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: Get Up


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

Marin Proper and Greater

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

The Toll

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

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

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

Mid-Week Links: Perfect Storm

San Francisco Bridge Before the Storm

Photo on flickr by Matt Muangsiri

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

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

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

Marin and Beyond

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

The Toll

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

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

Mid-Week Links: Plaid

Now that Fairfax and Sausalito are cracking down on cyclists violating stop-signs, perhaps it’s important to ask whether current law is the best law. A bicycle, after all, is absolutely not a car – it can stop faster, gives a better field of view, and is much more efficient when moving than when stopped. Idaho allows cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs, to great effect. California ought to pass the same.

Marin County

  • Marin and Sonoma both dropped state parks from their park taxes after $54 million was found in the state parks department’s coffers. While Sonoma’s plan is dead, Marin’s tax plan would go to county open space instead. (Planetizen, IJ, Press Democrat)
  • Larkspur and Tiburon are both pondering library expansions, though residents in both communities wonder if the proposed buildings will be too large for the demand. (IJ)
  • HOV lanes in Novato are now open to the driving public, ensuring easy driving for a little bit until traffic catches up with capacity. (IJ)
  • A permanent farmer’s market, a roundabout, and other improvements will come to the Civic Center under a plan recently approved by the Board. Unfortunately, it’s at odds with the SMART Station Area Plan for the Christmas Tree Lot just south of the station, which calls for 4-5 story residential and retail. Planning and design for the improvements will cost about $2 million. (IJ)
  • And…: Construction has begun on SMART’s railcars. Delivery is expected in about a year. (Patch) … Novato will convert a city-owned building into art studios for around $100,000. (IJ) … A West Marin ecotopia could be shut down for running afoul building regulations, but its builders pledge to carry on. (IJ)

The Greater Marin

  • Projections of growth are so often wrong, but they always inform whether we build new freeway lanes or rail lines or whatever. There must be a better way. (Strong Towns)
  • Activists accuse Veolia Transportation, which operates Sonoma County Transit, of human rights violations and want the county to investigate. Veolia’s parent company operates bus service between Israel and West Bank settlements. (Press Democrat)
  • MTC will study a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) tax on Bay Area drivers to raise money for roads and transit. The tax hasn’t gone anywhere in other jurisdictions, but boosters are optimistic a VMT would be an answer to the Bay Area’s financial woes. (Mercury News)
  • Some Chicago designers want you to help create the perfect transit app. Not only would it tell you how to get where you’re going with the schedule, it would give you real-time arrival information, allow stopovers for coffee or errands, interface with your calendar, remind you to bring an umbrella, and more. (Co.Design)

The Toll

  • You’ll notice I have this new section for the death and injury toll on the roads in Marin and Sonoma as reported by local news outlets. Why? Because in the first three months of this year, 7,280 people were killed on the road in the US, doing nothing more than living their lives. It’s the least we can do to report on the human cost of our road-centered policies in this little corner of the country. (Atlantic Cities)
  • A Tiburon man drove onto a sidewalk to hit a pedestrian whose plaid jacket he didn’t like. The suspected driver, Eugene Thomas Anderson, has been arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon. (IJ)
  • Three cyclists were struck by drivers in Santa Rosa this week, though one driver claims to have lost control of her vehicle. None suffered more than moderate injuries. Separately, a driver suffered moderate injuries after running his car off the road. (Press Democrat)
  • In Marin, two people were slightly injured in a bizarre two-crash incident in Novato. Another driver drove off the road in San Rafael, giving herself minor injuries. A driver couldn’t negotiate a turn and so rolled his van about 150 feet down a West Marin hill, resulting in minor injuries to himself and one of his four passengers. Lastly, a driver lost control of his truck in Larkspur, crashing it into a nearby townhouse. The driver and passenger sufferend moderate injuries. (IJ, Twin Cities Times)

Some solid recommendations for Tiburon

Tiburon

photo by Yun Huang Yong

Marin Transit (MT) recently began to study how to improve service on the Tiburon Peninsula. I addressed the current situation and the various options in a previous post I wrote a few weeks ago, so I won’t go into them here.  Now, though, MT staff have released their draft recommendations for comment, and I’m extremely impressed.  Nearly all of my recommendations were taken, or were arrived upon separately.  There were some changes, however, so let’s look over the highlights.

