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

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

No One Lives in La Villita.

With being active and working long hours, I rarely have time to catch up on the news.  So it's sad that I came across this story from the Rivard Report only now that was written back in February.  I forgot who shared it on Facebook or who tweeted it, but I read it and I can't believe that I missed such news on La Villita.

According to the commentary quote:
"All reports concluded that re-imagining the retail mix and the quality of goods and services, improving infrastructure, programming public spaces, and better marketing were equally necessary. In short, La Villita is a historic treasure, but much is needed to bring it up to 21st century retail standards. We agree."
So the problem seems to be that not enough people are coming in.  It's walkable, it's quaint an such a nice place, so why aren't people coming in?  The answer to that isn't because there's no coffee shop with wifi, it is because there's no people living there.  Now I'm not saying destroy a few historic buildings and build a apartment complex, I'm saying that no body lives there and we're currently treating it like a suburban mall.  So like every other suburban malls, it has a bunch of vacancies and eventually even the kiddos stop hanging out and the mall closes.  You can point to the success of North Star and Wonderland, but those are the exceptions, not the rule.

As you look on Google Maps, (Image 47-1) you see an area surrounded by parking lots, those dead areas where we store our motor vehicles.  This is why they're referred to as Parking Craters by advocates like me, because they're a blight on the urban landscape.  This is one of the main reasons why people aren't going there. It's because it is so far away from where they live and there's these wide stroads surrounding it such as S Alamo.  As long as we have this undeveloped spaces being used as blighted storage areas called parking lots, the problems will continue with the historic downtown and downtown viability as a whole.  Because if you don't live there, you have no real vested interest in the place.  If an opportunity arises, we should look into having housing inside the historic La Villita. Parking Lots are simply areas with no activities what so ever.  This is why they're referred to as "Parking Craters."

Now some of you will say, hey, didn't you say La Villita Should be a model for the redevelopment for Hemisfair?  And that I did, but it wasn't about how La Villita was being treated, it was how there's no cars there.  There's a reason why I'm so against cars and that's because cars have more rights than you or I do when we're walking or riding our bicycles.  I don't know how many times I've heard getting hit by a car and the driver just driving off and just getting a slap of the wrist.  And if you don't believe me, Freakanomics did an episode on how to get away with murder, and it was about how you can kill with your car and get away with it.

When we built towns, we use to build them like La Villita, small places where everyone could get to where they were going by walking.  We're now coming back to this original design as we rebuild Hemisfair and redevelop areas in the inner city. La Villita has a heads start in being walkable  because the streets are too narrow for motor vehicles. As the development continues in Hemisfair, we'll see a bleeding effect from people calling Hemisfair home.  Now we don't have to destroy anything in La Villita, but we should work on making housing opportunities available with in the historic neighborhood and around it especially in those parking craters.

47-1:  A Google Satellite Map image of La villita and the surrounding area. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Doing Commuter Rail Right Part I

I would like to admit that I was wrong about something.  In my post Streetcar IV: The Future of Rail in SA, mentioned that if any rail transit would be built in San Antonio, it would be along the rail line that parallels I-10 on the northwest side.  Well it looks to be that I was wrong, for now there's talk about actually building the Austin/San Antonio Commuter Rail and the city council approved the money for the project back in August.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for this project and whatever the outcome may be, I will be using it and encouraging everyone else to use it if only to encourage people to see what a proper protected bike lane should look like. In the end, it's not like it's going to be a great success. Now I'm going to put this in a two part series. In this blog post, I'll be focusing on the train operations.

If you ever rode the DART light rail in Dallas, or any of the other rail transit systems in the DFW area, you would know by now that this train takes about 45 minutes to get from the end of the line to downtown. It takes the Trinity Railway Express about an hour to get from Downtown Fort Worth to Dallas Union Station. The train makes stops at all the station along the route. To ride this train, you have to buy a ticket to ride from one of many tickets machines at the station. If you happen to board the train without a ticket, you'll most likely encounter a fare enforcement officer of DART and if you fail to produce a ticket, you'll either get a $150 fine or a warning which I received after failing to produce a day pass I purchased earlier on a DART bus. This same situation also is on the Red Line in Austin.

Now when I was in Chicago, I rode the Metra Electric District train. I purchased my ticket from a ticket machine as I've always done when I went to other cities, but I didn't have to. For as I just finished purchasing my ticket, I almost missed the train. It's a good thing that the conductor saw me and open the door to allow me to get aboard. As I was riding the train to Millennium Park, I came to discover that I could have purchased my ticket from the conductor on-board the train. For the record, the conductor's official title on-board the Metra Electric District is Trainman. 

Now this train doesn't stop at every single stop along the way. Several stops are bypassed and can be requested when informing the Trainman that you want to stop there. If you happen to be at one of the stations which the Metra Electric District bypass, there's a light you can turn on to signal the train that you want to board.

The PBS News Hour recently did a story on the DART light rail system in which they mentioned the fact that more people ride the light rail in Houston compared to Dallas, yet Dallas has more miles of track. The reason that the story gave was that Houston's Metro light rail system is built where people already go compared to Dallas DART system which is built along old railroad tracks. The Metra Electric District is also build along a railroad R.O.W., it was built back in the 19th century built along an active class one railroad, Canadian National.

So here's a question, if the goal is to get people to ditch their cars in choice of transit, why can't DART, DCTA,  the Trinity Railway Express (TRE), CapMetro, and now The Lone Star Rail District, (LStar) the name for the Austin/San Antonio Commuter Rail, do what they do on the Metra Electric District?  The way we plan for transit here in Texas seems to go against the reason on why we all drive cars. The way we operate all the rail transit service including the way we're going to operate the LStar, is by having the train stop at every station. This is akin to driving your car along the freeway and stopping at all the gas stations along the way from origin to your destination.

We punish everyone who fails to buy a ticket either on their smart phone or at a station. Instead of punishing the people who are unable to buy tickets early on, why don't we give them a chance to buy them on the train with a small surcharge fee so they're more likely to use the system again especially if they're running late.

