Archive for the ‘Transit’ Category

Dukakis alert

Who’s in town? Former Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis, whose daughter Kara lives in San Francisco. Buried in this pre-convention interview with the 1988 loser is the news that “Dukakis, a railroad buff and former Amtrak board member, and his wife are joining two of their grandkids in San Francisco and riding the California Zephyr train back over the Rockies to the convention city” of Denver.

Anybody see Dukakis around town?

Marin Squeaking By Another Transit Fee Hike

Golden Gate
So in the Chron today, some relief that the Golden Gate Bridge Congestion tax is off the books. Quoth the Chron: “..congestion-based tolls would hit North Bay commuters hardest. They called it “a Marin commuter tax.” OK, but Marin has never been a team player- let’s remember that Marin didn’t want a BART extension back in ’61 (well, I don’t remember it personally…). From official BART history, as stated on their site:

With the District-wide tax base thus weakened by the withdrawal of San Mateo County, Marin County was forced to withdraw in early 1962 because its marginal tax base could not adequately absorb its share of BART’s projected cost. Another important factor in Marin’s withdrawal was an engineering controversy over the feasibility of carrying trains across the Golden Gate Bridge.

Kind of hard to believe Marin couldn’t afford BART. Ongoing, in subsequent votes they still nixed public transit: “Since then, Marin voters have rejected rail measures in 1990, 1998 and then 2006.” (from Marin Independent Journal)

Anyone from Marin? Care to respond?

p.s. Tipped off from N-Judah Chronicles the other night on the history of Marin’s lack of fair play in the Bay Area transit game. Congrats on Best of the Bay!

Stupid idea of the year

Supervisor Chris Daly wants to close Market Street to all but mass transit traffic.

As I wrote in May, that idea has failed in city after city. In Chicago, State Street — “that great street” — utterly died when they tried it there. They re-opened the street to all traffic a few years ago, and the street is recovering.

Market Street isn’t some quaint pedestrian mall like Boulder’s Pearl Street, and it never will be. It’s a living artery in a major city. Daly’s plan would be an economic and social disaster.

Smart(er) Parking in the Future

Parking Meter
[Photo by Nate Enyedi for Wikipedia.]

A few years ago, the Port of San Francisco wanted to study parking-use patterns at a third of the 950 meters it controls along the Embarcadero, using a technology developed by the SF-based Streetline Networks Inc. — little sensors glued to the street that transmit a wireless signal to a central database when a parking space is occupied or vacated. Now SFMTA has picked up the idea for another purpose: to (hopefully) make free spaces easier to find on the fly, by transmitting the data to a service you will apparently be able to subscribe to, according to this NPR story. (An iPhone app, perhaps? Maybe by the time it’s ready Apple will be done hosing their own servers.) The same sensors will be capable of monitoring the speed of traffic past the spaces, and that data will be transmitted as well. SFMTA intends to analyze the data they collect from this network, and based on that, they will set policies to adjust the price of parking in response to demand, aiming for a vacancy rate of 15%. (Expect a glacial pace on that, with lots of legislative bickering once it comes down to choosing actual prices. Dynamic server-to-meter price adjustments are a distant dream.) Reportedly San Francisco is the first city to reach this stage with the technology.

(Unrelated, but the question occurs to me: why do I have to rely upon the New York Times and NPR to bring me local news of this potential significance? And then the Chronicle wonders why they’re losing money.)

Obscure SFO-related firm screws up other airports too

epic-fail.jpgIn the current SF Weekly, Matt Smith documents how a mysterious corporate entity called SFO Enterprises, formed by San Francisco International Airport managers to extend their reach beyond SFO itself, ruined a project to upgrade the airport in the capital city of Honduras. According to Smith’s article, the project was so messed up that it led to at least one fatal incident when an airliner ran off the end of a runway, killing five and injuring 65. Smith goes on to detail the project, the tortured relationship between the Honduran government and SFOE, and the economic “chaos” that resulted when the government shut down the airport for large jets after the accident.

A Google search points to many SF Weekly articles on the mysterious SFO Enterprises going back at least to 2001, but this latest one is so damning it’s a wonder Mayor Gavin Newsom doesn’t do something.

