Bay Area Council Blog: Transportation Archive

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Members Making News: Sutter Health, Heller Manus

Sutter Health’s Mills-Peninsula Medical Center recently announced the launch of a new groundbreaking approach to avoid delays in treating strokes, which are the fifth leading cause of death and the top contributor to long-term disability in the U.S. In a public private partnership, Sutter Health will pilot a new specially-equipped and -staffed ambulance, called a mobile stroke unit (MSU). The goal is to test whether bringing stroke diagnosis and treatment to patients—rather than waiting for them to arrive at the emergency department—improves outcomes. From the outside the MSU resembles a standard ambulance, but inside it equipped with a CT scanner and other technology critical for diagnosing stroke. Initially, a stroke neurologist will ride in the Mobile Stroke Unit. Data gathered through the Mills-Peninsula pilot will contribute to national efforts aimed at demonstrating the mobile stroke unit’s ability.

 

Heller Manus Founder and President and Bay Area Council board member Jeffrey Heller recently was awarded one of the top honors in architecture, the MIT Architecture Alumni Lifetime Achievement award. Heller joined I.M Pei in receiving the illustrious honor. In making the award, MIT said: Since its beginning in 1984, Heller Manus has established a reputation for influencing architecture and urban design in the Bay Area, nationally and internationally. Heller is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects. Heller is a major supporter of MIT’s Department of Architecture, where his Jeffrey D. Heller Fund provides graduate student financial support and is helping MIT move the needle on its goal of making the School of Architecture and Planning tuition free for all graduate students. Congratulations, Jeff!

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Highways to Hell

On the remote chance Bay Area commuters weren’t aware how awful their commutes are, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission this week released some data to drive home the point. MTC’s annual list of Top 10 worst commute corridors ranked the Bay Bridge as the worst, followed by the I-80 stretch north to Hercules from the Bay Bridge and the segment of Highway 101 through Silicon Valley. The ranking highlights the importance of defeating Prop. 6 on the November ballot and preserving $52 billion in planned investments statewide to improve bridges, roads and highways and help ease traffic. A story in the East Bay Times and Mercury News on the ranking also cited data from the Bay Area Council that shows how the region’s housing shortage is contributing to the gridlock by forcing workers on longer and longer commutes as they search for affordable housing far from job centers. See the Council’s full list of ballot measure endorsements for the November election.

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New Data: Bay Area’s Roads Worst in the Country

With absentee ballots arriving in mailboxes and election day just a few weeks off, new data released this week on California’s deteriorating roads should motivate voters to turn out and cast their ballots against Proposition 6. A report by Washington, D.C.-based TRIP found that 71 percent of streets in San Francisco, Oakland and nearby cities are dilapidated and cost motorists an average of $1,049 annually in car repairs. San Jose wasn’t far behind and the Bay Area as a whole ranked as the worst nationally among metropolitan areas. Proposition 6 aims to repeal legislation (SB 1) approved in 2017 to invest $52.4 billion to fix bridges, roads and highways across the state and improve transit. The Council was a leading proponent of SB 1 and strongly opposes Prop. 6.

Also this week, a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll found a measure (Proposition 10) to allow the expansion of rent control across the state doesn’t have the votes it needs to pass. The Council strongly opposes Prop 10, which would chill investment in new housing and only worsen the state’s historic housing crisis. While the poll results were encouraging, they still signaled the importance of voters turning out and casting their ballots against it. A report by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute found that expanding rent control in Alameda County alone would reduce housing affordability for more than 10,300 households. To engage in the Council’s government relations work, please contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.

See the Council’s positions on state and local ballot measures>>

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As Ferry Ridership Grows, a New Vessel Commissioned

There’s more good news in the push to accelerate the expansion of regional ferry service. The Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA) this month approved $13 million in funding to construct a new 300-passenger ferry that is scheduled to hit the water in 2020. The Council, whose CEO Jim Wunderman serves on the WETA board, has been a leading proponent of expanding regional ferry service to help ease grinding traffic on Bay Area roads and highways and take some pressure off other congested transit systems. The new ferry will be the eighth vessel added to the fleet since 2017. WETA has added three 400-passenger boats since April 2017 with four more scheduled to start producing wakes in 2019. The water transit agency is also preparing to open new service to Richmond in January 2019 and to the San Francisco’s Mission Bay neighborhood and Alameda’s Seaplane Lagoon in the next few years.

