Today’s Headlines

  • SFMTA Board Approves Masonic Ave. Redesign (CBSSF Exam)
  • SFMTA Releases State of Cycling Report, Showing Cost-Effective Growth in Ridership (SFBC)
  • Golden Gate Bridge Phasing Out Toll Workers by February (Marin IJCBSKTVU)
  • Caltrain Adding More Train Runs Starting October 1 (ABC)
  • South Bay Cities Scale Back El Camino Real BRT Plans (Merc)
  • KALW‘s Crosscurrents: “Look Both Ways, Twice, When Walking San Francisco’s Streets”
  • People Behaving Badly Follows Muni Inspectors Ticketing Fare Evaders
  • Curbed SF Wants Your Park(ing) Day Photos This Friday
  • Recent Cyclist Fatalities Shake Napa Valley’s Bicycling Community (Napa Valley Register)
  • Sketch Released of Unidentified Man Killed at San Mateo Caltrain Crossing (CoCo Times)
  • East Bay Officials Endorse Alameda County Transpo Measure B1 (Oakland Trib)
  • eBART on Schedule to Open in Eastern Contra Costa County in 2016 (CBS)

More headlines at Streetsblog Capitol Hill

  • mikesonn

    Zipcars have Fastrak in them already, it just gets charged to your account. I’m more worried about rental cars (which I usually take for long weekend camping trips, etc) and their crazy $8 “convenience fee”. I’d like to get a Fastrak not tied to a card, but to me so I can take it in any rental car that I may use. Otherwise, just let me tag my Clipper.

  • Mario Tanev

    Re: El Camino BRT

    “But we need to give the cities a choice. They did not reject Bus Rapid Transit, just the dedicated-lane approach.”

    What else is there to reject about BRT? Maybe some cities would rather get rid of the bus altogether rather than make it more efficient, but street space is really where the battle is, and those cities resoundingly rejected prioritizing transit on El Camino. I am glad that I don’t call Palo Alto or Sunnyvale home. Kudos to San Jose and Santa Clara for supporting the lanes.

    “But more people and more jobs also means more drivers wanting more lanes — and that gives VTA board member Liz Kniss pause.”

    This is really scary. That person doesn’t understand that regardless what drivers want, BRT allows for higher capacity (in terms of people throughput) than car lanes. Yes, drivers will want those lanes, but if you give them those lanes, people in general will suffer more. Even those drivers will suffer more since BRT will become less attractive and fewer drivers will switch, thus hogging those lanes even more.

    Palo Alto is truly the hick town of the Bay Area. It’s really a shame, given their proud tradition of academia (Stanford) and progressive thought. They are just another manifestation of the failure to comprehend the tragedy of the commons, that the tea party is guilty of.

  • mikesonn

    I’ll keep saying it: Palo Alto is only as green as the latest Prius.

  • We rented a car from DIA, and took the toll road. I started to worry about where the toll booth was. Well, we got zinged for like $50 to take that short road, as a bill in the mail weeks later. Apparently there is a method to pay for “unlimited toll usage” but it was not really mentioned at the airport. Brutal.

  • Anonymous

    RE: Caltrain adding more trains to increase capacity

    Glad to see Caltrain adding some more trains, but it’s a long way from what’s really needed since the problem is peak hours and these changes barely touch that. And they certainly do very little for the problems bicyclists suffer (I was part of 15+ cyclists bumped from southbound #230 on Monday morning at 22nd St) and for everyone (well, every regular commuter) during the hell that is Giants games.

    My question is this: why can’t Caltrain add a 6th car (ideally a bike car) to peak trains? I get that some stations might have to be extended and that these trains will be a bit slower due to the extra weight so the schedule will have to be tweaked, but can’t this all easily be handled? I mean, what is Caltrain’s plan for handling the fast-growing ridership which is already outstripping capacity? Electrification is not going to happen for 10+ years, so we need solutions on the order of 1-2 years in the meantime. And it seems to me that adding extra cars on peak hour trains is relatively easy. So why isn’t this being offered up as a solution?

