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: Streaks

Bicycling has exploded everywhere in the past five years, and every time I go down Miracle Mile I see at least a few bicyclists en route. In the 1990s, they would be a rare sight indeed. In San Francisco, families are turning to the bike as a means of moving kids, groceries, and the rest, and it largely works. But the rapid expansion of bicycling has not been met with similarly rapid expansion of bicycling infrastructure. Advocates in more urban areas, such as San Francisco, insist this is the way forward, while guerrilla infrastructure shows just how easy it can be to make a bike lane, and therefore a street, safe.  Miracle Mile is wide enough for a protected bike lane, and Marin is an ideal place for others. Perhaps we should try, too.

Apologies for the spotty update schedule. Personal scheduling made it impossible to devote as much time as needed for a good blog, so I’ve been on something of an unplanned hiatus. But, much happened over the past two weeks, and here’s the best of it.

Marin County

  • Marin Transit ran slightly less of a deficit in FY2011-2012 than expected, but budget crunch isn’t stopping minor capital improvement projects or expanding its volunteer driver service for the elderly. Meanwhile, contract negotiations with GGT are going “really well” and are expected to be completed by the end of the month. (IJ)
  • SMART plans to spend $12 million to create “quiet zones” where its trains won’t have to blow their horn while crossing streets. If the district had chosen to operate a transit line instead of a mixed passenger/freight railroad, it wouldn’t need to spend the money in the first place. (Systemic Failure)
  • Despite neighbor opposition, San Rafael unanimously approved the Civic Center Station Area Plan. The plan, however, would have neighbor concerns attached to the report to inform debate over future development in the area. (IJ)
  • San Rafael owes California almost $1.6 million in redevelopment agency funds, at least according to the state. San Rafael and other cities are protesting the bill which they say unfairly excludes bond obligations. (IJ)
  • Grady Ranch is apparently zoned for 240 affordable housing units, though it would be a sprawl project run amok, far from the freeway, amenities, transit, and anything resembling “walkability.” (IJ)
  • Sausalito councilmembers Carolyn Ford and Mike “Hand-Slapping” Kelly will not run for reelection this year, leaving only one incumbent – Linda Pfeifer – in the race. She will be joined by six others in a fight for three at-large seats on the famously contentious body. (Pacific Sun)
  • And…: Patch wonders if distracted pedestrians are victims of natural selection when they get hit by traffic… GGT is moving some bus stops in North Beach to make way for Central Subway construction. (GGT)… Fairfax will hold Streets for People this Sunday, 12-4. (Patch)

The Greater Marin

  • Easier transfers, more direct routes, and shorter headways are in store for Napa’s transit-riding public. NCPTA wants to double ridership on its VINE bus system to 1.2 million trips per year and thinks this may be the way to do it. (Napa Valley Register)
  • California has another $43 million it can spend on any transportation project it likes. The US Department of Transportation released the money from unspent earmarks as part of a national $470 million initiative. Whether Caltrans will spend that money wisely, of course, is anyone’s guess. (Sacramento Bee)
  • The presidential race is absolutely a study in contrasts, and transportation policy is no exception. In short, the Obama Administration wants to dramatically boost spending on transportation, though whether Congress will allow him to do so is another story. A hypothetical Romney Administration, in contrast, would dramatically shrink federal spending in the sector, and would likely have a Congress amenable to such a plan. (Transportation Politic)
  • And…: Clipper Cards to cost $3 after September 1. (Sacramento Bee)… Santa Rosa reconnects its grid with a new 6th Street underpass. (Press Democrat)

The Toll

Over the past two weeks on our transportation system, one man died, eight people were seriously injured and 12 people suffered minor injuries. The details:

