Tuesday, October 20, 2009

More on Whole Foods Noe Valley.

This photo I took incited a little rant on the SFBike Mailing list.

No Sunday enforcement equals cars stopped in sidewalk and str... on Twitpic

This picture from the parking lot of the new whole foods on 24th. The cars in the picture were not driving into the lot, they were waiting for spots. Whole Foods employs two people to man the lot, one was just to the right of this photo - moving off, perhaps deciding he didn't want to be photographed not shooing away cars from a full lot.

Before I shot this photo, I was on the 48 bus headed from the left in this photo. The 48 had to go into the opposite travel lane to go around the Honda pictured, to the end of the block, and drop me off. Then I unfolded a stroller, strapped in my son, and walked back 1/2 block to the WF. The Honda had moved from the street to the lot, replaced by another car.

This happens to the 48 a lot, and frequently it can't go to the opposite travel lane because there is opposing traffic. This seems like a "Signifigant unavoidable delay", which was the whole boogeyman argument which held up the bike plan. But the status quo doesn't have to undergo an EIR I guess.

I am thrilled that the whole foods is there - our carbon footprint is down because my wife now walks to WF instead of driving to Molly Stone's. And we're not the only ones - this store has a lot of patrons in very close proximity and I hope that the parking hassles get more people walking to the store.

Now - this photo was taken on Sunday. I see similar problems when I ride home at 7 PM, and am forced to ride around traffic backed out of the whole foods, not to mention random double parkers. But when I get home early and ride home at 5:30 PM? Not a problem. Why not? Meter enforcement stops, effectively removing dozens of spots. Certainly the free parking in the whole foods lot will be a deterrent to some from taking a street spot with the meter on, but it's sort of ridiculous that 50 cents for parking is such an issue when many WF shoppers are paying $5 for a small container of potato salad.

I got this amusing response

Ha! Busted! That is my car in the photo-I'm blocking the sidewalk
because the Lot guy didn't stop me coming in- pretty annoying for
everyone. BTW i usually walk there as do a large percentage of their
customers in noe-the parking lot usually has free spots - surprising i
know - wouldn't happen if it was a TJ. people tend not to do large
weekly shops at WF .


Now I'm off to mail the rant to my Supervisor - Bevan Dufty. Dufty was "helpful" in getting this store in quickly. He should finish the job and help extend the meter hours such that the parking and traffic problems can at least be sliightly ameliorated. As it stands, traffic can't get through, pedestrians are walking around cars stopped on the sidewalk. With the status quo, people will be more likely to abandon 24th St than to abandon their cars, but many will be more likely to pay a buck to park on the street than to circle the streets or to drive halfway across town (though I never underestimate the capability of people to spend 2 dollars in gas to save 1 dollar in parking).

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

San Francisco Parking Case Study - Noe Valley Whole Foods

Parking has become a big boogeyman in the Bay Area lately. Lately? Seems like we've been dealing with this forever.

Today's Streetsblog post discusses the need to convince merchants to follow the recommendations of a 40 page study from the MTA regarding extending meter hours. It includes a quote from someone from the Noe Valley Community Benefit District, Debra Niemann.

"What they should do is give 10 percent of the profits from doing that back to the CDBs, since we're doing the services that the city should be doing," said Debra Niemann, community representative for the Noe Valley Association CBD. "The least you could do is give some of it back." While Niemann is generally opposed to extending parking hours, she said such a change would cause her to drop her opposition.

If Niemann just wants the money, and she's running a bluff, I'm down with that. But if she's actually opposed to extending the hours on 24th St, here is a case study for her to think about. The plan is to extend the meter hours on 24th St to 9 PM, Midnight on Friday/Saturday, and start enforcement on Sundays.

We have a spanking brand new Whole Foods in Noe Valley. I ride my bike home down 24th Street daily and have had a chance to witness what is going on there on a daily basis. Suffice to say it's a bit chaotic. The lot at the Whole Foods is somewhat small for the target demographic. 24th Street is metered however, which extends the available parking for patrons of the store - and the rest of the street's businesses which now benefit from having WF as an anchor driving traffic.

Whole Foods has two people working fulltime in the parking lot directing traffic.

