SMART asks Marin for $10-12m to Fund and Complete Each Station

SMART is asking to divert “astounding” amounts of money from genuinely cost effective and green transportation programs in Marin, in the words of Transportation Authority of Marin Executive Director Dianne Steinhauser. Watch from the 59m 30s mark of the October 22nd  Transportation Authority of Marin board meeting to see this outrage unfold: http://marin.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?clip_id=7785 In the last week SMART has revealed at the Transportation Authority of Marin board of directors meeting that each SMART station in Marin will need $10-12m in funding. (Jump to the 59m 30s mark). There are 4 stations in Marin, 5 if Larkspur is included. This request is truly preposterous and should not be honored by TAM, let alone even entertained. Voters gave SMART the money it stated it would need to build the entire line from Cloverdale to Larkspur, including stations and a greenway path for bike and pedestrians connecting all the stations and shuttles – the funding was the 1/4c sales tax. SMART is breaching agreements by diverting funds from truly cost effective and green transportation projects into its boondoggle – a boondoggle without ridership projections, just a leap of faith. This is yet another broken SMART promise. SMART is now doing exactly what was foreseen – cannibalizing transportation project...

The Flawed Concept of “Workforce Housing”

Listening to the Marin County Supervisors we would be led to believe there is no higher priority than to provide “workforce housing“. “We can reduce the impacts of in-commuting by…building workforce housing would enable people working in Marin to live closer to their jobs.” Supervisor Sears, Feb 21st 2014 Facebook page “It’s important that we build healthy and sustainable communities by allowing those who work in Marin to also live here,”  Supervisor Arnold, Sept 2011 “To increase the stock of affordable housing, especially workforce housing, the Marin County Board of Supervisors enacted the Affordable Housing Impact Fee.” This is a $5 or a $10 per square foot fee imposed on new builds and remodels. An existing 1,800 square foot house with a 700 square foot addition or conversion will be assessed $2,500. Source. The concept of providing workforce housing underpins stated policy not just from Marin County Supervisors but also the Association of Bay Area Governments’ Plan Bay Area: “The job growth forecast was adjusted based on the difficulties in supplying sufficient housing in the Bay Area to meet the needs of workforce housing within reasonable commute times. ” Source: Plan Bay Area, page 15, Employment Forecast Workforce Housing – The Premise & Alleged Benefits The concept presumes that by building affordable housing in a county: more county workers who used to live outside the county will be able to live in the county traffic congestion will be reduced greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced. A quick Google search constrained to the Marin County website references the term “workforce housing” in 340 separate documents. The same term appears in 160 documents...
Supervisor Kinsey Dodges Richmond Bridge Questions

Supervisor Kinsey Dodges Richmond Bridge Questions

Many may know that Marin County Supervisor Steve Kinsey is taking credit for fast tracking the restoration of the Richmond Bridge third car lane – a project that will address acute traffic back ups on the bridge that go back onto 101 during the northbound evening rush hour. Supervisor Kinsey has been insistent that millions are spent to progress his vision of completing the “Bay Trail” – a bike / ped trail that encircles the bay. Recently this exchange occurred. The issue at hand is that to restore the 3rd car lane requires relocating an unused bike path in Point Molate (the eastern side of the bridge) at a cost of $15m and likely further delaying the project’s completion date. Supervisor Kinsey appears defiant in defending the expenditures, and evasive on the issue of the Point Molate bike lane relocation cost and project timeline impact. He appears unconcerned with expenditures of millions of dollars, or transportation projects with more acute needs. [From Steve Kinsey] I am not prepared to encourage BATA to ignore the State Highway Code, and they wouldn’t be able to do so even if I did. As a State mandate, it would be up to State legislative members to consider whether a change is warranted. In reading the Code sections cited, I doubt State legislators would be interested in making a revision, because the intent of it is to insure that highway projects don’t eliminate existing non-motorized facilities. The Code also commits the State to include parallel non-motorized facilities as part of highway projects when the alignment is part of an identified route, which is certainly...
The “Transportation Cloud” is Coming

