SMART train system details roll-out to Windsor, Healdsburg, Cloverdale, Sonoma

With the announcement last month that the Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) board authorized $24 million toward extending its north-south passenger rail system from Charles M. Schulz–Sonoma County Airport to Windsor by 2021 or 2022, many are wondering why it may take three years to see this relatively short 3.5-mile segment become a reality.

And officials themselves say they are facing uncertainty, despite the approval. California voters on Nov. 6 are being asked whether to repeal portion of the state gas tax, which could result in loss of funds for the Windsor extension.

Nonetheless, SMART officials say they continue to plan, not only for the airport to Windsor link, but farther into the future, extending the line further north to Healdsburg and Cloverdale and eventually Ukiah. There are also longer term proposals for a rail link east from Novato to Suisun City, Cordelia and Fairfield to connect with the Solano Hub and the Amtrak Capitol Corridor rail line.

Read More

Tolay Lake Regional Park, co-managed by county and Graton Rancheria tribe, opening Oct. 27

Tolay Lake Regional Park, the largest in the Sonoma County park system, will open for daily public use late this month, marking a much-celebrated occasion that’s been 13 years in the making.

The park opening on Oct. 27 will lift the veil on hidden scenic treasures, miles of trails, diverse wildlife and hallowed aboriginal healing grounds — all of it mostly off-limits to the general public up to this point.

At 3,400 acres, “it’s a massive land base and an important ecological preserve for the county,” Regional Parks Director Bert Whitaker said. “And it has amazing cultural history.”

Located off Lakeville Highway about 8 miles southeast of Petaluma, the park takes in swaths of valley grasslands, rolling hills, creek canyon and oak woodland, as well as historic ranch buildings and the seasonal 200-acre lake itself.

The public unveiling gives Whitaker an answer to relentless questions he receives from an eager public about the park’s status.

“The feedback I’m getting is unbelievable,” he said. Management of the park is being called a model of cooperation between the county and the Federated Indians of the Graton Rancheria, whose ancestors occupied villages on the site for millennia.

Read More

Uber and Lyft’s Link to Traffic Fatalities Laura Bliss

Author Laura Bliss

Every convenience has its external costs, and economists love to count them.

With ride-hailing, the positive benefits to users, and society at large, are several. On-demand services like Uber and Lyft provide transportation in neighborhoods underserved by transit or taxis; safe rides home for late-night workers and partiers; and increased ease of access for people with disabilities, research has shown. There’s also some evidence that they reduce drunk driving. Besides providing a service to millions of riders, these companies are increasing access to safe mobility for groups that haven’t always had it.

But the growing demand for press-a-button transportation is coming from everybody, not just underserved riders. In cities, that is translating into more cars on the road. While the environmental and congestion impacts of this surge in vehicles have been much discussed, the potential uptick in traffic fatalities associated with Uber and Lyft usage has been one of ride-hailing’s lesser-studied negative externalities. In a new working paper, a team from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business is now attempting to pin this down. The authors estimate that 2 to 3 percent of the number of crashes in a given area can be attributed to the introduction of ride-hailing.

Read More

Judge tosses lawsuit aimed at slowing Geary Blvd. bus rapid transit system

“The court finds that substantial evidence supports the (environmental impact report for) Geary BRT (bus rapid transit system) and its analysis of the project,” Lee wrote in an order that dismissed every claim made by the merchant advocacy group San Franciscans for Sensible Transit, whose members filed the lawsuit last year. They claimed the city had inappropriately rushed the environmental review without sufficiently examining the “biological, historical, safety and noise impacts” of major infrastructure work in the Richmond District.

In its suit, the group argued that work to add the new bus lanes — which intend to cut travel time for riders — would burden Richmond residents by reducing parking, requiring trees to be uprooted from sidewalks and eliminating the street’s concrete median. Skeptics also feared that businesses would wilt during construction, the way they have on Van Ness Avenue, where a similar street and bus lane overhaul is under way.

Construction began earlier this month on the eastern segment of the route, along Geary between Market and Stanyan streets. Crews are painting red bus lanes along that 2-mile stretch and widening curbs near stops, and the SFMTA is installing new software to sync traffic lights with bus arrivals. The next phase, scheduled to start in 2021, will extend the red lanes westward from Stanyan Street to 34th Avenue, widen sidewalks and add medians for people who can’t cross Geary in one traffic signal.

Read More

SFMTA Board to consider 3 major pedestrian safety projects for Tenderloin, SoMa streets today

Proposals to improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety in the Tenderloin and SoMa neighborhoods will be considered by the SFMTA Board of Directors today as part of the city’s plan to reduce traffic-related deaths.

The meeting comes just under two months after a pedestrian was killed in an unsolved hit-and-run incident near the intersection of Turk and Taylor streets, one of the critical areas targeted by the Safer Taylor Street Project. And according to SFMTA, the corridor targeted by the 6th Street Pedestrian Safety Project sees pedestrians struck by vehicles once every 16 days on average.

SFMTA has been in negotiations with the community for several years to determine the best safety improvement projects to implement in the neighborhood. Most recently, the agency hosted pop-up community events and online surveys to receive input on plans to install new sidewalk bulb-outs, bike lanes, and other mechanisms to make Taylor and 6th streets safer for vehicle and non-vehicle traffic.

Each project is tailored to the neighborhood community, according to SFMTA staff. The plans are part of Vision Zero, the city’s effort to end traffic related fatalities by 2024.

Read More