Extra ferry service added for Giants victory parade

Golden Gate Ferry is pulling out all the stops tomorrow, advertising what was billed to me as “load-and-go” service from Larkspur Ferry Terminal (LFT) to the Ferry Building from 7am to 11:30am, which in practice will mean a departure roughly every 15 minutes. To accomplish this feat, the agency is pressing all but one ferry in the fleet into service on the route, creating a water bridge capable of moving around 2,100 people per hour from the county and San Francisco. It’s good news for San Franciscans and Marinites worried about how to get to the victory parade, but the problem is how to get to the terminal in the first place. But first, What You Need To Know About Ferry Service Tomorrow.

What you need to know

From 7am to 11:30am, ferries will operate in a load-and-go service model from Larkspur to San Francisco, loading up to their limits before departing. In the afternoon, they will operate in the opposite direction in a similar fashion. There will be terrible parking, so don’t try it. Route 29 and The Wave (Route 25) will operate as normal and will probably offer you the best way to get to the ferry, even if it does take forever. Taxis, bikes, and carpools are the best other ways to travel. Or you could just take the bus in: all regular bus service is still happening. If you’re taking the day off work, take a commuter run in. Full details on the GGT website.

UPDATE: It occurs to me that a third, less stressful way to get to the parade might be by BART. Either drive and park in the Richmond or El Cerrito park & ride lots, or take the 40/42 to the train. That way you can get to Civic Center and totally avoid downtown traffic.

Back to analysis

In total, the measure will be capable of moving about 9,400 people into the City during the morning period, roughly 10 times as many people as there are parking spaces. GGBHTD isn’t planning on running more buses to handle the crowds – they don’t have the manpower to operate their regular schedule, much less an added schedule – so regular Wave shuttle and Route 29 service is all the ferry will get. The 21 buses running on those two lines during the enhanced service hours will be able to accommodate around another 1,200 passengers, assuming very tight conditions on the 41-seat Orions generally used on the routes.

Bicycling is another possibility, but with only two Spauldings to provide their generous bicycle capacity, bicycle parking at LFT will be in short supply. Taxis might make sense, but congestion in the broader Larkspur Landing neighborhood will likely be wretched.

This is a great opportunity to show what LFT could be with minimal headways. If you miss your ferry, you can just catch the next one: if it’s not already docked, it’s probably steaming down the channel.

It’s also a great teaching lesson for what happens when Larkspur is used only as a park & ride. When primary access is by car, it’s necessary to go all-out to store the cars, and when a special event comes there’s no more capacity to move people to the terminal.

It will be a good day tomorrow to celebrate the Giants (rain notwithstanding), and the ferry is going to be one of the best ways to enjoy the festivities. Getting to the ferry, however, might be the hardest part of the trip.

Golden Gate Bridge bike/ped toll moves forward

As the Marin IJ reported, the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway, and Transportation District (GGBHTD) has decided to push forward with studying the cycling and walking toll on the bridge.

The vote was very close, 10-9 in favor. All but one of San Francisco’s representatives, John Moylan (who represents San Francisco’s mayor), voted against studying the toll. All but one of the northern representatives, Marin supervisor Kate Sears, voted for studying the toll. This includes Marin supervisor Judy Arnold and Tiburon mayor Alice Fredericks.

Most of the arguments for the toll, as relayed by people covering the meeting on Twitter, were more that it was important to examine it regardless of whether it’s a good idea, not that the toll itself would yield any non-financial benefits.

One observer on Twitter, John Murphy of Healdsburg, made the point that the toll could have a number of unintended consequences, mostly around trailheads. By email, he argued that recreational cyclists consider the ride from San Francisco to West Marin “junk miles.” A toll would be just one more reason to drive to Marin on weekends, exacerbating tourist traffic on Shoreline Highway and parking around trailheads.

He further made the point that tourist cyclists already often pay into GGBHTD’s pot by taking the Sausalito Ferry back to the City after riding across the bridge. Without Clipper cards, these riders pay the full cash price.

What the old studies said

According to commentary from MCBC on the 2005 proposal (the report itself isn’t available online), the proposed toll would raise somewhere between $600,000 and $1.8 million in 2014 dollars, or roughly between 9 and 27 percent of the five-year shortfall.

Unfortunately, the 1998 report indicated there would be no way to charge the toll except with in-person toll-takers, which would cut significantly into the revenue and cause huge lines to enter the bridge. Murphy, the Healdsburg commentator, pointed out that this would force people to spend more time parked, exacerbating the significant parking crunch.

