Check out this project in Stockholm to encourage people to take the stairs instead of an escalator:
–Published in today’s Chronicle–
Blame for collisions misplaced
I am astounded by C.W. Nevius’ ignorance of the facts behind the causes of pedestrian collisions in San Francisco.
According to the Municipal Transportation Agency’s 2007 collision report, pedestrians caused one-third of all injury collisions, meaning that drivers were responsible for two out of every three pedestrian accidents.
Nevertheless, Nevius insists on blaming the victims, referring to pedestrians as “lackadaisical jaywalkers” who carelessly walk into traffic at their own expense.
San Francisco must address the epidemic of pedestrian collisions through calming car traffic so that everyone can be safe crossing the street.
DANIEL JACOBSON Stanford University
In today’s Chronicle, there’s a great Letter to the Editor about the freeway revolt from Phillip Richardson, a San Francisco highway planner in the 1960s from Tiburon.
Thank you for the interesting article about the city taking back control of regional highways in its usual self-centered way (“Freeway Revolt set S.F.’s course,” Insight, Oct. 11).
The result transportation-wise is that there are congested streets – Oak, Fell, 19th Avenue and Lincoln Avenue – that would now be free of all through traffic and livable again. The two routes that you mention, Park-Panhandle and Golden Gate, were the only serious programs ever put forth by the state. They both were underground or depressed and would not have been noticed by city residents.
However, the Division of Highways was not set up to sell such a program, and the NIMBYs, as you call them, were totally ignorant of what they were contesting.
The result is serious regional highway disconnect and a quite reduced level of livability for the city.
Division of Highways planner
There’s so much good stuff to dissect here. Richardson’s core argument rests upon the belief that San Francisco’s freeway revolt was led by a group of “self centered” NIMBY residents “totally ignorant of what they were contesting.” Richardson argues that some of San Francisco’s busiest streets–such as the 19th Ave, Lincoln, and the Panhandle–would be “free of all traffic and livable again” with “underground or depressed [freeways that] would not have been noticed by residents.” Sounds great, doesn’t it?
Richardson fails to recognize his own self-centeredness as a suburban Marin driver, believing that San Francisco should completely change its cityscape to fit his desires. Maybe he should actually go to Hayes Valley or the Embarcadero and ask residents if freeways made their neighborhoods more livable (I suspect the answer will be a “HELL NO!”). The notion that residents would not even notice freeways is nonsense–imagine a depressed freeway in place of the Panhandle, or the surrounding traffic impacts of offramps and onramps along 19th Avenue. The current situation on Fell/Oak, 19th Ave, and Lincoln is nothing near ideal, but it still beats bulldozing victorians and businesses for a traffic aquaduct (a really big traffic sewer? I tried).
Richardson’s backwards logic is a true relic of the postwar freeway boom in which central cities were expected to bend over backwards for the desires of their suburban residents. If Richardson had his way, San Francisco would be split with freeways and even more gridlocked due to induced demand and insufficient capacity. The most important lesson we can learn from is the arrogance implicit in Richardson’s argument–his assumption of the infallibility of the freeway plan and his dismissal of local objections as ignorant and irrational. San Francisco’s freeway plan was not a fundamentally sound plan doomed by a poor marketing strategy; it was a selfish attempt by power-hungry suburbanites to fashion San Francisco into their own image at the expense of the city’s residents (especially the working class and Black populations). The Freeway Revolt was one of the most pivitol moments in San Francisco’s history and the history of urban planning as a whole. Without it, San Francisco would be an awful city to live in.
ABAG recently released its new population growth estimates for the region, and not surprisingly, San Jose is projected to add the most people out of any city in the Bay Area over the next 25 years. However, while San Jose’s low density and extensive land area makes it a logical place for infill growth, the amount that the city is slated to gain compared with other Bay Area cities–412,000 new residents, compared with 159,000 new residents in San Francisco and 141,000 new residents in Oakland–raises a bunch of red flags when you consider the current state and future prospects of San Jose’s transportation infrastructure.
