Today’s Headlines

  • With Vision Zero at the Forefront, Congestion Pricing is One Solution for Safer Streets (SF Examiner)
  • Supes Consider Resolution Mandating Working Group on Traffic Safety Education (SF Examiner)
  • SFMTA Board Considers Fare Hikes (KTVU, ABC), Free Muni for Low-Income 18-Year-Olds (Exam)
  • How to Model Caltrain and Silicon Valley After NYC’s Metro-North Commute to Connecticut (Biz)
  • SFPD Accused of Running Over Chihuahua in the Inner Richmond, Fleeing (Richmond SF)
  • SFPD: “Good Samaritan” Who Called in Bike Injury Was Arrested for Striking Officer (SFist)
  • Man Killed by Muni Train at Powell Station Fell While Gathering Belongings (SF Examiner)
  • Supervisors to Hold Hearing on Regulations for Tour Buses (SF Examiner)
  • Tony Kelly, Proponent of Free Parking at Meters for Neighbors, to Run in D10 Supe Race Again (SFBG)
  • KTVU Reports on BART’s Lagging Crossover Switch, Caltrain’s Lack of Onboard Engineer Cameras
  • Man’s Stolen Bike Returned Thanks to Man Who Bought it on Street, Saw Craigslist Post (SFGate)
  • Google’s Self-Driving Cars Coming Right Along (SF Weekly)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

  • Gocurrey

    Re: the Caltrain piece (since I’m not business insidery enough to comment on the article), Caltrain is already operating at capacity during peak hours, in both directions, and with pretty good off peak ridership (I’m on a train right now and it’s by no jeans full, but still has plenty of riders). Before electrification, there’s no need to encourage much more Caltrain commuting, simply because Caltrain can’t really handle it.

    Furthermore, when it comes to transportation itself (ignoring the socio-economic issues), there’s no reason to discourage shuttle ridership. Yes, Caltrain ridership is preferable to shuttles, but either is far better than everyone driving. And the shuttles are doing something that most local transit agencies just can’t do. A good example are VTA’s attempts to compete with the tech shuttles there. They just can’t do what Google can, so they might as well work together and toward a mutual benefit.

  • aslevin

    Caltrain has just decided to put in an offer to buy extra train cars from MetroLink in LA prior to electrification, to be able to add a 6th car and carry more passengers, which is a notable amount of extra capacity. There are additional possibilities including adding back 30 minute offpeak service (which was cut during a financial crunch), and adding programs like they have at Stanford to incent commuting outside of the highest peak.

    Also, there are startup transit companies (RidePal) that offer shuttle routes based on demand, providing access to companies smaller than Google. Cities including San Mateo, Mountain View, and (likely) Palo Alto are setting up nonprofit consortia to be able to invest in transit passes and open-to-the-public commuter shuttles for a wider variety of people, not just the biggest corporations.

    It is worth increasing Caltrain’s capacity, and investing in more accessible shuttles, because the status quo isn’t neutral, it’s traffic jams and carbon emissions.

  • Gocurrey

    I’m aware of Caltrain’s new car purchases, but with the needed adjustments to the cars and the stations, they won’t be ready for at least a year. PTC, a few years down the road, will allow more incremental capacity increases. Increased off peak frequency will be welcome, but won’t do much to alleviate standing-room only trains during peak hours. Yes, a year, two years, even the five or so years until electrified revenue service is incredibly soon in transportation planning, but my point is we should be focusing on the real “enemy,” so to speak, and that’s the private car.

    Even through their own shuttles and flex service, public transit just cant compete with private shuttles. And why bother? Google buses still take up less space and produce less emissions than a private far for each one of the riders. Why does public transportation need to try to siphon off those riders? The fares? Without a 100% fare box recovery, agencies are technically losing money with every bus or train they run. By all means, run service where it’s needed and where it’s used. But until you have a rail running direct to any of the campuses, there’s no reason to fight good shuttles with mediocre ones.

  • jonobate

    The tech buses run by employers are not a bad thing, but they also don’t represent an ideal state of affairs, as they are private transit vehicles not accessible to the general public. The popularity of the tech shuttles highlights the need for a regional bus network to complement the regional rail network, for the benefit of those who commute to a different part of the Bay Area but aren’t fortunate enough to work for an employer with deep pockets who runs their own buses. It’s not about fighting the tech shuttles, it’s about learning from them to improve the public transit network.

