Marin’s transit ridership in step with national trends

Public transit ridership in the United States is higher than it’s been since 1956: 10.7 billion trips, up 1 percent from last year. While this indicates an overall trend toward transit, it’s been driven largely by high-quality transit: heavy rail like BART, commuter rail like Caltrain, and light rail like Muni Metro.

Marin County’s transit picture largely echoes the national trend, though this is not a new story for our county. High-quality transit, namely trains elsewhere but ferries here, continues a ridership boom, as has commuter bus service, but local bus ridership continues to slowly slide. Overall, Marinites are taking more transit.

Local bus

Golden Gate Transit’s Marin-only service has been bleeding passengers for the past five years, from about 4.1 million to roughly 3.3 million today. Including Marin Transit’s independent operations, such as West Marin Stagecoach and school service, local ridership ticked down by 0.7 percent over last year, to 3.4 million trips.

Regional bus

Golden Gate Transit’s commuter and basic routes to San Francisco, however, are doing quite well. For the past 32 months ridership has grown and, year on year, grew by 1.3 percent over January, 2013, to about 2.5 million trips. This, however, is still down from 2004’s 3 million trips.

Ferry service

All that changes when you include the ferries. Despite a steep price hike in 2003, ferry ridership has been growing like gangbusters. Even excluding Sausalito, whose figures are skewed by tourists, Larkspur’s ridership growth has been more than enough to offset the long-term decline in regional bus ridership.

Larkspur ridership grew by 7.3 percent in the past year, from approximately 1.5 million trips last year to about 1.6 million this year. Sausalito ridership grew twice as fast, 14.9 percent, though at around 750,000 annual trips it’s still a small share of total ridership.

The rapid growth in the ferry system continues a now-32 month growth streak begun in 2011. It shot through its all-time record, set in 1978, in 2012, and shows no sign of slowing down.

What it all means

The national trend toward transit is really a national trend toward quality transit. Buses that come every hour and take 4 times as long to get around as a car just don’t cut it.

Indeed, even as MTC has focused a huge amount of attention and money on moving people faster in cars, it has spent almost no time focused on moving people faster on transit. BART is the only major investment in the past half-century that has dramatically improved mobility through the Bay Area, but has now been expanded to areas that do little to boost ridership. Other booming systems are those that feel higher-class or that run as fast or faster than driving, such as Caltrain.

In that light, it’s no surprise Marin’s high-class transit service, the ferry, is doing so well. So too is it no surprise that commuter buses, which generally offer a nicer ride than local buses, are steadily growing as well. Combined, the two systems grew by 3.5 percent this past year, quite a bit faster than Golden Gate Bridge traffic, which is up 2.4 percent.

These and national trends should guide GGBHTD and Marin Transit as they choose their capital investments. Big investments in the bus system should focus on speed, for both the locals and commuters, and comfort, for the commuters. Signal priority, for example, which allows approaching buses to turn red lights green, would help make schedules more reliable and make the bus more competitive against the car.

Small investments should focus on usability and connectivity. Open-source real-time arrival data for all buses, for example, would be a huge boon for riders, dispelling the anxiety one gets waiting for an infrequent bus to come.

For ferries, their extremely fast growth rate means capacity problems are on the horizon. GGT needs to start laying the groundwork for more crossings from Larkspur. Ongoing problems with midday ridership will continue to be a roadblock to better service as well. Even faster-growing ridership at Sausalito may require more ferries to meet the demand.

Marin’s experience shows national trends are indeed applicable to our county. Investments in usability, in connectivity, and in higher-quality trips would capitalize on overall demand for transbay travel, while investments in frequency and speed could stop the slide of local service. Transit planners here would do well to learn from the successes of others.

Requiring transit officials to take transit makes sense

In light of some criticism regarding a $300,000 transit marketing study, Dick Spotswood makes a good recommendation: require Marin’s elected officials take transit to their meetings at least once per week. Though it won’t take the place of a marketing study, the observations of actual use are irreplaceable.

Spotswood writes:

If transit directors ride their own buses they’ll have a splendid opportunity to fully understand the system they govern. They’ll gain direct input from bus passengers and drivers without consultants in the way.

