Nickels and dimes... or transit for our times?

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STREET FIGHT Much has been written about the so-called "Google buses" and San Francisco's latest round of gentrification. It's a horrible mess and the city's trifling $1 charge per bus stop will do little to address the broader structural problem that these buses lay bare.

Ordinary people cannot ride them, nor do the people who clean and cook for the tech world. Like tour buses, they are clunky and inappropriate for many neighborhood streets. While they do substitute for some car trips, an ad hoc private transit system does not reflect the kind of thoughtful regional planning needed to truly reduce car use in the Bay Area.

But the controversy over the private commuter buses does show that there is great potential for a public regional express bus system. Consider that in 1980, 9 percent of commuters in San Francisco left the city every day to go to work. In 2010, outbound commuters approached 25 percent. Owing to regional political fragmentation, Muni cannot provide intercounty service and thus is not the travel mode of choice for many of these commuters. And although Caltrain and BART offer some regional service, the sprawling locations of suburban firms often make regional rail impractical or at the very least time-consuming owing to unavoidable multiple transfers to local buses.

So in noteworthy ways, the rise of private transit is an immediate reaction to poor regional transit connections. Yet rather than sidestepping failed regional planning by encouraging an inequitable, two-tiered, private system, we need to expand and regionalize the existing public bus systems. San Francisco's mayor and Board of Supervisors have seats at the table of regional planning and ought to use the controversy over private buses as an opportunity to kickstart the implementation of a regional public bus system accessible to all.

For example, something like AC Transit's Transbay routes should be extended through San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, perhaps operated by BART or Caltrain as part of the next iteration of Plan Bay Area. This network would use reallocated express lanes on 101 and I-280 and use transit priority lanes on arterials like 19th Avenue in San Francisco and El Camino Real in San Mateo. Regional property assessments on the corporations and developers, in part already possible within the existing BART district (one should be created for Caltrain), could be used to fund such a system. Congestion charging on 101 and I-280 should also be deployed and those funds used for electrifying Caltrain and developing the parallel and complementary regional bus system.

Of course there will be opposition to a regional public bus system as there already is to progressive regional planning. Transit-connected, walkable communities in the South Bay, for example, have been made all but illegal by decades of conservative middle and upper class, anti-density, anti-tax homeowners in suburban localities. As recently as last year, this Tea Party-style conservative politics dampened Plan Bay Area, resulting in a weak regional housing plan with an underfunded and lackluster transit vision. This conservative approach stifles our collective sense of what is possible and the fear-mongering has rendered regional planners virtually impotent. Yet it can and must be overcome.

Some progressives may find it convenient (and in some cases justifiable) to target tech workers right now, but they could also direct energy into shaping the next round of Plan Bay Area. Remember that Plan Bay Area is a living document, a work in progress. The current version of the plan, weak on transit funding, has been subdued by a loud, irrational mob of Tea Party cranks bent on sabotaging anything that hints of progressive ideas. Plan Bay Area is also stifled by a regional business class that wants to keep the status quo and that is comfortable with the neoliberal model of private transit.

Comments

run them out to Google, Apple etc. They could charge $10 a ride and I'm sure the workers would pay that.

How about some enterprise from Muni instead of whining for more handouts?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 21, 2014 @ 5:05 pm

I wouldn't call it a handout, they're asking to be paid for the use of the infrastructure they're built. It's like airports asking private planes to pay a landing fee.

That said, even if there was an inter-region bus system, that's not the only thing driving shuttle use. The shuttles are temperature controlled with plush seats, wifi, and space to work. If the choice if 90 minutes on a luxury shuttle or 60 minutes on a shitty muni bus, the choice is obvious. Companies are paying for their employee's productivity during commute time, and having convenient muni isn't going to change that.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 21, 2014 @ 5:37 pm

Why not?

The bus stops are already there and used maybe once every 15 minutes. The impact of a few extra buses is negligible and $1 sounds about right to me.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 21, 2014 @ 6:09 pm

Free WiFi on MUNI. Imagine that scene. Maybe the local porn kings can donate some of their riches to make that happen.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 21, 2014 @ 6:27 pm

From Ed Reiskin on down. If Wall Street has shown us anything it's that more money = better results. So if we raise the starting salaries for every new MUNI workers to $250,000 per year and bump Ed's pay up to $1,000,000 then everything will work better and MUNI will run on time.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 21, 2014 @ 6:41 pm

I like the idea of expanding AC Transit, but why stop there? AC Transit was originally the San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose Railway and it could be again (plus the rest of Santa Clara and San Mateo counties).

