Thursday, April 19, 2007

Latest DMV numbers and the anti-car movement

According to the Department of Motor Vehicles, as of Dec. 31, 2006, there were 460,150 motor vehicles registered in San Francisco. The breakdown: 378,576 cars, 63,438 trucks, and 18,136 motorcycles/motorbikes.

Some other numbers to consider: According to the city's Convention and Visitors Bureau, 4.5 million people stayed in city hotels in 2005, 25.8% of whom rented cars. That means there were 1,250,000 rental cars on city streets that year driven by the city's hotel guests alone.

Numbers like this show that the editorial in the April 18 issue of the SF Bay Guardian (below) is completely unrelated to the reality on the streets of the city. The Guardian thinks that "San Francisco ought to commit to cutting car use in the city by at least 50 percent in the next five years." What does that mean in practical terms? How would city government discourage the more than 460,000 city residents---not to mention commuters and tourists---who own cars from driving them on the streets of the city? "Some streets, such as Market, should be closed to cars entirely. Much downtown parking should be eliminated. More bike lanes and transit-only roads, more pedestrian-friendly shopping areas, and other measures of that sort would not only help discourage car use but also make the city a more livable place."

The Guardian wants the city to build affordable housing for its workers. But if driving in the city is discouraged, what impact would that have on the 66,315 workers---a $1.8 billion payroll for the city---dependent on the city's tourist industry? The Guardian doesn't tell us, because it doesn't know---or apparently really care much. If city workers don't have jobs, building affordable housing for them doesn't make a lot of sense. In fact city progressives have long been in denial about the important role tourism plays in the city's economy. The facts: 2005 figures show that the city has at least 15.7 million visitors a year, who spend $7.3 billion here, generating $418 million in tax revenue for the city.

The city's residents like their cars, and they are unlikely to allow the city's screwball left to make it any more difficult to drive in the city than it already has. According to the San Francisco Transportation Authority's 2004 Countywide Transportation Plan, 214,660 city residents commute by car, and there's more than one car per city household (page 40, 49).

The Big Thinkers at the Guardian don't want to clutter up their ideology-bound minds with a bunch of facts. They want action! "There's no point in thinking small: this is the year for dramatic talk about real environmental action." All this shows anyone who's paying attention is that the city's left is completely out of touch with the same reality as the rest of us, which they have already shown on other issues, like homelessness. But they do a lot of harm, since their anti-car ideology---along with that of the SF Bicycle Coalition---is common on the Board of Supervisors and in city agencies. Does that mean I'm just "thinking small"?

Green city, part one: cut back cars


San Francisco needs a real green city agenda — not something that comes out of Pacific Gas and Electric Co.'s corrupt propaganda operation or from the timid folks in the Mayor's Office but a comprehensive environmental plan for the next 10 years that aims at making San Francisco the nation's number one city for green policy.

There's no point in thinking small: this is the year for dramatic talk about real environmental action. And it doesn't have to be overwhelmed by global problems; there's so much to be done right here at home.

We will be laying out a much longer, more detailed platform over the next few months, but here's one way to start:

San Francisco ought to commit to cutting car use in the city by at least 50 percent in the next five years.

How do you do that? By making cars unnecessary and slightly more expensive.

The nation's addiction to oil didn't come by accident. As Thomas Friedman wrote in the April 15 New York Times, then-president Dwight Eisenhower responded to the cold war in part by building the Interstate Highway System, which allowed the military to move people and weapons quickly — but also set the nation on a path to the car-driven development and land use that are now poisoning the environment and global politics. Turning that around requires tremendous dedication and political leadership, but San Francisco shouldn't have to wait for the rest of the country.

A citywide auto-reduction plan would involve sweeping land-use changes. Some streets, such as Market, should be closed to cars entirely. Much downtown parking should be eliminated. More bike lanes and transit-only roads, more pedestrian-friendly shopping areas, and other measures of that sort would not only help discourage car use but also make the city a more livable place.

But there's more: a city that discourages car use has to build housing for local workers — that means affordable housing for the city's service-industry and public-sector workforce. All new housing needs to be evaluated on that basis: will people who work in San Francisco be able to live here — and avoid long commutes? Most housing currently in the planning pipeline utterly fails that test.

To make cars irrelevant, public transportation has to be vastly improved. As Sups. Chris Daly and Aaron Peskin point out in the Opinion on page 7, that means better management. But more than anything, it means money — big money. Muni fares ought to be reduced dramatically (or eliminated altogether) — but in exchange, Muni needs a dedicated funding source. A special fee on downtown businesses makes sense. A citywide transit assessment on property owners might be necessary.

