Archive for the ‘planning’ Category

At its March 6 meeting, the VTA Board received the Supplemental EIR for the Vasona LRT extension. This $175 million project will add one or two new stations, and expand the Winchester station.

Now you are probably thinking that with Silicon Valley’s massive housing shortage, the VTA would be planning to use these stations for TOD, right?

Sadly, no. Here is the new Winchester Station-and-Park-and-Ride lot:



And here is the new Vasona Junction Station-and-Park-and-Ride lot:



And here is the Phase-2 (optional) Hacienda Station-and-Park-and-Ride:


By the year 2035, the extension is projected to generate 729 new daily transit trips. How awesome is that!

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Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS) is a database maintained by the California Highway Patrol. It contains extensive collision data from all over California, and is a powerful tool for transportation planners and bike/ped advocates.

The CHP is not very skilled at web design. Their web site is so primitive that I can almost picture a 1980′s-era IBM mainframe still being used in some back office to manage the database. Fortunately, the UC Berkeley SafeTREC researchers have geo-coded the data, and made it available through a nicely designed web page. The tool not only gives details on each collision, but will even bring up the Google Streetview image of the location!

For example, here is a map generated for the bike and ped collisions in Berkeley during the year 2011. There were 108 total:



If you are a transport planner, or bike/ped advocate, I think you will find this web tool to be invaluable.



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Socialist Parking Meter Hours

The nerve of those Berkeley socialist hippies! Restricting automobile traffic in order to increase the value of private property:

Berkeley’s attitude towards automobiles has always been pretty plain if you’ve ever tried to drive there — bring ‘em if you want, but we ain’t making it easy. The city has closed off many of its side streets with barriers and huge potted plants, pushing up property values on those lucky streets at the stroke of a pen, while pushing traffic onto just a few clogged, noisy streets.

Oh, but it gets worse:

But Berkeley isn’t against making a buck off parked cars, and over the past year or so it has been looking for ways to charge more in busy areas.

Why? Because Berkeley hopes to change the behavior of drivers, who park longer in downtown spaces after 6 p.m., when they don’t have to pay. Calling those two extra hours “a high-demand time for many businesses,” Berkeley says it will be helping them by forcing shoppers to shop quickly, hustle back to their cars and make room for more shoppers to park and spend.

Something I will never understand is why business types think the law of supply-and-demand doesn’t apply to parking.

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The Diridon Station Area Plan leaves a lot to be desired. Billions will be spent on bringing BART and HSR into the station — and yet, the San Jose City Council will do little to take advantage of that infrastructure. For the most part, the station area will be a sea of parking.

And you don’t have to take my word for it. Even Rod Diridon says the plan sucks:

Missing from the plan itself is Diridon’s larger vision for Silicon Valley. Diridon, currently the executive director of the congressionally created Mineta Transportation Institute, advocates for a Silicon Valley dominated by high-rise, mixed-use towers built on car-free platforms above train stations.

It’s the only way to escape a future clogged with miserable traffic, he says.

The current plan for Diridon Station, while exciting compared to the area’s current uses, doesn’t propel San Jose — and Silicon Valley — forward as far as it should. The development envisioned for the area can be taller and denser, forming a model for future transit-oriented development. “The current plan is the next generation of the modest evolution of San Jose instead of the paradigm shift that would make San Jose an internationally recognized city,”

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Behold! The New WTC Station

Behold…the new platform at the WTC station. This project, a decade in the making, is truly world class leadership in a transit station design. Let’s go over the highlights:

  • Expensive and functionally useless mezzanine level……Check!
  • Long walkway through the station…..Check!
  • Kitschy public art displays…..Check!
  • Support columns plonked directly in front of stairs and escalators….Check and Check!
  • Low hang ceiling above platform…..Check!
  • Dangerously narrow platform spaces…..Check!

Bravo Port Authority. Your clever design will surely be replicated all over the country.







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Good thing eminent domain is being used to protect train stations from TOD:

Progress on acquiring land in the Crossroads Business Park for the 1,500-space parking lot at the planned station is moving along more slowly. Officials had originally expected the station to be open by now, but numerous issues have popped up, with the most recent problems caused by stalled negotiations for land for the commuter parking lot.

The county had been negotiating with businessmen George Lester and Fitz Johnson, who own the property needed for VRE parking. The businessmen recently gained county approval to build 610 apartment units and commercial space next to the station site.

But the negotiations for the roughly 25 acres for the parking lot have proven fruitless. So the county recently asked the Virginia Department of Transportation to handle the property acquisition.

“They can facilitate it better,” said Spotsylvania County Administrator Doug Barnes.


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MTC Bridge Toll Slush Fund

In 2004, Bay Area voters passed RM2, which increased bridge tolls by $1 in order to fund congestion relief projects. By law, projects are to have a nexus with transbay travel; although in practice that law was more of a guideline. MTC, which administers the fund, has used it as a slush fund for politically juiced projects. This coming Wednesday, the MTC Programs and Allocations Committee will meet to do more allocations.

