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Archive for March, 2016

Fremont Public Works informs me that there are no plans to remove bike lanes at the Grimmer/Blacow intersection:

The project will extend the bike lanes to the intersection crosswalk lines and install new bike detection loops and bike detection legends at all approaches.

While certainly good news, this does not change the fact that a Safe-Routes-to-School grant was used mainly for an automobile LOS improvement project.

The primary safety issue at the intersection isn’t the right-turn slip lane, but the ludicrously high traffic speeds. Blacow and Grimmer were both designed to encourage dangerous speeding. Just ask Leon and Marilyn Goheen, whose property borders Grimmer Blvd. On eight separate occasions, cars have gone flying off “dead man’s curve” and landed in their back yard.

If you want to make Grimmer Blvd safer for students, bulb-outs aren’t going to cut it. And adding automobile capacity makes it worse.

 

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Safe-Routes-to-School (SRTS) grants are supposed to improve bike and pedestrian access to schools. The city of Fremont has discovered a new way to use this funding source: to widen intersections and remove bike lanes. Cyclists biking past Irvington high school now have to contend with this:

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You can see where the bike lane used to be. It was removed to make way for an additional left-turn lane. Cyclists now have to “share” the lane with 40+ mph traffic through a heavily used intersection. The Grimmer Blvd bike lane is a key part of the south Fremont Bike Plan, providing a connection to the new Warm Springs BART station. As well, pedestrians at the Grimmer/Blacow intersection will now have to cross 2 additional travel lanes.

Incredibly, this was all made possible by a California SRTS grant, which provided the bulk of the funding of the intersection “improvement” project. Fremont cleverly split the project up so that the SRTS grant paid for the expensive new signal and sidewalk changes, while the the new left turn lane was paid with non-SRTS funds.

Council gave the project a CEQA negative declaration (i.e. exempt from environmental review) because it would have “minor” impacts. The Staff Report to Council makes no mention of the bike lane removal. This raises the troubling question as to whether Fremont City Council or Caltrans was aware of the bike lane removal in approving the project.

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The FRA has just published its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for a two-person crew requirement. The original motivation for the rule was to ensure the safety of crude-oil trains; however, the FRA intends to apply the rule to all train types, including passenger trains.

The FRA apparently is unaware that train conductors have become an anachronism. Automation has eliminated the need for the second crewmember. These days, the conductor does nothing more than punch tickets. That task is much better handled by faregates, smartcards, or POP (proof-of-purchase) ticketing. Single-crew operation has an excellent safety record on non-FRA transit systems (such as BART, light-rail, etc). Since labor expenses make up a large portion of a transit system budget, the rule will have major impact on the budget for agencies like SMART and Caltrain (assuming they ever get their act together and eliminate the conductor position). Although the FRA suggests waivers might be possible, the rule will almost certainly reduce frequency of service.

The FRA concedes that there is no data to justify the 2-person rule (even for dangerous freight cargo). Moreover, the report admits that international operations with 1-person crews have “acceptable” safety records. The only beneficiaries of the rule is the United Transportation Union, which would see increased employment as a result of the rule.

 

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We used to say that rail transport in the USA was like something out of the 3rd world. But now, even the so-called 3rd world is surpassing us.

The Moroccan project started at the same time as the one in California, which gives an idea of how slowly things are progressing in California.

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“Excuse me! I have ze new cheat box! No one’s going to find out about this one! I’m just going to fix it now. No, no, no, Mr. Müller said it was okay, as long as no one finds out about it, so, could you just keep it quiet and it will be okay. Did you not get the memo?”

 

 

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