Transportation Nation

Bids to Build SF Central Subway are $100 Million Over City's Estimates

Thursday, April 25, 2013


The bids are in to build San Francisco’s Central Subway project – and the price tag will be over $100 million more than the city expected.

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Transportation Nation

SF Mayor Pledges to Fix Muni

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A crowded Muni bus (photo CC by Flickr user Art Siegel)

When he came into office last year, San Francisco mayor Ed Lee said fixing Muni wasn’t a priority for him.

But in his 2013 State of the City address, Mayor Lee devoted almost ten minutes of his speech to the often-reviled public transit system.

Muni’s cars and buses are often overcrowded, sometimes to the point where they can’t stop to take on new passengers. And about 40 percent of Muni vehicles run late, according to an independent analysis by the Bay Citizen published last June. It’s a system so hated by some riders, it even provokes poetry (read “Ode to (Not Muni) Transit" from Muni Diaries). Lee said he sympathized with a ridership plagued by overcrowded chronically late buses, and he promised that changes to Muni are coming soon.

“I know it’s frustrating to push your way onto an overcrowded train or watch an overloaded bus go by,” said Lee. “And I understand the anxiety that comes with being late to work, late to pick up your kids or late to school because you were on time, but your bus wasn’t. I am very pleased to report that positive changes are underway, and with the full support and leadership of the MTA Board of Directors, the nation’s seventh largest public transit agency is once again focused on operations and investing in infrastructure, in maintenance and in safety.”

He concluded by unveiling the “San Francisco Transportation 2030 Task Force,” a group designed to tackle the city’s transportation problems.

But San Franciscans won’t have to wait for the task force to report back to learn what some of these changes are going to be. In 2008, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) started a project called the Transit Effective Program. Known as the TEP, the project began a as a comprehensive effort to overhaul the Muni system. It’s focused on two major issues: making changes that minimize delays on the Rapid Service lines and restructuring regular bus routes to reduce crowding and tardiness.

So far, the TEP has proposed some major changes to Muni. Of Muni’s 79 lines, 32 will have changes to their routes and 40 will have changes to their stop frequency. Six lines will have entirely new routes and three will be eliminated. Designed around the city’s changing commute patterns and congested areas, the SFMTA hopes that these changes will streamline the system and increase Muni’s reliability.

The TEP also proposes some changes to Muni’s Rapid Network corridors. The Rapid Network is a group of 12 exceptionally busy lines that officials have identified as routes they’d like to make faster and more frequent. These are so-called “engineering changes,” or improvements that physically change the structure of certain intersections and transit stops. Think adding “Muni-only” traffic lanes, building new boarding islands, and replacing stop signs with traffic lights.

There are already a couple of TEP pilot projects going on right now. One is taking place along a three-block stretch of Church Street, a busy road in the city’s center. SFMTA has made one of the lanes “transit-only,” meaning only  buses and taxis can use it. It lets Muni bypass the usual traffic and should reduce delays, according to the SFMTA engineers.

Currently, the SFMTA’s Planning Department is busy making sure the rest of the TEP proposals meet California’s environmental standards. The final draft of the Environmental Impact Report is expected in about a year. After that, the SFMTA will implement as many proposals as they can get funding for.

Now riders will just have to wait and see whether these changes are really going to be effective.

Follow Isabell Angell on Twitter: @IsabeltheAngell


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Transportation Nation

SF Bay Area Transportation Round-Up

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Construction work on MUNI lines in San Francisco. (Photo by Julie Caine)

For some people in the San Francisco Bay Area, the daily commute will get  a little easier this week. On Monday morning, a new ferry service between the Oakland, Alameda, and South San Francisco opened. In San Francisco, regular service resumed on the MUNI’s N Judah and J Church light rail lines, after ten days of repair work at some of the city’s busiest transit junctions.

Statewide, however, things aren’t so bright. A new poll shows that voters are losing faith in plans for a high speed rail system in California. Despite this, Governor Jerry Brown is proposing legislation that would give High Speed Rail a pass from complying with some of the requirements of California’s strict environmental protection laws.