This isn’t about Golden Gate’s excellent commuter buses serving San Francisco’s central business district. Sears understands that, as she once commuted by bus when she worked in the city.

It’s about buses that start and end in Marin, funded by Marin taxpayers and governed by county supervisors and two council members, Novato’s Madeline Kellner and Stephanie Moulton-Peters of Mill Valley.

A theoretical understanding of a transit system doesn’t always comport with some of the day-to-day inconveniences. Golden Gate Transit (GGT) and Marin Transit (MT) both have some pretty glaring theoretical issues – lack of real-time arrival data, lack of fare coordination, three-transfer trips, poor quality bus pads – there are some things you just need to experience to have them in the top of your mind. When a bus is late and you miss your timed transfer, that’s a huge inconvenience. When a bus stops running just before your event is over, that’s a major problem. When you arrive to your stop on time but the bus passed by early, that might mean an hour wait.

What’s big to someone on the ground might only appear as an obscure metric on a report, or not appear on a report at all. As an infrequent rider, I’m surprised when I ride at how fantastic the system is, on one hand, and how much room for improvement there is on the other. [If you want to report on some of these day-to-day inconveniences, drop me a line on Facebook, Twitter, or email. -ed]

Putting this understanding and frustration into the hands of elected officials can be a powerful tool to push back against staff when they’re dragging their feet. An applicant of GGT’s citizens’ advisory committee recently told me about staff brushing off a question about real-time arrival data, which was promised to be available “in six months” for over a year now. Though this advisory committee can’t do much, a county supervisor would be able to do quite a bit.

We do need marketing studies and we do need a marketing campaign for GGT and MT, as there are issues that might apply to an area elected officials just don’t encounter, but that’s just one part of an integrated whole. We need our elected officials riding the bus around Marin. Perhaps then they’ll find not just why Marinites don’t ride the bus, but also some easy ways it could be so much better.

Sketching out a better Muir Woods Shuttle

Residents of Tam Valley are up in arms about Muir Woods, and it’s no wonder. Their community and its two-lane road is the gateway to the popular site, as well as all the beauty and recreation of southern West Marin.

In response to the cry, the Board of Supervisors wrote to the National Park Service and asked them to explore improving shuttle service and to limit visitors.

While limiting visitors is an awfully stingy solution to the traffic problems in Tam Valley, tackling the traffic problem with transit alone is likely to be tough. How to restructure the shuttle to improve service to provide that much travel is an important question.

So, to get planners’ creative juices flowing, here’s my own sketch of a new shuttle, lifted from some brainstorming on Twitter.

Guiding questions: What is the purpose of the program? To ease traffic to West Marin through Tam Valley. To do that without limiting visitors, we need to create a shuttle that takes enough cars off the road to make traffic run more smoothly. What’s the purpose of that shuttle? To provide a car-free way for people to visit Muir Woods.

How do we make this shuttle attractive to tourists who might have rented a car and might be from areas where transit is not part of their daily lives?

Basically, like any good transit, we need to run it from a logical origin point to our logical endpoint while hitting other possible origin/destinations in the process. For tourists in San Francisco and Southern Marin, the primary destinations are Union Square, Coit Tower, Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf, Fort Mason, Lombard Street, and the cable cars in San Francisco, and Sausalito, the Marin Headlands, the Golden Gate Bridge, Muir Woods, and Stinson Beach in Marin.

Muir Woods sits on a dead-end, so it’s probably not a good idea to go on to Stinson Beach. The time going in and out again is just too much of an inconvenience for something going on to West Marin. Hitting Sausalito makes easy sense for a shuttle. Route 66F does this now and doesn’t get enough riders, so we’ll need to press on.

The Golden Gate Bridge makes a lot of sense. Not everyone wants to take a ferry to Sausalito, but everyone wants to see the Bridge if they’re touring San Francisco. It would be a good way to make the shuttle highly visible to tourists and catch those who want Muir Woods but not the ferry ride.

What about Fisherman’s Wharf? It would certainly put the shuttle into the heart of tourist San Francisco, lending it ease of use and ease of access. The problem is how far Fisherman’s Wharf is from the ultimate destination – Muir Woods – and how much it would cost to run a shuttle with appreciable frequency that deep into The City.