The expansion comes as WETA experiences record ridership growth. The agency’s 20-year strategic plan calls for operating at 16 terminals with 44 vessels by 2035. Today, they operate at nine terminals with 14 vessels. The Council helped lead the campaign for Regional Measure 3, which will provide significant funding to enable WETA to meet its expansion plans. To engage in the Council’s transportation policy work, please contact Chief Operating Officer John Grubb.

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Trip Highlights Potential of Hovercraft on the Bay

The gate opened at the bow of the vessel, a black skirt draped around its hull. We boarded and took our seats. Within minutes, the boat rose quickly and effortlessly above the ground, the engines producing a dull thrumming sound and a cushion of air on which the boat gently hovered. The vessel glided smoothly away from the launch ramp, pivoted 180 degrees and accelerated. We were off.

You can be skeptical about hovercraft passenger service for the Bay Area, until you ride one. Then, you are changed. It was an awakening experience for a dozen water transit experts that the Bay Area Council and CEO Jim Wunderman led to Portsmouth, England, this week to do a deep-dive learning experience about hovercraft. The group rode a service that has 80-passenger crafts. They toured some recently retired hovercraft that carried 425 passengers and 60 cars across the English Channel. And, they heard from elected leaders and visited with hovercraft manufacturers.

Hovercraft offer a compelling opportunity to propel a dramatic expansion of regional water transit service that is already taking shape under the leadership of Council member Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA). Hovercraft could be a solution to accessing areas of the Bay where dredging costs, docks and environmental issues present obstacles to other vessels. The Council will be working with delegates from the trip, other officials in our region, with trip co-leader HOVR California, and many others to explore if next generation hovercraft have a place in the Bay Area. To engage in our water transit work, please contact Chief Operating Officer John Grubb.

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Dismal Grades for California’s Bridges, Roads and Transit

Good thing California’s bridges, roads and transit aren’t trying to get into a top tier college. More likely, they’d be placed on academic probation. That was largely the conclusion this week of the America Society of Civil Engineers, which released its annual Surface Transportation Infrastructure Report Card at a press conference that included Bay Area Council CEO Jim Wunderman. The report graded the condition of California’s roads a D, its bridges a C- and its transit systems a C-. California is home to 13 of the top 25 most traveled structurally deficient bridges in the nation, the ASCE found. The report said 44 percent of California’s roads are deficient, ranking it 49th in the country and costing the average motorist $843 in extra vehicle operating costs.

The report comes as voters prepare to cast their ballots on Proposition 6, a misguided initiative to repeal legislation the Council supported that invests $52 billion to fix the states roads, highways and bridges and improve transit. The Council opposes Prop. 6. Said Wunderman in an interview with KTVU following the press conference about the importance of investing in California’s aging transportation infrastructure: “If we don’t do this, we just keep increasing the backlog of work that needs to be done at tremendous cost to public safety and the quality of life for the people of our state.”

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Can the Bay Area Hover Its Way Out of Traffic?

In the 1930s, a fleet of ferry boats carried about 55 million passengers a year in the Bay Area (adjusted for population, twice the ridership of BART). Yet today, only about 3 million passengers cross the water.

Many Bay Area cities and new developments have latent bayside infrastructure, and would be transformed by the arrival (or reestablishment) of robust water transit to their shore. Growing ferry service and the passage of Regional Measure 3 have accelerated excitement about water transit, but dredging costs, docks, environmental wake-restrictions and speed of ferries present significant, sometimes insurmountable challenges.

Passenger (or freight) hovercraft could offer a very interesting way around the challenges of expanding water transit to the entire Bay Area. They require far less infrastructure, travel faster, produce smaller wakes, burn less fuel and come in a wide range of sizes. The Bay Area Council wants to learn more about this option for our region and is leading a delegation to Portsmouth, England, in early October to meet with hovercraft manufacturers and operators, as well public officials and transportation experts, to learn how the vessels work.

