Friday, August 26, 2011

We have the transit system we deserve

Photo by Luke Thomas of Fog City

The anti-car, pro-bike folks at SF Streetsblog focus on city traffic on the streets of San Francisco, as the name of that blog suggests. But you can't really separate traffic policy from other planning issues, like land use and housing, which naturally have an impact on traffic. More housing means more people on the streets, whether they're walking, riding bikes, driving cars, or using public transportation.

That reality popped up on Streetsblog's radar screen during a candidates' event at the Castro Theater the other day, when this question was asked of the candidates: 

The Market and Octavia area plan anticipates thousands of new housing units being developed in the Upper Market area over the next several years. Yet, our public transportation infrastructure frequently fails to meet even today’s needs. So, do you support requiring appropriate improvements in transit capacity and service before new development entitlements can be granted, and why or why not?

Streetsblog's befuddled response: "Why, in a Transit First city, are we approving new housing and commercial developments with added capacity for parking without adding transit capacity too?" 

Well, yes. Streetsblog's response would have been better informed if they'd been reading my blog, since that's a question I've been asking for years about the city's dumb "smart growth" policies. 

As I've pointed out, the Market and Octavia Plan, which pretends to be a "transit first" project, has no additional money for Muni, even though it encourages 10,000 new residents in 4,440 new housing units in the middle of the city, including residential highrises in the Market/Van Ness/Mission Street area. (Check out the Planning Department's height map showing a number of areas designated for 20-story, 30-story, and 40-story highrises. If Planning gets its way, that unfortunate part of the city will rival downtown in highrise development).

The same question can be asked about the massive housing project on the old UC Extension property on lower Haight Street, which will have 1,000 new residents in 500 new housing units on only 5.8-acres.

City progs objected to the Parkmerced project because of the rent control issue but ignored the traffic problems the city's own study predicted for that part of town.

And it's hard to believe that ferry boats and shuttle buses are going to mitigate the traffic impact that 19,000 people on Treasure Island are going to have on an already-crowded Bay Bridge, not to mention on downtown San Francisco.

Former supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier's response was the most damning, since she voted for the Market/Octavia project:

“I would certainly like to know before we start some of these larger projects that we have an idea of how we’re going to get people to and from them,” said Alioto-Pier. Again, no real answer. But she admitted this much about her time on the Board of Supervisors: “We didn’t pay as much attention to the types of impacts on our neighborhoods and our communities as perhaps was needed.”

She and the rest of the supervisors apparently assumed that the Planning Dept. knew what it was doing when it pushed these projects. In fact Planning and City Hall have been operating on half-baked theories about "smart growth" along "transit corridors," oblivious to the impact all this development is going to have on traffic in the city. Let them ride bikes!

Supervisor Chiu panders to the bike people and then tacks on some flab-gab:

Chiu came the closest to directly responding, pointing out---to applause---that he is the only mayoral candidate who doesn’t own a car, but his answer was vague. “We need to make sure that our city is investing in appropriate transit infrastructure. I think what’s appropriate is that we are paying as we go. If we are creating development, we need to make sure that there is transit and transit improvements related to that..."

When a cyclist hears the word "transit," he reaches for his bike. But bikes aren't the answer here; they're part of the problem. Even as the city okays these massive development projects without more money for Muni, it's implementing anti-car policies, including the Bicycle Plan, restricting parking in new developments, and taking away street parking and traffic lanes to make bike lanes. That's going to make traffic worse for everyone, including our Muni system.

But the most dishonest response is from bike guy Jason Henderson:

“What’s very frustrating is that we’re not anywhere near prepared to expand transit capacity. All we’re doing is cutting right now, as a city,” said Jason Henderson, an SF State geography professor who heads up the transportation and planning committee for the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association. “Then,” he continued, “we’re letting these developments come in with parking, and it’s just perpetuating the vicious cycle because then you’re going to have people that are going to come in when the transit system’s bad, and they’re going to drive, and believe that they have to have their parking space because the transit system is not able to provide the adequate capacity.”

