Julie Caine

Julie Caine appears in the following:

Car Share Parking Comes to the Streets of San Francisco

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Car Share in San Francisco Photo: City Car-Share

In a city where on-street parking is at a premium, San Francisco city officials and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) yesterday initiated a pilot project to reserve 11 parking spots around the city for for pick-up and drop-off of vehicles in a car sharing program.

“One of these cars gets 15 other cars off the street,” said Paul Rose, spokesman for the SFMTA. “Normally these parking spots are in garages. Making these spots more visible and more available can help reduce dependence on private automobiles, which can get more people on public transit, on their bikes, and walking.”

City CarShare, a Bay Area non-profit started in 2001 that offers cars to members for short-term, hourly or daily rentals, will pay SFTMA $150/month for each on-street space during the pilot phase. That cost is equivalent to the median cost of reserved City CarShare spots currently used in SFMTA parking garages.

The non-metered, on-street spaces are located throughout the city, in neighborhoods infamous for challenging on-street parking. Two spaces are in the heart of busy commercial districts in the Mission and Lower Pacific Heights, and several more are in the densely populated neighborhoods of Russian Hill and the Inner Sunset.  Other spots include central locations in mixed use neighborhoods of Glen Park, Dogpatch, the Bayview, and the Outer Sunset.

Locations in the pilot project were chosen in consultation with SF City Administrator’s Office, SF City Supervisors, neighborhood merchants’ associations, and community organizations, according to SFMTA.

The visibility of the new parking spots is important, and, says City CarShare CEO Rick Hutchinson, as are ties to the local economy.

“In addition to all of the important net environmental and social benefits that car sharing has proven to deliver, City CarShare members save hundreds of dollars on car related expenses each month that they can put right back into the local economy by patronizing our merchants,” he said in a statement.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and San Francisco Board of Supervisors President David Chiu introduced legislation necessary for making changes to the Transportation Code that allowed the new parking zones to be created.

If all goes well with the six-month pilot, SFMTA plans to expand the car sharing parking program citywide.


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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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California Upgrades Video Monitoring of Highway Conditions

Friday, September 16, 2011

The new video wall at the Traffic Monitoring Center in Oakland, CA.

Traffic jams on California’s freeway and highway systems are notorious for their complexity and scale. Solving problems and keeping traffic moving is a 24/7 job, one that requires monitoring a constant flow of real-time data.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, that data gets fed into a “Mission-Control” style center dominated by a wall of 35 newly upgraded LED video screens that stream live images from regional freeway hotspots and interchanges.

The video screens, which are never turned off, were upgraded earlier this summer both to improve image resolution and to extend the lifespan of the monitors. According to John Goodwin, spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), which partially funded the upgrade, the new LED monitors should operate for about six years; older, lamp-based monitors only lasted about nine months.

The information gathered through the system is used to help pinpoint traffic and construction issues on Bay Area roadways, and is jointly monitored by the MTC, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), and the California Highway Patrol (CHP).

“Half of all traffic congestion in the Bay Area is not the result of too many vehicles and too few lanes,” said Goodwin, “But rather is due to accidents, debris spills, or a broken down car pulled over to the side of the road.” The monitoring system allows Caltrans and CHP to respond more quickly to these problems than they could through regular patrols.

Traffic sensors built into the roadway alert staff to problem areas. They then can use cameras to zoom in precisely on problem areas, and get help to accident scenes and stranded motorists, or mitigate long and frustrating waits for commuters.

The bulk of funding for the $899,000 cost of the upgrade came from the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement program (CMAQ). The MTC paid for 11.47 percent of the upgrade costs with funds that come in part from a surcharge on motor vehicle registration fees.


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