Mid-Week Links: Good Times

10000 trips through 10000 points

Image from Eric Fischer.

Local techno/transit geek Eric Fischer wrote a program to approximate travel routes from geotagged Twitter posts, revealing the desire lines of area.  Looks like he forgot Marin is there, but apparently we don’t have a whole lot of Twits to track anyway.

Marin

  • Glad that’s over with: The RepealSMART effort failed to meet its minimum signature requirements and will not be on the next ballot.  This frees SMART to use $171 million it had in escrow, although the effort may return for November. (Press Democrat)
  • Then again…: Whistlestop has filed suit against SMART over the loss of its parking spaces and the effective loss of its building.  SMART and San Rafael are reportedly willing to strike a deal to solve the problem, but there are no details yet. (IJ)
  • Novato will give up its affordable housing oversight role to Marin Housing Authority, as it cannot afford the administrative costs without redevelopment funds. (IJ)
  • Today, Novato will unveil a model of its new downtown offices, which are proceeding despite newly-elected Councilmember Eric Lucan’s opposition. (IJ)
  • The Marin History Museum has received an anonymous 1 to 1, $50,000 matching gift pledge to restore the Boyd House.  If you care at all about Marin’s history, and about San Rafael’s old housing stock, this is your time to donate. (IJ)
  • The Muir Woods Shuttle, aka the 66 bus, is slated for a fare hike, but the exact details aren’t known yet.  A $5 round-trip fare, complete with bus day pass, is the likely outcome. (IJ)
  • SMART and California High-Speed Rail are getting their knocks, sometimes deservedly so, but they’re nothing new: BART faced similar criticism before it opened, and Marin lost out as a result. (IJ)
  • Marin will upgrade its library lobbies into “market places” for its most popular material. I’ve always figured, though – if Border’s died because people treated it like a library with a coffee shop, why not get coffee shops in the libraries? (IJ)
  • San Quentin, currently zoned for 1,500 new homes, could get “priority status” in order to deflect ABAG mandates elsewhere in Marin.  It doesn’t change the fact that adding 1,500 homes at San Quentin is, to put it mildly, a little daft. (IJ)
  • Marin tweaked its zoning rules, adding an exemption from affordable housing requirements for some unincorporated communities, including Strawberry. Other changes were made to permitting and smart growth planning areas. (Pacific Sun)
  • Sausalito will include some of their harbor docks as affordable housing in their Draft Housing Element, as live-aboards pay significantly less rent than their land-lubbing fellow Sausalitans. (IJ)

The Greater Marin

  • Windsor has approved their downtown station-area plan, although they won’t see any train service until after 2015. (Press Democrat)
  • The House and Senate are moving forward with their respective Transportation Reauthorization bills.  Activists, including myself,  aren’t so keen on the House version. (The Hill, Streetsblog)
  • Nationally, the number of renters has grown significantly, while the number of homeowners has declined, meaning cities are likely well-equipped for the demand.  (Atlantic Cities)
  • The BART extension to Livermore is giving voice to an existential question facing the system: should it expand ever outward, or should it keep what it already has?
  • Mountain View rejected bus rapid transit because it would have taken up left-turn lanes.  This is a step back for the city’s efforts to put moving people, not cars, first.

And…: A beautiful new subway in Kazakhstan. (Architizer)… One Bay Area falls flat in San Ramon, too. (San Ramon Express)… Stockton Street survived just fine without any parking for a week. (Streetsblog)

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: Divide and Conquer

We intuit it, but we don’t always realize it: a busy street is a pedestrian-dead street.  That’s why you never walk down lower Miller Avenue, or Third Street, or, if you can avoid it, Sir Francis Drake Boulevard.