There isn’t a whole lot of good things that you can currently say about transportation in and around San Jose. VTA has put hundreds of millions into light rail over the past two or three decades (often at the expense of its bus system), yet its system is among the worst performing in the nation (its system-wide ridership is lower than many individual Muni lines). Caltrain provides a decent but underdeveloped commuter service, but it’s primarily oriented toward the Peninsula and only two full-time stations in San Jose. Capitol Corridor and ACE also provide intercity service, but their overall mode shares are very small. Even driving doesn’t work that well–the vast majority of trips in San Jose are taken by car, causing gridlock to permeate throughout its extensive network of freeways, expressways, and boulevards.
So how do you turn a sprawling city into a transit-oriented metropolis? San Jose seems to think that Bart will completely transform the city, in spite of the project’s limited scope. And, because of ballooning costs, the 6.2+ billion dollar extension will not even be completed until 2025 at the earliest. As I’ve discussed before, VTA is placing all of its eggs in one basket with Bart to San Jose, coming at the expense of light rail and bus rapid transit projects that would tie together more of the city at a fraction of the cost. Moreover, if/when Bart to San Jose doesn’t meet some of the extraordinary ridership projections that VTA has generated, and if/when Bart to San Jose doesn’t generate a surplus and actually causes VTA to lose tons of money as occurred to SamTrans in the SFO extension, VTA could be in big financial trouble for decades to come. Even if Bart to San Jose works perfectly and I am completely proved wrong, San Jose will likely have already added 250,000 of the 412,000 new residents by 2025 anyway, with most of these additions occurring out of reach of the Bart line.
There is some hope. High speed rail and Caltrain electrification will transform the area around Diridon and Taimen stations, and Downtown San Jose still has a lot of potential to become a vibrant dense urban environment. In spite of financial woes with Bart to San Jose, VTA appears to remain comitted about implementing 30 miles of BRT on three major corridors in the next eight years, which will dramatically improve transit for a reasonable cost of $575 million (will these funds be subject to a Bart funding swap as occurred with Dumbarton Rail? We’ll see.). In spite of these projects, San Jose is still essentially looking at adding another Oakland’s worth of population over the next 25 years. Without a new comprehensive transit strategy that plans for widespread improvements across the city, San Jose could turn into a real mess.
If Climate Change brought on an extended period of warm weather, people would have more opportunities to ride their bicycles.
–My economics textbook talking about what could affect the demand for bicycles.
Over the summer I spent a lot of time working with Oakland’s zoning code at my job at the Port of Oakland. Zoning laws are inherently dull, but they have an enormous influence on shaping cities–San Francisco’s zoning code limits cheap housing options by restricting in-law units, Richmond’s zoning code reinforces the city’s unsafe streets by outlawing mixed-use buildings, Alameda’s zoning code encourages sprawl and hinders the city’s neighborhood commercial centers by not permitting any housing smaller than a duplex, etc. Oakland’s zoning code isn’t all that progressive, either, but what I want to focus on in this post is how Oakland presents itself to visitors and tourists through its hotel zoning policy.
