Don’t Drive to the Parade

For the love of all that is good and holy, don’t drive in to San Francisco today. If you’ve been living under a rock, or really just don’t care about sports that much, here’s a protip: the Giants won the World Series in a sweep, and now all of the Bay Area wants to celebrate on Market Street.

In short, the roads and ferries are going to be packed. Take a bus instead.

Golden Gate Transit has a handy guide to all things Giants and transit-related. They’re adding ferries out of Larkspur and Sausalito to deal with the crowds.

Easy, you say. You’ll just drive to the ferry, right? Yeah, don’t do that either. The ferry parking lots are already full, and the ferries themselves are full, at least for the morning. If you have time, you can swing by the ticket kiosks at either the Larkspur Landing or Sausalito ferry terminals to see if there are any tickets left for the afternoon, but in case you don’t have the time, there’s one unthinkable option: the bus.

Yes, that much-maligned mode of transportation has capacity to spare. As of 8am, commuter buses were emptier than normal, so they definitely have room. You can figure out how to get into the city through 511.org, Google Maps, the GGT maps, or my own guide to the freeway below. The strip map can be printed on six standard-sized sheets of paper; just choose “Poster” on your printout. Sorry, the pocket-sized version is coming out a day late.

The full map. Click for a larger image, and click here for PDF.

One other thing that might prove handy is the General Timetable to 101 (PDF), which has how to get anywhere from anywhere on Highway 101.

So don’t drive to the ferry, and you probably won’t get a seat even if you bike or walk there. Don’t drive at all. Take bus to San Francisco instead. There’s room to spare.

UPDATE: It totally escaped my mind that you could take the 40/42 bus from the San Rafael Transit Center to Richmond or El Cerrito del Norte BART stations and take those into the city instead of the direct bus lines. It’ll take longer, and the buses are likely delayed this morning because of heavy traffic on 580, but it is another option. Just don’t drive to the stations; their lots are probably already full, too.

Shootings are Second to Crashes

More police have been killed by cars over the past decade than have been shot. In fact, the number one cop-killer in the US is the car, not the gun. Add in motorcycle crashes and its more than all violent deaths combined.

Transit Miami, in an article about public apathy over traffic deaths, found a table with the causes of police officer death as collected by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund over the past 10 years. Nationally, 173 officers have died nonviolently, such as a job-related illness, 650 officers have been killed violently, and 687 have been killed in traffic.

Think about that. More cops die on the road than die in the street.

People fixate on the violent deaths and try to prevent those, but pay little heed to traffic fatalities. A quick search of Google trends data finds peaks about officers shot or killed. Only one article, from Maryland, was about an officer killed in a car crash, but it’s a memorial piece. There’s talk about the dangers police face every day, but, just like when a civilian dies, traffic deaths are taken as inevitable.

They’re not inevitable. Simple things, easy things, can make police officers and civilians safer when travelling. Road safety isn’t as sexy as bulletproof vests or Tasers, but it’s the difference between life and death for those who have pledged to serve and protect the public. We owe it to them, and ourselves, to never forget that it’s roads, not just guns, that kill.

Police officer deaths by type

Mid-Week Links: Get Up


What’s it like to be a bus driver? How’s it different from a bus passenger? How we get where we go shapes our perspectives and our understanding in ways we miss.

Marin Proper and Greater

  • BioMarin opened its new downtown San Rafael headquarters to much fanfare, with the mayor and lieutenant governor in attendance. The move brings 300 workers to the most transit-accessible place in the county; here’s hoping they take advantage. (IJ)
  • Novato’s new economic development director has some big ideas for Novato, especially downtown, and that could mean some positive change is on its way for the beleaguered city. (IJ)
  • Tam Valley residents spoke out against zoning for 34 new residences at Tam Junction, saying they would cause illness, environmental harm, traffic chaos, and injury to neighbors. (Herald)
  • Road maintenance, housing, and the county safety net will get the bulk of a $5 million surplus allocated by the Marin Board of Supervisors. Still to be decided is how to split $46 million in funding for pension and health liabilities. (IJ)
  • Protected class I bicycle lanes reduce injuries by up to 90 percent where installed, according to a new survey out of Toronto. (Streetsblog)
  • Amtrak continues its move toward moderate-speed trains with a successful 110-mph test in Illinois. That segment is expected to cut about an hour off of the Chicago-Saint Louis travel time. (The Hill)
  • And…: Cotati broke ground on its new transit center, which will include the SMART station. (PD) … A 20-room hotel is coming to Sausalito. (IJ) … New affordable housing is on its way to Hamilton. (NBBJ) … Superman declares a war on cars, slums, and takes it a bit too far. (Planetizen)

The Toll

Our transportation system killed two people and injured two others this week.

