The Sierra Club has spent considerable effort fighting against development in San Francisco. Most recently, they endorsed Measure I, which would impose a housing moratorium in the Mission District.

And guess what happens when development is curtailed:

After 124 years in San Francisco, the Sierra Club is moving its headquarters across the Bay to Oakland because of rising rents in The City. The nonprofit on Thursday announced its headquarters will move from its current site at 85 2nd St. in San Francisco to 2101 Webster St. in Oakland in May 2016, after learning the group faced an annual rent hike of more than $1.5 million, said John Rizzo, political chair of the club’s San Francisco Bay Chapter.

The National Troupe of Silly Bureaucrats (NTSB) wants to downgrade Washington Metro into a commuter-rail service. They are recommending that Metro be brought under FRA regulation:

Metro’s safety problems are so severe and persistent that federal officials should take a much stronger role in monitoring the subway system: reclassifying it as a commuter railroad so the transit agency can be subject to tougher regulations and penalties, the National Transportation Safety Board said Wednesday.

In an “urgent” recommendation to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, the safety board’s chairman, Christopher A. Hart, cited years of “repeated and ongoing deficiencies” in Metro and said the current oversight process, involving the Federal Transit Administration, is inadequate and bound to keep failing.

Hart urged Foxx to ask Congress for the authority to reclassify Metro as a commuter railroad, which would remove the subway from the FTA’s safety oversight and place it under the “robust inspection, oversight, regulatory, and enforcement authority” of the larger, more powerful Federal Railroad Administration.

As if Washington Metro didn’t have enough problems.

Once it becomes an FRA-regulated railroad, Metro would need waivers just to run lightweight equipment. Metro would have to deal with all the ridiculous operating rules, like mandatory brake-checks at the start of reach run. The costs would be staggering.

He [Hart] also mentioned the Aug. 6 derailment of a train — which was not carrying passengers — between the Federal Triangle and Smithsonian stations.

Right…because the FRA has done such a fantastic job of preventing derailments on MetroNorth and Amtrak.

The Federal Railroad Administration oversees “heavy” systems — freight and commuter lines, such as MARC and VRE, as well as Amtrak. But the closest system to an urban subway that the administration oversees is the Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) line, a 14-mile rapid transit link between New Jersey and New York. About half of PATH’s tracks are underground.

In its recommendation, the NTSB uses PATH as the model for FRA regulation of Metro. But as I pointed out last year, FRA regulation of PATH has been an unmitigated disaster. FRA rules increase PATH operating costs by a factor of 3 — and haven’t done anything to improve safety.

Blame the victim

A driver illegally crosses a double yellow line to pass, and fatally hits a bicyclist coming the other direction. Of course, the CHP says the driver was not at fault:

The accident unfolded after a vehicle moved toward the center of the road to pass one of the racers, CHP Sgt. Andy Hill said. As the driver moved to pass, she failed to see a second racer, riding near the middle of the road in the opposite direction, Hill said. The car was traveling about 35 mph and the bicyclist about 30 mph when they collided, according to the CHP.

“Unfortunately the (victim) was not riding on the far right side of the lane. He was riding in the middle of the road where the yellow line is,” Hill said. Hill said both parties contributed to the collision. Cyclists are required to ride as far to the right as possible, he said, while cars are required to have appropriate space before passing. Authorities have not identified the driver, a 35-year-old woman from Esparto. No charges or arrests have been made.

It is disappointing (but not all that surprising) that the CHP misinterprets both the 3-foot passing law and CVC 21202. CVC 21202 permits cyclists to move to the center of the lane for any number of reasons: to avoid hazards, or when the lane is substandard width. As in so many car-bike collisions, the police in this case found creative legal interpretations to absolve a driver of her dangerous and illegal behavior.

PTC Deadline Excuses


On May 8, 2011, a PATH train overran the platform Hoboken, striking the bumping post at the end of the track. Of the 70 passengers on-board, 30 passengers plus two crewmembers were hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries. An NTSB investigation concluded that PTC would have prevented the accident:

PATH has submitted its PTC implementation plan to the FRA, and the FRA has approved the plan. The proposed PATH PTC system would enforce an absolute stop for trains approaching the platforms at Hoboken station. The NTSB, therefore, concludes that the PTC system proposed for implementation by PATH would have automatically alerted the engineer to the train’s excessive speed; and if the brakes were not applied, while operating in automatic mode or manual mode, the PTC system would have automatically applied the brakes to stop the train and prevent the collision.

PATH suffered a similar kind of accident in 2009 at Journal Square.

