SoMa Transbay Alignment Poll

28 February 2015

A Quest for a Cord

This is a story about the search for a flip-phone recharging cord. It is also a story about the Mission, its unique offering of shops and services, and also it's people.

One day, while my parents were visiting San Francisco, my dad said he needed to get a recharge cord for his 20th century flip phone. He had forgotten his cord (most likely since he only uses the phone two dozen times a year). Flip phones were once common but finding a cord now sounded as challenging as finding an 8-track tape player.

So after visiting Walgreen's on Mission and 23rd St we stopped by the most obvious place I knew of - at least the most obvious place I knew of while I grew up. That place? Radio Shack of course! But Radio Shack didn't carry that specific recharge cord. The staff were helpful and indicated that the shop next store might have it. That's when we walked into Cyber Iman. Your IPhone, Computer Repair, Cell Phone Accessories store. This place had to have a recharge cord for my Dad's Samsung flip phone - it has the banner "Cell Phone Accessories" added on under the store sign!

24 February 2015

The Ways to the Presidio - Part 1: Walk in the Park

In the coming weeks I will be "commuting" to the Presidio from the Mission District to determine the best way to get there. Ways of getting there run the gambit: driving, transit, biking, walking and many iterations between each of these modes. I'll be doing some of them. As mentioned in my earlier summary of the commute options, the criteria for the "best" commuting options include:

  1. Journey Time - the door-to-door time by each mode and route choice
  2. Comfort  Level - how comfortable is the ride and overall journey experience
  3. Cost - how much does a daily commute cost? what are hidden costs?
  4. Safety and Environmental - how safe is the route and is it limited or flexible to seasonal variations (length of daylight, weather conditions, etc.) 
Note, you have only one more day to vote in the poll, "What's the best way to work at the Presidio from the Mission?" for what YOU think is the best way to get to the Presidio. Chime in and vote your response for the poll in the right column (only visible on HTML full web version of the web site). Results will be posted and discussed soon - so vote now!
Ecology Trail. Image: Presidio.gov

The Walk in the Park
I took the Muni 33-Stanyan bus from Guerrero and 18th Street. The ride was pleasant and scenic - especially at Market and Clayton streets where it takes a great V turn and you can see Downtown San Francisco and the bay. The ride was inconsequential, and I arrived at Sacramento and Cherry streets within 35 minutes - the last person on the bus. Amidst the mansions of Presidio Heights and CPMC California Campus, I headed north on Cherry Street, passing the Temple Emanu-El, and soon passed through the Arguello Gate into the Presidio.
Mural along Market St at 18th St. Image: Urban Life Signs

The "V-Turn" location where buses turn from Market (right) to Clayton (left) and vice versa. Image: Urban Life Signs

Downtown SF seen from Clayton and Market. Corona Heights is to the left. Image: Urban Life Signs

Temple Emanu-El in Presidio Heights. Image: Urban Life Signs

Arguello Gate. I walked through on the sidewalk (far right). Image: A Year on the Bay Area Ridge Trail
Without a Presidio hiking map on me, I took the most intuitive direction - east on the Mountain Lake Trail (not knowing the name at the time.) Soon I came to the Ecology Trail and headed north into the deep forest of this southeastern Presidio trail that links to the Main Post. 

Ecology Trail begins. Image: Urban Life Signs

Ecology Trail - Presidio. Image: Urban Life Signs

It becomes immediately apparent you are in a great forest and ecosystem with periodic sloped meadows. As I descended, I could see Andy Goldsworthy's "Spire" up above the slope I was decending. 

Andy Goldsworthy's "Spire". Image: California-Travels.com

Thick forested section of the Ecology Trail. Image: Urban Life Signs
Early on, just below Inspiration Point, we could make out Alcatraz and the Palace of Fine Arts dome. My daughter enjoyed the California golden poppies, but was less excited about the near half-dozen dog walkers we passed (nearly 2 dozen dogs in total). She's 2 years old - so you can't blame her. The dog walkers were all friendly and courteous.