  • Alejandro Torres was killed by a driver in Santa Rosa while crossing the street. The driver, Sebastian Valdoz, who was uninjured, says he didn’t see Torres, who was well into the crosswalk. Santa Rosa police are investigating the cause but accused pedestrians of being over-confident when they have the right-of-way and have traditionally laid fault at the feet of the dead. Torres was 24. (PD)
  • Dorothy Buechy, who injured herself in a car crash last Wednesday, died of her injuries in Santa Rosa on Saturday. She was 86. (PD)
  • The IJ reports that the rash of accidents in Monday’s rains slowed down the commute but writes not a word about injuries.
  • The Tiburon man who tried to run down a pedestrian because of the pedestrian’s plaid shirt was banned from driving for three to five years. This is on top of a one year jail sentence. (IJ)
  • A big-rig driver lost control of his truck in the rain and crashed it in Santa Rosa, spilling diesel fuel and injuring himself. (PD) … A bicyclist was hit by a driver in Sebastopol on Friday and suffered major injuries. (PD)

If you’d like to contribute, shoot me an email at theGreaterMarin [at] gmail.com. I need your expertise, your voice, to keep TGM consistently informative and relevant to Marin’s changing urban and transportation landscape.

The Transit Benefit (sort of) Comes Back

Average monthly cost for each commute type. Cells highlighted in red are not fully covered under the federal + state benefit.

This week, Governor Brown signed into law a $75 pre-tax transit benefit for employers to offer employees. It’s a partial fix to cuts to the federal transit benefit, which dropped from $230 to $125 this year.

I say partial because while the federal benefit applies to all companies, California restricts its new benefit to companies with 50 employees or more, excluding a hefty 40% of Bay Area workers. As well, it still doesn’t make the transit benefit equal with the parking benefit; drivers, who get a $240 parking benefit, still have an advantage.

While $230 covered any bus transit commute starting in Marin and most starting in Sonoma, $200 isn’t enough to cover Novato transit commutes to San Francisco or many Sonoma commutes. California still has a way to go to intelligently promote and fund transit, and the region continues to leave low-hanging fruit like congestion pricing on the tree, but it’s good to see the state step up where Congress has failed.

Mid-Week Links: Oops

las gallinas creek, marin county

las gallinas creek, marin county by on2wheelz, on Flickr

Marin and Beyond

  • SMART is owning up to its failures at Gallinas Creek, admitting that it misinterpreted its own guidelines for construction work and violating state and federal protected species and habitat laws in the process. The agency is now seeking the proper permits to continue construction work. (IJ)
  • The Marin Board of Supervisors approved a sprawl development just past Santa Venetia, allowing ten homes to be built far from just about anything. (IJ)
  • That GGT/MT contract isn’t quite as finished as we’d hoped. While staff tried to finalize language, Marin Transit raised concerns that it doesn’t give MT the flexibility to choose which routes GGT would operate, leading to an impasse. (IJ)
  • India issued, then rescinded, an arrest warrant for Vijay Mallya, owner of Marinscope newspapers. His airline, Kingfisher, bounced $1.9 million worth of checks; the warrant was withdrawn when Kingfisher agreed to pay the outstanding bills. (IJ)
  • Every time you use a Clipper card, a computer records that data, and that data can be subpoenaed. There’s also a smartphone app that allows a Clipper card to be read and travel history retrieved. (Bay Citizen)
  • The Federal Housing Administration has loosened restrictions on financing for mixed-use development. Under old rules, which I discussed a while ago, FHA wouldn’t fund developments with more than 25% commercial space. Under new rules, that goes up to 50%. (Streetsblog)
  • Though some Marinites call anything above 4 units per acre “extremely high density housing“, a development in Los Angeles shows that even 40 units per acre can be suburban and walkable. (Greater Greater Washington)
  • And…: American AgCredit plans to build a new office park in Sonoma County, thankfully near a planned SMART station. (NBBJ) … Our Presidential election season utterly ignores car-free issues. (Greater Greater Washington) … MCBC is hosting a family bike workshop this Saturday at 10am in Larkspur. You should definitely be there. (IJ) … Fairfax’s Biketoberfest was a roaring success, as always. (Patch)

The Toll

This week, our transportation system killed three people and wounded 14 others.