If we're going to operate the LStar the same way the TRE, and every other transit system in Texas operates it's trains, I can say with certainty that only one percent of commuters between Austin and San Antonio will ever use it. If we fail to plan for express trains between Austin and San Antonio, driving will still be the preferred choice. If we make it hard for first timers to use the train, we simply make it harder for other people to choose it. We have a chance to not repeat the mistakes that every other system in Texas has done. We can either learn from their mistakes or keep on doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result; the very definition of Insanity.

If you wish to comment on the future LStar, you can click here. Don't be afraid to leave a link to this blog post.


46-1: The DCTA Commuter Train at Downtown Denton Station.
46-2: The Metra Electric District Train at Homewood Station. 
46-3: A Lady hurrying off the Train while The Trainman stands watch at Homewood Station
46-4: DART Light Rail Blue Line Arriving at Garland Station
46-5: TRE Arriving at Fort Worth ITC Station. 

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Empty Buses

Some good news is coming to VIA.  Apparently Rey Saldaña’s short dependency on VIA convince him that things needed improvement. So he is proposing that the Advance Transportation District funds that are dedicated to the City, be given to VIA to improve bus service.  It's an awesome plan because one of the main reasons why VIA SUCKS, despite being an incredible system, is that they only receive 1/2 cent sales tax. 

For those who aren't familiar with the Advance Transportation District, (ATD) it was voted on back in 2004 to raise the sales tax 1/8 cent sales tax for transportation improvements.  Half of the 1/8th cent tax goes to VIA while the other have is further divided between the City of San Antonio and TxDot. Rey Saldaña’s plan is to take the City's portion of this sales tax and give it entirely to VIA to help pay for more bus service. 

Now for the record, I'm all for this, with VIA having more money to spend, they can increase the frequency of some of their routes and even speed up the process of buying new buses. But despite the improved service, there's a simple flaw, you're going to have more empty buses. 

You see there's a reason why service sucks for the people of District 4, and that is because when you have empty buses in the first place, the people in charge tend to either remove those resources entirely or put those resources into other ares.  Now just because Saldaña wants to improved the frequency of some bus routes doesn't mean that more people are going to ride the bus, it means that those like myself who depend on VIA, we're going to get more options and less time at the bus stop.

There are many reasons why people don't ride the bus. I mention those reasons last year when I wrote about the Streetcar project.  It is a simple fact that the majority of San Antonio gets around by car and no matter how much you increase that service, those people aren't going to choose to ride the bus.  I have met people who cannot comprehend getting around San Antonio without a car and when they lose that car, they basically become prisoners in their own home. I cannot understand why such a person would choose to remain a prisoner despite having some type of bus service that would help them get access to the wider world.  Now this happens all the time and it's been my experience that this refusal to use VIA seems to be with the majority of San Antonio when they become car less. 

The main reason why public transit bus service pretty much sucks throughout North America is because we get empty buses.  Despite what you might hear about buses being superior to rail because it's "Flexible."  Well always remember that the bus's flexibility is also the biggest weakness to buses for buses are so flexible, that they can be removed from service tomorrow.  And that what pretty much happens across the country.  When buses start carrying less and less people, the politicians and the naysayers against public transit start pointing out how a waste of money it is to operate all those empty buses and thus the service starts to dwindle.  At first, its just one or two buses removed from a 30 minute frequency to every hour.  Because the service is less reliable, fewer people ride it, thus more service is cut and it becomes an endless spiral to where there's less and less service to in the end, there's none. 

And That is my fear, we're for a short time are going to get improved service, but when that improvement isn't being utilized by the general public, it will eventually be cut.  And that is something I don't want to happen.  There's a reason why I call Transit Dependent people like myself Hostage Users, it is because we're a hostage to the decisions of people who drive cars and those people for the most part, don't think of the consequences when they remove bus service because of that service having empty buses. 

If  Rey Saldaña and the rest of the city council can allow to have empty buses for the next ten years, then I'm all for giving the city's share of the ATD to VIA.  But if he and the rest of the City council wants more people to ride the bus, well I suggest that he makes the bus fare free for the residence and make the tourist and others who are not residences of San Antonio pay for their bus rides. I wrote about this on how we could improve VIA especially providing free bus rides for the citizens of San Antonio for it was number 6 on my list.  


Now in Gilbert Garcia's Story in the Express News (Image 45-1) mentions that there's some city staffer's who are resistant to  Rey Saldaña’s idea and that's because the city lacks funding to pay for roads and sidewalks.  The reason why we have such a shortfall of funding is because  we don't utilize our tax base efficiently enough.  If you want to understand this more, I recommend that you take an hour of your time and watch the presentation of Joe Minicozzi at the Strong Towns Memphis Boot Camp (Video Above) for he'll explain why cities across the nation has such a shortfall in providing for transportation and other civic services we all take for granted.


45-1:  An image of  Rey Saldaña’s waiting for the bus in the rain from the SA Current. http://media1.fdncms.com/sacurrent/imager/u/blog/2447710/10494822_982330635112615_1703404577049168581_n.jpg?cb=1434657782
45-2:  Screenshot of of Gilbert Garcia's story.  Remember you need a subscription to read the entire article. http://www.expressnews.com/news/news_columnists/gilbert_garcia/article/Salda-a-s-plan-could-soften-S-A-s-bus-stop-6599428.php

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Latest Useless Bike Lane

The latest Useless bicycle lane is now open.  Has been open for almost a month now and you can use this latest uselessness on Arsenal along the HEB headquarters. (Image 43-1)

To understand why this was built, you're going to have to listen to a awesome podcast called 99% Invisible, episode name Arsenal of Exclusion.  It talks about how infrastructure can be used to funnel and control human behavior.  In the case of this useless protected bicycle lane, it is used to encourage people on bicycle to not ride down S Flores, but to choose S Main instead and connect with the protected bicycle lane that was build behind the new grocery store.

In the end, by not putting it down on S Flores, the people who live in the new apartments along S Flores will choose to drive to the new HEB grocery store instead of doing the environmental thing to do which is to ride your bicycle or walk.  If you don't think that putting bicycle lanes where they're not needed don't have an effect on the rest of us, just look up into the sky, we're not in compliance anymore

Now it's not completely useless after all, it provides space for joggers and people walking who live in the King William area.  Only time will tell if this useless bicycle lane becomes a parking lane during fiesta.  Then the rubber barriers will be destroyed and thus the joggers will loose out on their new jogging strip. 

