Blog » sustainable development
- March 12, 2011POSTED BY EGON TERPLAN
The Association of Bay Area Governments and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission released their Initial Vision Scenario for growth in the Bay Area at a meeting in Oakland today. By 2035, the scenario assumes the Bay Area will grow by 2 million people (to 9.4 million) and 1.2 million jobs (to 4.5 million). The scenario is the first major milestone in the development of the Bay Area’s Sustainable Communities Strategy, a plan designed to accomodate growth while reducing greenhouse gases from driving, which is required of each region in the state by SB 375, California's 2008 Climate Protection Act.
Highlights of the scenario’s assumptions:
- 97 percent of new household growth is on existing urbanized land
- 60 miles of dedicated bus lines in San Francisco and Santa Clara Counties
- San Francisco adds 90,000 households (26 percent growth rate)
- San Francisco’s jobs grow from 545,000 to 714,000 (31 percent growth rate)
- Achieves a region-wide 12 percent per capita reduction in greenhouse gases. (Note: This is short of the 15 percent per capita goal. But most of the reduction is from the assumption of slow economic growth, not from an urbanist land use vision).
This scenario is a good start, but it doesn’t get us to a truly sustainable vision for the Bay Area. SPUR is interested in subsequent scenarios testing a much more transit-oriented growth pattern for jobs and houses. To get residents out of their cars, many more jobs have to be located within a quarter mile of regional rail and many more households within a half mile of any transit.
Stay tuned to the SPUR Blog for more updates.
- January 26, 2011Joshua Arce
The December 21, 2010 announcement that San Francisco's polluting Potrero Power Plant would shut down by the end of the year was as much a cause for celebration as it was a reason to recount the twists and turns that it took to finally shutter the city's last fossil fuel-burning commercial power plant. For many years, the preferred method of closing Potrero was to build three new power plants to replace it smack dab between the Bayview-Hunters Point and Potrero Hill communities where San Francisco's dirty power plants have been located for over a century. The environmental, social justice, and sustainability advocacy required to flip the switch on Potrero is certainly a lesson in the heavy lifting that any city must undertake in seeking to end its reliance on fossil fuel power plants.
The Potrero Power Plant itself was built in 1965, but its location has been a site of electricity generation since 1890. Consisting of a massive gas boiler and diesel peaking units that operated when the boiler came down for maintenance, Potrero has been blamed for environmental health disparities in Southeast San Francisco and negative impacts on the bay due to the discharge of heated water used to cool the facility. City Attorney Dennis Herrera is a neighbor of the power plant and made its closure a priority since he was first elected in 2001, while former district Supervisor Sophie Maxwell fought perhaps even longer before watching the plant shut down in the waning days of her last term in office.
Yet it is the unique coalition of organizations, activists, and elected officials that moved the City to abandon its plan to spend $270 million on new gas power plants to replace Potrero that is perhaps the most fascinating part of the recently-concluded power plant saga. Groups such as the Potrero Boosters and SF Community Power had fought for the better part of a decade to close the Potrero Plant but were told time and again that new combustion turbine power plants were required if Potrero was ever to shut down. At a July 2007 hearing of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, longtime Bayview-Hunters Point activist Espanola Jackson was the lone community voice of dissent against a vote to greenlight the construction of the first power plants to be built in the City in decades.
Within a short period of months, Ms. Jackson's empassioned plea for an end to power plants in her disproportionately polluted corner of San Francisco would attract the support of environmentalists within the Sierra Club and Green Party, community organizations such as the A. Philip Randolph Institute and Greenaction, and the newly-founded civil rights non-profit Brightline Defense Project. In late 2007, Public Utilities Commissioner David Hochschild called the question of whether or not to build new power plants "the biggest energy decision facing San Francisco since construction of the Hetch Hetchy Dam."
It was an early 2008 memorandum from San Francisco Planning and Urban Research, however, that blew the doors wide open on the power plant debate. The "SPUR memo" made the case based on hard facts that estimates of the amount of electricity required to keep the lights on in San Francisco had been wildly overstated and that Potrero could be shut down upon completion of an underwater cable from the East Bay without subjecting the lungs of Ms. Jackson and her southeast San Francisco neighbors to at least thirty more years of power plant pollution. Environmental justice and community advocates were now armed with factual analysis to galvanize support at the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and that summer an unlikely dynamic duo of Michela Alioto-Pier and Ross Mirkarimi manhandled a trio of power plant hail marys that were lobbed at the Board by those who believed it impossible to close Potrero without continuing its power plant legacy.
