Is Bay Area Transit Stagnating Under the Weight of Oppressive Zoning Codes?

Sep 18th, 2012 | Posted by

I saw Matt Yglesias’s post on Los Angeles’s transit expansion get passed around a lot online yesterday. It seems as if everybody’s writing their “omg LA is building huge amounts of transit!” post, and that’s great, it helps sustain momentum for more rail and shifts the view of LA away from being car-dependent. Maybe that can even help build support for Measure J, which would fund more rail in LA.

San Jose ~ Aerial

For me, the story of rail expansion in LA is a familiar one. What I found interesting and different about Yglesias’s post was its subtext that LA is doing much more than the Bay Area when it comes to transit expansion. Yglesias was writing about LA, but his eyes were focused further north:

The usual response to too much traffic in the United States is to strangle growth. New development would mean more cars would mean more traffic, so cities adopt rules to block new development.

That’s how San Mateo County between San Francisco and Silicon Valley managed to muster a measly 1.6 percent population growth in the past decade despite enviable access to two of the highest-wage labor markets in America. Over the past 20 years, however, L.A. has chosen the bolder path of investing in the kind of infrastructure that can support continued population growth, and shifting land use to encourage more housing and more people….

While the Bay Area and many Northeastern cities stagnate under the weight of oppressive zoning codes, L.A. is changing—by design—into something even bigger and better than it already is.

Here again Yglesias is going over familiar ground. In May 2010 I asked Has Northern California Abandoned Mass Transit?, a question others have been asking since. LA’s huge expansion of rail is striking in part because the Bay Area isn’t embarking on anything like it.

So is Yglesias right to argue, implicitly but clearly, that LA is thriving while the Bay Area is stagnating? And are “oppressive zoning codes” the core of the problem?

I’m not sure the comparison is entirely fair on the basis of transit expansion. Keep in mind that the Bay Area has a 30 year head start on LA when it comes to building out rail in its urban core. But LA is catching up fast. BART has 104 miles of tracks; Metro Rail is at 87 miles. With the upcoming expansion projects, whether funded by Measure R or the upcoming Measure J, Metro Rail will easily pass BART.

But the Bay Area isn’t standing still. BART to San José is under way. SMART is about to begin construction to bring rail service from Santa Rosa to San Rafael. Caltrain electrification is going to happen. The Central Subway is about to start tunneling.

Unlike LA, San Francisco never abandoned rail entirely. A few cable car lines were saved, but more importantly, so were some of the Muni streetcar lines. The Muni Metro is a workhorse of transit, in need of some more capacity and more routes but still getting the job done.

SF is more dense, but LA is no slouch. The City and County of San Francisco has a population density of 17,000 per square mile, with the City of Los Angeles at 8,000. But if you compare metro regions, it’s LA that is more dense than the Bay Area.

It’s density that is part of the underlying story, both in terms of Bay Area transit and in Yglesias’s article. LA, with a lot more low-cost land in an urbanized area, has more ability to add density than much of the Bay Area, where land costs are a lot higher. Yet one reason land costs are higher is, ironically, because of successful efforts to prevent density.

Those anti-density zoning codes, whether the legacy of anti- “Manhattanization” activism in SF in the ’70s and ’80s or the desire of some Peninsula and Santa Clara County residents to remain locked in sprawl, are Yglesias’s target. With more density comes more demand for mass transit. And with fears about density come fears of transit. Anti-density attitudes are a big part of the opposition to improved Caltrain and HSR service in Menlo Park and Palo Alto, as well as the anti-bus rapid transit activism in Berkeley.

And yet even that isn’t the whole of the story. While the Subway to the Sea is the project in LA that gets the most media attention, a lot of the new miles of tracks are being laid out in the San Gabriel Valley, where the Gold Line will serve sprawling suburbs. I’m fine with that, since suburbanites need rail too. But it does challenge Yglesias’s underlying assumption that “oppressive zoning codes” are a reason why transit isn’t taking off in the Bay Area. Zoning codes in the San Gabriel Valley are pretty strict too.

As I pondered this question last night, it seemed to me that the main issue separating transit in NorCal versus transit in SoCal wasn’t density, nor was it political will. It’s money.

Los Angeles County, as a single political entity, simply has an easier time raising revenue than the nine-county Bay Area region. Getting Measure R over the 2/3 hump in 2008 was no small feat, but Santa Clara County did the same thing at the same election to help bring BART to San José. LA’s unified political clout is key to their hopes of landing the federal loans needed to make the visionary 30/10 plan work.

For the Bay Area to see a second growth spurt in rail to match the BART construction spurt of the 1960s and 1970s, one has to put together the political leadership of numerous counties and major cities behind a single package that will provide benefits for each constituency. That’s no easy task. It’s not that the politicians are hopelessly divided. No, it’s that getting a package that gives something to everyone requires a lot of money to be spent. Building new transit lines in SF or Oakland is pretty expensive, but gets a big boost in riders. New tracks in the suburbs are less expensive but bring fewer riders (which, to me, isn’t a reason to not build BART extensions – the suburbs need trains too). A regional package has to knit something together that offers everyone a piece. The price tag for that won’t be cheap.

Ultimately, the Bay Area faces a much more challenging political task than LA. Would Measure R have passed if voters in Orange and San Bernardino Counties had to weigh in and be subject to the tax increase? SMART only passed because it got enough support in Sonoma County to overwhelm a less enthusiastic Marin County electorate – and that was in its second try. BART saw three counties – Marin, San Mateo, and Santa Clara – drop out of the system before construction began in the 1960s.

Anti-density and anti-transit attitudes aside, I think you’d have a pretty hard time finding a majority of Bay Area voters who oppose funding more mass transit. It’s just not that easy to actually get a ballot initiative in front of them. But figuring out how to solve the riddle should be a priority for the Bay Area, as BART begins to near capacity in the central core and as the need becomes ever more urgent to provide everyone with an affordable and reliable alternative to lighting oil on fire in order to get around.

  1. James B
    Sep 18th, 2012 at 08:13
    #1

    While I think it’s great that LAC and parts of the Bay Area are pushing ahead with transit development, I think we do have to consider whether or not some of these projects are worth it. Thus far, pundits discussing LA’s transit expansion have focused heavily on the political side of the issue: how LA voters passed R to finance a huge transit boom, how Villraigosa is now taking the 30/10 idea on to the national stage, how there might be yet another transit tax in the works. Pundits have also talked a lot about how the Expo Line opened, ridership is up because of it, BRT expansions, etc. BUT how many of these projects are effective? While LA pushes ahead with expanding transit, there are some huge problems that I think should be addressed first to save money in the long run (faregates for LRT, anybody?). Is SMART that smart of an idea? I’m not convinced that SMART is a viable system alone–it would be much more successful if the line was run by BART feeding into SF (though yes, those respective counties served by SMART opposed BART decades ago).

