Spend San Francisco’s Transportation Dollars

If you were the budget czar for San Francisco, how would you allocate the city’s transportation dollars? Now, you can try your hand at making it all work online here. You can submit your final budget proposal, and it will be used to help develop the San Francisco Transportation Plan.

Check out the details here.

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Worldwide Parking Rate Survey

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Colliers International published its 2011 “Global Central Business District Parking Rate Survey,” and the main verdict is that the cost of parking a car went up, in general, over the last year. However, the United States was an exception.

For the nerdy, the report lists average daily and monthly parking rates for a number of major cities. Did you know that in Tirana, Albania, the daily parking rate is equivalent to $6.18, but that in Oslo, Norway, the daily rate is $89.04? Or that in Bakersfield it is $8.00, but that San Francisco it is $26? Of the cities evaluated, San Francisco makes both the list of the top 50 most expensive daily rates and the 50 most expensive monthly rates.

Today is PARK(ing) Day!

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You can find events in your area through the map on the Parkingday.org site.

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What is PARK(ing) Day, you ask? According to Parkingday.org,

PARK(ing) Day is a annual open-source global event where citizens, artists and activists collaborate to temporarily transform metered parking spaces into “PARK(ing)” spaces: temporary public places. The project began in 2005 when Rebar, a San Francisco art and design studio, converted a single metered parking space into a temporary public park in downtown San Francisco. Since 2005, PARK(ing) Day has evolved into a global movement, with organizations and individuals (operating independently of Rebar but following an established set of guidelines) creating new forms of temporary public space in urban contexts around the world. The mission of PARK(ing) Day is to call attention to the need for more urban open space, to generate critical debate around how public space is created and allocated, and to improve the quality of urban human habitat … at least until the meter runs out!

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You can find out more about PARK(ing) Day by reading an article in Smithsonian magazine. Some highlights:

The genesis of Park(ing) Day began in 2005, while Passmore was working in a downtown building, watching cars going in and out of metered spaces. “I had a vision of time-lapse photography, and started thinking: What if an art gallery came in for two hours, or a park came in for two hours? I looked into the law and found that, in San Francisco, it’s technically legal to do something with a metered parking space, apart from storing your car there.” … …

“We did it on November 16, 2005, on Mission Street,” Passmore recalls. “It lasted two hours: the maximum time offered on the meter.” Despite his legal research, Rebar’s foray into guerilla landscape architecture was filled with trepidation. “We actually had speeches prepared for the police: speeches about how we were acting in the public interest, planned to clean up after ourselves and so on. Because we were sure we were going to be arrested.” But nothing happened. “A few meter maids scooted by,” Passmore says with a laugh. “They must have assumed we had a permit—because no one in their right mind would try to do something like this otherwise.”

The event swept through the blogosphere. Suddenly, people all over the country wanted to turn parking spaces into parks. “People were asking us to replicate our project in their cities—which was difficult to do. We were just three guys with day jobs. Rebar was something we did on weekends. So we decided to make a how-to manual and let people do it on their own.”

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Photos of BART Under Construction

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The San Francisco Chronicle website has a gallery of photos from when the BART system was originally under construction in the 1960s and 1970s. You can see the photos here.

There is a photo of people on a walking tour through the Transbay Tube.

Also, there is a photo of then-President Nixon riding BART in 1972.

Go. Look.

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(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The Dublin Pleasanton BART Station under construction, much later, in 2009.

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Another Fiscal Emergency for AC Transit?

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AC Transit will hold a public hearing on May 25 at 5:00 pm at the offices at 1600 Franklin Street in Downtown Oakland to discuss declaring a fiscal emergency for the third consecutive year.

According to California Beat:

Calling a fiscal emergency would allow AC Transit to cut costs by eliminating service, implementing hiring freezes and reorganize administrative expenses without undergoing environmental reviews that would delay the process.

The agency is facing a $14.9 million shortfall in the coming fiscal year and warns it will face a steeper funding shortage by the end of 2012.

In October, the agency cut 13 percent of bus service to nearly all East Bay communities and hiked fares for riders. This month, the Board approved a ten-year fare increase plan that will increase the base fare incrementally to meet inflation rates.

You can read the entire story here.

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The AC Transit Board voted last week to raise basic bus fares from $2.00 to $2.10, to take effect August 1.