  • Andy Chow

    I don’t think that the cities want to reject the bus but don’t think it is worth removing regular traffic lanes.

    I generally believe that a high quality bus should behave like a bus. Things like curbside boarding and shared local/rapid stops are one of those advantages. There are strategies to speed up travel time due to delays at congested intersections without dedicating lanes to buses.

    VTA could even go ahead to push light rail, which would most likely get much friendlier receptions when it comes to dedicating lanes for light rail rather than bus. We are not talking about Fresno or some other cities that don’t have light rail, which if putting light rail would add a lot of fixed cost not needed by BRT. VTA already more than enough light rail cars to support a much larger light rail system. If the El Camino corridor were to be light rail, VTA would have even have to buy new light rail cars.

    The truth is that BRT is being proposed here because VTA essentially has become a BART construction agency. If those corridors were to be light rail, it would conflict with BART in funding and construction aspects. VTA basically sacrificed light rail in favor of BART. VTA is the only agency in the entire western U.S. that don’t have plans to expand its light rail system.

    In retrospect, corridors like El Camino should have light rail rather than Tasman, which is one of the reasons why light rail has not been getting riders. But for the long time, light rail was not proposed under the assumption that light rail would never get the dedicated lanes on El Camino, which would be highly preferable. BRT was proposed because it does not required dedicated right of way, so don’t be surprised if some of the cities decided to turn down dedicated lanes for BRT.

    I think if we are serious about dedicated right of way we should at least demand light rail be provisioned, if not an alternative to BRT. VTA isn’t going to push LRT on its own because part of it is a BART construction agency. I don’t think that transit priorities in Santa Clara County should be all about BART and some pocket change like BRT. Light rail expansion has to be a part of the transit future.

  • mikesonn

    1) Probably don’t have the train-sets.
    2) Station length, like you mention.
    3) Actual solutions aren’t allowed in SamTrans offices

  • Anonymous

    @mikesonn:disqus Regarding 1): something tells me that have at least some extra available. But if not, can’t they just buy some more? I mean, if not, what is their solution to growing ridership? Just wait a decade for electrification?! They gotta come up something, and buying 6-10 extra cars doesn’t seem to be that hard in the big scheme of things.

    Regarding 2): Yeah, I’m sure at some stations this will be a problem, but is it really that hard to extend the station length an extra 50 ft (or whatever). And I’m pretty sure there are a bunch of stations (like Palo Alto, 4th & King, 22nd St, etc) that are already plenty long enough, so it’s not all stations that will need to be extended. This also, in the big scheme of things, seems so trivial to fix that it shouldn’t be barrier.

    Regarding 3): That got a good laugh out of me.

  • mikesonn

    They do have extra sets, but they are used as back-up for break-downs. As for individual cars, Caltrain isn’t like BART in that they break and regroup train sets.

    2) I bet the stations that need the longer train sets already have long enough platforms. Just a matter of if Caltrain can dedicate certain trains to run only certain stops. Train number 123, for example, currently can go on any run that Caltrain makes, regardless of what stops it makes – can Caltrain handle having train 123 doing only bullet runs? And if so, only bullet runs that stop at certain stations? I kinda doubt it.

  • Anonymous

    @mikesonn:disqus I don’t think Caltrain should design their system so that only certain trains can stop at certain stations; this makes scheduling complicated and limits flexibility. Instead, all trains should be able to stop at all stations. So this means extending all the platforms. And again, I’m sure a good chunk of the stations are already long enough. I’m not saying some stations won’t take a little work, but that is a perfect project for capitol improvements and exactly what they should be doing: coming up with easy, short-term solutions to increase capacity rather than saying this is it for a decade until electrification.

    Yes, Caltrain needs spare cars for break-downs, so then they just need to buy more if they don’t have enough to add a 6th car and still have spares. I get it: it’s a cost and takes effort. But my point is: what is the alternative? Caltrain has absolutely *nothing* planned for how to increase capacity until electrification in a decade (probably more, given that it’s going to tied up with the mess that is HSR). This is horrible planning. We need some solutions, and Caltrain has been utterly silent on this issue. And so far, I’ve heard no good explanation of why they can’t invest a relatively small amount of money and add a 6th car to over-crowded trains and extend the station platforms. If they just move on this now, we could have have a 20% capacity increase (or 10% increase for non-bicyclists and a 50% increase for cyclists) in just a few years.

