Author of Blog: Daniel Day
New Post once a month.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Streetcar Part III, No Need for Streetcars Down Broadway.

Sorry for the wait, but as usual my life has been busy.  Since I got a new job and my hours have change, I'll be changing the publishing day to Monday or Tuesday every week and I'm still committed to publishing every week.

Also, I'll be creating two new pages, one, of important meetings that cyclist or concern citizens should attend to make San Antonio a real place, and two, one of bicycling related events that are taking place in San Antonio.  

Streetcar Part III, No Need for Streetcars Down Broadway.

Now lets get one thing strait, I was a streetcar supporter.  Why you ask, because even this slow, lousy system would be a plus to our transit system that sucks. It would have gotten some political supporters that "choice users" bring to the transit discussion that San Antonio currently lacks, and most of all, I wouldn't have to worry about a bike rack being full especially on a rainy day for I would be able to take my bicycle aboard and not just the minimum three allowed and most of all, maybe a chance to actually get a protected bike lane on Broadway.  I also felt that this was a scheme in Via's long range plan from the former CEO, Keith Parker, now in charge of Atlanta, GA MARTA in which he said, that once you build it, the people are going to change their tune from the current "rail sucks" to "when are you going to bring it to my neighborhood."  I felt that after they build it, they would have eventually either expanded the system to include more of the city like out to Loop 410 with faster speeds, or put light rail back on the ballot like back in 2000.

The more and more I heard about the development results of the streetcar, the more I felt that the goal of the Streetcar was based on the McKinney Ave Streetcar (Image 19-1, 19-2) in the Uptown neighborhood in Dallas which to me seems to be a place a lot like La Cantera. It was the dream of Mayor Hardberger to connect the Pearl with the rest of Downtown and the streetcar would have done that.

Back in September 2013, I went to Dallas to see the new transit service to the largest city that lacks transit service, Arlington, TX; although, what I found was disappointing, I also wanted to ride with the Dallas Critical Mass to get their opinion on how they deal with McKinney Ave Streetcar tracks for which they said they treat it like any other street with lots of pot holes.

That night as we rode, they took me to a place called the Truck Yard just off of Greenville Ave, and there I discovered a place that was the pinnacle of what good urbanism brings out, a First Friday every night, or at least every weekend.  For those of you who don't know what First Friday is, well think of the Pearl Farmers Market is every Saturday morning.  It was after that that I finally realize that we don't really need a streetcar to achieve development goal of what the Streetcar promised,(Image 19-3) but what we really need to do is create the foundation of a neighborhood that creates the conditions that makes a really happening place.

To create that foundation of development that was sought with the Streetcar, we need to fix the problem that is currently found on Broadway or for that matter, the entire downtown where the Streetcar was planned to travel down.

Before the big sidewalks were added, Greenville was much like Broadway is currently. A stroad with fast moving, many lanes of traffic and nothing happening along it.  Today, Greenville Ave is a place is much like South Alamo but with super size sidewalks.  Even though S Alamo lacks the big sidewalks, the concept is virtually the same, two lanes of slow moving traffic with sidewalks protected by plants or parked vehicles, and a community that is allowed to reinvent itself.  Broadway is the opposite of that with fast moving cars, multiple lanes of traffic and tiny sidewalks with no protection from traffic full of obstacles like this bus stop at Fourth and Broadway.(Image 19-4)  It's a Stroad in every sense, every space for cars, not much for anything else. We also need to fix the zoning when it comes to new development and make it more flexible, such as no parking minimums with new development.  


You can tell just by looking at the area around Greenville Ave that it's a happening place and not just by the dancing frogs on top of the Taco Cabana.(Image 19-5)  The sidewalks that are here use to be vehicle lanes (Image 19-6) and because there's a space for parking the cars along the street, it provides that barrier between the moving vehicle traffic and the pedestrian activity.  Here's my 6 minute video of the place across the street from the Trader Joes.  In this video you'll see what is making Greenville Ave a great place and what is missing from Broadway, Slow moving Traffic and good sidewalks.  

For this purpose, I'm only going to focus on Broadway and not other stroads that the Streetcar would have went down.  Now the Streetcar was planning to go as far north as Josephine St, but for our purposes, we can actually include the part of Broadway as far north as Hildebrand due to the fact that my fixes won't cost $270 million and the fact that the stroad scape is the same.  I've divided Broadway into three parts, (Image 19-7) the first part is the Broadway that has 7 lanes, 6 travel and one center turn lane is the Midtown Section.  The part goes underneath the freeway I call the 281 section, and finally, the Downtown Section from Jones to Martin, where we have useless sharrows, narrow sidewalks and to the rest of the general public, abandon buildings.  (Image 19-22)

Also for the examples, I'll be using cross sections illustrations like the one below which is how Broadway is pretty much designed today.(Image 19-8) All cross sections illustrations will face north and all lanes have been measured by me on the actual stroad in this case, Broadway. Through these cross section illustrations, I'll be demonstrating the possibilities for Broadway and use this same form for other stroads in future posts.  In this cross section illustration(Image 19-8) you see the term "bus lane."  For our purposes, this is a regular drive lane where you're most likely to see the bus traveling in.

