out of the tunnel: two minutes per block!

    And there is virtually no cross traffic since this is the Embarcadero, all “T” intersections. Yet the train still seems to manage to stop at two or three red lights at empty intersections every time!

    The reason I first brought this stretch up as an example is exactly because you have a physically separated transit lane and virtually no cross traffic: it is about as perfect an environment as you will get short of subway or aerial structure. If Muni can’t make it here, they can’t make it anywhere!

  • patrick

    Sorry, I was out of town for the weekend…

    @taomom, I think it’s typical poor leadership. I’m not aware of anybody who is a champion for MUNI. At best our leaders acknowledge that there is a problem, but then do nothing about it. For the last eight years we’ve had a mayor more interested in photo ops and building political capital than in actually improving the city. Few of our leaders ride MUNI with any frequency, and I doubt they even understand that the T could be sped up without any real expenditure. MUNI’s management is pretty incompetent, and they just seem to be lapdogs for Newsom, who doesn’t give a damn about MUNI.

    @marcos. The T uses all the same equipment as the subway, so it could run the same speed if it didn’t have to stop at every light. And if you have little faith in the city to do the simple stuff, why would you think they can effectively pull of something as complicated as a subway? I’m not sure how any of that has anything to do with the technical viability of preferential signals, in fact it kind of reinforces my statement that it’s political issues, not technical.

  • marcos

    @patrick, the City is bad at putting together many moving parts and keeping that complexity running. It is good at having hindrances eliminated and rolling streetcars forward at 35mph average speed in the subway. The GPS data from nextmuni demonstrate this conclusively.

    The T line is BRT on steroids, yet it runs as slow as a trolley coach on Fillmore. Until the City can make BRT work on 3d Street, then it is not going to work on mainlines like Geary, especially through the TL.

    BRT treatments are good for places like Los Angeles where the lines run on suburban style boulevards with major cross traffic only every .5-1 mile. They don’t work well in denser urban areas–is there a single example of how BRT style treatments work on the surface in the dense part of cities as dense as NYC, London, Paris, etc?

    I don’t think so. This is another case where transit advocates drink the Kool-Ade of “here’s a cheap short cut that worked somewhere totally different than here, so let’s do it here, and if you oppose it, you favor cars.” When you take a cheap short cut, the odds are high of getting burned because the solution is incorrect or ill thought out.

    If the goal is mode shift, then BRT in SF is not going to deliver the goods. To the point of the question: is there a successful example of BRT in a dense urban core?


  • patrick

    @marcos, and yet the trains should be going 50mph, and in fact used to go 50mph, so I would not say that 35 mph is an example of success.

    I’m not sure what you mean by T being BRT, it’s the same as all the other metro lines, including the ones that currently go through subway style tunnels, and the same as the planned Central Subway. They are actually LRT (light rail).

    “If the goal is mode shift, then BRT in SF is not going to deliver the goods.”

    you don’t have anything to support such a claim, while I’ve provided evidence that contradicts it, both from a theoretical standpoint, as well as case studies from inside and outside the U.S.

    “To the point of the question: is there a successful example of BRT in a dense urban core?”

    The previous link provided concrete evidence of improvements of both travel time and ridership in major cities all over the world (Sapporo, Japan; Chicago, Toronto).

    Here’s another example: Metrobus in Mexico City: It carries 260,000 people a day, cut travel time nearly in half, and is in one of the largest cities in the world. The first line opened in 2005, The second in 2008, and a 3rd line is currently under construction, and scheduled to open 2011.

    I don’t really care what particular mode is used, BRT, LRT, or subway, but if you are going to claim that only a subway will work in SF, you need to provide some support for such a statement.

  • marcos

    Metro cars do go 50mph in the subway, but they also stop, so the average speed is about 35mph.

    The MTA NYC Subway goes no faster than 45mph.


  • marcos

    Insurgentes and Paseo de la Reforma look nothing like San Francisco.

    There is no cross traffic on those boulevards except for major streets, just like in Los Angeles.