    In general, it looks like LA is trying to expand transit really fast, while the Bay Area is trying to incrementally improve its existing systems with small additions (electrification of Caltrain, Central Subway, Muni track improvements, BART extensions, El Camino BRT, bike sharing, etc). Transit developments are happening in the Bay Area–not a huge amount–but a significant amount. What we do need to watch for is focusing on viable projects that offer real investment in communities

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    The goal isn’t to save money, the goal is to provide as many people as possible with the option to ride a train.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    [comment deleted; trolling]

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Your idealogy is bad and you should feel bad.

    The goal is not “provide as many people as possible with the option to ride a train.” The goal is to divert as many trips as possible from POV in a cost-effective fashion.

    joe Reply:

    No.

    We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

    HSR unites CA, provides citizens with transportation, and promotes the general welfare of CA.

    Nothing in our preamble refers to “cost effective”

    We, the People of the State of California, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to secure and perpetuate its blessings, do establish this Constitution.

    HSR is not a taco bell franchise. Government is not a for profit or cost effective business.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    You cannot be real. No one is that bloody stupid.

    joe Reply:

    Help out – show me that goal. I’m fascinated by the cost effective objective. Hell, I even thought a major goal was to reduce the need to build airports. Forgot totally this was about reducing POV and being cost effective.

    The goal is to divert as many trips as possible from POV in a cost-effective fashion.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    The alternative to cost-effective is waste and profiteering.

    joe Reply:

    Like building highways in Montana and Wyoming. These are not cost effective right? Built to provide citizens with infrastructure – not to be pure cost effective. Like the postage stamp that sends mail to my city water dept or Alaska. One singular price.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Wait, did you just suggest faregates as a positive project?

    Really?

    I mean, really?

    Brandon from San Diego Reply:

    I support fare gates too. Everyone should pay. The perception is that people are using transit systems without paying and hat needs to be corrected. Fare gates would help.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Fare gates are stupid, the fare evasion rates are extremely low and all the gates do is act as a barrier to traffic.

    BMF from San Diego Reply:

    Perception is reality.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    No, it really isn’t.

    BMF from San Diego Reply:

    When perception affects public willingness to support transit measures, it is. Fence sitters ask, why should I support a tax increase for rail expansion when people don’t have to pay a fare? Then, that perception , whether correct or not, becomes reality.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Perception that becomes reality generates data that could be cited to support multi hundred million dollar (actually, multi-billion dollar) capital investments, right?

    So, about those data …

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Apparently, the fence sitters in LA voted for Measure R, and the fence sitters in Vancouver have kept voting for governments that build more transit. When the GOP wants to flex muscles, it cancels Democrats’ rail extensions. When the parties in British Columbia want to flex muscles, they cancel each other’s SkyTrain extensions and build other SkyTrain lines.

    BMF from San Diego Reply:

    LA Metro has installed fare gates and is soon beginning to lock them – no proper fare = no admittance.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Measure R passed four years ago.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    And just about everyone I’ve seen comment on them hates the idea of the fare gates and doesn’t see any point to them.

    Matthew Reply:

    Golly. How could anyone ever get past fare gates without paying?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tp5-DKWTh_Y

    Oh wait.

    jonathan Reply:

    when I took the Paris metro years and years ago, I saw young men vaulting over the fare-gates.
    At least SF has equal-opportunity fare evasion ;)

    blankslate Reply:

    Is SMART that smart of an idea? I’m not convinced that SMART is a viable system alone–it would be much more successful if the line was run by BART feeding into SF (though yes, those respective counties served by SMART opposed BART decades ago).

    I’ve heard the claim in parentheses so many times. People like to believe it, but it is false.

    Marin residents wanted BART. In 1956 they polled 87.7% in favor of BART expansion to the county. Two things happened. First, the Golden Gate Bridge Authority opposed running BART on its lower deck, fearing a loss in toll revenues. They shopped around for an engineer who would say it was infeasible (two previous studies had already found it feasible). Second, in 1961 San Mateo County opted out of BART, taking with them a significant tax base. BART ran the numbers and found that Marin did not carry their weight in tax base or riders due to low population density, and without San Mateo the remaining three counties would carry too heavy of a burden to subsidize service to Marin. In other words, it was Marin’s LAND USE that made it an inappropriate place for an urban metro system. And thanks to decades of restrictive zoning, makes it even less appropriate today. BART pressured Marin to drop out of the plan, which they did in 1962.
    source

  2. Mike
    Sep 18th, 2012 at 08:59
    #2

    The key difference between LA and the Bay Area is that LA is a city. A single, massive city that encompasses a region all by itself, and as such is forced to internalize many planning and growth challenges. A single, massive city that can exert exert executive authority over the government of a huge region with a huge population. The Bay Area, on the other hand, is a collection of mostly tiny cities that externalize most of the problems of growth. So is it a surprise that El Camino, running through all of these tiny towns, hasn’t been zoned and developed like Wilshire Blvd? If Millbrae doesn’t do its part, well, that’s somebody else’s problem!

    Sure, this overstates it a bit, since LA does in fact externalize growth challenges to neighboring jurisdictions, but the key distinction is that, unlike most Bay Area cities, it actually does internalize some of them and hence has an incentive (and by virtue of its heft, the muscle) to deal with them.

    VBobier Reply:

    Actually the LA being talked about is not La the city, it’s LA County, that’s much bigger than the city, the 9 counties would have better clout if they all merged together, but getting that to happen might be nigh impossible…

    Mike Reply:

    I’d still argue that it’s the massive weight and influence of the City of Los Angeles that allows LA County to tackle its challenges in such a bold manner. The City of LA makes up 36% of the population of LA County; the next largest city (Long Beach) makes up 4%; then Glendora at 2%; then 85 even smaller cities that are but pimples on LA’s butt. Upshot? LA is able to provide leadership, and understands that it needs to provide leadership.

    It’s also important to note that while LA County has a robust transit program, land use remains a local function. But because LA MTA has big-city leadership muscle behind it, it is able to be more forceful and bold in encouraging transit-supportive zoning by the little cities that it serves.

    joe Reply:

    LA is similar to Chicago dominating Cook County. The CTA extends into Oak Park, River Forest and Forest Park & Berwyn in the S. Strong Metra support. Both LA and Chicago have accountability and satellite cities that reside in the same county realize the transit allows residents to commute to jobs and they have no independent County behind them.