Julie Caine sat down with KALW host Hana Baba to talk about what’s happening in Bay Area transportation news.


Here's the transcript.

BABA: Let’s start with high speed rail. Can you remind us where things stand with this project?

CAINE: Sure. Well, the California High Speed Rail Authority--they’re the ones responsible for the planning, financing, and ultimate implementation of getting the bullet trains built in California--just hired former Caltrans director Jeff Morales as their new CEO. Morales has intimate ties to high speed rail--he’s an executive with Parsons Brinckerhoff, the company doing project management for the bullet train.

BABA: Isn’t that a conflict of interest?

CAINE: It might be. State senate transportation committee chairman Mark DeSaulnier said he was “troubled by the relationship.” And state senator Doug LaMalfa, a critic of the project as a whole, was quoted in the LA Times as saying “it's difficult to believe that Mr. Morales can be counted on to drive a hard bargain with the company that has been paying his salary.”

The Rail Authority is standing behind Morales, saying he’s the best choice for the job -- it’s been vacant since January. The plan for building the project, is due to go before the legislature later this month. Lawmakers will be asked to release bond money needed to start initial construction of the train later this year in the Central Valley.

BABA: What’s the political support like?

CAINE: Governor Brown says he still fully supports the project, to the point where he’s proposed legislation that would exempt the bullet train from certain requirements of California’s Environmental Quality Act.  It’s an attempt to block opponents of the bullet train, who could use the environmental law to stop construction altogether.

BABA: What kinds of requirements?

CAINE: Well, more details about Governor Brown’s proposal are expected next week, but basically it looks like it would mean people who want to use environmental law to stop the train would have to prove, in court, that the train would cause major environmental problems--like wiping out habitat or an endangered species. In the past, opponents have used the law to hold up construction plans for much more minor issues.

BABA: Sounds like things are heating up.

CAINE: They are. And, according to an LA Times/USC poll last week, voters are losing faith in the project. Statewide, more than half want another chance to vote on the bond measure that voters approved in 2008 to provide initial funding for the project. The polls shows that if it were up for a vote again, almost 60 percent would vote against it.

BABA: We’ll be interested to find out what happens with this. So, let’s move from high speed trains to light rail. Yesterday marked the end of a MUNI project dubbed the ‘Long Shut Down.” Can you tell us what that was about?

CAINE: Sure. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency—or SFMTA--which runs MUNI, shut down the entire N Judah line and ran limited service on the JChurch and 22 Fillmore for ten days. Service is back up and running now, but it seems like they’re still having a few hiccups. One of our reporters here noticed a long back-up of outbound N trains at Church and Duboce this morning, and yesterday, an N train broke down in the avenues, causing a system wide backup for much of them morning

MUNI was working simultaneously in two locations—at Carl Street, and at the busy Church and Duboce intersection. They were replacing worn tracks, upgrading signals and switches that tell trains where to go and which track they should be on, and working on making it safer for pedestrians in both places. At Church and Duboce, they also did work on the sewers—they were taking advantage of the fact that they’d already closed down and dug up that entire intersection.

Last week, I met up with Greg Dewar, who writes a blog called the N-Judah Chronicles, and he described it like this.

DEWAR: I liken it to someone getting their wisdom teeth pulled, getting braces, and a few other painful dental procedures all at once.

BABA: Ouch.

CAINE: It was pretty extensive work, and required massive re-routing of some of the city’s busiest transit lines, but it was the only way to do the repairs--the last time they did work on this scale at Church and Duboce was 20 years ago. That intersection is pretty complex, and can be hard to navigate—bicyclists, pedestrians, drivers, MUNI trains, and buses all come through, and it’s not always so clear who should cross when. SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose told me they hope the new signals will help make things easier for everybody.

ROSE: That’s one of the things we’re looking at in this intersection is how do bikes and pedestrians and transit riders all coexist on one street.  Some of the new traffic signals will help with pedestrians and transit right of way.

BABA: So, how much did this particular project cost?