Midtown Section

The Midtown section starts from Hildebrand Rd and goes to Casa Blanca.  I written about this section before in other blogs such as Two accidents that didn't need to happen, and #sasidewalkssuck. Here you have 1 center turn lane, and 6 drive lanes.  Much of the 5ft sidewalks in this section live up to the hashtag #sasidewalkssuck.  The Streetcar would have made the sidewalks wider along this part of Broadway, at least to Josephine, and perhaps added some parking in what is now that right 10ft lane. To improve Broadway, the cheapest thing we could do to improve this stroad is to turn that right 10ft drive lane into a buffered bike lane or a protected bike lane by poles. (Image 19-9)  By doing this we make it feel a little safer to walk and bicycle along by removing the fast moving traffic that is now next to the sidewalk.


The Problem with this design comes when we get to the bus stop.  You see, currently if a Via bus wishes to stop along Broadway with the Cheapest concept in place, it will have to invade the buffered bike lane.  So lets add a small bus stop island (Image 19-10) so the cyclist can keep cycling and the bus can stop without having to worry about running over a cyclist. 

But lets face it, if we are to really improve Broadway, the way the streetcar would have done, we're going to have to remove that center turn lane and put down some on street parking.  Here (Image 19-11) is what the city should be proposing to this part of Broadway.  I call this the "Ideally Concept" where I reduce the number of drive lanes from Current (Image 19-8) six lanes to four lanes.  I remove the center turn lane and put that space for parking on the west side of Broadway and made the sidewalks bigger.  Now remember, your always looking north on my cross sections illustrations and the reason why I put the parking on the west side, (the Witte Museum side) is because that's the side on which you'll find Brackenridge Park and businesses without on street parking for the most part.  I did my measurements for the Midtown Section in front of the Tuk Tuk Taproom, so all measurements are to that area, however, the Right Of Way, that's the Government property part of Broadway, gets a little bit bigger as you go further north so these things could be widen a bit.   
 Now to put in the bus stops with the "Ideally Concept," I put in two different versions.  On the west side of Broadway, we remove the parking lane and put in a bus stop island with Shelter.  (Image 19-12)  For the east side, since the bus stops aren't as big like the current bus stop at Lions Field park, I've decided to go  with the bus stop island being about 4ft wide.(Image 19-13)  This way, no matter what side your on, you'll always have a protected bike lane without having to worry about a bus making a stop in the bike lane.


Now Traffic flow is important for this Stroad is a major thoroughfare.  But we need less of the stroad and more of a famed Boulevard (BLVD) design.  So reducing the number of driving lanes from six to four, we reduces the current scene of cars trying to out run each other.   By reducing the travel lanes from 6 to 4 and removing the center turn lane, we also reduce the amount of distance a person on foot has to cover when they do cross Broadway from 74ft (Image 19-8) to 44ft (Image 19-12).  And with the protected bike lanes, we create a safe place for both person on foot and on bike.

281 Section
 This section as indicated in Image 19-7, is between Casa Blanca and Jones.  It's also the section underneath the interchange of I-37/US 281and I-35.  In this section, (Image 19-14) you currently have a 5ft bike lane, four 11ft drive lanes and one 10ft center turn lane.  Not much improvement needs to be done to this section, for the 5ft bicycle lanes does provide some type of barrier between the traffic and the sidewalk.  We could use some wider sidewalks, but as a cyclist, I don't want to give up on my bike lanes.  So to do this, we need to remove that 10ft center turn lane and put that 10 ft to the sidewalks and a barrier to make a protected bike lane.  We can also put in some Bus Stop Islands with out having to reduce the driving lane width and not having to reduce the walkability.

Now We've done our improvements to this Section to the street scape, we now have to figure out how to use all this green space underneath the bridges.  Has anyone ever thought as this space as a city park?  Up until about mid August 2014, there was a small pond that formed underneath one of the bridges (Images 19-17, 19-18) and across the stroad, you'll see a dog park (Image 19-16).  Here's my question, why can't we have a bigger dog park that  takes advantage of the shade that this exit ramp from I-35N to I-37S  bridge produces? And this rain water created pond, back in June and July, I saw several species of birds including a pair of Black Belly Whistling ducks with a family of duckings as well as a Green Heron gorging on tadpoles, and other bug aquatic life. (Image 19-17).  Currently the pond has dried up, but given another big rainstorm, it will be back.