By the fall, the anti-power plant coalition gained a powerful ally in Mayor Gavin Newsom, whose green credentials depended on his ability to successfully navigate toward a pollution-free solution to the Potrero Power Plant. In late 2008, Public Utilities Commissioner Dick Sklar, who has since passed away, made a successful motion to tear up the contract to build new power plants in order to make a continued case for closure of Potrero outright. Over the next year, Supervisor Alioto-Pier in particular was dogged in her insistence that San Francisco keep pressure on the California Independent System Operator, a state agency charged with maintaining as much electricity as possible to guard against remote instances of power failure. Growing solidarity among the San Francisco city family in 2009 was complemented by constant community delegations to Independent System Operator meetings in which advocates sometimes ended up in shouting matches with power plant regulators, and Public Utilities General Manager Ed Harrington helped shepherd the sale of the combustion turbines once slated to pollute San Franciscans in order to help the City close a massive budget deficit.
The year 2010 began with the anticipation that the pending completion of the 400 megawatt Trans Bay Cable would at last trigger the demise of the Potrero Power Plant. Expectations dipped, however, when most of 2010 was spent fixing a series of faulty computer chips at the Trans Bay Cable sub-station in San Francisco. The months leading up to December left many advocates who had fought to close Potrero with a feeling of both powerlessness, based on the fact that fate now rested in the hands of electrical engineers scrambling to replace malfunctioning motherboards, and a sense of reflection, based on the long road that preceded the path to a power plant-free city. That time of uneasiness allowed San Francisco's power plant battle to be placed into context, however, with a determination that the closure of Potrero would not require the construction of new power plants elsewhere and a realization that the main challenge facing cities aiming to phase out fossil fuel generation is that dirty electricity is simply too safe and predictable in the technocratic eyes of regulators.
Few sustainability experts will dispute that we as a society must wean ourselves off of reliance on fossil fuel power, especially in cases such as that of San Francisco, where the hard work of so many was required to responsibly and dispositively demonstrate that the Potrero Power Plant was obsolete not only in terms of powering San Francisco but in guarding against unforeseen contingencies. The Potrero Power Plant is no longer, but California currently operates over 900 power plants that collectively produce much more electricity that the state needs even on the year's hottest summer days. Maybe now is the time for San Francisco to use its lessons learned to help shut down some of those old dinosaurs.
Joshua Arce is the Executive Director of the Brightline Defense Project.Tags: sustainable development
- December 16, 2010BY ALEX SMITH
The LEED Silver San Francisco Federal Building set a standard for green construction in the city [Photo Credit: flickr user Oldvidhead]
Green building regulations are nothing new. For over a decade, cities have taken the lead in the adoption of green building standards. States have been slower to follow suit, but at present 35 states have adopted green building ordinances that either outline policies to encourage green construction or require green construction for state-owned and state-funded buildings. However, on January 1 California will become the first state to enact a mandatory, state-wide green building code applicable to both private and public development.
It’s difficult to overstate the significance of a mandatory green building standard for the entire state. State policies to date have created exceptional green buildings that effectively raise the ceiling for green building. By setting minimum standards, California is doing something equally important: raising the minimum floor.
The widespread application of basic green building practices to all buildings, not just the high profile, pioneering buildings, is crucial to curbing energy use and reducing resource consumption. Nationally, buildings consume 39% of the United States’ energy and account for 38% of the country’s carbon dioxide emissions. The new California Green Building Standards Code, or CALGreen, is a step in the right direction; according to estimates by the California Air Resources Board, the new standards will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 3 million metric tons by the year 2020. (That’s the equivalent of removing 573,000 cars from the road, or burning nearly 7 million barrels of oil.)
Like most green building standards, CALGreen addresses a wide variety of sustainable practices ranging from water conservation to energy efficiency to indoor air quality. Unlike many ordinances to date, however, it does not reference a third party standard (for example, requiring certain buildings to obtain a LEED or GreenPoint rating). Instead, the requirements are written directly into the building code and will be enforced by local jurisdictions as part of their plan review and building inspection processes already in place.
