Blog » transportation
- March 3, 2010BY JULIE KIM
[Despite historic shortfalls, SPUR believes the SFMTA can balance its budget without further service
cuts and fare hikes.]
Looks like SPUR's 28-point proposal to balance the Muni budget's been catching on. (We're glad, because we think it makes a lot of sense, too!)
In last Sunday's Chronicle, Rachel Gordon put current events in context by noting other significant Muni reform efforts (including SPUR campaigns in 1993, 1999 and 2007) over the last two decades. On Tuesday, the paper ran an op-ed citing SPUR's "good faith effort to advance the discussion."
In his round-up of the backlash to the MTA's proposed service cuts and fare hikes, Steve Jones of the San Francisco Bay Guardian cited SPUR Executive Director Gabriel Metcalf's call for an end to the "gamesmanship" around eliminating millions of dollars in SFPD work orders for "unspecified services." (The $12.2 million gain that could result from these cuts were the largest of any single line item in SPUR's proposal.)
By way of background: the SFMTA is projecting deficits in the $45-$56 million range for the next two fiscal years (the periods between July 1 and June 30 in 2010-11 and 2011-12). Across-the-board service cuts and fare increases (to certain categories of monthly fast passes and transfers) were on the table as cost-saving measures. Last Friday, the MTA board approved a 10 percent cut to service. At yesterday's hearing, however, no additional cuts or fare hikes were approved.
Check Streetsblog SF for the most frequent (and insightful) updates. Their team of intrepid transit reporters will undoubtedly follow this issue through to its bitter end on March 30, when the MTA board votes on whether to declare a fiscal emergency to enact the cuts.
- February 27, 2010BY BEN LOWE
In response to the looming budget deficits faced by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, SPUR Executive Director Gabriel Metcalf today sent a letter to the MTA outlining a set of measures that could balance the budget this year and next, while avoiding service cuts and fare hikes. The twenty-eight proposals include a diverse range of ideas including hiring part-time operators ($6 million in savings), routing 311 information calls to 511 ($5.5 million), and enforcing existing parking regulations around city facilities ($1.3 million). The proposals, if adopted, would save MTA more than $104 million over the next two years.
[Image: flickr user cbcastro]
These 28 proposals are not the only methods that could be implemented to immediately close the MTA budget deficit. Metcalf also has noted the changes that must be made to the work rules under which Muni drivers currently operate, most recently in an open letter to the Transit Workers Union:
“[Problematic work rules] include: drivers not having to let their managers know how long they will be absent from work, making it impossible to set schedules; drivers earning overtime pay before actually working 40 hours a week; and perhaps most significantly, a set of rules that makes it virtually impossible to hire part time drivers. Currently, Muni is forced by the work rules to pay drivers at full hourly rates to sit around between the morning and afternoon peaks. That rule costs MTA about $11 million each year.”
As reported by Streetsblog, SPUR is working with SF Supervisor Sean Elsbernd to draft a measure that would revise the City Charter to have Muni drivers collectively bargain for pay and benefits, giving the City stronger footing to address these work rules.
As Metcalf said in his letter to the MTA, “none of these budget solutions will be easy, but we believe all of them are realistic. They would begin to set up the MTA for growth rather than contraction in providing transit service to San Francisco.”
- February 19, 2010BY BEN LOWE
Public transportation gets millions of Americans to and from their jobs every day. Transportation for America, a national public-transit and smart-growth advocacy organization, thinks investing in our transportation sector can create jobs as well. In response to the jobs bill now working its way through the Senate, which would largely offer tax cuts to small businesses, T4A has proposed instead that funding be put toward projects such as:
- $16 billion for transit
- $8.1 billion for the Surface Transportation Program (highways)
- $9.8 billion for competitive grants, such as TIGER grants
- $1.5 billion for bike and pedestrian facilities to make walking and biking safer and more attractive.
The non-partisan Economic Policy Institute agrees that the T4A plan would be effective. EPI has stated that such projects would spur significant job creation, particularly among the economically disadvantaged and those without higher education.