In the Netherlands and Denmark, they don't put protected bicycle lanes down streets like Arsenal, instead they lower the speed limit to about 20 mph.  The Author of Copenhagenize.com, came out with a chart on where to put  bicycle lanes. It clearly shows in kilometers per hour on where to put the bicycle lanes.  (Image 43-2)  By using this chart, it clearly shows that a street like Arsenal don't need a protected bicycle lane, speed limit is just too low. 

43-1:   The protected Bicycle lane on Arsenal between the San Antonio River and S Main Looking East.
43-2:   The chart that Mikael Colville-Andersen created can be found on his blog:  http://www.copenhagenize.com/2013/04/the-copenhagenize-bicycle-planning-guide.html

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

One Year later, no changes

Last Year as I started this blog, I wrote about how two accidents that didn't need to happen.  One was Jose Carlos Macy who died across from the HEB on W Commerce and Calaveras and another Chase White on Broadway right before Hildebrand.  One year late nothing has changed, these  stroads are still terrible places to ride your bicycle.

Jose Carlos Macy was riding home along the 5ft bicycle lane on W Commerce St when two people decided to turn W Commerce into a race way.  People are unaware that when they're driving, the size of the lane that they're traveling in will either encourage or discourage speeding and the wider the lane, the more accidents are likely to happen.  W commerce St has two 12 ft lanes and only 5ft for a bicycle lane on the left hand side while the right hand side is 9ft wide.(Image 42-1)  When I'm going down this stroad, I am always riding in the right shoulder because you have 9ft to use.  There's rarely parked cars and for the most part, I don't have an issue with VIA buses stopping at the bus stops. 

Now about two years ago, I complained about this very issue to the BMAC at one of their bike nights and I recommended that they keep the current design but move the bicycle lane over to the right side of the stroad.  I spoke about this before this tragedy took place.  Well they recently repainted both Buena Vista W Commerce St and you guessed it, they kept the same dangerous design. Just another example that the city don't really care for you riding your bicycle unless it's for recreation.

Here's my suggestion on what they should do to both Buena Vista and W Commerce St.(Image 42-2) But they won't because cars would have to stop behind a VIA bus we can't have a car be slowed down.


Ben White was riding home northbound on Broadway when a guy in an oversize pickup truck struck him and drove away.  Since then, the Construction has ended and what they left behind was 12ft travel lanes and no bicycle lanes.  Ben White was lucky, he's still alive and there's talk about improving Broadway, but don't count your blessings for if the history of the city's action are any indications, they'll keep the oversize stroad, in favor of my common sense suggestion that I publish back in August 2014.(Image 42-3, 42-4) Worse yet, there's talk about removing the protected bicycle lane behind Sams Burger Joint to put in parking.  Again, these actions goes to show that an unoccupied vehicle is more important than providing a safe place to ride. If this action is not with the saying Keep San Antonio Lame, I don't know what is.  



Now I've been talking about to people who got into car crashes while on their bicycles.  Many told me how SAPD virtually does nothing to catch the terrible driver and don't expect the hammer to come to your rescue.  I've been told by those on bicycles who got hit by cars end up being told by such law firms that their cases aren't worth it.  Even worse, a slap on the wrist is pretty much what the perpetrator gets for injuring or even committing involuntary manslaughter. 

The latest victim is a cyclist that was hit last month at the corner of Fredricksburg Rd and N Flores.  The driver ran a red light and hit her and simply drove off.  So far as I understand it, they haven't even caught the guy who thought it was more important to get to where he was going fast than a value of a person life.  Her name is Devona, and she could use your assistance.  Her family has set up a go fund me site to help pay for her medical bills.  http://www.gofundme.com/d-rod   They are still pretty short of their $4000 goal so please donate a dollar. 

As my new job keeps me away from San Antonio and time from writing this blog, I'm going to slow down a bit and keep a post at least once a month and at irregular periods.  My goal is still the same, and I hope that you keep doing what you can do to make San Antonio a better place to ride a bicycle and to Keep San Antonio Real. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Sorry for not posting

I am apologizing today for the fact that I've been unable to keep up with this blog.  I'm still dedicated to writing but my job has been keeping me away from San Antonio and away from posting due to the fact that I lack internet access to write and and publish most of the time.  I'm also sorry for not keeping up to date of all the bicycling activities that take place monthly.  Hopefully, my job will allow me to publish my next article soon. Because of my new employment, I will stop publishing the "Whats Happening" and start publishing roughly once a month with the post. 

Until then, Please stay safe, make sure you have your lights on and lots of them

Saturday, May 16, 2015

SA Voted to Remove Bike Lanes

After seeing the results of the city election, I couldn't help but notice that those who voted to remove the S Flores bike lanes last year, won the election.  Apparently the only people who vote in San Antonio are old, stuck in cars, and complaining that you are taking up the entire lane while your on your bicycle.  What surprised me the most that Ivy Taylor won enough votes to make it to a run off with Leticia Van De Putt.  So for the next two years, expect no new bicycle lanes unless they serve a useless purpose and more useless Sharrows, (Image 41-1) kiss Uber and Lyft goodbye, and most of all, expect these same politicians to complain about the same transportation issues which is traffic congestion and why can't San Antonio have light rail.

There were also propositions on the ballot as well concerning the buying of property over the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone and the continue expansion of the Howard W. Peak Greenway Trail system, both of which passed.  So when they build the expanded trails by your house, you can get a ticket for cycling after hours because it is the safest way to get to work by bicycle after dark.  

Charter Amendments were also voted on including the most famous one, Charter Amendment 1, which required any future light rail system or Streetcar.  I was told by several people from VIA that my story on the Future of Rail in San Antonio was utterly wrong.  After this vote, I will reiterate the fact that my view is the most likely thing we'll ever see of passenger rail transit in San Antonio because the only people who would vote for light rail in San Antonio are the people who live right next to the proposed line just like what happened in Austin.

