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- November 4, 2010POSTED BY ED PARILLON
[Photo Credit: flickr user NicoleAbalde]
As those who follow the Bay Area transit blogosphere already know, Wednesday's Giants World Series victory parade spurred BART on to its highest ridership ever"”by a huge margin. The system carried over half a million riders — 522,000 to be exact, which beat the previous record (from Oct 29, 2009, when the Bay Bridge was closed for emergency repairs) by 18%. BART wasn't the only regional system with a bumper day either: Caltrain carried 25,000 — 30,000 more riders than an average weekday (about 37,000 riders), and Golden Gate Transit more than doubled its typical ridership of 5,200, taking 12,800 people into the city.
While it was great for so many Giants fans to choose mass transit, the crowds put a spotlight on BART's capacity issues — at one point, the crowds were large enough to require a temporary closure of Montgomery Station in downtown San Francisco. Obviously there isn't a Giants parade every day (though we can hope for another next November), but in our Urbanist piece The Future of Downtown, SPUR noted that the region's growth is going to require that BART address its capacity issues. In particular, BART will need investment in the system's core to deal with the current limitations of the Transbay Tube and downtown San Francisco stations.
- November 2, 2010BY POONAM NARKAR
Across the Bay Area, only one in 10 commuters takes transit work each day. And half of those transit commuters go to one job center: downtown San Francisco. But since most work is outside of downtowns, SPUR is trying to understand a little more about emerging suburban and non-downtown job centers. This series will look at the Bay Area's evolving and emerging business districts. For each district, we will ask four main questions:
The Location: Where is this place located? How far or near to major transit? And how large from one end to the other?
The Plan: What was the planning vision for this place? Was it master-planned? Did it grow up organically?
The Market: What kinds of jobs and companies are located there?
The Commute: How are workers getting to their jobs each day and why?
In the second edition of this series, we will explore Hacienda Park in Pleasanton, which has become a successful job center in eastern Alameda County over the past three decades. Our first post in this series, "Mission Bay as urban tech park," is here.
Hacienda Park is located in the City of Pleasanton in the Tri-Valley area of the East Bay. It is situated near the intersection of Interstate highways I-580 and I-680, and is also served by BART and several regional bus lines. Hacienda's location puts it at a midpoint between multiple regional centers — Silicon Valley and San Jose to the south, the population centers of the East Bay to the west and north, and the exurban towns and agricultural centers of the Central Valley to the east.
Initially, Hacienda's master plan focused on commercial uses — low and mid-rise office space, retail mixed-use, and hotels. The collapse of the real estate market at the end of 1980s led to the introduction of residential uses, with both owner-occupied and rental units.
At 875 acres, Hacienda Park is the largest development of its kind in Northern California, with over 16,000 employees and 3,400 residents. The master plan, which is currently about 60% built, lays out maximum development figures as below:
"¢ 1530 residential units
"¢ 5.5 million square feet of office space
"¢ 1.8 million square feet of flex/R&D space
"¢ 900,000 square feet of retail/commercial
"¢ 335,000 square feet of hotel
"¢ 138,000 square feet of Public/Institutional uses
"¢ 535,000 square feet of warehouse uses
"¢ 53.5 acres of undeveloped land
The average FAR in Hacienda Park is 38% with a height limit of 85.5 feet.
Hacienda Park was envisioned by Joe Callahan of Callahan Property Company and his development partner, Prudential, as an alternative to San Francisco and Silicon Valley, where the cost of doing business was rapidly rising. The project's attractiveness to both developers and local government was driven by two developments in the late 1970s:
"¢ Transportation improvements. Pleasanton became much more accessible by improvements to the I-580 and I-680 corridors and plans to extend BART along I-580 to Dublin. These changes gave Pleasanton better access to both workers in the East Bay and San Joaquin Valley, and businesses in Silicon Valley to the south.
"¢ The passing of Proposition 13 in 1978. Prop 13 lowered property taxes by rolling back property values to 1975 levels and restricting annual increases to an inflation factor, not to exceed 2%. California cities began to rethink their land use patterns in order to restructure their tax base. The Hacienda Park proposal was timely for the City of Pleasanton, which up until then was dependent largely on a residential tax base.
Hacienda Park did not focus on a specific market sector when it was conceived. The businesses range from small offices to regional centers to large campuses for company headquarters.
In the early 1980s, most of the buildings were single-story, tilt-up construction "back-office" buildings, until the first Class A office buildings were built for Prudential in 1984. By the mid 1980s, a variety of corporate offices were built, with the first large tenant being AT&T. By the mid 1990s, the dot com boom drove large scale commercial development by tenants in the technology sector, such as Cisco Systems and PeopleSoft, as well as other companies like Shaklee and Roche.