    Bay Area is a mess of jurisdictions and petty politics. The MTC is undemocratic.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    I’d still argue that it’s the massive weight and influence of the City of Los Angeles that allows LA County to tackle its challenges in such a bold manner. The City of LA makes up 36% of the population of LA County; the next largest city (Long Beach) makes up 4%; then Glendora at 2%; then 85 even smaller cities that are but pimples on LA’s butt. Upshot? LA is able to provide leadership, and understands that it needs to provide leadership.

    Realize, however, that 36% is still way less than a simple majority and that the City, from an urban planning perspective is really 17-18 separate jurisdictions that all do their own thing. A consolidated City and County of Los Angeles with a strong mayor would be a transit juggernaut (indeed “the” juggernaut) politically.

    In reality what you have is, as Robert hints, a City that with a particularly motivated mayor can dump a lot of cash through transit oriented development that keeps developers well fed and happy.

    joe Reply:

    And accountable. Mayors are accountable to the voters for making contractors fed and happy – Mayors also have to deliver a service for the tax money spent.

    Don’t trivialize the single County. It’s The County and City that work together to push for projects which is far cry from the bay area’s divided interests. 36% vs a bunch of smaller towns that depend on LA and would not have much support at the County level for duplicating or undermining a LA city project. Compare that to San Mateo and SF County backing their respective cities in any dispute.

    Cook County is dominated by Chicago and the CTA extends into the cities on the west side.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    The Bay Area does, in fact, have such a body. It’s the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, headed by the inexplicably not-yet-indicted Steve “Five billion dollar Bay Bridge cost overrun” Heminger, and it’s executive staff directly controls the flow of tens of billions of dollars, all with zero political accountability.

    It’s not the size of LA that’s hugely different, or the per-capita funding, or the big regional authority with the big bucks.

    The Bay Area has big bucks. Tons of them. It’s a fantastically rich region, whose duped citizens have taxed themselves again and again to pay for transportation “improvements”. There’s fucking money raining from the skies around here.

    At issues is that a-yet-unindicted Heminger and his very very very very very very special friends choose where those big bucks go, and they are never to anything that significantly increases regional transit ridership, or that fail to massively enrich the same old construction/engineering contractors over and over and over again.

    jonathan Reply:

    Uh… didn’t the MTC agree to cost/benefit analyses as a requirement for new projects, as part of ranking for funding? Not on “committed” projects like BART-to-San-Jose-flea-market, though.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    MTC agreed to (ie rubber-stamped, which is all the Commission does) a process by which Steve Heminger (or the predecessor(*) from which he was cloned and grown in a vat) gives money to the people who are his very most specialest friends.

    Same process as today, last year, or 2000, or 1990, or 1980, or 1970(*).

    Why is the legislative analyst’s report so puzzling? A partial explanation may be found in the roles of some of the principals involved. For example, Alan Post, the legislative analyst, did not personally investigate BARTD. Lawrence D. Dahms, who did, had been with Post’s office for several years prior to this investigation. Subsequently, Dahms moved into a top management position with the District in 1969, becoming an assistant general manager in 1970(*)

    (*) Employment changes of this sort are not uncommon. There are, for example, numerous instances of high ranking ex-military officers who, upon leaving the armed forces, take employment with defense-contracting firms. On the other hand, the appointments of Dahms and Frank Chambers, BARTD’s chief lobbyist, are regarded by many people both inside and outside the agency as political “pay-offs.”

    In this regard, it is worth mentioning that many people have ex-pressed- to me doubts about the District’s standards of professional conduct and the integrity of management. These doubts, if they can be summed up and generalized, can be expressed in the following manner: BARTD has been careful not to do anything illegal, but aside from this proviso, anything else is possible. An interesting example of this attitude is reflected in the arrangements for San Francisco’s Embarcadero Station. Tallie B. Maule is the architect. Prior to receiving his appointment, Maule was in the employment of the joint venture as their chief architect. Since he could not be both an employee of PBTB and a major contractor at the same time, one of the conditions appended was that he resign his position with the engineers and become instead a consultant to them. A noteworthy aside with respect to the Embarcadero Station is that it will cost more than the entire subway system in the city of Berkeley.

    Yet another example of “borderline ethics” is contained in an article by Justin Roberts in the Contra Costa Times (July 28, 1972). He claims that BARTD has deposited $750,000 in the Fremont Bank; an institution in which BARTD President George Silliman is both an executive and a major stockholder.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Here’s your problem: without MTC, a region as balkanized as the Bay Area would in even worse shape.

    And no matter how many victories LA County scores at the ballot box over transit expansion, it can’t really address the sine non qua of “traffic” without regional leadership. Meanwhile, the County and City of LA continue to fracture into more and more balkanized regions as well, portending a very Bay Area like future for Southern California as well.

    Nathanael Reply:

    I actually think LA is getting less balkanized; the City is the 800 pound gorilla and has been known to absorb other areas. Orange County, unfortunately, is practically a lost cause.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    This would be the same Orange County that has been supporting commuter rail service since before Metrolink, has been putting a good bit of money into improving Metrolink service in Orange County with a goal of 30 minute headways, and has a streetcar and probable monorail project in the planning stages (Santa Ana and Anaheim)?

    Nathanael Reply:

    The street car and monorail project are fantasies; they’ve been proposed and killed repeatedly. Let me know if they actually start construction.

    As for commuter rail service, why yes, Orange County paid for a slight addition to the frequencies on the existing Surf Line corridor. I guess, now that I look at it, that several localities decided to build and fund stations along the line, and along the lines which were created at the instigation of Riverside County. I guess it’s not completely hopelss.

    jonathan Reply:

    Richard, you are losing your grip. Remember what you said about Heminger here, in February?

    http://www.cahsrblog.com/2012/01/ca4hsr-narp-and-midwest-hsr-association-issue-joint-letter/

    oh, and Clem included a link to MTC’s cost/benefit stiudies then, too; and to a critical review of those analysies:

    http://www.onebayarea.org/plan_bay_area/transportation.htm

    you remember, the one which said DTX was a waste of money compared to BART extensions?

    Mike Reply:

    Richard, you’ve explained exactly why MTC is not like LA City and can’t play in the Bay Area the role that the City of LA plays in LA County. Viz., MTC has zero political accountability. Hence it can freely squander money with impunity. The Mayor of the City of LA is accountable. Sure, he’ll make stupid decisions and waste money, but always in the back of his mind is the question of whether voters and employers in LA City will like the results of his decisions. Nobody plays that role in the Bay Area.

    VBobier Reply:

    That sounds like a hard target to pin down alright.

