Mid-Week Links: Rise Above

CA - Marin County: Fort Baker - Battery Spencer and Golden Gate Bridge

photo from flickr, by Wally Gobetz

Marin and Beyond

  • Most of the residents planned for in the Civic Center Station Area Plan won’t use SMART to get around in their everyday trips, but that doesn’t mean the housing won’t reduce per-capita greenhouse gas emissions; building homes within walking and biking distance to North San Rafael will do that. (IJ, Streetsblog)
  • Mill Valley has formally objected to its RHNA number, saying that 129 new housing units too many for the city to zone for. The city stopped far short of following in Corte Madera’s decision to leave ABAG, with some councilmembers questioning how that could help. (MV Herald)
  • Very small apartments, on the order of 220 square feet, are being considered by a number of cities to attract the kind of young people that are just starting their careers and who view the city, rather than just their apartment, as their living space. (Sustainable Cities)
  • Amid opposition to athletic complexes at the San Rafael Airport and Hamilton, it’s worth asking – is there actually a dearth of quality athletic facilities in Marin? (IJ)
  • If you commute to the South Bay and don’t want to drive, it turns out you can transfer from GGT to most of the Silicon Valley shuttles at Lombard & Filmore, at least according to a new map of the services. It might take longer, but at least you can avoid 101 driving, then city driving, then more 101 driving. (Noe Valley SF)
  • Traffic congestion isn’t everything, and it’s important for planners to keep in mind the broader context of transportation costs to ensure dollars are spent for maximum return. Often, that means on something other than congestion relief. (Planetizen)
  • And…: San Rafael Target begins construction. (IJ) … You don’t want to drive into the City next week – trust me – but Golden Gate Transit has you covered. (GGT) … The water taxi has arrived in Marin, offering for-hire services to Tiburon, Sausalito, and points around the San Francisco waterfront. (IJ)

The Toll

Thankfully, only one person was injured on the roads this week.

  • Three drivers, including a police officer, were involved in a three-car crash in Santa Rosa on Wednesday. It’s unclear who was at fault, and only minor injuries resulted. (PD)
  • The woman who was hospitalized after a driver crashed his SUV into a downtown San Rafael restaurant last week is in stable condition. The crash is still under investigation. (IJ)

New Visual of Highway 101 Service

Marin’s bus service is centered around Highway 101 and its “trunk” routes. From commuter lines to the basic San Francisco regional lines to the supplementary local routes, getting from one place to another on Highway 101 should be an easy task. Alas, it is not.

Not every bus pad is labeled on the freeway bus map with which buses stop where. Since not all buses stop at all bus pads, you don’t always know whether to take the bus or not. The first time I went by bus to the Lucas Valley pad on a Sunday morning, I tried to figure out which buses stopped there and would pick me up at the Transit Center. Not knowing that it was all printed in the front of my transit guide, I took the 49K and went on a long, 35-minute ride around Terra Linda. Had all the information been in front of me at once on a simple map, I would’ve known that the 70 and 80 would’ve taken me, no problem, but that I should avoid the 101.

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

The bus map here is a strip map, a simplified diagram showing all stops and which buses stop and which stop when. Though it’s a design that could be improved upon, the map does show all routes and all stops along the 101 corridor. Ideally, the map would be paired with a Highway 101 timetable showing all bus departures. It and the schedule would be posted at every bus pad and major transit hub on the corridor, allowing every passenger to know which bus goes where.

At 41 inches long but only 10 inches wide, it could also be posted inside buses that run along the 101 corridor, allowing passengers to look at it and internalize it while riding, like how subway cars have a map of the subway posted.

Since this is a rather complicated trunk line, be sure to post corrections and comments for me. How, too, could this design be improved upon? What might make this a less confusing or more useful diagram?

On another topic, be sure to come out this Wednesday to the Flatiron, 724 B Street, San Rafael, CA, at 6pm for our third happy hour. It’ll be good times, I guarantee it.