Item 1: Implement a Tiburon Community Shuttle program.

The route will run between downtown Tiburon and Strawberry every 20-30 minutes, timed with the ferry, and run between 6:00am to 10:30pm.  The last run of the day would run through Mill Valley to Marin City.

Though I like the service span and frequency, MT proposes deviating the route eastbound from Strawberry.  Going east, the bus would serve Belvedere Drive through Strawberry, hitting a currently unused bus stop at Belvedere & Ricardo while bypassing the eastbound stop at Tiburon & N Knoll.  Splitting service like this is strange and makes for a worse transit system in general.  Bus stops should be paired with each other wherever possible, even when the geometry of turning around makes that difficult.  Residents living on Knoll probably won’t need to go to Strawberry; they’ll probably need to head to Tiburon, and need to take the bus in that direction. Diverting the bus would mean an extra half-mile walk for them to the nearest eastbound bus stop.

Strawberry residents face the same problem, but only one new bus stop would be served, and it wouldn’t be far from another, at Tiburon & Belvedere.  The only way this would be of use would be if there is a minimal pause at Strawberry, allowing N Knoll travelers to ride west to Strawberry before continuing their eastbound journey to Tiburon.

The projected cost for the new route would be around $473,000, down from $629,000 for the current routing.

Item 4: Make Blue & Gold Public

The ferry route in Tiburon is vital to the health of the transit system and, though it should be better integrated into the transit system, it is largely working well.  Blue & Gold is a privately run company with higher-than-average fares and a parking fee. Despite that, the ferry runs a profit and sees 625 passengers per day ply the route between Tiburon and The City.

MT staff recommend turning the route over to a public agency, either the Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA) or GGT.  I dislike the idea.  Though it would improve the amount of service on the route, what is currently offered is well-used and well-liked.  I fear that GGT or WETA would make the parking free and lower fares while increasing service, ensuring an ongoing operating deficit.  Though it may attract more riders, free parking would also attract more traffic onto Tiburon Boulevard and put pressure on the town to build more parking in its already parking-saturated core.

Better would be to work with the system in place.  Blue & Gold should arrange with WETA and MTC to be part of the 511.org system, take Clipper, and still operate as a for-profit company.  Any additional service should be operated by Blue & Gold and paid for with an operating subsidy from the interested agency.

Items 5 & 7: Improve Connections to Regional Services & Implement Passenger Access and Transfer Improvements.

A very strong recommendation is to improve access to Highway 101 (p 14, PDF). As I wrote, Tiburon’s transit needs to be integrated into the greater transit system of the county, especially to the 101 trunk.  The Tiburon Wye, sadly, is extremely unfriendly for transfers to and from Strawberry or Tiburon.  Though I proposed something of a patch over the issue, to extend the new shuttle route out to a turnaround at Tower Drive, it turns out that Caltrans already has an answer.

For $3 million, Caltrans has some preliminary plans to reposition the bus stops at the Wye so they’re closer to the overpass and won’t require pedestrians to cross the on or off ramps.  At the west side of the freeway, a turnaround would actually allow both surface street and freeway buses to share a single stop, knitting the two services together in a way I hadn’t even thought would be worth proposing.  This is a superb design, and may even allow GGT to cut commuter Route 8.  Rush service at the Wye is good enough that any wait would likely be only a few minutes.

Item 8: Marketing

It will be absolutely necessary to market these new services to the people of Tiburon.  Transit usage is very low on the peninsula, and I suspect people won’t flock to the new service because it just won’t be a viable option for most.  The recommendation is to develop a flyer and to distribute it around the peninsula.  If it’s like any other pamphlet I’ve seen, it will be placed in little displays but rarely taken.

More expensive, but more effective, would be a mass mailing to every household in Strawberry, Tiburon, and Belvedere, but go beyond simply the pamphlet.  Enclosed in each or in a random selection would be a $10 Clipper card and a note encouraging people to try transit.  Only 6.3% of Route 19 riders use Clipper at the moment, so there is a lot of room to grow. If Blue & Gold is interested, it could also include a free round-trip ticket aboard the ferry for a commute.

Many of the tickets and Clipper cards wouldn’t be used, but some of those that do use them would find transit so much easier than they imagined and would become frequent or semi-frequent users.  Boulder, CO, found that giving away transit passes helped build strong transit usage in their bus-only system.  Given the poor connections to 101, MT may want to wait until the system is fully built and the Wye reconstructed before asking people to come on board.