One more alternative

There is another way to target tourist traffic, of course, one that would target tourists exclusively. Rather than charge people for the opportunity to walk across the bridge, GGBHTD should charge for the opportunity to park at either parking lot, and allow tour bus companies to reserve bus parking spaces for a flat fee. This is part of the strategic financial plan, under item 21.

Already, tourist traffic at the lots can cause backups onto the bridge; charging an appropriate amount for parking would reduce that congestion problem and raise money simultaneously. It would target tourists exclusively and wouldn’t require much more infrastructure than parking meters. It’s an idea that deserves study, rather than one more look at a bike/ped toll.

For now, the toll is not a done deal; it is only being studied. To ensure it doesn’t, write to your representatives who voted for the toll. Let them know there are better ways to raise money.

Yay

Del Norte

Board of Supervisors appointee Gerald D. Cochran

Marin

Supervisor Judy Arnold
Marin cities’ appointee Tiburon Mayor Alice Fredericks
Board of Supervisors appointee J. Dietrich Stroeh, GGBHTD Second Vice President

Mendocino

Board of Supervisors appointee James C. Eddie, GGBHTD Board President

Napa

Board of Supervisors appointee Barbara L. Pahre

San Francisco

Mayor’s appointee John J. Moylan

Sonoma

Sonoma cities’ appointee Rohnert Park Councilmember Gina Belforte
Supervisor David A. Rabbitt
Board of Supervisors appointee Brian M. Sobel

Nay

Marin

Supervisor Kate Sears

San Francisco

Supervisor London Breed
Supervisor David Campos
Board of Supervisors appointee Dick Grosboll
Board of Supervisors appointee Janet Reilly
Board of Supervisors appointee Dave Snyder
Board of Supervisors appointee Michael Therieault
Supervisor Scott Weiner
Supervisor Norman Yee

Golden Gate Bridge sidewalk toll just the latest in a string of bad ideas

Like all bad ideas GGBHTD has, the idea of charging a toll on bicyclists and pedestrians crossing the Golden Gate Bridge has risen again from its apparent grave. As it has before, the proposal has raised the ire of bike coalitions on both sides of the bridge, not to mention smart growth organizations in San Francisco. Whether the project will go forward, however, is anyone’s guess.

The proposal is aimed at reducing a 5-year, $32.9 million deficit caused almost exclusively by the Doyle Drive reconstruction, one which will increase with the construction of a new parking garage at Larkspur Ferry Terminal. Already, GGBHTD has hiked tolls, continues to raise transit fares, and implemented paid parking at Larkspur.

But as it has with each of these measures, GGBHTD has divorced financial and policy considerations. A half-hearted $1 ferry parking charge has done nothing to ease parking demand. Transit fares are still rising faster than bridge tolls, ensuring congestion is here to stay.

A new charge on cyclists and pedestrians will mean fewer cyclists using the span as a commuter route and more cars, or bikes, on the road.

Each of these measures raises money, but none produce tangible benefits to the district’s customers. Without policy goals, it’s just a money squeeze.

GGBHTD’s budget and planning staff need to come up with policy goals that also generate revenue and pursue those first. I’ve discussed each on this blog before, but they bear repeating:

Create a variable, congestion-fighting toll. As demand increases, the toll increases. Thanks to all-electronic tolling, implementing the change would be trivial. If set up properly, the end result will be the end of traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge, a significant boost to transit ridership, and a significant bump in toll revenue. As a bonus, it would likely correct the growing gap between the average toll and the average fare.

Charge a variable price for the Larkspur Ferry Terminal parking lot to ensure 20 percent of spaces are free by the end of the morning rush hour. By allowing spaces to be free for the midday, drivers will be able to park and use ferries that are generally exceptionally empty. GGBHTD will get a boost from parking and fare revenue. This will also obviate the need for a new $10 million parking garage on the Marin Airporter site.

If General Manager Denis Mulligan can’t get his team to meld policy and financial goals, it’s vital the board do what it can to stop the latest iteration of GGBHTD’s inept planning process.

Missing buses continue on GGT

Despite promises to the contrary, Golden Gate Transit’s personnel woes have continued. Despite yet another opportunity to make their schedule match their personnel for a second time, GGT cancelled a run of Route 54 on Friday and another this morning. What started as a headache is fast becoming a glaring indictment of GGT’s scheduling and personnel management.