UPDATE: I neglected to mention that Anthony Nachor of My Bay Area Ideas was instrumental in proofing things. He knows the 101 system like the back of his hand, so a hat tip to him for his help.

End-Week Links: Flight


photo from Flickr by Doc Searls


Marin County and Beyond

  • Marin Transit has accepted a four-year contract with Golden Gate Transit. The dealwill result in lower costs for MT and a shift in supplemental bus service to an alternative vendor. MT plans to revisit the contract in two years to ensure its viable over the long term. (Marinscope)
  • Brett Richards has a new blog about the Ross Valley Sanitary District, and he wants to make sure everyone reads it. Richards, the former general manager of the RVSD, has fallen off the radar since quitting the agency under a cloud of scandal and bizarrely unprofessional behavior. (Patch)
  • Santa Rosa has rezoned part of Coddingtown Mall in preparation for the SMART station. The zone is a compromise between mall owners, who wanted to maintain their mall car-centered, and the city, who wanted the opposite. (PD)
  • Marin General Hospital is proceeding with its rebuilding efforts, and a draft EIR is now available for comment. The $500 million project would expand the hospital to 660,000 square feet and provide 919 parking spaces. (NBBJ)
  • Complaints of racial profiling, discrimination, and unprofessional behavior were aired in a Marin City meeting with the county sheriff’s department. The county has pledged to work on the issues. (IJ)
  • To meet the environmental challenges facing Marin, from sea-level rise to car-dependency, we need to build where we’ve already built and strengthen our built and natural environments. (IJ)
  • Bikeshare got an official stamp of approval when the Federal Highway Administration released a guide of what makes a good bikeshare system. The burgeoning transportation mode isn’t a bicycling panacea, and it’s important for Marin and other cities to carefully weigh the costs and benefits. (Streetsblog)
  • And…: If the UN wants to herd us into public transit, it has a funny way of going about it. (Systemic Failure) … Eliminating streetlights is an idea crazy enough to work. (Strong Towns) … The Golden Gate Bridge will have an all-electronic tolling system by next year. (SFist)

The Toll

Five people were wounded on the road this week. Another two men died on the road, though both deaths could have been caused by medical events rather than the actual crashes that resulted.

  • A 68-year-old man crashed his SUV into a garage in Santa Rosa and died. It’s not apparent whether the crash killed him or if he suffered a medical emergency, killing him and causing the crash. (PD)
  • Paul Borré died while driving in Petaluma on Monday, though it seems he suffered a “major medical event” that killed him, causing the crash. His daughter, who was in the car with him, survived uninjured. Paul was 41. (PD)
  • In Petaluma, a woman driving a car hit and injured Thomas Williams, who was walking his bike across the street in a crosswalk. She gave Thomas $60 for his bike, then sped off. Police are searching for the suspect. (PD)
  • A woman was seriously injured when a driver used an SUV to push her into a shop on Fourth Street in San Rafael during the Thursday farmer’s market. The driver was taken in for questioning, and it’s unclear whether it was an accident or not. (IJ)
  • Richard Marshall seriously injured himself by crashing his truck (perhaps while under the influence) into a tree in Novato. (Patch) … A motorcyclist lost control of her bike and injured herself as a result on Highway 1. A driver injured another motorcyclist in the same area by making a U-turn into his path. (Marinscope) …

The Third Happy Hour

Flatiron Saloon

photo from Flickr by Andrew Westman

We have our third happy hour coming up, and this time it’ll be somewhere with a real happy hour.

Join me and fellow transit & planning geeks/activists/enthusiasts/professionals at the Flatiron in downtown San Rafael on Wednesday at 6:00pm. Come late, come early; I’ll be there with signage. If you’re looking for a person, I’ll be the bearded 20-something wearing a brown shirt about time travel. In a sports bar like the Flatiron, I suspect I’ll stick out. See you out there!

Mid-Week Links will have to be delayed by a day due to some extenuating circumstances, but they’ll be back tomorrow.