  • Richard Mlynarik

    Caltrain’s equipment utilization is appalling … by first-world advanced industralized democracy standards.

    By North American olde tyme “commuter railroading” feather-bedding money-grows-on-trees shade-mechanics assistant-sub-vice-conductor Special Olympics standards, it’s just what you’d expect.  Most equipment is parked out of service most of the time, and that that is running does so slowly, with massive over-staffing, and at nose-bleed cost per revenue hour.

    In the same way that Caltrain cries that it is “at capacity” with 5 trains per direction per hour and to change this “needs” to waste $230 million “designing” and procuring a globally-unique. guaranteed-to-fail, sole-source signal system for it’s unique, only-on-the-SF-peninsula, incredibly onerous needs, it “needs” more equipment to run more than once an hour off-peak.

    So, set your expectations to “commuter railroad”, and open your wallets.  That’s how transit “investment” works around here.  And you’re not opposed to transit, are you?

  • mikesonn

    “This is horrible planning. We need some solutions”

    Don’t forget Caltrian is the same transit agency that screamed the “sky is falling” with every budget for several years in a row without any effort to put some dedicated funding on the ballot. Horrible planning is their middle name.

  • Richard Mlynarik

    What else is there to reject about BRT?

    If you look at transit agencies that run successful transit systems in advanced first-world functioning democracies, and ignore the “BRT” flavour-of-the-month buzz-wordery, what you generally see are strategic investments in high cost-effectiveness measurable improvements in those places where bus circulation is actively impeded.

    So the first thing you’d see would be off-vehicle ticket sales, all-door boarding, proof-of-payment (note: no even remotely related to Clipper(tm)(sm) or any other “smart card”) and a fare structure that strongly encourages multi-ride long-period passes.  You know, the stuff with negative net cost, the stuff that is never funded around here.

    The next thing you see are comparatively short, strategic bits of queue-jumping dedicated lane, signal pre-emption starting with those signals which cause significant delays and cascading down to higher-hanging fruit.

    At anything like suburban US traffic densities, the BRT buzz-wordery about segregated lanes and “stations” and fare-gates at stations is just nonsense: take money and burn it, without doing much, if anything, for actual transit users.

    As for the limitlessly corrupt VTA (chief PBQD-designed BART enabler and cheerleader Michael Burns, who did such sterling work in championing PBQD’s Central Subway catastrophe back in his SF days), Andy Chow pretty much has it.  It’s not an agency that is about serving bus riders, serving transit riders, or serving its tax-payers, or serving its residents.  It’s simply and exclusively a conduit by which billions of dollars of public money is poured into the private pockets of the construction/engineering mafiosi.

    Expecting any cost-effective or rational transit improvement from the body is to make a basic category error.  That’s not the business it is in, and not the standard by which it is to be judged.

  • Works fine for rental cars in Chicago, though I think it’s changed over time.  One rental car had a the fastpass device in a metal box on the windshield, open it if you want to use it, close it and pay some other way if you don’t.  Some of the companies may have an obnoxious fee attached, but eventually that will hurt them.  I believe the last time I rented there I was looking in the mice-type for the catch and I couldn’t find one.  It just worked and you were charged for what you used on your return of the vehicle.

    I don’t recall seeing locusts, frogs raining from the skies, nor dogs and cats living together.

  • I can’t speak to @jd_x:disqus’s bicyclist experiences (which do sound like valid concerns), but I will say that my non-bike solution to the current crowding issue is the radical practice of Looking My Fellow Passengers In The Eye And Asking Them To Please Move Their Bags. It amazes me both 1) how many people still put their stuff on the two-seaters and 2) how many people walk from car to car instead of initiating the minor human contact that would create an open seat. (Note: some Giants game trains are still a different situation, but for the most part this technique works perfectly)