In June, GGT’s drivers announced that, thanks to scheduling changes, the agency would not have enough drivers to meet its scheduling obligations. Soon, riders who went through the hoops to get text and email alerts started receiving cancellation notices the morning of their ride. For people who catch the same bus every day, this was frustrating. Questions mushroomed: if GGT knew it couldn’t meet its new scheduling obligations, why did it bother to write an unrealistic schedule?

Not to worry, said GGT. We’re hiring more drivers, so in September cancellations will be a thing of the past. In the interim, the agency permanently cancelled four morning and four evening runs on the 4, 24, and 54.

Still, the unscheduled cancellations mounted, so that up to 7 runs would be cancelled in a single morning.

With the release of its fall schedule and the graduation of its new class of drivers, GGT had a chance to put its terrible summer behind it. Yet, both the scheduled cancelations as well as the unscheduled cancellations continue.

That they continue raises some troubling questions about GGT’s approach to customer service, scheduling, and personnel. Were schedulers informed of how many drivers to expect on a given day? Were they instructed to exceed standard personnel schedule padding? Or, did personnel managers not know how many drivers to expect? No answer to these questions would shine well on the agency.

GGT needs to get its house in order, and fast. Transit riders need consistency to plan their morning. With constant cancellations despite promises to the contrary, GGT is simply driving away the riders it is supposed to serve.

New service comes to GGT today, but nothing restored

The latest schedule adjustment to GGT’s buses goes into effect today, and it offers mixed news for commuters. While GGT did expand service between San Francisco and Sonoma on the 101X, service cuts from earlier this summer remain in effect. In short, this adjustment is somewhat of a wash.

­The cut runs

To deal with ongoing personnel shortages, GGT cut eight commuter runs: one in the morning and evening on Route 4, two in the morning and evening on the 24, and one in the morning and evening on the 54. People weren’t too pleased, but it was better than unplanned cancellations the morning of. (These continued, but at least they became more rare.)

The new schedule doesn’t restore any of these runs. Though the latest crop of drivers, who start today, were supposed to have alleviated the service cuts, apparently GGT thought they should assign drivers elsewhere.

Elsewhere in the schedule, Route 2’s first run (5:15am) was folded into Route 4’s first (5:10am, which is rescheduled to 4:58am). Both runs used to arrive at San Francisco at the same time, so consolidating saves a bit of money and manpower. Route 70’s 4:30am run, which left from the San Rafael Transit Center, was also cancelled, as the first 27 duplicates the run just five minutes later.

The new runs

Route 92, the only real commuter bus from San Francisco to Marin, added two northbound morning runs to Marin City. Route 93, the San Francisco shuttle route, added two new evening runs to its schedule. Route 23 has a few new school service runs to White Hill Middle School, too.

The bigger deal is the new 101X evening trip. The 101X uses a different route than the other commuters and functions as a solid express bus for Sonoma residents. By added a new trip at 5:35pm, the 101X is a much better, and faster, bus for commuters and San Francisco daytrippers from Sonoma.

Bottom line

GGT is tweaking its schedule in smart ways around the edges, as it does every quarter. From the standpoint of customer service, I’m not keen on inconsistent service patterns, like running Route 4 through Marin City and Sausalito just once in the morning. While they do make operational sense, customers crave consistency. Signage, maps, and other wayfinding devices all must show the inconsistent routing, which could easily lead to more confusion.

(Someone might recall seeing the Route 4 symbol on their stop in Sausalito and take a more regular 4 up to Mill Valley, completely bypassing their home and get pissed at GGT.)

The 101X is a savvy move by GGT, which is trying to improve connectivity between Sonoma and San Francisco.

But none of that balances out the insult to riders that are the supposedly temporarily cancelled runs on 4, 24, and 54. Now that there are more drivers, GGT should return to the brand of high-quality and reliable service it has built over the past 40 years. No matter how clever the adjustments to other routes are, the loss of service on these three popular routes is deeply felt by riders.

Be sure to pick up a copy of the new route guide on the bus today, and tweet your impressions with the new service to @theGreaterMarin, @GoldenGateBus, or both.

Delay tactics plague the county housing element

by Lotus Carroll, on Flickr

by Lotus Carroll, on Flickr

As the county comes down the home stretch of approving its housing element (HE), opponents of the element, led by Marin Against Density (MAD) and Community Venture Partners (CVP) have taken up a tactic of delay. Calling the effectively two-year process a fast-track giveaway to developers, they have called for extending the process out from the end of January to the end of next May.The delay is simple political posturing. Opponents should return to debate over substance, not timetables.