GGT’s Offer Is Good, but Leaving Ain’t Bad

Golden Gate Bridge from Coastal Ridge Trail

photo by Mark from Flickr

The impending contract vote by Marin Transit later today is extremely important to the future of transit in Marin and Sonoma. Though the final contract offer by GGT is far from perfect, its upsides are greater than its downsides, and is on balance a better deal than splitting Marin’s transit offerings even more.

If you haven’t been following the saga, Marin Transit (MT) is currently renegotiating its ongoing contract with Golden Gate Transit (GGT). GGT provides local bus service for MT, and MT tell it where to go and pays for it. GGT also provides regional service to San Francisco and the East Bay, operating the commuter routes as well as routes 40, 42, 70, 80, 101, and 101X. However, GGT’s current contract is inflexible and expensive. It’s inflexible, in that MT needs to notify GGT of service changes more than a year in advance, meaning routes that MT has marked for change won’t see change for far longer than even the decision-making process.

The cost to operate one bus for one hour, known as a revenue-hour, is $133, and that cost increases by 5% each year. This price is greater than and increases faster than comparable providers in other regions and even around the Bay Area. MT thinks it can get service for $120 per revenue hour or less.

The cost issue is what prompted the current negotiations. MT is projected to be out of money in less than five years unless its cost structure changes. With an already-expensive service steadily increasing in cost, the current system just isn’t sustainable.

The New Contract

Thankfully, nobody wants to keep the current system. While a TAM study showed that cost savings could be realized by switching to another vendor, keeping the two systems together is about cooperation as much as it is about money. With that in mind, GGT gave its final offer to the negotiating team, and it looks like a pretty good deal.

In short, for a 25% reduction in revenue hours, GGT is willing to cut its cost to $120 per revenue hour and cut its annual increase to 2.7%. The revenue hour reduction would give MT the responsibility of finding a new vendor for school service, Routes 19 and 51, and a few hours on Routes 23 and 29, likely the school day service on the former and the Fairfax service on the latter.

The reduction in hours makes a lot of sense. Currently, school service is provided by GGT, but it really doesn’t need to be. School buses, while they do have high ridership, are extremely inefficient. They’re like commuter service but with a much tighter window of arrival and departure to coincide with school’s beginning and ending. It provides a good service, but it’s not general transit, which is where MT should be focusing its resources. Finding a cheaper vendor would allow them to do so.

Routes 19 and 51 are slated for changes to their service that will take more than a year to implement under the current contract. By turning over control of the two routes to MT, the service changes can come into effect immediately, benefiting riders in Tiburon and Novato and saving MT money that will come with the improved efficiencies.

The cost cuts, meanwhile, are wonderful news. Though it’s unclear whether this increase is before or after inflation, it is a low number either way. Other transit agencies in the Bay Area have seen their costs spike for reasons ranging from pensions to fuel prices. Having costs remain steady and, indeed, below that of comparable agencies, is a fantastic deal for MT and makes planning service changes into the future significantly easier. It also means that, though $120/hour is more than the average for the region, it will increase more slowly and so will not remain above average forever.

But if MT does pursue other options, it won’t be the end of the world for the agency. More money will be available to expand local transit options, and scheduling contacts will likely remain intact. GGT could focus on its core mission of providing regional service to the North Bay, while MT could focus on its core to provide regional service to Marin. In the end, Marin’s transit network would look more like Sonoma’s, with its overlapping service, and less like San Francisco’s, with its unified Muni network. Though I’d rather see the latter than the former, with cooperation and leadership even fractured networks can be fruitful.

MT General Manager David Rzepinski thinks this GGT’s final offer is the right one to take for his agency and the county, and I’m inclined to agree. If MT dumps GGT, that will add what looks like a third transit agency to Marin (MT, Stagecoach, and GGT), and SMART will make four. Such fragmentation would be bad for Marin and bad for the region, putting lines between services that ought not be there.