    That’s for the short term. Short term improvements to Caltrain itself would include beefing up off-peak frequencies, which are currently pathetic, and restructuring service plans to reflect the commutes people engage in today compared to how things were in the past. This proposal, for example: http://caltrain-hsr.blogspot.com/2013/10/census-driven-service-planning.html

    For the long term, Caltrain needs to extend to Transbay, add an Oakdale station, and develop dense housing around all of its San Francisco stations. Removing the I-280 freeway will go a long way towards attracting people to live on that side of town.

  • voltairesmistress

    If you read the polls, as well as comments on the Examiner article, you see how hopeless congestion pricing is for northeast San Francisco. IT would have to be imposed from above, and I bet you a voter initiative would repeal it before its benefits were recognized. For that reason, I think we should focus on congestion freeway pricing, as well eliminating most daytime street parking downtown. Cost seems to be the only deterrent to drivers in and through San Francisco, but traffic congestion charging on city streets themselves seems an eon away.

  • Gocurrey

    Agreed on most points (I still would welcome increased off peak service, but don’t see it as allowing for much more commuting).

    I guess I’m still stuck on Google, because I’ve taken a VTA bus to their campus before, and I was the only one on it. Many, though not all, of these campuses are located in places that you wouldn’t want to go unless you were working there. So if the employer is providing free transit to it’s employees, and no one else has a need to go out there, why use the resources attempting to replicate the service, when the resources could be focused on places where people actually will ride public transportation.

  • murphstahoe

    “add an Oakdale station” – no. The train line already has too many stations. Caltrain competes so strongly at peak specifically because it is *fast* – which in part is because of the bullet trains. If I ran the train we’d add back the 30 minute off peak frequencies but those added trains would run the weekend baby bullet schedule. Then get the local transit agencies to feed the fast running trains – in utopia land there is a dedicated shuttle from “Oakdale” to “Bayshore” timed to meet the trains.

    I believe this *even after* we electrify the trains and running times decrease – I know Adina disagrees with me and I’m not an ideologue on this.

    The tech buses are a *great* thing. If we were starting from scratch and designing bus lines, there is a known demand for express buses from SF to Amphitheatre and Shoreline – buses that will run full. If so – then that bus line should exist, it’s super efficient. Let’s say we make that shuttle accessible to the general public. Awesome! 4 Intuit employees and 3 guys from Linked In ride the same bus. I can’t quite figure out who else wants that route – and if we have the bus make X amount of random other stops, then it becomes less attractive to the initial market and fails. That’s exactly why (well, also the free thing) the Google people prefer the shuttles to Caltrain – because even though Caltrain from MV station to 22nd is much faster than the shuttle from 101/Shoreline to 101/Chavez, the bus kicks Caltrain’s butt on the last mile.

  • I agree that congestion pricing would be a very difficult political pill for San Francisco to swallow. The other problem is the equipment involved in such a system sucks up half the money the congestion fees bring in. So it ends up being a tax where half the money immediately goes into the pocket of a private company. (This is the case in London.) Also agree that focusing on reducing parking downtown is key. Without parking to induce driving, much less driving will happen. Gradually converting street parking to other public space uses will help. San Francisco could also charge businesses in the NE quadrant that offer parking to employees or customers a $1000/year/parking space tax on the grounds that the spot induces congestion, creates pollution, and costs the city money.

    I wonder if the city could charge a $3 fee per car as the car exited off I-80, 101 or 280 in the eastern half of the city, Geneva Ave and north on 280, Cesar Chavez and north on 101. (Not the exit off 280 onto 1, or traffic south from the GG bridge.) That would require many fewer equipment stations, and so would be a much less costly system to put in place and maintain. People who stayed on the freeway on their way to somewhere else wouldn’t get charged. People on the west side of SF wouldn’t get charged. And people on the east side would only get charged when they left the city and returned via the freeway. Yes, some would take surface streets, but would 20 extra minutes of travel time be worth saving $3? It would encourage commuting by public transit, it would encourage people from the burbs to drive to BART and ride in, it wouldn’t affect many who live and work in the city, and it might be politically easier to sell.

  • voltairesmistress

    All good points.