Anyone who's been following the M/O and UC Plans knows that Henderson and his pals in the HVNA are part of the problem. They've been pushing the UC and the M/O plans from the start. Henderson in fact is a member of the M/O Citizens Advisory Committee and has been instrumental in pushing dense development in the area. Last year He also wrote a completely distorted account of how a predatory UC hijacked the old extension property, downplaying the treachery and spinelessness of Supervisors Dufty and Mirkarimi in that planning fiasco.

Streetsblog struggles to sum up the transit and development issue:

Everyone agrees we need better transit service and the city has recognized this for decades under many mayors without a concrete solution. The mayoral candidates need to start talking specifics about how we’re going to fund Muni, and for that matter, how we pay for future pedestrian safety and bikeway improvements, or we’ll never see the kind of Transit First city we deserve. In the coming weeks, we’ll be interviewing the top mayoral candidates on transportation and land use issues, and we’ll put this question to them, pressing for a detailed answer.

While city progs were obsessing about bikes---do they have any other issues?---their political representatives have been wasting hundreds of millions on projects like the Central Subway and the Transbay Terminal.

We already have the "transit first city we deserve": an underfunded, dysfunctional Muni system.

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33 Comments:

At 1:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The truth is that we already have the "transit first city we deserve," with an underfunded, dysfunctional Muni system.


More development = more property taxes = funding. QED

 
At 1:11 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Right. And the people in City Hall who vote for these projects will be enjoying their lavish retirement plans by the time all the traffic and Muni chickens come home to roost.

 
At 3:41 PM, Anonymous Bob Assderson said...

If only everyone read this blog, utopia!

 
At 4:51 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

In the land of the blind, the one-eyed is king.

 
At 6:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The one eyed walks in circles.

You keep saying that, but you don't lead anyone. Run for supervisor - oh wait...

 
At 7:43 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

It's not a matter of "leading" but of seeing. You can't read a metaphor, and you have nothing to say about the substance of the post.

 
At 9:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You've always said Muni works just fine. Continually proving that you have no fucking clue what you are talking about.

And your title is clearly a cut at including bikes in transit first. But if we were truly transit first, we'd have lower parking maximums, charge more for on street residential parking permits, enforce bus only lanes, ticket double parkers, ticket sidewalk parkers, and work regionally to discourage more car-dependent suburbs that only end up flooding this city with traffic and clogging our roads.

But since you are the one-eyed king (who can somehow only see bike lanes), you should keep preaching about how a couple of bike lanes is what is crippling Muni, traffic, and this city.

Be nice if you fought for something that would actually make a difference.

 
At 10:43 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

At least you don't put what I've allegedly "always said" in quotation marks. Another thing I've never said is that "a couple of bike lanes is what is crippling Muni, traffic, and this city."
But implementing the Bicycle Plan will slow down traffic and delay Muni lines, as the EIR told us.

Muni works well for me, but I'm retired and no longer have to commute. But the #5 Fulton bus has standing room only for commuters and is often packed on weekends, since that line is an important link to Golden Gate Park and the beach.

Muni has a number of problems keeping enough buses and streetcars operational that more money would solve. That money is now being thrown into the bottomless pit of the Central Subway.

But this post isn't really about bikes; it's about the relationship between development and traffic, about which you have nothing to say.

But it's worth noting that the Bicycle Coalition supports the awful Market/Octavia Plan, about which you have nothing to say.

What do you think of the height map for Market and Van Ness I linked? "Smart growth"? Good planning by your bike pals in Planning?

You talk about out-of-town traffic "clogging" our streets, but---this bulletin just in---San Francisco's largest industry is tourism, and most tourists drive to and around the city. Let me make a wild guess: you don't work in tourist-related industries---hotels, restaurants, museums, etc.

 
At 12:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

At least you don't put what I've allegedly "always said" in quotation marks. Another thing I've never said is that "a couple of bike lanes is what is crippling Muni, traffic, and this city."
But implementing the Bicycle Plan will slow down traffic and delay Muni lines, as the EIR told us.

- The Bicycle Plan is a couple of bike lanes, dipshit.

 
At 12:44 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

In fact the Bicycle Plan takes away more than 50 traffic lanes and more than 2,000 parking spaces to make bike lanes.

 
At 3:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How many traffic lanes are in the city? How many packing spaces? We are talking percentage points of the total, or probably closer to 1/2 a percentage point.