It's not fair to place a burdensome tax on cars that makes it possible only for the rich to drive — but simply restoring in San Francisco the vehicle fee Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wiped out would cover Muni's deficit. Assemblymember Mark Leno is working on this, and it should be a top civic priority. So should pushing high-speed rail (see page 19), which would eliminate tens of thousands of car trips between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

There are lots of ways to approach this goal; the supervisors and the mayor just need to set it and enforce it.

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At 5:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great, so it looks like half the city doesn't even own a car and 3/4 of the tourists don't rent one!

At 9:16 AM, Blogger Andrew said...

25.8% of the hotel guests had a rental car when they were in San Francisco. You seems to be claiming that 25.8% of total guest each INDIVIDUALLY rented a car, and you came up with "1,250,000 rental cars on city streets that year driven by the city's hotel guests alone." This is sloppy thinking. You calculated that number by finding 25.8% of 4.5 million people. I think the odds are pretty good that at least some of those rental cars were shared by more than one of those visitors. Look at the occupancy per room number of 1.77 people. I'm guessing that most people who shared a room also shared a car. That cuts your estimate almost in half. I'm willing to bet a new dishwashing towel that the number is actually even lower than that.

Once again, Rob, you're making up some numbers and claiming them as fact.

At 3:33 PM, Anonymous Suisun Salman said...

Yeah... I'm not really sure what your point it. 25% of tourists rent cars? That's a really low number when you consider that basically 100% of tourists to say, Orlando, rent cars. Plus, I am willing to bet that the only reason 25% of SF tourists rent cars is to drive to Napa etc...

On fact you haven't looked at is how many suburban people drive into the city for tourist related things. These cars are a major problem for SF residents and clog our streets and parking. I think we should have a massive parking garage with free parking in West Oakland and make all these people take BART. All parking in the city should be resident only except for certain lots near attractions which should cost a fortune.

Does that make me a radical? I think it just makes me someone who wants a good quality of life!

At 4:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Latest Numbers for the Anti-Bike Movement:


Makes the group's name, "99 Percent", pretty ironic.

At 8:44 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

You think I'm the only one in the city who thinks like this? I'm just the most articulate. Interesting that the Bike Nut Community didn't want to put the Healthy Saturdays bullshit on the ballot. Now, I wonder why? Could it be that city voters aren't too keen on the Bike Nut Community? City voters rejected the BNC in 1998, when they voted for the garage in the park; they rejected them again in 2000, when they voted down Healthy Saturdays---without the smiley-face name---twice on the same ballot. And they rejected the BNC yet again last November, when they rejected the hike in the city's parking tax by more than a two-to-one margin. Not to mention the fact that the BNC is hemorhagging politcal goodwill every month with Critical Mass. I'm confident my numbers are bigger than yours.

At 4:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's misleading to say that voters rejected the BNC based on the healthy saturdays stuff.

You're conflating the proposal itself with the bike folks in general (sure, there's a lot of overlap, but they are two distinct things).

The voters didn't reject the BNC; they rejected a proposal that the BNC, among others supported.

And really when you get down to it the bike folks are, at least in part, the city voters. You seem to create a somewhat false seperation of the two, as if it's 'voters' against the bike folks.

The rhetoric's a bit slippery.

At 4:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you mean "outspoken", not "articulate".

At 10:10 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I'm outspoken and articulate. I cited several elections where the issue the BNC supported lost. Why don't one of you show me one that they won?

At 7:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

were the measures in the elections exactly the same as McGoldricks's proposal? Or were there significant differences?

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

Both measures on the 2000 ballot were close-the-park-to-autos-on-Saturdays measures. One proposed doing it sooner, and the other proposed waiting until the construction of the garage under the Concourse was finished. Both were rejected decisively by city voters.

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

I grow tired of the shrill complaints of an overly zealous SF bike lobby. I am an avid walker, take mass transit whenever possible, and use my car only when I need to leave the BART area. However, I am persistently confronted by bikers riding on the sidewalks of San Francisco, going the wrong way on roads, or in other ways acting completely disrespectful toward both car drivers and pedestrians. After nearly being hit by unapologetic bikers in violation of traffic laws on numerous occasions, I have no patience or sympathy for bike riders in this city: get a car, use mass transit, or walk.

At 11:54 PM, Blogger NoeValleyJim said...

If you car lovers are so powerful, why do freeways keep getting torn down, bike lanes keep getting built and more and more lanes of traffic keep getting dedicated to Bus Only lanes?