Not to say it isn’t impossible, only expensive. At a typical $89 per revenue hour (the number of collective hours the shuttle vehicles operate for passengers), it would likely cost above $1 million annually to operate, less fare revenues. It may also do more to boost tourism to Muir Woods than offset driving, which isn’t something the National Parks Service wants.

So, unless there is a compelling reason for the shuttle to run all the way to Fisherman’s Wharf, I propose the shuttle run from the Golden Gate Bridge Toll Plaza to Muir Woods, passing through Sausalito (timed with the ferry), Marin City, and park & ride lots on the way. It should run consistently and frequently, with on- and off-season schedules. Every 15 minutes allows people to just show up and go. And the average wait of 7.5 minutes at the Golden Gate Bridge could easily be filled by reading plaques with facts about Southern Marin and the redwoods, not to mention fabulous views of The City and the Bridge. Shuttle should start so they can arrive at Muir Woods at its opening and end at closing.

The current Muir Woods shuttle, Route 66, typically runs to Marin City. It’s much more a parking shuttle than a tourist shuttle, as the only destinations tourists might want to be at are park & ride lots to wait for the shuttle. Infrequently, it runs to the Sausalito Ferry as Route 66F. This is the route that makes more sense from a tourist’s perspective, as it allows the tourist to chain their Marin trips together. Adding the Golden Gate Bridge would add significant value to the shuttle.

Short of that, it would add value to run all shuttles as 66F. We don’t want to ask shuttle riders to drive or transfer, but running most shuttles to park & rides forces tourists either to take Golden Gate Transit or drive.

A non-route concept might have just as much impact as good transit design: limit access to the park for people driving. If you plan to arrive by car, you’d need to reserve a timeslot for your car ahead of time. People arriving by shuttle wouldn’t face that kind of limitation, dramatically incentivizing people to take transit or at least use the park & rides.

A free transfer from the ferry, too, would help overcome the feeling that we’re just gouging the tourists: tickets for everyone for the ferry, tickets for everyone on the shuttle, then back…

Total cost to operate this shuttle? Somewhere around $1 million per year, though with fares it will probably cost the taxpayers around $750,000. With the parking limit, taxpayer cost would be significantly less.

We don’t want to limit access to Muir Woods unless we must, and right now there’s no need to do so. The alternative – a well-designed shuttle program paired with the right incentives – needs a chance to work. To say we need to limit access and solve traffic before boosting the shuttle is to display incomprehension about the purpose and power of good transit. It is not an add-on; it is a solution.

In doing so, we can keep our national heritage open for all Americans, not just the ones who got there first.

Mid-week links: Marin Transit

Marin County

by jay d, on Flickr

The latest Marin Transit board meeting was one full of change and surprise. Amid increasing ridership (though it fell in June), MT posted a $1.5 million surplus, which will go into a rainy day fund. To keep ridership on the up and up, the agency hired a new communications and advertising consultant, who will manage MT’s branding, website, social media, and communications strategy. IJ reporter Nels Johnson, however, seemed to think the $300,000 consultant was taking the agency “for a spin.” And, in the name of efficiency, the MT board cut Route 222, which got less than 3 riders per hour in June. Elsewhere:

  • There was so much public comment about Marin’s new housing element that the Board of Supervisors had to postpone its debate until next week. (Patch) On a side note, whoever’s idea it was to bring in a saxophonist to lead the potentially rancorous crowd in singing, “There’s still a lot of love in Marin!” is brilliant. (IJ)
  • The Civic Center Drive upgrades look fabulous, but now that they aren’t in a PDA TAM may need to rescind its funding. (Patch)
  • A driver hit a bicyclist in Fairfax yesterday by turning left through a bike lane, sending the bicyclist to the hospital with a broken collar bone. Though the circumstances seem like they warranted an investigation or a failure-to-yield citation, the driver was not cited by police. (IJ)
  • The costs of demand-responsive bus service, promoted by Bob Silvestri as the ideal transit, make it an ineffective replacement for traditional bus service. (Listen Marin)
  • The lack of BART in Marin is apparently because we’re classist and racist and always have been. (The Grid) Except, y’know, that’s not at all why we don’t have BART.
  • TAM should take on all the causes of congestion on Highway 101, not just cars, according to Corte Madera Mayor Diane Furst. She sat on a working group to draft an alternative plan to flyovers on the freeway. (Marin Voice)
  • The Golden Gate Bridge will close for a full weekend next year for the installation of a new movable barrier. This will be the first time in the bridge’s history it will be closed for more than a few hours. (IJ)
  • Parking minimums can severely constrain construction, either driving up rents in the building or preventing new construction altogether and contributing to a housing shortage. Affordable housing advocates take note. (Sightline)