CAINE: About $40 million dollars—that’s for repairs at Church and Duboce and at Carl Street.  Rose said that’s only a fraction of what it would cost to replace the entire system.

ROSE: At this point, to replace everything in our system would cost about $500 million dollars. We carry about 700,000 trips a day, so we have to do this work as we go.

BABA: So, what’s next on MUNI’s repair list?

CAINE: The MTA just received around $675,000 dollars in state bond money to do repair work in what’s called the Persia Triangle—intersections at Persia, Ocean, and Mission Street on MUNI’s 29 route. But the big project on MUNI’s list is the Central Subway, which just got about $48 million dollars in state bond money. The Central Subway is due to open in 2019.

BABA: And we’ve got a new way to get between the East Bay and the Peninsula, right?

CAINE: Right. A new ferry service between Oakland, Alameda and South San Francisco just opened yesterday. It’s the first new ferry route to be opened since 1992. The idea is to give workers an easier way to get to companies like Genentech.

BABA: Are there any other routes in the works?

CAINE: The Water Emergency Transportation Authority--the agency that operates many of the Bay Area’s ferries--says the next route would bring ferries to Berkeley and Richmond.

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Transportation Nation

In San Francisco, Funding Cuts Mean It's Not Always Easy (Or Safe) to Get to School

Friday, March 23, 2012

(Kyungjin Lee, San Fransisco Bay Area -- KALW) Fewer yellow school buses are crisscrossing San Francisco. State budget cuts have forced the school district to cut its bus services to 98 percent of high school students. Only five middle schools still get busing. Even elementary schools have been losing service. And deeper cuts are promised for next year.

As a result, Muni, San Francisco's bus and streetcar service, has become the primary mode of transportation for most students. But the routes aren’t always direct. Many students take two or three buses. Some have to leave their homes by 6:30am to get to school by 8. And others sometimes can’t make it to school at all, because they can’t afford the fare. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee has said he’s working to reduce transportation costs for students.

At 7:30 on a chilly Wednesday morning, Manuela Esteva is bustling around her house, getting her two kids ready for school. She says, “They’ve already told us they’re planning to cut the school bus. There’s not going to be the school bus by May of this year.”

Esteva’s children are aged 6 and 10. They attend Gordon Lau elementary school in Chinatown. And right now, there’s a yellow bus that takes them directly there from Esteva’s home in the Mission. Esteva says, “The advantage of taking the school bus is that I can drop off my daughters at 7:40. They’ll get there before classes start and it’s free.”

But when the yellow bus disappears, she’ll have to go with them to school. It’s a 40-minute trip, on two Muni buses – if she times it right. And it will cost her $7 every day – quite a lot for a single mom.

“Another disadvantage of taking the MTA bus is that I have to go with them and I have to return back to my job and I lose time in doing my work,” says Esteva.

The school district is aware of the problem. “We now have 38 buses that are transporting students this year,” says San Francisco Unified School District spokeswoman Gentle Blythe. “And next year we’re looking at having 25 buses.”

Blythe says almost 1,000 students lost school bus services this year. Next year’s cuts will dig even deeper: the district expects to lose more than 30 percent of its transportation funding.

The district already has some idea of what can happen when school buses disappear: For the past four years, most San Francisco high school students haven’t had them. Only special needs students get access to buses.

Devoriea King is a junior at John O’Connell High School in the Mission. He says he sometimes ends up spending two and a half hours a day on public transit. It doesn’t help that he has to commute from Treasure Island. “There’s not enough buses to come out there,” he says. If he misses the bus, he misses 30 minutes of school. “And so with that being said, I’m truant because of it. And it’s affecting my grades,” says King.

Downtown High School principal Mark Alvarado says it’s often hard for students to pay for Muni. He says he gets hit up for bus fare several times a day. In the middle of the week, Alvarado had already leant out $6 to students.

Alvarado says another concern is safety. While most of his students get to school and back home safely, he’s also dealt with serious incidents in the past. “The bus is often a violent place,” says Alvarado. “And the students who are concerned with taking the bus – it’s [been] hard on them for a number of years.”