    Nathanael Reply:

    I’ve come to conclude that you get best governance when there are relatively few layers of management *period*.

    And in government, that means few layers between the elected officials and the people doing the work. So a single strong mayor, directly controlling the subway system, is better than most alternatives.

    (Though when it fails, it fails spectacularly, as in the 70s in NYC.)

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The single strong government of New York City has been proposing the Second Ave Subway since the 20s. They actually started digging holes for it in the 70s. The first Second Ave Subway train to operate through the 63rd Street station will get there about 45 years after they built the platform.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Remember:
    (1) LaGuardia was basically anti-rail, so he made sure nothing got built. During that period, the city got *exactly what it voted for*.
    (2) The city went bankrupt in the 1970s and was basically put under state control.

    Nathanael Reply:

    …note that the city no longer controls its own subway system.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The same mayor who unified the subway. Hmm.
    The people who live in New York City are also residents of the State. So are the people who live in Nassau and Suffolk who would have benefited from using the other half of the tunnel to Queens for LIRR service.
    In nice round numbers 40% of all New York State residents live in New York City. In nice round numbers 60% of all New York State residents live in the MTA’s service area…. and they pay 80% of New York State income taxes.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Well, the unification was the long-term outcome of the plan of Mayor Hylan, which was to build a city-owned subway with the intention of bankrupting the private subway operators. A little aggressive, that!

    Of course, it turned out that the IND was no substitute for the IRT or BMT, so they had to be kept. Sigh.

    Nathanael Reply:

    But yeah, LaGuardia tore down lines without replacement following unification. Not a bad guy, really, but he was the vanguard of the “cars and planes are the future” mentality which was to dominate the US until the 1970s.

    I have to say that Mayor Lindsay comes out looking exceptionally poor when you look at the history.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The problem with strong mayors is that you lose democratic accountability – you get Bloombergs instead. To have democratic accountability, at any level, you need elections in which people can vote ideologically, and the ideologues they elect then have to produce results running their departments or committees to avoid losing out to nearby ideologies; with enough parties, most voters have a few choices of where to vote. For example, if the social democrats are supporting an unpopular public works project, people can vote for the greens instead.

    An American-style mayoral autocracy doesn’t have any of that. First, only one person can be king, and this leads to a game of thrones: you get not only the palace intrigue, but also politics of personality contests rather than any ideological choice. You can punish individuals, but not governing philosophies. Second, a stable multi-party system requires multiple sources of power, rather than one big kahuna.

    The national two-party system reproduces parts of that democratic accountability, because with two evenly matched parties, a small set of swing voters determines who’s the majority, and you get enough perks being the majority that parties make an effort. Local elections do not reproduce that.

    joe Reply:

    MTC is not democratic. They are like the Senate when members were elected by the state legislature.

    MTC is guided by a 19-member board of commissioners:
    Fourteen commissioners are appointed by local elected officials.

    MTC members should be elected. Their decisions and spending subject to voter scrutiny.

    Mike Reply:

    MTC members should be elected.

    Certainly something other than the current arrangement, but I’m not convinced that directly elected MTC members would work out all that well either. Voters typically are not very good at holding accountable the individual members of a large legislative body; even when that body is held in great contempt (e.g., Congress) voters tend to think that “their” member isn’t the problem. Accountability works better when there is a single individual with clear authority and accountability. So for MTC, I tend to think that the “Mayor of London” model might be a good way to get accountability.

    joe Reply:

    Mike;

    Voters can be tuned into some massive problem and jam up a MTC member in the next election cycle. elections do not produce a best of breed but democracies don’t select best of breed. They reduce the likelihood the worst of breed can muck up a system. MTC’s not accountable enough to care.

    The $150 M building MTC bought in SF might have gotten a MTC member or two a close up in the newspaper and TV and probably voted out of office *if* the Press knew their story would have election ramifications. Editors have egos.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yeah, who needs democracy? Let’s just have a dictator who pretends to be competent in charge. Have someone who writes books with sop titles like From Third World to First and the presides over stagnant personal incomes at a time of economic boom and worse-than-US inequality. Get construction costs that approach Anglo-American levels in an environment where unions are basically illegal. Who cares about democracy? We can even pass a few draconian-sounding laws against littering so that all the Western pundits will be amazed at how clean and orderly we are.

    (P.S. Talking about Singapore, not China. The construction cost bit comes from here. Yes, that’s S$600 million per km, and if you believe the PPP exchange rate, which I don’t, then it’s the same in US$. And a chunk of that tunneling is under a road passing through suburbs and open forest.)

    Nathanael Reply:

    Benevolent dictators may seem good, but the hard part is *getting* benevolent dictators. Most dictators are incompetent lunatics.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I’d believe the “most” part if the most praised dictatorship in the world actually produced good results. It doesn’t.

    jonathan Reply:

    Ah, but did it do better under Lee Kuan Yew than under Lee Hsieng Loon?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I don’t really know. Growth was better then than now, but that’s true of every newly industrialized country – it’s easier to grow when you’re still middle-income. But the basic policies that make Singapore not work so well – racial division, unfree press, persecution of dissidents, absurdly high military spending to the exclusion of social spending, opaque investment of people’s pension funds, infrastructure megaprojects for their own sake – are all decades old.

  3. Neil Shea
    Sep 18th, 2012 at 09:51
    #3

    It’s a good topic. When I moved to the Bay Area 25 years ago the population was somewhat under 7m, now it’s somewhat over, but overall very little change. Any other region with this economy and jobs could have grown 50% and some did. Newcomers notice that we protect so much open space and have density and height limits on buildings, it’s no wonder we have some of the highest housing prices in the US (or the world).

    Integrating transit systems will be necessary, and as discussed there is one agency with political strength and a demonstrated track record of serving millions of riders reasonably reliably over their 40 years — in close cooperation with the MTC. No agency is perfect but now that BART has acknowledged the limits of their proprietary technology with their eBART and tBART initiatives, and now that BART serves (will be serving) San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, it would make sense to think about how to get both counties into the district. Then everyone could be around the same table for discussions of funding the DTX, another Bay tube and a Livermore linkup. This new super BART agency could take the lead for the Northern California Unified rail service including CC and ACE.

    The whole region would help pay for the new BART cars, DTX, completion of BART to Diridon, some more grade seps on the Peninsula, extending ACE and increasing frequency, etc.

    Jon Reply:

    Yep. San Mateo and Santa Clara counties need to negotiate a deal where they join the BART district and pay the sales tax in return for not having to pay separate operating cost contributions or inflated fares, and for BART to modernize the Caltrain line and run it like a metro service. That would create an integrated system and bump the BART tax base up to cover the whole of the urbanized Bay Area.

    jonathan Reply:

    Hell no! We _dont want_ to subsidize _your_ fucked-up transit.

