Blog » transportation
- September 1, 2011Gretchen Hilyard
San Francisco’s Market Street has a long and fascinating history: from its ambitious beginnings as an over-scaled boulevard, laid out by Jasper O’Farrell in 1847, to its heyday as the city’s vibrant theater district in the early twentieth century. Market Street rose to prominence after the 1906 Earthquake, survived a series of urban planning experiments in the mid-twentieth century, and absorbed the important yet disruptive insertion of BART beneath its surface in 1972. Today, Market Street displays the varied, accumulated layers of intervention. How can we remedy the vacant storefronts, improve pedestrain and traffic circulation, and reduce crime and other issues that prevent Market Street from being a true civic spine?
Several city agencies, including the Mayor’s Office, the Department of Public Works, the Planning Department, the Transportation Authority and the SFMTA, along with residents, merchants and community groups, are trying to answer these questions with the Better Market Street project. The project seeks to revitalize Market Street from Octavia Boulevard to the Embarcadero by reestablishing the street as a premier cultural, civic and economic center of San Francisco and the Bay Area. As the city undertakes this important project, we must ask: What imprint will we make on Market Street’s future?
Reclaim Market Street! – SPUR’s newest exhibition— seeks to inspire a new vision for Market Street, learning from the past and drawing upon examples of successful urban design and street design trials. The exhibition will draw from Market Street’s history, citing ephemeral events that have shaped the spirit of the street and created the rich heritage it will draw from in the future. Provocative national and international examples such as Paris’ Plages, Bogota’s Cyclovia, and New York’s Times Square pedestrian plaza will be illustrated with films, images, and descriptions connecting San Francisco to efforts around the world advocating for more livable streets.
The exhibition, on display at SPUR from September 6, 2011 until January 6, 2012, will be accompanied by a series of interactive events, which will encourage participation and discussion about Market Street’s future. These include the staging of three interventions for the street, plaza and sidewalk, as well as walking tours and film screenings.
Join us on Tuesday, September 6 at 6pm for the opening party at the SPUR Urban Center Gallery. The party will feature talks by the Studio for Urban Projects, SPUR and UC Berkeley Professor of Architecture Margaret Crawford and refreshments.
- August 31, 2011By Jennifer Warburg
Forget what your mother told you about "it's what’s on the inside that counts.” In the case of BART trains, it’s all about what’s on the outside.
BART’s new fleet of cars is on track to begin service in 2016. This month, BART provided a first look at the concepts for the new train cars, holding a series of forums for the public to weigh in on the design of the interiors of the future.
The most important change in the new fleet, however, is one made to the exteriors: the addition of 50 percent more doors for boarding and off-loading.
In our recent video “Crossing the Bay,” SPUR recommended adding more doors to BART trains as a crucial step to reduce loading delays and make for faster and smoother commutes.
BART currently carries more than 750,000 riders between San Francisco and the East Bay each week. That number is projected to increase as the Bay Area population grows by another 1.7 million people over the next 25 years. It is essential that we continue to use smart design to accommodate more people on transit.
Finally, while the exterior is the most important factor to system efficiency, the interior is important for user comfort, so BART passengers will be glad to note that all design concepts include new seat cushions that are, shall we say, less absorbent.Tags: transportation
- August 16, 2011By Jordan Salinger and Egon Terplan, Regional Planning Director
The San Francisco Bay Area is expected to grow by 1.7 million people in the next 25 years. If you’ve ever muscled your way onto an overcrowded BART train or idled at the toll plaza waiting to cross the Bay Bridge, you may wonder how we’re going to get all these additional people back and forth across the bay.
Meanwhile, gas is just under $4 per gallon today. What happens when it hits $6 or $8 per gallon? Will we have enough transit capacity to manage everyone who can no longer afford to drive?
In the last century, visionary planners made major investments linking San Francisco and the East Bay. When the 20th century dawned, the only way to get from San Francisco to Oakland was by ferry. We built the Bay Bridge during the Great Depression and the BART tunnel in the early 1970s. It’s been nearly 40 years since then, and the Bay Area has grown by 2.7 million people. Yet we’ve added no new capacity. Even the new Bay Bridge, currently under construction, won’t help: It will be much more resilient to earthquakes, yet no bigger than the bridge it replaces.
What will our generation’s contribution be?
And how will these 1.7 million additional people travel across the bay?
For our region to thrive as it grows, travel must move away from personal automobiles and shift to higher capacity public transit options. SPUR has developed an animated film to illustrate a few simple things we can do today, as well as one big idea for the future:
Egon Terplan, Musical Composer/ Script Editor
Jordan Salinger, Producer
Denisa Trenkle, Graphic Designer/ Script Writer
Bjorn Rostad, Animator
Micah Hilt, Project Manager
Jonathan Rogers, Researcher
Sarah Dennis Phillips, Narrator
Noah Christman, Audio Assistant
Anthony Bruzzone, Content Consultant
- July 18, 2011By Sarah Karlinsky, Deputy Director
The stretch of 4th Street between Market Street and the Caltrain station at 4th and King Street may not be one of San Francisco’s best-known neighborhoods (at least not yet), but it’s an important area for urbanists to be thinking about. Why? Because roughly $1.5 billion will be invested in transit infrastructure here, in the form of the Central Subway. This project will ultimately link the T-Third Street Muni line with Chinatown. Meanwhile, other significant plans in the area will extend Caltrain to downtown and further link the 4th and King Station to the Transbay Terminal using high-speed rail.
Some planner types (including us at SPUR) think that the intensity of development in a neighborhood should be proportional to the intensity of transit infrastructure. In other words, places that have good regional transit (like a BART station) should have more intense development than places that have good local service (like the bus stops along Geary Boulevard). And places that have little to no transit should be thinking about developing a good land-conservation strategy rather than planning for growth.
