Friday, September 16, 2016

Wake up call

A SMART train makes its way down tracks in San Rafael, Calif. on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016. (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal)
Photo: Alan Dep, Marin Independent Journal

From a Marin Independent Journal editorial:

...Its recent nighttime testing of the tracks — on a weekend — drew some complaints from people who preferred to wake up on their own rather than hear SMART horns starting at 5 a.m. Those tests are finished, SMART says — and officials said they were a success. That may depend on one’s perspective — or whether one was ready to get up for the day. SMART soon will be running day and night.

Don't miss the comments to the editorial.

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More on the Van Ness Avenue street lamps

Anonymous writes:

The street lamps were built in 1915. They are over 100 years old, with the design unique to Van Ness Avenue. They changed the original lamps to the beautiful iron scroll and teardrop bulbs in 1936 for the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge. 

The Planning Department’s “Historic Preservation Commission,” the SFCTA, and the MTA have already voted to demolish all 269 of the streetlights lining Van Ness but pledged to keep 4 to preserve the Disneyland look at City Hall. An anti-car stooge consultant in Sacramento hired by SFMTA/SFCTA/Obama-FTA came up with a report that says they are of no historic value. 

MTA demands that the street lamps must be demolished for its half-billion-plus-dollar BRT Project on Van Ness. After the close of public comment on the EIR, MTA staff secretly created and selected its center-running “LPA” design for exclusive bus lanes for the two Muni lines on Van Ness. The Van Ness BRT will also remove nearly all of existing median trees and sidewalk trees on Van Ness. 

The VNBRT Project will permanently remove two traffic lanes, all but one left-turn pocket, and all the parking on most of Van Ness to install three to four lanes of red-painted asphalt in the center of Van Ness Avenue/Highway 101, creating permanent congestion and gridlock on every street in the area. The BRT “bus stations” will be more of the ugly plastic “wave” bus stops with glaring, overly lit advertising, the “vibrant” new three-story laser-light streetlamps. Van Ness will have more of the ubiquitous congestion-producing bulbouts and Rohnert Park-style “rain gardens” protruding into the street to make right turns difficult and dangerous.

In June, 2016, the MTA permanently removed almost half the existing bus stops on Van Ness and in July, 2016, renamed the Van Ness BRT the “Van Ness Improvement Project.” In August, MTA signed a contract with Walsh builders headquartered in Chicago with no RFP, with construction costs alone of more than $300 million, not counting hundreds of millions in other costs.

MTA will start clearcutting the trees on October 17. Their first step is to take out all the median trees and demolish the center median so the contractor can park construction equipment there and/or divert traffic there. 

The lampposts will be demolished as the construction moves along the two-mile stretch of Van Ness/Hwy. 101 from Lombard to Mission. The street trees will also come out.

The public “outreach” has been mostly conducted by Kate McCarthy formerly of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, an ardent BRT advocate who is now getting six figures as an MTA employee. 

She joins the many other bicycling and anti-car advocates on the City’s payroll who are now planning the San Francisco transportation system, such as Edward Reiskin (Director of MTA), Michael Schwartz, Paul Bignardi, Sean Cronin, Mari Hunter, Andy Thornley, Aaron Bialick, Rachel Gordon, and others. The MTA web site says that the Van Ness BRT will “rehabilitate our aging infrastructure for the next generation.”

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Mobility: Right or privilege?

Michael Lind, a co-founder of left-leaning New America, is urging the federal government to create universal mobility accounts that would give everyone an income tax credit, or, if they owe no taxes, a direct subsidy to cover the costs of driving. He argues that social mobility depends on personal mobility, and personal mobility depends on access to a car, so therefore everyone should have one.

This is an interesting departure from the usual progressive argument that cars are evil and we should help the poor by spending more on transit. Lind responds to this view saying that transit and transit-oriented developments “can help only at the margins.” He applauds programs that help low-income people acquire inexpensive, used automobiles, but–--again–--thinks they are not enough.

Lind is virtually arguing that automobile ownership is a human right that should be denied to no one because of poverty. While the Antiplanner agrees that auto ownership can do a lot more to help people out of poverty than more transit subsidies, claiming that cars are a human right goes a little to far...

Most important would be to remove the barriers to mobility that have been erected by other left-leaning groups, namely the smart-growth crowd and other urban planners. Too much city planning for the past several decades has been based on increasing traffic congestion to try to force people out of their cars. 

Yet congestion is mostly likely to harm low-income people, because their jobs are less likely to allow flex time, working at home, or other escapes from traffic available to knowledge workers. 

Low-income people also have less choice about home locations, especially in regions that have made housing expensive, meaning their commutes can be longer than those of higher-income workers.

Relieving traffic congestion in every major urban area in the country would cost a lot less than $75 billion a year. This doesn’t necessarily mean building new roads. Instead, start by removing the so-called traffic calming devices that actually take more lives by delaying emergency service vehicles than they save by reducing auto-pedestrian accidents. Then add dynamic traffic signal controls that have been proven to cost-effectively save people’s time, energy, and clean air. Converting HOV lanes to HOT lanes greatly reduces congestion and actually produces revenue. At relatively little cost, steps like these would remove many of the barriers to automobility for low-income families...

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