Politics

  • San Rafael council candidate Randy Warren hits rival Maribeth Bushey-Lang hard, saying her need to recuse herself over issues like SMART make her unfit for service. (IJ)
  • The move to recall Supervisor Susan Adams failed to attract enough signatures, and Save Marinwood is not happy. Interestingly, no signatures were submitted to the county, so we’ll never know how far short the recall came. (IJ, Save Marinwood)
  • Paul Mamalakis examines the race for Novato City Council. (Advance)

A new 101 bus map for a revised bus system

In case you missed it, Marin Transit, in partnership with Golden Gate Transit, has made some changes to Marin’s bus system. The changes to existing routes saved enough money that they were able to add about 15,000 more service-hours to the system, meaning people around the county have better transit.

The changes inspired a second look at my 101 corridor bus guide, and the result is here.

101 Buses-Weekday 2013.08-x

Click for PDF

While the guide, technically called a “strip map,” reflects the changes to bus routes, I’ve also added non-GGT and Marin Transit routes to the map. Greyhound’s once-per-day north-south Arcata-SF service, Sonoma County Transit’s express services, and Mendocino Transit Authority’s service from Fort Bragg to Santa Rosa all made it onto the map.

It’s much less Marin-centric as a result, but no detail has been lost. Instead, Sonomans can know their options, Marinites can know their options, and all users get an expansive view of where they can go by transit in the North Bay’s 101 corridor.

This is the sort of map GGT needs to have at every bus pad and every transit center along its route. I created the original 101 bus map because I couldn’t visualize how all the lines interact and work together, nor could I tell what buses served which bus pad.

My home church, for example, is located off Smith Ranch Road, so it’s off the Lucas Valley bus pad. Since the 49 is the only bus whose schedule said it stopped at Lucas Valley, I’ll probably take it, turning what should have been a 15 minute ride into a 35 minute tour of Terra Linda.

With this map, I know I can have take the 70, 71, or 80. On a weekday evening, I might take the 44. But the 49? While it does serve the bus pad, it’s a local bus serving Terra Linda and the Civic Center, so it’s not the best idea.

A pocket version will be available in the next few weeks.

Proposed Marin Transit signage a step forward

Bus stop signage is an important part of the transit landscape. It can offer a window into the often-opaque routes and numbers that can mislead or confuse inexperienced riders. To help make Marin Transit stops more accessible to the casual rider, MT has proposed a new set of signs for its shuttle stops, and the results are decent.

What’s proposed

Proposed signage (left) and existing signage (right). From Marin Transit.

Proposed signage (left) and existing signage (right). From Marin Transit. Click to enlarge.

At the moment, the bus stop signage is limited to route numbers and some branding. There’s a little bit of extra information, but for the most part it’s assumed riders will use the map that’s often on the flag to determine where buses go.

The proposed signage adds data and makes the route numbers more clear. Below the route is the destination, and below that are the service days. Though not frequency data – a valuable part of any bus map – it does allow a traveler to at least know that they shouldn’t bother waiting for a route if it doesn’t run that day.

Most importantly, the sign adds the stop ID and how to get real-time arrival information. Though GGT isn’t there yet, MT already has real-time arrival data for the bus fleet it operates.

These are all excellent ideas, but there are problems when incorporating GGT’s regional routes in the signage.

GGT’s regional routes, however, do not get destination or service information. On the sample image, routes 40 and 42 are just big numbers without any indication that they’re bound for BART. As well, the route number’s box isn’t colored blue, the color of Basic routes maps, which is out-of-step with coloration for the MT shuttles and GGT-operated local routes. While possibly a conscious decision, it is nevertheless the wrong one.

What have other bus systems done to aid riders with signage?

Practices elsewhere

KCM Flag

Seattle’s flag. Image from King County.

