Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Progressives' costly obsession with trains and tunnels

From the SF Examiner the other day:

Every attempt in Bay Area history to extend BART down Geary has fizzled. It’s not because Richmond District denizens don’t like transit. The neighborhood has a sizable transit ridership, with 114,000 people riding Muni buses to and from downtown every day — nearly twice Caltrain’s entire daily ridership of 65,095, and more than a quarter of BART’s daily ridership of 432,000.

As the story also tells us, most of those "to and from" downtown trips are on the #38 Geary line:

But it’s not just the broader Bay Area that will need new railways to grow. San Francisco officials say that a growing Richmond District needs BART too. Supervisor Sandra Fewer, who represents the Richmond District, said, “It needs it very, very, badly...Ridership is huge on the Geary line,” Fewer noted. “But we are going to have to go underground.”

Apparently Fewer doesn't understand that operating buses is much cheaper than operating trains

And tunneling makes the cost of going "underground" prohibitive. Take the Central Subway project, please. The official price tag is $1,600,000,000, but it will end up costing $1 billion a mile for the two-mile project. Tunneling under Geary Blvd. for five miles to the avenues would cost at least $5 billion!

More from the Examiner:

Now, however, transportation officials are about to take another crack at bringing BART to the West Side. BART General Manager Bob Powers told the San Francisco Examiner that an extension to Geary Boulevard will be examined in the agency’s upcoming study of a second transbay rail crossing. Studying “west side access” should be “tucked in with the second crossing,” Powers said.

What's all the excitement about trains and tunnels in the Examiner story really about? Nothing but a study about a second BART crossing to San Francisco! For $1.95 and a "study" you can now take BART from Civic Center to 24th Street in the Mission.

Of course the Examiner goes to Scott "Pixie Dust" Wiener for a quote:

“We have a history with BART of extending into low-density areas,” Wiener said. “The Richmond isn’t low density like Orinda is, for sure, but I think it would be important to zone for more density to make sure we’re taking full advantage of such a large investment.”

There you have it: combine trains/tunnels and smart growth for a ruinously expensive and undesirable Bay Area future.

Along with the fantasies about trains and tunnels, the Examiner story includes some facts:

While historically ridership has fluctuated, the combined 38-Geary and 38R-Geary Rapid lines saw a daily ridership of 47,800 in 2015; by 2018, that had grown to 51,000. Upcoming improvements from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s Geary Rapid project soon may improve travel time on that route, inviting even further ridership booms.

The 5-Fulton and 5R-Fulton Rapid [shuttle] 21,000 daily riders from the Richmond District downtown every day. The 1-California sports a daily ridership of 23,500, the 2-Clement carries roughly 5,200 daily riders, and the 31-Balboa roughly 8,800 riders. Express commuter lines, the 1AX, 1BX, 38AX and 38BX, carry a combined daily ridership of 5,600. That’s more than 114,000 daily transit riders on Richmond District Muni lines alone, every day.

So what's the problem? The Richmond District doesn't need costly trains or tunnels. The city can simply add more buses to the existing lines, which is better and cheaper than any goofy train or tunnel idea you can come up with.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

A road diet in Paradise


In 2008 wildfires in Butte County, California led to the evacuation of 9,000 people from the town of Paradise. Fortunately, firefighters saved the town from any damage, but severe delays during the evacuation led a grand jury to warn that Butte County needed to upgrade evacuation routes, which then consisted of three two-lane roads and a four-lane road. 

Instead, prompted by a state grant, officials put the four-lane road on a “road diet,” reducing it to two lanes of travel. Obstacles known as “traffic calming measures” were installed throughout the town, including bump-out’s, center medians, and extended sidewalks. 

These measures were taken in the name of safety but they were far from safe. When the Camp Fire obliterated the town in 2018, many people were unable to evacuate due to congestion. Eighty-six people died, some of them in their cars as they tried to flee. 

Despite experiences like this, more than 1,500 American jurisdictions, ranging from New York and Los Angeles to small towns like Waverly, Iowa, are using road diets and similar measures that reduce the capacity of streets to move traffic. 

It’s all in the name of “vision zero,” a planning fad that claims slowing traffic will reduce fatalities. In fact, it is increasing them. Advocates promote these policies using highly deceptive rhetoric...


Labels: , , , , ,