Other Item: Real-Time Arrival

Something particularly exciting, which I’ve pushed for in the past, is the use of a real-time arrival system and signs.  MT wants to place the signs at high ridership stops at Strawberry and Tiburon & Main downtown, as well as in shops near particular stops.  The shops would be especially handy, as it would give riders the ability to get morning coffee while waiting for the bus so they would know exactly when to leave.  The real-time system is online, so people could take to their computers and smart phones to find out when the next bus is arriving and when to leave the house.  Ideally, this system would also include Blue & Gold Ferry departures and arrivals.

MT should ensure the system is included in its marketing materials, as GGT-operated routes don’t have real-time arrival systems yet and so would likely be unfamiliar to casual users.

In Sum…

MT has some solid recommendations.  Though some need improvement, such as those for Blue & Gold, but most are good or better than I even though were under consideration, as with the Tiburon Wye.  After reading the draft, I’m highly optimistic about the chances of transit on the Tiburon Peninsula.

Tiburon’s Transit Gets Wind in its Sails

“Coming About”, photo by Roy Tenant

Bus service in Tiburon is the worst-performing part of the Marin Transit (MT) system. Fares cover about 12% of the operating costs (the target rate is 20%), and a paltry 12 riders per hour take the bus. To address the situation, MT has begun the Tiburon Transit Needs Assessment, a process that will end with changed routes, better service, and more. The listed alternatives for improvement are a step in the right direction. Pursuing a blend of route changes, structural changes, and better transfers to 101 and the ferry will give residents and workers on the Tiburon Peninsula a better bus and attract more ridership.

What’s There Now

Tiburon is served by two bus lines, the commuter Route 8 and local Route 19, the Blue & Gold Ferry, and paratransit. Route 8 goes from Belvedere to San Francisco via 101 and carries about 57 passengers per weekday on its very few runs south. Other than school runs to Redwood High, Route 19 runs from Belvedere to Marin City via Strawberry and carries about 345 passengers per weekday and about 280 passengers per weekend.

Blue & Gold Ferry operates between Tiburon and San Francisco, a run that takes about 25 minutes. Though about double the price of Route 8, it takes half as long to reach the City which suits its well-heeled travelers fine.  Unfortunately, the ferry doesn’t accept Clipper Cards and doesn’t have timed transfers with buses in the middle of the day.

To address the problems of low ridership, MT has developed a whopping 15 proposed service changes ranging from a shorter, more frequent line to improving bicycle access. You can see all the proposals here.

There are three types of alternatives: the first deals with bus route length and frequency, the second with paratransit like dial-a-ride and taxis, and the third with non-bus transportation.  When presented with such a plethora of options, it’s good to keep in mind some core transit rules (most of which I unabashedly take from Jarrett Walker):

  1. Well-spaced high-frequency corridors that intersect in a grid and anchored at walkable destinations.
  2. Easy connections between transit modes and lines.
  3. People tend to stick with transit once they’re used to it.
  4. Pedestrian-friendly areas around stops and stations.

These fit well with some of the comments from ferry riders who were asked what would get them on the bus:

  1. Increase service frequency, especially around peak hours
  2. Closer bus stops
  3. Faster travel time (mutually exclusive with closer stops)

As of press time, the online survey wasn’t closed, so we don’t know for certain what their preferences are. However, Robert Betts, the Marin Transit planner charged with the changes, said preliminary feedback at workshops showed a strong desire for better service frequency, connectivity to schools, and improving Blue & Gold Ferry’s role in the peninsula’s transit network.

Let’s see how the alternatives stack up against the recommendations.

Fixed Route: Alternatives 1a-1e and 3a-3b

Draft alternatives. Click for full PDF.

Of the fixed route plans, none meet all the recommendations, though 1a comes closest. With 30 minute headways all day, the shuttle service (I hope they call it something that doesn’t connote the wretchedness of getting around an airport) between downtown Tiburon and Strawberry should be the backbone of Tiburon service. I’m not so enthusiastic about 1b (downtown to Marin City via Mill Valley) or 1c (downtown to Manzanita Park & Ride) mostly because of frequency and cost. Well-timed transfers could do it better.

