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How to make the Bay Area's tangle of public transit options less chaotic - San Francisco Business Times
"Have you ever tried to transfer from BART to Muni downtown, entering and exiting separate gates after you walk up and down two sets of stairs? Or made the same maneuver transferring from Caltrain to BART in Millbrae? The transfer takes minutes when it should take seconds — and that’s just one way the Bay Area’s transit system can bewilder riders.

SPUR, the region’s urban policy think-tank, just released a hulking 51-page report on how to make the Bay Area’s transit systems less chaotic. Much of the conversation surrounding public transit woes centers on funding shortfalls and overcrowding.

But there's another issue: when there are 27 different Bay Area transit systems, it's difficult for people to use them. The sheer number of intersecting systems makes the Bay Area arguably the most complex public transit network in the country, the report notes. “The Big 7” agencies — Muni, BART, AC Transit, Caltrain, VTA, SamTrans and Golden Gate Transit — each have more than 9 million riders a year.

“I ran into these problems when my family visits. They learned how to use BART but nothing else,” Ratna Amin, SPUR’s transit policy director, said at a panel discussion on Tuesday announcing the report. “While we like transit, we don’t use it because it’s too uncertain.”

It’s not just her family, of course.

There’s been a 14 percent drop in public transit usage per capita in the Bay Area since 1991. Aside from Dallas, Houston and Atlanta, that's biggest decrease among large metro areas. That’s bad company to be in if you care about transit-oriented development, traffic, the environment and making life better for 29 percent of Bay Area commuters who pass a county boundary to get to work every day.

The report notes that the region’s “divergent maps, schedules and fares to uncoordinated capital planning and investment” plays a big role. Part of that decline is because “having so many different transit systems makes it harder for riders to understand and use the services available to them,” SPUR notes.

How can policymakers ease the tension?

The report doesn’t just call for all-out consolidation among agencies because that could be onerous. It does call on state legislators to think of ways to provide financial incentives for just that. SPUR’s interviews found “some apathy among stakeholders about” solving the problem because “state and federal transit funding programs have not emphasized integration.”

SPUR mostly lays out a mixture of small and ambitious steps. They include designing new signage and a region-wide map to be more like New York and London’s signature looks; improving revenue-sharing between agencies; standardizing fares; and using bus fleets more efficiently by letting them provide more service across counties.

The shining example of Bay Area transit agencies working together was the creation of the Clipper Card in 2010. The service allows riders to use one re-loadable card across bus and rail systems. But that system has a major flaw: it includes several different fare structures, penalizing people who switch transit operators. Fixing this would require improved revenue sharing, the report notes.

The group also calls out the Metropolitan Transit Commission, the state-authorized transit coordinator in the region, for stopping short of requiring transit operators to change routes and business rules. For example, there are still no timed transfers from BART to feeder buses, the report said.

SPUR found in interviews that MTC also has strained relationships with its operators.

Planning easier transfers for riders is also important because major transit hubs will soon come online. Those hubs include the Valley Transit Authority’s BART-Silicon Valley Extension to San Jose, Caltrain’s Downtown Extension in San Francisco and the Municipal Transportation Agency’s Central Subway.

“We have shortcomings to identify — interagency disputes, transit lines that stop at one boundary,” State Senator Jim Beall said Tuesday morning at the panel. “if we were starting from scratch, no one would invent the transit system we have in the Bay Area.”"
bayarea  transportation  transit  publictransit  sanfrancisco  bart  muni  trains  2017  sanjose  marin  vta  smart  oakland  caltrain  publictransportation  marincounty 
november 2017 by robertogreco
Solving the Bay Area's Fragmented Transit Dilemma
"The last time I wrote about Bay Area public transportation, my final conclusion was that the region needed to consolidate all of its disparate operators into a single agency, much like the MTA in New York or New Jersey Transit in the entire state. I have since significantly revised my stance on this subject, but before I get into that, I want to first direct you to an interesting statistic compiled by the MTC, the Bay Area’s metropolitan planning organization:

[chart: "The Bay Area is the only metro area in the country without a primary transit operator."]

