Central Subway Milestones
Pagoda Caper, the Capper
May 10, 2013: By now just about everyone knows that the Central Subway is a bad project being promoted for foolish reasons. But with the Pogada Caper, things have descended to a new level of absurdity.
Lee Goodin, the "Cranky Curmudgeon" puts it this way:
Is "The Pagoda Option a newly-discovered Robert Ludlum spy novel? No. It reads more like a harebrained scheme cooked up by Wile E. Coyote (of Road Runner fame)--- elaborate, expensive, and doomed not to work".
The SFMTA (the agency running Muni) would have us believe that spending an extra one hundred million dollars to drill two 2,000 foot long tunnels from Chinatown into North Beach and dig a big hole at the Pagoda site is necessary to recover two tunnel machines worth less than $5 million. Huh? If anyone finds logic here, please let us know.
In fact, if the Pagoda caper is carried out, it would reportedly be the first time that tunnels anywhere in the world have been extended substantially beyond the end of a subway in order to recover used-up tunnel equipment. One might reasonably ask: "Why not avoid the extensions by disassembling the machines at the Chinatown end of the subway and removing them in pieces the way they came in?" Or, "Why not bury them in an out-of-the-way place under Chinatown?"
Over the past 8 months the the SFMTA has repeatedly ducked such questions. Instead it has doggedly continued to promote its North Beach tunnels, despite its own worsening budgetary condition and despite the fact that it's going to cost at least ninety million dollars more to build the Central Subway stations than the SFMTA thought it would.
For this and other reasons the SFMTA now acknowledges the project contingency reserve that was once billed as being $330 million is now mostly gone. The latest figures show the reserve as having plummeted to around
$50 million or 3% the cost of the project...with most of the construction work yet to come.
The danger that the project might go significantly over budget was predicted in a FTA/SFMTA risk management analysis released in March of 2010. That analysis concluded that the project had only a 30% chance of coming in on budget and only an 80% chance of holding the overrun to less than $2 billion. A ultimate price of $2 billion would put the project $422 million over the federally-approved $1.578 billion cost of the project. The Federal Transportation Administration has repeatedly warned San Francisco that if there are overruns the federal government will not participate in paying for them.
This is a risk that should be of great concern to San Francisco officials.
Concluding Note: We have reason to believe that the project may already be over budget. This matter is under investigation. When more information is available it will be provided.
For more about the "North Beach Caper" scroll down.
Charts Showing SFMTA's False Claims
Charts, developed from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency's (SFMTA's) own data, compare Central Subway ridership, costs and trip times. The charts show clearly how the SFMTA was telling the Fed one thing and San Franciscans another.
How Central Subway Was Deceptively sold to Chinatown and the rest of San Francisco
See: Deceptive Marketing
Updated April 28, 2013: The Central Subway project remains vulnerable to litigation.
At least one pending action against the California High Speed Rail Authority would deny the Central Subway project $61.3 million in State Proposition 1A high speed rail funding.
In September 2012 an action was filed by a North Beach resident. In this case the plaintiff charged that the reasons stated in the EIR for pushing the subway 2,000 feet beyond the Chinatown terminal into North Beach were bogus.
Despite its merit, the lawsuit was thrown out on technical grounds.
SaveMuni.com's Union Square Action: A separate action filed by SaveMuni in October challenged the SFMTA's right to extend a Central Subway station into a public park (Union Square), without the approval of the voters, as required under SF City Charter Section 4.113. While this action also showed legal promise, the case was blocked by a City Attorney demurrer upheld by the Superior Court Judge assigned to the case. Because of a lack of funds it was not possible to appeal the ruling.
SaveMuni's North Beach Action: On February 5, 2013, a letter from Lippe Gaffney and Wagner LLP, SaveMuni.com's attorneys, was delivered to the SFMTA. The letter raised substantive concerns and legal objections to the SFMTA's plan to extract its tunnel boring machines (TBM's) at the recently-selected Pagoda Theater site, located on Powell Street near Filbert. For a variety of reasons, including potential geotechnical and ground water problems, potential ground subsidence, threatened historic structures and threatened incursions into public parks, SaveMuni.com believes that before disrupting and otherwise affecting North Beach in order to extract its TBM's, the City should prepare and certify a subsequent or supplemental Environmental Impact Report. The funds needed to pursue this valid case also appear to be lacking.
More about the North Beach Caper
Here are some of the events that have led up to the current debacle.
