Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Tilly Chang's quest for Congestion Pricing


There's something Terminator-like in Tilly Chang's career-long pursuit of Congestion Pricing in San Francisco. Since the earlier plan to do it on city streets (see map below) was rejected, she now hopes to impose it on local freeways.

From a recent SF Examiner story:

...The notion of charging drivers to use an express lane met heat from supervisors, who earlier this month voted against funding $4 million to study express lanes in the next phase of the study. The supervisors voted 5-4 in favor of funding the study, but with the absence of two supervisors were unable to garner the necessary six-vote majority.

Tilly Chang, executive director of the transportation authority, told the San Francisco Examiner she may seek that funding a third time from the board in February. “We were presenting...what we believe are the more promising options,” Chang said...Chang told the Examiner if the project was enacted, some portions of the highways would see some existing lanes repurposed to be express lanes, as well as new lanes created on the shoulder of the freeway...Studies for the project began in late 2015, according to Chang.

But Captain Ahab also thought it was a "promising option" to pursue Moby Dick. I wouldn't bet against Chang eventually getting the money for the study and eventually filing it on the SFCTA's Mobility, Access and Pricing page.

I still think her best bet will come after the Treasure Island project puts 19,000 residents on the island, which will screw up traffic so badly downtown that the city will dust off her favorite studies.

Which city department will get the "revenue"?

Supervisor Jane Kim asked [Senior Transportation Planner Andrew] Heidel what agency or authority would administer the revenue from the express lanes. “We’re not sure yet,” Heidel answered. “That’s one item still under study.” Fees also have not yet been established. Heidel rebuffed any idea that express lanes were about making a profit for agencies. “We let demand manage the prices”...

I bet the "demand" would be significant, since I-280 carries tens of thousands of vehicles every day. 

Chang's agency is pretty small. Maybe she could get some of that money to compete with her bloated partner in traffic crime, the SFMTA, which now has 6,345 employees.

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Silicon Valley and the city of the future

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Joel Kotkin in New Geography:

...Silicon Valley remains stubbornly suburban in form, but the oligarchs now believe that “urbanization is a moral imperative,” notes author Greg Ferenstein, who has interviewed them extensively...

Even as the suburban garage remains the Valley’s preferred symbol, suggesting that anyone with a vision can build the next Facebook, in fact today’s giants prefer to buy up emerging innovators and to build dense urban complexes inhabited by workers who will become ever more corporate, consolidated, and controlled.

Even as the oligarchs’ apologists insist dense cities are “home to more innovation and income equality,” research shows quite the opposite, with San Francisco, for example, recently ranked by the Brookings Institution as America’s second most unequal city. Perhaps Facebook should look at what happens to its contract workers sleeping in their cars and working numerous jobs to afford to stay near the mother ship...

In this world, there is little room for home ownership. The oligarchs have endorsed Bay Area regulations that limit single family-home development and have helped create some of the world’s highest housing prices and rents. According to Zillow, rent costs now claim upward of 45 percent of income for young workers in San Francisco, compared to closer to 30 percent of income in metropolitan areas like Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston. The average new mortgage for a home in San Francisco takes, on average, close to 40 percent of income compared to 15 percent nationally.

Under this regime, the new generation of Bay Area residents seems destined to live as renters without enjoying equity in property. The 2040 regional plan for the Bay Area calls for 75 percent of new housing development to take place on barely 5 percent of the land mass, all but guaranteeing high prices for those who can (barely) afford to live crammed into small apartments.

One well-used rationale for densification lies with the assumption that building more units on these pricey pieces of land will help solve California’s severe housing affordability crisis. Yet in reality, construction costs for higher density housing are much higher—up to 7.5 times the cost per square foot of building detached housing. Nor will densification do much to address climate issues: Savings cited in a recent Berkeley study suggest that enforced densification would contribute less than 1 percent of the new emissions reductions the state has mandated by 2030.

Yet the CEOs of Lyft, Salesforce.com, Square, Twitter, and Yelp, as well senior executives at Google, all support densification, and have rallied behind a new bill by California state Sen. Scott Wiener to strip local communities of most of their zoning powers to allow significant densification virtually everywhere there is basic transit or rail bus service...

Mark Zuckerberg, even as he fought to expand his own sprawling suburban homestead, envisions his employees living in crowded dormitories close to work, including a planned 1,500-unit apartment development near Facebook’s Menlo Park campus. Zuckerberg, like most oligarchs, prefers workers unengaged with the mundanities of family life.

“Young people just have simpler lives,” he explained to the San Francisco Chronicle. “We may not own a car. We may not have a family. Simplicity in life is what allows you to focus on what’s important.”

The man preaching this diminished view of urban life, of course, has a car, a family and all the benefits that come with a vast fortune. He is not part of the “we” he’s purporting to speak for.

The city that he is envisioning, that “we” are supposed to enjoy, will be organized not by civic loyalty but pools of constantly tracked personal information collected and sold by his company...

The more cities genuflect to firms like Amazon, Facebook, and Google, the more our communities will be shaped not by our own preferences but by the controlling vision of oligarchs who know more than it’s pleasant to imagine about each of our habits, inclinations, and desires.

To maintain the freedom of the city requires that citizens, not the oligarchy, drive its development. Anything else undermines the very idea of democracy. When a city manager suggests that changes are dictated by data collected by the smart city operators, rather than popular sentiment, democracy itself has been unplugged.

This is the time to reclaim cities suited to human aspiration. We need to do this before control is ceded to a small tech elite that profits by shaping our future, stealing our privacy and nudging us toward a new era of mass serfdom.

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Mitt Romney in 2016: Trump 'A con man, a fake'




President Trump on Monday night threw his full support behind Mitt Romney’s bid to be the next U.S. senator from Utah, writing on Twitter that he would be a “worthy successor” to retiring Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah).

The endorsement is significant because Trump had previously encouraged Hatch to seek another term, and Romney had been among the most vocal Republican critics of Trump’s presidential aspirations, once calling him “a phony” and “a fraud.”


Rob's comment:
Trump is only endorsing Romney because he knows he will win and he might as well get on the winning bandwagon now.

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