    Mexico DF is less dense than San Francisco:

    Mexico City density: 5,954/km2 (15,420.8/sq mi)
    San Francisco density: 6,688.4/km2 (17,323/sq mi)

    The legal framework in Mexico does not constrain the hands of transit planners as it does in San Francisco, to put it delicately, either from an environmental or a property rights perspective.

    I would also add that the Mexico City SCT has been building new subway lines like crazy compared to SF over the past decade and a half. Brimming over with commuters at capacity, the surface BRT lines are designed to relieve pressure on Metro lines #3 and #1 to which subway redundancy cannot be added in real time. This problem has been building for more than a decade.

    The T-Third has all the treatments of BRT, grade separation, TPS, longer distances between stops, the attractiveness of rail, everything that is going to bring the bountiful gains of BRT to the urban populace, yet it runs slow as christmas. The only thing missing is a subway.

    BRT can, at best, provide incremental gains over traditional surface bus and streetcar lines. Incremental gains will make transit more efficient by reducing the costs to service a line, however that is not the same thing as inducing mode shift.

    The onus lies with proponents to demonstrate that such incremental gains will induce mode shift, not on opponents to prove the negative. Where when BRT has provided a 10% improvement in speed, have we seen mode shift induced amongst a transit choice population?


  • T-Third doesn’t use signal prioritization, a tool that is available and should be used.

  • I’d like to simplify this and just talk about dedicated right of way vs. shared ROW, since BRT and LRVs like the T line should have basically the same performance (and likewise elevated structures and subway have basically the same performance).

    I completely agree that the city currently can’t make any of their shared ROW service work well. I’d say the performance on the metro isn’t that great either; certainly average speed is drastically better, but headway adherence is abysmal and it’s still underperforming its potential speed. You need only look at BART’s headway adherence in San Francisco compared to the Metro to see that it’s more than just the technology at fault (BART is also saddled with less-than-ideal vehicles and no express tracks). So we have underperforming shared ROW service and underperforming dedicated ROW service. We can argue about how much room for improvement each one has, but I think everyone would agree that there is significant opportunity on both.

    I also think everyone agrees that the city needs much more dedicated ROW service. We currently have 5.5 miles of Muni subway and something like 7 miles of BART subway and other dedicated ROW, out of what must be something like 70-100 miles of rapid transit routes. Clearly we are not going to find a few trillion dollars to convert all of that to subway overnight, and if we do not invest in the other routes with physically separated lanes, signal priority, POP, etc., their average speed will continue to decrease each and every year as they are further crowded by congestion, so we cannot sit by and do nothing while waiting for our subway to come.

    I would argue that getting a working signal priority system would produce some of the best improvements for these shared ROW lines for some of the lowest investment of anything we could do right now. One of the most lauded recent livable street developments for a community has been the bike route on Valencia street. This route succeeds not because of but in spite of the street treatment, which as many commenters have pointed out has bike lanes that are all but useless among the rampant double-parking, high parking lane turnover and opened doors. It succeeds mainly on the success of the wonderful job MTA did retiming the lights there!

  • marcos

    @mikesonn, if the treatments have been available for some time on Third Street and are not being deployed during these times of budget crisis where TPS would save a vehicle round trip on the T line, then that bodes ill for the commitment of the MTA to keep all of these balls in the air as required to make surface BRT work. We can just go so long hoping for these promises that free (or at least very cheap) lunches are going to feed us.

    My estimates are that for less than $10b, not trillion$, we could invest in a Van Ness and Geary subway.

    The Valencia corridor has a subway running right next to it, as well as the high capacity Mission and Van Ness surface lines. Otherwise, we’d see Valencia as the Insurgentes to the Linea 3, where traffic would spill over a saturated mainline and put a crimp in Valencia’s gentrification. Since that involves real money, and since the stakeholders on that strip are now anglo, well, we know how that story ends.

    When the Valencia bike lane was put in 13 years ago, it evaded environmental review because the MTA was able to mitigate any traffic impacts by retiming signals. Just evading the requirement for an EIR and changing the mode shift game are very different achievements.

