Mid-Week Links: Bike for Your Life

The most baffling thing about Marin is how unbikeable its thoroughfares are.  Sir Francis Drake, Second & Third Streets, Miller Avenue, Redwood Boulevard – they’re all sorely lacking in bicycle amenities.  We shunt our cyclists onto side roads or put down sharrows but it’s honestly not enough.  The video above highlights the progress made in New York City, and they’ve done absolutely spectacular things in the past five years.  But why should they have all the fun?  Marin County invented the mountain bike and Safe Routes to School.  Our cafes are hangouts for spandex-clad biker gangs.  We have the culture, we have the towns, but we just need the will.

We’ve done the flashy projects – CalPark Tunnel, the Novato north-south path – but they’re out of the way.  Instead, I want to bike down Miracle Mile and Third Street.  I want to lock my bike to something other than a tree in San Rafael.  I want to feel safe biking in Tam Valley and on Delong Avenue.  Marin is still one of the best places to live, but New York is showing us up.  In 2012, let’s show New York what we’re made of.

SMART

SMART featured prominently in the news this week.  Rohnert Park officially (wait, no, unofficially) moved its station north to be closer to housing and commercial development, which allowed SMART to reintroduce the Atherton Avenue station [Patch] to the IOS.  SMART had cut Atherton because it relies on MTC funding, which requires that an average of 2,200 housing units to be zoned for within a half-mile of the system’s stations.  Atherton has very few housing units nearby, as it is located to bring workers to the Fireman’s Fund office park, and so lowered SMART below the minimum TOD threshold.  Rohnert Park’s move added enough housing units to the system that Atherton could be added back in, and that’s good news for everyone.  (Patch, IJ, Press Democrat)

In other news, SMART has rehired their old CFO to replace her own replacement.  Erin McGrath is taking over once David Heath, who was fired for undisclosed reasons, leaves on Friday.  As well, the District wants to run shuttle buses on the deferred parts of its line, from Santa Rosa to Cloverdale and San Rafael to Larkspur.  This would duplicate current Sonoma County and Golden Gate bus service, but the District is in talks with GGT about coordination, raising hopes that they won’t waste money creating a sixth bus service in two counties. (IJ)

Marin County

  • Ross Valley’s Flood Control District has been awarded $7.66 million to retrofit Phoenix Lake into a water detention facility, decreasing the odds of flooding downstream. (IJ)
  • San Rafael will spend $213k to repair a bump in Anderson Drive that slows down cars, although I think the bump is more of a feature than a bug. (IJ)
  • Marin County supervisors have discretionary funds, and they’re giving away $38,650 at the end of the year.  Prince William County, Maryland, has something similar but is considering ending the practice. (IJ, Washington Post)
  • Marin has pumped another $1 million into litigation against SAP and Deloitte Consulting for the wretched accounting system they installed for the County. (IJ)
  • The County needle-exchange program will not expand as planned. Congressional Republicans reinstated a ban on federal funding for needle exchanges, meaning AIDS testing and prevention money from the CDC will not be forthcoming. (IJ)
  • A four-car collision on the Golden Gate Bridge resulted in no serious injuries, but shut down all northbound lanes for 30 minutes. (IJ)
  • More bizarrely, a driver ran a car through a Sausalito living room.  No injuries were reported. (IJ)
  • A third crash this week came from Novato, where a driver crashed into a telephone pole along Highway 101. (Patch)
  • The Ross Valley Sanitary District will borrow up to $1.5 million to fund repairs and upgrades to the valley’s waste water systems. The District plans to replace 200 miles of pipe at the glacial rate of 2 miles per year. (IJ)
  • Caltrans shut part of the Manzanita Park and Ride lot due to high tides, but reopened it on Monday.  It’s unclear why the tides would be a problem last week, but not this week. (IJ)
  • Doyle Drive’s Phase I is almost complete, and it will include a temporary signalized intersection. It will be interesting to see if the traffic gets as bad as people think it will. (Spotswood)

The Greater Marin

  • What does it take to make good downtown retail?  A bit of rule-bending. (PlaceShakers)
  • Transit agencies should sell personal mobility if they want to compete with the car, the ultimate mobility machine. (Human Transit)
  • Mode share: Apparently, teens rely on cars if they live in spread-out, rural environments.  But the town in question, Owens Sound, ON, has room to improve, as it seems to have little bike infrastructure and only a roundabout bus system. (Owen Sound Sun Times)
  • Environmental considerations have been cut from the federal TIFIA transportation loan program, part of a deal cut by Sen. Barbara Boxer to get Republican support for the transportation funding extension.  The considerations may still be amended into the bill, as it has not yet passed the Senate. (Huffington Post)
  • Eliminating California state funding of school transportation funding is made at the expense of broadly-spread rural school districts that need busing but can’t afford it on their own. (Sacramento Bee)
  • The City of Sonoma wants to ban “formula [i.e., chain] stores” after a Staples moved into town, but the town doesn’t seem to be addressing the zoning codes that encourage the blandness they want to ban.  The Council is deeply divided on the issue, which will be taken up at the next council meeting. (Sonoma News)
  • Work to widen Highway 101 in Sonoma has sucked up $720 million so far and needs another $250 million to get through the Novato Narrows, all for more developments like Deer Park and Hanna Ranch.  SMART will cost $280 million less at full build-out. (Press Democrat)