    Jon Reply:

    http://www.mtc.ca.gov/library/statsum/StatSumm_2010.pdf

    Top of page 9. BART is the least subsidized transit operator in the Bay Area.

    CalBear Reply:

    BART is more subsidized than meets the eye. Operating farebox recovery ratio doesn’t tell the whole story. Their botched boondoggle expansion through San Mateo County has already forced San Mateo County to cry for mercy, and their upcoming boondoggle in San Jose will be a case of rinse, repeat, and vacuum up plenty of cash for BART’s contractors.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Hey, if you “invest” $10 billion by giving it to me free and clear, I promise to reduce your personal food bill by $1800/year, by buying you one sandwich every day.

    Think how much you’ll save, and how incredibly high your lunchbox recovery will be! Score!

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    PS Fine print: I drink your mllkshake. But don’t worry your little head about that. Just dream sweet dreams about lunchbox recovery!

    Jon Reply:

    Caltrain does very well on these efficiency stats as well as BART, and they have a pitiful level of capital investment.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Wrong, on every count. As you always are, on every point.

    On the contrary, MTC is being sued for over-funding dig-a-hole-and-fill-it-with-money capital programs for the near-zero-ridership suburban rail systems — Caltrain as well as BART extensions.

    Caltrain has an outrageous capital expenditure rate (and an outrageous operating cost) — it’s just that there’s nothing to show for it.

    So how about the big capital projects of the last two years?

    San Bruno grade separation catastrophe (negative value, HSR-incompatible): $152 million
    CBOSS (negative value, HSR-incompatible) $231 million
    Four unnecessary platform tracks for parking out-of-service trains in SJ (negative value, HSR-incompatible): $25 million

    Clearly Caltrain needs more money.

    Jon Reply:

    Add all those together an you’re still an order of magnitude lower than BART’s capital expenditure over the same time period. You can’t claim that BART keeps stealing Caltrain’s lunch money and also claim that that same money is what gives BART such a good farebox recover ratio, when BART’s farebox recovery ratio is very similar to Caltrain’s. But whatever, you go ahead and substitute rudeness for logic.

    jonathan Reply:

    Jon, you just don’t get it. There is no fucking way that San Mateo is going to join BART and give money to subsidize _your_ transit. Not after the BART-to-airport fiasco. San Mateo painfully extricated itself from paying $$ to cover losses, for what BART told it would be a profit-maker.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    San Mateo county would trade its BART-SFO and Caltrain JPA subsidies for a defined tax, elected representation on the BART board, and regional participation in Caltrain grade seps, DTX, Dumbarton rail, Millbrae changes, etc. We’d also get coordinated schedules and fare structure.

    SM Cty has already subsidized everyone else’s transportation by building out auxiliary lanes all along 101 so there is no more freeway expansion they can do. Remaining a transit island is not going to be the answer for them.

    jonathan Reply:

    Niel, to that, I “just say no”. Joining BART would fuck Caltrain. “Scheudle integratoin” and “fare integration’ with BART? Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.
    At least hat you propose isn’t offensive, like Jon.

  4. Reedman
    Sep 18th, 2012 at 10:00
    #4

    Part of the analysis is that businesses pay the bills and residential is a money loser for cities. The zoning/planning restrictions are attempts at not allowing your particular city from becoming a bankrupt bedroom community from which people commute to their jobs in the rich adjacent town. Requiring that a certain number of jobs be created before allowing a certain amount of housing be built is standard operating procedure in smart places.

  5. Alon Levy
    Sep 18th, 2012 at 10:33
    #5

    Robert, you’re partially answering your own question when you talk about the Foothills Extension. LA is building both ineffective transit to tightly zoned suburbs and effective transit to dense neighborhoods. The Bay Area built some of the latter kind of transit, but is now building exclusively the former kind. The DTX tunnel is at the bottom of the priority list, and Geary is only getting bus lanes.

  6. Richard Mlynarik
    Sep 18th, 2012 at 12:46
    #6

    Is this column the single most bat shit insane thing Cruickshank has ever written?

    <bloickquote?But the Bay Area isn’t standing still. BART to San José is under way. SMART is about to begin construction to bring rail service from Santa Rosa to San Rafael. Caltrain electrification is going to happen. The Central Subway is about to start tunneling.

    Oh, everything’s been fixed then! Ten billion dollars of expense, flowing directly into the pockets of the sprawl/copnstruction mafiosi, with (to both a first and a second degree approximation) zero new transit riders added.

    Because of, like, uh, zoning, and, uh, NIMBYs, and uh, some blog comment somewhere, and, uh, lack of money — that’s it! — lack of money!

    There’s a huge amount of contest for “single most bat shit insane thing Cruickshank has ever written”, but today’s effort is right up there near the top.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Close, but not quite. He’s extolled the idea of deliberately running CAHSR at a loss and subsidizing tickets before.

    synonymouse Reply:

    idea?

    deliberately?

    RoundaboutRail will for certain run up operating losses. Even Tejon and the I-5 racetrack, torqued to be as competitive as possible with air, and with airline non-pilot wages, might just come close to breaking even. With Tehachapi, hopeless, and wait until it starts to wear out.

    VBobier Reply:

    Tejon and the I-5 will never happen syno, don’t like that? I don’t give a rats ass… It’s the hard cold truth…

    Joey Reply:

    synonymouse, some of your theories have proved correct, but this one isn’t particularly believable because even mediocre intercity routes cover their operating expenses, even in America (NEC).

    joe Reply:

    Mr DO Nothing has the answer.

    Oh, everything’s been fixed then! Ten billion dollars of expense, flowing directly into the pockets of the sprawl/copnstruction mafiosi, with (to both a first and a second degree approximation) zero new transit riders added.

    Because of, like, uh, zoning, and, uh, NIMBYs, and uh, some blog comment somewhere, and, uh, lack of money — that’s it! — lack of money!

    There’s a huge amount of contest for “single most bat shit insane thing Cruickshank has ever written”, but today’s effort is right up there near the top.

    Do nothing! Stop all projects and clap for Tinkerbell. Clap louder kids. Everyone has to clap of she can’t hear us. Are you clapping? If everyone claps then she’ll come back to life and fix the government, FRA, PB and blow away all the clouds. Double rainbows are just a clap away. Keep clapping and think about all the free unicorn rides.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Richard’s answer would be to replace (hopefully in a humane manner) all public transit authorities and contractors with native German speakers, and consolidate all agencies under the Verkehrsbetriebe Bay Area banner. Not a bad idea, mind you.

    joe Reply:

    Horrible idea. They have no alliance with the ridership or any incentive to not profiteer.

