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

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.