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Archive for the ‘planning’ Category

Blood on their hands

It was 1 decade ago that Berkeley City Council canceled the AC Transit BRT project, a decision which generated nationwide ridicule. Councilmember Robinson is trying to revive the project, and asked council to reverse the decision. This may be just virtue signaling (Berkeley routinely passes meaningless proclamations), but we’ll see:

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The 2010 AC Transit BRT project was much more than bus lanes — it was a Complete Street makeover with left-turn pockets, bike lanes, and crosswalk fixes to make Telegraph safer for all road users.

From 2010 until 2018 (the last year data is available) the CHP SWITRS database records a whopping 216 injuries on Berkeley’s portion of Telegraph Ave. How many of those injuries could have been prevented had the BRT project been built? Well, we can look to Oakland where a road-diet along its portion of Telegraph reduced total injuries by 40%. Oakland DOT also reports that their Telegraph improvements accomplished a Vision-Zero milestone: no pedestrian collisions in crosswalks. By contrast, Berkeley’s section of Telegraph had 54 pedestrian injuries in the years 2010-2018.

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Injury collisions (all types)

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Bernie is a NIMBY

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Nobody is being displaced — the property is a former horse racetrack.

And it is not the only time Senator Sanders has intervened in local development politics…

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The Problem: transporting thousands of employees from/to a very large North Bayshore employer in Mountain View to the Caltrain station.

The solution, as proposed by some on the Mountain View City Council: a $1 billion monorail:

The idea has been floating around since 2009 under several names and iterations — Personal Rapid Transit, pod cars, SkyTran, autonomous shuttles, monorails and gondolas — all aimed at solving the practical challenge of efficiently moving commuters roughly 3 miles, from the city’s downtown transit center to Google, NASA Ames and other major employers.

Despite the decadelong wait and worsening traffic, the project suffered another setback last month. An $850,000 study to figure out the land requirements needed for the future Automated Guideway Transit (AGT) line, originally intended to begin last month, has been pushed back to November. Council members granted the request of city staff who sought a one to two year delay, citing burdensome workloads and a vacancy in the public works department. The study now aims be complete in April 2021. Estimated costs to build an elevated system over surface streets could cost as much as $195 million per mile, raising questions over how the city could cobble together enough transportation funds to pay as much as $1 billion.

There is of course a trivial solution: just stripe bus lanes. The $850k cost of the study is enough to pay for it. Google and the other employers already have buses, as does the VTA.

prt_mv

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After months of construction, the new 2-block $10 million Shattuck “reconfiguration” project is now operating in downtown Berkeley. Whereas Shattuck used to split into a northbound and southbound leg, the road now makes the old southbound section two-way. The northbound leg is turned into a giant turn pocket:

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If you find the above diagram confusing, the red arrow indicates the old travel path for northbound traffic (Shattuck West used to be one-way). So $10 million was spent just to streamline northbound car traffic at the Shattuck/University intersection.

The reconfigured Shattuck is now more of a traffic sewer (even the left-turns were eliminated). For drivers, this is really great because they can blast through downtown. For bicyclists though, the new road is stressful. To fit 4 lanes in this section, the traffic lanes were narrowed. While narrow lanes can sometimes serve to calm traffic, in this case the result is impatient motorists passing bicyclists with mere inches to spare.

The Shattuck reconfiguration project is one piece of a package of projects to increase automobile access to the downtown, including a new $40 million parking garage (LEED Certified of course), and additional “back-in” parking spaces along Shattuck East. While other cities are creating cycletracks and even eliminating car traffic in their downtowns, Berkeley is moving in the opposite direction.

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Mayor Arreguin at the ribbon cutting for the new Center St. parking garage

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Shattuck construction

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Four car lanes, wider sidewalks — but no bike lanes or cycletracks

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Biden wanted to ban disco

Hillary Clinton wanted to ban video games. Biden wanted to ban raves. Can’t imagine why more young people don’t come out to vote…

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Further delays on BART-San Jose project

I am Jack’s complete lack of surprise:

BART service to downtown San Jose — including the crucial stops at the Diridon train station and First Street — could slip to as late as 2030 under some new estimates being floated by the Valley Transportation Authority. At one point, political and business leaders had anticipated BART service beginning in 2026 in downtown San Jose.

The reasons for the new estimates for BART service, as of now? VTA cites multiple factors. For one thing, environmental clearance had been anticipated in 2017 but was pushed back to 2018. Then, to help minimize disruption to merchants along Santa Clara Street, beneath which BART trains would run, VTA spent additional time to craft a single-bore tunnel option for BART’s approval. 

The EIR had nothing to do with it. The single-bore option is what caused the delay. BART had originally planned on conventional cut-cover construction, but chucked those plans to start over from scratch on a more complex design. A 4-year delay usually results in higher costs, so don’t be surprised when there is a follow-up announcement on ‘unexpected’ cost increases.

deepbore

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The Mercury News has published an article on the plague of HOV cheaters. Speaking on behalf of the MTC, the article describes the problem as unsolvable — and that the region should just accept a 39% cheating rate.

The Merc describes various “Buck Rogers” gizmos the MTC has tried, everything from phone apps to “laser-guided” cameras, to attack the problem. Of course these technologies are expensive vapor-ware — which completely misses the point. There exists a very simple and very inexpensive solution to the problem that requires no new technology:

The core concept that would permit automated, electronic enforcement of occupancy relies on changing the definition of an eligible carpool. Instead of allowing any vehicle with three or more occupants, a revised policy would limit eligibility to pre-registered carpools. Such carpools would be required to have a transponder. Thus, the only enforcement required on the HOT lane itself would be ordinary electronic toll enforcement: communications equipment to interface with the vehicle-mounted transponder and video cameras to make an image of the license plate of any vehicle without a valid transponder/account combination. The only other enforcement required would be periodic verification that the carpool is still in operation, as originally registered. Thus, enforcement would be off-road, not on-road.

Shifting from casual to registered carpools would return to the original trip-reduction purpose on which the creation of HOV lanes was based: providing an incentive for fellow employees to share rides to work, leaving one or more vehicles at home and thereby reducing congestion on the roads during peak periods. Over the last several decades, a number of studies have found that large fractions of those traveling to work as carpools were in fact “fam-pools”—members of the same family who would be traveling together in any case (and whose carpooling therefore does not reduce peak-period vehicle use). For example, one analysis of data from the National Personal Travel Survey and the National Household Travel Survey found that fam-pools constituted 75.5% of all journey-to-work carpools in 1990 and 83% in 2001.

Metro-area ride-sharing agencies are the most likely entity to register eligible carpools and to work with employers to audit their continuing existence (and hence eligibility for free or reduced-rate access to HOT lanes). Such agencies already have experience working with employers on carpooling and vanpooling programs. The ongoing existence and operation of vanpools is monitored and audited, since the vehicles are often provided by a public agency and must be retrieved if the vanpool ceases to operate or drops below a threshold number of participants. Many of these agencies are supported, in whole or in part, by the state DOT or other public agency, so this new role could become part of their ongoing contractual obligations.

This is such an obvious solution, one has to wonder why it is never discussed within the MTC. It re-enforces the notion that the only purpose behind carpool lanes is to greenwash highway widenings.

And by the way, if you are wondering where this radical idea comes from, the above quote is from the Car-bitarians at Reason. You know things have really gone off the rails when Reason makes more sense than the ‘progressive’ planners at the MTC.

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MTC staffers testing out an ‘occupancy-detection’ camera.

 

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