For someone who loves numbers so much, sure are having a hard time.

 
At 4:18 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I went through the hard copy of the EIR page by page, counting the lanes and the parking spaces that would be eliminated in the option one projects, the options that had the greatest impact, which---surprise!---was invariably were the options chosen by the city.

 
At 9:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And now half those projects are done. Where's the carmageddon?

 
At 11:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rob never addressed the issues that would speed Muni up quickly. To hell with low hanging fruit. Best to bitch about cyclists and point the blame at them.

And yeah, half the lanes are in. The world is still turning. But I'm sure Rob has some excuse as for why the horror is still on the horizon.

I wonder if he'll keep filing appeals even after everything is in and none of his bullshit has come to pass?

 
At 12:04 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Still having trouble addressing the subject of this post? Might try re-reading it. It's okay if you have to move your lips. Nobody is watching.

The subject is development and traffic and SF's heedless pro-development housing policies that are based on half-assed theories about "smart growth" along "transit corridors."

City planners seem to think that SF is so special it doesn't have to concern itself with the impact from adding thousands of new housing units to areas like Market/Octavia, Treasure Island, and Parkmerced. Let them ride an underfunded Muni. Let them ride bikes!

Adding more buses and more drivers to drive them is one way to speed up Muni, which could be achieved with all the money the city is wasting on projects like the Central Subway.

Another way to speed up Muni is to not slow it down with massive housing projects that provide no real mitigation for the inevitable traffic impact of all those additional residents.

Another approach: stop the city's anti-car policies that make it increasingly difficult to drive in SF, which includes the Bicycle Plan. You bike people and your many collaborators in City Hall don't seem to care that when you screw traffic up for Death Machines---i.e., cars---you're also screwing it up for Muni, emergency vehicles, tourists, and trucks (all our goods are delivered by trucks).

Implementing the Bicycle Plan haa already had an impact---and push-back---on Market Street, Second Street, 17th Street, and Cesar Chavez. Masonic Avenue and Fell and Oak Streets are next.

Typical that you don't know that we've already appealed Judge Busch's approval of the EIR on the Bicycle Plan and the first brief has been filed in that case.

 
At 1:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are the only person bitching about 2nd St. 17th's complaint was a hack job by Scott James. CC was cut short by Ed Lee, thus ensuring himself a loss.

And what push back on Market? There is none.

 
At 4:20 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Why would Scott James do "a hack job" about bike lanes on 17th Street? Is he anti-bike, too? His story used several sources telling readers about defective public notice and arrogance on the part of SFMTA, not to mention Leah Shahum's attempt at getting merchants to change what they told James originally.

Check out the comments to that James's story, in particular one by Jamie Whitaker about the Bicycle Plan and Second Street. He cites more arrogant behavior by the city, but he and the community forced it to back off like on 17th Street.

There were objections to taking away street parking on Market Street between Van Ness and Octavia, but the city and the Bicycle Coalition prevailed over protests by a bunch of Market St. merchants who objected to losing the metered street parking in front of their businesses. Shahum arrogantly lectured the merchants about how they needed to accept change!

You left out the Ocean Avenue fiasco, where small businesses on that street objected to losing their street parking for a bike lane.

Yes, you bike nuts were thwarted when you tried to take away a traffic lane on Cesar Chavez, but the last I heard the bike lane will be made by taking away a lot of street parking in the neighborhood. Everywhere you folks go in SF, you make friends!

 
At 5:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, you bike nuts were thwarted when you tried to take away a traffic lane on Cesar Chavez, but the last I heard the bike lane will be made by taking away a lot of street parking in the neighborhood.

You've lived here how long? And you consider that a "neighborhood"? really, I read your stuff and I think you still live in bumfuckdacino.

 
At 5:15 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

You challenged me on 17th Street, Market Street, and Second Street. I provided evidence that you're wrong, and this is your response? Pretty lame.

 
At 6:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

17th has a bike lane. Market has a bike lane where one fits, sharrows otherwise, and cars are being re-routed off Market at 10th and 6th. 2nd St will get a bike lane. Chavez will get a bike lane. I don't quite get how you can "gloat"

 
At 9:15 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

No one's gloating. I'm just pointing out that there's been protests to putting a bike lane and/or taking away traffic lanes or street parking to do it. People really don't like you bike assholes very much, especially when they see what you want to do to city streets.