By "directing" I mean putting up a cone that says "LOT FULL". Usually this gets put in place somewhere that still allows a car to stick its nose into the lot while keeping it's butt in the street. 24th on bike has become an urban assault run, passing cars blocked by other cars and keeping a keen eye for anyone making an unsignalled change of direction as they struggle for parking.

Note that my picture was taken at night - 7 PM to be precise - after the parking meters are no longer enforced. Back when I used to live on 24th St and had my own car, I would frequently park on 24th St rather than look for parking if I got home after 6 PM - in fact if I were driving I would specifically target a 6 PM return so I could jump into one of the many open spaces that were turning over while they were metered. Suffice to say, I didn't follow up my parking with a trip to several local businesses (this being back in the bad old days - driving to work meant "Stopping at the Grocery Store not located on 24th St, Palo Alto Bikes also not on 24th St, etc...").

The result of turning off the parking spigot at 6 PM is chaos on 24th St and a disincentive for people to come to the street (by car - maybe that's a good thing, but I digress) more than an extra couple of quarters are. And really, can people shopping at "Whole Paycheck" be complaining about paying as much as a dollar or two for parking? The gas to drive to a WF in some "non-socialist city" probably exceeds that, and the fact that if they are forced to pay a buck or two ensures that they will actually be able to find a spot rather than be gridlocked on 24th St seems like a "good thing".

Of course, this being Noe Valley, some people find their own solution. This solution is a particularly bad one...

Yes, this car - stopped in the bus stop for the 48 bus 50 yards down the street from Whole Foods, was being loaded up with Whole Foods shopping bags. Hey, at least they were the green WF reusable shopping bags!

This solution would in theory be a pretty good one...

One problem. I rode through the WF parking lot - unfettered by the "LOT FULL" sign - every day for the first week the store was open. Apparently the parking attendant is not required to put out a "BIKE RACK FULL" sign, because I saw no such sign, but the racks were full every time. My wife added a few datapoints, taken midday, and saw the same thing.

Fortunately, the cyclists still have parking meters to lock up to.

Nonetheless, I think Whole Foods would be served to put in more than what amounts to eight bike spots in their lot, given that the bike rack for 8 bikes takes up less space than one car spot. Let's see - put in parking for one - or parking for 8 or more. Sure, those cyclists don't buy as much per trip (or at least they can't carry as much - I don't put an SUV driver past a car trip for a gallon of milk and nothing more), but eight cyclists will outspend one driver, and they'll return more often, and be loyal since they are disinclined to make big Costco runs in the interim.

I'm generally concerned that this rack will see little turnover because it's probably populated somewhat by employees, which is a good thing but maybe WF could put another rack in a secure area for them to use.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

It's raining cats and dogs and trees.

Per SFist

Carniverous Tree

Photo by expuestosiempre

This dastardly tree, at Haight and Broderick, came tumbling down, nearly crushing this cute cyclist.

From Commenter eo36

Anyone who rides regardless of the weather is a friend of mine. Does anyone know Daniel? I'd like to start a fund to get him a new rim.

Despite the fixie nature of his bike, I have to agree. I got out there in the crazy rainstorm this AM, seeing only one other lonely figure on his bike between Noe Valley and Caltrain, despite using the Caltrain Silk Route from the Mission (Valencia/14/Division/Townsend). Though we did have an even dozen on SB 230 (Two bike cars!)

Count me in. In fact, I have a functional front Ksyrium wheel I was considering making a trailer out of (the rear was a POS so I gave up on Ksyriums) that I will gladly donate to Daniel. This will also allow him to gain street cred by having one component on his bike that is worth much more than the rest of the componentry combined (ok, maybe not, but you get my point). If anyone knows Daniel, send him my way and the wheel is his.

I ended up getting pretty soaked this AM despite wearing ski pants (not as waterproof as I thought) and an old Fraternity Football block windbreaker (more waterproof than the ski pants anyway). Tonight I am thinking I should just embrace the rain, I have an old speedo sitting in a box of junk here at work. If I am going to get wet, might as well dive into the pool.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Be true to your school, just like you would to your girl.

They have some trouble in the city of Roses.

