Archive for May, 2021

Well, this is not good:

President Joe Biden has nominated Jennifer Homendy to be chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) for a term of three years. If approved by the U.S. Senate, Homendy will succeed Robert Sumwalt III. She has served as an NTSB member since August 2018. Homendy has more than 25 years of experience in transportation safety, including nearly two decades supporting the critical safety mission of the NTSB, according to a White House press release.

Homendy wants a nationwide all-ages bike helmet mandate, and was responsible for the helmet focus in the NTSB’s recent bike safety study.

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The VTA is still defending its decision to build the phase-2 San Jose BART extension with a deep bore tunnel. They are being roasted on social media for the design of the stations, which would be as much as 90′ underground. VTA is pushing back, saying this is no big deal:

[VTA spokeswoman] Alaniz contends the deep stations won’t be a hindrance. Riders will have the option of taking escalators, multiple high-speed elevators or stairs at each stop. VTA estimates that even at the peak of rush hour it will take riders “less than a minute” to get from the platform to street level by taking the elevators, Alaniz said, while escalators will take between a minute and 90 seconds depending on whether the rider walks or stands. “A minute, to me, just seems extremely nominal when I think about a typical commute,” Alaniz said.

It is not clear where Alaniz obtained the 90 second figure, as it is significantly lower than what has been publicly discussed. A study of the downtown SJ station using simulation software showed it could take as long as 3.55 minutes to exit the platform, and 12 minutes to exit the station.

The simulation was done in the context of an evacuation. While one might argue routine rush-hour traffic is not quite the same as an evacuation, note that the simulation assumes the faregates and emergency exits are opened. In fact, Alaniz does not indicate whether the 90-second figure includes wait-time at the faregates.

The reason for the lengthy travel time is due not so much to the depth of the station, but the lack of exits. In a conventional downtown cut/cover station, there are exits heading off in multiple directions. These deep-bore stations funnel passengers through a single narrow chokepoint, which can easily back up.

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During the 1976-1977 drought, an emergency pipeline was put on the RSR bridge to transport water from the East Bay to Marin county. This year’s drought is even worse, and Marin is having discussions with Caltrans about possibly bringing the pipeline back. There is now a bike/ped path where the pipeline used to be:

The Marin water district is beginning to lay the groundwork for future discussions about the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge with Caltrans and the Bay Area Toll Authority. The Transportation Authority of Marin, which manages traffic congestion projects and funding, has been in preliminary conversations with the district about this, said executive director Anne Richman.

As to where the pipeline would fit on the bridge — especially with the recent addition of the new bicycle and pedestrian path on the top deck — what traffic impacts could result from the construction and where the pipeline would be located in Marin, Richman said, “All those questions remain ahead of us.”

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This seems an important historical moment:

The Kansas City Star coined the term in 1905 to ridicule pedestrians who failed to stay to the right and yield to others on crowded sidewalks. It was a takeoff on “the jay driver,” an exasperated way to refer to the operators of horse-drawn carriages or early motor cars who traveled on the wrong side of the street. At the time, “jay” was a pejorative word to refer to a person believed to be dimwitted.

In time, of course, jaywalker became a more universal name for people who cross streets in places other than designated intersections. And, in Kansas City and other places, jaywalking became an ordinance violation—and a way for police to subjectively stop people and perhaps issue a ticket, even if the street crossing caused no one any harm.

On Thursday, the Kansas City Council voted to remove its prohibition against jaywalking. It also got rid of two offenses related to bicycling. The council acted quickly after Jane Brown, the mayor’s general legal counsel, reported on Wednesday that, of 123 jaywalking tickets issued in Kansas City over the last three years, 65% were handed out to Black pedestrians. Blacks make up only 30% of Kansas City’s overall population.

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You just can’t win. When activists campaign for closing streets to cars, merchants complain that it would cost them business. And then there’s Breckenridge, which has cancelled “Walkable Main” because it was too successful:

“Something that I am really concerned about is … if a restaurant that is in the closure is able to be not just at 100% capacity but then even above 100% capacity, we already have an employment issue in this town,” Owens said. “We know lots and lots of people are trying to hire and are understaffed, and I guess I would just really hate to see some people that are at 120% capacity getting full staff, and then somebody north of town or south of town not able to get full employees because there’s just additional pressure on the employee situation.”

Council member Dennis Kuhn added that residents on neighboring streets like Park Avenue and French Street did not enjoy the increase in traffic that they experienced while Walkable Main was in place last summer. Council member Dick Carleton said he was torn on the issue and said he had concerns about safety.

Obviously the best way to improve safety is to drive lots of multi-ton vehicles down the main drag.

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