Adding the school route of alternative 1e to Marin Catholic High School would complete the transit picture, giving kids an alternative to car ownership and taking a helluva lot of cars and their novice drivers off the road. I’m less enthusiastic about alternative 1d, which adds two rather roundabout school routes. I’d rather see them branded as school supplementary service rather than proper bus lines, and, given what they serve, I’d rather the cost come from an agency other than Marin Transit.

Unfortunately, 1a misses the connection to Highway 101. The freeway is the north-south artery of our transportation system. While some routes connect at Strawberry, Routes 18, 24, 36, 70, 71, and 80 all bypass the shopping center for the Tiburon Wye bus pads. This wouldn’t be a big deal if transfers were easy between 19 and the bus pads, but interchange’s horrid cloverleaf layout means anyone who needs to transfer between southbound 101 and the 17 must walk half a mile to make the connection. Transfers to northbound 101 aren’t bad at all, though the bus stops are just signs on poles in some ugly parking lots.

Such a poor connection dramatically reduces the route’s effectiveness.  This is a bus network after all, and network effects are powerful.

Redesigning the interchange isn’t in the scope of work, so routing has to be the solution. Alternative 1a should be modified to run buses across the overpass and turn them around just after the offramp’s intersection with E. Blithedale. There’s a parking lot there that would work well as a turnaround. Though the extra routing would add two to three minutes to the total round trip, it would dramatically improve the connection to southbound 101 and therefore the bus line’s usefulness.

Blue & Gold Ferry is the best way for residents to get to the city, bar none. It’s classy, it’s fast, it’s comfortable, and it drops people off in the heart of the financial district. It’s hindered by low frequency, high cost, and poor transfer to buses.

Alternative 3b addresses the frequency concerns. Tiburon is undergoing a downtown improvement project, which would address the car-oriented nature of most of its downtown, but adding more people to the tip of the peninsula would mean traffic hell further up Tiburon Boulevard. MT should push Blue & Gold to do more and cheaper runs to the City to support a more people-friendly downtown.

The other part of 3b would establish ferry links with Sausalito. While I appreciate the thought, the beauty of Blue & Gold’s routing is the effective express route to the City. The point of an intermediate link to Sausalito would be strictly for tourists, hindering the livability of Tiburon and therefore it’s attractiveness to tourists in the first place. If the route would function as a water taxi, I’d be concerned about profitability. Still, Blue & Gold is a for-profit company; they wouldn’t initiate a loss-making run.

Alternative 3a pushes Blue & Gold to adopt the Clipper Card, partially addressing the transfer issues between the two systems. I can’t see anything wrong with unifying fare media.

Demand-Response Service: Alternatives 2a-2e

No matter how Route 19 is changed, a good chunk of the Tiburon Peninsula will go without transit. The twisting, disconnected streets and cul-de-sacs make effective transit service impossible beyond Tiburon Boulevard, but there is still a need for transit in those areas. People with disabilities, the elderly, and others need to have a way to get around.

Demand-response service allows people to order transit so they don’t need to walk to a bus stop. The alternatives presented range from taxi vouchers to semi-fixed route service.  In honesty, I don’t know nearly enough about Demand-Response Service to assess these options in depth, but I do have some more surface-level thoughts.

Taxi vouchers (alternative 2d) may be the best way to get people out of their homes. Most of the households are the peninsula are relatively wealthy. Though sharing a ride with a number of people may be okay, I suspect taxi service would be more familiar and comfortable to elderly people from that background.

Advertising services that are already or will soon be in place makes sense no matter how you slice it, so I’m surprised alternative 2e is presented as just another option. The rest I have no meaningful way to evaluate, and none of them are part of the feedback I’ve heard from Marin Transit or the existing conditions report.

Non-Transit Solutions: Alternatives 3c-3e

These alternatives present options that don’t involve Marin Transit actually putting vehicles on the road or vouchers in peoples’ hands, and they’re all good.

Once tourists get to Tiburon, a bike would be the best way for them to get around. Alternative 3d proposes a bike share system, which would presumably be part of the San Francisco/BAAQMD system opening this fall. Such a system would be used by residents that don’t want to drive up Tiburon Boulevard and by daytrippers from San Francisco and the Peninsula, where the BAAQMD system will be implemented first. What it should not be is a single station in downtown. If sprinkled up the peninsula along Linear Park they could be used for regular trips. Adding a single station would be useless to residents.