  • jonobate

    The line does already have too many stops, but the excessive stops are generally between Millbrae and Redwood City. There are a lack of stops in San Francisco itself, and a huge potential to add housing around those stops. Even as things are, an Oakdale stop would have more people within walking distance of the station than almost any other station south of 4th & King. Imagine if the area north of the station was built out with housing as well.

    We don’t need every train to stop at every station on the line. The Caltrain line is too long to think of as a traditional rapid transit line, with all trains making all stops. Instead, think of it as two lines, with the dividing point at Redwood City. SF to Redwood City can be served by trains making all stops and terminating at Redwood City – think of RWC as the Fremont of the peninsula. SF to SJ can be served by trains that make very few stops between SF and Redwood City (maybe just Millbrae and San Mateo) and then make all stops from Redwood City south.

    “San Mateo Local” and “Silicon Valley Express”. Kinda like the Geary 38AX and 38BX. Much simpler than the current timetable, and keeps most journeys below the 45-60 min maximum that most people will put up with.

  • 94103er

    “Last mile”…ahem, maybe if we chant it like a rain dance it will come. Bike share bike share hey hey bike share bike share hey hey….

  • murphstahoe

    There are a lack of stops in San Francisco itself, and a huge potential to add housing around those stops.

    In other words you are an agent of gentrification 🙂

  • murphstahoe

    Kinda like the Geary 38AX and 38BX.

    Or kinda like the 208/210 218/220 and 228/230 Caltrain pairs 🙂

  • jonobate

    Yes, but without needlessly sending every train to San Jose, and with a more ruthless pruning of unnecessary stops.

  • jonobate

    Sure, if you say so 🙂

  • aslevin

    San Jose may become more relevant if the Diridon Station Area Plan succeeds at building out workplaces and housing near the station, and connecting better within San Jose.

  • aslevin

    Congestion freeway pricing is a good idea, but has a prayer of success only if it is a corridor partnership. The traffic jam goes both ways, so a system that tolls 101 users to fund uses only within San Francisco is a nonstarter. It has to fund green transportation on both sides of the traffic jam.

  • aslevin

    Not to rehash, but SMC/SCC service should depend on land use; if communities add homes and jobs at station areas, they should get the service supported by the riders. Having multiple walkable communities on a transit line is a great thing; the more the better.

    For the (hypothetical, and likely) public/private shuttle serving North Bayshore, it will be up to the Transportation Management Association to decide what to do, and it will serve all of the employers in North Bayshore. If I remember right there are six good-sized ones in addition to Google, but someone else might remember better than me or look it up:-)

  • Andy Chow

    Those trains do have riders in the express segment south of Redwood City. I know that there’s an afternoon train leaving SF as a local but picks up ridership especially in Palo Alto when it gets there during the peak times. There’s plenty of traditional commute riders from San Jose to Palo Alto.

    Also, by not having short trains, Caltrain can have a more flexible scheduling with the trains. Even though ridership isn’t strong south of Mountain View for southbound AM trains, the ridership is strong in the opposite direction. Those short trains would actually be less productive than running to San Jose.

  • The question is whether to institute a fee primarily to raise funds or primarily to discourage driving by making it more expensive than other options. Many people drive right now not because transit is expensive but because driving is cheap due to the externalities driving inflicts being under-priced or essentially free.

    Now it is true that transit can be slow, and driving is often faster. It’s also true that at peak times transit can be overcrowded to the point of being unpleasant. (It is also true sitting in stinking traffic is unpleasant, but most Americans would rather be miserable in their own space than miserable crowded with others.) I would certainly support San Francisco taking the proceeds of such a fee system and sharing them with both BART and Caltrain because it is clearly in San Francisco’s best interest to increase capacity, frequency, and pleasantness of travel on both.

    With a system like this, anyone who left San Francisco in the morning would pay coming back, so even a fee that catches only one way use will discourage both directions. SFMTA stats show each day approximately 100K SF residents commute out of the city and 500K non-residents commute in. And of course people bring cars to the city for non-commute purposes as well, often jamming the freeways on weekends as much as during the week. How many cars do these half a million people bring? In 2010 SPUR estimated 45% of commuters to downtown SF drove, most of them alone, and a substantial number commuted to areas in SF outside downtown. Meaning we’re likely getting nearly a quarter of a million non-residents’ cars coming to San Francisco each day.