Most of the trail is a moderate slope with some sections of near flat slope. I arrived at a breezy Main Post near the chapel. That's where the pedestrian world starts to deteriorate. But hey it's the beautiful Main Post of the Presidio you have arrived at with the Golden Gate Bridge in the near distance. 

Upon meeting my friend, we had a picnic lunch on a nice patch of grass that overlooks the bay and the Golden Gate Bridge beside the former Presidio Burger King. 

Trip Analysis

Journey Time: ~70 minutes
Comfort Level: high comfort with a welcome pleasant physical environment, plus a one-seat bus ride from the Mission to Presidio Heights. 
One-way cost: one Muni bus fare: $2.25 - walk segment was free.
Safety and environmental: The route seemed safe, although I was walking along it in the daytime. The route would be a bit less safe feeling in the evening or late afternoon darkness in the winter. While you take the 20 minute hiking portion - you are affected by the weather. Today was sunny and windy, but not windy in the Monterey Pine forests. 

11 February 2015

Do you know the way to the Presidio?

Getting to work. We all have to get there from home unless we work from home. We have our routine commute or possibly two ways to get there (driving some days and bus others, or biking some days and walking others).

But what do you do if your office is relocated or you start a new job in a new location? How do you get to your new office - especially if it's a place you have rarely been to before.  Namely, do you know the way to the Presidio?

Signpost to transit in the Presidio. Note that restrooms could be transit, just not the kind I'm talking about.
Image: Raquel Lonas
Answer: You are ripe for trying out all the options:

  • driving
  • transit
  • biking
  • carpooling
  • walking
You should try a mix of modes depending on the day of the week, the time of day, and of course how long and how comfortable each mode. You're also up for trying different routes for any of these modes. Weather even plays into which modes to use, especially for walking and biking.

My friend Anne Franklin, who lives in the Mission, previously commuted to Potrero Hill. Recently her packaging design firm, DDW, relocated to the Presidio. The Presidio is a beautiful place - really a park, but it's far away from the Mission, and has limited transit access.

Before the office move, she walked to work, and occasionally take transit. Anne does not own a car. So how should she get to work from 18th St and Valencia? So far she's tried three options: Muni via the 33 & 43, the PresidiGo shuttle, and taking the 33 and walking through the Presidio.
A PresidiGo shuttle and a Muni bus in the Presidio. Image: Presidio Trust
I've made a new poll for folks to vote for the best way to commute between the Mission. Please vote for what you think would be the best: a combination of fastest, most comfortable and not too expensive or frustrating. You can find the poll on the web site version of Urban Life Signs in the right column.

Below is a list of the three ways Anne has tried out for getting to work, then several other ways to consider.

A: Muni-Muni - Take Muni the whole way. 33-Stanyan then transfer to the 43-Masonic and into the Presidio
This route requires a transfer at the intersection of Haight and Clayton. Cross Haight then Clayton. Then wait for the 43-Masonic
View from 43-Masonic bus passing through the Presdio. Image Pawel D via Yelp.com

B: PresidiGo - Take BART to Embarcadero Station. Transfer to the PresidiGO shuttle and on to the Presidio.
Requires a short walk to the 16th St Mission station. Going down to the platform and a short wait for a train. Then get off at busy Embarcadero Station and go to the surface to the nearby PresidiGo shuttle stop on Drumm at California at the Hyatt Regency.

01 February 2015

Third Street 2nd Transbay Tube is the Charm?

Having a Second Transbay Tube is a great and welcome prospect. The tube would bring better access, reliability, and resiliency to Downtown San Francisco's transportation network. In November we learned that BART is actively studying the idea of a second Transbay Tube (see PDF presentation). Several articles and opinion pieces have covered the critical issues of station locations, alignments, cost, funding, environmental issues, etc.