Tourists like long, leisurely rides that don’t fit with the strictly utilitarian role of a bike share system. Bike rental kiosks (alternative 3c) would make more sense for them. Visitors could get up the peninsula to see the views across Richardson Bay or head to Tiburon Uplands.

For either type of bike system, it would reduce bicycle crowding on ferries and improve circulation around town for drivers (who wouldn’t have to deal with more cars on the road), residents, and visitors. We’ll have to wait for TAM’s report on bike share this fall, but there’s no reason Tiburon or MT couldn’t start marketing the town to bike rental shops.

Build a Better Route

Bus stops along the Tiburon Peninsula, not including Strawberry or Belvedere. Click for interactive map; click on the stop to find its characteristics.

The alternatives presented will only go so far in promoting transit use. The urban environment along the route is extremely unfriendly to bus travel. Sidewalks, crosswalks, and bus shelters along the route appear only every so often, rendering the pedestrian – as all bus riders are at some point – feeling like an interloper in a car-dominated landscape.

Improving the rider experience, no matter which mode, will make the bus feel less like a second-class form of transportation. At its least expensive, Tiburon should improve connections to frontage streets and paths where they’re lacking. Often the only safe way to bike or walk is on the frontage road, so it’s important they be connected to the stops.

Bus shelters, though more expensive than straight pavement, are important to keeping riders out of the elements. Tiburon Boulevard isn’t the most meteorologically friendly location for waiting at a bus stop, after all, and the combination of rain and the Richardson Bay winds can make umbrellas useless.

Crosswalks and sidewalks are more heavy-duty interventions but would give people better access to bus stops that may not be immediately in front of their street. If it did undertake the improvements, Tiburon would also improve access to Tiburon Linear Park and other services on the south side of Tiburon Boulevard.

The improvements to Route 19 are commendable, and integrating Blue & Gold Ferry into the public transit network will do wonders for the town. If Marin Transit pursues a short but (relatively) high-frequency bus line and creates a strong connection with 101 corridor, they’ll give Tiburon, its residents and workers, the kind of transit they want and deserve.

Expect another few public outreach sessions before the draft report is presented to the MT board at the end of the summer. Whatever the recommendations, implementation likely won’t start until the end of the year. In the mean time, take the survey, read the reports, and show up to those public meetings. You can sign up for a newsletter at the bottom of the reports page.

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: Not Quite Paradise

TiburonMarin

  • Traffic along Tiburon’s main road is getting worse, but its bus line is one of the least-used routes in the Marin Transit system.  TAM, MT, and the town think improving school-time bus service may do the same trick it did in Fairfax, although they’re exploring other options as well. (IJ)
  • The historic building that housed Amazing Grace Music, the old instrument shop in the Redhill Avenue median, is gone. The San Anselmo landmark business has moved up the street thanks to George Lucas, who funded the project and lives a block away. (IJ)
  • Fairfax has its gateway supermarket back, now that the Good Earth has opened on the east edge of town. The corner has undergone a major transformation over the past few years, and the store looks set to become even more of an anchor for the town. Not to say that everyone’s happy – a local merchant dialed 911 to complain about a lack of parking. (Patch)
  • Neighbors were up in arms over CVS’s plans for a lit sign in Tiburon, but it turns out businesses are already flaunting local regulations. (IJ, Mill Valley Herald)
  • MALT’s housing-oriented cousin, CLAM, has a new director with an eye towards smart growth and the particular human/nature balance that marks West Marin’s villages. (IJ)
  • The Marin Board of Supervisors were busy this week dissolving the county redevelopment agency, reallocating funds for road repair, rescinding the priority development zone for homes around San Quentin, and bolstering their rainy day fund. (Patch, IJ)

Bay Area

  • The Metropolitan Transportation Commission wants high school interns this summer, and is actually willing to pay them. I’d be all over this were I 18 again. (Patch)
  • Parking in San Francisco could get even more expensive if SFMTA extends parking hours to Saturday evenings and Sundays.  That GGT ride just keeps looking more and more attractive. (SFist)
  • SMART’s rolling stock is on track for a 2013 delivery, and it turns out they’re not the only customer.  Toronto will purchase the same vehicles from manufacturer Nippon-Sharryo, and SMART, as a partial designer of the heavy DMUs, is getting a cut of the profits. (Press Democrat)
  • Rohnert Park’s SMART station has officially been relocated to the city’s center, much to the joy of all parties. Rohnert Park plans on building a downtown based around the station. (NBBJ, Press Democrat)