City Parks and open space for that matter has been known for years helps with making people happier and healthier.  It's that touch of nature that makes city living better.  When we lack green spaces in the form of city parks, gardens and trails, we make our communities just a little bit of a dimmer place to be in and take it from me, San Antonio lacks a lot of parks for people to play and relax in. 

Downtown Section

 This is where the Streetcar would have served the entire section.  It is also the section where even though we are pretty much in downtown, we have a bunch of abandoned buildings, or at lest to the general public, they are abandoned.(Image 19-21)  It's also the section where we would have seen most of the development that the streetcar promised to delivered.(Image 19-3)  But look at what is wrong with it right now, you have an abandoned street scape with narrow sidewalks, useless sharrows (Image 19-22) with places that nobody goes to unless they work there. It's pretty much a dump even though it's like two blocks from the Riverwalk Museum Reach. Now the cheapest thing we could do to improve this section of Broadway is to remove that god awful 16ft lane with the useless sharrow/parking lane (Image 19-20) and bring back the bicycle lane, but that would make it somewhat safer for us cyclist, but that's it. (Image 19-23) And this stretch of Broadway use to have bike lanes, but somebody thought that parking was more valuable, but go there on any day of the week, and tell me, who in the hell is parking on Broadway because for the most part, I barely see two vehicles, maybe three.  If Spock from Star Trek said that "the needs of the many, outweigh the needs, of the few," wouldn't a painted bike lanes serve more people instead of just three or four individuals with parking spaces for a car?
Now I don't know what the street scape was going to look like with a streetcar, but my general feeling it would have looked something like this, with improved wider sidewalks.(Image 19-23)

Now we just don't need Improved sidewalks, we also need a zoning ordinances that will encourage the type of development that the streetcar would have brought, but before we play with the zoning ordinances, we need to make it a more comfortable place to be walking. 

We have 76ft to play with, and we could do a whole bunch of designs, but this is where I cannot decide what is the best choice for the Downtown Section of Broadway.  So the question should be asked, do you want Broadway to have flowing traffic, or do you want it to be like Greenville Ave in Dallas?  You have to remember, Broadway is one of those important corridors for the city for it is sandwich between a freeway, and a military base.  Now in all of my Cross Sections, I have a protected bicycle lane and that's simply because protected bike lanes bring out cyclist and reduce injury risk by 90% and from my experience of riding the one in Austin on Guadalupe St, it's way nicer than riding in traffic with useless sharrows.

The reason why they took out those bike lane in the first place back in 2011, was because there was no on street parking.  Well if parking is really that necessary, then this is how The Downtown Section of Broadway should be designed.  It should be designed with a Center Turn lane, two drive lanes and two parking lanes on both sides, but this design keeps the sidewalks living up to the hashtag #sasidewalkssuck.

Now here's the question, do we need parking for both sides of Broadway?  If we do, then the concept you see above (Image 19-25) is what we're going to get, but if we want wider sidewalks and keep the traffic flowing, we're going to need to keep the center turn lane, and we're going to need to remove a parking lane from one side of the street.  The question is, which side should that be on?  For my suggestion, lets put it on the east side of Broadway and add that space that we've taken away from the parking, to the bike lanes and sidewalks.  And because we've added space to the sidewalks, lets plant some trees which are lacking right now on this part of Broadway.(Image 19-26)
For the Bus stops, let's add the 4 ft bus stop islands on either side, only this time when we put it on the east side, we put the bus parking place where the parking lane is.  On the West side, I simply added a bus stop island allowing for vehicles to pass in the center turn lane like they do currently on S Flores where the city council voted to remove the lanes.(Image 19-27)  We don't want to switch the traffic lanes from one side to the other block by block for that would create some confusion on where to drive and it will create some bad politics that we've experience like before with S Flores.

I've just showed you how we could improve Broadway with simply changes the way we lay out the street design for Broadway.  Now remember, this isn't enough, we also have to change the zoning ordinances so we can allow the development to come from the ground up and we also have to leave room for traffic flow.  This is possible, but as long as we have an unwillingness to allow transformation, slowing down vehicle speeds, and putting people on foot and bicycles first over personal motor vehicles, we'll never see a great place that could be Broadway.