June 2012: SFMTA announces plans to tear up the heart of North Beach by extending its tunnels 2,000 feet north of the Chinatown terminal station, allegedly because of a need for a suitable site from which to extract two tunnel boring machines (TBM's). This causes a firestorm of opposition from North Beach merchants and residents, furious over the idea of digging a 42 foot deep, 45 by 49 foot hole in the middle of Columbus Avenue.
September, 2012: SFMTA thinks better of the Columbus Avenue idea and instead proposes to pull its TBMs out of the ground at the privately-owned Pagoda Theater site on Powell Street near Filbert. Negotiations with the private property owner ensue.
February 15, 2013: The SFMTA announces that the shift to the Pagoda site would increase the overall cost of the Central Subway project by $9.15 million....money it says it would divert from Muni's already overburdened operating budget. (The cost of the shift has since climbed to $13.7 million and is destined to rise still further). In view of a project contingency reserve that the SFMTA has at various times put between $150 million and $330 million, it is not clear why the cost of the Pagoda shift should come from Muni operating funds rather than Project funds. Here are two possible explanations:
a.) The contingency reserve has already been used up.
b.) The Feds won't play ball because they now realize that extending the tunnels 2,100 feet beyond the Chinatown terminal has nothing to do with TBM extraction and everything to do with someone's dream of a future Phase 3 * extension to Fisherman's Wharf).
* Phase 3 is a fantasy. An extension to Fisherman's Wharf was not described or even mentioned in the Central Subway EIS/EIR. No local, regional, State or federal agency has approved it or provided any funding for it. Since Muni already provides ample bus and rail service to Fisherman's Wharf, there is little reason to give this pet idea precedence over Muni's many other pressing capital needs.
April 28, 2013: As indicated, despite its growing lack of credibility, the SFMTA continues to claim that digging a big hole in North Beach is the only way of recovering its TBM's. If the SFMTA were to "get real", by removing or otherwise disposing of its TBM's in the conventional manner, it could save the project at least eighty million dollars, with absolutely no loss of subway functionality.
As things stand, the SFMTA (aided by the SF Planning Department's bogus EIR Addendum) is poised to push ahead, undermining important environmental safeguards in the process. EIS's and EIR's are supposed to ensure that the environmental impacts of a proposed project are carefully and accurately described and evaluated before construction begins. By proceeding into an unknown, unapproved and unfunded Phase 3, all in the name of TBM extraction, the SFMTA is making a mockery of NEPA and CEQA regulations and guidelines.
Congressman McClintock describes the "Subway to Nowhere"
House Denies Funding to Central Subway:
June 29, 2012: Congressman Tom McClintock's Amendment denying all federal funds to the Central Subway boondoggle passes the U.S. House of Representatives 235 to 186. (The amendment was later sidelined by the Democratically-controlled Senate).
SF Civil Grand Jury slams Central Subway: For Grand Jury Report, see
Wall Street Journal Editorial
Characterizes the Central Subway as "a case study in government incompetence and wasted taxpayer money"
Or read at the Wall Street Journal Online
Sierra Club Comes to Life on the Issue
May 7, 2011: Reversing its previous position of neutrality, the Sierra Club's Bay Chapter calls for all unspent Central Subway funds to be put to better use on other Muni improvement projects. Central_Subway_resolution.pdf
Quentin Kopp Blasts Central Subway
July 16, 2011 and October 23, 2012: Retired Superior Court Judge and former California High Speed Rail Authority Chair Quentin Kopp blasts the project Download and in an Examiner Op Ed piece: "True Facts on the Central Subway"
Aaron Peskin Blasts the Project
August 23, 2011: Former SF Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin announces his strong opposition to the Central Subway, which he notes was sold to him and other supervisors based upon understated costs and overstated ridership. See SF Weekly Article
Jake McGoldrick Blasts the Project
August 18, 2011: Jake McGoldrick, former Chair, SF County Transportation Authority, comes out swinging against the project, which he also characterizes as having been sold on false pretenses. See SF Chronicle Op Ed piece
Mayoral Candidate Dennis Herrera's Statement
September 9, 2011: In a well-researched 9-page analysis, San Francisco City Attorney and Mayoral candidate Dennis Herrera comes out strongly against the Central Subway. See: Herrera2011.pdf
Dr. Robert Feinbaum's KQED Radio Statement
Listen to on KQED Radio
SF Weekly Nails the Problem
Bay Guardian Details the Taudry Political Process that leads to Debacles like the Central Subway
Stockton Street Surface Improvement Plan
Cal Watchdog Weighs In
July 22,2011: Cal Watchdog digs into the Central Subway mess.
SaveMuni.com White Paper on the Central Subway
Click on 2010 Milestones
For additional information about the Central Subway see "More Central Subway Facts" on this Home Page and/or click on "Central Subway - Background".
