Today’s Headlines

  • Great Streets Project Releases Its 2011 Parklet Impact Study
  • Toddler’s Death in Contra Costa County a Reminder of Driveway Dangers (GJEL)
  • Swedish Firm Announces Contract for BART Extension to San Jose (Mercury News)
  • 25-Year-Old Woman is San Jose’s First Traffic Fatality of the Year (CoCo Times)
  • Driver Injures Pedestrian in Palo Alto (Mercury News)
  • Elections Officials Will Let SMART Decide Signature Threshold for Repeal Initiative (Marin IJ)
  • Caltrain Budget Bolstered by Increased Ridership, Parking Revenue (SF Examiner)
  • Report: CA High-Speed Rail Shouldn’t Be Funded (SFGate)
  • SF Examiner Editorial: Credit Card Fees Hurting Cabbies and Passengers
More headlines at Streetsblog Capitol Hill
  • mikesonn

    Re: Caltrain

    “We still have a fiscal crisis,” he said. “The problems that caused these threatened service cuts haven’t been resolved; they’ve just been taped and patched together.”

    Um, can we work on those issues NOW instead of waiting until your back is against the wall and the only option is to cut service and increase fares?

  • mikesonn

    Speaking of Caltrain: if you walk, bike or Muni to 22nd St, please email in support of the new parking meters around the station (part of the Mission Bay Parking Management Strategy). I’m working on my email now, and I think there is a meeting tomorrow. Here is more info: 

  • mikesonn

    Actually, if you drive this will benefit you as well. Meters will help create turn over for local businesses and also price parking in a way that provides open spaces so you won’t have to circle forever looking for parking.

  • In September, the agency contracted with TransitAmerica to run its system, ending a 20-year partnership with Amtrak. Terms are still being negotiated, and Caltrain will spend $1.5 million more than anticipated.Duh. The conductors are all quitting.

  • Changes were made to the proposal. They aren’t metering the residential streets, they are permitting them.
    At .25 per hour there won’t be any turnover. Caltrain riders will just suck it up and pay $2-$3 per day to park there all day. This is lower than day rates at Caltrain lots across the system, though more than a monthly parking pass.

    Of course, as I rode through there today I saw ~0 vacancy around the station, so I expect those rates to increase very quickly….

  • Possibly dumb question- if the meters start at 9am, can you park there earlier and pre-pay for when enforcement starts? My observation is that most 22nd Street Caltrain drivers get there well before 9am- things look pretty full by 8am-8:15am.

    Related- I’m on the Potrero Neighbors email list, and a member just posted this observation, which indicates the SFPark pricing around the 4th & King Caltrain station is significantly off:

  • Anonymous

    @throgers:disqus  According to the SF Park document, yes, you will be able to pre-pay for when enforcement starts. I don’t know if the existing meters let you do that or not.

    It’s worth noting that according to SF Park, the spaces by the 4th & King Caltrain station are more than 85% occupied during morning rush hour, but this decreases during the day. So people are not driving to Caltrain and parking there all day, nor should we encourage them to do so as it would inconvenience the large number of Muni vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians in the area.

    If the price was lowered to 25 cents an hour, as suggested in the post you linked to, 100% of the spaces at 4th & King would likely be occupied during morning rush hour. We want people to take Caltrain but 4th & King is not a park & ride station and nor should it be.

  • @throgers – check the document Mike linked, but a posted sign at the train station this AM indicated that the plan is you can prepay but the $ won’t be charged until 9 AM. Supposedly that info came from the document Mike li@throgers:disqus nks to.

    I had not really paid attention to how much parking was being used near the train station lately. This area used to be pretty empty – goes to show how much Caltrain has increased ridership. I hypothesize that paying $2.50 per day will not result in mass defection from Caltrain – based on the full lots at other stations that charge $4. But it might convince people who live 3-4 blocks away to walk instead of drive – it seems the primary complaintants are Potrero Hill residents who say they ride Caltrain….

  • Anonymous

    I’m glad to see this issue getting attention. It makes no sense to have free parking there and encourage driving. I agree with @twitter-14678929:disqus, in that I don’t think a couple bucks will cause defections from Caltrain. Instead, those that don’t live in the nearby neighborhoods will continue to drive and pay the fee (which is only fair), and a chunk of those who live nearby will start walking (or cycling) to the station to avoid the fee. (I know somebody who lives at the top of Potrero and often drives to the station rather than make the 10 minute walk, and I honestly don’t think it’s fair that he does this without paying for it … time to internalize yet another cost of driving.) So the net result is that less people will drive to 22nd St Caltrain (and the city gets deserved revenue for parking spaces).

