Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Tearing down the Embarcadero Freeway

Carl Nolte's head (Nobody's nostalgic for the freeway to nowhere) on his latest column about the Embarcadero Freeway misstates the reality---or half the reality---as he acknowledges in the piece. Chinatown businesses didn't want the freeway torn down because they liked where it went---to Chinatown:

Mayor Art Agnos finally came down on the side of demolition; that tipped the scales, and the freeway was gone by the fall of '91. Two months later, Agnos lost his bid for re-election. The Chinatown business community had supported the freeway; it was good for business, they said. When it went, they turned on Agnos, and he lost the election by 6,272 votes.

And then they turned to Mayor Brown, who made the Central Subway deal with Rose Pak, which is the real price the city is paying for taking down the Embarcadero Freeway.

Since the city is chipping in $126 million in Prop. K money and $163 million in city parking revenues to build the subway, how seriously can we take Muni's $21 million deficit? (And another $148 million for the Transbay Transit station!) Seems like the transportation money in SF is nothing but a shell game, with money being shifted hither and yon to pay for everything but to take care of a system that has 707,459 boardings every weekday.

I'm not arguing that the Embarcadero Freeway shouldn't have been torn down; it was an awful blot on the city's landscape. But the Central Subway is an expensive project we could have done without---and it's going to cost Muni $8.84 million in annual operating expenses once it's built.

Maybe Nolte will favor us next with a column about the Central Freeway, Octavia Boulevard fiasco, another well-intentioned project with unintended consequences.

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At 4:25 PM, Anonymous Preston said...

Mr. Anderson has the Muni ridership at 707,459 riders a day. The Central Subway will add 5,000 riders a day or 0.07% to this total. 5,000 riders a day wouldn't justify a new bus line in San Francisco, much less a new light rail line, much less a new subway. The tax payers will end up paying $1,580,000,000 for the subway and the Muni's deficit will end up increasing by an estimated $10 to $20 million a year because of the subway.

At 4:46 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I got the 707,459 number from the San Francisco Transportation Fact Sheet of November, 2010. It's available on the MTA's website if you click on "reports."

At 12:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Think of how many bike lanes we could make with that money.

At 4:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, and think how many other ways we could use that money to benefit MORE people in SF, not just a few entitled cyclists:

+ how bout 200,000 trees?
+ how about repairing roads and sidewalks?
+ how bout lots more curbside planting, cleaner parks?
+ less graffiti?

the list goes on and on.

At 7:55 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The cycling issue in SF has never been about money, since creating bike lanes, bike racks, sharrows, etc. is relatively inexpensive compared to big, capital-intensive projects like the Central Subway and the Transbay Terminal. It's about how to allot the limited street space we have---to a minority of cyclists with only the hope/wish that will encourage a lot more people to ride bikes? Or for the overwhelming majority that drives or takes public transportation? San Francisco is doing the former, and it remains to be seen how that will affect our busy streets. The EIR on the Bicycle Plan says that it's going to make traffic worse for everyone.

The city is investing hundreds of millions in these large projects even as our Muni system reduces service and raises fares and still doesn't have an adequate, reliable source of funding.

I'm just saying that I no longer believe that Muni's official deficit is a number to be taken seriously as a problem. MTA and the SFCTA---with as steady stream of Prop. K sales tax money---are deliberately choosing to pay for large, questionable, capital-intensive projects while Muni raises fares and cuts service.

It's all bullshit, and we should let City Hall know that we are onto the shell game.

At 3:11 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

With "707,459 boardings," that official definition includes the notion that a lot of those passengers are the same people going to and from destinations, not 707,459 different people.


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