So even in America’s famous preference for local and decentralized government, the Bay Area stands outs. There is no primary transit operator here who has managed to capture a majority of the region’s transit riders. There is only a hopelessly disjointed patchwork of more than two-dozen local agencies (click here for map) an arrangement that is failing to provide a seamless transit service that would be expected of a world-class region. Back in 2009, the MTC noted this problem in its Annual Report:
“We have multiple layers of decision-making and service delivery -- 28 separate transit agencies, each with its own board, staff and operating team, that confound efforts to deliver a regional system passengers can understand and effectively navigate, and that can keep pace with changes in demand. And at times we … have made decisions to invest in system expansion when reinvesting in the existing system might have been the wiser choice.”


And they have since failed to do anything meaningful about it. The status quo is supported by band-aid fixes and duct tape and disappoints on multiple fronts, but these three are the most significant:

First of all, there is no standardized visual guideline that determines what station signage, vehicle design, nomenclature, and maps look like. Each agency has different names for the same thing (e.g. Limited, Rapid), uncoordinated schedules, dissimilar visual guidelines (colors, fonts, logos), and most perplexing of all, there is a procession of maps of all shapes, sizes, and colors that confound earnest attempts from tourists and locals alike to navigate the system. Just designing and displaying a unified map that realistically displays every route and different levels of service would go a long way to facilitate wayfinding."



[continues]
edmundxu  bayarea  transit  transportation  trains  2017  bart  sanfrancisco  sanjose  marin  vta  smart  oakland  caltrain  publictransit  publictransportation  marincounty 
november 2017 by robertogreco
Bay Area transit fails to put riders first - San Francisco Chronicle
"The northern terminus of SMART, the new passenger-rail system in the North Bay, is the Sonoma County Airport Station in Santa Rosa. But after my 8-year-old son and I flew in, we learned the airport is more than a mile from the train.

There is as yet no dedicated shuttle from plane to train. My son wasn’t up for walking. A public bus that would get us nearer to the train wouldn’t show up for hours. Uber wasn’t picking up, and my Lyft app kept crashing. The four cabbies outside the airport refused to take us on such a short, cheap trip.

The Bay Area is our richest large metropolitan region because it skillfully connects the world. But if you need to make transit connections in the Bay Area, good luck.

Lured by this summer’s preview rides on SMART, I recently spent three days navigating the Bay Area sans car. I enjoyed trains, ferries and buses. But I was bewildered by the failure of a place famous for integrating culture and technology to integrate its own infrastructure and transportation.

The SMART train is eventually supposed to reach the Larkspur Ferry Terminal, a 35-minute boat ride from San Francisco. But the first segment ends 2 miles short of the ferry. There’s a bike path to the terminal, and a bus station in San Rafael that can get you to the ferry, but that bus ride would take 26 minutes. We opted for an Uber and got there in eight minutes.

We shouldn’t have hurried: The ferry left 10 minutes late. But on a clear day, we enjoyed views of the Golden Gate Bridge. At the Ferry Building, I bought my son ice cream at Gott’s.

After meetings in San Francisco, we went to BART’s Embarcadero Station, heading for Oakland Airport and a flight home. But the first six trains were too full to board. BART is a system built for 60,000 riders that moves more than 400,000 daily. The system badly needs more cars, better maintenance, governance that isn’t dominated by unions and a second tunnel under the bay.

When the seventh train arrived, we pushed our way in. “That’s rude,” said one rider.

“We’re from L.A.,” I replied.

We made the flight, but the day produced sticker shock. The four-station ride from San Francisco to Oakland’s Coliseum Station, from which a tram takes you into the airport, cost $10.20 each. Add that to my $11.50 ferry ticket (my son’s was $5.75), the $9 Uber ride to the ferry, the $11.50 one-way fare on SMART (kids are half-price), and $10 for the airport cab ride, and our journey was pushing $70. In L.A., a Metro ride is just $1.75, with free transfers.