    Incremental solutions are just that, combining them increases complexity which can lead to its own unintended consequences as we see in all sorts of heterogeneous complex systems. If the MTA cannot make a go of it now…

    The question remains as to whether incremental gains are sufficient to induce the kind of mode shift that we need to stop the downward spiral. I contend that they are not, but would welcome being directed to any studies that point to a threshold where investment is sufficient to induce a shift.


  • It just proves that the MTA and MTC have no interest in actually running a competent transit system. And in the thread, what makes you think that subways are going to bring about the mode-shift you so often refer to?

    The Central Subway will cause surface crowding as the 30/45/8x will see service drastically cut. Your “mode-shift” isn’t for the people already living in Chinatown, but for those living in Russian Hill, Marina, and Cow Hollow (even North Beach) who will have their bus service decimated and not see any benefit from the CS. Prioritize Stockton for transit, switch 3rd/4th/Stockton to two-way, and you will see mode shift even with cross traffic delays – adding signal priority and POP and you’ll really see a spike. But the people of Chinatown never had a car to mode-shift from, so you are only hurting the ones you are trying to attract.

  • patrick

    @marcos. Those densities are quite close to each other, about 11% difference. So metrobus, as well as the other examples provided are quite valid when talking about SF. I certainly don’t think you can claim Mexico City is a suburb.

    Metrobus resulted in nearly halving trip time, that is not incremental, that is a huge improvement. Far better than the projected improvements for the CS, at a fraction of the price. 260,000 people per day is more than 5 times the number of people that ride transit on Geary, MUNI’s busiest line. Metrobus is a huge success, in a huge city that has similar density to SF.

    As I’ve already said, I’m not against subways, I’m just disproving your claims with respect to BRT, preferential signaling, and their applicability in SF. I feel I’ve shown enough evidence that shows major improvements can be made relatively inexpensively, while you’ve provided 0 evidence to support your arguments.

    Do you seriously think $10b is a small amount of money? If we had $10 billion dollars lying around and nothing better to do with it, I’d be all for a subways all over the place, but we don’t, and we probably never will.

  • I’m with patrick. I’d be for a subway on Stockton if it worked (or maybe not against it if it kinda worked), but the MTC and MTA aren’t interested in something that works. Also, for minimal costs we could have Stockton be a transit route, but that $1.6B is meant to continue to feed the car culture by allowing them access to the to the Stockton Tunnel. 4th bore anyone? These agencies aren’t in the business of creating sensible transit, but are in the business of siphoning public funds into private contractors’ pockets.

  • marcos

    @mikesonn, but the numbers do not lie, that even the MTA is not capable of running the Metro so poorly in the subway that people don’t choose the subway over surface transit.

    @patrick, the metrobus was put into place after the sixth most patronized subway system in the world was saturated and as the Metro rail systems are undergoing continuous expansion. Mode shift from bus, walking or bicycle to the Metro happened almost instantly because the system was designed to work. Not only does the STC add value to Mexico City’s economy, but the city would grind to a standstill if they abandoned the system.

    Have you ever seen the stone steps of Metro stations in Mexico City’s Centro Historico? They’re worn down with trillions of footsteps. The platforms are clean enough to eat off of. 9 car trains run every three minutes even on Sundays and until midnight.

    Again, Paseo de la Reforma is not Geary. Avenida Insurgentes is not Van Ness. Both boulevards are very similar to the arterials where BRT runs in LA. Mexico has no CEQA, no planning commissions, no appeals of conditional use, not much democracy to speak of.

    Optimistic projections of Geary savings from BRT run to 25% or 11 min. More realistically we’ll see 5 minutes shaved from a 45 minute ride, enough to squeeze another vehicle out of but not enough to induce mode share. Van Ness similarly has so many connections so close together at the south end of the line, the part where everyone boards from the connections, that BRT can never get up enough speed to win major gains.

    @both of you: I’m not suggesting that the Central Subway as designed is the best capital project to move forward next or that the current design is worth building, so please do not confuse that issue. But the voters did approve the 4 corridors plan in 1988 when they established the TA, and the 15-Third line was one of those voter approved corridors.