Though violent crime on Muni has dropped recently, just last week, a teenager was shot while riding a Muni bus in the middle of the afternoon. “We’ve had fatalities, we’ve had serious injuries. There’s a lot of stuff that happens. So the danger is real,” says Alvarado.

The school district is seeking workarounds. It set up programs to encourage group walking where possible, as well as bike-to-school days and a ride share website for parents.

Some city officials are also trying to improve the situation. Along with several community organizations, San Francisco Supervisor David Campos has been calling for free Muni passes for all youth between the ages of 5 and 17.

He says the program would serve several purposes. “For the public transit system in San Francisco to be sustained long term, you need to actually make sure people ride Muni," he says. According to Campos, instilling the habit in young people will ensure that they continue to ride the bus. Free passes for youth would also be an investment in education. "We believe that kids should go to school and not being able to afford it should not get in the way of them going to school,” says Campos.

Campos estimates that the proposed two-year pilot will cost about $17.5 million. An alternative plan currently on the table calls for a $5-dollar monthly youth pass.

O’Connell High School student Devoriea King says he hopes the free youth pass is implemented. “It would be easier for me to wake up in the morning myself knowing I don’t have to burn money out of pocket just to go to school.”

In the meantime, parent Manuela Esteva says she and her neighbors are working together to figure out how to get their kids to school. “We need to organize among our mothers, and among neighbors, to get our kids to school. In our community we can support each other by having a day where one of us takes a group of children and we split it up that way.”

Muni’s board of directors will vote on the free youth pass April 3rd. Even if it passes, it might be months before the program is fully implemented. Until then, San Francisco youth and their families will have to keep digging in their pockets to get to school.

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Ray LaHood Talks Transpo on The Takeaway, Made in America's Unintended Consequences

Friday, February 17, 2012

Top stories on TN:
Adele Has It All: 6 Grammys…And a Great Bike (link)
Study: Teen Driving Deaths Up After 8 Years of Decline (link)
House Transpo Bill Stalled In a Frenzy of Fingerpointing (link)
Houston Loop Project Moves to Next Phase (link)
Feds Pitch First-Ever Distracted Driving Guidelines For Automakers (link)
Boehner: ‘Fundamental Change’ Means This Bill Stays in GOP Territory (link)

San Francisco bus (photo by jonathanpercy via flickr)

U.S. DOT head Ray LaHood talked about the deadlocked transportation bill on The Takeaway.

Enforcer buses: by early next year San Francisco's entire fleet of 819 buses will be equipped with forward-facing cameras that take pictures of cars traveling or parked in the bus and transit-only lanes. (Atlantic Cities)

Opinion: the transpo bill is a backlash against the Obama Administration's "cluelessness about the difference between national transportation policy and urban transport policy." (Politico)

The unintended consequences of "Made in America:" Boeing -- a U.S. airplane manufacturer -- is selling its planes to foreign airlines, which are then taking over routes previously pioneered by U.S. carriers. (Washington Post)

Nevada --where Google test-drives its robotic cars -- is becoming the first state to create a licensing system for self-driving cars. (NPR)

Any consumer savings from the payroll tax cut will probably be erased by higher gas prices. (Marketplace)

A routine repair project on a California highway went awry -- and has turned into a full-fledged scandal. (Los Angeles Times)

High-speed taxiways  -- designed to get jets off runways faster -- are coming to Newark airport. (Asbury Park Press)

Bike share is coming to Austin's SXSW. (Bike World News)

Want one of the wooden benches NYC is phasing out of the subway system? It can be yours for a mere $650. (New York Daily News)

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: US Exporting More Gasoline and Diesel Than It Imports, Senate Dems Say They'll Pass Surface Transpo Bill in January

Friday, December 30, 2011

Top stories on TN:
New York City traffic deaths hit historic low. (Link)
Feds shut down Chinatown bus company Double Happyness for safety violations. (Link)
Vermont's Route 107 finally reopened in Vermont, four months after being washed out by Tropical Storm Irene. (Link)
Year in Review, San Francisco: apps launch, rail remains, protests simmer. (Link)