Today, the Park continues to benefit from its location between economic clusters: technology in Silicon Valley, research in Livermore (which draws biotechnology business), and agriculture in the Central Valley (which brings in food brokers and tenants like SunMaid).
The Park's northern edge is adjacent to the Dublin/Pleasanton BART station, which provides a direct connection to the East Bay and San Francisco. ACE service is available in downtown Pleasanton, about 3.5 miles from the Park, which provides access to the Central Valley. Additionally, the Park is served by a number of regional bus lines (MAX, SMART) and private employer shuttles.
While the Park is relatively well served by transit for a suburban center, issues of streetscape and scale limit workers' ability to abandon their cars. In particular, the large amount of surface parking on the site, visible in the aerial below (the average Floor-Area Ratio on the site is 0.38), inflates walking distances and reduces the BART station's attractiveness.
These problems are tackled to some extent by buses and the WHEELS paratransit service, the latter of which is subsidized by Park tenants and connects riders from regional transit to office buildings. According to the 2009 Transportation Survey conducted by the City of Pleasanton, services like this have helped to push the percentage of workers driving alone down to 71%, compared to 77% in downtown Pleasanton. Between BART, ACE, and bus services, transit share is just under 15%.
City of Pleasanton Total
[Source: City of Pleasanton, Hacienda Business Park — 2009 Employee Transportation Survey]
When commuters who drove alone were asked what changes would motivate a shift in commute mode, greater transit fare subsidies and compressed work schedules were the most popular options, followed by the Guaranteed Ride Home program. It should be noted, however, that only a minority of drivers considered switching to transit; when considering alternatives, a majority preferred either telecommuting (43% of respondents) or carpools and vanpools (30%).
Over the past three decades, Hacienda Park has successfully combined a central and easily accessed location with cost advantages to attract business. The Park is also poised for growth, with available capacity for office space under planning guidelines. However, especially as land costs increase and the surrounding freeways become more congested, Hacienda Park will need to consider encouraging a higher percentage of its workers to arrive on transit. Services like WHEELS and Guaranteed Ride Home have started this process, but the Park should also seek to get more out of the BART access at its northern end. This will mean less surface parking, increasing density, and retrofitting sites to improve walkability, in addition to improving links to ACE and other regional agencies. Whether this will be supported by tenants, or by local officials is the key question.
- 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 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.
- October 6, 2010BY LAURA TAM, SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT POLICY DIRECTOR
CARB and MTC have adopted strong regional targets for reducing emissions through better planning and less driving.
[Photo Credit: flickr user Jovi Girl J]
In late September, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) voted unanimously to adopt a strong set of regional targets for passenger vehicle emissions reduction under SB 375, the state's anti-sprawl law. The historic vote was the culmination of a two-year effort which included the entire Regional Targets Advisory Committee process and report, intense research by modeling experts, proposed targets from metropolitan planning organizations, and public workshops around the state. In the end, CARB adopted the staff-recommended targets for the big four regions, including the Bay Area's Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) -- 13-16% by 2035, and 10% for the San Joaquin Valley. These percentages represent a reduction in per-capita greenhouse gas emissions from passenger vehicle trips, and will be achieved through regional planning that will align housing growth goals with transportation funding.
For MTC, which in advance of the CARB meeting voted to adopt a 15% reduction in per capita emissions from passenger vehicles (from a 2005 baseline), this is a very significant change. The region's adopted Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) otherwise would have increased these emissions by 2% in 2035.
At the same meeting, CARB approved a 33% renewable portfolio standard for energy utilities by 2020. This means that the state's investor-owned utilities like PG&E, which are now required to source 20% of their electricity from renewables, will have to increase that percentage significantly over the next 10 years. This policy is expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 12-13 million tons/year beginning in 2020. While the SB 375 targets will remove only 3 million tons/year in 2020, it will ramp up to 15 million tons/year by 2035.
- September 20, 2010BY JORDAN SALINGER
Click to enlarge Commute times to zip code 94105 (SOMA) in San Francisco
To the dismay of many a futurist envisioning the world in 2010, the vast majority of people commute significant distances to their jobs. Although the recent recession has led to reduced vehicle miles traveled, the average American still commutes 46 minutes a day. And while we don't always have a choice about where we work and live, commuting reflects both the successes and limitations of our transportation network and our housing supply. This interactive map, created by Harry Kao, uses the familiar google maps layout to shed light on commuting times across the nation.