The Greater Marin

  • Raleigh, NC, is pushing the envelope when it comes to getting people to walk. But it’s not the city doing the push – it’s people who care enough about Raleigh to do what needs to be done, and sometimes that’s just signage. (BBC)
  • Google has been instrumental in bringing transit data into the digital age with its GTFS protocol, allowing people to plan trips using transit instead of just cars.  Golden Gate Transit and Marin Transit are not currently participants, but are actively working on getting online. (Xconomy)
  • Nashville has gone for the gold and released a new downtown zoning code that essentially does away with much of the zoning.  No more parking minimums, no more prescribed uses, no more setback requirements. (Old Urbanist)
  • Norfolk, VA’s The Tide light rail is going like gangbusters, beating ridership expectations in only six months. It faced much the same criticism as SMART, although the two systems will be rather different, and only time will tell how our rail system pans out. (Virginian-Pilot)
  • Building good bike infrastructure means more than painting sharrows, as Marin loves to do, and sometimes it means giving bicyclists their own traffic signal. (SanFranciscoize)

Tiburon’s Housing Element Might Actually Work

"Coming About" Fountain & Sculpture in Tiburon, CA

Tiburon recently released its draft Housing Element, the document required by ABAG every seven years. The document reflects the challenge of accommodating low-income residents in a high-income and largely built-up city, a challenge that all of Marin’s communities have been forced to face. Tiburon answered the call with substantive proposed changes to its zoning and ordinance laws that should break the affordable housing deadlock in the town.

The strategies Tiburon currently in place are fairly common in Marin, although they have faced limited success since the last housing element:

  • Inclusionary zoning laws, which force developers to include affordable housing in their developments
  • Density bonuses for developers that make more affordable housing than required
  • Affordable housing zoning overlays (AHOs), with lower barriers for affordable housing construction but with higher affordable housing mandates.

Commercial linkage fees, which force new commercial developments to pay a fee towards affordable housing, has been suggested by the town council but it has been stuck in limbo since 2005.

It is not difficult to see why these strategies have failed to generate much affordable housing, as each constrains developers in an already constrained market. If a developer includes affordable housing, the most generous restrictions are about 20.7 units per acre, roughly that of single-family attached homes (rowhouses); a maximum lot usage of 35%; and a 3-story height limit. This gives developers a very small building envelope to work with when looking at any new construction. As well, the cost of development is quite high, around $300 to $500 per square foot, including land acquisition. Add the affordable housing requirements and it becomes extremely difficult to thread the needle and make a development profitable. The AHO loosens these requirements somewhat, boosting density to 24.8 units per acre, but includes price controls on more than 60% of a development’s units, an impossibly high amount.

The Housing Element as written does loosen these restrictions. One goal – H-aa, if you’re wondering – lowers AHO’s affordable housing requirement to only 25%. Another, goal H-y, introduces flexibility to the general zoning code: studios and one bedroom apartments count as 0.5 and 0.66 units, respectively, and parking minimums are decreased given that many low-income residents are carless. This opens the possibility of a one-acre, three story apartment building with 59 studio apartments or 37 one-bedroom apartments – still less than what such a building could normally support in the absence of density maximums, but far more than what Tiburon would otherwise allow.

This is far different from the approach taken by Novato, which had an incredibly contentious mark-up period for its Housing Element. Novato tries to encourage nonprofits to build affordable housing projects on vacant lots scattered throughout the city, building concentrations of poverty among the market-rate, single-family detached homes. Tiburon’s plan would encourage mixed-income developments in already high density areas, concentrating people where they would do the most good for the town.

At least, that’s the theory. Unfortunately, only one available and earmarked site is downtown, at 1555 Tiburon Boulevard. Granted, it would be wonderful infill development. Built on the site of an abandoned supermarket and its parking lot, the site would be immediately accessible to the town core, two bus lines, and the Blue & Gold Ferry to San Francisco. Other sites would likely strain the town’s infrastructure. The Reed School site is almost a mile from the ferry, putting it out of easy walking distance to the town’s primary transit feature, while the Cove Shopping Center site is hardly accessible to transit at all, save those bus lines. The remaining sites examined are already zoned for market-rate housing that moderate income families can afford.

