Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Special interest groups and City Hall use the pandemic to push anti-car agenda

Anti-car special interest groups---Walk SF, the California Bicycle Coalition, the SF Bicycle Coalition, and Streetsblog---are using the pandemic to further their pro-bike, anti-car agenda on city streets.

Dave Snyder---who was head of the SF Bicycle Coalition for eleven years---is now head of the California Bicycle Coalition.

From his recent fund-raising message:

“Never let a good crisis go to waste,” said Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s Chief of Staff, in 2008, as that recession deepened. The COVID-19 crisis is bringing to light many weaknesses in our systems—including in our transportation system. And people are more open to transformative change than they have been in decades...

Despite the difficulties and tragedies of this pandemic, we don’t want to return to “normal” after this crisis is over. “Normal” killed nearly 4,000 Californians every year in traffic crashes. “Normal” obscured beautiful views with pollution, and afflicted thousands of Californians with asthma and other pollution-related diseases...

The City of San Francisco is using the pandemic to implement anti-car projects it couldn't normally do, and it's doing that with a dubious legal haste and without public input because, you understand, this is an emergency! (plug in Rahm Emmanuel quote here):

SFMTA provides some bullshit as justification:

Beginning the week of April 20, some streets will be closed to through vehicle traffic to prioritize walking or biking and to provide more space for social distancing during essential travel. Sometimes it is difficult to maintain social distance, especially outside of grocery stores and other essential services. 

Because of this, many pedestrians are choosing to walk in the street, exposing themselves to vehicle traffic. The SFMTA is implementing the Slow Streets program to allow roadways to be used more as a shared space for foot, bicycle and wheelchair traffic, taking advantage of low vehicle numbers on some roads...

I'm out on city streets every day to shop for groceries and/or take a walk, and I rarely see people walking in streets to practice social distancing. 

I've never seen people lined up in the street outside grocery stores. Whole Foods, for example, at Haight and Stanyan often has a line of customers that goes from the parking lot onto the sidewalk without endangering anyone. At the Lucky market at Masonic and Fulton where I often shop, customers have never lined up outside the store.

From Grist on New York where some streets are closed:

I confess that walking down the middle of the street during my daily stroll, and seeing others do the same, gives me a quiet thrill. What if New York City streets were like this all the time — spaces for people first and cars second?

Because, you know, people don't drive those cars, and those who do won't be fully human until they start riding bikes and joining the anti-car movement.

SF Chronicle columnist Heather Knight supports the anti-car opportunists:

But like with any crisis, some good has emerged. And before we rush to get back to normal — which frankly won’t ever quite happen — we should consider the positive parts of shelter-in-place that are worth fighting to keep.

Closing city streets is at the top of her list! Knight routinely uses anti-car lobbying sources for stories.

She quotes Jeffrey Tumlin approvingly:

Jeffrey Tumlin, executive director of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, said the city’s “slow streets” program — which closes some neighborhood streets to through traffic — has received 95% support. “There’s going to be an entire generation of kids who learned to ride a bike and be an expert skateboarder as a result of this crisis,” Tumlin said. “The complaints are about, ‘Why haven’t you done this in my neighborhood yet?’” Tumlin said he’s shutting streets as quickly as his sign shop can print closure signs.

"95% support" from who exactly? No need to practice ordinary journalism by citing a source because this is an emergency!

And we must use the pandemic to get the city's children on bikes, which has long been city policy: Whereas $564,460 to get kids on bikes.

Never mind that experts, including the Centers for Disease Control, tell us riding a bike is the most dangerous thing children can do, as reported in the Chronicle itself: "Bicycling was No.1 for 8- to 11-year-olds, and it was the only [injury]activity to be in the top five for kids of all ages." The Chronicle buried that sentence under this deceptive hed: "Basketball, football top youth injury list."

See also the American Association of Neurological Surgeons telling us that cycling accidents cause the most traumatic brain injuries in children and adults.