  • Scott Reyna died after crashing his truck on Highway 101 near Petaluma early Monday morning. The crash caused a huge backup later in the commute, and subsequent crashes in the resulting backup sent a woman to the hospital with minor injuries. Scott was 43. (Press Democrat)
  • That same morning, another man seriously injured himself while driving under the influence on Highway 101 near Marinwood. (Patch)
  • A bicyclist, Toraj Soltani, was chased down and struck by an elderly driver last Thursday in Santa Rosa. Soltani tried to avoid the driver by moving to a golf course, but the driver pursued off-road and ran him down, inflicting serious injuries on Soltani. 81-year-old Harry Smith was later arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon. (Press Democrat, IJ)
  • On Sunday, a man drove north in the south-bound lanes of Highway 101. Eventually, he struck another vehicle near Cotati, inflicting major injuries to himself as well as the driver and passenger of the other vehicle. (Patch)
  • A woman injured herself and the four children in her car when she crashed into the back of a parked truck in Novato. Thankfully, all injuries were minor. (IJ)
  • A man hit a woman with his car in downtown San Rafael. The woman suffered pelvic injuries as a result, and the driver was arrested for driving on a suspended license. (IJ)
  • And…: Someone hit a telephone pole on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard in San Anselmo, but no report of injuries. (Patch)… A 2009 bike-on-pedestrian crash in Sonoma goes to trial. (Press Democrat)… A man seriously injured himself while lane-splitting on a motorcycle in Novato. (IJ)… A man suffered minor injuries when his garbage truck crashed into a gym in Novato; no word on whether he had control of the vehicle he was driving. (Advance)… Five people were injured in a three-car pileup in Rohnert Park. (Press Democrat)… A cyclist injured himself in Santa Rosa. He was trying to avoid a car that apparently had the right-of-way. (Press Democrat)

High-Speed Rail Whiplash

The current business plan.

Given the evolving and pressing nature of the California High-Speed Rail story, Mid-Week Links will have to wait until tomorrow.

High-speed rail dominated the news and blogosphere this week, and for good reason. The California Legislature authorized – barely – releasing $8 billion in bond money so the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) could begin construction in the Central Valley. Federal Secretary of Tranportation Ray LaHood applauded the vote, as did transportation advocates, as a step in the right direction for the state and country, though acknowledging there was still another $60 billion to find.

Project opponents pointed to a lawsuit filed the day of the vote by one-time HSR booster Quentin Kopp, who argued the current business plan, which blends high-speed trains with lower-speed commuter rail, is illegal and “mangled”, but it didn’t do much to dampen advocate’s spirits.

The real bomb was let off the day after the vote.  The Los Angeles Times reported that French high-speed rail operator SNCF had approached CHSRA with a plan to privately finance and build the state’s rail line for a fraction of the cost, though along the I-5 corridor rather than the 99 as currently planned. SNCF, the report claimed, had been declined.  Though Yonah Freemark at The Transport Politic had leaked an earlier memo from 2009 on the subject that seems to vindicate CHSRA, the Times piece dealt with a later proposal from 2010.

Steven Smith at Market Urbanism goes into more detail, quoting pro-HSR, anti-CHSRA activist David Schonbrunn that SNCF already actually had private backing in hand, and an anonymous source said the backing was from “major, major US banks”, though wouldn’t go into specifics. Rather than listen to the SNCF report, Smith’s source and Schonbrunn claim it was dismissed out of hand. Construction firm Parsons Brinckerhoff remained at the helm of CHSRA’s planning.

Smith speculates CHSRA stuck with the 99 plan for political reasons. For one thing, there are a number of employees working for both CHSRA and Parsons, and it would have been in Parsons’ interest to quash the SNCF plan. Another reason is the strong political clout of the eastern Central Valley. Though SNCF had planned spur lines and urban edge stations, located like airports, backers had pushed strongly for including the Central Valley’s population centers, and an I-5 alignment, while cheaper, wouldn’t have achieved the desired political result.

Alon Levy of Pedestrian Observations approached from a different angle. Not much is known about the SNCF plan, but we do know the cost – $38 billion – and the alignment change – from 99 to existing rights-of-way along I-5.  The alignment change alone, he writes, cannot possibly make up the difference between today’s $68 billion and the proposal’s $38 billion.  Rather, most of the cost savings would have to have come from better cost control, thanks to management of the project by an experienced European firm.

