Saturday, March 08, 2014

The High Lonesome sound

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Ed Reiskin won't "utilize" a traffic test on Masonic

Ed Reiskin: Bike Guy

Ed Reiskin is Director of Transportation of the MTA, the whole, bloated bureaucracy---more than 5,000 employees!---[Later: As of 2015, the MTA had 6,263 employees]and is in charge not only of our Muni system but also "parking, traffic engineering, pedestrian planning, bicycle implementation, accessibility and taxi regulation."

Last month Howard Chabner of Save Masonic asked him (below in italics) about conducting a "test" on Masonic Avenue before implementing the radical Masonic Avenue project that will permanently eliminate both parking lanes---and 167 parking spaces---on Masonic between Fell Street and Geary Boulevard to make separated bike lanes.

Reiskin responded (below in italics), and of course he rejected the idea. His response is so inadequate that one has to wonder how familiar he is with this project.

Taking the falsehoods in his response in sequence:

The Masonic Avenue Streetscape Plan has been developed with years of community and stakeholder engagement.

This qualifies as a half-truth, since that "engagement" was essentially a pro-forma exercise that the MTA has to go through before it makes one of its "improvements" to city streets. There were three "community" meetings organized by the MTA that were inadequately noticed and sparsely attended. Note too that Reiskin calls this a "Streetscape Plan," even though it's essentially a bike project. 

Chabner suggested earlier that the city should allow the neighborhood to vote on the project, but Reiskin thought that would just "confuse the community." The real reason: he understood that the city and the Bicycle Coalition would have lost. 

Reiskin is probably aware of the neighborhood election on Page Street ten years ago when residents rejected the city's traffic circles, not a good precedent from his and the Bicycle Coalition's perspective, which are the same. (See the Bicycle Coalition's revealing postmortem analysis of the Page Street defeat.)

Speaking of "community engagement," Save Masonic has circulated a petition that now has 1,251 signatures of those opposing the Masonic Avenue project. The Bicycle Coalition also once touted a petition in support of the project---the SFCTA even cited it when it voted for the project---but the city now says it doesn't have a copy!

While interim or pilot measures are sometimes utilized to test ideas, our staff, do not recommend repealing peak hour parking restrictions on Masonic Avenue at this time.

When a writer uses "utilize" instead of "use," it's a sure sign that he's in blather mode. Note too the superfluous comma after "staff" and the equally superfluous phrase at the end of the sentence. Reiskin surely doesn't mean to suggest that he might be open to the idea some other time. And the lack of subject/predicate agreement; the singular "staff" should have "does" as its predicate, not "do." Besides, he's the boss and can presumably make this decision even if his staff doesn't like it. That's why he makes the big bucks! 

Okay, he's a careless writer, but he's allowed some slack when he writes email messages (Reiskin isn't the only city employee who struggles to write simple documents).

Now we come to the more important, dishonest part:

The project is an integrated package that should be viewed as a whole rather than as parts that can be simply swapped in and out; testing one element will not yield insights that accurately reflect what the overall project would deliver.

In fact the city's Masonic Avenue Redesign Study tells us that, along with some landscaping, the project "delivers" benefits to only one special interest group. Guess which group that is? Yes, the Bicycle Coalition. The project will build separated cycling tracks on both sides of Masonic. To do that, all the street parking---167 spaces---on Masonic between Fell and Geary will be eliminated. 

As the study also tells us (page 12), very few cyclists now use Masonic, even though we also learn that more than 32,000 vehicles use the street every day (page 14), including more than 12,000 daily passengers (page 11) on the #43 Muni line (The traffic count was done in May, 2010, in the middle of the Great Recession, which means that the traffic numbers are even higher now.) Those parking lanes on both sides of Masonic, now converted into traffic lanes during commute hours, will no longer be available to mitigate traffic during the morning and evening commute---not to mention making it a lot harder to park in the neighborhood, which is no consideration at all for the anti-car MTA. 

The study tells us that of course this project will delay traffic on Masonic for everyone (page 14), including passengers on the #43 line. That is, this project will benefit only an unknown number of future cyclists while making traffic on Masonic worse for everyone else.