San Francisco MUNI bus (photo by torbakhopper via Flickr)

For the first time since Harry Truman was president, the United States is exporting more gasoline and diesel (but not crude oil) than it imports. (NPR)

Senate Democrats expect to pass a long-delayed surface transportation bill soon after they return to Washington next month. (The Hill)

San Francisco's MUNI wants to eliminate some bus stops in order to speed up travel times. (Bay Citizen)

How much do you really know about the Keystone XL pipeline? Reality check time! (Marketplace)

Albuquerque quietly turned off its red light traffic cameras weeks ago. (KRQE)

Los Angeles' Red Line subway is inching towards later hours. (Los Angeles Times)

Biking and gender: where the women commute. (Atlantic Cities)

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Transportation Nation

Your TN Transportation and Infrastructure Holiday Gift Guide: California Edition

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

New York is far from the only place where transportation can be turned into gift-giving gold. Looking for a locally harvested MUNI transfer button? A belt made out of bicycle tires? A Decolonized Area Rapid Transit t-shirt? Look no further than the Bay Area.

TN contributor Julie Caine of KALW saw these bangles at Oaklandish, a shop in Oakland.

(photo by Julie Caine/KALW)

It's where you can also purchase t-shirts inspired by the BART map....

(photo by Julie Caine/KALW)

...and note cards of the Bay Bridge:

Go ahead and cross that bridge into San Francisco, where a Sunset District crafter sells pro-transit pins:

(photo by Ben Trefny/KALW)

These pins source their materials locally.

(photo by Ben Trefny/KALW)

The San Francisco Arts Commission crowdsourced a t-shirt that renames BART stops after local activists and revolutionary heroes. The artist behind it, Kenji Liu, calls it DART - or "Decolonized Area Rapid Transit."

(photo courtesy of Kenji Liu)

Want to make sure guests know where to park their bikes? FluffyCo has you covered.

Metal bike parking sign (image courtesy of FluffyCo)

And local store Urban Bazaar can make sure that your pants stay up while riding, via a belt made out of old bicycle tires:

Bike tire belt (image courtesy of Urban Bazaar)

It's been clinically proven that owning any one of these items can help combat rumors that you're not Berkeley enough.

Looking for TN's New York gift guide? Go here.

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: NJ Gov Wants to Borrow Billions To Fix Transpo Infrastructure, Transit Decifit Looms in San Francisco

Monday, November 21, 2011

Top stories on TN:

A NYC school bus strike is looming. (Link)

A transpo funding bill -- without high-speed rail -- gets the president's signature. (Link)

How one TN reporter learned to stop worrying and love a California freeway. (Link)

Lincoln Tunnel helix in 1955

Governor Christie wants the state legislature to okay borrowing billions to upgrade the state's transportation infrastructure. (The Record)

And: a year-long, $88-million overhaul of the Lincoln Tunnel's helix will close lanes and divert traffic onto local roads. (The Star-Ledger)

Will the head of San Francisco's transit agency and the city's new mayor collide over how to reduce MUNI's deficit? (Bay Citizen)

Women are at a greater risk of being injured in car accidents than men, according to a new report. (NY1)

DC has more license plate readers than anywhere else in the country -- and how it's using that information is spurring privacy concerns.  (Washington Post)

If it's illegal to use a cell phone while driving, it's illegal to use it while stopped at a red light. (New York Times)

Brooklyn's Prospect Park tries to slow bicyclists after two serious bike-pedestrian collisions. (New York Times)

NPR kicks off a series on CAFE standards with a look at electric cars -- and why people aren't buying them.