Levy’s takeaway, like Smith’s, is political:

The other lesson we can learn from this episode is political, regarding cost escalations and strategic misrepresentation. Too many political transit supporters downplay the issue. LightRailNow claims that a cost escalation that occurs before construction starts is not a cost escalation, but just a more accurate cost estimate; Robert Cruickshank did not quite say the same when the 2010 business plan for CAHSR revealed costs had doubled, but came close to it by describing the plan as more careful and thorough. In reality, large bombshell reports shortly after money has been obligated are a hallmark of secretive, untrustworthy planning, precisely the kind likeliest to lie about costs.

It’s likely the story will continue to unfold as the weeks wear on.

The story from Smith and Levy often spills onto Twitter, so if you’re into that kind of thing be sure to follow them @MarketUrbanism and @alonlevy @alon_levy. You can also follow me @theGreaterMarin, though I mostly leave the HSR story to them.

Mid-Week Links: Reclamation

Fairfax Festival  MichaelOlsen/ZorkMagazine

People enjoying closed streets at the Fairfax Festival. Photo by MichaelOlsen/ZorkMagazine

Marin County

  • Fairfax is hashing out how to implement Streets for People, its own version of San Francisco’s incredibly successful Sunday Streets program. The town would close Bolinas for part of the day, opening it up to anyone on foot, bike, or other human-powered conveyance. (Patch)
  • New blood on the Ross Valley Sanitary District board promises a management and policy shift. New member Mary Sylla is opposed to new bonds and rate hikes intended to speed the district’s century-long pipe replacement cycle. Marcia Johnson, who lost her re-election bid, was a supporter. (IJ)
  • Tonight, chat with Blithedale Terrace developer Phil Richardson about his proposed 20-unit condo development in lower Mill Valley7pm, The Forest Room of the Mill Valley Community Center. (Patch)
  • A new sidewalk is under construction in Homestead Valley’s Evergreen Avenue under the county’s Safe Routes to School program. People still don’t like the plan, saying it undermines the community’s semi-rural character. There may be an injunction filed to stop the project, which is designed make the route to school safer. (IJ, @mikesonn, Mill Valley Herald)
  • A new Santa Venetia subdivision will not go forward as planned, at least not yet. County Supervisors rejected the 14-unit sprawl project pending a few more months of study. Unfortunately, the area is zoned for 15 units on one-acre plots, so it’s unlikely the project can be stopped entirely. (IJ)
  • Ever wondered how much your town’s Director of Public Works was paid? Bay Area News Group has created a searchable database of all public employee salaries in the Bay Area, so you can know at last. (IJ)
  • Ross faces dramatic cuts now that the town declined to pass the $642,000 public safety tax. Two police officers, a firefighter, and a firefighting apprenticeship program are all on the chopping block. The town will cut other areas to keep the damage minimal. (Ross Valley Reporter)
  • The draft Civic Center Station Area Plan has been released to the public and to the Board of Supervisors, who are reviewing the draft now. The plan creates more housing, rezones parts of the auto-oriented neighborhood, and creates a better pedestrian circulation pattern through the area. (Pacific Sun)
  • And…: A yard that has encroached on open space for more than 20 years will finally be returned to San Rafael, though the owners have a history of ignoring officialdom on the subject, so who knows? (IJ) … In a picture of sweetness and light, a Corte Madera father and daughter spent the whole school year biking in tandem to kindergarten. (Twin Cities Times) … Brad Breithaupt goes deeper into the voting numbers from last Tuesday’s election. (IJ)