19-1:  McKinney Ave Streetcar Stop in front of the Starbucks at 3699 McKinney Ave looking Southeast
19-2:  McKinney Ave Streetcar Cityplace Station looking west.
19-3:  Via Metropolitan Transit Streetcar advertisement claiming about the streetcar developments it would have brought to Downtown.
19-4:  Via Metropolitan Transit Bus Stop at the corner of Broadway and Fourth looking north. 
19-5: The Taco Cabana at 1827 Greenville Ave, Dallas Texas looking South
19-6:  The View of the large Sidewalks on Greenville Ave at Prospect Ave looking south.  
19-7:  Google Satellite View of Broadway with illustrations showing the different sections of Broadway.
19-8:  Cross Section Illustration viewing North on Broadway that is between Casa Blanca and Hildebrand
19-9:   Cross Section Illustration viewing North on Broadway having the right drive lane turned into a buffered bicycle lane (Right) or a protected bike lane (Left)
19-10:  Cross Section Illustration viewing North on Broadway with a bus stop island being placed over the Buffered Bicycle lane. 
19-11:  Cross Section Illustration Viewing North on Broadway.  The Ideally Concept with 4 lanes of traffic, 1 parking lane, two 6ft protected bicycle lane and 7 1/2 ft of sidewalks on either side.
19-12:  Cross Section Illustration Viewing North on Broadway.  The Ideally Concept with the Bus stop island on the west side of Broadway.
19-13:  Cross Section Illustration Viewing North on Broadway.  The Ideally Concept with the bus stop on the East Side of Broadway.
19-14:  Cross Section Illustration Viewing North on Broadway that is between Casa Blanca and Jones.
19-15:  Cross Section Illustration Viewing North on Broadway.  The Ideally Concept with Protected bicycle lanes and bus stop islands. 
19-16:  The Dog Park at the corner of Broadway and Roy Smith St looking Northwest. 
19-17:  The Pond During July underneath the bridge with a family of Black Bellied Whistling Ducks and a Green Heron.  Viewed from Broadway eastward.
19-18:  The Pond At around August 10, 2014.  Viewed from Broadway eastward.
19-19:  3 Cyclist riding southbound in the bike lane on Broadway underneath 281 looking North.
19-20:  Cross Section Illustration Viewing North on Broadway between Martin St and Jones.
19-21:  Picture of one of the buildings that looks abandoned at the corner of 6th and Broadway looking West.
19-22:  Picture of one of the Sharrows on Broadway in front of the DPT parking garage viewing North
19-23:  Cross Section Illustration Viewing North on Broadway between Martin and Jones.  My ideal concept on how Broadway would have looked if it added Modern Rail Streetcars.
19-24:  A map of San Antonio illustrating how because of Fort Sam Houston and US 281, how Broadway is a "funnel" for traffic into downtown.
19-25:  Cross Section Illustration Viewing North on Broadway Between Martin and Jones on how it would look if they removed the 16 ft right lane and turn it into a parking lane with a protected bicycle lane.
19-26:  Cross Section Illustration Viewing North on Broadway Between Martin and Jones on the "Ideally Concept" would look like
19-27:  Cross Section Illustration Viewing North on Broadway Between Marin and Jones on the "Ideally Concept" would look like with bus stops islands at either side of Broadway.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Streetcar Part II: Buses aren't Better than Rail

Sorry for not getting this out last week but life got in the way. 

During this entire debate about the streetcar, I've constantly heard that buses were better choice.  I don't know why San Antonio thinks that buses are better than rail, but they do at the detriment to the city's transportation system. Yet when I'm in Dallas or any other city with passenger rail, I stick to that passenger rail system because it is easier to use, because the ride is smoother, there's hardly ever any delays and I don't get lost. Yet we here in San Antonio believe that rail is worse just because we're simply told so.

When you ride the bus like I do every day, you get use to the bumpy ride, the wheelchairs taking forever to board, and mothers struggling to fold strollers.  We take this for granted and we're told by the same anti rail people to SUCK it up and deal with it. Yet when I ride the rail in other cities, I don't see mothers folding their strollers, wheelchairs taking 5 minutes to board or worse yet, dealing with a full bicycle rack, so how are buses better than rail?  Explain to me why in this video it is taking this lady in a wheelchair two minutes to board and get strapped in while boarding the bus while the guy in the wheelchair is taking what, less than a second to board the light rail train. and the rest of the time positioning the chair into the wheelchair parking space.

The argument brought forth every time that buses are better than rail because buses are flexible, they can go everywhere and that's true, but that is also the biggest weakness to buses success and it's flexibility is used against the hostage users every time causing less ridership and more car dependence.  If our highway system were as flexible as we are with the routing of buses, then we would be against having highways in the first place.  They would be untrusted, have a sense of utter Confusion and lack of dependability.  So lets apply the same rule that makes buses so great, the flexibility to the highways of San Antonio.  Below are a series of maps of the highway system in San Antonio, TX.  On the first Image, you see what is the normal system of highways,  I-10 going Northwest and then east, I-35 going from the Northeast to the Southwest, and Loop 410 going around San Antonio as well as US 90, US 281, and I-37.(Image 18-1)  Now if our highways acted like a bus system, they would probably look like this today (Image18-2)   And even worse, the routes numbers would be like this over that same map.(Image 18-3)




Now apply this same concept to the routing of our bus system.  Every time we reroute a bus because of (construction, low ridership, lack of resources, ect) we lose riders, because of that constant rerouteing or cancellation of routes, we in essence creates a sense of utter confusion and lack of dependability yet we are led to believe that buses are better because of their flexibility. This is what is keeping the Choice Users off the bus because there's a constant confusion on where the bus is going.  Because of the bus flexibility, people have a hard time understanding how to use the bus system.