Run for City Council again. I will promise you that I will donate the maximum possible to your opponent.

At 11:04 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

There aren't any bike lanes being built in SF right now, because the city is under an injunction to do an EIR on the Bicycle Plan before they can do any more. It's a matter of "car lovers" versus bikes in SF? I haven't owned a car in 20 years. In a geographically small city with 460,000 registered motor vehicles, we need to be very careful about taking away street parking and traffic lanes to make bike lanes, regardless of how PC the latter may be. That's why the court ordered the city to do an EIR before implementing the Bicycle Plan.

"City Council"? It's the Board of Supervisors in SF, Jim. This is typical of you bike nuts. You never seem to know much of anything, and you evidently never read anything, like, for example, the Bicycle Plan or any of the court documents on the litigation. If an ignoramus like you supported me, I'd be concerned.

At 11:21 AM, Anonymous ScottRS said...

This is for Anonymous who posted at 11:41. I ride my bike to and from work and do not use sidewalks. Just bike lanes and traffic lanes, in the proper direction, thank you.

However, I sometimes drive or bike in the Tenderloin, where drugged out pedestrians often walk out into traffic, or stand in the street impeding traffic flow. Sometimes they are pushing a shopping cart in a traffic lane. As a result, I have no more patience for you pedestrians. Get a car, ride the bus, or use a bike. /sarcasm

I have seen a bike rider on a sidewalk hit someone coming out of Starbucks, sending their coffee flying and not even stop. I have nearly been hit by these idiots. I have also seen and been nearly hit by many cars turning unexpectedly using no turn signal across painted bike lanes. I have been hit by a car when I was not at fault. I have been doored (hit by an opening car door) twice (violation of Ca vehicle code). I have also seen pedestrians acting irresponsibly, walking into traffic and causing backups. Yes, people ride bikes on the sidewalk and that's not right. You and Rob paint us all with the same brush due to the actions of a few.

At 11:47 PM, Blogger NoeValleyJim said...

That's fine, keep insulting people and see how far it gets you. I have lived here 15 years, campaigned and donated to many different candidates and own a home and am raising a family here.

No more bike lanes are getting built this year because one person with enough money to hire a lawyer can hold up progress. But the political system is slow for a reason. Eventually, the clear and repeated will of the voters will be enforced.

Plenty of cities do fine with more density and fewer cars than San Francisco. I look to Amsterdam, Paris and Tokyo for inspiration. What would you have The City emulate?

At 5:05 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I don't care how long you've been here, how big your family is or how much money you've donated or to whom you've donated it. You're just another anonymous know-nothing to me. No more bike lanes are being built in SF this year because San Francisco has to follow the law just like every other jurisdiction or developer in the state. That law is the California Environmental Quality Act. Last November, Superior Court Judge Peter Busch found that the city was behaving in a deceptive manner by trying to implement the ambitious Bicycle Plan before doing any environmental study at all. That means "the will of the voters" was in fact being circumvented by SF. "More density"? I thought we were talking about traffic in SF. What exactly is the relationship between population density and bicycles? That we can have as much population density in SF as long as we also redesign our streets to satisfy 1-2% of the city's population?

At 8:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anyone realize how crazy an anti-car agenda is in San Francisco? San Francisco has lots of big hills and WIND. Only an athlete who doesn't care about sucking in a lot of polluted air and who doesn't have passengers or freight and who has a bicycle with a lot of gears could hope to use bicycles as serious transportation. Oh, and it would help if he doesn't want to go anywhere or go too far--especially into any dangerous neighborhoods. Does Critical Mass ride up the real hills or past the housing projects in Hunter's Point? Of course not. Let's restrict the Critical Mass ride to a course which takes it up all the biggest hills in the city and down all the most dangerous streets. Does anyone realize how anti-disabled, anti-senior, anti-kid, and anti-fat people the anti-car agenda is? It's so discriminatory it could be considered a hate agenda.

At 8:58 PM, Anonymous SRSinSoma said...

This is for Anonynmous who last posted about the "anti-car agenda".

Having a goal of 10% of all in-city trips be by bicycle by 2010 is not an anti-car agenda. (Mayor's state of the city address). 4% of trips are now made by bike here, versus 40% in Amsterdam.

I have been able to increase that number just by leading by example: After convincing two of my co-workers to give it a try, they now bike commute to work, one from 24th/Mission to Civic Center (he used to take BART) and the other drives from Daly City to the Sunset and bikes in from there (he used to drive all the way). Both rely on striped bike lanes (Fulton, Valencia). If the lanes were not there, these people would probably still drive/BART. They have never been happier or more fit and they are spending less money.