The Greater Marin

  • A comprehensive report on San Francisco’s multifaceted and crowded transit system has been released. The 103-year-old report details the pre-Muni world of streetcars and rails in the aftermath of the earthquake and fire. Among the recommendations? Getting rid of horse-drawn cars. (Muni Diaries)
  • Apple will stop using Google Maps on its iPhones, and it won’t include transit directions. You may have to go back to using that 511.org app… (Streetsblog)
  • It turns out Muni has been neglecting maintenance for years as the agency has sacrificed long-term financial stability for short-term savings. Be glad you have GGT managing your fleet, Marin. (SF Weekly)
  • A bill to create a statewide ceiling on parking requirements around transit has shown signs of life in the state Senate. AB 904 would force localities to require no more than one parking space per housing unit, 1,000 square feet of retail, or other measures. (Around the Capitol via @MarketUrbanism and @mottsmith)
  • If you want to encourage transit ridership, the best way is to price driving. While expanding a rail network by 10% nets a 3% gain in ridership, effective car regulations (like congestion pricing) nets a 10-20% increase in ridership and a commensurate decrease in driving. (Atlantic Cities)
  • And…: Santa Rosa mulls electing its councilmembers by district rather than at-large. (Press-Democrat) … The small-government aspects of smart growth appeal to at least some conservatives. (Next American City) … Frank Lloyd Wright hated cities. (Atlantic Cities)

Got a tip? Tweet @theGreaterMarin, email thegreatermarin [at] gmail.com, or post something on Facebook.

Mid-Week Links: Build It and They Will Come

mill valley

Marin County

Well it looks like the other news organizations passed right on by the development news this week, and there’s no transit news to speak of. I suppose, then, these are the highlights from this week’s IJ.

  • The Grady Ranch debacle has reached New Yorker’s ears. The game of telephone, of course, has done wonders for our county’s image as an insular enclave for the granola-munching wealthy. Back in Marin, there is still debate as to whether opponents abused the system or not, or even whether they should be to blame. (NYT, IJ)
  • In the fallout of Grady Ranch, county staff want to create a panel to cut red tape and streamline permitting, and the supervisors seem to be on board. The results likely won’t mean much for developers in incorporated areas, who often need council approval to open a sandwich shop. (IJ)
  • Fully 85% of Marin’s land is protected from development, according to a new Greenbelt Alliance study, the most in any Bay Area county. Only 12.7% of our land is urbanized, and only 0.7% is at risk of development. (IJ)
  • Michael Rock, town manager and public works director of Fairfax, has resigned in order to pursue a position in what I can only presume is the far less interesting Lomita, CA. His last day as manager will be the June 22 budget meeting. (IJ, Fairfax)
  • Sausalito will not rezone a small area of old town for housing development after all. The two parcels in question could have accommodated 18 units of affordable housing but will continue in their role as offices. (IJ)
  • Under pressure from the feds, Novato’s remaining pot dispensary will close, leaving only one dispensary operating in the county. (IJ)
  • The $950 million Highway 101 widening project chugs forward, but the last $177 million hasn’t been found. At least CalTrans still has $20.5 million to repave 8.5 miles of the freeway from Vista Point to Lucky Drive. (Press-Democrat, IJ)
  • A San Rafael native has been enlivening the streetscape of Washington, DC, by playing the violin to passersby from his rowhome’s balcony. (Patch)
  • And…: Fifteen office buildings totalling about 710,000 square are up for sale in Marin. (IJ) … Terrorism, not the threat of bridge collapse, is the reason you can’t walk across the Bridge on its 75th. (IJ)

The Greater Marin

  • MTC and ABAG have approved Plan Bay Area. It now goes out for environmental review before final approval in April. (SF Chronicle)
  • The San Francisco Bay Area has a surplus of capital looking for new tech start-ups but restrictive housing policies drive up rents, which drive up wages, which inflates start-ups’ costs of doing business, which drives down the number of new start-ups to invest in, and that’s bad for everyone.  (Forbes via Planetizen)
  • The State Senate will vote today on the three-foot passing law, requiring drivers pass bikers with at least three feet of clearance. (Cyclelicious)
  • The neighborhood planning battles of Seattle bear a striking resemblance to the planning issues faced by Marin’s small towns. (Crosscut)
  • Young people are moving away from the car. Has the driver’s seat lost its old magic? (Washington Post)
  • BART’s long-term plans include express trains, better stations, and shorter headways. (Examiner)

Mid-Week Links: Cheers!