Seattle’s bus system underwent a similar redesign for its stop signage, and the result was similar, though there are differences. (See Seattle’s design manual here.)

Most significantly, the Seattle stop signs use tiles, which allows the system to easily take out or edit route information as needed. If a bus used to be routed to the airport and isn’t, Metro can just remove that tile from the route’s signs rather than order entirely new signs. And, at the stops the route no longer serves, Metro can just remove the line’s number. While more expensive than a typical sign, the tiles would save money over the long-term if service changes effect a large number of the metal signs.

Something else of note is the use of icons to show what services this particular route intersects. Marin’s transit system includes ferries and airport shuttles and will soon include a train. Designating transfers to alternative modes may be of use. Designating routes that intersect the 101 trunk lines may also be useful, though that would involve a unified brand for such service. A black highway shield may do the trick.

London’s bus stops use a similar design, but its bus stations do something a bit more horizontal, with more potential points of interest. If applied to Marin, Route 49 might list Civic Center, Lucas Valley, Hamilton, and Novato instead of just Novato. (You can find their design manual here.)

How’s the sign?

My principal concern with the MT signage as proposed is that it does not visually integrate with either the GGT system or the MTC regional hub signage standards. This is problematic, as a unified brand for the transit system is important to rider literacy, especially for the casual rider. It makes little sense for them to proceed, as they did yesterday, without first developing a unified standard.

Given the prominence of the San Rafael Transit Center to the transit system, it would make sense to take inspiration from the signage there, which will meet MTC standards, rather than to invent a new visual language from scratch.

From a physical design perspective, it may make sense to design these signs to be modular. That would decrease the cost of route changes, as new signs wouldn’t need to be stamped along with new route books.

Nevertheless, the new sign is still a step forward from what exists today. But it would be nice if MT would start thinking a bit more regionally.

If you want to offer input into the newly-approved signs, you can take the survey here.

GGT’s bus ridership is sagging, but how to fix it?

Transit 005There’s no question about it: Golden Gate Transit ridership is in decline. But, as we cap off a year with two crazy days for transit (America’s Cup and the Giants parade), we should take a step back and look at where our ridership is going and, perhaps, how the situation might be improved.

A word about data

GGBHTD uses a July-June fiscal year, so we’ll be discussing projections for the rest of the 2013 fiscal year (last July to next June) as well as what has happened historically for the last few fiscal years. This confounds analysis. Federal data uses the federal fiscal year (October-September) while Census data uses the calendar year. If I switch into a different year, I’ll be sure to mention that in the text.

As well, it takes about one month for GGT to audit bus ridership numbers, so December’s numbers haven’t been released. Nevertheless, today seems like as good a day as any to discuss ridership.

The numbers

GGT’s ridership has been dominated by bus services for a long, long time, but its share has shrunk significantly since 2002.

In FY 2012, GGT carried 8.7 million passengers, roughly one quarter by ferry. Total ridership is down significantly from 2002, when GGT carried 10.8 million passengers – only one-sixth by ferry. All the losses have been borne by the bus segment of the system, which has seen annual declines in seven of the last ten years. In contrast, ferries have seen declines in only four of the last ten years, led by sometimes double-digit growth rates at Sausalito.

These trends look set to continue in the current fiscal year. Bus ridership for the first half of FY 2013 is down 1.6 percent over the same period in 2012, while ferry ridership is up 8 percent. Intriguingly, this could be the first fiscal year that total ridership increases entirely on the strength of the ferries.

Below is a normalized chart of ridership trends, with 2002 set as the baseline.

Transit ridership normalized to the 2002 fiscal year. Ridership for the current fiscal year is a projection.

Transit ridership normalized to the 2002 fiscal year. Ridership for the current fiscal year is a projection. Click to enlarge.

Causes

The most obvious trend is the decline from FY 2002 to FY 2004. In that time, San Francisco was still suffering the aftershocks of the tech bubble pop, which was compounded by the 2001-2002 recession. According to the Federal Transit Administration, ridership peaked in federal year 2001 at 11.6 million transit trips – 9.7 million by bus, 1.9 million by ferry. That’s also around when bridge crossings peaked, implying overall travel demand fell.