  • A man killed himself when he crashed his SUV into a tree in Santa Rosa on Thursday. Police aren’t sure why he lost control of the vehicle, and his name hasn’t been released. (PD)
  • Joseph Von Merta was killed by a driver in Santa Rosa, the ninth pedestrian to die in the city this year. He was hit while crossing the road early Monday morning, and died Wednesday night. The driver, Emanuel Morales-Rodriguez, suffered minor injuries, and fault has not been determined. Von Merta was 57. (PD)
  • A driver died in a single-car crash in Windsor early Sunday morning while she exited Highway 101. Sheryl Greenlee may have suffered a medical emergency that killed her and caused the crash, but the investigation is ongoing. Greenlee was 43. (PD)
  • A driver lost control of their vehicle near Marinwood and spun out on wet pavement. The result was an 11-car crash and eight injured people, six of which had to go to the hospital. (Patch)
  • Cassandre Jade seems to have seriously injured herself in Lucas Valley. She drove off the road and into a creek before dawn on Thursday and was only extricated four hours later. (IJ)
  • Three people were injured in a three-car collision in Healdsburg. (PD) … A bicyclist was seriously injured by a driver in Santa Rosa on Saturday. (PD) … A car flipped on Highway 101 in San Rafael on Wednesday morning. No injury or other information was released. (IJ)

Alternative Future: A Contemporary Interurban

Click to enlarge, or click here for PDF. This map assumes other lines are operating around the Bay Area, but that map will have to wait for another time.

Let’s say for a minute the Interurban hadn’t stopped running in 1941. It was bleeding money, but its parent company, NWP, was a for-profit entity. What if the Interurban had somehow survived?

For the sake of this exercise, I’m taking a few liberties. First, that the Bay Area had valued its rail transportation system from the 30s to the present, but had consolidated it all, as well as the Golden Gate Bridge, under the single umbrella of the MTC. Second, that European best practices had been implemented at least in this corner of the country. Third, that the Interurban could now survive on a 50% subsidy. And fourth, that Marin and Sonoma have their current populations, though with less sprawl.

Though I had originally intended for this to be a bit more a light post rather than something more data-driven, a Twitter conversation with Dan Lyke motivated me to put some numbers behind the costs of an Interurban.

Costs per vehicle-kilometer (vkm) vary widely based on the system. Vancouver’s automated Skytrain system costs $2.18/vkm, BART costs around $3.50/vkm, and New York’s subway costs $5.81/vkm. Using quite a few assumptions, I get an average annual operating cost between $43.2 million and $111.6 million. If we assume an average fare of $2.50 and a 50% farebox recovery rate, total ridership would need to be between 8.6 million per year, roughly the same number of transit trips on today’s GGT system, and 22.3 million. With the Geary and North Beach extensions (Muni’s 38-Geary alone carries over 13 million weekday passengers per year), it’s entirely feasible for the system to meet BART’s 80% farebox recovery.

Alas, reconstructing the system would be prohibitively expensive and politically impossible. Large portions of some major roads (Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, Fourth and Third Streets, Magnolia Avenue, Miller Avenue, and others) would need to be converted back to rail, wealthy homeowners would need to accept trains running behind their back yards, Sausalito would need to take a new elevated railway along the waterfront, Geary and North Beach would need to be torn up for a new subway, and over $10 billion would need to be spent. While the San Francisco part of the project might be worth it, for 8 million riders per year, most of them already served by transit, the cost and pain of the Marin Interurban simply wouldn’t be worth it.

This map, along with all my other maps, is posted in the Map Room.