Image: Urban Life Signs
I have to note that the map used to show the basic idea bears an uncanny resemblance to one of the alignments I studied and proposed in my June 2013 piece, "Poll: Where Should BART Go in SoMa?" True, no specific alignment has been selected - and many will be considered an analyzed. However, as you can see in the map, especially the closeup map, the alignment shown follows the Third St/Geary alignment that I considered back in 2013 for my "Poll: Where should BART go in SoMa?" piece.

Image: BART
Even Mayor Ed Lee has come out supporting a Second Transbay Tube, in his "Shared Prosperity: Affordability Directives" document, which is very encouraging. The Mayor said, "We will begin a regional conversation with my fellow Mayors in the East Bay, Supervisor Scott Wiener, and the BART Board about a second BART tube from Mission Bay to the East Bay." (emphasis added).

Likewise, according to Streetsblog, the new Oakland mayor, Libby Schaaf is on board for a second tube saying, "It will not be cheap… I think it will really reduce congestion. I hella love Oakland, but we do need to think regionally, and it would make a lot of sense for the region.” Even Alameda is on board for a new tube the Public Works Director, Bob Haun, saying he is ready to work with BART on placing a station on the island.

I have my own thoughts on whether a Second Transbay Tube should go through Mission Bay, but let's set that aside for a later discussion. What's interesting is that the 3rd St/Geary alignment (or 3rd St/Union Square alignment as I originally called it) is the rough alignment shown on the map - and it passes through Mission Bay, with a probable stop at Third St and King. Mayor Lee calling out Mission Bay seems to show that he thinks it's important that whatever alignment is chosen should go through there. I wonder if he's considered the capacity constraints of Embarcadero and Montgomery, and that a second tube would do well to help alleviate some of that constraint and also connect to the Transbay Center.

Image: BART

27 January 2015

Muni's New 55-16th Street Route, Where have you been all this time?

Next Monday, January 31, Muni officially starts a brand new bus route to service Mission Bay from the Mission District. The temporary 55-16th Street route will run from  the 16th Street Mission BART Station to Mission Bay at Third St and Mission Bay Blvd. With the growth of Mission Bay with the UCSF campus, new office space, residents and the opening of the UCSF Medical Center, transit access to the area desperately needed.
New 55-Sixteenth St bus heading to "Mission St/BART".  Image: Urban Life Signs
However, Mission Bay with the university campus, biotech firms and other companies, has been quite developed for over five years now. Why hasn’t a Muni bus route from the Mission been started earlier to meet transit needs?

The short answer: Muni has lacked funding, but more importantly, a quasi transit service was getting folks to Mission Bay anyway.

New 55-16th St Muni Bus Line and the unchanged 22-Stanyan bus to Dogpatch. Image: SFMTA
The Original Plans
Transit service from the Mission and points west has long been planned for Mission Bay. The original Mission Bay Project EIR (1998) called for rerouting the 22-Fillmore to follow 16th Street to Third Street, and terminating at Mission Bay Boulevard and Third Street. This was reiterated in UCSF Mission Bay CampusMaster Plan and Design Guidelines (1999) planning documents. However it appears that Muni ran into logistical and funding challenges to have the overhead electric wires added along 16th Street between Kansas St and Third St. I haven’t been able to find the exact history of Muni’s funding requests, but it appears that it has yet to receive funding to for electrification of 16th St that a rerouted 22-Fillmore would require. In addition, installing wires at the Caltrain railroad crossing  has proven technically challenging, due to the high vertical clearance required so trains do not hit the wires, but the buses trolley poles can still reach much higher wires at the crossing.

Year 2015 Assumed changes to Muni's Existing Service in the vicinity of Mission Bay.  Note that the routes marked "1" and "2" are two alternatives of extending the 30-Stockton and 45-Union buses into Mission Bay and to replace the 22-Fillmore's service into Potrero Hill. Source: Mission Bay Subsequent Environmental Impact Report
The Red Line
The UCSF Red Line shuttle has ensured service for UCSF’s employees and students to and from BART at the 16th St Mission Station. Although the shuttle only allows employees, students and patients on board, this policy hasn’t been enforced on any UCSF Shuttle line (until recently). We’ll get into this more later. 