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At Muni, it's a Time for Action
A Postive Development
May 11, 2013: The red Muni-only lanes painted on
Church Street seem to be working. The J-Church and
22 trolley bus lines are getting through the congested
16th to Duboce section of Church Street a little faster
than before. Enforcement remains spotty and remains
a weak link in the program. However this
improvement is positive. Innovative and relatively
inexpensive improvements of this type are what will
start to bring Muni up to standard.
Proposals for Improving Muni
May 20, 2013: Last Summer, SaveMuni hosted a Transportation Forum to develop ideas for improving Muni. As a result of the Forum a large number of suggestions and proposals evolved. They have now extensively discussed and analyzed. Here is a summary. Additional comments and suggestions welcome. Please send them to any or all of SaveMuni’s contacts:
Howard Wong: firstname.lastname@example.org
Joan Wood: email@example.com
Howard Strassner: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jerry Cauthen: email@example.com
Bob Feinbaum: firstname.lastname@example.org
Maintenance 1: Create a special reserve fund to replace worn out transit vehicles and other equipment on a timely basis.
Maintenance 2: Provide and budget for an orderly means of ensuring consistently good maintenance and repair of all vehicles at all times.
Capital Improvements 1: Before pursuing any new capital project, determine both its cost effectiveness and its effect on Muni’s annual operating and maintenance budget. Publish these figures.
Capital Improvements 2: Before pursuing any new capital project, conduct and publicize a bona fide Alternative Analysis inclusive of all potentially viable alternatives.
Operations 1: Deploy at least 50 line supervisors to help maintain regular service and respond to driver problems.
Operations 2: Increase the use of bulb outs to support easier access to transit vehicles.
Operations 3: Put an in-house MTA team to work identifying and where possible eliminating the obstacles along Muni’s 75 existing lines that prevent the MTA from providing consistently good Muni service.
Operations 4: Publish a one-page schedule showing the approximate frequencies of every line during different hours of the day.
Operations 5: Publish a one-page schedule identifying every timed transfer.
Operations 6: Charge an in-house MTA team with making Muni transfers as convenient for riders as possible. In particular this should include much greater use of the timed transfers.
Traffic Laws: Amend existing city and state traffic laws so as to require automobiles to yield to busses pulling away from stops.
Traffic Management 1: Transit vehicles operating on congested streets should run in transit-only lanes during at least the morning commute periods. The laws governing the use of transit-only lanes should be strictly enforced. Congestion pricing should be enacted within San Francisco as necessary to ensure the efficient flow of public transit vehicles at all times.
Traffic Management 2: Work closely with the surrounding counties to significantly reduce the flow of automobiles traveling back and forth across the San Mateo County/San Francisco county line and across the bridges. High priority steps to take:
a.) Increase transbay rail carrying-capacity.
b.) Extend Caltrain to the Transbay Transit Center.
c.) Improve the routing of commuter buses in SF.
d.) Grant commuter buses full access to transit-only lanes.
e.) Once these programs are underway, work with other
counties to enact congestion management fees sufficient to
limit traffic congestion. All funds raised in a given county
should be used to improve public transit services within that
Restructuring the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency: Various approaches are under discussion.
Inter-agency Coordination: There should be close and continuous cooperation between the MTA and other Bay Area transit operators with respect to routing, scheduling, maintenance, vehicle storage, transfer stops, transit information, maps and marketing.
San Francisco Relies on Muni
Unlike an outlying suburban area, San Francisco is a
densely built-up city requiring a highly efficient public
transit system. When Muni falters, the lives of its 700,000
daily riders and 60,000 reliant small businesses are
Because of its fiscal and operational problems, Muni is
currently unable to provide an adequate amount of reliable
service to the riders of its 70 existing bus and rail lines.
Unless something changes, beleagured Muni riders can
look forward to nothing but more cuts in service, more
attempts to raise fares and a system continually plagued
by poor maintenance, inadequate reliability and
Given these factors, there is an immediate need to
change the SFMTA's current way of doing things.
Needed are operations and maintenance
improvements, working rule changes and capital
1.) Improvements: There are literally dozens of ways of improving service and therefore attracting new fare-paying riders without signficantly raising costs. Many good improvement ideas evolved from SaveMuni's March 6, 2010 Transportation Summit and August 18, 2012 Muni Transportation Forum. For more information on this subject, click on "Muni Improvement Proposals".
3.) Capital Priority Adjustments: It's of critical importance that SFMTA's capital improvement priorities are well thought out. This is especially so in these times of scarce resources.