This is borne out by census data. Since calendar year 2000, commutes by Marinites have fallen by about 6 percent. But this isn’t enough to account for the shift away from buses, which are down 32 percent. There must be structural reasons as well.

Sure enough, that’s what we find. From 2002 to 2004, GGT dramatically restructured and cut its routing to cut costs, reducing its vehicle revenue miles (how far its buses travelled collecting fares over the year) by 32 percent. Over subsequent years, revenue miles increased only 1 percent. Though GGT projected only a 15 percent passenger decline, fare increases, competition from other non-car modes of transportation like bikes and ferries, and declines in commutes, overall took a toll.

Turning the situation around

If bus ridership is going to increase again, GGBHTD needs to see itself as a single transportation agency. At the moment, bus schedules don’t link well with ferry departures, bridge tolls are too low to push people to bus usage, and timing-point schedules are hindering the development of high-frequency corridors. Most of these are actually revenue-raising measures, which could be pumped back into the bus system.

1.      Loosen restrictions on bus riders

Anyone riding Muni or AC Transit knows it is used for every errand under the sun, from commutes to groceries to getting to the airport. The front of the buses have center-facing seats reserved for seniors and the disabled, and passengers can exit out the rear door. In Muni’s case, they can enter that way, too.

Yet, for whatever reason, GGT has chosen to keep its rear-door Clipper readers deactivated, forcing everyone to exit out the front. Navigating the system with anything that can’t fit on a lap is against bus policy. As well, the lack of level-boarding buses hinders the ability of seniors from using the buses.

While the current bus configurations do keep the buses comfortable, it makes them less useful. Reforming these would make the bus more useful for everyday travel and speed boarding and alighting. Low-floor buses that provide level boarding could be the priority for all future bus acquisitions, rolling them into the regular capital replacement budget.

Cost: Marginal

2.      Coordinate ferry departures and bus arrivals

While GGT does a fantastic job timing different bus lines, it does a miserable job coordinating with ferries. Route 29 to Larkspur Landing, for example, arrives 40 minutes before the next ferry departure. Part of this is Marin Transit’s fault, which times Route 29, but GGT could easily fix the problem, too. A shuttle between the Transit Center and Larkspur Ferry, say, would encourage people to take the bus to the ferry rather than drive.

The total round trip, including layovers, would take about 25 minutes.

This leaves 20 minutes of dead time between cycles, so this service could be added on to certain Route 23 or 35 buses, rebranded as 23F or 35F, which would save costs.

Cost: $660,000 per year for new service, $340,000 for route extensions.

3.      Charge for parking at park & ride lots

I explored this concept in a previous post for ferry terminal parking, but it should apply to all park-and-ride lots that get full over the course of a typical day. This would accomplish two goals: to increase reliance on transit to get to transit, and free up spaces for midday travelers. Though some riders might abandon transit altogether, GGT would very likely see a net gain in ridership. As well, the parking fees collected could be pumped back into service, either for collector buses or for better frequency on selected corridors.

The principal barrier to implementation is Caltrans, which controls the park & ride lots along the 101 corridor. Sacramento would probably need to intervene to force them to charge and to pass the money along to GGT. The ferry terminal lots, however, are controlled by GGT and could be priced now. Ideally this would paired with the ferry shuttles described above.

Income: Variable, but likely in the low hundreds of thousands per year. Implementation would require a one-time capital investment for parking meters, ticket dispensers, etc.

4.      Increase tolls on the Golden Gate Bridge

I discussed this concept in the past as well. A driver should pay just as much to cross the bridge as a bus rider. If we raise the base FasTrak toll to $7.20 and the congestion toll to $8.80 – the cost of going to San Francisco and back from Southern and Central Marin, respectively – the bus becomes a much more attractive alternative. A commuter would pay the same no matter which mode she chooses, so why not choose a bus?

Cost: Political. Former San Rafael mayor Al Boro scuttled the last attempt at congestion pricing at the Golden Gate Bridge, and that was for a much more modest increase.

Income: Significant. When congestion pricing on the Bridge was last analyzed it was part of a broader pricing scheme that saw a 12 percent drop in traffic coming in to San Francisco from all sources. If this holds true for the Bridge on its own, toll revenues would still go up, to the tune of about $50 million per year. If any of those drivers convert to busing, the income would be even higher.