The new code means different things for different local jurisdictions. San Francisco already has one of the most progressive green building ordinances in the country, so the new state code will not result in a radical departure from current practice. Indeed, when it first passed January, the CALGreen code garnered some criticism from environmental groups worried that it would stifle more progressive regulations in cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles. The code does allow local jurisdictions flexibility to go beyond its basic requirements, either by adopting one of CALGreen’s two optional tiers of more stringent regulations, or by implementing a more restrictive standard of their own, such as a third party standard. However, the statewide regulations will have the greatest impact in jurisdictions that do not already have green building requirements.
With the new code, California has affirmed that healthy, efficient buildings should not be the exception but the norm. By placing the green building code alongside other building codes that deal with structural and fire safety regulations, California’s policymakers are asserting that, like building for earthquake safety, building to minimum green standards is simply the right way to build.Tags: sustainable development
- November 16, 2010By Laura Tam, Sustainable Development Policy Director
[Photo Credit: flickr user Ostrosky Photos]
We know that the climate is changing. We know that sea levels are going to rise at a faster rate in the coming decades—as much as 16 inches by mid-century—and we know that large parts of the Bay Area are going to become vulnerable to flooding in the process. (Read SPUR's papers on sea level rise here and here.) Policy failure outside our region (nationally and internationally) is making it even more important within our region to both try to stop climate change and prepare for its worst and inevitable effects. How do we do this in a way that is logical yet sustainable, that harnesses regional ingenuity and collaboration, focuses growth in the right places, and prevents as much misery as possible?
Over the last two years, the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) has been working on a proposal to amend its guidance document, the Bay Plan, to include new findings and policies related to climate change and sea level rise. This proposal is based on years of research by BCDC and others to try to understand and project the effects of future sea level rise on the shoreline—and what rising sea levels mean for people, property, infrastructure, and fragile Bay wetlands. (See the BCDC's report, "Living with a Rising Bay" and the Pacific Institute's "The Impacts of Sea Level Rise on the California Coast.")
The latest draft of the proposal, issued in September, provides guidance on how local governments and BCDC (within its narrow jurisdiction of 100 feet inland from the shoreline), should permit projects in the future inundation zone, and what kinds of projects should be allowed at all. It proposes to initiate a years-long public process to create a regional strategy for allocating limited flood protection resources and determining where development should not occur in the future, or even be removed. BCDC has been holding an official public hearing on this topic that has remained open for months. They have received hundreds of comments and there will be more workshops and hearings over the next few months. You can find out more at the BCDC Commission meetings and through their FAQs.
SPUR has published several papers on climate change over the last few years; one creates a prioritized climate action plan for the City of San Francisco; a second paper addresses the necessity of sea level rise planning, and provides a typology of shoreline management strategies we might need to use to adapt to the changes in our region. We have an ongoing task force working to vet climate adaptation strategies for the region, including how we should deal with new threats of extreme weather and sea level rise. We have also been trying to build awareness of the need for a regional conversation around this topic through exhibits and public forums at the SPUR Urban Center.
SPUR thinks BCDC’s efforts to study and to raise awareness on sea level rise are incredibly important, and that amending the Bay Plan is a timely and logical next step. We also understand why the specifics of their draft proposal have raised concerns—from Bay restoration advocates, to local governments, to developers with sights on shoreline properties. But we think a workable solution for everyone is possible, and we suggested changes to BCDC this week in a letter and a set of line-item edits to the proposed amendments.
To summarize some of the concerns that have been raised:
- Bay environmental advocates who know that 90 percent of the Bay’s original wetlands have been destroyed want further assurances from BCDC that there will be no more inappropriate shoreline development or fill, and that opportunity sites for restoration will be saved for that purpose (helping us solve climate change, because wetlands sequester carbon).
- Developers and property owners would like the Bay Plan to guarantee that new climate change policies will not affect existing permit holders and will not conflict with the region’s new SB 375 requirements to build transit-oriented infill (which also helps us solve climate change, because people will drive less).
- Local governments would like to have a better understanding of how to permit or protect development in areas that may be inundated in the future, but want more recognition that local building officials—and not BCDC—do all the zoning and most of the permitting of new projects.