The current situation at the SFMTA is not reassuring. Six hundred and thirty-eight million dollars in local and State funds that could have been used to improve Muni are in the process of being squandered on a short Central Subway of marginal usefulness. And now SPUR (the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association) is unaccountably pushing to divert another $1.5 billion or so of needed local and State funds to build a costly and unnecessary Phase 3 extension of the Central Subway from Chinatown to Fisherman's Wharf.
Why a subway to Fisherman's Wharf? After all, one can already get there via the F-Line, the Powell Street cable car line and four separate bus lines. To anyone who has watched the Central Subway debacle unfold, the reason behind the push for this Phase 3 extension is not hard to fathom. SPUR and other Central Subway promoters know that because of its high operating costs and low projected ridership, the Phase 2 Chinatown subway is going to be a turkey. In fact, when one adds the strikingly low ridership of the Phase 1 Third Street light rail line to the Phase 2 problems, it gets downright embarrassing. The promoters presumably hope that by adding a Phase 3 to the mix, they can divert attention from the from the failures of Phases 1 and 2. And this would be fine....except for the fact that it would further delay action on dozens of more important Muni improvement projects badly needed throughout San Francisco.
Sufficient funds to pay for needed Muni improvements are available. But only with fiscal discipline, smart planning and careful priority-setting. To bring Muni up to standard, the SFMTA must stop letting its capital and operating funds get siphoned off to wasteful, ill-conceived pet projects.
Reversing Muni's Downward Death Spiral
SaveMuni is among the San Francisco organizations dedicated to reversing the downward spiral of San Francisco's vitally important public transit system. We believe that Muni's problems have been caused partly by the down economy, partly by SFMTA's failure to properly manage Muni's 70 existing bus and rail lines, and partly by the unwise diversion of money and key staff to glitzy but ill-conceived projects like the Central Subway. Bringing Muni up to standard will require, first and foremost, that much more attention be paid to tending to and improving service along Muni's 70 existing bus and rail lines.
For information about SaveMuni, click on: About SaveMuni.com
More facts about the Central Subway:
It Disconnects from the Rest of Muni
Market Street Disconnect: From the Union Square Station, Central Subway riders attempting to reach a Market Street subway train would be obliged to travel on foot the distance of 4 football fields placed end to end to make their connections.
Rail Disconnect: The Central Subway would disconnect Muni's light rail T-Line riders from the the baseball park, the future basketball pavillon, the Embarcadero, the Ferry Building, the Market Street subway stations, Muni Metro, BART, the ferries, the Transbay Terminal and the future high-speed trains. Instead they would be routed to the upscale Union Square shopping center and the southerly third of Chinatown.
Bus Disconnects: Today's Stockton bus riders can easily transfer to Muni LRV lines J, K, L, N, M, F and T and to Muni east-west bus lines 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 9, 9L, 10, 12, 14, 14L, 14x, 21, 31, 71, 71L and 76. With the Central Subway, connections to every one of these 24 east-west Muni lines, as well as to four BART lines and the Mission Street SamTrans buses would be substantially less convenient from the subway than from buses currently operating on Stockton Street. In addition, most Central Subway riders would experience longer total trip times via subway than via today's those same Stockton Street buses.
Service Disconnect: To help pay for the subway, the SFMTA plans to cut service on the 30 and 45 trolley bus lines by 50%.
It Fails to Serve Anyone Much North of Jackson Street
Because the Central Subway stops at the Washington Street terminal and because it does nothing to accommodate the outlying riders of the 8x, 30 and 45 bus lines, it fails to serve Cow Hollow, the Presidio, the Marina, Buena Vista, Fort Mason, Russian Hill, Polk Gulch, Telegraph Hill, North Beach and the northern two-thirds of Chinatown.
It misses 25 of its 30 East-West Transit Connections
Two poorly-located stations and two missing stations combine to cause the Central Subway to miss connections with 25 of the 30 east-west Muni lines it crosses. Because of the much longer resulting transfer walks, most riders from the Richmond, Sunset, Castro, Twin Peaks, Presidio Heights, Pacific Heights, Nob Hill, Hayes Valley, Haight-Ashbury, Western Addition, Forest Hill, OMI, and Mission neighborhoods will therefore find the Central Subway to be significantly less convenient than today's Stockton Street buses. Buses whose effectiveness could be substantially improved at moderate cost.
Its Future Carrying Capacity is Limited
To save money, the LRV platforms were reduced to two-car lengths (potentially expandable to three). Short platforms serve only short trains, ruling out a higher capacity operation in the future.
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