5.      Provide in-city pickup and drop-off for all-day routes in San Francisco and Richmond

It’s a bit of cheating to get numbers up, as it opens up an entirely different market, but it could provide a good source of income. In San Francisco especially, GGT provides great redundant express service. The all-day lines (basic and Route 92) could pick up riders in-city, making that part of their journey more profitable.

To do this, the boards of SFMTA and AC Transit would need to grant GGT permission to run routes through their territories.

Given how much this may slow the San Francisco routes, especially Route 92, GGT may want to wait until the Van Ness and Geary BRT corridors are completed.

Income: Unknown, but the alteration should only be made if the result would be revenue-positive.

In short, GGT should make the bus convenient (suggestion 1), easy (suggestions 2 and 5), and financially attractive (suggestions 3 and 4). It should reinvest new revenues into increased service and better infrastructure, part of a virtuous circle of rising ridership and declining congestion.

If Marin wants to be a green, environmentally-sustainable place, the bus must be part of the equation. Falling ridership isn’t a given, but it will take conscious steps to bring it back in step with ferry ridership.

Monday Links: Long Weekend

Art on the Farm: "Historic L Ranch Beach"

Art on the Farm: “Historic L Ranch Beach” by cproppe, on Flickr

Marin Lesser and Greater

  • Hard winter: It’s harder to providehousing for the homeless this winter thanks in part to San Rafael’s crackdown on the homeless. The city has barred pick-up of the homeless in front of St. Vincent’s kitchen this year, and organizers have yet to find a church to house people on Thursday nights. (IJ)
  • The marriage continues: The final contract between MT and GGT has been approved, allowing GGT to continue on as MT’s local service contractor. The deal shaves costs by 3.7 percent and cuts the annual cost increase from 5 percent to 2.7 percent. (IJ)
  • MTC shifts priorities: MTC shifted $20 million earmarked for local rail station planning grants to Congestion Management Agencies like TAM. Normally not a problem, the motion was passed spur-of-the-moment without a staff report or motion text, so it’s unclear if CMA’s would be required to spend the money in any particular way. (Greenbelt Alliance)
  • Seminary delays development: A 117-unit redevelopment in Strawberry is on hold pending a review of the plans by Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. The seminary had faced opposition from the Board of Supervisors and is likely retooling the plan to address supervisors’ concerns. (IJ)
  • Faster trip to the Headlands: Muni’s 76-Marin Headlands got a makeover last weekend, with faster and more thorough service to sites in the famed recreation area. Marinites can catch the bus Saturday and Sunday at the Golden Gate Bridge. (Muni Diaries)
  • Aged out: Elderly drivers disproportionately cause car crashes, but it can be difficult for them to give up the keys when they’re no longer safe behind the wheel. In areas like Sonoma and Marin, where alternatives are few or expensive, it can be even more difficult. (PD)
  • And…: A special tax district that requires developers to actually pay for city services is under attack in Santa Rosa. (PD) … Just because a ridiculous proportion of California drivers are drunk or on drugs, legal or otherwise, while driving doesn’t make it any less of a bad idea. (SFist) … Dave Alden is only cautiously optimistic on community-funded real estate, saying it could open the door to exactly the kinds of abuses the SEC wants to avoid. (WDWGfH?)

The Toll

The roads killed two and left 16 injured since the 15th.

  • Emile Smith severely injured himself and killed his passenger, Selena Ross, after Smith crashed his car on Friday in Santa Rosa. Selena Ross was 33. (PD)
  • An unnamed man rolled his car and killed himself in Tiburon last Friday. Nobody else was injured. The driver was 53. (IJ)
  • Marin’s Injured: A driver caused one minor injury while trying to pull into the Drake High School parking lot in San Anselmo. (IJ) … A driver injured himself in South Marin by striking a rock in the 101 shoulder, causing his car to flip. (IJ) … A teen driver injured himself and five others while speeding through Novato last week. He has been arrested under suspicion of driving while drunk and high. (IJ) … A police officer on a motorcycle injured himself in Tiburon by crashing his bike into a driver in another car. The other driver was unhurt. (IJ) … A drunk driver stopped on Highway 101 and was swiftly struck by two others, one of which was injured in the pile-up. (Patch)
  • Sonoma’s Injured: A speeding and reckless driver crashed into two cars and flipped his own in Petaluma, injured himself and one of the other two drivers. (PD) … A driver injured himself by crashing his tanker truck in Salt Point State Park. His accident spilled oil and antifreeze into the sensitive area. (PD) … A driver crashed his car in Sonoma County last week, injuring himself and no others. (PD) … A driver struck and injured a pedestrian in West Sonoma. (PD)

