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Archive for the ‘transit’ Category

Warm Springs is what BART calls an “automobile-access” station. No expense was spared in building new roads and highways for convenient car access. It has a huge parking lot, tricked out with solar panels and other “green” features.

The pedestrian access on the other hand…

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The photo above is Warm Springs Blvd, at the east entrance to the station. Those signals are totally new, and provide car access to the station. But as you can see, they lack pedestrian signals, and there are no crosswalks. The signals only permit cars to cross, not pedestrians. A pedestrian crossing the street (say to the business park on the other side), has no easy way to do it. The nearest intersection with ped signals is at Grimmer Blvd  — a half-mile detour just to cross the street. And in any case, there is no sidewalk on the other side of Warm Springs Blvd, even though the road was completely re-built. So the detour would involve walking out in the roadway.

The other roads in the station neighborhood are no better. Fremont Blvd, along the west side of the station, lacks sidewalks on both sides of the street. The speed limit is 45 mph (with actual speeds much higher), so you can imagine what that is like for pedestrians:

fremontblvd

And here is Grimmer Blvd, along the north side of the station, which also lacks basic pedestrian accommodation:

grimmer

North of the station, Warm Springs Blvd changes name to Osgood Rd. But it has the same crappy pedestrian access. Pedestrians must get by on a weed-choked dirt path:

osgood

These terrible conditions are not due to any lack of time or money. The Warm Springs station went through 10+ years of design and construction. During that time, vast sums were spent “improving” roads and freeway interchanges around the station, but not a single thing done for pedestrian access. From almost every direction, it is impossible to safely walk to the station.

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The Bay Area is notorious for preventing infill development around transit stations. But with Branham LRT station in San Jose, things have hit a new low.

The San Jose General Plan designates the area around the Branham LRT station for mixed-use development. Nonetheless, the VTA-owned property is zoned “A” (agricultural!). To facilitate transit-oriented development, VTA submitted a request to change the zoning. Developing the Branham parking lot is a no-brainer, since it has just 13% utilization.

But neighbors and Councilmember Johnny Khamis are pushing back, forcing the VTA to at least temporarily withdraw the application:

When VTA’s application was filed recently, San Jose City Councilman Johnny Khamis said he would demand it address traffic around the northbound on-ramp to Highway 87 near the site before he would even consider a land use amendment.

“I let VTA know that they would have big opposition, including myself, to developing that property…without traffic mitigation measures at least started. “To change the zoning to housing before we address the traffic concerns, it seemed irresponsible to me,” he added.

Gee, if only there were an LRT station nearby to mitigate the traffic….

branham

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In 2012, Nippon Sharyo won a contract to build new bilevel railcars for California and the midwest. The railcars were supposed to have gone into use by now, but the project (predictably for the usual reasons) has suffered major setbacks. Last year, the carbody prototypes failed FRA crash standards, forcing designers back to the drawing board. There have been reportedly hundreds of change orders.

In January 2017, Caltrans was supposed to present an update for the “next-generation” bi-level cars at a TRB conference. That presentation was abruptly canceled.  Steven Keck, CalTrans’ interim chief for rail, gave a cryptic explanation that no further information could be given due to ongoing negotiations over the schedule delays. Last month, Nippon Sharyo announced major layoffs at its plant, due to ongoing difficulties with the project:

Nippon Sharyo is cutting its workforce by about 110 employees because of continued complications with a prototype rail car, the company announced Monday. The rail-car manufacturer has laid off nearly two-thirds of its workforce in the past 5 months: It dropped 100 of its 350 employees in January.

“We continue to confront technical complications and delays with the bi-level rail car project that have forced us to evaluate the volume of work and the needs at our Rochelle facility,” the company said in a statement. “As a result, we have made the difficult decision to reduce our workforce.”

The project is funded by $551 million in federal funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. If the company cannot deliver on the contract by Sept 30, the funds revert back to the US Treasury.