    Ikea’s a wonderful place to work in Sweden. In the US, not so good an employer. http://articles.latimes.com/2011/apr/10/business/la-fi-ikea-union-20110410

    The dust-up has garnered little attention in the U.S. But it’s front-page news in Sweden, where much of the labor force is unionized and Ikea is a cherished institution. Per-Olaf Sjoo, the head of the Swedish union in Swedwood factories, said he was baffled by the friction in Danville. Ikea’s code of conduct, known as IWAY, guarantees workers the right to organize and stipulates that all overtime be voluntary.
    ..
    Laborers in Swedwood plants in Sweden produce bookcases and tables similar to those manufactured in Danville. The big difference is that the Europeans enjoy a minimum wage of about $19 an hour and a government-mandated five weeks of paid vacation. Full-time employees in Danville start at $8 an hour with 12 vacation days — eight of them on dates determined by the company.

    What’s more, as many as one-third of the workers at the Danville plant have been drawn from local temporary-staffing agencies. These workers receive even lower wages and no benefits, employees said.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Okay, so in the US Ikea treats its employees the same way local American companies do. So what?

    swing hanger Reply:

    Strips a bit off the euro-chic veneer many Europe-based firms use in their N. Am marketing.

    joe Reply:

    Exactly – if some euro-engineer doesn’t have to give a shit – he will not give a shit and most likely profiteer and rip us off. The naive idea is have a english language speaking deficiency that can be solved by turning projects over to foreign for-profit companies.

    I seem to recall we were a colony of several of these honest and sincere peoples. They we’re not so nice and I see no incentive to ask the crowns to run this nation’s trains.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    “They were not so nice” = “they didn’t let us expand westward and kill off the Iroquois.”

    The Euro-engineer doesn’t have to give a shit; he’s supposed to be supervised by people who are concerned with cost control. However, he will know how to design a train station based on the needs of passengers, when tunneling is appropriate and when it is not, how various case studies for compromises on design standards have worked out, and other things nobody at Amtrak or CHSRA seems to know or care about.

    joe Reply:

    Hiring “european” engineers is blatantly discriminatory.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The PB engineers know how to do this stuff too. The problem is lack of supervision (as usual).

    This is a general problem: you can’t supervise a job unless you’re competent to do it yourself. Raise the CHSRA’s *office* budget enough and they’ll be able to hire a European manager to oversee the contractors.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Joe, you’re moving the goalposts, but in either case, it’s completely legal to put in the job description, “Experience designing a high-speed railroad required.”

    And Nathanael, the existing engineers know how to pour concrete as well as the German ones would. But what they don’t seem to know how to do is design a train station for maximum passenger circulation convenience and throughput. You’re right that good supervision is required for many things – including agency turf battles, CHSRA’s worst problem – but there are certain aspects of CAHSR design that boil down to something different.

    jonathan Reply:

    Nathaniel,

    PB clearly know how to pour concrete. But neither they, no whoever is responsible for the TTC, knhows how to design a decent station throat. I second Alon’s observations about passenger circulation in stations. Or cross-platform transfers.

    joe Reply:

    Alon;

    I have direct experience complying with CA and Fed laws on hiring and firing. You cannot use “Experience designing a high-speed railroad required.” if the intention is to discriminate. And we all know that is the intention to not hire US staff.

    But pretend that’s not the case. You’d also be hard pressed to find work visas to bring in these experienced civil engineers given unemployment rates in the US in these disciplines. And you’d find lawsuits from US corporations who don’t have that skill base and would subcontract to show that skills exists in a partnership.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    No, actually the intention is to hire people who know what a modern train station looks like.

    Joey Reply:

    joe, nobody is suggesting that everyone hired be foreign. You need knowledge of local issues, travel patterns, and politics (yes, I said it). But you also need knowledge of how to actually build HSR effectively, and right now there is a severe lack of that.

    joe Reply:

    1. What kind of Visas are you asking for and why?

    2. You can’t specify foreign or give a language requirement for any hire if the skill is not relevant to the work.

    3. Rigging any hires isn’t legal. Specifying prior experience doesn’t mean you get to hire foreign, it will be challenged in a lawsuit if the intention is seen. It’s obviously discriminatory and you need to advertise and do outreach in the US. Also, a fraction of business has to be with small business owners.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    How many small business owners are involved with PB?

    swing hanger Reply:

    *gentle sarcasm intended

    jonathan Reply:

    Joe, can you grasp the difference between _hiring some German-speaking individuals_, and contracting out operatoins to a European company? swing hanger doesn’t say whether he means individuals o ra compnay, but companies are not “speakers”, so I read it as meaning individuals.

    Or even between nativeGerman-speaking, and Swedes/Swedish-owned multinational companies? Apparently not.

    joe Reply:

    I have a few german speaking engineers in my section. So what the fuck magic am I supposed to get out of them that a South Asian or US engineer can’t produce? Many be german men right? With fair skin and blond hair.

    Does anyone not see the illegality in this suggestion let alone the stupidity of hiring based on language for a position that doesn’t require having that language skill?

    See you all in court. You’ve been sued and removed from your job managing the project – then fired for being stupid.

    jonathan Reply:

    Stupid?? Joe, have you not been keeping up with events here? Richard is _well known_ for insisting that native-German-speakers (he really means Swiss, but will accept German or Austrian if pushed) can build deccent passenger rail systems. American engineers _cannot_ deesign decent passenger rail systems, because _they don’t how how to_. Engineers learn application of science and mathematics in college; they learn from what amounts to an apprenticeship from an experienced Professional Engineer. That’s how you become a PE.

    And.. .wait for it … no-one in the USA has built good, brand-new passenger rail since the 1950s.

    Swing-Hanger is poking fun. As for calling people “stupid”,: explain how an example of Ikea treats US employees relates to _German speaking_ rail engineers and managers. You can’t, because there _isn’t any_,.

    joe Reply:

    As for calling people “stupid”,: explain how an example of Ikea treats US employees relates to _German speaking_ rail engineers and managers. You can’t, because there _isn’t any_,.

    Performance in Europe does not predict performance in the US. Stellar Ikea’s Swedish Managers and Corporate ethos sucks here.

    For Profit Companies have allegiance to – profit. Language is irrelevant.

    But you might think Ikea is irrelevant and rail and engineering corporations can resist profit motive.

    Other think they can build systems just like in Europe. Just forget US laws and regulations. It’s all so simple.