The Second The Greater Marin Happy Hour

Cheers to transit!

Good news everyone!  The second The Greater Marin Happy Hour will be held next Thursday at San Rafael Joe’s – no more 29 bus madness (sadness?) and the ferry like last time. With GGT on Google Maps, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding your way, even if you work in Belvedere.  I’ll have some signs out around the bar like last time, but if you can’t find us just email me at theGreaterMarin [at] gmail.com and I’ll try to wave you down.  I hope to see you all there!

Who: You, me, and anyone else you happen to invite (and please do invite people!)
When: Thursday, May 10, 6pm, though you’re absolutely welcome to come late
Where: San Rafael Joe’s, 931 Fourth Street, San Rafael, CA

In another bit of blog news, you’ll notice over on the sidebar that I’m open for business as a communications and planning consultant. If you want my brain working for you, get in touch with me at the email address on the right.  I’ll be in the Bay Area from May 10-15 and am perfectly willing to travel as needed.

Right, now that that’s all done with, on to the news of the week.

Marin County

  • Golden Gate Ferry workers went on strike yesterday to protest the slow pace of talks between their union and the transit district. They may call another strike on May 10 if progress remains unacceptably slow. (Chronicle)
  • San Francisco is moving towards a true BRT line on Van Ness, with center-running lanes compatible with existing buses. The line would serve Muni routes 47 and 49, as well as GGT routes 10, 70, 80, 93, and 101. It will be a boon to all riders along the corridor, though if GGT could pick up intra-San Francisco trips it would be even better. (Transbay Blog)
  • The Doyle Drive closure went off without a hitch, and the resulting roadway looks pretty nifty.  I do wonder about the eventual 12-lane configuration – neither the bridge nor the approach can handle so much traffic. (Chronicle, SFist)
  • Larkspur mulls what to do with 2.5 acres of land on the Niven Nursery site. The frontrunner idea is a new library. (IJ)
  • Marin’s population grew 0.7% this past year, rather faster than Plan Bay Area’s 0.2% housing growth prediction. And here I thought we were slow-growth (no I didn’t). (IJ)
  • The West Sidewalk of the Golden Gate Bridge is finally open again. (GGBHTD)
  • This Friday at 7pm, stop by the Mill Valley Library for a talk by noted urbanist Peter Calthorpe on Mill Valley, urbanism, and the Bay Area’s future. Let me know how it goes. (MVPL)

The Greater Marin

Just across the bridge, San Francisco is doing some truly amazing things to promote a more walkable, livable city.  What lessons can we learn from San Francisco, and how can we apply them to Marin?  Personally, I’d love to see a San Rafael Park(ing) Day. (Streetfilms)

  • While BART is finally coming to San Jose, transportation planners are cutting their own feet out from under themselves by significantly widening two major freeways in Santa Clara, one to 8 lanes and the other to a whopping 12. (Mercury News)
  • Operating costs for High Speed Rail won’t be nearly as high as opponents claim. (Systemic Failure)
  • With more cars came more people dying on the roads, and Europe and the United States took dramatically different paths.  While Europeans got mad at the cars and pushed back in favor of more pedestrian and cycling infrastructure, the United States pushed people out of the way of the cars, razing its city centers for parking and wider roads. (Atlantic Cities)
  • Ever wondered what the view is like from atop Sutro Tower? Now you know. (SFist)

Mid-Week Links: Plans from On High

image from NASA

Plan Bay Area

  • Pacific Sun has a wonderful rundown, as they so often do, of the issues surrounding One Bay Area and Plan Bay Area – from the workshops disrupted by tea party agitators to historical context to just what the plan actually hopes to achieve.
  • One Bay Area has cut job and housing growth projections for Marin, with significant housing cuts in some towns and dramatic increases in others.  Town planners will be consulted for the next draft figures, to be released in May. (IJ)
  • However, Supervisor Judy Arnold, Marin’s alternate representative to ABAG,  called Plan Bay Area’s projected job increase in Marin unrealistic, citing a shrinking, rather than growing, job pool in the county. County staff will examine the numbers, and a decision will then be made whether to proceed with an appeal. (IJ)