According to Mercury News:

The increase, however, is a tiny fraction of what is needed, district officials said. It will raise just $2.4 million annually to reduce a projected deficit of $21 million in the next fiscal year, according to a district staff report.

As a result, another round of service cuts are likely to be needed within the next 12 to 18 months, King said. AC Transit cut service twice last year.

You can read the entire story here.

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Reconnecting America: Transit Space Race 2011

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image: Wikimedia Commons

Reconnecting America has just released its 2011 report on transit projects in the United States.

The report, titled “Transit Space Race 2011: A Catalog and Analysis of Planned and Proposed Transit Projects in the US“, is a compendium of transit planning across the country. Due to the fluid and changeable nature of transit planning, the report comprises  a “snapshot in time” during a survey period of late 2010.

The result is a window into transit demand in communities nationwide, and most notably the huge gap between the volume of competitors and the number of available transit infrastructure dollars from the federal New Starts program.

Download the report here

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Finding Data – WRI EarthTrends Delivered

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Image from: WRI EarthTrends

World Resources Institute has a useful and interesting service called EarthTrends Delivered. By signing up for this free service you can explore dozens of data charts and maps online and receive email digests of new data as it is produced by WRI in any of the following:

-Greenhouse Gas Emission Sources and Trends

-U.S. Climate Policy

-Energy and Electricity

-Adapting to Climate Change Impacts

Upon signing up you also get a dashboard to manage your subscriptions, save data, and share data via facebook, email or tweet.

Peter Calthorpe – Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change

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Last week I saw Peter Calthorpe speak about his new book, Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change.

A highly influential planner, designer and urban thinker, Calthorpe has spent decades advancing holistic approaches to the built environment, most famously as a champion of  New Urbanism.

His latest book lays out the case that urbanism, i.e., creating more dense and livable cities, is the only real defense against climate change. If climate change is hastened by runaway carbon emissions, and carbon emissions are linked to the energy intensity of daily life, then it follows that altering the built environment and transportation patterns are key to its mitigation.

This may not be news to anyone, but Calthorpe’s book is about skillfully unpacking this data for a non-technical audience and showing how sprawl is not just a little more carbon intensive than denser urban development, but more intensive by orders of magnitude. Read it for a study of “the big picture”.

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Location Location Location

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(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

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A recent article in the LA Times discusses efforts by green builders to quantify the energy used in reaching the building, not just used in and by the building itself.

From the article:

If you plop a green building in the middle of nowhere, is it still green? … … …

Experts say the ability to quantify the energy spent getting to and from a building could force businesses to reconsider what it means to be green. Transportation emissions account for 29% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, and the newly quantifiable data could spur development in urban areas served by public transportation.

Commutes to work matter, said Emma Stewart, senior manager for sustainability at Autodesk Inc., a San Rafael, Calif., maker of 3-D design software applications. Overall, one out of five trips and one out of four miles are traveled in commutes, according to Census Transportation Planning Products. For work, people fly to conferences, hail cabs on lunch breaks and drive to far-flung suburbs.

“This is a new frontier in carbon accounting,” said Stewart, who is part of a separate effort to digitally map buildings and infrastructure like train lines for urban planning purposes. “The practice thus far has really been focused around direct emissions.”

You can read the entire article on the LA Times website, here.

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Caltrain is in Serious Trouble

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(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

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A few days ago, I began to see news that Caltrain will face a huge operating deficit starting this summer. However, the magnitude of that deficit didn’t sink in until an article pointed out that the $30 million operating deficit will be nearly one-third of its operating budget.

According to the article, cuts on the table include:

  • Weekday trains would be reduced from 86 to 48, with service limited to commute hours.

  • No weekend service, eliminating up to 68 trains.

  • Service eliminated from Gilroy to the Diridon Station in San Jose.

  • Up to seven of 23 stations along the Peninsula closed.

    The article also made the following point:

  • Caltrain is unique in the Bay Area, as it is the only transit line that lacks a dedicated source of funding. Instead, agencies from the three counties in which it runs contribute funds to help cover operating costs.

    But the Valley Transportation Authority, SamTrans and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency all face their own budget battles and will reduce their aid by $25 million next fiscal year.

    You can read the entire article here.

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