Many projects actually have nothing to do with bridge travel. One exception is the Dumbarton Caltrain extension, which would cross the Bay and was one of the projects promised to voters. Here is what MTC is proposing to do with that:




RM2 also has a considerable amount of highway spending in the mix. New HOV lanes on I680 will get additional RM2 funds. The MTC is also proposing to install a 3rd automobile lane on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. Bicyclists and the Bay Trail folks have been wanting to use that shoulder space for bike/ped access. There is also the GGT bus route which desperately needs a dedicated bus/HOV lane. It would be a tremendous loss if that space were surrendered to more automobile traffic.




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Economists For Protectionism

jeanetteProfessional economists generally look for ways of improving labor productivity. And most economists would take a dim view of protectionism (and other market barriers). So you would think that the US transit industry, with its dismal labor productivity, is fertile ground for research, right?

Apparently not. Consider this “Research Brief” written by Dr. Jeanette Wicks-Lim  at the UMass Political Economy Research Institute. Called How “Buying American” Can Raise the Job-Creation, the report argues in favor of greater Buy-America requirements for transit vehicles purchases:

How many jobs does the U.S. economy gain when manufacturers raise the domestic content of their products? This research brief presents estimates which show that, on average, when manufacturers fully source the components and subcomponents of their vehicles domestically they create at least 26 percent more jobs than manufacturers that only meet the 60 percent Buy America requirement.

What she fails to consider is that the 100% Buy-America vehicle will be as much as 2x more expensive. It will also be much less reliable, and take years to custom-design.

That extra expense is an opportunity cost. Billions of dollars is being wasted that could go towards expanding the transit network, or running more transit service. Those things provide jobs too. As well, the overall economy would see benefits from have more extensive and frequent transit service.

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SFO Begins Terminal 1 Renovation

No pun intended, but plans for the SFO Terminal 1 re-model have flown largely under the radar. The project will start work later this year, and the total cost is now estimated to be $2 billion.

Yes, that is billion with a “B”.

And that is in addition to billions already spent renovating terminals 2 and 3:

Like the recently remodeled Terminal 2, the new wing has a yoga room with twinkling stars on the ceiling for those seeking a little tranquillity before their flights. A collection of restaurants and retail shops with an open feel and a local flavor – including two pop-up stores that will rotate once or twice a year – will serve travelers.

Even the restrooms are fancy and spacious, with natural light – there are even dressing rooms. “SFO likes to provide four-star, five-star hotel-type restrooms,” said Judy Mosqueda, the Terminal 3 project manager.

Just something to keep in mind, next time you read about Muni’s budget problems.


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Here is another one of those stories about absurd parking subsidies. The city of Madison, WI has several parking garages that are functionally obsolete. The city wants to replace these facilities with new underground parking — and use the land above for new development.

In theory, that is not a bad idea. It frees up land for new infill development. The problem is that underground parking is ludicrously expensive. So the city is proposing a change in state law that would allow the use of tax-increment financing to fund it:

Under TIF, the city freezes the value of property in an area and uses new tax revenue there to support private development and public infrastructure. After loans and debt are repaid, all value is fully returned to the tax rolls.

In the early 1980s, the Legislature found TIF inappropriate for large public projects that rely on user fees such as sewage and water facilities. Madison can’t use TIF for municipal parking structures because its parking utility, created in the 1940s, has relied on user fees and revenue bonds to build structures.

Now, the city is seeking funding options to help pay for public parking at Judge Doyle Square and parking garages Downtown that must be replaced in coming years and decades. Being able to use TIF would make it more feasible to put parking underground and attract private development and private tax base on prime real estate above it, city officials said.

Putting parking underground can increase the cost of a garage by 50 to 100 percent, city Parking Operations manager Thomas Woznick said.

In other words, the city would subsidize the facilities instead of charging users the market rate. The development would receive other taxpayer giveaways as well:

The city is considering investing a record amount of public money into the project, which has evolved from a plan to replace the crumbling Government East parking ramp at Pinckney and Doty streets into a $160-million or more multi-phased effort including a luxury hotel, new office space and market rate housing.

First-term east-side Ald. David Ahrens has emerged as the most outspoken leader of the opposition, questioning the need for a new hotel that backers say will help bring more business to the city-owned Monona Terrace Convention Center.

Last month, Ahrens brought nationally known convention business critic Heywood Sanders, a professor of public administration at the University of Texas-San Antonio, to Madison for a public discussion on the project.

And first-term southeast side Ald. Denise DeMarb, who recently proposed an open meeting of the full City Council to discuss the project, says she has some serious concerns about a potential $50 million or more in tax incremental financing or other public subsidy.

“This is a huge project, with potentially a lot of taxpayer money going into it and that is something I take very seriously,” says DeMarb, the former finance director at Trek Bicycle Corp.


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