  • Anonymous

    Start at 25cents per hour.  Raise rates as needed to achieve 1 empty space per block all day. Not have $3 per hour causing people driving to work instead of train and hundreds of empty spaces.

  • gregozolent

    What a fun coincidence that the increase in Caltrain’s revenue is exactly equal to their unexpected increase in costs!  What are the chances?

  • The goal is 85% occupancy, not “1 space per block”. And with gas at $4 per gallon, $3 to park isn’t going to cause people to drive to work.

  • Anonymous

    @twitter-14678929:disqus  The rate SFMTA is now charging for parking spots around the 4th & Townsend train station is $3 per hour, not $3 per day.  Eg $27 for a full work day.   That is why there are hundreds of empty parking spaces.

  • mikesonn

    But aren’t those spots taken in the morning and empty in the afternoon? That means it isn’t being used by commuters. Also, as someone mentioned earlier, 4th/King is NOT a park n ride station and should not be promoted as such.

  • those spots weren’t filled with Caltrain commuters – they were filled with Academy of Art students and “rolling homes”.

  • Anonymous

    Sounds like the proper way to run a budget. Be good if everyone, from the federal government to individuals, started doing that.

  • mikesonn

    jd_x, true but the problem is Caltrain is running a huge deficit right now. The added revenue would have been nice and their unexpected costs were their own fault w/ the conductor contract switch.

  • alex

    From the point of view of someone who drives to Caltrain 22nd street station everyday, if parking meters are installed I’m just getting back into my car and drive to work again.  I just started using Caltrain after 2 years of driving to Palo Alto everyday and I only made the switch to reclaim those 2 hours in order to read, email, etc.  Other than that, Caltrain doesn’t save you much money if you already own a car, the commute is longer and it’s just another hassle in the morning to make the train when I could just hop in my car and go.  The Caltrain stations are already inconviently located for the vast majority of SF residents, to expect them to use Muni, walk or ride a bike resulting in an even longer commute down the peninsula is ridiculous. We should be encouraging those who have cars to leave them in the city and take the train, this plan just pushes those who have made a choice to support public trans back into their cars.   

  • mikesonn

    @0e64b6ba7832d7cc09878e370b0c55a1:disqus It’s a cost/time ratio consideration. You may choose to then drive to work as the $$ saved is worth more to you then the 2 hrs (only to PA from 22nd? More like 45 min tops, anyway) of free time. However, your freed up parking space will provide someone else a place to park who drives because there is no parking at 22nd St. There is no parking available because it is a limited resource that is way underpriced for demand.

    But as to your point about encouraging those who have cars to leave them in the city: SF stations are not, and should not be treated as, park’n’rides.

  • I think there is a great deal to Alex’s argument that bears consideration, and this is primarily due to the fact that car users do not have to pay for the externalities imposed by their vehicle use. I’m going to crunch some numbers so please bear with me.

    On a purely economic front, right now Alex’s choice (if he drives a reasonably economical 30mpg car and assuming he has free parking in Palo Alto) is to spend for a 30 mile one-way trip:  $3.74 (gallon of gas) and $1.59 (tires and maintenance at 5.3 cents per mile.) Total: $5.35. Taking Caltrain: $4.48 (based on monthly pass, 40 trips/month.) So indeed, if he had to pay even an extra dollar for parking, Caltrain costs him more. (Yes, there is the trade off of more valuable time on Caltrain versus the hassle of getting to Caltrain.)

    But this calculation does not involve the true costs to all of us of that 30 mile trip in terms of health care, atmospheric carbon increase and road maintenance. I would propose stripping the current 67 cents of tax from gasoline and adding back on carbon reduction and health care offsets. Then, in order to properly allocate road maintenance costs, use a VMT that is based on vehicle weight which could keep track of which roads were travelled on and taxes allocated to maintenance of that road accordingly.

    Carbon: A gallon of gas puts out about 20 lbs of carbon. Carbon offsets right now for that amount cost about 12 cents. (Carbon offsets should directly reduce carbon produced or absorb carbon from the atmosphere or they don’t count IMO.) 

    Health care: these costs are trickier to capture. We know diesel gasoline has the worst effects–its soot at the moment creates 2/3 of the particulate matter and half of nitrogen oxides produced by transportation. It’s estimated that diesel soot is responsible $189 billion $/year in health care costs. (Cancer, asthma, emphysema, etc. It’s as bad for people to live next to heavy traffic as it is to live with secondhand smoke.) For heavy trucks, given their VMT, this means they should be paying a health surcharge of  $3.63/gallon. Cars/light trucks that burn gasoline are about an 1/8th as bad, so their annual costs divided by their VMT works out to 45 cents per gallon for health care recovery costs.