Marin County

  • The Downtown San Rafael BID will get a $250,000 cash infusion for advertising and events after Keep It Local San Rafael settled their lawsuit against Target and Cal-Pox. (IJ)
  • San Anselmo is still tied in knots as it tries to tighten design review ordinances.  Neighbors are still upset over the addition to Councilmember Kroot’s home. (Ross Valley Reporter)
  • Joe Casalnuevo, who successfully challenged county ordinances over whether split lots needed to pay in-lieu affordable housing fees, has taken Marin to court over the fight, alleging $60,000 in damages and time lost fighting the fee. (IJ)
  • MCBC is taking volunteers for its annual Bike Locally Challenge, though at six months it may be a bit long for a promotion.  Arlington County, VA, does a month-long Car Free Diet that involves bikes and transit – perhaps Marin Transit could cross-promote? (Pacific Sun, County of Arlington)
  • Copyright law overrode local preference in Tiburon, where the council approved CVS’s red sign, overturning the Design Review Board’s ruling that it should be a gray and white sign. (IJ)
  • And…: Fairfax will at last install cameras for town council meetings. (IJ) … Ross Valley School District residents will vote on a $149 parcel tax in June to help stave off a budget crisis in the district. (Patch) … Marin Transit tweaks Novato and Terra Linda bus routes. (IJ) … Joseph Eichler designed more than just tract homes. (Bay Citizen)

The Greater Marin

  • While the focus of California High Speed Rail has been on just about everything but its utility, Central Valley cities are clamoring for the infrastructure. (LA Times, Fresno Bee)
  • Midcoast San Mateo is struggling with Plan Bay Area, which is including a county-designated Priority Development Area in the rural region.  Regional officials insist the rural development area is about improving infrastructure, not housing development. (San Mateo County Times)
  • Transit signage in the Bay Area are poor, and that’s actually no surprise at all.  Though MTC is on it, it’s unlikely Marin will see much of the fruit of their labor given our county’s current transit state of affairs. (Transportation Nation)
  • More people took public transit in 2011 than in 2010, the most since 1957, and that bodes well for the future of transportation and our cities. (New York Times)

Mid-Week Links: This Part Hurts

This is a rather long presentation, but it lays out the essence of how car traffic hurts culture, hurts neighborhoods, and what to do about it.  I’ve been to talks like this in DC but this is the first time I can really share one with you.  And if you work in transportation or the planner’s office, this ought to count as continuing education, so bust out the earphones and popcorn.

Marin County

  • Former Supervisor Hal Brown died this week of cancer, and the respect Ross Valley and Marin had for him was evident in editorials and memoria. (Pacific Sun)
  • Mill Valley urbanists, attention!  Have a say in the direction of your town and join one of the Mill Valley 2040 committees charged with drafting the new general plan.  Applications are due March 14, so get on it. (IJ, Town of Mill Valley)
  • San Anselmo urbanists can have a bit of their own fun, too, as this Saturday the town council will weigh resident priorities for the next 2-5 years at a special meeting from 10am-12pm.  After the meeting, a survey will be put online for people who could not make it. (Patch)
  • SPAWN, a nonprofit whose goal is to restrict construction near creeks had its own San Geronimo demonstration home red-tagged by the county for building without a permit next to a creek. Neighbors that had run afoul of the group in the past were furious at the hypocrisy. (IJ)
  • There may still be some useful Q&A to be had with Fairfax Councilmember David Weinsoff, who happens to be Fairfax’s delegate to ABAG, though the discussion may have descended into Agenda 21/CittaSlow madness. (Patch)
  • Untangling the affordable housing mess caused by redevelopment agencies’ abrupt closure on February 1 will take quite a while to untangle, but surely the State Legislature can handle it, right? (Pacific Sun)
  • Marin is the least affordable place to live in the Bay Area, if one adds the cost of transportation to the cost of housing.  A new study shows that Marinites spend an average of 56.3% of their income on housing and transportation, compared to the 39.5% San Franciscans spend. (Chronicle)