From my daily observation, I constantly see people boarding the bus and bitching to the bus driver which by default, doesn't know the whole system, that they're lost.  It is not uncommon for me to overheard people asking others about the 75 and the 76, bus routes because even today hostage users don't understand that the 75 makes stops every 2 blocks while the 76 is a skip stop bus and makes stops roughly at major destinations.  What people need to understand that it takes a certain type of skill to use a bus system.  It requires the user to remember what bus route goes where and when.  If you don't have this skill, you'll end up boarding the wrong bus and being late to an appointment.  What people need to understand that the skills required to use a bus system is the knowledge of how to read a map, how to read a bus schedule, and where the buses are going on that map.  And since most people have a hard time reading a map in the first place and the bus drivers don't know the entire system by heart, it is no wonder why people opt out of riding the buses in the first place.  Now added to the ability to change bus route on a dime, thus making using the bus system very frustrating thing to use.

We see this frustration reflected in our pop culture which consider the bus a disgusting thing to ride.  When songs are written about buses, they're describing a horrible experience like Weird Al Yankovich "Another one rides the bus," or the bus in the opening of the music video "Welcome to the Jungle" by Guns N'Roses..  And because of this constant negative experience, even the kindergarten song "The Wheels on the bus goes round and round," mentions a crying baby, yet we're told over and over again that buses are better than rail.

Some of our car commercials reflect also reflect buses in a negative light as well.  For example, the recent Drive Time commercial has the rescue of the hostage user by getting him off the bus and into a car.  Others like this Bar NONE commercial has the hostage user being approved at the bus stop while at the same time you hear how bad the bus are.  It continues like this other one from Car Loan Pal shows the sorry state of affairs of not having a car and being a hostage user, a person who is stuck riding the bus.  But I guess this car commercial tells it like it is from Cars 2 GO saying you 'better not pick up any bitches at the bus stop' and yet we're told over and over again that buses are better than rail.

Passenger trains however are treated differently in our pop culture for it's not just the fact that trains have been around a lot longer, but when the passenger trains are portrayed in music, they are put in a positive light.  From the old blues song about "Rock Island Road" by LeadBelly, to modern day rock videos like Howie Day's "Collide," there's no shortage of the praise for the train; from Luther Vandros, R.E.M, Aerosmith (1:52), Cyndi Lauper (4:21).  I can go on and on, but I guess Enya takes the cake as it for she's not singing about Buses and Winter Rain, she's singing "Trains and Winter Rains.  If buses are better than rail and were the preferred way to travel, then why is Enya on her way home riding the train?   Yet we're told over and over again that buses are better than rail.

I'm not finish yet for the heavy metal band It's Casual sang a song about Los Angeles's Subway, "The Red Line."  This guy isn't banging to riding the bus, he's celebrating the subway.  And lets face it, even our lousy governor Rick Perry has gotten into the act of supporting the evil communist train in Dallas, for just recently he made this statement celebrating the recent connection of the Orange Line to DFW Airport.  Yet we're told over and over again that buses are better than rail.

I don't know about you, but if the best thing about buses is that there flexible, and yet they're uncomfortable, bumpy and take a utter long time to put wheelchairs and bicycles on board, then why are they so great?  If San Antonio wants to have a dependable public transportation system, we are going to need to invest in passenger rail infrastructure, light rail or otherwise.  Bus have there use, but not for the mass movement of people.  They have their limits, not just in the passenger capacity, but in utter dependability.  This is the main reason why GM brought out all those streetcar systems in the early 20th century and  San Antonio wasn't immune to this for by 1932, the rail was gone.

If San Antonio is to have a good public transportation system, it will eventually have to adopt rail as a mode of travel.  The Streetcar, would have provided this only in the downtown area, but we're going to need a system that serves all of San Antonio's 535 square miles if it going to be effective.  And yet as you read this now, next week, you be reading how we don't need a streetcar to have a great city.  That's because even though more people would have used it, the goal of the Streetcar wasn't to improve transportation but to increase downtown development.  This is something San Antonio doesn't wish, for it wishes for the speed of a Subway, not the slowness of a Streetcar. 

18-1 thru 18-3:  used original image from http://mobility.tamu.edu/mip/img/san_antonio-map600.png  and photo shop the rest. 

 Up Coming Important Meetings
If you want to make a difference, please attend.

Lee's Creek, Joe Ward and Sunset Hills Parks Plan Review Public Meeting
When:  Wednesday, August 20, 2014 6:00 PM
Where:  Joe Ward Community Center,  435 E. Sunshine, San Antonio, TX 78228
What Should You Ask For:  The thing to ask for at this meeting are good sidewalks,  20 mile per hour speed limits and safe ways to get to the park down Hillcrest and St Cloud such as bike lanes down those stroads.  