As Bay Area transit-and-smart-growth advocate TransForm recently reported, areas well-served by good transportation options, specifically public transit, help to significantly reduce transportation costs for their residents. If funding is used wisely, a transportation-focused jobs bill could therefore create and save jobs while repairing crumbling infrastructure and keeping money out of gas tanks and in our local economy.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is reportedly working on a range of jobs-stimulus legislation, and may yet see the connection between getting the job market moving, and getting Americans where they want to go on America’s sidewalks, bike paths, and roads.
- February 3, 2010BY BEN LOWE
The recession has caused both private auto and public transit use to fall in the past couple of years, both in San Francisco and throughout the country, as travelers cut out superfluous trips to save money and those who have lost their jobs simply do not have anywhere to go.
Yet one mode of transportation in SF has shown massive mode-share gains over the same period: bicycle ridership in San Francisco increased 8.3% from 2008 to 2009, the MTA reports. During this same period, recession pressure has seen bicycle use stay flat or even fall, even in bicycle-friendly cities like Portland. This increase extends a trend that has seen SF ridership increase 53% from 2006 to 2009.
Not only is bicycle use up, but so is support for bicycle advocacy efforts: in the past year, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition has seen its membership rise 15%, to more than 11,000 dues-paying members. The San Francisco government is also throwing its support behind cycling: Mayor Newsom has reiterated his support for a citywide bicycle-sharing program, and with the city's bicycle plan ready to be partially implemented, the city will become even more friendly for its two-wheeled travelers.
- January 20, 2010BY COLLEEN MCHUGH
As someone who has lived in this city for virtually my entire life, there is one thing I know for sure – parking is a pain. Were I to calculate the total time I’ve wasted cruising for a parking space or the total amount of money I’ve spent in parking tickets, I might go insane. However, we are not just losing our time, money, and sanity in this parking climate. We are also increasing traffic congestion and, in the process, greenhouse gas emissions. But how can we fix this conundrum?
[Image: Colleen McHugh]
Last Thursday’s lunchtime forum addressed the Parking Problem on a regional scale and proposed parking reform strategies aimed at alleviating this issue as well as at incentivizing other forms of transit. Valerie Knepper from the MTC addressed the strong need for innovative regional reform. Among the current regional parking flaws, Valerie noted a number of parking requirements for employers, developers, and businesses that in effect subsidize driving and encourage sprawl. Valerie suggested possible local reforms (expanding the parking cashout program for employees, charging market rates for parking in high demand areas, unbundling leases with separate rents for parking, removing minimums and setting maximums for parking requirements) and proposed ways the region can encourage such local reform (for example, by extending “indirect source” regulations to parking). Valerie concluded her presentation with a call-out for innovative parking reform strategies that are high impact, jurisdiction-wide, innovative yet cost-effective, and support Priority Development Areas.
As an example of success, Redwood City Downtown Development Coordinator Dan Zack explained how he incorporated parking reform into his city’s downtown plan. Some of the highlights of this reform are performance-based pricing that increases meter prices in high occupancy areas and decreases prices in low-occupancy areas with a target occupancy rate of 85% throughout the downtown area, eliminating time limits, using surplus parking revenue to improve the surrounding downtown area, and upgrading from single-space coin-operated meters to multi-space meters with more paying options. Dan reported an overall success in the program and shared the lesson that “Good pricing creates turnovers and vacancies.” Learn more about Redwood City’s parking reform by visiting their website.
- January 5, 2010BY BEN LOWE
This past fall, a group of SPUR board members and staff traveled to Washington DC to learn from the urban-planning successes of our nation's capital; today, three members of that group presented their findings at a lunchtime forum.
SPUR Deputy Director Sarah Karlinsky began the discussion with an overview of the Washington urban planning models from Pierre L'Enfant's plan of 1791 to and James McMillan's Plan of 1901 through modern-day endeavors to enliven the long-neglected Southeast waterfront area along the Anacostia. Regional Planning Director Egon Terplan expanded the geographical scope of the discussion, demonstrating with satellite photography areas in the region where forward-thinking transit-planning decisions brought about transit-oriented development along major corridors and high public transit use. Terplan focused on the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor in Virginia and Bethesda in Maryland, both tremendous successes in inducing dense development clustered around regional rail service.