Philadelphia joins Chicago on the list of cities moving to open fare payment for transit systems. (Inquirer)

The world's cheapest car -- India's Tata Nano -- gets a makeover after disappointing sales. (BBC)

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Transportation Nation

More Money, More Problems: MUNI Spends More, But Customer Satisfaction Falls

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

If spending on public transportation and on-time rates for buses had steadily increased in your city over the past ten years, you’d think that was a good thing, right? Not so fast. According to data made readily available by a group Stanford University undergraduates and recent alumni. They've created California Common Sense, a nonprofit website that lets anyone explore and make basic visualizations of government data. Using their tools, Transportation Nation found some unexpected trends in San Fransisco transit rider satisfaction.

In San Francisco, government spending on transit increased from 2001-2010. On-time performance also improved for MUNI—the agency responsible for buses, streetcars, trolleys, and the city’s ubiquitous cable cars.

MUNI on-time performance rises with expenditure.

On-time performance is defined as less than four minutes late and one minute early. So, this chart, found here, shows positive trends.

But here’s the rub: During that same time period, MUNI riders’ level of satisfaction with the system generally decreased.

As MUNI expenditures increased, rider ratings of timetables and performance fell.

Why the frustration? MUNI spokesman Paul Rose says that although he hasn’t been able to review the data in question, on-time performance isn't the transit system's only issue. "We hear from riders every day with concerns about cleanliness on some of the vehicles, about safety concerns, and about whether or not a train or bus will be there when the schedule says it will," he says. "We’re working every day to improve the system.”

Some of those improvements, says Rose, include upgrading MUNI’s automatic train control system, and using an all-door boarding policy to increase efficiency.

The data vizualizations rely on programs created by Pat Hanrahan, the Stanford University professor who won two Academy Awards for developing the animation software behind Toy Story and the character of Gollum in Lord of the Rings. “The information is out there, but it’s hard to understand and then to figure out what it means,” says Dakin Sloss, a math major in his senior year at Stanford and executive director of California Common Sense.

Data on the site includes, police, fire and emergency spending and performance along with several other categories of public expenditure. San Francisco data was added in partnership with Reset San Francisco, an interactive website launched last year by Phil Ting, the Assessor-Recorder for the city and a candidate for mayor.

Ting posited that consumer expectations explain the discrepancy between increased performance and rider perception.  “We live in a society where we’re very focused on instant gratification,” he said. “We’re very demanding—people are used to getting many things instantly and having them done very well. I think that while things with MUNI are better, they’re not to the point where people are satisfied.”

Check out the database for yourself.

Graphics courtesy of California Common Sense

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Transportation Nation

With Nat Ford's Departure, What's Next for SFMTA?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Muni bus in San Francisco, California (Photo by BrokenSphere)

(San Francisco – KALW) With the official announcement today that San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency chief Nat Ford is departing after five and a half years on the job, the big question on people’s minds is what’s next for the city’s transit agency. Given that it handles -- or at least has a hand in -- almost every mode of transportation in the city, Muni needs not just a strong leader, but a versatile one.

This is not a calm time at MTA: The city recently launched SFPark, a dynamic pricing plan aimed at reducing congestion in the city; it’s implementing a number of changes to the way taxis are regulated, monitored, and priced; and it’s negotiating with the federal government over a billion-dollar full funding agreement for the Central Subway project. The agency is also in a particularly tough place with Muni’s operators, who overwhelmingly rejected the contract negotiated by union leaders and forced the union into binding arbitration.

Though the arbitrator’s ruling overwhelmingly favored management, both Ford and MTA board chair Tom Nolan said the city should prioritize improving its relationship with the rank and file. “We have to be very prudent and judicious as far as how that new contract is implemented,” said Ford. “We need to recognize that our operators are a great asset to this agency.” Nolan agreed, adding that the new chief would be expected to reach out and remain accessible to employees at all levels of the agency.

What else is the MTA looking for in its next chief? “The next person has to do everything Nat did, and work more closely than ever with our employees,’” said Nolan. He said the board would like to hire someone with a deep understanding of San Francisco’s complicated politics – and that a transportation background isn’t necessarily required.

Though he praised Ford’s work and refrained from any criticism, Nolan did express a wish that the next director would occupy the position for longer than Ford did. “I’ve been in my job for 17 years,” he said. “That’s unrealistic to expect. But when we go through all this, we want the person to stick around long enough to do something substantial.”