When:   Saturday, August 28, 2014, 9AM-12PM
Where:  Christopher Columbus Italian Society 201 Piazza Italia.
Bexar County and San Antonio River Authority, in cooperation with the City of San Antonio, will host a public workshop seeking input on concept designs for the San Pedro Creek Improvements Project.  The project will focus on flood mitigation, the revitalization of natural habitats, water quality, and recreational and economic opportunities.
What Should you say:  Ask that safe routes for bicycles be included on the streets such as bike lanes, Protected bike lanes, cycletracks, and good sidewalks to and from the creek to safely connect neighborhoods. Ask that NACTO (National Association of City Transportation Officials) standards be applied to these improvements. 

Up Coming Bicycle Events

Glow Roll SA 
When:   Saturday, August 28, 2014
Where:  Travis Park, 301 E Travis
Every 4th Saturday!
3p-9p: Amor y Arte Travis Park
5p-6p: NYA
5p-9p: Shop & Eat, artisans from SA Made by Hand Mercado
6p-8:30: Live Dance Routines/Instruction
6p-8:45: Bike Decorating with The KickStand SA
9p: Wheels Down (*ride thru Downtown SA & return back to Travis Park)

Andy's Bike Garage will be on hand for bike service & bike accessories!
Come light up the night on your bikes & take a social ride with us through Downtown SA!! Glow Sticks provided, limited supplies while they last!  Or go to the DollarTree and buy them. ;)

 Cycle In-Cinema .  
When:   Every Thursday, June-August at Dusk, 8:45pm
Where:  Main Plaza, 115 N Main Ave, 78205
Description:  Out Door Movie.  

When:  Sunday Sept 28, 2014 10AM to 3PM
Where: Broadway downtown
Description:  Where San Antonio returns the streets back to the  people for a few hours.  Really a great event.  More info at http://www.ymcasatx.org/siclovia

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Streetcar Part I, VIA Sucks.

Via isn't the most popular at all, so it comes to no surprise that once again, San Antonio said no to the streetcar.  Yet the reason for that is simple, we don't trust Via to do the right thing and they do things that just suck.

On Thursday, July 24, a picture popped up in my Facebook feed of a Bus that crashed into a house.  I heard about an accident on Ceralvo and naturally I knew it had to be the 66.  But I wasn't aware of the bus actually running into the house until my friend posted a picture on a friend selfie waiting for the 100 at Crossroads.  When I saw this picture, I realize this is the best representation of the long history this city has had with the transit agency.  A Bus crashing into a house because of the idiot car and SUV driver from San Antonio causing the problems we face daily. (Image 17-1)
It was the car that didn't see a stop sign and plowed into a SUV and then hit a bus barreling on by.  To me, the car represented all those who think the solution to public transportation is everyone owning a  car, which was more concerned with driving and making sure everyone else in San Antonio drives.  It hits an SUV which represented ignorance of transportation issues and how it effects his life.  Since the SUV is a driver himself in turn reacted with the drivers ideals and push forth the removal of the alternative transportation thus making Via seem like the villain.  This picture is a metaphor representing San Antonio's feeling towards Via and alternative transportation in general and the result you see is the reaction of the supporters of those choosing those alternatives.  If the transportation choice ain't for cars, then my golly it sucks.  And lets face it, Cyclist, Pedestrians, and Transit users are treated badly in the Alamo City. 

The Average San Antonion feels that Via sucks overall.  Even though some improvements have come, it's still sucks to wait outside in the afternoon sun or during a downpour waiting for a bus.  Riding it also sucks, I can drive far faster to my destination than a Via bus getting me there on a toilet seat. And worse of all, the lineup didn't make a stop at the bus stop for which I rang the bell, but the kept on driving letting me off a mile away from the bus I needed to get off at.  That's how many feel about Via, a system that sucks, that when they finally get a car, they're glad they ditch it.

Now I'm a supporter of Via overall.  I, unlike the rest of San Antonio, understand that Via is constrained by laws, budget woes, and a city not built with a street grid in mind.  But like the bus crashing into the house, Via, even you make me wonder sometimes why the fuck am I stick my neck out for you.  You see, a week ago or so, I saw this on my twitter feed (Image 17-2) of Via asking people how could you get people to ride who normally don't ride?  In the transit world, these customers are called "choice users"  and when you  have a high number of these type of user using your transit system, then your doing something right.  Via has a low number of these users because well, they suck. The users that are force to use public transit is something I dubbed "hostage users."  Either you ride Via, or you stay at home, that's what it's like being a hostage user and I've been one most of my life. 

We'll here's my advice, and just like the advice I've given in my last posting on Hemisfair, these solutions don't cost a lot of money and here they are....