A few days later, I was back in San Francisco, contending with delays on the local Muni system, when I needed to get to San Jose, a city BART doesn’t quite reach yet. That meant riding Caltrain. BART and Caltrain share a station in Millbrae, but the schedules aren’t synchronized, meaning possible delay. So I walked 25 minutes from BART’s Powell Street Station to the Caltrain at Fourth and King.

In San Jose, I disembarked at Diridon Station, which may have a bright future as the northern end of high-speed rail. But for now, it is just another setting for connection frustration, as I waited a half-hour for a train on Santa Clara County’s VTA system.

The next day, to get to San Jose Airport, I took Caltrain to the Santa Clara Station, which offers a VTA bus shuttle. But the bus driver refused to open the bus door for 15 minutes, even during a brief rain. And the shuttle took a meandering route with a stop at a soccer stadium.

If the Bay Area is ever going to be the design-savvy ecotopia of its dreams, it must combine transit systems and put the rider’s needs first. Right now, using transit there makes you feel powerless. And that should be unacceptable in California’s most powerful region."
bayarea  transit  transportation  trains  2017  bart  sanfrancisco  sanjose  marin  vta  smart  oakland  caltrain  joematthews  publictransit  publictransportation  marincounty 
november 2017 by robertogreco
What's Wrong with Apple's New Headquarters | WIRED
"But … one more one more thing. You can’t understand a building without looking at what’s around it—its site, as the architects say. From that angle, Apple’s new HQ is a retrograde, literally inward-looking building with contempt for the city where it lives and cities in general. People rightly credit Apple for defining the look and feel of the future; its computers and phones seem like science fiction. But by building a mega-headquarters straight out of the middle of the last century, Apple has exacerbated the already serious problems endemic to 21st-century suburbs like Cupertino—transportation, housing, and economics. Apple Park is an anachronism wrapped in glass, tucked into a neighborhood."



"Apple Park isn’t the first high-end, suburban corporate headquarters. In fact, that used to be the norm. Look back at the 1950s and 1960s and, for example, the Connecticut General Life Insurance HQ in Hartford or John Deere’s headquarters in Moline, Illinois. “They were stunningly beautiful, high modernist buildings by quality architects using cutting-edge technology to create buildings sheathed in glass with a seamless relationship between inside and outside, dependent on the automobile to move employees to the site,” says Louise Mozingo, a landscape architect at UC Berkeley and author of Pastoral Capitalism: A History of Suburban Corporate Landscapes. “There was a kind of splendid isolation that was seen as productive, capturing the employees for an entire day and in the process reinforcing an insular corporate culture.”

By moving out of downtown skyscrapers and building in the suburbs, corporations were reflecting 1950s ideas about cities—they were dirty, crowded, and unpleasantly diverse. The suburbs, though, were exclusive, aspirational, and architectural blank slates. (Also, buildings there are easier to secure and workers don’t go out for lunch where they might hear about other, better jobs.) It was corporatized white flight. (Mozingo, I should add, speaks to this retrograde notion in Levy’s WIRED story.)

Silicon Valley, though, never really played by these rules. IBM built a couple of research sites modeled on its East Coast redoubts, but in general, “Silicon Valley has thrived on using rather interchangeable buildings for their workplaces,” Mozingo says. You start in a garage, take over half a floor in a crummy office park, then take over the full floor, then the building, then get some venture capital and move to a better office park. “Suddenly you’re Google, and you have this empire of office buildings along 101."

And then when a bust comes or your new widget won’t widge, you let some leases lapse or sell some real estate. More than half of the lot where Apple sited its new home used to be Hewlett Packard. The Googleplex used to be Silicon Graphics. It’s the circuit of life.

