Thursday, October 06, 2016

Scott Wiener: Subways and "pixie dust"

Scott Wiener

Like Joel Engardio, Scott Wiener apparently thinks he's a visionary when he talks about subways for San Francisco (San Francisco Should Always Have a Subway Under Construction):

Once the subway is complete to Chinatown, we must not let inertia set in, and we need to quickly extend the line to North Beach. The City must acquire the site of the old Pagoda Theater in North Beach, where the tunnel ends, and build a station there. Muni has made many excuses for not acquiring the Pagoda Theater site, the cost of which is pixie dust in the overall Central Subway budget, not to mention Muni’s overall budget...

Even for San Francisco, $123 million---its share to build the Central Subway---is a lot of pixie dust.

"Muni's overall budget" is now over $1 billion, but most of that pays for its growing number of employees. Not a lot of pixie dust left over to extend the line to North Beach, not to mention Fisherman's Wharf.

Wiener on state government and transportation:

The state is starting to think bigger in terms of transportation funding, and we need to make sure that this focus is permanent and not limited to road and highway investment...

Actually, California is cutting transportation funding:

Despite this month’s allocations, the CTC has been forced to adopt a five-year state transportation funding plan cutting $754 million and delaying another $755 million in previously planned highway, rail, transit, bicycle and pedestrian project spending. These cuts are due in large part to the steady loss of gas tax revenue over the past two years because of the drop in gasoline prices. These reductions and cuts mark the largest of their kind since the current state transportation funding structure was adopted 20 years ago.

The state is now desperately looking for money to build Governor Brown's dumb high-speed rail project, which of course Wiener supports.

Wiener shares Engardio's vision/hallucination about a subway under Geary Blvd:

Subway service to the west side of San Francisco is long overdue, will improve the quality of life of many residents, and will allow for increased housing production in a portion of the city that has not had enough transit access. Possibilities include a Geary Boulevard line, a 19th Avenue line, and a line through the Sunset...

If the Central Subway is going to end up costing a billion dollars a mile, a subway under Geary to the avenues will cost more than $5 billion, depending on how close it would get to the ocean.

Wiener about all those pesky planning and environmental studies:

California requires significant process around big projects and even small ones. San Francisco has taken California’s focus on process to the next level. Even small projects here can take years and years to approve. Public process is important, and projects frequently are better with broad public participation and feedback. Yet, process should not go on forever. It’s not acceptable that the environmental process for the Geary and Van Ness Bus Rapid Transit projects took more than ten years each. Transit projects should receive efficient, expedited review, allowing for public input in a reasonable timeframe...

This is mostly about Wiener's contempt for CEQA, the most important environmental law in California. It's also about his impatience with the planning that has to be done on big projects. Why can't planners just apply a little pixie dust?

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