1. Put Bus Stops down in closed off areas:  For the longest time, If you tried to catch a bus to Randolph Park and Ride on Walzem, chances are you'll would be walking a mile or two just to reach a bus stop.  Windcrest use to have Via services, then they removed the sales tax that supported that service.  Via's response was to remove all the bus stops on the Windcrest side of Walzem.  Since the redo of Walzem, only two bus stops are still gone, the one at the Starbucks and the one that is across Walzem from the Starbucks.  If we're not careful, the same thing is about to happen On Jackson Keller and Blanco Rd which border Castle Hills. I can only hope that Via doesn't repeat history but knowing how history is, I can't help but worry.  Funny how Via isn't mentioning this to any of it's riders when it talks about Castle Hills.  I wish they would also put some bus stops along 281 on the Hill Country Village Side, but then again, they can't because Via Sucks. 

2.  Have the Line-ups stop at all the bus stops:  Bus Driver 9295 loves to miss stops that the other drivers just stop at.  His excuse is that there's a rule that prevents him from stopping at bus stops that don't have his number.  Well I don't see no 9-10 numbers on any of the bus stops along the 9-10 lineup routes.  Now I see 9 bus stops, 10 bus stops, 9 & 10 Bus stops,  9/ 10 &14 bus stops, but no 9-10 lineup bus stops specifically.  When I have a chance to catch the 9-10 line-up from work, It normally stops at the St Mary's Street Bridge, but this guy loves to make everyone on board his bus miss their Line-up connections by bypassing the St Mary's Street Bridge bus stop and stopping at the wait spot on Commerce which by the way don't have a 9 or a 10 on that bus stop.  God forbid this bus driver 9295 ever happens to drive the 30-28, 22-24 and the 25-26 line-ups because if he's not stopping at the St Mary's Bridge, I bet he won't be stopping at the other bus stops along the way especially the Looper bus stops along WW White were people actually get off the bus when they ride the line-up.  Bus Drivers like this Keep San Antonio Lame and I wish Via would put a stop to these bus drivers doing these stupid things.

Riding the 9-10 line-up is also a mistake if your trying to catch the Looper heading to Randolph Park and Ride.  The bus drivers notoriously never make stops at the Looper Stops along the Loop 410 section of the 9-10 Line-up forcing the irate passenger to stay on the bus and catch the 14-17 Line-up.  See, Via's a great service, they make you stay on board and miss some sleep so your late to work the next day. Yet another act of stupidity that helps get people into cars.

3.  Your Bus stop Shelters suck:  Now why do they suck you ask, simple, they don't keep the sun nor the Rain out.  I don't know why you can't hire some designers who can take into account of the movement of the sun over it's course in the sky so we the "hostage users" waiting for the bus can stay out of the sun's heat. (Image 17-3)
The same with the rain, how about design new bus shelters to (get this) keep the rain out.  Think about that for a moment Via, it's raining and it's pouring, and everyone is safe and sound inside the shelter and NOT GETTING WET.  I'm a dreamer, yes but I'm not the only one. 

4.  Allow Folding Bicycles on the buses:  If you were to look up Via's Policy on Bicycles, you will see no mention of the policy of folding bicycle.  As the Racks full up, people will start to look for ways around the bike racks and start to invest in folding bicycles.  Yet knowing how some bus drivers will react to a folding bicycle is expected to be "no" answer when bring one on board.  Even these electric scooters are not allowed on the bus even though the same parts that you find in one of these scooters is the same you'll find in an electric wheelchair is beyond me.  Just another example I've experience over the years when It comes using Via.

5.  Bring your bus stops closer together:  (For the record, I mistook bus route number for I always get confused on which number of the 550/551 Looper is going.) In many places, your bus stops next to connecting routes are virtually a mile apart from each other.  A good example of this is at WW White and Southcross.(Image 17-4)  Why you can't move the 551 Bus stop to the Valero is beyond me because the connecting bus stop from the 28 & 515 is pathetic.  Why walk across that battlefield of fast moving cars, hot sun and pot holes, when you can use a sidewalk around the Valero from bus stop #16383.  But I'm not expecting Via to understand, after all, they all drive cars, not have to walk everywhere in a 100F Degree heat. This is not the only one, but there are many in the system especially when trying to connect with the Looper.

6.  Finally enforce the rules especially no.5: It's annoying to hear banging pots but even worse on the bus.  This is the most important rule in the Code Of Conduct, but it doesn't get enforced as often as it should.  The same with the no smoking rules at bus stops.  Now I know you can't enforce this rule over the entire system, but you could at least do it at major bus stops downtown. 