Bicycle and pedestrian advocates said they’d like to see the next chief prioritize complete streets and continue funding infrastructure to improve street conditions. “When we build great bikeways for people of all skill levels, people bike,” said Leah Shahum of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. Elizabeth Stampe, executive director of pedestrian advocacy group WalkSF, agreed. “This is a walking city, and how we spend our time and money should reflect that,” she said.

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Transportation Nation

UPDATED Quiz: What are the Top Seven Transit Systems in the U.S.? -- Some Surprises

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  UPDATED WITH ONE MORE LIST: When Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff yesterday mentioned a $50 billion funding gap just to maintain the top seven transit systems (representing 80 percent of all U.S. riders)  at their current levels of service, I got to wondering, what are the top seven transit systems in the U.S.?

(By the way, this was the same presser where Rogoff mentioned that the age of some transit infrastructure was "spooky")

By Ridership:

1. New York

2. Los Angeles

3. Chicago

4. Washington, DC

5. San Francisco

6. Boston

7. Philadelphia

Okay, and 8. Seattle

By Organization Size


2. CTA (Chicago)

3. Metro (Los Angeles)

4. WMATA (Washington, DC)

5. MBTA (Boston)

6. SEPTA (Philadelphia)

7 NJ Transit (Yes! New Jersey!)

and... 8. MUNI (San Francisco) (Lower on the list because BART and MUNI are separate systems.)


By Operating Expense

1. New York

2. NJ Transit


4. CTA

5. LA Metro



8. Muni

Source:  U.S. Federal Transit Administration



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Transportation Nation

SF Taxis: To Make System More Efficient, Rates Must Rise

Thursday, May 19, 2011

(photo by Marlith via Wikimedia Commons)

(San Francisco – Casey Miner, KALW News) Starting this summer, San Francisco’s taxis will be among the most expensive in the nation – but officials are hoping they’ll also be the most used. The MTA, which has overseen city taxis since 2009, voted Tuesday to raise rates by 10 cents per fifth of a mile -- or per minute. The board also wants to raise the drop fee, or the rate meters display when passengers first enter the cab, but they won’t take up that issue until later this summer.

It’s the first in a series of steps the city hopes will make more efficient use of the city’s 1500 licensed cabs. Higher rates mean a steadier cash flow for cabbies, who aren't always inclined to risk picking up passengers in far-flung neighborhoods. But the increase is only part of an ongoing campaign to integrate taxis more fully into city life.

After the vote, several drivers said that while the fare increase was a good start – they haven’t had a raise in nearly a decade – they still felt there was a long way to go. Particularly contentious has been the issue of credit card transactions (cabbies pay a 5% card processing fee), and electronic waybills (detailed records of all taxi trips). Those last two issues will be addressed at additional "taxi town halls" coming up this summer.

The city’s liaison to the cab drivers is director of taxi services Christiane Hayashi. I caught up with her to ask about what’s in store for SF’s cabs.

How would you describe the taxi situation in San Francisco right now?

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Cost of Driving Up, Budget Battle Threatens Transpo Reauthorization, and it's Yankees Vs. MTA in the "Great New York Subway Race"

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

At a Municipal Arts Society panel (hosted by TN's Andrea Bernstein), NYC DOT head Janette Sadik-Khan talked about public plazas -- and Gridlock Sam talked about the backlash to current street changes. (Streetsblog)

The budget battle is endangering the Obama administration's transportation reauthorization plans. (Greenwire via New York Times)

The NY Daily News is reporting that an Inspector General probe found widespread misuse of police parking placards by lawmakers and other state officials, says Governor Cuomo will call for major changes in the way the parking passes are distributed.

AAA says the cost of driving rose 3.4% over last year. (USA Today)

San Francisco's Muni has a plan to bring riders more frequent service and faster trips on its busiest lines. But it will take nine years and cost $167 million - including at least $150 million the agency doesn't have. (San Francisco Chronicle)

The New York Yankees and the NY MTA are in a dispute about the "Great New York Subway Race." But it sounds like it was a misunderstanding and fans will hopefully see the epic battle between the B, D and 4 trains on the scoreboard soon.  (Article from NY Daily News; see video of the Subway Race below.)