    I frankly can’t see the suburbs ever agreeing to freeway congestion pricing.There is little or nothing in it for them. Freeway congestion pricing not only reduces their housing values by making their commutes more expensive, it invalidates their way of life which is based on driving as a fundamental principle of mobility. It is always the core cities that want congestion pricing (because they are the ones harmed most by congestion), almost never the periphery.

    San Francisco is not a big place. The more people move here, the more the space available for suburbanite cars shrinks (arguably on a two-for-one basis.) Suburbanites do not find their quality of life diminished every time a car enters San Francisco. Traffic congestion in San Francisco may annoy them but it does not fundamentally threaten and harm them. Indeed, though those who drive may complain about traffic, they find driving to San Francisco very satisfactory and convenient, which is why they do it.

    Suburbanites would drown San Francisco with their cars if San Francisco let them. As it is, we need to cut the number of non-resident cars at least in half over the next five years to allow room for the people who actually live here. (As well as persuade those living here to reduce their car use.) If we wait for the suburbs to agree to congestion pricing, or reduced available parking, or higher prices for parking before we take action, we will never act. (Of course if we replaced “suburbs” in that sentence with “car owners in San Francisco,” the truth would be the same.)

  • aslevin

    I strongly suspect that the stereotypes of “suburbanites” are too broad brush. Cities on the Peninsula including San Mateo, Mountain View, and (probably) Palo Alto are taking significant steps to reduce driving and invest in alternatives for their own reasons – traffic congestion messes up the local quality of life, and adding new parking garages costs tens of millions of dollars that they do not want to spend. So there are strong reasons for these communities to have people not drive as well.

  • murphstahoe

    I ride 208/218/228. After Palo Alto they are ghost towns.

  • murphstahoe

    We have what seems at one glance a substantial bike mode share at my office in Santa Clara – yet the parking lot is overflowing and an annual auction that has as a prize a reserved parking spot gets bid up to levels that make me shake my head. Lawrence Expressway is a parking lot as are 237 and 85.

    Those communities may be putting effort and investment into it but it’s still painting around the edges. The vast majority use the default – a car – and can’t even conceive of how they could alter it. Thinking otherwise is confirmation bias. But it’s still worth the effort, moving the needle a small amount is worth a lot and sooner or later it just might shake loose.

  • vcs

    It’s a fair generalization as nearly all suburban development since WWII has been almost entirely automobile dependent.

    The old Peninsula railroad towns with their human-scale downtowns are really the exception to the rule. Even the cities you listed all have extensive suburban office parks on their outskirts and are doing very little to increase density in their cores.

    There simply is not an easy fix for the suburbs other than blowing it all up and starting over, the best they can do is “paint around the edges” (as murph said).

  • aslevin

    Santa Clara is the worst of the lot in terms of having a sprawl development pattern and staying car-focused.

  • aslevin

    The cranes in Redwood City are imaginary.

  • murphstahoe

    My job – my co-workers live all over the place

  • vcs

    The cranes in Redwood City are not going to change modeshare by any significant amount.

  • vcs

    Santa Clara is nowhere near the worst as at least they have a city center with Caltrain and BART in the future. Ever been to San Ramon? (Or Phoenix?)

  • Andy Chow

    But San Jose is the station with the highest ridership during AM hours in the northbound direction. So there’s no point in running short trains since there’s no station north of Palo Alto that has higher AM northbound boardings than the major stations south of Palo Alto (including MV, Sunnyvale, and SJ).

    In fact, there are more people exiting northbound trains in Palo Alto than people boarding northbound trains there, so clearly there’s a market in San Jose for people going to Palo Alto.

    Yes it is true that the train occupancy falls for southbound trains south of PA and MV, but that would be no different than eastbound BART trains going to Pittsburg/Bay Point or Dublin, which will be turn around.

  • jonobate

    Hey, I’m not advocating not serving San Jose. I’m just saying that the current stopping pattern is not the most effective.

    If you’re leaving San Jose northbound in the morning, you’re probably either going to Silicon Valley, or all the way to SF, or transferring to BART at Millbrae, or possible San Mateo. The “Silicon Valley Express” I described above would take you to all of those destinations, and if you’re going north of Silicon Valley, would be faster than than the existing limited trains. You’re probably not going to one of the minor stations in San Mateo county or San Francisco, but if you are, you can transfer to a “San Mateo Local” at Redwood City.

  • voltairesmistress

    That is one of the best explanations of traffic in SF and regional politics thereof that I have ever heard.