That is too late for senior Meagan Barnard, who said she won’t be getting one of the 50 spots.

“It’s just a parking spot, but for me I was crushed because I always wanted to park there,” she said. “All the seniors hang out there. You work your way up there and you work your way up to those spots. It’s silly, but it’s important to the seniors.”

Oh, the humanity. Things really erupted in the LTTE's to come.

A tradition lost

EDITOR: For three years, I was able to experience Santa Rosa High in all its glory, through tradition. My senior year our beloved principal, Tony Negri, retired, and Jim Goddard took his place, changing the school forever.

Tradition is an enormous part of Santa Rosa’s history, and I saw it crumble right before my eyes. When I was a freshman, I dreamed of the day I got a senior spot in the parking lot and was able to paint my name on it. That did not happen the way any of my classmates planned. We, too, had the dream of a senior spot taken away. Who was behind it all? The same man you read about in the headlines of Tuesday’s paper.

Those spots are used as a fundraiser for the senior class and should be sold first-come, first-serve. There was no problems for years doing it that way. Why change it? I am so saddened to read about my high school being destroyed by this man. My heart goes out to all future Panthers.


Santa Rosa

Her high school has been destroyed by this man who had the temerity to change the assignment system for parking spots. He didn't disband the football team or the band, he didn't change the school's mascot, he didn't layoff half a dozen teachers and increase class sizes.

God forbid had they hired some tree hugger like in Los Altos

Monday, October 5, 2009

Today in Critical Thinking

I read a few interesting "deep thoughts" today that I thought I would share.

First, from the comments.

Rafael said...
@ ammon -

the problem isn't really Caltrain, it's too many cyclists all insisting on bringing fixed frame bikes on board during rush hour. Caltrain's first priority has to be moving people, not their stuff.

Folding bikes would be more compatible. There are even a few models with electric motors and Li-ion batteries on the market. While those are still expensive, they mean cyclists aren't going to board the trains all sweaty, a courtesy other passengers would surely appreciate.

Caltrain's first priority should be moving people! Why is he telling me this? He needs to go to the JPB meeting because Caltrain apparently didn't get the message.

Lots of stuff, where are the people? Apparently they aren't on the train, seeing that Caltrain has just been served a stinking heap of 12% ridership decline Aug 2008 to Aug 2009. That didn't stop me from getting bumped from 226 this morning, in large part due to all the people bumped from 324. Despite extra bike capacity, Caltrain is still seeing too much demand for the bike service during a period of sharp decrease in ridership.

Caltrain kicks butt - at getting you from one station to the next. The problem is - how do you get to the station, and how do you get from the station? Three "primary" options are MUNI, SamTrans, and VTA - all three of which recently cut service and raised fares. Caltrain itself reduced service - and if they were to lose the revenue they get from the cyclists, the cuts would be deeper. I will take MUNI/VTA/Company shuttle in a pinch - read if I am injured or going drinking after work. Otherwise I can't see adding an hour to my round trip commute by excluding my bike.

Rafael also pulls up the old canard that folding bikes are like origami ducks that fold and fold and fold and then tuck carefully behind your ear. As for sweaty cyclists, I will quote one of my favorite conductors who says "The bike car is for cyclists and their bikes. If you don't have a bike, may I recommend one of the other 534 seats in the other nine cars."

Moving on - here is some logic from SFGate that would have Aristotle spinning.

The road has rules
Drivers, beware.

It's only a matter of time before one of us kills a bicyclist flying through the Haight and Scott intersection in San Francisco. We've stopped, it's our turn to go, and as we start driving though the intersection, some idiot on a bicycle comes out of nowhere, and we just miss hitting him. (So far, I've only seen "hims" engaging in this death-seeking behavior.)

What is it about being on a bicycle that gives you such a sense of entitlement? You're on wheels, you're on a road, and you've got to follow the rules of the road. I ride my bike a lot (though not that much on city streets because having been a San Francisco emergency room doctor for many years, trust me, the bicyclist always loses), but I still have to stop at stop signs. BTW, the skateboarders also love tearing through that intersection.

My fav was watching a skateboarder blast through the intersection, roll over the hood of a car going through the intersection and then flip off the driver of the car.