While it may seem that repealing peak hour parking restrictions would predict transit impacts, the number of lanes on Masonic Avenue is not the only determinate of transit performance. If parking was allowed without building the transit bulbs or the bikeway, the benefits to transit performance those measures provide would not be captured. One of the advantages of the bus bulbs, besides shorter dwell times due to more efficient boarding and alighting, is that the 43 stays in the travel lane and does not have to wait for gaps in traffic to continue its route. A trial would not reflect this and transit would be slowed as it tries to pull back into the traffic stream.

If Reiskin has even read his agency's study on Masonic, he must be hoping that no one else has read it. There's nothing in the study about any "transit performance" problems the #43 line has now with either "dwell times"---otherwise known as "stops"---or "boarding and alighting," otherwise known as "getting on and off" the bus. As anyone familiar with the #43 line knows, it now actually moves surprisingly well between Fell and Geary, in spite of traffic lights or stop signs at every intersection.

That the "bus bulbs" will help the #43 at all is simply untrue, but they will impede motorists following in the same lane when a bus pulls up to a stop. These bus bulbs were installed on Divisadero, and you often see motorists trapped behind the #24 at bus stops. This negative "benefit" is apparently not worth mentioning by Reiskin---or by the study, either, for that matter. It's particularly dangerous when motorists are stuck in an intersection behind a bus; you see them looking around frantically to see if they can get out of the intersection before the light changes.

Further, by adding parking for a trial, parking maneuvers into and out of the parking spaces during peak hours would slow transit, as would the absence of a bikeway as cyclists would be in the travel lane rather than in a bikeway. A trial would therefore result in greater transit delay than the complete project. Additionally, the availability of parking during the trial may act as a trip generator, drawing more vehicle trips to Masonic during the trial. The same situation would not occur as a result of the complete project.

There are two falsehoods in the first sentence, since people pulling in and out of parking spaces on Masonic don't now delay "transit"---we're only talking about the #43 here---and the city's study tells us that very few cyclists now use Masonic, not enough to ever delay the #43.

The reality: this is nothing but a bike project. As the city's study tells us, it will delay the #43 line and the more than 32,000 other vehicles that now use Masonic Avenue every day. The only question is how badly the project will screw up traffic on Masonic; the numbers on delays at intersections (page 14) are nothing but guesswork, which is why Chabner's proposal for some kind of test before implementing this project is a good idea. 

Reiskin rejects Chabner's proposals for an election or a traffic test because he doesn't have to accept them. The Masonic Avenue bike project is a done deal. All he has to do now is deploy bureaucratic blather like above. Besides, as he told the Bicycle Coalition way back in 2010

...we need more public realm improvements to make the city generally more welcoming for people so it’s less that the city’s built for cars and everyone else is an afterthought. We want to flip that around. The more this happens the more welcoming it will be for bikes. It will all slow traffic and improve safety for everyone...

"Flipping that around" now means that the city will be built for bicycles, and the interests of everyone else---that is, 96.5% of those who now use city streets---will be "an afterthought."

From: Reiskin, Ed [Ed.Reiskin@sfmta.com]
Sent: Sunday, March 02, 2014 3:44 PM
To: Howard Chabner
Subject: Masonic project, lane reduction test


Hi Howard:

Thank you for passing on the suggestion for a trial. The Masonic Avenue Streetscape Plan has been developed with years of community and stakeholder engagement. While interim or pilot measures are sometimes utilized to test ideas, our staff, do not recommend repealing peak hour parking restrictions on Masonic Avenue at this time.

The project is an integrated package that should be viewed as a whole rather than as parts that can be simply swapped in and out; testing one element will not yield insights that accurately reflect what the overall project would deliver.

While it may seem that repealing peak hour parking restrictions would predict transit impacts, the number of lanes on Masonic Avenue is not the only determinate of transit performance. If parking was allowed without building the transit bulbs or the bikeway, the benefits to transit performance those measures provide would not be captured.