Hovercraft could complement a major expansion of water transit service in the Bay Area that is being led by the Water Emergency Transportation Authority, on whose board Council CEO Jim Wunderman serves. WETA runs the SF Bay Ferry and is actively working on a variety of major projects, including new terminals in San Francisco, Richmond and Alameda along with the construction of new vessels and onshore operation and maintenance facilities. To learn more about the Council’s transportation policy work, please contact Chief Operating Officer John Grubb.

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Bad Roads Costing Bay Area Commuters Thousands

Bad roads and highways cost many Bay Area commuters upwards of almost $3,000 a year in wasted time, vehicle repairs and other costs, according to a new study by TRIP, a national transportation research group. The report highlights the reason why the Bay Area Council is working hard to oppose Proposition 6 on the November ballot that would eliminate billions in funding for repairing state and local roads, bridges highways. And, why the Council opposes a lawsuit filed by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association that seeks to overturn Regional Measure 3, a ballot measure voters approved in June that provides $5.6 billion for easing traffic and expanding regional mass transit. The Council helped lead the RM3 campaign.

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Council Urges Stronger Police Response to BART Crime

Despite a spasm of violent and deadly attacks on BART, wavering confidence in the system and a depleted police force, the mass transportation agency’s Board of Directors on Thursday (Aug. 9) rejected key elements of a plan presented by BART General Manager Grace Crunican to bolster public safety and security. Bay Area Council CEO Jim Wunderman in a letter and in testimony to the Board urged BART to adopt the full package of security measures. Wunderman also urged the Board to request a regional mutual aid response from other local law enforcement agencies to increase patrols on trains and in stations.

In response to Wunderman’s request, the Board said only that it would direct agency officials to research mutual aid options. However, it was unclear exactly what that meant. The union representing BART police had previously rejected the idea of mutual aid, even as BART grapples with a shortage of officers. Union officials indicated that contract provisions blocked other law enforcement from the system.

Watch Jim Wunderman testify at BART Board meeting>>

“It’s hard to believe in the face of growing public fear and anxiety about safety on BART that the Board wouldn’t act swiftly and aggressively to adopt the full slate of strong measures for restoring confidence in the system,” Wunderman said. “The Board’s decision is a disservice to the more than 420,000 BART riders who rely on the system daily and presents an open invitation to criminals and others who flagrantly ignore system rules and regulations to continue to act with impunity.”

A Twitter survey the Council launched today and targeting users in San Francisco and much of the East Bay where BART operates found 81 percent support more police patrols on BART trains and in stations. A total of almost 400 had responded to the survey as of 1 p.m.

The Council is continuing to advocate for a stronger police response to avoid future deadly attacks on the system and address ongoing public safety concerns that threaten to push passengers away from the system and onto already congested roads and highways.

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New Tariffs to Escalate Construction Costs Impacting Bay Area’s Housing Production and Prices

Tariffs of 20% the Trump administration imposed last year on imports of Canadian softwood lumber, and more recent tariffs of 15% and 10% on steel and aluminum imports, are starting to impact the local economy – including construction and housing. Beyond land cost, the region’s high housing costs are primarily driven by a lack of inventory caused by resistance to development and fees imposed by local governments. The cost of construction materials can now be added as another obstacle to meeting the region’s housing goals – not the primary one, but an issue that’s additive and is likely to be significant.

Lumber accounts for the largest material cost of building homes. This may push builders to focus more on high-end homes where buyers can absorb the increased costs, instead of the low and middle income housing the region needs most. Higher steel prices are also starting to impact commercial high-rise construction. The marginal cost of materials, particularly when increases are double digit, can stall or stop a project. Some towers are being reduced in scale in order to lower costs, reducing the number of units produced. Residential projects have also been stopped or stalled as developers recalculate the higher costs and how design around them. The potential impact of tariffs is likely to grow with time, as more products (tools, fixtures, appliances) used in the building process or incorporated into new structures are added to the list. To engage in the Council’s housing advocacy work, please contact Senior Vice President of Policy Matt Regan.