    Forge these nations every had colonies. They are quite trustworthy and polite.

    jonathan Reply:

    You really can’t see any difference between Sweden and German-speaking, can you?

    joe Reply:

    No, I can’t.

    I’m not that ignorant to think German speaking people or corporations are better than Swedes. I’m not racist or discriminatory on ethnicity or county of origin. I see no differences.

    Nor can I forget that Scandinavia happens to be the historical birth palace of Germanic languages.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    You’re not racist, but you talk of Germanic as a single category excluding English, and in the other sub-thread concern troll about nativist American employment laws.

    (Signed, someone who’s been deprived of jobs because of lack of US citizenship. And no, none of them has anything to do with national security – these are ordinary NSF-funded research postdocs.)

    William Reply:

    This is a new low for you, Richard. Personal attack without any sort of substance.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Dear WIlliam,

    Here’s some substance for you:

    “Peak Oil! IPhones! Generational shift! Denialists! Much-needed environmental regulation reform!”

    Five potent substances, for the price of one, in fact. Incontrovertible, future-embracing fact.

    Happy?

    William Reply:

    No data = no substance

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Is this column the single most bat shit insane thing Cruickshank has ever written?

    Tough call, but I still go with his infamous cboss posting.

    swing hanger Reply:

    politicals vs. technicals

    jonathan Reply:

    Isn’t BART to San Jose flea-market a _technical_ failure? It will make zero difference to congestion. and it’ sorders of magnitude more money.

    jonathan Reply:

    that said, BART to San Jose Flea market does in fact get BART to San Jose Flea Market.
    Cruickshank’s support for CBOSS _is_ bat-shit insane. Auckland, NZ, is getting an ETCS Level 1 signalling system for… $90m! Why spend 3x that for a unique-in-the-world one-off, with all its technical risk?

  7. synonymouse
    Sep 18th, 2012 at 13:24
    #7

    Gotta agree with Richard:

    The Central Stubway? RosePakMary’s Baby? You might be able to make it a little less dysfunctional if you could replace the #30 by ramping up in Columbus Avenue and relaying the rest of the F line, lost in 1950. I believe resurrecting the 11 line to Noe Valley would be an easier task. Sheer idiocy permeates the Stubway.

    SMART? About the only upside is rebuilding the trackage south of Novato and staving off GGT’s calls to pave the ROW for buses. Subsidized freight for the favored few interests and Bugatti doodlebugs for the yuppies. When SMART tries to grab bus subsidy money the low-income people will scream bloody murder, especially after some grade crossing fatalities.

    And then you have the fiscal sink hole known as the Roundabout. Enormously costly, vastly underutilized and execrable cost-benefit ratio. And this exorbitant gold plated railroad construction does bring up a point I first saw made by Old Pole Burner on the Altamont Site. There is the real danger that railroad construction costs, bloated by the engorged and profligate MTC’s and PB-CHSRA’s of the world, may poison the waters for private rr’s and make their capital investment no longer affordable.

    Nathanael Reply:

    upside is rebuilding the trackage south of Novato and staving off GGT’s calls to pave the ROW for buses. <— upside enough

  8. John Nachtigall
    Sep 18th, 2012 at 13:48
    #8

    A close inspection of the article shows the author belives that 3 things caused this transformation. 2 “leaders” and a dedicated funding source (Measure R).

    So what does this say about CAHSR? It has the leader (Brown) but not the dedicated funding source. We have been told over and over again that large transportation projects are started and sucessfull without dedicated funding sources, but is that really true?

    To be fair, they had a dedicated source (the prop 1a $9 billion in funds) but that is almost gone now in one fell swoop.

    Can CAHSR be built if there is no dedicated source? I honestly think not, because you are not going to get matching fed funds (or feds funds at all) with no other sources and there are none on the table.

    Really this article shows how CAHSR is not following this example of getting the money first.

    VBobier Reply:

    Well You or someone could get a petition up with sigs and do something like Measure R for HSR in CA to fix that…

    VBobier Reply:

    Prop 1a’s $9 billion is only a down payment, aka seed money, not the full amount, saying that it is the full amount is a big far lie..

    Joey Reply:

    It makes sense not to spend all of the state money at once, because federal grants typically require a 20% state match.

    VBobier Reply:

    The $9 Billion is a Bond of course, it’s borrowed money, it now has truck weight fees sectioned off from the main budget, to help pay for that, but not to fund the $9 Billion of course. Of course I’m not going to argue with You on Your point, except where the “state money” comes from.

    joe Reply:

    That’s right. The best use of Prop1A money is to allocate it as matching funds for 2:1 or maybe 3:1 from the Feds.

    Nate Silver, 538 blog poll aggregator, assesses a 70% chance the Dems keep the Senate. Reid would be a strong supporter of HSR in 2013. Joe choo-choo Bieden casts tie breaking votes. Too early to assess the house races.

  9. Robert
    Sep 18th, 2012 at 20:37
    #9

    Good article, it’s unbelievable that BART stops at Richmond instead of continuing north to Hill Top, Hercules, El Cerrito and even Vallejo given the disaster that the 80 is *every day*. San Jose extension is a great idea but BART should consider north bay too and so should the city planners in the Bay Area. The 80 has enough lanes already, what is needed is an alternative to the car / ferry for those people.

  10. John Burrows
    Sep 18th, 2012 at 22:26
    #10

    Is it that bad that San Mateo County grew by only 1.6% between 2000 and 2010? Los Angeles county grew by 3.1%—not what I would call rapid growth. Constricted San Francisco actually beat LA by growing 3.7%. And, compared to the others, Santa Clara county boomed with an increase of 5.8%.

    Interestingly, the growth rate of San Mateo, San Francisco, and Santa Clara Counties combined was 4.3% compared to Los Angeles county’s 3.1%.

    Probably all four counties will increase their growth rates as the economy improves, but I wonder if California as a whole is going to increase its population as fast as some of the projections that I have seen.

    joe Reply:

    Growth? Hello Central Valley.

    A friend who is a MP resident likens describes his City as a 1940’s infrastructure with 1970’s mentality.

    Menlo Park is growing – not by much relative to other places but MP does little at all to accommodate population and traffic increases. Their growth, relative to their stagnant infrastructure, is a San Mateo problem.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    So true, Joe, so true. Menlo Park’s consumer telecom infrastructure is indeed, like the rest of the USA’s, pathetic and extremely expensive. Cheap FTTH? Cheap mobile data? That’s for foreigners.