The “Transportation Cloud” is Coming

Many are familiar with “the cloud” – that imaginary place up there in Internet “heaven” where companies and people can access file storage, computing power, movies or music instantaneously – on demand – whenever they need it. The computer cloud has disrupted conventional computing: Companies no longer need commit to buying dedicated servers that they may only fully utilize a few times a year. People no longer need to buy bigger disk drives to store their email – we have services like Gmail that seem to offer endless storage for mails we never seem to get around to deleting. We no longer buy movies or music, instead we subscribe to on-demand services capable of instantly gratifying us like Netflix and Spotify The Internet cloud, while seemingly imaginary and ethereal has transformed the computer industry – and the number are staggering: Research firm IDC estimates that businesses spent over $100 billion on cloud computing in 2014 (Source: The Economist) Amazon’s cloud services report year on year growth of 90% Netflix is estimated to use 34.9% of all downstream Internet traffic during peak periods on North American Broadband networks, closely followed by YouTube with 14% (Source: Variety, Nov 2014) Just as “the cloud” has disrupted and revolutionized business computing, communications and media consumption – so the coming “transportation cloud” will have similar radical impacts on the world around us. What is the Transportation Cloud? The short version: think Uber, add car-pooling then throw in Google self-driving cars. The longer version – imagine next time you need to leave your house to go shopping, go to work, get to the airport you’ll...

Save Taxpayers Money – Offer Limousine Shuttles for Cyclists

MTC’s response to Planning for Reality’s Public Records Request for the costs of the Richmond Bridge bike path includes a remarkable expense. As most folks know the bike path will cost $68m – but will likely be used by fewer than 156 cyclists over a 3 hour commute if usage is consistent with Marin bike paths (source: Walk Bike Marin, see table on page 23), meanwhile restoring an already built third car lane will cost $15m: The remarkable item appears on page 9: Relocation Assistance (Shuttle for Bikes) $1,095,000 Escalated value 2015: $1,161,685.50 Further into the breakdown it clarifies: Relocation Assistance Assume 8 hours a day Shuttle operation, 365 days a week, at $75/hr for 5 years $1,095,000 This appears to be a temporary shuttle bus that for five years will drive cyclists back and forth across the bridge! The ~156 cyclists don’t even have to wait for construction to complete, unlike the tens of thousands of motorists who will remain stuck in traffic until the work is completed. Limousines Cheaper than $1.2m Bike Shuttle It would be cheaper to taxpayers to rent limos for cyclists. You could rent a limousine for less than $75/hour, even before negotiating a discount for 5 years of service! Here is a list of multiple San Francisco limo services in SF that cost less than $75/hour (even before negotiation): http://www.sftodo.com/limousine_san_francisco.html Note: Planning for Reality anticipates receiving MTC’s response to its second records request on Richmond Bridge bike path costs by Feb 10th 2015. This original MTC response provided Nov 6th 2014 clearly showed the bike path cost of $68m, yet MTC’s spokesman Randy Rentschler stated...

How Many Riders Will SMART Really Have?

There has been a great deal of speculation about how SMART will reduce 101 congestion or greenhouse gas emissions. But these claims all pivot on the assumption that SMART will attain a certain number of riders. Previously the author has run figures and worked out that to breakeven on CO2 emissions SMART will need something north of 60 to 80 average riders. But how many riders will SMART really get? Could this be realistic? A Look at Other Hybrid Rail Ridership Numbers 2012 is the most recent national data available from the Federal Transit Administration; here is a table showing average train ridership for the four operators that reported “hybrid rail” data for that year. The New Jersey “River Line”, opened in 2004. This line is 8 years into operation before it attained am average of  as many a 46.8  riders. This line connects Trenton and Camden, going down the East Side of the Delaware River.  There are connections to New York City (long commuter rail) and Philadelphia which is pretty much right across the River. While stations along the River Line do not directly serve a major business district, New Jersey is this most densely populated state in the nation. (i.e. far more dense than Marin, so it would be near impossible for SMART to hit a ridership of 46.8). North San Diego County doesn’t go into the major city of San Diego, but it does serve the city center of Oceanside, population 172,000 – that’s over 3x the population of San Rafael, along with a number of other smaller cities and college campuses. It commenced operation in 1995 – 17...