Market Street has a bike lane on both upper Market and downtown Market. The city had to back off on taking away all the street parking on 17th. And there was significant protest on Second Street.

 
At 7:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"significant protest" = Jamie Whitaker. Who, if you actually read his comment, took issue with the lack of pedestrian safety measures. Also, if you've read anything Jamie has written, is his main concern about SoMa. Bike lane or not, he would be asking for better pedestrian safety.

But don't bother doing any research.

Ocean was a joke because people couldn't be bothered to walk an extra block so they just double parked and "surprise", got ticketed. Also, people were illegally parking in business's lots, another "can't fix stupid" moment in SF driving lore.

And Scott Jame's piece only talked to those with a negative opinion. What about the cyclists who ride the bike lane and enjoy it? It was shitty "journalism" (and I use that term loosely).

And again, CC has been on the table for a very long time. It was out in the open. And when the truckers couldn't get what they wanted, they back-doored Lee and now Lee shot his mayoral hopes in the foot.

 
At 9:13 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I've provided links to support my argument, and you've provided bike-centric blather and nothing about the topic of the post, the city's development policies, though the SFBC supports the Market/Octavia Plan and the awful Octavia Blvd.

 
At 10:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We provided "bike-centric blather". You did your a "link to support your argument" - which is a link to your own blog of "anti-bike-centric blather". #winning!

 
At 11:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It has everything to do with this post. If you supported real meaningful change to Muni, then these projects wouldn't make you shrivel up in fear.

 
At 2:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Rob,
Please don't read this:
http://www.theurbancountry.com/2011/08/motorists-prime-beneficiaries-of.html

 
At 3:54 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"We provided 'bike-centric blather'. You did your a 'link to support your argument' - which is a link to your own blog of 'anti-bike-centric blather'."

So many of you bike jerks have reading disorders, perhaps due to exposure to carbon monoxide and diesel fumes. I linked the original Streetsblog story, the Market/Octavia Plan, the remarkable---and shocking---building height map showing what City Hall wants to do to the Market and Van Ness area, along with links to my blog that republish an Examiner article on the impact of the Bicycle Plan, Michael Bernick's op-ed on how the city is misinterpreting his "transit corridors" idea, and the city's 19th Avenue study.

In the comments, I linked the James story you folks---and Leah Shahum---hate so much.

You have linked nothing, except that goofball piece on socialism and cars in the last comment.

"If you supported real meaningful change to Muni, then these projects wouldn't make you shrivel up in fear."

As I wrote in this post and many others, one thing that would help "change" Muni for the better would be more money, a lot of which the city is wasting on the Central Subway and the Transbay Terminal. The Grand Jury noted too that Muni's capital and maintenance budgets are underfinanced, which means the system's long-term prospects are bleak.

To top it all off, our "progressive" City Hall government is putting a $248 million bond on the November ballot just to maintain city streets, that is, borrowing money for operational expenses. But, hey, we got a Bicycle Plan! That's the main thing, right?

 
At 5:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Borrowing money to pave streets for cyclists, which will be paid back by the productive members of SF - the cyclists. Fair deal.

 
At 9:17 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

In fact the interest on the bond will be paid by the city's taxpayers regardless of their preferred transportation "mode." The city now collects more than $180 million a year from parking meters, parking lots, and parking tickets and millions more in Prop. K sales taxes for city transportation projects.

Since we've been told that it takes around $50 million a year to maintain city streets, it's hard to see why that isn't enough without borrowing $248 million.

 
At 9:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If only the M/O plan was to bring in more grumpy old men like Rob.

 
At 10:19 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

By the way, the folks at SFCTA say that Prop. K sales tax brings in $70-$80 million a year for transportation projects, including "resurfacing" city streets. (See page 14 of this document.) Add the $180 million in parking revenue to the $80 million in Prop. K taxes, and you get $260 million. That's not enough to keep city streets paved?

It would be if the city wasn't pissing away millions on the Central Subway and the Transbay Terminal.

 
At 12:42 PM, Anonymous Your Neighbor said...