The current HE finds its roots in the 2013 County Housing Element, passed before Plan Bay Area and its raft of tweaks to affordable housing policy in the region. In essence, the county copied the list of affordable housing sites from the 2013 element, developed after an intense yearlong debate, into the 2014 element.

This has opponents crying foul. The 2013 element was based on an old housing needs assessment, when the region required the county to find room for affordable 781 units. The 2014 element needs to only find space for about 185 units. By copying over the last element’s list to the current list, opponents argue the county is accommodating many more homes than the state requires.

This position glosses over the effect of the 2013 element: the Housing Element simply identifies sites already zoned for housing.   The affordable housing sites declared to the state through that element are in the general plan today. Whether the county lists these sites or not, these sites’ legal status will remain unchanged.  The opponents’ argument, that this increases housing opportunities in Marin, is flat wrong.

To fight this, opponents are apparently planning on delay tactics.

Led by Community Venture Partners (CVP), an anti-Smart Growth nonprofit run by Bob Silvestri, opponents are arguing the county timetable is a “fast-track.” First, they were upset that the county was submitting the element to HCD for review without apparently realizing the review was non-binding. CVP declared on their website:

On Monday, August 25th, the Draft of the Marin County “Housing Element” (HE) for the 2015-2023 planning cycle will have its final review by the Planning Commission before being sent to the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) in Sacramento.

The Planning Commission will actually hold their last hearing on November 17 to review feedback from HCD, followed by at least two hearings by the Board of Supervisors that have yet to be scheduled. CVP goes on:

The County is fast-tracking the review, submittal and approval of the HE unnecessarily. The County has until May 31st of 2015 to gain final certification of the HE from HCD, without risk of penalty of any kind.

CVP is mistaken here, too. While Marin would not be subject to state penalties, MTC has declared it will prioritize regional transportation funding for cities and counties that submit their HE by January 31, 2015. CVP is gambling the county can challenge MTC’s rulemaking, but that’s hardly “without risk of penalty of any kind.”

Testimony from MAD supporters at a recent Board of Supervisors meeting indicate the aim isn’t to allow more time for public comment but to give opponents a chance to organize. They begged the supervisors to do what the Larkspur City Council did with their Station Area Plan: accede to opponents’ demands. If the county does not, CVP has issued a fundraising appeal for a $15,000 legal team to sue the county over the HE.

From a political standpoint, MAD and CVP are working with a shrewd strategy. A delay that allows them to organize hands them a victory and momentum, which will make the extra four months of organizing that much more effective. As well, a delay keeps housing in the news. The unusual back-to-back Housing Element processes has served as kindling to their cause. Keeping the news cycle on housing will help them maintain the angry fires for a bit longer, which will bleed into the next election cycle.

Unfortunately for the county, this strategy is terribly unproductive. Rather than focus on solutions to the regional housing shortage, CVP and MAD have chosen to set themselves up as populist outsiders. CVP’s policy proposals, such as they are, are buried beneath cries of an unjust fast-track bureaucracy. And, by using a strategy of delay, both CVP and MAD are placing their own political needs above the county’s policy needs. They are putting millions of dollars in regional, state, and federal transportation funds at risk for political gain; whatever legal mess comes from it will be left to taxpayer-funded county lawyers.

There are sites within the Housing Element that deserve scrutiny because of their location. However, this is not a reason to delay the HE or to put county transportation funds at risk. Democracy must be about compromise, not threats of lawsuit.

—–

Coalition for a Livable Marin (CALM) has a new petition out that asks the Board of Supervisors to respect the original timetable for approving the HE and support the housing element more broadly. Emails from CALM have asked supporters to make their concerns known in a way that doesn’t put the county’s future at risk. I and other steering committee members of CALM have pushed to include more about the organization’s stances against greenfield development and auto-oriented density.

What you can do today is sign up for CALM’s newsletter and sign the petition to the Board of Supervisors.

On vacation

I’ve been on vacation for the past week, including a fantastic cross-country train trip with fellow transit and urbanist nerds. I highly recommend my roomette bunkmate’s podcast, Transportini.

While there haven’t been any posts written as a result, you may find a glimpse at my latest mapping project of some interest:

Guess what I'm making...

Guess what I’m making…

Keep an eye out over the next few weeks for the end result.

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