Despite problems with siting, the Tiburon Draft Housing Element presents a good way forward. Especially exciting is the change to densities, potentially opening a new market for developers that would otherwise find studio and one-bedroom apartments impossible to build in the town. It dovetails well with plans to improve downtown vibrancy, which calls for more housing in the commercial core. Still, it remains to be seen whether the plan will be any more effective in adding housing than the last Housing Element. No matter, though: the next element is due in just three years.

Tiburon’s Draft Housing Element will go before the Planning Commission on January 11.  You can find the document on the town’s website.

Mid-Week Links: Popup Surprise

A group of retailers are moving into abandoned storefronts in Old Downtown Oakland in an effort to revitalize the neighborhood in a concept called Popuphood.  The idea of pop-up stores, where abandoned storefronts are temporarily occupied by retailers, is not new.  They attract foot traffic to areas that don’t see many pedestrians and shoppers, giving a run-down neighborhood new buzz and new life.  Applying it to a whole neighborhood, with multiple storefronts, is a much larger application.  Check it out at 9th & Washington.  If you’re going by transit, the nearest BART is 12th Street Oakland City Center, which you can get to via GGT to Richmond or San Francisco.

Marin

  • The Novato Design Review Commission chairwoman resigned mid-meeting to allow a downtown strip mall to proceed without her approval. (IJ)
  • Last night, Novato debated food trucks and Hanna Ranch. No news as of press time as to decisions made. (Novato Patch)
  • Lucas Valley: George Lucas’s proposed Grady Ranch development drew fire from local residents at a Marin County Planning Commission hearing on the subject. (San Rafael Patch; IJ)
  • Golden Gate Ferry is now on the winter schedule, cutting a couple of trips per day. (IJ)
  • Marin County’s controversial tree-cutting proposal for West Marin has been scaled back. (IJ)
  • Last night, the Corte Madera Planning Commission heard details on the WinCup development and Nordstrom’s expansion plans at The Village shopping center. The WinCup development was told to push for more sustainability measures. (Larkspur-Corte Madera Patch; IJ)
  • Anti-chain Marin may end up with a Subway shop in downtown Mill Valley.  One commenter: “Declasse”. (Mill Valley Patch)
  • Ross is demanding that an extraordinarily wealthy family fulfill its obligations to the town and remove a fish barrier in Ross Creek on their property.  The creek is a spawning habitat for steelhead trout. (IJ)
  • At long last, the Novato Theater is under new management that plans to reopen the downtown theater to the public. (IJ)
  • The ongoing controversy in West Marin regarding oyster fishing in Drake’s Bay may be a moot point if former Assemblyman Bill Bagley is right and the operations are already legal, per action in the 1970s. (IJ)
  • Sometimes a coffee shop can stir up quite a bit of trouble: Peet’s wants to open up shop in Tiburon but faces opposition from residents who claim the coffee niche is already well-served by local stores.  The town’s Planning Commission will discuss the issue tonight at 7:30. (IJ)
  • Some bloggers have uncovered a marvelous bike map of California from the 1890s. (Grist)
  • The Marin County Board of Supervisors spend the most per-capita on office expenses of any comparable county in the State: $2.7 million. (IJ)

The Greater Marin

  • It’s been a banner week for biking in the Bay Area, with plans for a multi-use path over the Bay Bridge, new bike lanes in Sonoma drawing praise for calming traffic, and new bike infrastructure in Napa. (Chronicle, Press Democrat, Napa Valley Register)
  • California’s shifting demographics means shifting housing demand, too, with 75% of it being for rental, transit-oriented development – just the sort of housing Marin has been reticent to approve. (Urban Land Institute)
  • San Francisco’s performance parking isn’t working quite as well as expected, although the experiment is far from over. (Greater Greater Washington)
  • Cotati is in far better shape than other cities in the region, with a balanced budget, restored programs and active revitalization efforts for downtown and elsewhere.  You can see its signature roundabout plan in action. (Rohnert Park Patch)
  • A Napa cyclist is in a coma after being struck on Thursday.  He was in a crosswalk when he was hit by a 70-year-old driver. (Napa Patch)
  • Americans aren’t nearly as attached to their cars as people think, as research shows a strong connection between transit mode share and gas prices. (The Atlantic Cities)
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