It has been more than four years since the Hoboken crash, which is sufficient time to install the PTC system. The Port Authority, however, is dragging its feet:

PATH officials have joined officials from 21 passenger and commuter railroads and seven freight railroads asking the U.S. Senate to extend a Dec. 31 deadline to implement an automatic speed control system.

PATH officials warned that they could be forced to reduce or suspend service if the deadline isn’t changed and the Federal Railroad Administration fines railroads that haven’t complied.

“The delay in meeting the deadline in no way, shape or form jeopardizes the safety and or quality of service that PATH provides to 265,000 daily riders,” said Michael P. Marino, PATH director and general manager in a Sept. 17 letter to a U.S.senate committee.

Since the passage of a 2008 law that mandates PTC, PATH has “zero accidents” that would have been preventable if PTC were installed, Marino said.

Not only are PATH officials endangering riders, they are also lying to Congress.

The helmet fear-mongers go full-retard:

For the past decade, we’ve drilled into children that when they ride a bike, they need to wear a helmet. Now scientists say it may be too late: Tricycle riders should be wearing them, too.

Using data collected from 100 emergency rooms for the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, researchers found that boys are more likely than girls to turn up in the emergency room. Two-year-olds seem to have the most accidents, although there were tricycle injuries for children up to age 7. The most common broken bone was the elbow and the most common injury overall was a cut to the face.

In addition to helmets, the authors suggest kids wear elbow pads, and that parents supervise their children while they ride.

Even better, just make them wear bubble-wrap.


The California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) published photo-simulations for the proposed train alignment in Bakersfield. Trains would run on a humongous elevated viaduct through neighborhoods in the northern half of the city. Highway planners used to build nightmares like this in the bad old days of 1960’s urban renewal. This is the same thing, the only difference being that there are rails and wires on top instead of asphalt and cars:

Sumner at Baker Street, Bakersfield

Old Town Kern

Here is another image:

Garces Memorial Circle

Garces Memorial Circle

At least there will be some awesome infill transit-oriented development around the new Bakersfield station, right? Sorry, but no — the station would be surrounded by a ridiculous amount of surface parking:


There is no rationale for these aerial structures. Note that the original plan (in 2005) was to put the station on the periphery and keep tracks more at ground-level. That would have greatly reduced costs and neighborhood impacts. Since everyone will be be driving to the station anyway — as evidenced by the huge parking — a peripheral station location would not impact ridership.

Locating suburban HSR stations on the periphery is also typical European practice. Sadly, some so-called experts are too clueless to figure that out.

Plans for a comprehensive system of bike trails in the East Bay have long been stymied by the EBMUD (the East Bay municipal water district). That is because EBMUD has an absolute ban on bike riding on its trails. For the past 50 years, only hikers and equestrians have been permitted on the trails. There are huge gaps in the bike network as a result.

But now the water agency is reconsidering the ban. Last month, it held a public hearing — and as usual, the Sierra Club is vehemently opposed:

A total of approximately 45 people spoke. The Sierra Club came out very quickly against making any changes at all through Stormin’ Norman Laforce. If it weren’t for the fact that we needed to listen respectfully and smile we would have laughed him off the stage. He is thoroughly ridiculous. The lady that followed him from the Sierra Club, a former director of EBMUD, Ms.Burke, was equally ridiculous. They have no idea at all.

By and large even the people who would not have supported access to cycling suggested that absolute closure was unreasonable. They were simply concerned against all of the usual horror stories about mountain bikers, the need for enforcement, and the challenges that these created. I think that these were all fair criticisms.

Mary Selkirk, a former director who voted to exclude mountain bikers in 1996, spoke of regretting her decision as patently unfair. This was huge. She had real gravitas.

However the greatest proportion of people who spoke suggested the value of mountain biking especially in terms of generating good health and good trail use practices in our youth. The contact with nature and our tendency to be stewards, the need for unblocking closures that inhibit the entirety of the Bay Area Ridge Trail. People spoke in terms of hoping for flexibility and the potentials for evaluating as things unfolded.

The ossified leadership within East Bay Sierra Club chapters has grown increasingly bizarre in its policy positions. They have opposed bike lanes and transit-oriented development. They have even endorsed anti-BRT candidates for Berkeley City Council.

Their actions are completely at odds with policies adopted by the Sierra Club’s National Board of Directors. Indeed, the “official” Sierra Club policy specifically encourages bike access on trails where safety and environmental quality are not compromised. When will the National organization start requiring local chapters to comply with Sierra Club policy?


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