Mid-Week Links: Finish Line

Untitled

Untitled by fabola, on Flickr

Endorsements are in! I don’t do endorsements myself, but that doesn’t stop me from linking to the endorsements of organizations and newspapers I respect. Greenbelt Alliance says Yes to Marin’s Measure A and Yes to Healdsburg’s Measure W. The North Bay Bohemian has its recommendations for state propositions, the Pacific Sun has its comprehensive endorsements for the entire ballot, and the IJ is working through its recommendations on the Editorial page.

Marin County and Beyond

  • SMART is under investigation for violating the terms of its environmental impact report and potentially disturbing endangered clapper rail and salt harvest mouse. The agency didn’t get the proper permits for its demolition work around Gallinas Creek and says its also investigating what happened. (IJ)
  • The Marin Housing Authority is being sued for questionable repair bills and fees housing advocates say were illegally used to balance the agency’s books and causing some tenants to be evicted. (IJ)
  • Marin Transit’s Catch-A-Ride program rolled out a couple of weeks ago, and the feedback is good so far. Catch-A-Ride gives registered seniors a $14 to $18 discount on up to eight cab rides per month. (News-Pointer)
  • Gerstle Park neighbors want a crosswalk removed because it’s supposedly dangerous despite there having never been an accident there. The crosswalk would continue to exist as an unmarked crosswalk anyway. (Patch)
  • It was a close call that saved Richardson Bay from becoming a kind of West Coast Coney Island and the site of a World’s Fair. Less close were dams in the Bay, a submarine base in Sausalito, and a canal from the Pacific to Richardson Bay along Tennessee Valley. (Marinscope)
  • Gas price spikes in California are thanks to a confluence of bad market factors that should begin easing soon. Marin’s car-centric lifestyle and character make it more vulnerable to such shocks than other counties. (IJ)
  • If you ride a bike in Marin, you may want to register it for free with the county sheriff’s office. (Patch)
  • And…: Napa’s Green Commute Challenge is going strong after six years. (Register) … SMART begins its move to a SMART-inaccessible office park. (PD) … Sometimes, transit systems have so much waste that, when restructured, they can become far, far better without a single dime more of operating costs. (Human Transit)

The Toll

Two men were killed and three people were injured.

  • Julio Villalobos was killed by a driver in San Rafael. Police are still trying to determine the circumstances of the incident, and charges have not yet been filed. After outcry over the safety of the intersection, San Rafael’s public works department is taking a fresh look at its safety. Villalobos was 84. (IJ)
  • Heath Kingsley Hunter injured two people and killed himself in Sonoma last Thursday. While on his motorcycle, Hunter rear ended and injured driver Fernando Castro. Hunter lost control of his motorcycle and drifted into oncoming freeway traffic where he collided head-on with driver Christine Luckin, seriously injuring her passenger and killing himself. Hunter was 43. (PD)
  • A driver hit a utility pole in San Anselmo, causing it to fall across Sir Francis Drake Boulevard and closing the road for 17 hours. The driver wasn’t injured. (IJ) … A man suffered diabetic shock and crashed his car in Glen Ellen on Monday. It’s unclear if he was injured in the crash. (PD) … A motorcyclist seriously injured a biker in Rohnert Park on Sunday. Police are looking for the motorcyclist, who did not stay on the scene. (PD)

How to Make Safe Novato Streets

If last month’s tragedy taught Novato anything, it’s that residents need to take road safety as seriously as they do housing elements. Lives, not just town character or property values, can hang on things we hardly ever think about. Where should the first stop sign be when we enter Novato? What about this road makes the speed limit seem so low? There are easy ways to reform Novato’s streets to be safer for drivers, bikers, and pedestrians, but they only take us so far. Going further would require Novato to rethink the fundamental purpose of its roads. But let’s start easy.

The Gateways

The points of greatest danger are the approaches into the city, where people transition from highway to city driving. In these areas, speeds officially fall from 45+ miles per hour down to 25 or 35, though roadway design and culture tack on another 5-10 miles per hour.

To bring people from highway mode and into city mode, Novato has employed stop signs and stop lights, but these are insufficient. Coverage of the Ratliff crash included quotes from people grousing about high vehicle speeds where she was killed, yet the only indication of a falling speed limit was the speed limit sign. Everything else about the road screamed at the driver, “It’s safe to drive fast here.”