Have a tip? Have an article idea? Email us at theGreaterMarin [at] gmail.com.

Mid-Week Links: Novato Moving

Looking at Novato and Beyond

Looking at Novato and Beyond by udpslp, on Flickr

Things are starting to move in Novato, six weeks after the tragic crash that killed Hailey Ratliff. A memorial walk two weeks ago saw hundreds turn out, with city officials and residents expressing support for safer streets. Elisabeth Thomas-Matej joined my call for protected bike lanes in the city while a neighborhood group is investigating ways to lobby for safer streets. And, now that the driver who killed Hailey was cleared of wrongdoing, the Ratliff family has decided to sue Novato for negligence. The suit argues that poor road design, high speeds, and untrimmed vegetation all contributed to the tragedy.

Only time will tell if this movement is permanent. For the sake of the city and its people, I hope it is.

Marin Greater and Lesser

  • Marin County has the second-lowest number of people commuting alone to work in the Bay Area, bested only by San Francisco itself. Though it’s still somewhat high at 65.2 percent, fully 19 percent don’t drive, take transit, or carpool at all, and that probably means a lot of walking and bicycling. (CoCo Times)
  • Santa Rosa faces a tough decision with its Coddingtown SMART rail crossing. It can spend $1.7 million for a pedestrian overpass, or close one at-grade crossing so state regulators would allow the city to open a new at-grade crossing here. (PD)
  • Parklets could come to Fairfax, that is if the concept passes through all the governmental hoops alterations to parking usually have to jump through. (Patch)
  • The Italian Street Painting Festival is back! After a hiatus and concerns it wouldn’t return, organizers received enough seed money to revive San Rafael’s biggest street festival of the year for next summer. (Patch)
  • Sprawl in Tiburon is being subsidized by Marin and the costs are skyrocketing. A court ordered the county to pay half the cost of a housing development’s EIR, and the cost has now reached $468,000. (IJ)
  • Larkspur has the worst roads in the Bay Area. While not much of a problem for drivers, bicyclists have a tough time navigating the cracked and buckled pavement. (Bay Citizen)
  • Marin’s mountain biking history and culture is on display at the SFO gallery, so stop by next time you pass through. If you really want your fix, don’t forget that we have an express bus; for a $40 round-trip, it’s actually not much more than a high-class theater. (Pacific Sun)
  • A fighter pilot is trained to keep watch for any movement and to use his or her eyes to maximum effect. Drivers and cyclists, who aren’t trained in the fine art of attention, should be. An RAF pilot has some tips for how to detect cyclists if you’re a driver, and how to avoid getting missed if you’re a cyclist. (London Cyclist)
  • And…: Caltrans hit with record fine for breaking water quality rules in 101 construction. (PD) … A new Boston rail station is being funded by New Balance. (Archpaper) Could Fireman’s Fund do the same for SMART in Novato? … Fare hikes and service cuts are coming to Santa Rosa’s CityBus. (PD) … Marin Transit’s Muir Woods Shuttle awarded for excellence. (NBBJ) … Corte Madera’s long-awaited park cafe has finally opened. (IJ)

The Toll

One person died and two others were injured this week.

  • Richard Giacomini drowned after crashing his truck into a West Marin reservoir this week. The well-known rancher was 71. (IJ)
  • Joe Kwai Lee, the driver accused of killing Alvine Heese with his car last week, has plead not guilty in Santa Rosa court. He was driving to a doctor’s appointment on a suspended license. (PD)
  • A woman was injured by a driver backing out of their driveway in Santa Rosa. (PD) … A motorcyclist injured himself by crashing his bike in Sonoma County. He suffered only minor injuries. (PD)

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)
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