Riding transit to ‘Spare the Air’? Bring a book

acetrain_cfu.jpgThough high gas prices and “Spare the Air” days like today have more passengers than ever riding public transit — including the ACE Train that runs from Stockton in the central valley to Silicon Valley — sometimes they can’t win for losing. Yesterday the ACE trains were threatened by the heat wave now torturing inland areas, with 110+ temperatures hot enough to warp steel rails. Train workers had to walk in front of the train to make sure the rails weren’t damaged by the heat, delaying the trains one to two hours.

At least there have been no reports of BART delays due to the heat, as in the May heat wave.

Heat Taunts BART Users on Spare the Air Day

May 15th was not only a “Spare the Air” day and “Bike to Work” day; it also was a day of record temperatures in The City. As the day went on, the heat soared to 97 degrees in the city.

As noon approached, trouble began to brew on the BART system. For the next 8 hours, the system was plagued by delays of 45 minutes or longer.

I met the BART problem head-on at rush hour last night. I arrived at Civic Center at about 4:40pm. Trains were being held in between stations and at stations for 10 to 15 minutes at a time. The first train only went to 24th street/Mission, so I didn’t get on. Then I realized, soon enough, the trains were ONLY going to 24th Street/Mission, where you would have to transfer.

17 minutes later, two more trains came and went, absolutely packed to the ceiling. Finally, I got on a train. At 24th Street, something strange happened- the train went backwards. Apparently, while I was zoning out in iPod land, the train had suddenly become a Richmond train and just started going the other way at 24th Street.

At 16th, I disembarked to attempt another try towards my destination. Alas, my “SFO” BART train, again, suddenly became a Richmond train and turned around. But, at least, this time, I managed to GET OFF the train at 24th.

The platform was packed with people, the trains kept turning around. Then two more packed trains rolled by. Finally, I braved one of the packed trains. My last BART train of the evening made several long pauses to cool itself, but I did finally make my destination at 6:20pm.

BART passengers delayed by heat wave


A Companion for Your Commute?

There is a reason I carry a camera in my bag every day. I have three digital cameras, constantly charging, of various sizes, on the ready to capture news, odd sightings or anything in my path.

Many questions from folks have been launched at me while wandering into BART on a daily basis… “Do you want to take a FREE personally test?”, “Do you have some change?”, “Do you know where I can get some pot?”…

Yesterday, I heard, “Would you like to buy a rat for $5.00?”

(Insert trusty camera here)

This is Mia, and she sells rats in BART for $5.00.

(I used to have rats for pets and it broke my little heart
when they only lived to their meager lifespan of 2 years)

Mia and her rats

Close 3rd Street, not Market

A story in today’s Chronicle says the mayor’s office is floating a proposal to close to traffic a major street, like the Embarcadero and all the way down the side of the city to Bayview, and open it up to artists. This follows a recent resurrection of the proposal to close Market St. to automobile traffic.

While the notion of dancers, martial artists and mimes cavorting up and down the Embarcadero is a pleasant fantasy, the neighborhood activist quoted in the first story is correct: the Embarcadero is already a recreation area packed with people ranging up and down broad sidewalks and bike lanes. What would be the point of closing the traffic lanes? Is yoga better on the asphalt? (Maybe those folks who practice yoga in an over-heated room would take to it.)

Instead, go ahead and close Third St. between Market and 23rd. You’d have a fantastic pedestrian boulevard all the way through SOMA, anchored by Yerba Buena Center on one end and the baseball stadium on the other. Then south of there, through Mission Bay and Dogpatch, you could bring pedestrians to the neighborhood for the first time. There are no shops whose businesses would be damaged by the lack of passing traffic.

And the idea of closing Market St. to automobiles is stupid. Chicago provides all the example we need. During the 1980s and early 90s, State St. was a transit mall, closed to cars, open only to buses. And without car traffic, the street died, becoming a dead zone. Since they reopened State St. in 1996, it has rebounded. If they close Market St. to cars, the buses and streetcars might run faster, but watch all the shops close.

MUNI Bus Hits Pedestrian

This photograph was taken at approximately 5pm, on May 8, 2008. A post on states that a pedestrian on 7th street and Mission was hit by the 14L, while crossing the street.

MUNI 14 accident-5/08/08

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