Marin

  • A Marin City woman is facing eviction from her public housing for hosting her dying mother without prior approval.
  • Food Truck Crush might be a permanent after-work fixture at the Larkspur Ferry.
  • The split-lot fee saga continues, which County Supervisors continue to adjudicate on a case-by-case basis.
  • Golden Gate Bridge workers are engaged in a rather heated renegotiation of their contract with the District.
  • If SMART is repealed, the sales tax that funds the project will remain in place until all outstanding contracts and bonds are paid off.  Dick Spotswood doesn’t think this is such a great deal.
  • SMART supporters are reviving to fight the repeal effort.
  • There’s a fight afoot to prevent the San Rafael Airport from also hosting a recreation center.
  • Plans to expand Ross Valley’s White Hill Middle School have been approved.
  • Redhill Shopping Center merchants are taking it in the gut as the beloved San Anselmo strip mall undergoes renovation and beautification.
  • Larkspur’s low-density infill development at Niven Nursery near the city’s downtown is proceeding apace.
  • Mill Valley loses a hardware store and a bit of its past.
  • The Hanna Ranch sprawl project is set to go before the Novato City Council without affordable housing.  At least it has that going for it.
  • Novato approved the design of its new city offices, with some caveats.

The Greater Marin

  • Local transit agencies are urged to work together more closely ahead of an MTC-led push for a transit gas tax.
  • If you commute by bus to the City, no doubt you know that the Transbay Terminal is gone.  What you may not know is that in its place will be a 61-story tower atop the new transit center along with a number of other fine projects.  Have some opinions?  Stop by San Francisco City Hall at 5:30 Thursday evening.
  • Highway 101 widening around Rohnert Park will be completed this month, part of a $172 million widening scheme along the thoroughfare’s Sonoma reaches.
  • Looks like California High-Speed Rail will cost a helluva lot more than planned.  Atlantic Cities waxes sanguine on the subject, and Alon Levy looks at the cause of the cost overruns: cantankerous residents officials at either end of the line.
  • Why do Congressional Republicans hate bikes?

Mid-Week Links: Delay Delay

  • In SMART news, Farhad Mansourian released new numbers this last week showing an increase in costs, causing the MTC to delay and reevaluate the critical bailout that was contingent on costs remaining steady.  According to Mansourian’s analysis, the budget remains balanced, but overall construction costs increase.  The IJ keeps up its support, but it’s right that the system needs to get its act together.  Opponents say the numbers still aren’t right and begin gathering signatures for repeal while Mansourian blasted RepealSMART for arguing that the whole train project should be built at once or not at all, but made no comment on the numbers critique.  Also unknown is why the critical system continues to shoot itself in the foot.
  • In affordable housing, a new study out of the DC Office of Planning (for the municipality, not the feds) attempts to take transportation costs into account when analyzing housing affordability.  As intuition would have it, the further you travel from work the more expensive it is to get there, decreasing affordability.  Forbes’ Joel Kotkin declares that ABAG is conducting a war on the single-family home (nevermind the fact that rowhouses are single-family homes), saying people want to live in such homes but will pay a premium to live in urban areas, citing an old Chronicle article of how the middle class are priced out of San Francisco.  Nope, no contradiction there.  Oh, and he takes a few potshots at Marinites just for kicks.
  • By the way, Novato’s awesome.
  • Elsewhere in California, Jerry Brown vetoed a bill allowing local planning authorities to require businesses help cover transit costs of its employees’ commute; Larkspur will be timing its traffic signals to help car flow around, well, everywhere, although its pedestrian facilities could use some help; bike lanes are added to the Golden Gate Bridge’s Eastern walkway, although it’s still too crowded; the MTC’s impending move to San Francisco may not be so impending; San Diego gets a new growth plan; and Lawrence Berkeley National Labs wants to find new space near transit, causing East Bay councilmembers to salivate simultaneously.
  • In other news, Frank Gruber asks why Americans implemented policies that destroyed our cities, and Grist relays a grisly reminder of what happens when drivers don’t realize that bikers are vehicles, too.  San Francisco does its own cyclists well by prosecuting the alleged driver in a hit-and-run that killed a German tourist on a bicycle.

SMART Moves Forward

If you haven’t already seen it, the Transportation Authority of Marin (TAM) approved an $8 million bailout of the SMART rail project.  The rail project’s phase one will extend from downtown Santa Rosa to downtown San Rafael, with operations aimed to begin in 2014.

Not everyone is so pleased with the result.  RepealSMART, an anti-transit organization formed exclusively to fight the project, is suing in Marin Superior Court, saying TAM meetings violated open meetings laws and election promises in providing the bailout.  The organization also alleges that SMART has an undisclosed $35 million deficit, a number group lead John Parnell says comes from an anonymous source.  Although he claims he’d have no issue if the train were being built at once, he calls the first segment “useless.”  Those that live and work along the segment will doubtless disagree.