Finally, architect and urban historian Rod Freebairn-Smith showed photographs gathered during the trip focused on how security threats affect both civic life and architecture. His photos included many examples of how buildings have been fortified through bollardization and other means, while not marring the storied city or preventing access to national monuments and icons.
- December 18, 2009- posted by Colleen
Deputy Director Sarah Karlinsky was featured in a short film this week on the future of San Francisco’s streets.
Streetsblog San Francisco posted a video on Monday showcasing the Making a Better Market Street Project. The project envisions Market Street as a grand boulevard similar to La Rambla in Barcelona, the Champs-Élysées in Paris, or the more recently reconfigured public space in New York’s Times Square. As Sarah Karlinsky explains in the film, “[these cities] are really thinking about their streets as more than just infrastructure for cars to move along; they’re really places that people want to make use of.“ In this spirit, the project has instituted trial traffic diversions, public art in storefronts, live music and public programming along Market. According to the video, private automobile traffic on Market Street has reduced by 60%, pedestrian traffic has increased by 250 pedestrians/hour, and MUNI travel time in the trial area has decreased by a minute following the redirection of traffic off of Market.
See more of Sarah’s interview and learn more about the project by watching the video below:
- December 1, 2009BY ELIZABETH HOLDEN
Fall programming concluded November 18th with bikes, parks and policy in the City of Light. Writer and lecturer Marilyn Clemens illustrated current trends in Parisian roadway and park design, which follow the geometry of the classical era, while also redefining the purpose of public space. The Alliance Française generously sponsored the event.
Clemens reported walking as the most popular method of circulation, and the city of Paris plans accordingly for its pedestrians. From small alleys to the Champs-Élysées, streets of all sizes have taken lanes away from cars and given to pedestrians. Cyclists are also a priority, with over 230 miles of new bikeways in the works. And while bicycle sharing has faced challenges, Vélib’ remains popular throughout France.
A partnership of the planning department with the department of the environment prompted a new focus on sustainability in the parks, using educational programs and exhibitions to promote the message. Innovations in park design set new precedents. The Promenade Plantée (pictured) runs for nearly three miles along an abandoned railway viaduct. Completed in 1995, the green space inspired New York City's High Line. The beautiful elevated space caters to both bikers and walkers, making it easy for Parisians to take the high road.
[Image: Marilyn Clemens]
- October 23, 2009BY BEN LOWE
Yogi Berra once posited about a restaurant suffering a perceived decline, "Nobody goes there anymore -- it's too crowded." San Francisco parking faces the same dilemma: high parking occupancy and low turnover make parking in San Francisco a headache as drivers are forced waste upwards of 45 minutes orbiting for a space, adding to traffic and burning gasoline.
To combat this problem, the SFMTA is considering two proposals: SF Park, an initiative to use parking technology to make finding and paying for parking easier, and the recently unveiled the Extended Meter Hours Study (EMHS), which would extend parking meter operations in a number of neighborhoods. Increasing turnover and making more spaces available should be quite welcome in a number of neighborhoods where parking is at 100% utilization (or more, when counting cars double-parked, left in illegal spots, or parked on the sidewalk). Implementing the EMHS would also raise an estimated $9 million per year for Muni.
There has been some push-back. Some merchants are concerned that an increase in the cost of parking will push shoppers to drive to malls where parking is ample and free. And advocates of the EMHS are concerned about the fate of a similar measure in Oakland, where the City Council saw fierce resistance to, and ultimately retreated from, an attempt at extending parking meter operations and raising the parking fee. Public outreach regarding the EMHS is ongoing; hopefully SFMTA will be able to provide easier parking for motorists and higher revenues for transit.
- August 13, 2009BY LAURA TAM, SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT POLICY DIRECTOR
Transportation-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are the fastest growing source of emissions in the U.S., and are currently responsible for almost 30% of the nation's total GHG output. A new ULI report, Moving Cooler, presents different strategies for making our transportation systems more sustainable. It proposes nine categories for improvement, including pricing/taxes, land use and smart growth, transit improvements, ridesharing, intelligent systems, and more. Going beyond other reports of its kind, it not only looks at the costs and effectiveness of different strategies, but considers them in various combinations. Although you have to buy the book, you can get an overview of its findings here.