Except when you have a statement building like the Spaceship, the circuit can’t complete. If Apple ever goes out of business, what would happen to the building? The same thing that happened to Union Carbide’s. That’s why nobody builds these things anymore. Successful buildings engage with their surroundings—and to be clear, Apple isn’t in some suburban arcadia. It’s in a real live city, across the street from houses and retail, near two freeway onramps.

Except the Ring is mostly hidden behind artificial berms, like Space Mountain at Disneyland. “They’re all these white elephants. Nobody knows what the hell to do with them. They’re iconic, high-end buildings, and who cares?” Mozingo says. “You have a $5 billion office building, incredibly idiosyncratic, impossible to purpose for somebody else. Nobody’s going to move into Steve Jobs’ old building.”"



"The problems in the Bay Area (and Los Angeles and many other cities) are a lot more complicated than an Apple building, of course. Cities all have to balance how they feel about adding jobs, which can be an economic benefit, and adding housing, which also requires adding expensive services like schools and transit. Things are especially tough in California, where a 1978 law called Proposition 13 radically limits the amount that the state can raise property taxes yearly. Not only did its passage gut basic services the state used to excel at, like education, but it also turned real estate into the primary way Californians accrued and preserved personal wealth. If you bought a cheap house in the 1970s in the Bay Area, today it’s a gold mine—and you are disincentivized from doing anything that would reduce its value, like, say, allowing an apartment building to be built anywhere within view.

Meanwhile California cities also have to figure out how to pay for their past employees’ pensions, an ever-increasing percentage of city budgets. Since they can’t tax old homes and can’t build new ones, commercial real estate and tech booms look pretty good. “It’s a lot to ask a corporate campus to fix those problems,” Arieff says.

But that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t try. Some companies are: The main building of the cloud storage company Box, for example, is across the street from the Redwood City CalTrain station, and the company lets people downtown park in its lot on weekends. “The architecture is neither here nor there, but it’s a billion times more effective than the Apple campus,” Arieff says. That’s a more contemporary approach than building behind hills, away from transit.

When those companies are transnational technology corporations, it’s even harder to make that case. “Tech tends to be remarkably detached from local conditions, primarily because they’re selling globally,” says Ed Glaeser, a Harvard economist who studies cities. “They’re not particularly tied to local suppliers or local customers.” So it’s hard to get them to help fix local problems. They have even less of an incentive to solve planning problems than California homeowners do. “Even if they see the problem and the solution, there’s not a way to sell that. This is why there are government services,” Arieff says. “You can’t solve a problem like CalTrain frequency or the jobs-to-housing ratio with a market-based solution.”

Cities are changing; a more contemporary approach to commercial architecture builds up instead of out, as the planning association’s report says. Apple’s ring sites 2.5 million square feet on 175 acres of rolling hills and trees meant to evoke the Stanford campus. The 60-story tall Salesforce Tower in San Francisco has 1.5 million square feet, takes up about an acre, has a direct connection to a major transit station—the new Transbay Terminal—and cost a fifth of the Apple ring. Stipulated, the door handles probably aren’t as nice, but the views are killer.

The Future

Cupertino is the kind of town that technology writers tend to describe as “once-sleepy” or even, and this should really set off your cliche alarm, “nondescript.” But Shrivastava had me meet her for coffee at Main Street Cupertino, a new development that—unlike the rotten strip malls along Stevens Creek Blvd—combines cute restaurants and shops with multi-story residential development and a few hundred square feet of grass that almost nearly sort of works as a town square.

Across the actual street from Main Street, the old Vallco Mall—one of those medieval fortress-like shopping centers with a Christmas-sized parking lot for a moat—has become now Cupertino’s most hotly debated site for new development. (The company that built Main Street owns it.) Like all the other once-sleepy, nondescript towns in Silicon Valley, Cupertino knows it has to change. Shrivastava knows that change takes time.