    But your imaginary friend? My imagination suggests he imagines more expressways — at the very least to bulldoze a route from the highway Dumbarton Bridge to Interstate 101 through the NIMBYs and future-denialists and CEQA-abusers of East Palo Alto. The traffic! Those people! It’s 1940 out there on University Avenue, I tell you. 1940! Why, there’s barely even a median on Willow Road. And really, nothing says modernity like bypasses. And nothing is stagnating San Mateo County like the lack of urban expressways and the tragically incomplete highway network. Some non-stop 125+mph Flight Level Zero Airline Surrogate high speed trains, speeding on their way from the Capital of Silicon Valley to someplaceattheendofapeninsula would just be icing on the cake of post-1940s post-1970s modernity.

    Complete the Quentin L. Kopp Freeway‘s glorious March to the Pacific! We have the right of way. Only NIMBYs and CEQA abusers stand in the way of non-stagnant infrastructure for slow-developing future-fearing San Mateo County.

    joe Reply:

    My imagination suggests he imagines more expressways — at the very least to bulldoze a route from the highway Dumbarton Bridge to Interstate 101 through the NIMBYs and future-denialists and CEQA-abusers of East Palo Alto.

    Why do you hate so much that you would invent such fantastically horrible and inaccurate accusations?

    Overheard at a party in SF, “What’s he doing here?”

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    What’s really bizarre about Joe’s concern trolling is that he opposes the one infrastructure project MP really needs — the HSR Altamont alignment.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Also opposed to Caltrain serving people along the Caltrain line, such as the 1940s infrastructuralists of backwards Menlo Park.

    The Caltrain ROW being used to serve non-stopper FL0 airline service for riders SF-SJ and SF-LA Gilroy-SF and Monterey-SF? Fine.
    The flyover cities? Let them eat NIMBY.

    Being in Menlo Park as I write and looking about, I’m curious about Joe’s imaginary friend’s imaginary 1940 infrastructure.
    Yes, there’s the across-the-US telecom cartel delivering bad products at scandalous prices.
    There’s the throwback and unsightly above-ground pole-mounted power/telco.
    There are the quaint and culturally distinctive above-ground fire hydrants, but those are nothing to be fret about in the imaginary futurism stakes.
    The roads are potholed, but that again is a cultural norm. Like the hydrants, and the ubiquitous flags, they’re how you know you’re in the US.
    Likewise the culturally normative, appalling and loud (NOT changing with electrification — N.O.T. C.H.A.N.G.I.N.G., Caltrain itself promises that!) rail service and the infrequent and sparse bus service.

    But power, sewer, water, emergency services, bridges, highways, schools, recreation, civic halls, etc, etc etc? Looks pretty damned 1% first world out here, with the incomes and housing prices and servant subclasses and retail costs to match that perception.

    So really the only 1940s issue his imaginary friend could be imagining is that there aren’t enough 1950s-1960s-1970s-1980s-1990s urban freeways and urban expressways of the type with which future-facing San José (the Capital of Silicon Valley) has blessed its citizenry.

    Sleepy Menlo Park dozed through decades of US infrastructure PROGRESS!, with little more than Sand Hill Road to show for it.

    joe Reply:

    Sleepy Menlo Park dozed through decades of US infrastructure PROGRESS!, with little more than Sand Hill Road to show for it.

    They get this benefit – their ground water pumped for a private golf course – and pipeline running under city streets to reach the private golf course. It’s awesome to have sand hill road. They get to kiss the ring.
    http://www.menlopark.org/projects/proj_comdev.htm

    Menlo Park hosts a community outreach meeting Thursday night to discuss building a well in Jack Lyle Park to draw from a public aquifer to irrigate the Sharon Heights Golf and Country Club and potentially four public facilities.

    “One concern is that the use of the resource, a country club, is not open to the public. By contrast, transit shuttles provided via public-private partnership are open to the public,” said Commissioner Adina Levin. “I also expressed concern with the fairness and public perception at offering public resources at a discounted price to a country club, at the same time that the city was contemplating reduction of services to low-income residents with the dissolution of the (redevelopment agency).”

    Menlo Park needs revenue and is develop the downtown to offset a dependency on developer’s fees.
    http://www.menlopark.org/projects/comdev_ecrdowntown.htm

    With this artist rendition of the downtown – no cars Ma – it’s all good.
    http://www.menlopark.org/departments/pln/ecr-d/graphics/ecr-d_fsp_ecr-sca_277.jpg

    But you know all this. You sit on you butt and look around and know all about all.

    And you know what they say in Menlo Park, “we shop in mountain view, and dine in palo alto”

    joe Reply:

    I live in Gilroy. Why would I be expected to prioritize Menlo Park over my own interests? I want HSR in Gilroy and service to PA.

    Mocking menlo park’s stupidity for adding homes and infill for the developer’s fees without accommodating the traffic this generates is quite consistent with my personal views that Pacheco is superior.

    And my friend will readily admit he’s got no one he wants to vote for in the next council election – none of them.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I don’t know what MP specifically needs, but it wants Altamont. The approach to Dumbarton conveniently enough goes through the wrong part of town, the part that the city is severing freeway overpasses to.

    joe Reply:

    It wants to charge fees for anything that passes into MP. Ask Stanford or Facebook.

    CAHSR can run on the ROW – the Authority just haven’t written big enough number on the dinner napkin.

  11. Brandon from San Diego
    Sep 19th, 2012 at 07:35
    #11

    As an ex-patriot to the Bay Area and Walnut Creek, the mind set from outlying counties is, “Why should I pay for rail expansion in San Francisco or Alameda county?”

    I’m am not defending that Position, just saying like it is.

    The Bay Area is far too fractured politically to over come the consensus needed to secure a larger pool of funding to support rail expansions where it is needed most. The burbs have a voice and know how to use the word “no”. Unfortunately.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Huh? You have it exactly backwards. All the rail expansion money is going to the outlying areas, where it makes the least sense. And the mindset among urban dwellers is, “Why should I pay for a subway in Livermore?”

  12. Wanderer
    Sep 19th, 2012 at 10:39
    #12

    Political consensus (ie–I’ll vote your projects, you vote for mine) can be achieved at a county by county level in the Bay Area. Not all transportation sales taxes have passed, but many have, even with a 2/3 vote requirement. A large percentage of trips here are within a county, so county-level planning can address that.

    There obviously also needs to be regional service that goes between counties. Some of that can be done by multi-county transit agencies themselves, if they’re sensitive to, rather than trying to dominate, their local partners. Some of it is about tying local services to existing regional ones. MTC can play a role here (btw, I agree that the current structure is undemocratic).

    The measure of zoning’s impact is not so much how much past population gain. It’s how much housing can be built going forward, and especially how much housing can be built that’s accessible to quality, frequent transit (bus or rail). I’d love to see that comparison with LA, though it would take a lot of work.

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