The Smart things Via Does:  Now Via does some thing really smart such as not outsourcing it's fixed route bus operations to a corporation such a First Transit, Veolia and such.  It's the main reason why Via has some pretty good and friendly drivers that serve San Antonio and also is the main reason Via boast  that it gets more bang for it's buck unlike the other transit systems in Texas.  What Via and the Rest of San Antonio need to understand that these corporations rob from the communities that they are hired to serve and pay their employees basically minimum wage.  It's the opposite with some of the Paratransit operations because Via does outsource some of the operations to a third party providing complaint after complaint to Via about lousy service and miss pickups stranding the most vulnerable in our community.  If Via wants better paratransit services, how about take ownership of the operations yourself and watch you guys save money in the long run.  Great bus/paratransit operators should be rewarded, not punished for doing a good job with low pay.
San Antonio believes that you get all your funding through the fare box and not Sales Tax.  They also fail to realize that most of the state and federal money you guys get go to bus stops, infrastructure and vehicles.  You guys rarely mention this simple little fact on your buses and to the determent of your approval rating.  So they see people riding the bus and they assume that you should have lots of money and should be able to add more bus service but assume that Via just wants to suck.  Why you fail to mention that your bus service is better than Fort Worth's is beyond me because The T basically have nothing but line-up routes on Sundays from 7am to 7pm yet you fail to mention this fact to your patrons.  I believe that Fort Worth gets about a 1/2 cent sales tax to fund transit.  Also when promoting rail, you should advertise the pros of having rail transit such as not folding your stroller, bicycles coming on board, no questions asked, and fast loading and unloading of wheelchairs.  You can also point out the simple fact that having Subways and Monorail will cost more than Light rail which many San Antonions want in the first place.  And worse of all, you said that Light rail would be slower than the buses which after riding Houston Metro, DART system in Dallas, and other light rail systems that ain't true at all.  

So Lets go over all of this again.  If you want more people to ride the bus, a creation that by default encourages everyone to own a car, then my golly make it comfortable to the hostage users.  Provide plenty of places to get off and on your bus and connect to other buses easily.   Inform your riders where the funding comes from to pay for the services.   Enforce the rules that are in the code of conduct and embrace chaotic and smart like allowing bus drivers to make exceptions from the bottom up instead of your regular of orderly and dumb from the board on down.  I'm not asking for much, I'm just asking for common sense for which an organization like yours constantly fails to keep in mind.  And if you want rail in San Antonio's future, you better start treating us "hostage users" a lot more nicely. 

Go to the mysa.com story on the bus crashing into a house, well go ahead and look at those pictures. Eventually the bus is still in one piece while the car and SUV are totaled.  Goes to show you that eventually Via, bicycling and walking will again stand up tall. 

Go Fund Me Campaign

It still up, and I could use the help to be able to take some pictures I need to illustrate the my story on the Streetcar issue.  It's going to be a three part story, and the result of this trip will be posted some time around August 13th.  If you want to help me out, please help pay for my Greyhound ticket at http://www.gofundme.com/b8rmq4 

17-1:  A photo apparently posted on FB by KABB Fox 29 on the bus accident. If you know who's the owner of this photo, please contact me. 
17-2:  The tweet from Via asking what could be done to encourage more choice users.
17-3:  The bus shelter at the Corner of Broadway and MacArthur View; Looking Southeast.
17-4:  The distance between the connecting bus stops from Google Maps. 

 Up Coming Important Meetings
If you want to make a difference, please attend.

Lee's Creek, Joe Ward and Sunset Hills Parks Plan Review Public Meeting
When:  Wednesday, August 20, 2014 6:00 PM
Where:  Joe Ward Community Center,  435 E. Sunshine, San Antonio, TX 78228
What Should You Ask For:  The thing to ask for at this meeting are good sidewalks,  20 mile per hour speed limits and safe ways to get to the park down Hillcrest and St Cloud such as bike lanes down those stroads.  

Menger Creek Drainage Project Meeting
When:   Wednesday August 13, 2014 6pm to 7:30 PM
Where:  Ella Austin Community Center 'Auditorium' 1023 N Pine, 78202
What Should you Ask for:  Bike lanes on the stroads connecting the Linear Park and lots of ADA accessible ramps. 

Up Coming Bicycle Events
Bike Ride To Mission San Jose
When:   Saturday Morning, August 9, 2014, 9AM
Where:  818 S Flores, San Antonio, TX
Description:  A bike ride down the Mission Reach of the Riverwalk. 

 Cycle In-Cinema .  
When:   Every Thursday, June-August at Dusk, 8:45pm
Where:  Main Plaza, 115 N Main Ave, 78205
Description:  Out Door Movie.  

FrankenBike #51
When:   Saturday August 16, 2014  10AM to 4PM
Where:  Earn A Bike Coop ~ 2619 Guadalupe St ~ 78207
Description:  San Antonio's Bicycle Swap Meet and Flea Market

When:  Sunday Sept 28, 2014 10AM to 3PM
Where: Broadway downtown
Description:  Where San Antonio returns the streets back to the  people for a few hours.  Really a great event.  More info at http://www.ymcasatx.org/siclovia