Look: everyone I know, cyclist or not, thinks the Central Subway is a complete boondoggle and needs to be stopped immediately. So don't even try to suggest that cyclists are somehow responsible for distracting our representatives with bike bullshit and preventing them from dealing with larger issues. But this paragraph takes the cake for asininity:

When a cyclist hears the word "transit," he reaches for his bike. But bikes aren't the answer here; they're part of the problem. Even as the city okays these massive development projects without more money for Muni, it's implementing anti-car policies, including the Bicycle Plan, restricting parking in new developments, and taking away street parking and traffic lanes to make bike lanes. That's going to make traffic worse for everyone, including our Muni system.

The way things are headed in this city people will be forced to ride bikes when these housing projects are built because it'll be impossible to get around any other way. Bike-friendly policies share only a small fraction of the blame for that eventuality, though. The lion's share owes to a century's worth of pandering to drivers at everyone else's expense. Ours is a city of wide boulevards filled with speeding cars; expansive curb cuts and basement garage conversions that discourage even modest commercial development in residential neighborhoods; gigantic private lots that funnel money out of the local economy; and, generally, an absurd amount of space wasted on automobiles that sit idle for 95% of their lifetimes, which keeps the housing supply low and drives rents up, pushing families out of the city and putting more cars on the road in the process.

We can't have a functioning transit system with this many cars on the road. Something has to give: if you want MUNI to run faster, you have to get some of those cars out of the way. None of the bike lanes the city has installed thus far have impacted traffic or MUNI to the extent that you predicted they would, but these housing projects will be trouble. Rather than complaining about bike lanes you should be protesting the exceptions made to greedy developers who threaten to pull out of these projects if the city doesn't allow them to exceed our modest parking limits. Every time that happens the bar drops even lower: developers feel empowered to ask for more and more, and clueless suburbanites move into their new lofts with their cars in tow, and the expectation that there will be a parking space waiting for them wherever they go... because, you know, "MUNI sucks" and "bikes are dangerous!"

And while the technocrats are stuck in traffic in their BMWs enjoying a phone conversation on their bluetooth headsets, the city's working class are crammed on a bus made late (again) by the hordes of commuters too lazy and selfish to consider an alternative. Can you really blame them for feeling a little bit jealous as a cyclist glides past them nonchalantly?

Bikes are not the problem; but if we don't do something about this city's auto-dependence they will likely be the only solution.

 
At 11:53 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Another muddled, long-winded comment from Your Neighbor.

"The way things are headed in this city people will be forced to ride bikes when these housing projects are built because it'll be impossible to get around any other way."

So why allow these massive housing developments in the first place? Of course they're going to have a negative effect on city traffic, but the Planning Dept. and the Board of Supervisors seem oblivious to that reality. Of course they'll all be retired on the city's generous retirement system by the time the impacts are obvious.

Instead of people massively turning to bikes to get around, our rapidly gentrifying city will see increasing gridlock on city streets, since I assume the gentry are not going to abandon their cars. For one thing, unlike the many working class car owners who have to rely on street parking, they always have parking---garages or parking spaces---where they live.

Motor vehicles are the economic life-blood of San Francisco. There are 460,000 registered motor vehicles in the city; all our goods are delivered by trucks; there are 1,000 Muni vehicles on our streets; there are 1,500 taxis on our streets; millions of communters and tourists drive into the city every year. Making it difficult to drive and park in the city is not only a massive inconvenience to city residents who own cars but would be economic suicide for a city where tourism is the largest industry.

As it is now, it's not that difficult to drive in SF---Curt Sanburn's experience is still common---but we're reaching a tipping point, since these massive housing developments---the M/O Plan, the UC development, Parkmerced, Treasure Island---are going to make traffic in the city a lot worse.

"We can't have a functioning transit system with this many cars on the road. Something has to give: if you want MUNI to run faster, you have to get some of those cars out of the way."

Actually, the main thing Muni needs right now is more money to buy buses and maintain its fleet, which is why we really can't afford big, dumb projects like the Central Subway. I never claimed, by the way, that cyclists are responsible for that project. On the other hand, there's not a single sitting supervisor that opposes the project, though they all support the Bicycle Coalition's anti-car agenda.

 

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