How to use it: This commuting map is simple. Before starting you are prompted to enter the zip code of where you commute. With that basic information, a screen displays multiple red dots, each dot represents another zip code, with the size of dot corresponding to the percentage of commuters. If you click on the dot you are informed as to the average commute time from that destination and, how long it takes for people to commute to that destination.
The data: This project used data that was gathered from the 2000 Census. While the American Community Survey data is more recent, Kao needed more detailed figures to produce this map. Routes and transit times are taken directly from the google maps API.
What it is: At its core, this map reflects the theoretical distance/time that it takes to travel to work by car. It is however, unable to capture a key component of real commute time, traffic. According to Kao, "the census dataset has detailed stats on when people leave and when they arrive but there's not quite enough information to link the times with the endpoints." By assuming travel during non-peak hours, Kao concedes that most commute times are underestimates. This fact cant be ignored because driving, the mode of travel selected in this interactive map, feels the marginal impact of traffic more than the other modes of transportation.
Sample zip codes:
Chicago: 60601 (City Hall)
New York: 10005 (Wall Street)
San Francisco: 94105 (SOMA)
Houston: 77019 (Downtown)
- Chicago and San Francisco have a relatively similar commuting time pattern, with a few zip codes that register miniscule times and a significant disparity in time for the outlying neighborhoods.
- Commuting times stay considerably more consistent in New York
- It takes 70% of commuters to the 94105 zip code (SOMA) less than the average commute time.
- 57.5% of people travel less than the average commute to Houston's downtown
- September 15, 2010BY FABIANA MEACHAM
What would it take to transform San Francisco into a world-class bicycling city? More bike racks? More designated green lanes? Fewer hills? San Francisco is already one of the premiere biking cities in the country: bicycling has increased over 50% since 2006, and last year saw over 8,000 bicyclists on the city's streets. San Francisco was recently ranked the sixth most bike-friendly city in America.
But most San Francisco residents are not riding their bicycles. Last week's lunch forum, "Crosstown bikeways," hosted by Andy Thornley and Renee Rivera of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, posed the question: "What is it going to take to get your neighbors, boss, coworkers and in-laws to ride bikes?"
The SF Bicycle Coalition publicly debuted its "Connecting the City" campaign at SPUR last week, featuring routes that would allow residents to cross the entire city by bike. Borrowing a slogan from Gil PeÃ±alosa, the visionary livable city advocate (as well as former Parks Commissioner of BogotÃ¡, Colombia), Rivera and Thornley spoke of improving the city's bike network to make bicycling across town a real possibility for citizens aged "eight to 80."
Appealing to families, senior citizens and children, (not necessarily the dominant demographic in urban bicycling), the SF Bicycle Coalition made a strong case for creating new bikeways and elevating the existing routes with improvements like green paint and soft barriers against traffic. As Thornley pointed out regarding the overwhelming enthusiasm for Market Street's new experimental green lanes, "a little bit of space designation goes a long way."
Among the proposed priority bikeways are the "Bay to the Beach" route, extending from the Ferry Building, continuing down Market Street, through Golden Gate Park to the coast, and the "Bay Trail," which extends around the entire shoreline from Hunters Point to the Presidio.
A suggested improvement of the Valencia Street bike lane would move the lanes from the curbsides to the middle of the street, allowing bicyclists to avoid idling vehicles and other obstacles. The Coalition also proposed a bridge extending around Black Point in Fort Mason, so that bicyclists and pedestrians alike could avoid climbing the steep hills there.
But perhaps most essential to the Connecting the City campaign is its vision of a bike network as a multi-layered system that includes transit, pedestrians, and even cars. A representative from the SFMTA cited the need to "get out of the bikes versus cars talk" and "reframe the debate" as necessary for pushing through a city-spanning bike network. Most car advocates probably haven't considered that more bicycling means fewer cars on the road — and less traffic.
Although the SFMTA voted to adopt the 2009 San Francisco Bike Plan, a five-year master plan adding 34 miles of new lanes and 60 overall improvement projects, the Connecting the City campaign focuses on routes that would allow San Franciscans to bike from one end of the city to the other.
By next year the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition hopes to make three miles of "eight to 80" bike lanes available to the citizens of San Francisco, with the entire crosstown route completed by 2012, and 10% of trips in the city made by bicycle.
A rendering of proposed bike lanes down the middle of Valencia Street.
A bridge for bicyclists and pedestrians around Black Point.
[All images via San Francisco Bicycle Coalition]