    That Breda has left the station, the only discussion now is how to cure the fatal flaws of value engineering.

    That the Central subway is flawed is no argument against subways on Van Ness and Geary to induce mode shift where we can.


  • These are difficult questions because there are so many issues and tradeoffs. Obviously issue #1 is that transit is underfunded. If we had that $10B in the first place it would be a very different situation today. But it’s incredibly difficult to convince taxpayers to fund more bonds for projects and accept higher taxes and fees for operations when Muni wastes so much of what it does get. So I think we need a push for an integrated solution that addresses bad management, politicization of decision making, operational inefficiency and underfunding all at the same time. I do believe a majority of San Franciscans believe in transit first and would be willing to do more if they felt the MTA could be trusted.

    Then, no matter how much funding we have, there is a question of where best to apply it. Certainly we can halt all capital improvements and do nothing but work on acquiring funding until we can start another subway line. But I don’t think diverting all improvements to one line at a time is fair or effective when so much of the city is underserved right now.

    Let’s start with this view: we have 49 square miles that need to be served by transit. We have identified 21 rapid routes that are supposed to serve that space most efficiently with fast, reliable service. I would argue that right now the only San Franciscans who enjoy, fast reliable service are those who both live and work within walking distance of a BART station (and even they have been hit with the rollback of frequent evening service, and no overnight service).

    We could fix the existing Metro to get the people served there trains that arrive on a reliable schedule with consistent headway, and I think that should definitely be a priority. But the number of people served entirely by subway from their residence to downtown is minuscule: only about 15% of people travelling downtown each day on the Metro boarded at West Portal, Forest Hill, Castro or Church stations, which is then only about 3% of people taking Muni on any given day.

    So then we come to the question of how to improve our system for the other 97% of San Francisco. Certainly you can look at the TEP data, find the next most used corridor, and begin saving to implement dedicated ROW for transit there. And indeed I think we should do this! But if we do not continue investing in the rest of the network in the mean time, performance is going to continually erode there, and you are going to lose far more riders from the rest of the network than you gain on the one or two routes you are putting all investment into.

    Mode shift is another complicated question. Clearly you have a group on one end that will always take transit no matter how miserable the service because they cannot afford to drive, are not physically able to bike and too far away from their destination to walk. Then you have a group on the other end who will always drive no matter the situation; these are the people who are driving for all their errands in Manhattan. So the question is what about all the people in the middle.

    There is definitely a group out there that would ride transit, but only if we get the very fast speeds that you can only get with dedicated ROW. Planners have theorized that there is another group that will ride any vehicle with metal wheels because it is sexy, and this is why we have implemented LRV on city streets where it makes no sense. I’d propose we put this theory aside and just look at groups that make their decision based on tangiables like speed, reliability, comfort, etc.

    Then there is this group which in San Francisco is bigger than in any other city save New York, and that is people who are riding transit even though they could easily use another mode. These people are overwhelmingly unsatisfied with Muni and if we do not start doing things systemwide about eroding service and rising fares, they will begin leaving in larger numbers and push our mode share in the other direction. There is also a group that would ride Muni if it made some decent improvements to reliability and comfort, even if we didn’t run subway to their neighborhood.

    For these people, improvements with signal priority, POP, low-floor, many-door vehicles, and better stop amenities can make a difference. I do think that it would make a lot of sense to implement these improvements opportunistically across the city, rather than wait for one massive plan for each corridor (shouldn’t we have learned something about those by now? :). On the other hand, we don’t want to blow all the funding here at the expense of being able to develop dedicated ROWs that have much more long-term value at the expense of much higher up-front cost.

    Then there are opportunities for mode shift to bikes and walking, and we cannot underemphasize these, because we often have the opportunity to implement bike/ped infrastructure which has a drastically lower cost than transit infrastructure and a tiny maintenance cost, which would drive a much bigger mode shift per dollar.

    So in the end we have a very complicated balancing act of how to improve transit, biking and pedestrian conditions for all San Franciscans, using limited resources, with a long-term vision.