Bicycle, skateboard - drive responsibly. It's not all about you.


San Francisco

If I get this straight.

Accidents with bikes are caused by the bad bad cyclists.

I am a good cyclist - implying I won't get into an accident.

I don't ride my bike in San Francisco because I will get killed in an accident.

Right then!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Caltrain Shuttle Stats

More thoughts on the Caltrain stats in the last post...

Here is exactly why the shuttle ridership is dropping more than the
Caltrain ridership.

In the past year Apple and Genentech - companies that both have large
shuttle programs taking
employees from Caltrain to the office, introduced shuttles that take
employees directly from San
Francisco to the office. People who used to take Caltrain to Mountain
View or SSF to get a company
shuttle, now aren't on the Caltrain at all.

Now, of course this drops Caltrain ridership by N as well as Caltrain
Shuttle ridership by N. However, the
PERCENTAGE impact to the shuttle ridership numbers is substantially

I picked Oct 2008 out of a hat. 41,893 riders daily. 6316 Shuttle
riders - the stats don't indicate if that is
daily or monthly. My guess - that's monthly ... e.g. 210 riders on
shuttles per day. If 10 people switch from Caltrain-Shuttle
to Company Shuttle, that lowers the Caltrain ridership by 20/41893 =
which is close to zero. Those same 20 rides
(remember this is round trip) lower the shuttle ridership by 10

Caltrain may only be counting shuttles that they are affilliated with
(listed on Caltrain website) so Apple may not be included.

I can't verify all my math or my facts, but this has to be a nominal factor.

September Unemployment Figures - The Caltrain Metric

Job Losses Far Worse than Expected in September.

Analysts polled by Reuters had expected non-farm payrolls to drop 180,000 in September and the unemployment rate to rise to 9.8 percent from 9.7 percent the prior month. The poll was conducted before reports, including regional manufacturing surveys, showed some deterioration in employment measures.

These analysts could have called me and I could have given them the 411. The trains are getting less and less crowded. Ergo, people are losing their jobs. Not exactly a leading indicator but the stats are at best a trailing indicator.

They could have asked another expert, Caltrain's Mike Scanlon.

Via Pat Giorni from the Caltrain JPB meeting.

Shirley and I both noticed the anomoly in this months avg. weekly ridership decline (10.8) and shuttle ridership decline (17.9). Usually they are about the same. Scanlon said that the shuttle number underlines just what he thought...that ridership is down because of unemployment. The shuttles are directly linked to getting workers to their jobs. Shirley and I think bike riders are still employed at a much higher rate. we want to track this a bit, I think, to use as an arguement that more capacity is needed because loyal bikers are still employed and needing space to keep getting to work.

I don't necessarily think the holier than thou cyclists are necessarily staving off unemployment better than anyone else, more likely the bike cars have stayed full because the nominal flow of new ridership in the bike car is not being stunted by excessive bumps due to

1) Added capacity on the trains and
2) Nominally predictable schedule for 2 bike cars.

When he gave the Caltrain Performance report Scanlon added the BOB update:34 Cab cars have been converted and the promise for the scheduled 2-bike car trains has been kept 98.6% of the time during the month of August. There was a problem getting the needed bike racks for the bomb trailers, but they are on the way and the trailers should be completed by early fall 2009. Again he emphisized the point that trailer conversion is above and beyond the original promise.

I made the statement at the February JPB meeting that ridership was about to crater based on my assessment of corporate hiring in SF and the Valley. My Valley statement was based on the Caltrain Metric - basically chatter with folks on the train. Knowledge of employment in SF is the "Mister Mom/Mister Dog Walker" metric provided by visits to the dog park in Noe Valley. I started seeing more women at 7 AM, and my wife started seeing more men at 4 PM. The men (in Noe Valley this mostly comprises investment/finance people) were losing jobs and could go to the park in the PM. The women were going back to work (Nurses primarily) and would take the AM shift on the way to work. This is of course a generalization but there doesn't have to be a lot of data to indicate a trend.

The one set of men not hanging out at the Dog Park at 4 PM? Bankruptcy Lawyers.

Of course, I'm down with the theory that cycling increases your employment viability :)