Another Charter Amendment that was also passed was to provide a salary to the Mayor and City council.  Now your probably thinking that I'm against this and that is farther from the truth.  I might not like who got elected, but I still believe they deserve a paycheck.  All large cities have it, there's no reason why we shouldn't keep paying our officials the same amount that we give for serving on a jury.  That's just not right.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Candidates Position on Cycling

There's another election coming up, this time, it is to elect a new mayor and city council.  This Election will be held on May 9th, 2015 and early voting is From April 27 to May 5.  But who to vote for is the question we're all asking in the bicycling community for I my self don't want to elected anybody who would act like Rob Ford of Toronto and remove perfectly good bicycle lanes especially where they're needed the most..  Now I'm not going to endorse any candidate, I will however say ya or nay to their ideals.  I will however remind everyone who voted against bicycling last year on May 29, specifically voted to remove the bicycle lanes on S Flores.  they are....

Acting Mayor Ivy Taylor then council Lady for District 2
District 3 Rebecca J. Viagran
District 4 Rey Saldana 
District 6 Ray Lopez
District 7 Cris Medina
District 8 Ron Nirenberg
District 9 Joe Krier
District 10 Mike Gallagher

So my Advice is don't vote for anyone on this list.  They're stuck in 20th century anyway and I don't know about you, but I want a better bicycling San Antonio for the 21st century.

Now I decided to ask all the mayoral candidates except Ivy Taylor and asked them five questions.  Those Questions are...
1.  Would you have voted to remove the S Flores Bike Lanes?
2.  What are your plans to improve Bicycling as a form of transportation in the City?
3.  Are you a supporter of Uber and Lyft?
4.  What are your plans to improve VIA? 
5. 5. Anything Else you would want to add?

Now if they failed to get into contact with me and I worked hard to contact every candidate, I'll be criticizing what they wrote on their campaign site concerning the five questions I've asked.  The Candidates are listed in the order that they'll appear on the ballot according the Rivard Report. To find their website, just click on the candidate's name.  Now on to the Mayors....

Paul A. Martinez
1. Would you have voted to remove the S Flores Bike Lanes?
Answer: No…bike lanes are an important part of our city and are vital to the public safety of our citizens who choose to ride bikes as an alternate means of transportation.

2. What are your plans to improve Bicycling as a form of transportation in the City?
Answer:  As we move our city into the future we need to plan bike lanes so that there is no reason to shut them in the future as our city grows.

3. Are you a supporter of Uber and Lyft?
Answer:  Yes I am a supporter of Uber & Lyft however while I welcome free enterprise they must adhere to public safety ordinances. I do not agree with all of the ordinances that our city placed on the ride-share public safety is non-negotiable.

4. What are your plans to improve VIA?
Answer:  My plan to improve Via is to bring in change management specialist that would identify the eight (8) types of waste going on in Via. I would also make sure that their leadership are qualified to actually run Via.

5. Anything Else you would want to add?
Answer:  It is critical that “We the People” have a voice in our city government but in order to do that we must stop electing career politicians and start electing career leaders. We need to elect a leader with vision, a leader who will listen to everyone and not a special interest group.

Douglas S. Emmett
No Answer, No Website

Michael Idrogo
This is probably the most retarted idea I have heard to improve our economy which is to build a Canal from here to the Coast.  Now if your asking why this is such a terrible idea, the answer for that is that we don't have the water to build a canal.  You see during the founding of our city, the San Antonio river was used for commerce for it was wider and deeper than it is today.  As more and more people moved to San Antonio, the Edwards Aquifer was tapped more and more thus less water was going to the river. Today the City of San Antonio has to pump water into the river to create the famed Riverwalk and you can see this pump which has been on more and more since the building the Museum Reach right behind the Witte.  The good news is that we have railroads for bulk items which is normally what is sent on barges these days because if we still had to use rivers to bring all our cheap goods, then San Antonio wouldn't be a big city it is today.

Mr Idrogo idea isn't limited to San Antonio for once upon a time, Dallas was talking about actually building a port.  If it was dumb ideal for Dallas, then it's also dumb ideal for San Antonio and Roman Mars of 99% Invisible illustrates it better than I could.  Listen to the story right here.

Raymond Zavala
No Answer, No Website.

Mike Villarreal
I'm for one is drooling over this, Making San Antonio one of the best bikable places in the USA.  If you  read my blog regularly, this is what I've been wanting in San Antonio and it is the reason why I write this blog.  Here's the thing, He will not have enough time to make San Antonio a great bicycling city during his term.  He might be able to get San Antonio to move it's ranking on Bicycling Magazine from 48 to probably 40.  To really become on Bicycling Magazine Top 10 List he would have to divert at least 50% of the roadway maintenance fund to do it and knowing how long it takes just to repair a stroad in San Antonio, will be lucky that we get like 3 or 4 of them.  His other ideas are also long term solutions so don't expect them to be implemented with in a 4 year period.  Again I am drooling over this, but I'm grounded in reality and I realize that this just ain't really possible because Unlike Austin which has groups like BikeAustin.org and the headquarters of BikeTexas, San Antonio lacks an organized bicycling community that is politically involved to really make San Antonio bikeable. 

Tommy Adkisson
1. Would you have voted to remove the South Flores bike lanes?
Answer:  I would not have voted to remove the South Flores bike lanes. To make our city both more walkable and bikeable, it’s imperative that we evaluate the way our streets are designed and constructed. Emphasizing our urban corridors (including making them friendly to non-drivers) would have a profound impact on our community- as a mechanism to relieve congestion on our expressways and also to encourage neighborhood interface, especially traffic to mom and pop business!

2. What are your plans to improve bicycling as a form of transportation in the city?
Answer:  The focus of my campaign is a commitment to sustainable neighborhoods. I believe the experience of bicycling in San Antonio will be drastically improved when we put our resources into the getting our city government back to basics- repairing our streets, curbs & sidewalks and removing dangerous stray animals from our neighborhoods.

3. Are you a supporter of Uber and Lyft?
Answer:  Yes, I am in favor of new technologies and the competition they bring to our marketplace. I support the ride-hailing concept, so long as all necessary public safety precautions have been taken into consideration.

4. What are your plans to improve VIA?
Answer:  I am a big believer in public transportation. I think we need a comprehensive transportation plan that includes multi-modal transportation and rail services- if they have the support of the majority of the citizens of San Antonio. Offering more hubs around the city would make it a more practical system to use and could also ease our traffic congestion. When I was on Commissioners Court, we gave every Bexar County employee a free bus pass and encouraged the top 100 area employers to do the same.