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Secretary LaHood announcing the Amtrak railcar order at the Nippon Sharyo plant, where he said: ” thanks to a standardized design initiated by our Federal Railroad Administration…the parts and components for passenger rail cars and locomotives lowers the costs of production and improves competition. It also makes it easier and reduces costs for operators to maintain equipment.”

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BART needs to close a $25-$35 million shortfall in its operating budget. The media blames the deficit on overpaid janitors, while staff is proposing a menu of fare increases:

The board held onto the possibility of putting a surcharge on rides taken using paper fare cards and reducing BART’s discount rates for youths, seniors and disabled people. The directors did not vote on fare increases, which they say are needed to help fill a projected $25 million to $35 million budget gap, but they discussed which fare proposals should undergo a mandated federal civil rights study so that they can be considered when the board assembles a spending plan.

There is one very easy solution to this problem: raise the cost of parking. BART has 45,984 parking spaces. Increasing the daily parking charge by $2.25 ($45 monthly) is sufficient to cover $25 million. Increasing the daily parking charge by $3.15 ($63 monthly) would raise $35 million. Those adjustments would make BART parking charges comparable to current market rates.

BART parking lots fill up at the crack of dawn, and the monthly reserved slots have years-long waiting lists. The Warm Springs station already has a waiting list and it isn’t even open yet. Because BART  is giving away parking at below-market cost, there is no parking availability (except for a lucky few). So even if there weren’t a deficit, the parking fees need to be raised regardless.

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Uber and Lyft ridersharing services are being blamed for the low ridership of the Oakland Airport BART connector:

BART officials had hoped their $500 million connector to Oakland International Airport would be a money maker — but instead it has wound up costing the financially beleaguered transit agency $860,000 in the past two years, as ridership has dropped below the break-even point.

“We didn’t anticipate Uber and Lyft and the others, and that’s hurting us,” said BART spokesman Jim Allison.

Oakland International reports that the number of airline passengers taking ride-hailing services to and from the airport totaled more than 11 percent in January — up from 7 percent in July.

With the competition, ridership on BART’s connector has been dropping below the 2,800 rides a day needed to cover the line’s $6.1 million annual operating costs. That wasn’t always the case. In the months following its November 2014 opening, the line was averaging 3,200 daily riders — or about 400 over the break-even point. No more. For the past three months, ridership has been down an average of 11 percent over the same time a year earlier.

Ridership for the month of January was 2,530. In February it was 2,798. That ridership is very close to the amount predicted by staff for the $6 fare (2,685 daily trips) back when the Board first approved the project. So the ridership isn’t unexpectedly lower — it is exactly where they knew it would be.

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Must be great to get paid millions of dollars for doing absolutely nothing:

Today Caltrain announced that it has negotiated an extension of the deadline for contractors to begin construction of the Peninsula Corridor Electrification Project while the agency awaits a decision from the Federal Transit Administration about the execution of a $647 million funding agreement. The contractors agreed to extend the deadline for four months, from March 1 to June 30.

The extension does not come without cost implications. Buying additional time from the contractors will likely require the utilization of up to $20 million in project contingency that otherwise would have been available for construction related expenses in the future.

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It is no secret that CBOSS, the Caltrain PTC signal system, was in deep trouble. The $231 million(!) project was ill-conceived and mismanaged. On late Friday, Caltrain put out a bombshell press release, finally admitting failure:

Caltrain announced today that it has terminated a contract with Parsons Transportation Group (PTG), the firm responsible for designing and implementing a Positive Control System or CBOSS. This contract was designed to implement federally mandated improvements to the train control system that will enhance safety and reliability of the railway.

The unusual action was deemed necessary after continued delays in delivering the project and an utter lack of progress in moving the project forward.

Caltrain is trying to scapegoat PTG for this screwup. However, the ones responsible are Caltrain staff who spec’ed out the project, and the Board who approved this steaming pile of shit.

The timing couldn’t be worse. Caltrain has been trying to salvage an FTA grant for electrification and new trainsets. Much of the CBOSS funding came from a Federal grant, and a skeptical Congress will no doubt inquire as to why Caltrain should be entrusted with more grant funding after the CBOSS fiasco.

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CBOSS prototype

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