In the end, MT should take the deal from GGT. They’re expensive but provide top-quality service and seamless integration with MT’s local routes. Lowering the cost per revenue hour makes it affordable, and lowering the rate of cost growth makes it affordable for the future as well. The MT meeting starts at 10am.

UPDATE: Marin Transit unanimously approved the four-year contract, calling it a stop-gap measure. It plans to revisit the contract in two years.

End-Week Links: Circling

A view of our past, this home movie was shot from a passenger airplane in 1941. Though mostly of San Francisco, what looks like a Northwestern Pacific passenger ferry can be seen, as is a still-industrial Tiburon, before landfill built up the downtown we know and love today.

Marin County

  • Contract negotiations between Marin Transit and Golden Gate Transit are drawing to a close. GGT has its final proposal (the proposal), MT is weighing what might happen if the relationship ends (PDF, page 15), and we’ll see what happens on Monday. (IJ, GGT, TAM)
  • While Marin relishes its small-town character, it’s vital that we leave the door open for new history to be written, to allow our downtowns to continue their evolution as vibrant commercial centers for more than just antiques and ice cream. (MV Herald, Joyce Kleiner)
  • There’s now a moratorium on building permits in San Geronimo Valley to protect salmon spawning streams. A judge ordered the moratorium, settling a lawsuit by environmental group SPAWN against the county which argued environmental protections lacked teeth, violating CEQA laws. (IJ)
  • The Marinship building is now on Sausalito’s register of historic places. The Department of Veteran’s Affairs owns the building, but found that it would be extremely expensive to renovate and wants it torn down. Though Sausalito hopes more money will come from the feds to fix it, Congress has begun to micromanage all real estate in the government’s portfolio; it’s unlikely House Republicans would be willing to part with the extra money. (IJ)
  • Marin Sports Academy is pondering a 78-acre sports complex in Hamilton, and neighbors are having none of it. (IJ)
  • This Wednesday, listen to some of the leading thinkers on development in Marin and how to target growth to support Marin’s conservation efforts and character. Wednesday, September 19, 7-9pm, 618 B Street, San Rafael. (IJ)
  • San Anselmo is taking applications for an open seat on the Planning Commission. (RV Reporter) … MTC released its 2012 Getting There Guide, complete with regional transit and rail maps. (Bee) … Visit West End for a culture crawl on Sept. 21, 6-8pm, and find out what you’re missing in the oft-overlooked neighborhood. (IJ)

The Greater Marin

  • Transit is extremely popular among Americans, with fully twice as many supporting its expansion over roads. Whether living in urban or rural places, whether liberal or conservative, young or old, people choose transit over roads. Alas, politicians – local, state, and federal – continue to choose road expansion instead. (Streetsblog)
  • Bicycle lanes will be exempted from CEQA if a new law is passed in Sacramento. The environmental review process has been used to great effect by opponents of the lanes, who say they will unduly harm traffic. (Planetizen)
  • Water taxis and water buses are coming soon to the San Francisco waterfront, and possibly up to Sausalito and Tiburon. The water taxi, run by Tideline Marine Group of Sausalito, is negotiating for landing rights in Marin, and would be an on-call ferry service. The buses, run by the confusingly-named Water Taxi Co., don’t have plans for Marin. (SFGate)
  • Rohnert Park celebrates its 50th birthday this week. The city, deliberately founded as a placeless, centerless suburb, wants to shed that history and found a new town center, just like its older, more urban neighbors. (PD)
  • San Jose’s governance has not innovated like its population, leading to old-school policies that stifle innovation, support big companies over start-ups, and limit downtown to a shadow of what it could be. The suburbs, meanwhile, accommodate innovative companies in sprawling office campuses. (Metroactive)
  • There’s a battle of the parking petitions going on in San Francisco. On one side: people that don’t want to give up their flat-rate or free parking spaces. On the other, people that do. The counter-petition was formed to make the point that neighborhood organizations often don’t represent the whole neighborhood, and that a lot of people really do want things to change. As of press time, the anti-reform petition was about 70 signatures ahead. If you live or park in San Francisco, be sure to sign for reform! (Streetsblog)

The Toll

The roads claimed seven injuries this week, and one person was injured on a bicycle trail. Thankfully, nobody was killed.