And…: Sausalito repaves a street that hasn’t seen work in 70 years. (IJ) … San Rafael’s plastic bag ban chugs along despite a threatened lawsuit by plastics makers. (Patch) … Stand Up for Neighborly Novato will merge with Novato Housing Coalition so as to better focus their efforts to promote affordable housing in the city. (IJ)

The Greater Marin

  • Arlington County, Virginia, has a number of bikes in its vehicle fleet, saving them money on gas, car maintenance, and also on employee health benefits and sick days.  How might Marin’s communities utilize bicycles in their vehicle fleets?  (Patch)
  • SimCity 5 announced, and the shouts of urbanists around the world rose as one. (Stop and Move)
  • Amtrak wants to restrict the number of bikes allowed on Capital Corridor trains, as around 10% of riders now bring their own bicycle and it’s becoming a nuisance to non-bikers.  Amtrak ought to strongly encourage bicycling, however, as active living and bicycling culture tends to go hand-in-hand with rail ridership. (Sacramento Bee)
  • Since the ban on cell phones while driving went into effect in California, traffic deaths have dropped an astounding 22%, the largest drop since CHP started keeping records. (Mercury News via IJ)

Mid-Week Links: Happy Hours

Wonderful news!  The Greater Marin (i.e., me) will be throwing a Happy Hour at the Marin Brewing Company on Tuesday, Dec. 27th, at 7pm!  Come by, talk transit, and enjoy Marin’s home brews.  Until then, though, a lot has happened in the County, so on to the links:

Marin County

  • Negotiations between Marin Transit (MT) and GGT will continue for another two years.  MT believes GGT is overcharging by $2.5 million per year to operate its local Marin routes. (IJ)
  • RepealSMART has gathered 7,500 signatures for its repeal effort, although how many signatures are required is still up in the air: RepealSMART says it needs only 15,000 but under some formulae it would need double that number.  The deadline for signatures is January 27. (Press Democrat)
  • A new bikeway opened in Novato between the north and south halves of the city, allowing bikers to avoid the 101 shoulder. (IJ)
  • Performance parking isn’t performing well in San Francisco, forcing broader spreads between cheap and expensive blocks. SFPark disputes the idea that it won’t work, citing the fact that the zones are still just pilot projects, and new ones at that.  Sausalito is running a similar program in its downtown. (Greater Greater Washington, Streetsblog)
  • SMART could lead to traffic and safety problems at San Rafael’s Bettini Transit Center, according to the Golden Gate Bridge District.  Officials cited concerns regarding transferring passengers crossing Third Street and bus delays caused by passing trains. (IJ)
  • SMART sold $191 million in construction bonds this past week, netting $171 million for the project.  The money will be kept in escrow until the RepealSMART effort is resolved. (Press Democrat, IJ, Patch)
  • Bus service will be restored between Sir Francis Drake High and West Marin next semester.  Coastal residents sought the route after Marin Transit officials eliminated the extremely underused Route 62. (IJ)
  • County planners panned development plans at the Golden Gate Seminary in Strawberry, saying the proposed 117 new residential units were “so out of sync” with the seminary’s 1984 Master Plan they “cannot imagine approving” the development. (IJ)
  • Canal residents demanded better lighting, sidewalks, and crosswalks in the neighborhood at a march last Wednesday.  San Rafael city planners said they had received no specific complaint. (IJ)
  • Caltrans will fix a sinking Highway 101 overpass in Corte Madera with $1.2 million in state funds.  The money was accompanied by $28 million for  SMART construction. (IJ)
  • “She was a very special lady who touched many lives… She will be greatly missed.”  Jomar Lococo died on Highway 101 as her husband tried to avoid another driver that had drifted into their lane. (Patch)

The Greater Marin

  • On-time performance is extremely difficult for bus systems to achieve.  Whatever my gripes about GGT, at least they have this down. (Transit Manager)
  • The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) only works when the right questions are asked, as Mountain View discovered in their draft Environmental Impact Report.  As it turns out, building houses near jobs actually is good for the environment. (Atlantic Cities)

Mid-Week Links: And He Separated Water from Water

A beautiful video from Marin photographer Gary Yost shows everything I love and miss about my home: the nature, the towns, the Bay, the culture… I miss it all. On to the nitty-gritty of running all that.