Posted by Francis Marion Smith, The Borax King on Jan. 22, 2014 @ 3:04 pm

What Plan Bay Area needs to do, and what municipal planning efforts can do, is push development towards transit-served locations outside of San Francisco. The big problem on the Peninsula is not so much lack of transit capacity (especially in the reverse commute direction), but the location of Facebook, Google, Apple et al away from Caltrain. This means that most outbound San Francisco residents would have a three seat ride from their homes to tech employers, which understandably they don't want to do.

Ideally, tech buses or public express buses to employment centers could be seen as temporary solutions until a more rational land use pattern can be developed.

Posted by Wanderer on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 3:30 pm
Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 3:41 pm

> Ordinary people cannot ride them, nor do the people who clean and cook for the tech world.

I was under the impression that contractors could ride the Google buses. See this Gawker article from a few years ago (http://gawker.com/5153425/fear-and-loathing-on-the-google-shuttle) which cites a $15 weekly fee to ride the bus, presumably $1.50 each way. Cheaper than Muni.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 7:49 pm

Jason:

Why haven't you written about that UC study that found that the city has been radically under-counting cycling accidents in the city? As a bike guy, I thought you would be interested.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23032807

Posted by Rob Anderson on Jan. 24, 2014 @ 1:08 pm

Humans are animals to be trained, coerced, and taxed so that they will behave correctly.

Posted by guest on Jan. 25, 2014 @ 12:29 pm

As a resident and car owner I have had ENUF of City Halls reckless spending and mismanagement. City officials want to push $3 BILLION in taxes, fees and bonds before voters in 2014

The SFMTA feels it can fleece taxpayers whenever they like, but doing so will require the SFMTA to raise taxes and float more bonds to pay for their consultant driven projects. We are encouraging city motorists to stop contributing to an anti-car Transit Agency that uses us like an ATM machine.

Remember this the next time the city of San Francisco requests more bonds to improve your driving experience. VOTE NO! If you drive a car, VOTE NO on any more funds for Muni or the San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency (SFMTA). Regardless of what they promise, the funds will be used against you to inflate parking prices, remove traffic lanes, slow traffic, and force you out of your car.

The next time you elect a Mayor, or a City Supervisor VOTE NO if they start parroting 'transit first" as an excuse to bleed your wallet. If your city Supervisor wants you to give up the safety of your family car to ride a bicycle on busy city streets then VOTE THEM OUT!

Posted by Guest on Jan. 26, 2014 @ 9:58 pm

Don't worry; I don't own a car but I plan to vote NO on ANYTHING that is related to punishing drivers, or funding insane policies we've seen in the past few years that reward a tiny minority.

It's unfair and undemocratic, and doesn't get at the real problem of making transit effective and even enjoyable. It fails to realize the most people simply don't want to ride or can't ride a bike to work or shopping.

Until there's fair representation of all parties both Eds gotta go, and the BOS with them who created the draconian SFMTA "Motorist Torment Authority".

Posted by Rlrcoaster on Feb. 27, 2014 @ 3:47 pm

As a resident and car owner I have had ENUF of City Halls reckless spending and mismanagement. City officials want to push $3 BILLION in taxes, fees and bonds before voters in 2014.

The SFMTA feels it can fleece taxpayers whenever they like, but doing so will require the SFMTA to raise taxes and float more bonds to pay for their consultant driven projects. We are encouraging city motorists to stop contributing to an anti-car Transit Agency that uses us like an ATM machine.

Remember this the next time the city of San Francisco requests more bonds to improve your driving experience. VOTE NO! If you drive a car, VOTE NO on any more funds for Muni or the San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency (SFMTA). Regardless of what they promise, the funds will be used against you to inflate parking prices, remove traffic lanes, slow traffic, and force you out of your car.

The next time you elect a Mayor, or a City Supervisor VOTE NO if they start parroting 'transit first" as an excuse to bleed your wallet. If your city Supervisor wants you to give up the safety of your family car to ride a bicycle on busy city streets then VOTE THEM OUT!

Posted by Sfparkripoff on Jan. 26, 2014 @ 10:10 pm

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