23 December 2014

Mega Sea Level Rise: New England Island and Nicaragua Passage

While investigating what would happen to the world with 200 foot sea level rise, I found the most excellent Global Sea Level Rise Map - an interactive map on Geology.com. Unlike most sites with interactive maps that only go as high as 55 inches or 5 meters, the Geology.com map goes up to a whopping 60 meters! That's 196.85 feet. Close enough to 200 feet for me.

I asked myself one question. Which land-locked countries of the world would become "unlocked" and consider starting a navy or a merchant fleet. Of course this assumes that at the high ambient temperatures necessary for all ice to melt, we'd still have anything resembling a 21st Century country or even the human race.

But let's find out anyway. First we'll look at North and South America.

North America
All country's at 2014 sea level have a coastline. No change.
However, a few dramatic things do happen.

Panama: The canal is no longer necessary. It's there naturally. Actually it's there thanks to the Culebra Cut, created in the creation of the Panama Canal.

Panama's "Natural" Canal. Image: Geology.com
Nicaragua: Finally gets the "canal" that France's Napoleon III and others said it would build back in the 1800s. Actually a Hong Kong company is building the Nicaragua Canal now, so this may be less than exciting in the year 3500 when sea level rise finally reaches 200'.

Hudson River Valley: The sea inundates the great Hudson River Valley and Lake Champlain to become the great Hudson Champlain Passage, separating New England from the rest of North America. It's a narrow passage, but it's at sea level! Sure it's really New England plus Canada's New Brunswick and parts of Quebec. Maybe it would have another tea party and break away.

Most interestingly, the new Hudson Champlain Passage would be so narrow in most places it would be similar to Turkey's Bosporus and Dardanelles.

The narrowest segment is near Lake George, north of Glens Falls.
Hundson River Valley meet Lake Champlain and salt water. Image: Geology.com
Cuba: Breaks into three major islands.
Cuba X 3. Image: Geology.com

Lost Countries: The Bahamas, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.


12 December 2014

Mission Bay Rising

Two-hundred feet sea level rise is a high elevation (and a lot of extra water in our seas - thank you Antarctica Water Bank). However dramatic 200 feet sea level rise is, a 25 foot rise is much more likely. Plus you have to get to 25 feet rise before getting to 200 feet. 

So, last month Burrito Justice and I wrote a new chapter in the San Francisco Archipelago - Sea Level Rise story. Written as an article for the neighborhood newspaper The Potrero View, the Mission Bay Rises Again covers the period from near future times to ~2036, when sea levels rise to 25 feet above current sea level. 

The piece coincided with their most excellent history and map issue from November 2014. 

Enjoy the piece below.

Mission Bay Rises 

by Brian Stokle and Burrito Justice
Images by Brian Stokle

The past 10 years have been both cruel and kind to the Bay Area. A decade ago, 15 million people were jolted awake by the magnitude 7.7 Claremont Earthquake that devastated much of Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda and San Francisco. No one slept well for months afterwards. 2028 was a dark year, but as our homes and offices swayed, few suspected the quake would trigger an economic boom.

The rebuilding rivaled post-1906 San Francisco and even China after the 2019 Shanghai quake. Much like the Panama-Pacific Exposition of 1915, the San Francisco Olympics of 2032 proved to the world that we were back.

25 foot sea level rise in San Francisco. Image: Brian Stokle

Sea levels had only risen eight feet by 2028; thankfully the earthquake hit at low tide. While “new” seawalls and engineered bay marshes kept most of the City safe, the breaches in the Mission Bay and Embarcadero seawalls were some of the most frightening moments of the City’s history. But the Herculean effort of San Francisco Department of Public Works crews and ordinary citizens filling sandbags kept the Muni and Bay Area Rapid Transit tunnels from flooding, and saved the University of California, San Francisco-Mission Bay hospital. Who knew the old Breda light rail cars would prove so useful? And few will forget women in labor being shuttled to the UCSF emergency room in canoes.