There’s also quite a lot of evidence to support the idea that regional transit should support job centers, while local transit should support housing. SPUR’s Future of Work report explored this concept in great detail. The upshot? The more jobs located next to good transit, the greater the reduction of vehicle miles traveled and greenhouse gas emissions.
The San Francisco Planning Department has launched a new planning effort focused on the 4th Street corridor. This Central Corridor Study seeks to coordinate transportation and land uses in the area between 3rd and 5th streets from Townsend to Market. This study will make recommendations for the types of uses to be included in the area (housing? jobs? other?), as well as the intensity of those uses (i.e., how big the buildings will be and how many homes or jobs they will hold).
SPUR believes strongly that plans for 4th Street should take into consideration the substantial transit improvements in this area, as well as the need to extend San Francisco’s walkable downtown core. Downtown SF far exceeds other parts of the region in its share of commuters arriving to work using sustainable transportation modes. That’s a trend worth building on.
SF Planning has just launched its Central Corridor Study and completed several days of storefront charrettes, where members of the public were able to walk in to a retail space in the plan area and share their thoughts with planners. What a great way to get input from the public! We look forward to providing our own input, and we encourage you to share your input, too, as the process unfolds.
Read SPUR’s Future of Downtown Report >>
- April 7, 2011BY STEPHEN TU
After threats to reduce service by nearly half, Caltrain officials last night agreed to scale back their drastic proposed cuts. The rail system’s governing agencies have brokered a deal to avoid the worst-case scenario, which would have run only 48 trains on weekdays, a dramatic drop from the current 86. Through a patchwork of solutions — including a 25-cent fare hike and eliminating some trains and stations — Caltrain will preserve most of its current level of service. In July, Caltrain will reduce the number of trains to 76 on weekdays and close the Hayward Park station in San Mateo, the Capitol station in San Jose and the Bayshore station in Brisbane.
But this short-term solution, which if approved would extend only through fiscal year 2012, doesn’t solve Caltrain’s deeper problem: it’s managed by a coalition of three different counties and lacks a dedicated funding source. Meanwhile, Bay Area commuters have come to depend on it — and they’ve made it one of the most effective transit systems in the region. Ridership has increased 44 percent since 2004, thanks in part to 79 mph Baby Bullet service that delivers passengers from San Francisco to San Jose in under an hour. And Caltrain’s farebox recovery ratio is 47.4 percent — among the highest of Bay Area transit agencies.
A lot is riding (no pun intended) on the outcome of Caltrain’s fate. The Association of Bay Area Governments projects that in 25 years, there will be nearly 700,000 additional jobs and 350,000 additional households in the three counties Caltrain serves. Total employment and population in the areas nearest to Caltrain stations will be in the millions. Additionally, Caltrain is essential to the region’s strategy in complying with SB 375, California’s landmark carbon-reduction mandate. Each five-car train takes approximately 650 automobiles off the road — vehicles that would otherwise be contributing to the congestion and carbon emissions on the already clogged I-280 and U.S. 101 highways.
While Caltrain has avoided the worst in the last week, this solution is only short term. Saving this critical system will require dedicated funding — and probably a new, less-convoluted governance structure. Today SPUR published a discussion paper recommending potential fixes for Caltrain’s long-term future.
• Read SPUR's discussion paper: Saving Caltrain — for the long term
- 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.
- March 2, 2011
Congress is threatening to eliminate the country’s fledgling high-speed rail program. This move would affect un-obligated high-speed rail funds from the stimulus and the 2010 budget. Infrastructure spending is always a major SPUR priority (see here for a recent SPUR blog post on this topic). Moreover, we have been working for more than 10 years through our High-Speed Rail Task Force to move high-speed rail forward in California; we believe it is perhaps the most transformative investment for transportation that the people of California could make. Click the following links to view SPUR publications on high-speed rail and land use. To call on Senators Feinstein and Boxer to stand up to the attack on high-speed rail and transit, click here.
- March 2, 2011
On March 11th, the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) will release their “Initial Vision Scenario” of the Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS). The SCS becomes the land use portion of the region’s transportation plan and must achieve a target of reducing per-capita greenhouse gas emissions by 15% in 2035. The good news: we are well on our way to achieving the reduction target. The bad news: by assuming the sluggish economy will continue, it is possible to meet the targets without making significant changes to what we fund or much else. It would be a real shame if SB 375 results in a numbers game rather than any real changes in land use planning or infrastructure spending. As the region drafts its first Sustainable Communities Strategy, SPUR wants to make sure we don’t lose sight of the promise of SB 375: to actually shift our land use planning and transportation funding towards an urbanist vision of the region (click here for more information). To review the draft scenario when it is released click here. To follow the San Francisco government agencies’ local response click here. To get involved, contact Egon Terplan at: firstname.lastname@example.org
- March 2, 2011
Caltrain faces an immediate budget deficit of $30 million — nearly one-third of its budget — and has threatened major service cuts. Although this rail system is one of the most efficient parts of the Bay Area transit infrastructure, it lacks a dedicated funding stream and relies on annual payments from the SF Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA), Samtrans and Valley Transit Authority (VTA). Caltrain has increased ridership by one-third since 2000, doubled revenue and kept the increase in operating costs below inflation. Given the importance of Caltrain as an armature for future regional growth and mobility (and the corridor for the future high-speed rail system), SPUR has convened a working group to identify solutions to provide Caltrain with a sustainable long-term funding source. Interested in supporting Caltrain? Email: email@example.com.