March Madness fans broke Houston's Metropolitan Transit Authority's light rail ridership record numbers with an estimated 148,000 basketball fans riding trains to and from the NCAA Final Four games during the four-day event. (Houston Chronicle)

Stanford University tops the League of American Bicyclist's list of bike-friendly university. (Kansas City Star)

Richard Branson has launched Virgin Oceanic, a deep-sea submarine project. (BoingBoing)

Actor Kevin Spacey rode a DC's bikeshare program bike. (DCist)

The 2011 NYC Cycling Map (pdf) is now available.

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: New York's MTA is installing...subway communicator thingies on some station platforms. California applies for high-speed rail funds. And the DOT says that airline tarmac delays were down last month.

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Transportation Nation

Was it Worth It? The Saga of San Francisco’s Central Subway

Friday, March 11, 2011

Winner of the Art Contest for the Central Subway Chinatown Station

(San Francisco -- Casey Miner, KALW News) When it's all done, San Francisco's Central Subway will add four stops to the light rail line that runs up the city's southeast side. By the time it opens it will have been in the works for 15 years; the price tag is $1.6 billion. At a time when MUNI is already facing more than a billion-dollar deficit over the next 20 years, is building the subway worth it? Listen to our report over at KALW News.

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Transportation Nation

Do lower salaries = faster buses? A San Francisco ballot measure is betting yes

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Muni bus in San Francisco, California. Photo by BrokenSphere.

(San Francisco–Casey Miner, KALW News) San Francisco’s MUNI is facing a good news/bad news situation. The good news is its buses and trains are boarded more than 590,000 times a day. The bad news is that represents a 4.4% drop in ridership–or 10 million fewer rides than the year before.

So why are fewer people riding the city’s buses, rail and trolleys?

First, imagine this: You’re standing at a MUNI stop in San Francisco, transfer in hand, ready to get on a bus. A bus drives right on by. Packed full. Okay, no big deal – you wait for another one, but then that one goes by too. Sound familiar? Backers of November ballot measure Proposition G say they feel your pain. Their solution is to change the way MUNI operators are paid. Right now, the city charter guarantees them a set salary: MUNI drivers must be the second-highest paid in the country. (Right now, they’re behind Boston.) Prop G would change that, so they’d have to do collective bargaining like other city unions. Is this really the way to make those buses stop where they’re supposed to? Listen to the story at KALW News.

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Transportation Nation

If a Ticket-Happy Traffic Cam Doesn't Know What Time It Is ...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

What better place than tech-savvy and traffic-choked San Francisco to work up a way to automatically ticket poorly-parked cars?  Cameras mounted on MUNI buses capture vehicles parked in transit lanes, loading zones and double parked cars, then generate citations.  Mayor Gavin Newsom pumped it up as a way to ease traffic and speed up transit.  But the plan seems to have failed in the most basic way. -- Collin Campbell

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Transportation Nation

Surprise! San Francisco gets its buses back

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

(San Francisco - Casey Miner, KALW) Most public transportation news isn't good news these days—shrinking budgets have led to service cuts and fare increases all over the country, and the San Francisco Bay Area is no exception. We reported last week on how AC Transit, the East Bay's bus service, has been particularly hard-hit. But across the bay in San Francisco it's a totally different story. Last month, Muni officials said that they'd managed to cobble together enough money from city and regional transportation bodies to restore about half of the service cuts they'd made in May. Yesterday, they announced that they have a plan to roll back nearly two-thirds of the cuts.

Muni is in a somewhat unique position because a significant chunk of its budget comes from San Francisco County, and officials have a great deal of discretion to move money around. But Muni has also fought for cash—the agency approached the Metropolitan Transportation Commission for a special allocation to help cover operating costs, a request which ultimately was granted.

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