Leticia Van de Putte
As you go to her site and click on the Policies, you come across Infrastructure.  Nothing on bicycles here just making sure we have sidewalks.  She said something about putting barriers along the sidewalks.  Don't really know what's she's talking about, but to me it sounds like a fence of sorts, like the ones you see in Tokyo to keep people out of the roadway.  From the looks of it, this person will continue the policies that Keep San Antonio Lame.

Rhett Rosenquest Smith
No Website, No Answer.

Julie Iris Oldham
Just a Facebook page, No Answer.

Cynthia T. Cavazos\
1.  Would you have voted to remove the S Flores Bike Lanes?

Answer:  They recently put in these green bike decals on our cities west side...i see the need for the lines. They look nice. I used to ride a bike...i tried to stay on the sidewalk...if there was noone around ...i went for it. The bike rule is a mopad or some if them Vespas...a line to the left side and right side of the street would be good...next to cyclist a hopeful road  for min speed vespa riders.

2.  What are your plans to improve Bicycling as a form of transportation in the City?
Answer:  The same as above

3.  Are you a supporter of Uber and Lyft?
Answer:  I am not sure why they have to go through the city...they have assume business names, they have a license....insurance? I think they need insurance without the city anyway.

4.  What are your plans to improve VIA? 
Answer:  Well...if i am elected the next Texas mayor, VIA will still be in business for a while...for a while they have been talking about a train. We have a set railroad...and because of that road..it might be hard to keep trains from collision. I think if Via can think of a safety plan...it could be possible to add train but, much deliberation is as soon as prints are drawn.
I love the train in Austin...The ride is beautiful, but...no hills or overpasses. My main concern regarding trains is safety and speed. I Will not fund the train. I love the idea, but I will not fund.

Gerard Ponce
 Just a Facebook page, no Response.

Pogo Mochello Reese
Just a Facebook Page.  No Response.

Cynthia Brehm
1.  Would you have voted to remove the S Flores Bike Lanes?
Answer:  I would have voted no to remove the S Flores Biking lanes. I'm a huge proponent of biking. I want to create more biking trails, hiking trails, parks, swimming pools, and basketball courts for families to enjoy- everything doesn't have to be bricks and concrete.

2.  What are your plans to improve Bicycling as a form of transportation in the City?

Answer:  Absolutely, biking, walking, and some other quick mode of transportation yet to be decided by the voters are the way of the future.

3.  Are you a supporter of Uber and Lyft?
Answer:  I'm a big supporter of free enterprise. I believe Uber and Lyft need to improve their background checks on their employees. Two recent incidences occurred because of their failure to properly screen their employees.

4.  What are your plans to improve VIA? 
Answer:   To improve VIA, we must change the City By-Laws regarding lifetime appointments. Appointments should be a two -four year term. They have a monopoly and do as they please instead of doing the will of the people representation.

5. Anything Else you would want to add?.
Answer:  We need transparency, trust, and accountability within our City government. City officials are elected to represent the people, not special interest groups, not political parties, but the will of the people and how they want to be governed. We must put an end to wasteful spending, corruption within our government, and oppression of the people. It must end for a better San Antonio.

Now they're are also 3 propositions on the ballot, but due to time and space issues, you'll see that posting next week.  Until then, Enjoy Fiesta and make sure you vote. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

What VIA Gets Right

As a person who criticizes VIA a lot and as a person who lives in a city that doesn't appreciate their public transit service, it is easy to forget what our transit agency does right. So in this posting, I have decided to point out everything they do right and just maybe this is the reason why we constantly see all those award signs as to how VIA is the best transit system, while at the same time we shake our head and wonder how the hell did they get that. It is because the average VIA rider rarely travels to other cities and uses those public transit systems to compare it to ours that we don't know how good we got it.

But Stops:
We take this for granted that VIA has well marked out bus stop sign and the routes posted on that sign to tell you if they stop there. Everywhere you go, you'll see one of these unique signs and you will know right off the bat that this is a bus stop and that these routes stop here and if there happens to be no Sunday service. They also have a bus stop ID number which makes it pretty easy to figure out what time the bus will stop there by using their app or texting that ID number to 52020. In other cities this isn't the case just like this perfect example of this bus stop on The T in Fort Worth across from the Fort Worth Convention Center.(Image 38-2) Many systems across the country fail their riders by not doing what VIA does to their bus stops.  .

Route Numbers
VIA numbers it's bus routes very well. Except for the 100 Primo and perhaps future Primo routes, the bus routes 1-99 go to downtown and the 500's are crosstown buses and 600's are neighborhood bus routes in the suburbs. Also you can tell which set of numbers serve what side of town just by reading the number.  Image 38-3 shows how they pretty much number the buses that serve to and from Downtown. In other cities especially in Austin, the route number just don't tells it where it goes, but it also tells how it serves creating a complicated mess of multiple routes. Imagine if they renumbered the 76 Old Hwy 90 West,(Image 38-5) and gave it a new number like 376 to tell you people that it is a bus route that skips stops. VIA describes what type of service it is by the designation as either an Express, Skip, or Metro type route.

In other cities, the same bus route number that serves one side of town, will also serves the other side of town and go in multiple directions.(Image 38-6) This isn't the case here in San Antonio for as the bus enters downtown, it changes it bus route number and continues to the other side of the city. People might complain about this, but in reality, this is a good thing because there’s no confusion on what numbers serve what side of town from Downtown.(Image 38-3) By allowing the bus route numbers to change it's route number, you allow the efficiency of providing buses to needed areas. Also by changing the route number, you remove confusion on where the bus is going.

VIA works on keeping the routes parallel and strait, rarely overlapping with each other. Only a handful of routes split off to serve a greater area like the number 28, or the 75 for example but always return to back the other way. Unfortunately they failed to keep this simple lesson when in mind when they returned bus service down Walters Street, thus causing chaos for those trying to get to either Walters St, or E Southcross and WW White. I hope those at VIA reading this will fix this problem in the next round of changes so that when the 515 get to McCreless, they can change the route number to 509, thus elevating any confusion.

VIA allows Bikes on the BRT
In all the other cities around the country, only VIA allows the bicycles to come aboard their BRT. In Austin, Los Angeles, Fort Worth (Image 38-4) and many other cities which have BRT services, they have a bicycle rack on the front of their BRT if they even thought it was needed to put a bicycle rack on in the first place.