It takes even longer, though, if businesses are reluctant partners. In the early 20th century, when industrial capitalists were first starting to get really, really rich, they noticed that publicly financed infrastructure would help them get richer. If you own land that you want to develop into real estate, you want a train that gets there and trolleys that connect it to a downtown and water and power for the houses you’re going to build. Maybe you want libraries and schools to induce families to live there. So you team up with government. “In most parts of the US, you open a tap and drink the water and it won’t kill you. There was a moment when this was a goal of both government and capital,” Mozingo says. “Early air pollution and water pollution regulations were an agreement between capitalism and government.”

Again, in the 1930s and 1940s, burgeoning California Bay Area businesses realized they’d need a regional transit network. They worked for 30 years alongside communities and planners to build what became BART, still today a strange hybrid between regional connector and urban subway.

Tech companies are taking baby steps in this same direction. Google added housing to the package deal surrounding the construction of its new HQ in the North Bayshore area—nearly 10,000 apartments. (That HQ is a collection of fancy pavilion-like structures from famed architect Bjarke Ingels.) Facebook’s new headquarters (from famed architect Frank Gehry) is supposed to be more open to the community, maybe even with a farmers’ market. Amazon’s new headquarters in downtown Seattle, some of 10 million square feet of office space the company has there, comes with terrarium-like domes that look like a good version of Passengers.

So what could Apple have built? Something taller, with mixed-use development around it? Cupertino would never have allowed it. But putting form factor aside, the best, smartest designers and architects in the world could have tried something new. Instead it produced a building roughly the shape of a navel, and then gazed into it.

Steven Levy wrote that the headquarters was Steve Jobs’ last great project, an expression of the way he saw his domain. It may look like a circle, but it’s actually a pyramid—a monument… [more]
apple  urbanism  cities  architects  architecture  adamrogers  2017  applecampus  cupertino  suburbia  cars  civics  howbuildingslearn  stevejobs  design  housing  publictransit  civicresponsibility  corporations  proposition13  bart  allisonarieff  bayarea  1030s  1940s  1950s  facebook  google  amazon  seattle  siliconvalley  isolationism  caltrain  government  capitalism  publicgood  louisemozingo  unioncarbide  ibm  history  future  landscape  context  inequality 
june 2017 by robertogreco
Bay Area 2050: the BART Metro Map
"Introduction
The BART Metro Map consolidates the Bay Area’s existing transit — currently spread over two dozen different transit agencies — and aggregates proposed, planned, and under-construction projects. The map envisions a “best-case scenario,” in which every proposal currently under consideration around the Bay has been funded and constructed (wishful thinking, of course). As we trudge down Geary on the 38, jam ourselves into rush hour BART, or as CalTrain experiences yet another delay, this map imagines an integrated, reliable, and truly regional transit future.

Purpose
The Bay Area has over two dozen different transit agencies. The lack of coordination and the competition for funds costs our region economically both in terms of inefficient government spending on poorly planned routes, and lost productivity due to poor service for commuters. In addition, as the population in nearly every city around the Bay grows, it is clear that our current infrastructure is inadequate to handle future growth, much less the recent tech boom. Although proposals and plans have sprung up left and right to augment transit capacity and service in the 9 counties, in isolation it can be difficult to visualize how these different projects would improve transportation in the Bay.

I’ve created this map to help people understand what is being considered and what our transit future could look like with more funding and more commitment from local governments. You can also take a look at SPUR’s hypothetical unified Bay Area rail map and CalUrbanist’s map of current regional rail.

Jump below for a comprehensive list of the projects referenced in this map, as well as an explanation of the style."

[See also: http://sf.curbed.com/2016/6/23/12017204/bart-metro-map-bay-area-future-plans

Another project: http://www.jakecoolidgecartography.com/regional-rapid-transit-bay-area.html

And more: http://www.jakecoolidgecartography.com/regional-rapid-transit-bay-area.html
]
maps  mapping  bart  muni  sanfrancisco  bayarea  trains  transit  publictransit  2050  future  adamsusaneck  spur  caltrain  classideas 
march 2017 by robertogreco

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