  • A woman who was struck by a 13-year-old boy riding his bike on the sidewalk in the city of Sonoma was awarded $1.4 million in damages from the boy’s family and the city. The judge awarded the sum after finding Sonoma’s bicycle ordinance, which allows relatively unfettered sidewalk riding, to be unsafe. (PD)
  • Harry Smith plead not guilty to attempted murder and other charges after appearing court for the first time. He’s accused of running down Toraj Soltani with his car while driving on a golf course. (KTVU)
  • Raquel Nelson, whose child was killed by an intoxicated driver while they were crossing the road in front of their Georgia apartment complex, is still being prosecuted for vehicular manslaughter and faces three years’ prison. She chose retrial over a one year probation in an attempt to clear her name. (Streetsblog)
  • A cyclist in a crosswalk was hit and injured by a driver in Santa Rosa. (PD) … A motorcyclist t-boned a car in Mill Valley, injuring himself. The car driver was fine. (IJ) … A driver fleeing from police injured two people, one seriously, by colliding with the cars they were driving in Santa Rosa. He also hurt himself before being arrested. (PD) … A motorcyclist severely injured himself after leading police on a chase and crashing in west Sonoma County. (PD) … A bicyclist injured himself by crashing near the Marin-Sonoma border. No further details are available. (PD) … A motorcyclist was severely injured in a crash with a car in Santa Rosa. It’s unknown if there were any other injuries, or if the car had a driver. (PD)

Advertising Transit

For a while now I’ve been of the mind that if you want something that doesn’t exist you should make it. Unfortunately, I’m not a filmmaker or an advertising guru so I can’t make ads for transit that are as sexy as car ads, something I’ve always wanted but never seen and suspected didn’t exist.

Muni Diaries apparently has the same thought, but unlike me they up and found this most awesome of ads:


Midttrafik presents … The Bus!
The bus driver is cool … “I’m cool…”
Top nice seating
Gigantic panoramic windows … with impressive scenic view
Designer bells with cool functions
Free handles
It is big… and long
It has its own lane
Yeah, it’s street … and it also runs a[t] night
“I’m still cool”
Yes, the bus is cool, so get up ealier tomorrow and get a good seat
Midttrafik … we’ll handle the driving for you.

Um, wow. I want to ride that bus.

Out of Madrid came a series of fantastic ads that, while about as on-topic as a bank advertisement, certainly do what car ads do for cars: make the product, riding a subway, just as sexy as it should be.

Inject a little wonder into your commute is the message here.

Here – make the world right again on transit.

And how do you advertise night service? Well, when Copenhagan Metro started running 24/7, they ran this bit to let the train-travelling public know:

Made me yawn.

Still, there are a few transit ads here in the US. In a conversation with @AngrySean and @mikesonn we found this low-budget but tightly done ad for Butte County Transit. Ride the B-Line:


A while ago, during the national high-speed rail debates that didn’t amount to much, some of the actors from Mad Men did a spot about rail, and it made a few rounds in the wonky and fan circles, but that is, unfortunately, about it.

The train: You wouldn’t do open-heart surgery on yourself, so why would you drive yourself?

And, finally, we have a series of ads from LA’s Go Metro campaign, which is mostly known for its outstanding print and billboard segments, but it had its TV spots, too. A few particularly surreal used interpretive dancers and a beat poet. This is my favorite:


I only found one really good ad for bicycling, the other thing we transit advocates like to advocate for, but it’s American-made and embraces the full scope of the bicycling culture, though the 20-somethings riding their city bikes on the sidewalk looks a little weird.

Any ad that makes biking as American as apple pie makes me happy.

Most of these I’d take over the squeaky SMART radio spots (Flash) I’ve heard. What’s your favorite transit ad? How would you advertise transit in Marin?

Mid-Week Links return tomorrow.