Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Ignoring the Central Subway elephant

The SF Examiner's coverage of Muni continues to ignore the elephant in the room: The costly Central Subway project, which is sucking up $124 million of the city's limited transportation money:
The agency’s fleet of buses is the oldest in North America, making them prone to frequent breakdowns. There is a mass shortage of available operators to drive the buses, giving Muni little wiggle room to schedule its 13,000 daily runs.
The Grand Jury report last year on the Central Subway warned about this problem:

Regarding ongoing, preventive maintenance, the SFMTA official we spoke with stated that when SFMTA allocated money to Muni, not enough importance was placed on budgeting for maintenance. This official stated there are periods when not enough money is budgeted for maintaining vehicle parts. To quote that official, "that part of the budget has been starved."
As the Examiner story points out, the MTA is a "mammoth agency with 5,000 employees [that]is lurching in the wrong direction." Maybe that's the problem: MTA seems to be more of a jobs program than a transit agency. Not to mention the fact that it also seems more interested in bicycles than in actual transit, like buses and streetcars.
But the Examiner goes off the tracks, so to speak, by quoting Jason Henderson as if he's some kind of transportation expert. Like Dave Snyder and Cheryl Brinkman, Henderson is just another anti-car bike person who has managed to reinvent himself as an expert on "urban planning" or something-or-other. Henderson tips his hand when he comes out in support of Congestion Pricing:
Henderson said that a congestion-pricing scheme, where motorists would pay a fee to enter certain parts of downtown San Francisco, could help provide a more stable funding source for the chronically underfunded agency. Dedicating a portion of current property taxes to transit uses also could shore up agency finances, Henderson said. “Muni has a huge potential,” he said. “It’s a shame it never been funded in a way to meet that potential.”
This is the long game played by the city's anti-car movement: After all the dumb "Smart Growth" and "Transit Corridors" development creates gridlock in downtown San Francisco, they will turn, shedding crocodile tears about our inadequate transit system, to a scheme that will charge city residents to drive their wicked autos downtown in their own city.
This is why city progressives weren't worried about okaying the preposterous Treasure Island project---16,000 new residents added to the 2,000 already there---that's guaranteed to create gridlock in the downtown area. They can then play the Congestion Pricing card. 
The problem for the anti-car folks is that Congestion Pricing, an idea floated to little enthusiasm a few years ago by the SFCTA, does poorly so far in public opinion polls. But the SFCTA will continue working on it until that happy day when it can be implemented.
Don't forget that the City Charter includes bicycles in its definition of "transit first": "Bicycling shall be promoted by encouraging safe streets for riding, convenient access to transit, bicycle lanes, and secure bicycle parking." (Section 8A.115, Transit First) Actual "transit"---that is, buses and streetcars---is almost an afterthought, which means that whatever City Hall wants to do to our streets, including delaying Muni lines, can be called "transit first." 

Henderson's attempted rewrite of the history of the UC project on lower Haight Street.

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