VIA's Schedules are Easy to Read
Unless you actually traveled to other cities, you never know how easy it is to read a bus schedule here in San Antonio.(Image 38-5) This has been the case for a long, long time even before they redid the routes back in 2004. Each bus schedule have the route map on the top the city's streets that you would normally see on a regular street map right behind the cover. Then they have the times of where and when below in vertical rows.(Image 38-5)

If you don't think that the average VIA bus schedule isn't easy to read, then I'll leave you with this beautiful bus schedule map of the number 1 from Fort Worth The T.(Image 38-6) If you can understand where this bus goes and what time it gets (Download the PDF schedule) there, please get back to me, for I barely know myself. Even when San Antonions used DART and CapMetro and say that those systems are better than VIA, for apparently even those schedules are a little hard to read. Why they couldn't use the same pattern VIA does on all it's schedule is beyond me.(Image 38-5) Seems to me it would be the logical thing to do.

VIA Operates on Major Holidays.
We're spoiled San Antonio for we get bus service on Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Years Day, and even the Forth Of July. You might not think this to be a big deal, but in other cities across this nation, they shut down the buses for major holidays. I was in Albuquerque on Christmas Day 2007 and there was no bus service on that day. I had to walk everywhere to get to where I needed to go. So the next time your complaining about only Sunday Service on Christmas, then take into account many major cities in the USA don't have service on that holiday.

Trash Cans at Bus Stops
This is a no brainer. Go to other cities, and they're a lot of trash on the sidewalk around the bus stop.

No Subcontractor Operating this Route
Except for Grey Lines Operating the Para-transit service, something I wish VIA would stop doing, every bus driver, every mechanic is a VIA employee. It's the main reason why we see them win awards year after year. It's the reason why we see their bus drivers on TV and newspapers worldwide touting how they're a good driver.  With this arrangement, VIA gets to tout the most efficient cost ratio compared to any other transit agency in the Sate of Texas, unlike Austin, Houston, and other cities, in which those transit agency outsources to a for profit corporation to operate their services. Somebody who's politically correct will say how this is a good thing and it saves money, but in reality it cost services and money to the tax payers and those who work for these corporations operating the transit services are not loyal to the transit agencies themselves but are loyal to the corporations themselves first. I should know for if I told you what I use to do for a living, you would have thought I worked for that company, but I didn't. In actual fact, I worked for a subcontractor that company hired. I was never loyal to the company that I did the work for because I was loyal to the subcontractor that I worked for because they signed my paychecks and that company the subcontractor did the work for was constantly mistreating us all the time and accused us, the subcontractor employees (me) of things we never did. You do not have this problem at VIA because that VIA bus driver is loyal to VIA. In Houston, the transit agency outsources it's operations to First Transit and I've heard stories from people who live in Houston of bus drivers passing by people waiting at bus stops with them clearly seen. Rarely do I hear of VIA bus drivers missing people at bus stops. It's one of the reasons why they're putting in those new bus stops shelters that I'm complaining about. This is so the bus driver can see people at the bus stop and well stop.


The Lowest of Fares in the USA
So many people believe that they receive all their funding from the fare box which is a lie. And yet, we have some of the lowest fares in the Nation. A ride on VIA cost $1.20 and if you need to transfer to another bus, it will cost $.15 cents more. The Fare structure is pretty simple too (Image 38-7) for everyone can buy a Big Pass for $35 and use that pass for 31 days to ride all the types of bus services (including Express service) all month long. In Austin, they have three different fare types and monthly passes to accompany each type of fare. One for their local metro services, one for their Express services, and finally another one for their Commuter Rail and BRT (Primo) services. (Image 38-8) When I was in Austin last time without a bicycle, I bitch and complain that I had to pay extra just to use the Train there. What a ripoff to live in a city like Austin and have a terrible fare structure keeping those who depend on the bus off of the services they need the most. So far as I have understood, VIA has no plans to have a separate fare structure for any future rail services nor create a separate fare structure for any existing or new Primo services.

It could be worse, you could live in a place that has a zone fare structure in place which makes the poorest of those who cannot afford to live in the inner city pay more just to get around.

VIA Receives only a 1/2 Cent Sales Tax
Compared to other cities such as Dallas, Houston, and Austin and even San Marcos which receive a full cent sales tax. Under the charter that created the agency, they can only collect ½ cent sales tax to pay for transit operations. Every time you buy a soda, a t-shirt, or any other retail item at a store here in San Antonio and only municipalities that pay for their services, do you pay for VIA. This is the reason why they cannot provide overnight bus services, and why they consolidate the bus services into combining bus routes in the Line-up services at 10:30pm, 11:30pm and 12:30am. But with such a limited funding source, they're still able to provide 15 minute services on many of it's routes and expanded services to other routes when they're able to just like they did recently to several routes. I have never know VIA to cut services unless they absolutely had to and when they were able to, they brought it back.

There's a lot of people here in San Antonio that equates VIA = Sucks. And I'm not immune to this for I write what is wrong with VIA all the time. I recently wrote a two part series on how VIA could improve their image and services, Part I, and Part II. Yes they need to improve this and that here and there, but it's small things and many times it's out of VIA's hand for they're lacking the resources to fix that problem in the first place like overnight bus service, or a lack of a grid street pattern outside Loop 410. While I was in Fort Worth, I found three things VIA could do to improve things (Image 38-9 thru 38-11) but you have to remember folks, we have a very good system and a system that is easy to understand. I would never want the route numbering system Fort Worth has nor their bus stop signs. That would simply work to keep San Antonio Lame and VIA for the most part works on Keeping San Antonio Real. 