One of the advantages of the bus bulbs, besides shorter dwell times due to more efficient boarding and alighting, is that the 43 stays in the travel lane and does not have to wait for gaps in traffic to continue its route. A trial would not reflect this and transit would be slowed as it tries to pull back into the traffic stream.

Further, by adding parking for a trial, parking maneuvers into and out of the parking spaces during peak hours would slow transit, as would the absence of a bikeway as cyclists would be in the travel lane rather than in a bikeway. A trial would therefore result in greater transit delay than the complete project. Additionally, the availability of parking during the trial may act as a trip generator, drawing more vehicle trips to Masonic during the trial. The same situation would not occur as a result of the complete project.

While we are grateful for the CAC and other feedback, we do not plan on pursuing a test for the reasons mentioned above. We will continue to work with the community to address outstanding issues.

Thanks,
Ed


From: Howard Chabner 
Sent: Monday, February 17, 2014 9:41 PM
To: Reiskin, Ed
Subject: Masonic project - lane reduction test

Dear Ed:

The MTA Citizens’ Advisory Council voted 7 to 1 at its February 6, 2014, meeting to recommend to the MTA that the peak hour parking restrictions be repealed on Masonic, with the objective of measuring traffic impacts on the 43 Masonic bus prior to the implementation of the Masonic project. For technical procedural reasons, despite the 7 to 1 vote, this motion was not passed. 

I support removing the peak hour parking restrictions for a reasonable time period. Permitting cars to park at the curb lane during rush hour would reduce the number of travel lanes, which the Masonic project would do during rush hour if implemented. Doing this would enable MTA to measure the impact of lane reduction not only on the 43 Masonic bus but also on the more than 32,000 motor vehicles that use Masonic daily.

Do you support removing the peak hour parking restrictions for a reasonable time period in order to conduct such a test?

Sincerely
Howard Chabner

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Another court defeat for high-speed rail

Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability

Judge Kenny rules for Prop 1A case to move forward
March 7, 2014
Kathy Hamilton

In a court ruling last week, Judge Michael Kenny agreed with the plaintiffs, John Tos, Aaron Fukuda and Kings County that the part 2 of their case can move forward. This is called the 526A suit. The High-Speed Rail Authority argued that the case shouldn’t go forward. The ruling can be found here. This part of the case will examine what the plaintiff’s believe are violations of the Prop 1A bond measure. The first part of their case concentrated on the funding plan the HSR Authority presented to the Legislature, which was found to be illegal by the California Superior Court.

Within two days of the court’s published ruling, the Tos legal team was notified that the Attorney General’s office was going to file another Extraordinary Writ of Mandate to stop this most recent ruling....

It appears the Rail Authority is trying to shut down the legal process with their latest tactic. This new case would be independent of others before the Appeals Court.

Stuart Flashman is pleased with the decision of the Superior Court to hear the 526A case. “We’re gratified by Judge Kenny’s ruling denying the High-Speed Rail Authority’s motion. The Authority was in essence trying to shut the case down. Our complaint says that the Authority’s project doesn’t meet requirements for the high-speed rail system that were set when California voters approved Proposition 1A. Judge Kenny’s ruling means we get our day in court to prove our case. If we’re successful, it will mean the Authority can’t use the bond funds to build its noncompliant project.”

In the background, the Court of Appeal, also known as an Appellate Court, has agreed to review Judge Kenny’s prior ruling. The Attorney General’s office asked the court to review the Superior court decision that required the Rail Authority to rescind its funding plan and the other Judge Kenny decision not to validate bonds that were needed to fund construction of the project.

Peninsula people, heads up. Friday, February 28th, the Environmental document was released for the Caltrain’s electrification project....There is a 60-day public comment period. At the Caltrain board meeting, the Caltrain board was warned they should slow down and not obligate itself for contracts too early since the fate of the High-Speed Rail project was unknown. The question is where will they get $620 million if the Prop 1A funds from the high-speed rail project disappear...

Kathy Hamilton's earlier articles on high-speed rail. Hamilton also contributes to Cal Watchdog.com.

A Caltrain promotional video on electrification doesn't mention high-speed rail:


Randal O'Toole on Governor Brown's cap-and-trade idea.

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