Mid-Week Links: We’ll Cross that Bridge

Richmond - San Rafael Bridge

photo by --Mark--

San Rafael

It’s been a busy week in the County Seat after a few weeks of Novato hogging the spotlight, and why not?  There are plenty of empty lots to fill, streets to calm (or not) and parks to lease.  The big news, of course, is that baseball is coming to San Rafael now that the City Council has approved the lease of Albert Field to Centerfield Partners.  There’s talk of a lawsuit from some neighbors, but they haven’t yet decided whether to sue or not.

Now that there will be a major pedestrian destination in San Rafael, the city will double-down on pedestrian improvements and try to really solidify a place as a walkable city, right?  Actually, no.  The city has deemed two intersections along Third Street, both within a quarter-mile of the Transit Center, to be too dangerous to cross.  Rather than try to improve the crossings and calm the raging one-way traffic, the city will make it illegal to cross there by removing the crosswalks.  Brilliant.  The city will hold a public hearing if it hears enough objections from pedestrians.

Greg Brockbank officially launched his campaign for mayor at a party on Sunday.  In his speech, he listed things he’d like to see to build up San Rafael: more events, more affordable housing, a shuttle, a downtown hotel, a music pavilion, and drawing seniors downtown.  I’d like to add more crosswalks to that list.

A bit further north, a long, long dead Sizzler’s near Los Ranchitos will be renovated into a hardware store.  This is an undeniably good thing, as North San Rafael has lacked one for over a year.  As well, the County is evaluating the old Fireman’s Fund building at 1600 Los Gamos as to the feasibility of it housing a public safety complex.

Elsewhere in Marin

  • The Ross Valley real estate market is “holding steady,” while White Hill and other Ross Valley schools are moving forward with plans to build more classrooms.
  • The Town of Ross will hold its annual Town Dinner next Friday, September 30.  Get home from work early for some community cheer.
  • The oldest business in Marin, Smiley’s Schooner Saloon in Bolinas, is up for sale.
  • Once again, the Mill Valley Council changed course when confronted by small and vocal opposition, voting unanimously to reject a plan to installing a paid-for electric car charging station.
  • Meanwhile, Mill Valley will likely spend around $400,000 to patch, not repave, their roads.
  • CalTrans will repave (PDF) a half-mile stretch of Tiburon Boulevard in downtown Tiburon at a cost of $1.2 million.
  • Dick Spotswood wanted the facts on affordable housing, and, courtesy of Stand Up for Neighborly Novato, here’s some facts for Novato.
  • The IJ comes out in favor of Novato‘s planned downtown city offices, citing economic and symbolic reasons.
  • Yet despite this renewed push to have a heart, the city continues its sprawling ways.
  • Larkspur‘s planning director, Nancy Kaufman, has retired to do watercolors and planning consulting.
  • MCBC is beefing up its efforts to improve open space bike trails.

SMART News

The SMART project keeps chugging along, with new and old ideas coming up in the editorials of local papers.  Mike Pechner opined in the IJ that purchasing CalTrain trainsets would save money over the Japanese DMUs SMART currently has on order.  I haven’t seen a good comparison, but individually motorized carriages is best-practice in Europe and Asia.  Amtrak faces the same questions as SMART, which the Infrastructurist has kindly parsed for us.

Another ongoing debate is the effect of the system on home prices.  Conventional wisdom is that homes increase in price when they have proximity to transit, although some believe the noise of the trains will lower house prices.  Half-Mile Circles has a fabulous literature review for anyone’s perusal on the subject.

Meanwhile, the North Bay Business Journal wonders if an excursion train like the Vine Line is possible along the SMART corridor.  The short answer?  No.

The Greater Marin

  • Contra Costa’s Lafayette and Orinda want better downtowns, but it’s sparking some debate in the communities about what is, or is not, appropriate.  Marin needs a debate like this.
  • Streetsblog wonders whether our transit systems should strive for profitability or coverage.
  • Wondering what San Francisco was up to this past weekend?  Enjoying Chinatown and North Beach streets by closing them off to cars, that’s what.
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