In SPUR’s view, the proposed amendments provide some fairly strong assurances to restoration advocates (that should remain strong), but inadequate assurances to property owners and developers about their future liabilities, and a confusing slate of guidance to local governments on how they should reconcile all the climate change information being handed down by regional agencies (BCDC isn’t totally responsible for this, of course, but the Bay Plan could reference some of the other efforts, and in SPUR’s version, it does). While BCDC’s attempt to solve for sea level rise, MTC’s attempt to solve for reducing personal vehicle travel, ABAG’s attempt to solve for compact land use, and BAAQMD’s attempt to solve for air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions are all important, we need a fine-grained analysis to ensure that we achieve these goals in a coordinated way. We need to carefully lay out a plan for the region going forward that provides clarity, especially for local governments, and reconciles competing goals. And most importantly, we must not intentionally plan to optimize for a single issue, like sea level rise, because climate change is not the only issue facing our region in the future. We have many development and conservation goals. We don’t want to make them harder to achieve, or at worst, accidentally force more development into sprawl.
The changes SPUR suggested to BCDC this week for the Bay Plan can be summarized in five main points. We want the Bay Plan amendments to:
- Define “infill development” to include: underutilized land within urbanized areas that are served by existing infrastructure including transit, conversion of former military bases, adaptive reuse of existing structures, and ABAG Priority Development Areas;
- Encourage local governments, and the Commission within its jurisdiction, to allow infill projects to proceed, and others if they have an adaptation and financial strategy, while a regional sea level rise strategy is being developed;
- Provide formal assurances in new findings clarifying that the proposed amendments do not expand the Commission’s jurisdiction;
- Provide assurances to give certainty to activities that may be undertaken in the future that are within the scope of an existing permit;
- State that BCDC should work with other agencies and local governments to identify long-term regional flood protection strategies and create consistency with SB 375 sustainable communities strategies.
Overall, we at SPUR are very encouraged by our regional agencies’ efforts to solve for global warming in a world that cannot seem to enact the changes we need. We are grateful to BCDC for being a thought leader on this issue. We think it is totally possible and necessary to encourage appropriate infill development and meaningfully plan for sea level rise. We can do this at the regional scale, and we must also do it locally. And we believe that our proposed changes to the Bay Plan Amendments are an improvement on BCDC’s template, and will advance many of our region’s aspirations for the future.
Let us know what you think.
- October 26, 2010POSTED BY ED PARILLON
Jarrett Walker of Human Transit has an intriguing post comparing transit ridership in American cities to those in Canada. As you can see in the chart below (based on these data), Canadian cities seem to have higher transit usage than American metro regions of similar size (the points on the chart are all based on metropolitan areas, not central cities).
[Chart via: urbanist.typepad.com/]
There's been a lot of speculation over at Human Transit as to why this might be, as the reasons aren't immediately obvious. Canada and the US are similarly wealthy places, and built their cities at similar times, unlike much older European metros. The type of transit offered also doesn't stick out as a key driver — San Francisco, DC, and Boston all have robust rail options, and still have a much lower transit share than Canadian counterparts.
Digging a little, it seems that the disparity is largely driven by the suburbs. If we look only at central cities, the gap seems to shrink. In fact, the percentage of people riding transit to work is higher in some American cities, as shown in the table below:
City % Commuters riding transit
City % Commuters riding transit Toronto 34% San Francisco 32% Montreal 33% Boston 35% Vancouver 25% Washington DC 37% Calgary 17% Seattle 20% Ottawa 22%
So why are Canadian suburbanites more likely to ride transit than Americans? The original data aren't granular enough to really dig in, but a few possibilities come to mind. For one, Canadians pay more to fill up their gas tanks: the current average price in Canada is about $4 per gallon, compared to $2.81 in the US. This premium has persisted for a while, and may have helped to counteract sprawl, especially the employment sprawl that generates auto trips in the US. The numbers might also point to successes in Canadian land-use policy like Ontario's Places To Grow program, which channels development into suburban downtowns and away from the exurban fringes. Either way, American advocates might want to spend more time looking north of the border, and thinking about how we can import some of that ridership.