European cities use a combination of special road paint, stop signs, and roundabouts to calm traffic and get drivers into urban driving mode. Roundabouts would be a bit much for a conservative city like Novato, but paint and stop signs certainly aren’t.

This design slowed cars by 5-10 miles per hour. Image from University of Naples.

Different shoulder paint tells drivers that a change is coming, while a stop sign would clearly delineate where the change actually is. The key is to get drivers out of what is essentially an automatic driving mode and into a more attentive mode. On a rural road or Highway 101, one never expects things to jump out in front of the car. The road, through paint and a stop sign, will alert drivers to this change, making them more attentive to the increased complexity of city driving.

The Arterials

Novato’s streets are themselves unsafe. At a typical driving speed of 40 miles per hour, pedestrians hit have a very low chance of survival. At the same time, the streets can have lanes as wide as those on a freeway (about 12 feet), putting drivers back into a highway mode. These arterial roads should be redesigned for safety. Above all, that means narrowing lanes to 10 feet in a process called a lane diet.

Unlike a road diet, which removes lanes to provide space for a center turn lane or a median, a lane diet just narrows the existing lanes and gives the excess space over to parking, biking or sidewalks. Novato roads already have center turn lanes, medians, and parking.  It’s hard to imagine using 28 feet (two lanes plus narrowing existing lanes) for anything useful without land accompanying land-use reforms.

But four 10-foot lanes with a center turn lane would do plenty of good for street safety. Lane diets reduce crash rates, sometimes as much as 43%. Vehicle speeds, too, are reduced by road diets and lane diets, meaning those crashes that do occur are less likely to be serious. The fact that street capacity would remain essentially unchanged is an added political bonus. Introducing lane diets to Novato arterials would make them objectively better roads.

The Bike Lanes

A cycletrack in Portland, OR. Image from NACTO.

We still need to deal with 8 feet of extra road width on our dieted streets. Rather than using it on sidewalks, Novato should convert its class II bicycle lanes to class I cycle tracks.

Cycle tracks are fully separated bicycle paths that have buffers or barriers between them and the automobile traffic and are best suited for roads with high traffic volume or high vehicle speeds, i.e., arterial roads.

NACTO’s bicycle lane guide recommends cycle tracks widths of at least five feet with a three foot buffer. If we combine the width removed from our road lane diets with the width of existing class II bike lanes, there is enough space for a cycle track going in either direction. This improvement would increase safety for bicyclists by getting them away from car traffic without banishing them from the street entirely, increase safety for pedestrians by putting space between them and traffic, and increase bicycling by providing infrastructure appropriate to the road.

Costs are relatively minimal, at least compared to what we spend on road infrastructure. Cycle tracks typically range from about $100,000 to $165,000 per mile. For about $3.35 million, Novato could install cycle tracks on every arterial street in the city; it could do every rural arterial for about $970,000 more. Considering that we’re spending 270 times that on highway expansion, it might be worth more attention from TAM and city hall.

Such an expansive investment in bicycling in Novato would be transformative. While transit and walking aren’t terribly efficient modes of transportation through most of Novato, the bicycle is. If the city provided the infrastructure for in-city trips, it would cut down on traffic and improve the health and quality of life any resident that can ride. At least one study found that cycle tracks increase bicycling by 250% and that in turn increases safety for all road users, from driver to pedestrian, by making drivers more aware of vulnerable users and calming traffic.

Last week’s post exhorted Novato to stand and say enough: enough death, enough apathy. Rather than leave it up to the process, Novatans should tell the council to fix gateways roads, shrink lanes, and invest in bicycle infrastructure that fits the needs of the road. It’s not an issue of road capacity, for it would hardly change. It’s an issue of political will on the part of Novato’s councilmembers, city staff, and residents. They have the power to make safe their city’s streets. Or they could call deaths on their streets inevitable and do nothing at all.

Mapping the Interurban

In 1941, the last ferry and the last train ran on the NWP Interurban commuter line, and Marin was handed over to the battle of its life against the car-centric development unleashed by the Golden Gate Bridge. Marinites, unlike most of the country, won that battle, and we maintained the transit-oriented development passed down from the age of rail.

Most of us, though, don’t even know what it looked like, and the best thing we’ve got are grainy maps and schedules from the 1930s. That’s all well and good, but hides the structure and sinews of the system. The purpose of contemporary transit mapping is to combine not just where a system goes, but how and, to a lesser extent, when.