Marin

SMART, once again, features prominently in local transit news this week.  Farhad Mansourian, interim General Manager of SMART, has been hired by the agency on a permanent basis.  Critics have addressed his pay – over $300,000 per year in compensation, comparable to other agency heads – and his credentials, although they’ve also stopped saying he duped the board prior to the MTC and TAM bailout hearings, as few boards would hire a man they felt had misled them.

The board also approved the new financial report, balancing the budget at about $360 million for the construction of the line which, at $9.7 million per mile, is by far the least expensive rail transit project in the country.  Local writer Steve Stein agrees, characterizing opponents as “nostalgic for a Marin County composed of mid-century ranch houses, suburban lawns and cul-de-sacs.”  In other news:

  • Cyclists and pedestrians got a major boost when the County allocated $8.8 million for pedestrian and bicycling improvements across Marin.  Among the projects: studying reopening the Alto Tunnel between Corte Madera and Mill Valley, improving sidewalk connections between the Canal and downtown San Rafael, and, in a major victory, constructing the Central Marin Ferry Connection.
  • In affordable housing news, Assemblyman and Congressional contender Jared Huffman’s bill to allow foreclosed housing to count against affordable housing mandates is on the Governor’s desk for signature.  The bill once allowed cities to appeal their density requirements, but it’s been pared down to just the foreclosed housing portion.  Meanwhile, Novato, which pushed most strenuously for reform, is following through on a 2008 development loan to expand Eden Housing, an affordable senior center home.  Critics contended that old folks will cause crime and join gangs.
  • Terrapin Crossroads, the Phil Lesh-led music venue, was discussed at length at a Fairfax Town Council meeting.  Critics were concerned about traffic and noise at the site, while supporters saw it as a fabulous opportunity for the town to improve nightlife and remove an abandoned, but prominently placed, gas station.  Lesh had put it on hold after signs opposing the project were placed along his walking route in Ross, spooking him and his wife.  Plans are available here (PDF).
  • The Marin Agricultural Land Trust purchased a large ranch outside Tomales recently, completing the greenbelt around the town and further ensuring that West Marin is off-limits to sprawl.
  • Speaking of sprawl, the proposed Hanna Ranch development in Novato passed the city’s Design Review Board, the first step towards project approval.
  • Some anti-sprawl might come to San Rafael, as local developer Monahan Parker is looking to build a four-story, 41-unit mixed-use building at 2nd & B Streets.  Two Victorian-era homes that have seen much better days would be demolished.  The project would also include a 57-space parking garage, which is one space above the minimum for a project of its size and totally out of whack with the overall setting.  It is currently before the Design Review Board, and you can watch preliminary comments here.

The Greater Marin

  • The debate over California High-Speed Rail is still a thing, and it’s making national news.  Ezra Klein of the Washington Post provides a good rundown of current thought on the subject, while CAHSR Blog looks to BART battles in Livermore for signs of things to come.
  • BART is still fighting protestors over police brutality and cell phone censorship.  It boiled over recently with multiple stations being shut down during rush-hour.
  • In case you hadn’t heard, there’s a battle brewing over transportation funding in Congress thanks to the soon-to-expire gas tax.  Mercury News wonders what it would do the Bay Area.
  • SMART isn’t the only transit agency facing problems: Vancouver’s TransLink has funding issues, Atlanta’s MARTA system is under fire from the car-dependent, and Washington, DC isn’t sure how it should align one end of its planned streetcar line.
  • Looking to the Old World for how to structure urban spaces.
  • Someone read the entire Seattle land use code and came away with some observations.  A braver man than I.
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