38-1: A 515 Bus Stop at the corner of Southcross Ranch and Copperhead LN looking South.  Illustrating the number, the no Sunday service,and Bus Stop ID Number.
38-2: The T Bus Stop in Fort Worth across from the Fort Worth convention Center on Houston St.
38-3: A illustration I designed showing how VIA determines how they number their bus routes.  It's rare to find this same technique in numbering routes in other cities.
38-4: The Spur at it's bus stop at the Fort Worth Intermodal Center illustrating the bike rack they have on board compared to VIA's Primo which allows bicycles inside the bus.
38-5: VIA's bus schedule showing how easy it is to read the map and the timetable. 
38-6: The T number 1 route map showing how confusing it is to figure out where that bus goes. 
38-7: VIA's bus fare structure, showing how simple it is and cheap to ride the bus.
38-8: CapMetro's fare structure showing how confusing it is to use.  
38-9:  Currently VIA doesn't allow people to put any item over the front wheels.  However in For Worth on the T, people routinely put things over the front wheel to keep the walkway cleared.
38-10: I found this humurous sign on the buses in Fort Worth.  Seems like we could do the same thing here in San Antonio

38-11:  Currently VIA doesn't  have a garbage can on the bus, but in Fort Worth, the placed one right behind the seat next to the back door. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Cyclist In Suits, San Antonio Needs you to attend / What's Happening....

Every two years here in Texas, the State Legislature holds it's session.  And every two years, BikeTexas ask people from all over Texas to come to Austin and lobby for a better bicycling state.

Back in 2009, I was a member of this group that went to Austin and we convince all the state Legislators to pass the "Safe Passing Bill" which the governor, Perry, the same one celebrating a rail connection to DFW, veto it.  Now you might say, hey we lost, but did we.  Today That Same law is now a City Ordinance not just here in San Antonio but also in New Braunfels and several other communities all across the state. 

Today, I am asking all of my readers here in San Antonio to take time out on March 30th and go to Austin wearing your best Sunday clothing and go knock on the door of our local State Senators and Congress people. Your presence with BikeTexas at the State Capital will send a message that we want a better bicycling State, and a better bicycling San Antonio. 

Two weeks to go until we speak up for people who ride bikes!
Group photo from Cyclists in Suits 2013
Cyclists in Suits - Texas' Bike Lobby Day
Join us in Austin on March 30
The time is almost here-- register now to attend Cyclists in Suits-- Texas' Bike Lobby Day! On March 30, people from around the state who ride bikes will flood the Capitol to visit every legislative office. 

Already registered? Great! We can't wait to see you in Austin. In the meantime, spread the word to all your friends who ride bikes!

The day in Austin begins with a briefing from BikeTexas staff about current bills in the legislature related to bicycling. We review materials that ask for support for specific legislation, then break into teams and head out to visit every office. With your help, your elected officials will know that there is a powerful bike lobby in Texas.

We'll have lunch in the Capitol Grill (please anticipate about $10 for lunch) during our lobbying time and take a picture on the Capitol steps before heading back to the BikeTexas office for a celebratory happy hour. Don't miss out! Register now.

Buses will be available from many cities on Cyclists in Suits day--indicate your interest on the registration form. We may also be able to line up Austin home stays for those coming from places that are farther away than is pleasant to drive in one day.

There is no cost to attend Cyclists in Suits, thanks to generous support from Richardson Bike Mart, Bicycles Inc, and Hans Johnson Company. (There may be a fee for transportation to/from Austin.)

We can't wait to see you in Austin on March 30! Register now to attend Cyclists in Suits and be sure to share this email with all your friends who ride bikes! Learn more here.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

2000 Bicycles Stolen

On a Friday Morning I got tagged in a twitter feed from the Rivard Report about stolen bicycles in San Antonio.  In this story, they reported that over 2,000 bicycle were stolen last year. Now these aren't Huffys being stolen, but high end bicycles that someone had to dole out $300 plus to buy. Now I never had a problem about this because I knew that nobody would find my bicycles if they ever got stolen, so It was up to me to keep my bicycle from being stolen in the first place. I began to think like a thief and made sure at least on my end that no matter what happens, I would still have a bicycle even though I might not have a seat post or any lights left.  So here's some advice that I use everyday, even when I take my bicycle out and to other cities. 

1.   Nobody is going to stop the bicycle thief.:
If you think a passer by is going to stop someone from steeling your property, well I have some terrible news for you, nope.  I encounter some punk trying to steal a Mongoose at the Central Library like 5 years ago right in front of several people. As a matter of fact, at the same rack that you see as the backdrop to this blog  I was the only one to stop him and get the bicycle back to the proper owner.  The owner had purchase his lock from a dollar store and the thief was using some wire cutters from the same store.  I chased down the thief up to Savings and Main Ave before I lost my breath and he got away.  I haven't seen the guy since and chances are I'm not going to be around when someone steals your bicycle, so don't expect some passer by to defend your property.

Casey Neistats, a guy made famous for getting a ticket for not riding his bicycle in the bicycle lane in NYC, made another film about on how easy it is to steal a bicycle. He stole his bicycle not just in plain site, but in plain site in front of a police station and he only got caught when he took a power tool to stealing his own bicycle. Folks, nobody is going to stop someone from stealing a bicycle, so do what you can to make thief work to get your bicycle because I know you worked hard to get it.

2.  Make sure your lock cost at least 10% of the value of the bicycle.
Now this is hard for all of us, because the reason why we're riding a bicycle in the first place in San Antonio is because we can't afford a car.  We're glad to have gotten a damn good bicycle, but we're always broke and to people like us, well $80 is like two weeks worth of groceries.  Finding the money for a good lock is pretty hard to find, but it has to be done.  In the story, they mention Abus locks which is one I happen to have.  In San Antonio, make sure your lock is at least an rating of 7 or above.  Kryptonite also has a rating system as well and for their rating system, 6 and above.  Also make sure that you have a cable and I'll point out why you should have one a little later.
Image 37-1  Source: Rivard Report

3.   Always lock up your wheel and frame.
This is very important that everyone does where ever they lock up their bicycle.  You need to lock up your wheel and frame together.(Image 37-1)  Even when you come to a bicycle rack that only supports the wheel, (Image 37-2) then you better find a way to lock up that wheel or when you come back, you might no have a whole bicycle to ride home on.  Now this is where the Cable comes in handy for you might find that the only place to lock up your bicycle is at one of these wheel racks and well, you better make sure that your bicycle wheel and frame are both locked up.  Now I don't have a cable at the moment, but I do have a chain and I use it to make sure that both wheels and frame are always locked up. (Image 37-2)
"“The important thing is to make your property less appealing, less accessible to the thief, than your neighbor’s property, the guy’s property next door,” said Sgt. Javier Salazar, a San Antonio Police Department spokesman who I interviewed at the recent Síclovía press conference at the Tripoint YMCA. “That may be a cold way of looking at it, but it’s reality. The thief is going to look for the path of least resistance. If your bike is better protected than the next guy’s, so be it.”" Source: Rivard Report
Also, when you lock up your bicycle, make sure that nobody can move it.  If someone else can come by and move your bicycle, chances are they can steal it.  Hal Ruzal from Bike Habitat NYC can show anyone how to properly lockup  their bicycle and in the Video below, he'll do just that.  Also at the end of this post, you'll see another video explaining how to properly lock up your bicycle as well as a lesson on what not to buy when it comes to U-locks. 