- October 20, 2010BY HEATHER MACK
[Photos: left: flickr user armstrks, right: via SF Chronicle]
"Nothing big happens in less than a decade," the late Brian O'Neill was quoted as saying. Those words from the ambitious superintendent of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (and longtime SPUR board member) who worked to transform one of the largest urban park districts in the country, still serve as a reminder when tackling giant projects, putting into perspective all that was accomplished during his tenure.
During an evening symposium at SPUR on the future of the park, GGNRA Executive Director Greg Moore emphasized the importance of community partnerships and local stewardships to carry on O'Neill's legacy.
When placed at the head of the 75,500- acre GGNRA — which encompasses San Francisco's Presidio, the Marin Headlands and portions of San Mateo County — in 1986, O'Neill's vision was "audaciously vast," said Moore. This was exemplified with the transformation of military posts to national parks over a span of several decades.
As San Francisco finally sees headway on massive projects such as the seismic and structurally unsafe Doyle Drive replacement, the giant swaths of green along the Northwestern portion of the city are also seeing progress once unthinkable.The 1,492-acre Presidio has been a monumental demonstration of what collaboration between multiple agencies such as the California Coastal Conservancy and a dedicated community can achieve, albeit one fraught with difficulties including legislative holdups and funding shortfalls.
Building on the legacy already established by early park advocates such as Philip Burton and John F. Kennedy, O'Neill went on to spearhead many projects whose success is visible today. The replanting of over 150,000 native plant species, construction of several impressive overlook sites, rehabilitation of more than 100 historic structures and major improvements to the GGNRA's 196 miles of trails have all been made possible through multi-agency collaboration and local involvement.
The Trails Forever Initiative, launched in 2003, aims to link the massive greenbelt north and south of the Golden Gate through an extensive network of trails. Signature trail projects include Land's End, Marin Parklands and Mori Point in San Mateo, which focus on making the trails more accessible and sustainable while encouraging citizens' responsibility to the parks.
Crissy Field [Photo: flickr user Mel1st]
Among the most noticeable projects — and a popular favorite — was the overhaul of Crissy Field. Once used as a backyard dumpsite for the military, it had all the hallmarks of a toxic, forgotten port with piles of buckled concrete, discarded tires and mechanical parts. The $34 million campaign spearheaded by O'Neill resulted in a beautiful space now regarded as the front yard of San Francisco with a velvety lawn, walking and biking paths, public art installations and education centers for urban youth. More than 500,000 school kids participate in the Parks as Classrooms programs, fostering future generations of park enthusiasts and preservationists.
And the projects keep growing and evolving, thanks to the strong sense of stewardship fostered by trailblazers like O'Neill. On any given day of the year, volunteers including anyone from school children to corporate employees can be seen continuously working on the park. While the accomplishments have already been great, it is the ongoing stewardship from the people of the Bay Area that will keep the parks forever thriving.
- October 19, 2010BY JENNIFER WARBURGOn Monday of last week, President Obama recommitted his administration to a "fundamental overhaul" of the nation's infrastructure, following up on a previous Labor Day announcement that had excited smart growth advocates and set off speculation about the form such a "second stimulus" or "infrastructure bank" would take.Obama's speech last week on infrastructure investment [Via whitehouse.gov]
When Obama was elected, supporters of progressive transit talked excitedly about a "new New Deal." Comprehensive national infrastructure plans have guided each era of American growth and development. America 2050, a national coalition that SPUR is a part of, created a prospectus for a modern national plan modeled on three prior ones: the Gallatin Plan of 1808, the Inland Waterways Commission Plan of 1908 and the National Toll Road and Free Road Plan of the 1930s.
The President has rhetorically endorsed progressive national infrastructure investment for this era. In his Columbus Day speech he called for "a smart system of infrastructure equal to the needs of the 21st century; a system that encourages sustainable communities with easier access to our jobs, to our schools, to our homes"¦a system that reduces harmful emissions over time and creates jobs right now."
Yet over the past week the administration showed signs of backing away from pushing such legislation forward this year, leaving observers scratching their heads.
Are these high-profile announcements solely political? An attempt to energize the base during election season? Or are they serious agenda-setting statements? Most importantly, will progress actually be made this year in Washington on modernizing our country's infrastructure?
