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Archive for February, 2021

How BART does belt-tightening

Pity poor Cubic. The defense contractor spends years lobbying for a $200 million faregate contract, only to have the pandemic upend the budget at BART. With billion dollar deficits, it would be crazy for BART to do a new faregate project…or not:

BART expects ridership won’t be close to rebounding to pre-pandemic levels for years and is grappling with “a crisis without precedent in our history,” the transit agency’s staff told its board Thursday. The pandemic is expected to cost the train system more than $1 billion in revenue losses through fiscal year 2022.

Board directors said Thursday that they want to see possible scenarios about which service could be brought back when depending on returning ridership…Director Liz Ames said she would like more investment in capital projects. She stressed moving forward on new, more secure fare gates which aren’t yet fully funded. General Manager Bob Powers said fare gates are a high priority. Director Debora Allen said “safe, clean, affordable transit” will get people back the fastest. She pushed for new fare gates and more police enforcement.

Service has been reduced almost by half, and they’re worried about whether Cubic gets their cut.

New faregates will not prevent anyone from going through the emergency exit

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For several decades, Australia has been under the thumb of mandatory helmet laws. Those laws depressed cycling levels and diverted resources away from actual safety measures. The one most responsible for those laws is Dr. Raphael Grzebieta, Emeritus Professor at the UNSW Transport and Road Safety Research unit. He has now been recognized as Australia’s Engineer of the Year for his work on a “road transport system in Australia that aspires to zero deaths on our roads”.

So bravo Raph! This is fantastic recognition for a lifetime’s work of…um…giving Australia one of the worst records for cycling. As for the real engineering professionals who achieved huge gains in road safety, this is what he thinks of those bozos:

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UC Riverside is raising tuition, cutting staff, and faces a reduction of $30 million in state support. Coincidentally, $30 million is how much the campus is spending on this gigantic new parking garage:

UC Riverside’s new four-level parking structure at the east end of campus is nearing completion. The main elements of the project — its concrete levels and frame — are finished though other features still remain to be done, said John Franklin, a project manager with the Office of Planning, Design and Construction. He estimated it will be completed by the end of April.

“It’s quite a substantial structure when you walk by it,” Franklin said.

Work on the 1,079-space parking structure on the east side of Parking Lot 13 on Big Springs Road began in January 2020. When complete, the structure and surrounding space will provide a total of 1,287 spaces — a net increase of 800.

Parking Lot 13

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Given the complete lack of effort on the part of traffic engineers, I’m really starting to think this may be the only solution to making roads safe for walking and biking:

Mary Moriarty Jones took over ownership of part of Leahi Avenue in October from its former owner, Lunalilo Trust. The trust, wanting to avoid future liability, signed over the road to Jones in a $10 quitclaim deed.

Jones told Civil Beat in November she was compelled to take over Leahi Avenue after trying for more than four years to get the city to assume responsibility for the road to make it safer for pedestrians — especially for parents of young children attending nearby Waikiki Elementary School.

“All I wanted to do was walk my children to school without fearing for their lives,” she said then.

Now Jones is facing major pushback from angry neighbors who don’t like the tactics she is using to clear parked cars and make the road safer for pedestrians. Jones says her plan is to eventually charge for parking on the street with all proceeds going into safety improvements, including a sidewalk on one side of the street. She says 12 to 14 parking places will be removed in the plan.

Jones lowered the speed limit from 25 to 15 mph

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In case there was any doubt that jaywalking needs to be decriminalized:

A recently filed federal lawsuit says the Cincinnati Police Department attacked and violated the rights of an autistic Black man in 2019. According to documents filed Tuesday, Feb. 2, in a Cincinnati court, 32-year-old Brandon Davis was subjected to repeated tasing, shoved into a chain-link fence, and forcefully kneed in his back by CPD officers Emily Heine and Weston Voss.

The suit alleges Davis was attacked by the officers sometime after 11 p.m. on Feb. 4, 2019, while he was walking home from a friend’s house in Cincinnati’s South Cumminsville neighborhood to the home he shares with his mother in the nearby Millvalle district. Davis did not have a criminal record at the time, according to Cincinatti.com, but he was charged with jay-walking, resisting arrest and being in the park after dark. He spent a night in jail and was eventually acquitted of all charges.

However, Davis said he was not in the park but rather near it and, due to his autism, following a safety route put in place for his protection for whenever he went anywhere. Friedman, Gilbert and Gerhardstein are representing Davis in the case, which is suing for unreasonable seizure, false arrest and malicious prosecution. They said Davis was targeted merely for “walking while Black.”

“What they did to me was terrible. I did nothing wrong. They hurt me,” Davis said in a statement. Despite his pleas, the lawsuit says, “Heine and Voss pushed Davis onto his stomach on the ground” and “Voss dig his knee into” Davis’ back while Heine continued to tase him.

The lawsuit also alleges a supervisor who was called onto the scene asked Davis how old he was and when he responded, “32,” the supervisor said, “You know how this game goes, then. Chill out.” Davis and his attorneys found the comment egregious, alleging the supervisor said that because “he believed that because Brandon Davis was an adult Black man, he must have experienced the pain, fear and humiliation of this type of event before and should therefore ‘chill out.’”

Racial bias by Cincinnati police has been a longstanding problem, as noted in this report. But rather than acknowledge the problem, Cincinnati police are doubling down and defending the actions of its officers.

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That will teach those jaywalkers a lesson:

A pedestrian was hospitalized after he was hit by a vehicle while trying to cross Market Street Wednesday evening. According to the Wilmington Police Department, the collision happened in the 2700 block of Market Street at around 8:20 p.m. Police say the pedestrian suffered non-life-threatening injuries to his legs and was taken to New Hanover Regional Medical Center for treatment.

The driver will not face any charges, while the pedestrian was cited for jaywalking.

This is a residential neighborhood with a nearby bus stop. According to Google maps, the nearest marked crosswalk is a quarter mile away — so figure 1/2 mile detour just to cross the street.

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COVID-19 has slammed the Portland WES commuter rail service, with ridership down 75%. But even before the pandemic, the service was struggling due to poor service and sky-high operating costs:

Since its inception, WES has seen operating costs per passenger dip slightly then rise dramatically. In fiscal year 2019, WES cost Trimet $19.75 per passenger. The operating cost per rider jumped to $27.39 in fiscal year 2020 before skyrocketing to $91.15 during the first six months of fiscal year 2021.

When comparing the cost of operating WES versus TriMet’s other services like light rail and bus, it’s not even close. In December 2020, the operation costs per rider for WES was $108, compared to $9.32 for MAX light rail and $9.82 for bus service.

TriMet said the commuter rail is always more expensive because it requires two people to operate – an engineer and a conductor – compared to other types of transit, like bus and light rail, which require only one operator.

Conductors are an anachronism, as demonstrated by the gazillions of DMU services doing one-man operation. Given their dire financial condition, it is incredible that WES has not eliminated the position.

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