Oakland has an interesting layout of hotels, motels, and inns. The vast majority of Oakland’s hotels are within the Downtown, Jack London Square, and Airport areas, with a small corridor of cheaper hotels along MacArthur in North Oakland. What’s most striking is that there are no hotels in Rockridge, Grand Lake/Lakeshore, and Piedmont Ave, and only two motels in Temescal. Check out the map below:
Much of Oakland’s hotel placement is due to the city’s strict hotel zoning laws. Here’s what Oakland’s municipal code states regarding hotels:
17.102.370 Conditional use permit for hotels and motels.A. Use Permit Criteria for Hotel and Motel Uses. A conditional use permit for hotel and motel uses may be granted only upon determination that the proposal conforms to the general use permit criteria set forth in the conditional use permit procedure in Chapter 17.134, to any and all applicable use permit criteria set forth in the particular individual zone regulations, and to all of the following additional use permit criteria:1. That the proposal is located in downtown, along the waterfront, near the airport, or along the I-880 freeway, and/or in an area with a concentration of amenities for hotel patrons, including restaurant, retail, recreation, open space and exercise facilities, and is well-served by public transit;2. That the proposal considers the impact of the employees of the hotel or motel on the demand in the city for housing, public transit, and social services;3. That the proposal is consistent with the goal of attracting first-class, luxury hotels in downtown, along the waterfront, near the airport, or along the I-880 freeway which provide:a. A minimum of one hundred (100) sleeping rooms;b. A full service restaurant providing three meals per day; andc. On-site recreational amenities, which may include an exercise room, swimming pool, and/or tennis courts.
Recently, I ran across an old 1993 copy of Bart’s “Guide to Public Transportation From Bart” buried in a closet in my house. I would have been three years old at the time this map was published, so I can’t exactly bring much experience to the table as to what transit was like in 1993. But, from a 2009 perspective, there’s a lot of interesting stuff in these maps–AC Transit only ran four Transbay routes, Bart still had commuter buses, and transit agencies actually had money and ran a lot more bus routes. It’s also notable that there is hardly any mention of Caltrain, the Peninsula, and the South Bay.
Check out the links below to big scans of the maps:
16 years later, how far have we come, and how far do we still have to go?
Bart has spent a whole lot of money on its Dublin-Pleasanton, North Concord/Pittsburg-Bay Point, and SFO/Millbrae extensions, but these extensions have really not had much of an effect on promoting transit-oriented development or improving ridership–the Dublin-Pleasanton station has attracted a decent number of riders, but required a costly 12.5 mile extension for just two stations, North Concord/Martinez, San Bruno, and South San Francisco make up three of the five lowest ridership stations in the Bart system (under 3,000 daily riders), and Millbrae has attracted only 25% (4,150) of its projected 16,500 riders by 2010. Meanwhile, some of the fastest growing stations in the Bart system in the last decade–MacArthur, Lake Merritt, 16th & Mission, and Balboa Park–have received hardly any investment for much-needed capacity and station access improvements, and Bart’s stations in Downtown San Francisco have continued to be at capacity with no signs of relief. No infill stations have been built within the gaps in the urban core, and system compatibility has worsened (the guide explains how Bart riders get a 25 cent transfer credit to cover half of most bus agencies 50 cent fare; 16 years later, the transfer credit remains 25 cents while fares have skyrocketed to $2).
It’s interesting to note that after over a decade, Bart is considering getting back into the commuter bus business as a cheaper alternative to the Livermore and eBart extensions. It seems like Bart is slowly realizing that it can’t just burn money anymore like it has the past 15 years, and in this disastrous financial environment, it is going to have to reconsider some of its worst cost-benefit projects (it might be too late for the OAC, however). One thing that Bart does have going for itself is the branding, so getting back into the commuter bus business with nice, wifi-enabled buses could really be a great asset for Bay Area transit.
In the end, while transit agencies in 1993 had a lot more money for more bus routes and big extensions, we really didn’t get a whole lot out of the past 16 years. Nevertheless, we can count on these maps looking a whole lot different 16 years from now in 2025, with high speed rail, Caltrain electrification, East Bay BRT, Geary and Van Ness BRT, Smart, Bart to San Jose (if built by 2025?), and numerous other projects which will better tie in the Peninsula and the South Bay into the rest of the Bay Area. I think we have also seen a shift in transportation planning from access to performance, given the emphasis now on capturing a greater mode share and improving efficiency versus serving the greatest land area. While this shift has improved overall service, it hasn’t been great for low-density, transit-dependent, low-income communities (see Richmond’s transit network in 1993 vs. 2009).
Anyway, looking through these maps was an insightful window into the past, and I highly recommend that you check them out. Enjoy!