01 August 2014

My Parking Dances are Morphing into Uber Confusion

A few days ago, while parking my car on Valencia Street, I was mistaken as an Uber or Lyft car. In those short moments of trying to back into a parking space, I wondered if this was going to happen a lot more often now that taxis don't always look like taxis anymore.

Firstly - I'm neutral on the issue of the 21st Century taxis - the Ubers, Lyft, Sidecar and other taxi-like "rideshare" or "start-up taxi" services. The other night, on a weekday around 10pm, I was doing my "parking dance" (more on that later) looking for a parking space. I found a space in front of The Chapel on Valencia Street - a legitimate parking space that was not a passenger loading zone space that many restaurants and businesses take "control" of during parts of the day. In that short moment when I was stopped, switching from forward into reverse, I was approached by a well dressed 40-something inebriated woman from the curb asking if she and her friends could "get a ride" and "get us out of here".
Image: Jeff Chiu, Associated Press
For the first moment I was confused, wondering why someone was tapping on my car window. I rolled down my passenger window to improve communications. The first gal walked away as her friend (who looked similar enough to be a sister) walked up, somewhat more coherent, asking why I wouldn't let them in.

My reply: "I was trying to park - right here - for the night."

She responded, "That's hilarious." and walked away from the car back to the sidewalk.

All this while I had been blocking either the vehicle traffic lane or the bike lane (I can't remember which). Luckily there was little bike or vehicle traffic, and all of this transpired over 20 seconds.

As I pulled my car into the space I overheard their male seemingly non-drunk friend say something about, "He's not an Uber car."

For full disclosure, I drive a boring looking nearly black Subaru Impreza, which looks similar to a boring looking Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic. I didn't know that it would be mistaken for a web-based start-up rideshare-ish 21st century taxi car. In addition, I have no mustaches on my grill, orange colored rear-view mirrors or a glowing icon on my windshield.

I just wonder how often this is going to happen. I'll keep you posted.

Lastly, is there an app for telling folks that I do not pick up forlks? I didn't think so.

Image: Urban Life Signs

Parking Dance

Every few days I do the parking dance - the dance my family performs to park our car on the street. Here are the moves.

  1. I'm at home with the baby. My wife is about to drive home. 
    1. We don't have a private garage space. We park on the street.
    2. We also don't have a washer/dryer, dishwasher, or good place to park our bikes.
  2. My wife arrives in the neighborhood and looks for parking at 6pm.
  3. After 10 minutes she parks at a nearby hydrant - calls me to do a swap
  4. I come down with the baby - hand it to my wife, and then I get in the car.
  5. I look for parking for 5-25 minutes. I will take any legal space whether metered, loading, or neighborhood on-street space. It's all available after 6pm (except those passenger loading zones in front of restaurants and some music venues.)
  6. Often I park at a place that has street cleaning the next morning. As mentioned earlier this doesn't matter at night so I come home and have dinner with my family.
  7. Since the car is often parked at a 6am street cleaning space, I have to go back out, sometime between 9 and 11pm, and move the car - effectively reparking it. This is better than moving it at 5:45 am when the streets are empty.
  8. Finding a space in the late evening is pretty easy since most folks have left the restaurants so more spaces have opened up in our parking crowded neighborhood.
  9. Repeat the next day my wife drives to work - which could be two days later since she walks 1/2 the time.
If you know of any variants or trick moves that would help make a better dance, please pass them along.

(Regarding the term ridesharing and companies like Uber, Lyft, Sidecar, etc, who am I sharing my ride with? the driver? That either means classic taxis are rideshare since you "share your ride with a taxi driver, or these new services are simply taxi services, but with new operational models using new online tools. Ridesharing is a form of carpooling whether its a vanpool, carpool, or even taxipool, but to me it implicitly means that you're arranging to share a ride with folks to either get to or come from a specific regular location, not a requested A-to-B drive like taxis. Maybe I'm missing something, or folks just haven't come up with a new term, such as "taxi" or "neuvo-cab service".)