I’ve created two maps that do just that for the Interurban. The first is in an “old” style. Old printing techniques could only print two or three colors. Given that the Interurban shut down in 1941, I thought a map inspired by that era made sense.

One color does make it hard to tell apart individual lines. Click to enlarge.

The second map is the same thing, but in a “new” style. With contemporary printing techniques, we can do as many colors as we like. The advantage is that individual lines can be individually colored, snapping into focus what lines go where.

The colorful lines really make service stand out. Click to enlarge.

As you can see, it was quite a comprehensive system, at least for Central and Southern Marin. Northern Marin was served by intercity rail, more akin to Amtrak than BART, and was not part of the electric rail system highlighted here.

Mid-Week Links: Perfect Storm

San Francisco Bridge Before the Storm

Photo on flickr by Matt Muangsiri

A ludicrous amount of stuff is happening this week in the City. Though much of the week has already gone by, Fleet Week and America’s Cup, along with others and your regularly-scheduled weekend fun, are still to come.

So take transit and spare yourself the pain of hunting for parking (though if you do, download SFPark and get your passengers to tell you where to go). If you don’t live near a stop, use one of the park & rides. Golden Gate Transit has the rundown for its added service. Unfortunately, that won’t include Route 29 to Larkspur Landing, so you’ll have to bike, drive, or walk from Lucky Drive.

So for the sake of your sanity, your nerves, and the good people of San Francisco, leave the car in Marin.

Marin and Beyond

  • Regional transit service to and from Marin will be the subject of a new study funded by the Community Transportation Association of America. All transit options are on the table, but whether anything will come to fruition is another story. The study is to be completed by 2013. (News-Pointer)
  • If your home shares walls with another, you’ve got a year to quit smoking. San Rafael will ban smoking in attached homes like apartments, as well as on downtown sidewalks, starting next October. (Pacific Sun)
  • 75,000 square feet of downtown Tiburon has been sold to real estate investment firm for an undisclosed sum. The sale means the buildings will likely receive some long overdue renovations. (IJ)
  • The stink of rotting algae at Spinnaker Point in San Rafael has raised the ire of residents and BAAQMD, though nobody who can do anything about the problem wants to pay for it. (IJ)
  • San Anselmoans took back downtown from the car for last Sunday’s Country Fair Day, bringing out the young, the old, and the stormtroopers. (Patch)
  • Y’know that new train control system on Caltrain being paid for by High Speed Rail money? Yeah, it’s a gigantic waste of money and won’t do anything it’s supposed to do. Just like the last train control system. (Oakland Tribune, Systemic Failure)
  • Apparently, President Obama wants to keep freeways out of the suburbs. The position Marin took 40 years ago has reached the White House. Sadly, Congress has yet to get the memo. (Washington Post)
  • And…: San Rafael needs a new parking manager, and it seems there’s room for the office to do some reform. (City of San Rafael) … Forcing people to wear bicycle helmets is a sure way to harm bicycling and make everyone less healthy and every bicyclist less safe. (NYT) … The Ross Police Department faces dissolution if Measure D doesn’t pass.  (IJ)

The Toll

This week, Hailey Ratliff was struck and killed by a driver. Eight others were injured.

  • Dalton Baker, a high school student, critically injured himself when he was clotheslined while riding his bike in Healdsburg. He ran full-speed into a parking lot cable that he apparently didn’t see. He’s lost part of his liver and may lose both kidneys. (PD)
  • Two pedestrians crossing the road were injured by a hit-and-run driver in San Rafael. The driver rear-ended another car, which in turn struck the pedestrians. Police are searching for the culprit. (IJ)
  • A four-year-old was injured after a driver pulling out of a driveway bumped him in Mill Valley. It’s extremely important not to dismiss such incidents, as children are frequently killed this way. (IJ, Kids and Cars)
  • A woman whose tires disintegrated on the road lost control of her vehicle, crashing it and injuring herself in Novato. (Patch) … A woman crashed her car into a Petaluma fire hydrant, injuring herself and causing a geyser. (PD) … Two were injured when a driver wasn’t paying attention to the road and caused a three-car crash in Santa Rosa. (PD)
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