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Archive for the ‘transit’ Category

Yesterday’s posting on the Dublin-BART parking garage left out some rather bizarre details on how the funding came about.

The project originally came before the BART board. Twice in fact — Feb and August 2017. Even pro-parking suburban directors were dubious of the project. It was underfunded (BART would have to kick in $10 million matching funds), and would have done little to alleviate the parking shortage. The icing on the cake was that staff came up with ways to add the same number of parking spaces within the existing garage. So the garage was dead…but not for long.

After the BART Board rejected the project, the Alameda County General Services Agency (GSA) went ahead and filed a grant application for the garage. The GSA is not a transportation agency; they manage the health, educational, child care, and other facilities for the county. To qualify for the grant, the GSA needed an actual transportation agency to sign on. So the GSA laundered the application through the Livermore Wheels bus agency (LAVTA). The $20 million grant was approved, even though the garage would be of no use to bus riders.

It is a bit of a mystery as to how the GSA was authorized to submit the grant application. In combing over 18 months of agendas and minutes, I found no record that the project ever came before the Board of Supervisors. The project sits on county land, and will be built and maintained by the county. And there is also the small matter of the additional $10 million the county has to provide for matching funds.

Anyway, it just goes to show that stupid zombie projects can’t be killed. They always find a way to come back from the dead.

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In the midst of a gigantic housing shortage, $20 million will be spent at the Dublin BART station constructing new housing for…cars:

On Monday, Assemblywoman Catharine Baker (R-San Ramon) and Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty announced the State’s approval of a grant for a new BART parking garage to be built at the heavily-impacted Dublin/Pleasanton BART Station, thanks to the $20 million funding secured by Assemblywoman Baker’s office and land provided by Alameda County.

If you are one of the 3,000 people on the wait-list, don’t expect the new garage to help you find parking. It will have at most 700 spaces.

The good news is that the absurdity of the situation wasn’t lost on the staff who wrote the press release:

The parking lot will be a state-of-the-art convertible structure. If parking is no longer needed in the future as technology advances, the structure can be turned into additional housing or office space.

Pretty sure we need that additional housing now, not later.

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Senator Wiener’s legislation for transit housing (SB-627) is dead now, and the car-centric planning around BART stations continues on. Here are the latest neighborhood plans for the San Jose Berryessa station. The Mercury News describes this plan as having “more intense densities and new visions of how the ambitious Berryessa district development might appear.”

As you can see, the retail center looks like just another suburban strip mall (click image to enlarge).

berryessa

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Billions of dollars are going to be spent extending BART to Livermore. And once again, the plan is to surround this new BART station with acres of parking:

In general, according to BART, the neighborhood is still over-parked and is not entirely consistent with BART’s TOD policy and guidelines that recommend against parking minimums and recommend lower parking maximums. Eliminating parking minimums and reducing parking maximums can help reduce the cost of housing, consume less valuable land near transit and reduce associated environmental costs, such as water pollution from increased impervious surfaces.

In addition, BART expressed concern that the location of the additional parking capacity in such close proximity to the BART station entrance at a key point of pedestrian and bicycle access to the station will diminish the placemaking features of the development and discourage active and shared-ride modes of transit access, as well as diminish the overall quality of the transit­ oriented development.

This is yet another example of local government blocking infill development around transit stations — and why it is so important to pass SB-827 (Wiener) which enacts mandates for transit-oriented development.

You can read all of BART staff comments on the Isabel station plan here.

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Most readers are familiar with the Sierra Club’s opposition to transit-oriented development. But now the Club has sunk to a new low:

sc_letter

One of the Club’s arguments is that the law would generate opposition to new transit lines. Why would NIMBY groups support transit investment if it all but requires upzoning?

But as Ethan Elkind points out, this is a feature not a bug. Far too much money has been wasted on new rail lines to low-density communities. When these communities refuse to approve the necessary development to generate ridership, it wastes the taxpayer investment. At the very least, the bill would ensure future transportation investments are spent on communities that actually want public transit.

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The technology is vapourware. And even if it could be made to work, it would inevitably lead to intrusive police behavior, and traffic jams for riders as they pass through the security theater:

Less than a week after a man detonated a pipe bomb strapped to his chest in a crowded subway corridor in Manhattan, Senator Chuck Schumer urged the federal government on Sunday to speed up the rollout of a technology that can detect concealed explosives in crowded areas.

Since 2004, the Transportation Security Administration has been testing machines that can detect whether a person is concealing an improvised explosive device in crowded mass transit environments. Mr. Schumer called on the agency to speed up the tests and deploy the machines in New York City subways, bus stations and airports.

It is worth pointing out that New York has actually had two recent terrorist attacks on transportation facilities. The other attack, which Schumer failed to mention, involved a homicidal truck driver who killed 8 cyclists on a bike path. Fixing the dangers on bike paths is easy and uses proven technology; i.e. bollards, curbs, k-rail, etc. But whereas Schumer is promising “unlimited” funding for vaporware bomb detectors, he seems to have little interest in protecting users of sidewalks and pathways.

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Following up on yesterday’s posting on the VTA single-bore proposal, I thought it is useful to share BART’s opinions on the idea. Several of their staff testified at a VTA Board meeting in September (the relevant video section is embedded below).

Needless to say, the BART senior staff were not amused with the proposal. They have decades of experience with underground heavy metro, whereas VTA has no never done such a project. You can sense their exasperation as they go over the blunders in the VTA design. It is not encouraging that VTA Board members asked so many dumb questions.

Their entire testimony is worth watching, but the flaws that really stand out were the following:

  1. The single-bore design carries $440 million to $1.8 billion of additional risk.  There several reasons for this, but the main culprit is market risk. Very few firms are qualified to do such a design, whereas there are many local firms qualified to bid on a conventional twin-bore project. Another risk is that the VTA single-bore design has not progressed beyond the “cocktail-napkin” engineering stage.
  2. The deep bore stations as spec’ed out by VTA do not conform with California fire code. It is unclear how to work around that constraint. VTA tried to hand-wave around the issue by claiming the standard twin-core stations are also non-compliant (BART staff vehemently disagreed).
  3. The stacked platforms are too narrow to handle large “event” crowds that are to be expected, such as a concert or Sharks game.

It is clear that if the VTA were to go ahead with their design, it will take longer to complete, have higher cost, and result in a tunnel with serious safety, access, and operational problems. And for what — to shave some months off a road closure!? Geez, what a train-wreck this is turning into.

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