I don't recall anyone saying that that senior citizens and the wheelchair-bound should be biking around the city. In fact, due to the excess of cars, often it is more difficult for them to find parking than it should be, as disabled spots are frequently taken by selfish able-bodies.

Some of these violators should be biking or taking transit instead of illegally taking these spots, but the kind of selfishness that motivates these people makes it impossible for them to care about emmissions, the environment or anyone or anything but themselves. I wish I saw as much vitriol directed at these "bad drivers/bad parkers" as I see directed against bad bikers (who I acknowledge do exist). I won't even get into discussing double-parkers in bike lanes.

Bike lanes increase bike ridership, taking cars off the road. Maybe it would be more obvious if every bicycle looked like a GM Hummer, but there are a lot of bikes out there now. Valencia street bike lanes boosted bike ridership on that corridor by 144% and the "before" statistic was on a national bike-to-work day (meaning that the increase was more dramatic than that). Though two traffic lanes were removed, there was 10% less car traffic that only added 3% additional traffic to each of three other streets that run parallel. As of 1999 (most recent statistic I could find) the Valencia bike lanes transported 200 bikes *per hour*. I don't know how well Valencia, Guerrero and Mission combined could handle an extra 200 cars per hour.

CalTrain reports transporting 2000 bikes daily. Would you rather there be 2000 more cars on 101 and 280 daily, and clogging the streets of San Francisco and the Peninsula cities looking for parking? If it wasn't safe or convenient to bike within the city from Caltrain to work or home, that's exactly what would happen.

As for an "anti-car" agenda being anti-fat people, your comment is ironic. I'm glad San Francisco's population looks less like that of Houston's or Atlanta's, and that is because we walk and bike and take public transit more.

It's as simple as this: the safer the city is for bikers, the more people will bike and the fewer will drive. At the same time, no one will arrest a senior citizen or resident or Nob Hill for driving to work or the store. That's for your paranoid fantasies.

At 2:50 PM, Anonymous Kratche said...

"I haven't owned a car in 20 years"

Seriously? And you don't bike? Somehow I think you're making things up. Do you work for GM?

Don't you know that it is your duty as an American to own as many cars as possible? I applaud your efforts to rid us of of the heathen commie "bike riders" (frankly I'd just arrest anyone over 14 with a bike), but you NEED to own a car to defeat them. If you do not own a car you are breaking the moral code of America and should be arrested and jailed along with the bike nuts.

At 10:39 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"Making things up"? What things? It's easy living in this city without a car, since a $45 fast pass is enough to get around very well. And the city is very walkable. This is the cliche about me: I'm somehow against riding a bike in SF. I think it's a dangerous way to get around, but be my guest, cyclists! I think the bicycle is nothing but a recreational accessory and a political symbol, not a serious means of transportation for a significant number of people. What I object to is redesigning city streets on behalf of a political fantasy held by a small minority of city residents.

At 3:47 PM, Anonymous ScottRS said...

Rob, you said it - yes, biking *can* be a dangerous way to get around, depending on where you are going, what route you are taking, whether there are bike lanes and whether drivers are aware of and used to bikes being on the route. Striping bike lanes and considering bike traffic in street design makes biking less dangerous to get around.

It seems you think biking as a commute option is too dangerous to do, yet you oppose implementing plans to make it less dangerous.

Time is on our side. As gas prices climb to $4, then $6 then $8 per gallon, more people will be looking for commute alternatives and biking will make sense for many of them. (The rest will look to buses, trains, telecommuting and carpooling). At that point more people will agitate for safer streets for cyclists, and for that matter more bus-only lanes.

By the way, are you against the bus-only lanes that have appeared on Geary and other streets because they take away a car lane, or do you support them because it makes the buses you take so frequently arrive on time more often?

At 10:45 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Striping bike lanes on city streets does make cycling marginally safer, as most drivers evidently see the lanes and drive with cyclists in mind. What I object to is making new bike lanes in SF---especially taking away street parking and traffic lanes---without first doing some serious traffic studies. Judge Busch agreed with us that the city must do an EIR on the Bicycle Plan before it makes any more bike lanes. This is just common sense in a city that has 460,000 registered motor vehicles, 1000 Muni vehicles, along with thousands of tourists in rental cars and thousands more driving in and out of SF to work every day.

The notion that people in the US are going to abandon their cars once gas prices get high enough is another fantasy, since engines that use a lot less gas are already on the road. High fuel prices will only accelerate, so to speak, that trend.


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