While this proposal may seem like a political trial balloon this fall, infrastructure spending will likely anchor the legislative agenda for 2011. Why? Because it has bipartisan support and strong backing from financial interests, state and municipalities. Infrastructure spending has typically been an enterprise that Republicans and Democrats agree upon and could provide an area of consensus in a divided legislature. It's exactly the type of modest legislation that President Clinton used in 1995 and '96 to move forward after losing party control of Congress.
Obama's infrastructure investment proposal is, in effect, a $50 billion down-payment on the $450 billion six-year transportation bill that failed to pass Congress last year. Note also that the $50 billion does not come close to the $2.2 trillion the American Society of Civil Engineers says is needed to repair existing infrastructure. But a $50 billion investment "jumpstart" is a pragmatic way of moving forward on urgent repairs.
The President has proposed to change the way transportation funding works, in particular by using some sort of performance-based criteria rather than "return to source" or earmarks; but "” who knows? "” this is the always-announced, never-implemented agenda of the reformers.
Rails or roads? [Photo Credit: flickr user jrâ¹â¸â¶â¶â´]
Here is my own prediction about the timeline of how this legislation will play out in Washington:
- Look for an 11th hour attempt by Democrats to bring up Obama's infrastructure plan in November's lame-duck Congress; Republicans will rebuff it.
- In January, when the new, 112th Congress convenes there will be a good month of gavel-shifting and maneuvering.
- Infrastructure spending will be seriously discussed again in February when Republicans must begin to share responsibility for hastening and improving the economy's "jobless recovery."
- Most important will be the President's Fiscal Year 2012 proposal budget, which will be announced at the end of January after the State of the Union address. In all likelihood, when the President releases his budget, there will be a specific line item for the infrastructure bank.
- How Congress responds to the 2012 budget proposals in March and April will be crucial. But the groundwork for this debate should be developed now, and in the weeks immediately ahead.
With transportation bills of any type, there is always a fight over which portion goes to more highway construction and what portion goes to energy-efficient transit. SPUR has of course advocated that the country shift as much funding as possible to transit. But even if that goal is politically ahead of the legislature, we should at least be able to provide an equal federal funding match to transit and highway projects, rather than paying a higher share of highways as is the practice today.
There are a lot of politics to get through. We have joined the Transportation for America coalition as our show of support for a forward-looking investment in a better transportation system. We hope the President's $50 billion proposal, which covers transit and much else, will help get the ball rolling on what surely must be a national priority.
- October 13, 2010BY FABIANA MEACHAM
Your neighbor's car could soon be available for hourly rental. Any takers? [Photo Credit: Fabiana Meacham]
Would you rent out your car to offset the costs of owning it? Would you get rid of your car if you could rent one from your neighbor?
Until recently, those weren't legal options in California. But new legislation could dramatically increase the practice in the state. Starting in 2011, car owners will be able to maintain their personal insurance policies (albeit at a higher price) while renting their cars by the hour, helping them offset the costs and environmental impact of car ownership.
Successful non-profit ventures like the Bay Area's City CarShare, which SPUR helped incubate, have led the way in promoting car sharing, encouraging many to give up their personal vehicles. A UC Berkeley study found that 30% of San Francisco households that used City CarShare sold at least one of their private cars. By allowing individuals to share their private vehicles, the new legislation takes the concept pioneered by organizations like City CarShare one step further — and could have a large impact on the rate of car ownership in California.
City CarShare will also play a role in facilitating the new personal car sharing policy. Car owners will be able to register their cars for use among the organization's pre-screened member base, make use of its timed lock and key system, and specify availability hours through its website.
Similar initiatives have proven successful outside the United States as well. The UK's WhipCar, a car sharing service comprised of privately owned vehicles, has seen a sharp surge in popularity, with its fleet expanding to 600 cars from 30 in a matter of months. WhipCar has cleverly marketed itself to car owners who are strapped for cash and car-less citizens who appreciate the hassle-free concept of "renting the car next door." In light of the current economic situation, this message surely resonates with Californians looking to supplement their incomes, as well as those who can't afford to buy or keep their cars.
But beyond allowing Californians to earn an extra buck from their cars, the new legislation is indicative of the rise of "collaborative consumption," a concept that empowers individuals to share, trade and barter their goods and resources through online platforms. Websites that connect people seeking to swap goods, rent out rooms in their homes, and lend small amounts of money are all examples of the growing collaborative consumption movement. The state's legitimization of personal car sharing may just be one element in a much broader network of peer-to-peer consumerism taking root in our country.