4. Always take your lights off. 
Now you have your bicycle locked up, now it's time to take all the lights off as well as panniers and anything that can grow legs without you looking.   This also includes your helmet so make sure
it all goes with you. inside.

5.  Lock it up close to the Entrance
Where ever you choose to lock it up, try if possible to lock it up at the entrance of the building your going into.  Not everyone has a bicycle rack at the entrance your going to, but if the rack happens not to be on the same side of the building where the entrance is, then don't lock it up there.  Never, ever lock it up a bicycle  to a rack that is not on the same side as the entrance is.  If you happen to lock it up on a pole, make sure you cannot lift your bicycle up and over and remove it from that pole.  Also make sure the pole is securely in the ground and keep the bicycle away from the parked car.

6. When you get home, bring the bicycle inside. 
I don't know how many times I heard over Facebook that someone got their bicycle stolen off their porch.  I wonder why they never brought the damn bicycle inside because I always bring my bicycle inside when I get home.  I remember as a kid of getting my bicycle stolen off my deck. So after that, I simply brought my bicycle inside.  Now this doesn't stop thieves at all for I also heard that some bicycles got stolen after their homes where broken into.  Now I cannot help that, but I can always make some work for the thieves trying to steal the joy of two wheels, so if you don't bring it inside, don't complain that your bicycle was stolen outside on the porch.  But if you do bring it inside and are afraid of home break ins, take advice of number 6.

6.  When there's no place to lock up  your bicycle, Lock it up to itself. 
When I go inside a place where there's no place to lock up your bicycle, then I take out the U-lock and lock up the wheel and frame together.(Image 37-3)  Now Kryptonite doesn't recommend this, however but I do because I've heard several people getting their bicycle stolen when they went in for a quick Gatorade. I go to a lot of convenience stores and I can tell you that having my beloved bicycle locked up is just like taking the keys out of the ignition of a car. You don't leave your keys in the ignition when you go inside, you should do the same to your bicycle.  Now I do this because a lot of bicycles that get stolen is because someone rode away with it.  This method won't stop someone in a pickup truck, but when they get home, they'll have their work cut out to get that bicycle ready to be resold.

7.  Lock your bicycle up on the VIA bus.
Now remember, VIA doesn't want your bicycle being locked to the rack and for good reason because VIA has more problems with people leaving their bicycles on the bus then they do with theft from the bus and at the end of the day, they don't want to have to bend over backwards to get that bicycle off the rack so it is free the next day.  But that doesn't stop you from locking your bicycle wheel and frame together like I mention in number 6.  This is something I do all the time I ride the bus.  I've heard several stories of people getting their bicycles stolen on the bus, stories ranging from falling asleep on the bus and being left with a huffy to seeing someone take it off the rack and rode away with it while watching people get aboard the bus downtown.  So I do the same thing when I go into a convenience store, I lock up the wheel and frame together.  Now you might not think this doesn't prevent the bicycle from being stolen but back in April 2014, my bicycle was almost stolen on the Lineup.  As usual, the 12:30am lineup was being held up and as I sat down and started to stare at my phone, a guy wearing white and grey all over, came up and started to take my bicycle off the bus's bike rack but because I locked up the wheel and frame together, he eventually gave up and started to go after the other person bicycle which wasn't locked up.  It was after about a minute or two of trying to take my bicycle off the rack that he started to go after the other person bicycle which wasn't locked up. That is when the bus driver notice that the bicycles on the rack was being stolen. Remember, nobody is going to stop your property from being stolen, and she honked the horn and alerted us that our bicycle was being stolen.  The thief walked away very fast and if that wasn't the last bus out of downtown, I would have gone after that thief, but I was tired from work and wanted to go home.

8.  Put down Identifying marks.
When bicycles are made, they're pretty much the same with the same type of paint scheme.  So make your bicycle yours by putting a few dings and stickers on it.(Image 37-2)  This will help you identify it when you need to the most.  Also SAPD is going to hold an event called “Engrave and Save” on Saturday March 28th and I expect everyone to go to this event.  
"NEWSWIRE: Saturday March 28th, detectives from SAPD’s Central Property Crimes unit and SAFFE officers will host an “Engrave and Save” bicycle ID initiative in front of the Central Substation at 515 S. Frio St. from 8 a.m. to noon. Riders can sign a waiver and and get an “owner-supplied number” engraved on the underside of bike frames at no charge. SAPD will retain a copy of the waiver, in effect, registering your bike in the event of a future theft and recovery."
This will be posted at the top of my blog and if any more info is coming my way, I'll let you know.  Now another thing you can do is copy the serial number which is located underneath the pedals on the frame of the bicycle.  Keep a copy of the serial number with a picture that is no less than 2 months old of your bicycle in your wallet at all times so if goes stolen, you can post it on the twitter feed with photo and with the serial number to the police and to the national site that tracks stolen bicycles, bikeindex.org

Now there are several videos out there on how to lock up your bicycle properly including a diagram that is posted (Image 37-1) Make sure you watch all those videos and get a good lesson on what not to do when locking up your bicycle.  The videos that are all posted here are called in order:  Bike Theft 2012, How to Properly Lock Your Bicycle With a Bike Lock (with Hal Ruzal from Bike Habitat NYC), How to lock your bike securely, and finally How to Break a Masterlock U-Lock bicycle lock.  All these videos will help you out in making sure your bicycle stays yours and not someone else.

37-1:  A diagram on how to show you to lock your bicycle up properly.  Can be found by clicking here.
37-2: A picture of my bicycle locked up at a wheel rack where it is virtually impossible to properly lock up your bicycle.
37-3: A picture of my bicycle of what I do every time I put it on the VIA's bus bicycle rack or go inside a convenience store.