    Now, VMT. It’s estimated that in order to actually maintain our roads at non-dangerous levels, we should be spending $300 billion or so a year as a nation. VMT is 3 trillion. But all vehicles are not equal–road damage is proportional to the fourth power of the vehicle weight (divided by the number of axles.)  So to raise the $300 billion, a tax of 3 cents per 1000 lbs per axle per mile would do the trick. (Not proportional to the fourth power, I know, but a heck of a lot better than what we have now.)  So a 3000 lb Prius would pay 4.5 cents/mile, a 5000 lb SUV would pay 7.5 cents per mile, and a fully laden truck would pay 60 cents per mile. (This would make the true cost advantages of moving freight by electrified rail very apparent very quickly. With such a VMT tax, VMT would no doubt drop but so would road maintenance costs in largely the correct proportion.)

    So, with this system, a trip to Palo Alto, with some important externalities accounted for, would cost: $3.07 (gallon of gas before tax) + $.12 (carbon) + $.45 (health care) + $1.59 (maintenance and tires) + $1.35 (VMT for light car) = $6.58  For a heavier, relatively fuel efficient SUV (20 mpg) the trip would cost $8.31. Now the $4.48 for Caltrain is beginning to look economical indeed. It would look even better if Alex’s employer did not offer free parking (encouraging driving) and instead contributed to his Caltrain pass cost.

    In the end, I would rather people drive to Caltrain than drive all the way to Palo Alto, so I don’t know if we want to completely discourage a park and ride practice. (Yes, I would rather they bike, walk or bus to Caltrain than drive!)

  • Anonymous

    @KarenLynnAllen:disqus It’s certainly a well-known fact (especially here!) that we completely externalize the true costs of driving. I’ve had this conversation (economics of driving vs Caltrain) many times with friends and co-workers, and almost everybody bases their analysis solely on the cost of gas. The pervasiveness of externalized costs of driving is completely mind-blowing to me, even among otherwise intelligent people.

    The numbers you crunched make sense, but you can start even more basic: the IRS uses $0.50/mile for the cost of driving. This includes gas, maintenance, insurance, etc, yet *still* externalizes environmental destruction and health problems. But let’s be conservative and go with the IRS: at $0.50/mile, then a 30-mile trip to PA is $15 (again, which excludes environmental damage, negative health consequences due to contributing to the obesity epidemic and accidents, etc). A caltrain ticket to PA is $6.75, less than half the cost of driving. So even paying a couple extra bucks a day, it makes zero financial sense to drive.

    As @mikesonn:disqus said, there certainly is a trade-off with time that needs to be factored in. However, considering that time in the car is mostly wasted time (because you need to focus on driving) whereas time on the train is completely productive, even that calculation most people don’t do right.

    Further, if @0e64b6ba7832d7cc09878e370b0c55a1:disqus is driving in rush hour, he’s not getting to PA in less than 45 min. The bullet is about 35 min from 22nd to PA. Of course, he still needs to get from the train station to work and home on both ends so that probably would make the whole trip more like an hour. But I think it’s pretty hard to claim that those extra 15 minutes are worth the difference in costs of ~$8 (while still externalizing environmental and health detrimental effects).

    I think there is irrational decision-making process at work here, where people not only externalize the true cost of driving, but they further trick themselves into believing that driving gives them more freedom. Sure, there is some inflexibility with the train since you have to leave at set times, but all the benefits (cheaper especially when internalizing the true cost and your time is not wasted) outweigh the costs for the majority of commuters who live in and work near the Caltrain corridor. And most people simple can’t wrap their head around the various issues at play to even make a correct decision.

  • mikesonn

    @KarenLynnAllen:disqus & @jd_x:disqus Thank you for your comments. Awesome stuff.

  • I got a new job from someone I met on Caltrain that involved a $10,000 per year raise. That’s a pretty hefty internality I would have accrued from driving…

  • Hi JD,

    The reason I didn’t use the $.50 a mile figure is that it includes fixed costs that one will incur by owning the car whether one drives or not (like insurance, vehicle registration, depreciation, etc.)  So I only used variable costs to determine the drive or ride decision since that is what most car owners are going to look at. (In fact, those fixed costs may, irrationally, make a person who owns a car more likely to take it even if it doesn’t make sense in the drive vs. ride decision because they feel the need to get something out of those fixed costs.)

    However, the $.50 per mile is certainly what someone who is considering going car-free should consider. As well as traffic tickets, parking tickets, car washes, the potential for vandalism and break-ins, the general extra abuse a car gets in the city, etc, etc, etc.

    Mike, you’re welcome.

    Murphstahoe, interesting idea to promote Caltrain as the new Silicon Valley networking hotspot . . .