City CarShare will soon incorporate personal car sharing into its services. [Photo Credit: flickr user felixkramer]
- October 12, 2010BY ED PARILLON
The Central Subway project is the second phase of Muni's T-line, the biggest transit project in San Francisco today. Once completed in 2018, the line will connect Visitacion Valley and Bayview with downtown, SOMA, and Chinatown. As with any project this large, the project has its fair share of detractors, and we thought it would be useful to remind everyone of some of the benefits.
1. It will add capacity to a corridor that sorely needs it
The Stockton corridor is one of Muni's busiest. According to data collected as part of Muni's Transit Effectiveness Project in 2006, the 30-Stockton and 45-Union/Stockton buses carry over 34,000 riders per day. These lines are often over capacity during peak hours, to the point where buses have to skip stops and leave riders waiting. The Central Subway will be able to take on some of that ridership, with 76,000 daily boardings expected in 2030 along the T. This will help to ease congestion on the Stockton corridor lines, hopefully translating into operating savings for Muni. The line will also connect Chinatown and Union Square with the Caltrain station on 4th and King, improving links between Muni and the regional transit system.
2. It is getting the Federal government to support riders in San Francisco
Thanks to the Federal Transit Administration's New Starts program, the Central Subway is getting a lot of federal money for its construction (about 60% of the total price tag). This is no small advantage of the project, given the condition of the Californian treasury, and it means that the subway is a great opportunity to get outside investment in the future of sustainable transport in our city.
3. Its cost-effectiveness will improve over time
The Central Subway project has been criticized by some transit advocates, largely because its benefits are seen as small compared to its costs. A full accounting of the project, however, needs to consider the upsides of having new subway infrastructure in San Francisco's core, namely that the tunnel can be used for a number of future Muni rail lines. SPUR has suggested the option of extending the line through North Beach to Fisherman's Wharf. The Central Subway tunnel will in fact extend past the Chinatown station at Clay and Stockton, ending just under Washington Square in North Beach. This means that the difficult and expensive work of tunneling will be complete, and the stage will be set for future extensions to fully utilize the new infrastructure.
Extensions aren't the only changes that might make the project more worthwhile — there's also the changing office market in downtown SF. As we work to reduce VMT and emissions, combating job sprawl by bringing more jobs into San Francisco's core will be an important goal. This line will serve the 4th street corridor, a part of downtown with room for significant office growth. The line also already serves another growing district in Mission Bay. As these areas continue to add employment, an investment in linking them to Caltrain, BART, and the rest of the Muni Metro system will pay even more dividends.
Click here to read more about SPUR's take on the Central Subway project.
- October 6, 2010BY COLLEEN MCHUGH
All photos by Colleen McHugh
In its first year, Paris' popular VÃ©lib' bike share program — one of the first major programs of its kind and the largest system in the world — battled higher-than-expected rates of vandalism and theft. But in Dublin, where dublinbikes launched last September, the surprise has been just how smoothly and successfully the program ran in its first year.
A modest system in comparison to VÃ©lib' — with only 450 bikes compared to Paris' 20,000 — dublinbikes had over 44,000 subscribers (28,000 year members, and 16,000 short term members), over one million total journeys, an average of 10 trips per bike per day, no major injuries to cyclists, only two stolen bikes and nearly no vandalism over the year period.
The dublinbikes program currently exists only in the city center of Dublin, but the city council intends to expand the system to other areas of the city and nearby suburbs.
On a recent visit to Dublin this summer, one of the first things I noticed was a seeming increase in bicycles — both privately owned and shared — since my last trip two years ago. And the Dubliners riding them were all ages, shapes and sizes — a sign that many people feel safe cycling in the city. After only two years, it was an impressive sight.
In other bike-share news, Washington DC launched its Capital Bikeshare program last month, replacing the much smaller SmartBike DC project and now making it the largest bike-share system in the United States with a planned 1100 bikes at 110 stations by the end of the month. If Capitol Bikeshare experiences similar levels of success as dublinbikes, it could provide a great model for other US cities.
Above: A Dubliner biking in heels -- a common sight.
For more photos of people biking in Dublin's city center, visit SPUR's Flickr page.