As I've pointed out, the Chronicle also never did a single story on that UC study on cycling injuries in San Francisco.

See also BikeThink: The ideology of bicycles.

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Public comment on potential conflict of interest

Jeffrey Tumlin

Mary Miles
Attorney at Law for Coalition for Adequate Review
San Francisco, CA 94102

Board of Directors
San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (“MTA”)
One South Van Ness Ave., 7th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94103

DATE: May 19, 2020

PUBLIC COMMENT, MTA BOARD MEETING MAY 19, 2020, AGENDA ITEM 10.4 (Authorizing Director to execute unilateral Modification No. 10. To Contract No. 1289, “Van Ness Corridor Transit Improvement Project,” increasing that Contract by another $2,187,655.23) 

This is Public Comment on Agenda Item 10.4. Please distribute this Comment to every member of the MTA Board and place a copy in all applicable files. The MTA Board should reject the Proposed Authorization for reasons including the following. 

1. Mr. Tumlin, Director of the MTA, may not negotiate or execute any contracts on the Van Ness BRT Project because of his role as a paid consultant for the Nelson-Nygaard consulting corporation. 

Nelson-Nygaard and Mr. Tumlin were paid under contracts and sub-contracts by the City and County of San Francisco to do several transportation and parking studies for the “Better Neighborhoods” and Market-Octavia Project that recommended the Van Ness BRT project. (See, e.g., Better Neighborhoods 2002 Market/Octavia Study Area Existing Conditions Report-August 2001.)

Nelson-Nygaard also participated in preparing the transit analyses in the Market & Octavia Plan EIR Transportation Study, May 31, 2005, that included the Van Ness area. (See, e.g, Market & Octavia Plan EIR Transportation Study, pages 15- 50.) That Study recommended the Van Ness BRT project. (Id., Appendix, Market & Octavia Neighborhood Plan Transportation Project List, page 3.) 

While Mr. Tumlin may not have negotiated the City’s troubled contract with the Walsh Corporation on the Van Ness BRT Project, he should abstain from any actions on the Van Ness BRT Project because of his paid role in Nelson-Nygaard’s studies. 

To avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, this Board should not authorize Mr. Tumlin to execute any financial transactions or any other actions on the Van Ness BRT Project. Unfortunately, during Mr. Tumlin’s brief tenure, this Board has already authorized “Contract Modification No. 9, awarding Walsh another $633,003.16 on February 18, 2020, which should be voided.

2. Agenda Item 10.4 proposes authorizing Mr. Tumlin to modify MTA’s Walsh contract on the Van Ness BRT Project for the tenth time, awarding Walsh another $2,187,655.23 on top of the hundreds of millions already awarded and through the other nine contract amendments. (MTA Staff Report, signed by Jeffrey Tumlin, May 11, 2020, page 1.) The total cost of the controversial Van Ness BRT Project, including its Environmental Review, MTA and other City and County agency staff time, bond indebtedness, and the initial Walsh contract of $800,000 for “pre-construction services” (MTA Staff Report, page 3), will likely be a half billion dollars or more. 

Walsh claimed it would save the City time and money by tearing up the entire length of the Project area at the same time rather than working on segments. Instead, the Project is several years behind schedule, and the entire Van Ness Avenue/US 101 corridor is an unmitigated disaster, with the ultimate dubious outcome of creating Citywide congestion by removing two travel lanes, all turning lanes, and most of the parking on Van Ness Avenue, so that four lanes of that major artery are repurposed for a red-painted BRT for the two Muni lines on its two-mile length. 

Over public objection, the Project also removed the median and street trees and plans to demolish the historic 100-year-old streetlamps on Van Ness Avenue. 

After paying Walsh $800,000 for “pre-construction services,” MTA awarded Walsh the construction contract under a “CM/GC” contract with no competitive bidding. The MTA should not approve this tenth amendment. This Board should therefore not authorize Mr. Tumlin to execute the proposed tenth amendment to the Walsh contract. 

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