Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Caltrain Fare Increase coming?

If you pay $10 for a product, and someone else pays $10 for a product, and the seller starts charging that person $12 but you still pay $10 - do you feel like that product is now less expensive for you? Caltrain does!

There is a disturbing note in this week's agenda for the Caltrain JPB meeting. It's basically a fare increase.

We need to let them know we dislike stealth fare increases, use this handy email link to send a message to Caltrain customer service, copying the Caltrain board and staff at the same time.

Staff Coordinating Council (SCC) recommends that the Board schedule a public hearing at its February 2, 2012 Board meeting to consider changes to its Codified Tariff.
Setting the public hearing will allow staff to schedule community meetings to solicit input from customers and the general public on proposed changes to the tariff. Proposed changes include (1) elimination of the 8-ride Ticket; (2) increasing the cost of paper One-way tickets, Day passes and Zone Upgrade tickets, which will result in a less expensive Clipper cost for these items; (3) increasing the Go Pass price; and (4) lengthening the sales period for monthly transportation passes and parking permits. Further details on the proposed changes will be provided in advance of three community meetings in January.
Holding a public hearing will not impact the budget.
In response to customer fare media usage, and in the spirit of Metropolitan Transportation Commission Resolution 3866, staff will propose the changes described above.

As described, this is a fare increase for people using 8 ride tickets. Paper ticket users would also see a fare increase, but it could be mitigated by getting a Clipper Card. But the population that rides Caltrain 3-4 roundtrips per week, currently getting a nice discount via 8 ride tickets, would see a fare increase of 15% if they buy one way tickets. They could buy a Monthly Pass, but that pass is priced the same as 31 rides on an eight ride ticket, users currently using Caltrain for fewer than 15 round trips per month would pay more for the pass than they currently do. 15 round trips per month is a regular rider - not the demographic that Caltrain should be lumping the entirety of an increase on.

As I've discussed before - 8 ride tickets are an anachronism and have been very inconvenient for Clipper users. I do think they should be eliminated. But that elimination is no excuse to pass on a stealth fare increase to a big chunk of the ridership. If Caltrain truly needs a fare increase, they should ...

1) Eliminate the 8 rides
2) Give all Clipper users a 15% discount off of a one way ticket.
3) Institute an across the board fare hike.

This is far more honest and does not specifically impact a subset of passengers. It could be phased - change the fare structure first, quantify the impact to revenue of people formerly paying full fare now getting a discount, and adjust fares if needed.

Of course, this brings up the topic of "Does Caltrain need a fare hike?" Despite the angst over their budget, the apparent need for a fare increase is going to fall upon a lot of deaf ears given this, also from the same report.

Revenue: For October of Fiscal Year 2012, Total Operating Revenue (line 7) is $3,079,284 or
15.2 percent better than budget. Within total operating revenue, Farebox Revenue (line 1), Parking
Revenue (line 2) and Other Income (line 5) which together are $3,066,486 or 15.9 percent better than
budget. Compared to the prior year, Total Operating Revenue (line 7) is $4,604,583 or 24.5 percent
higher driven by Farebox Revenue (line 1), Parking Revenue (line 2) and Other Income (line 5)
which together are $4,600,325 or 25.9 percent higher.
Expense: Grand Total Expenses (line 46) show a favorable variance of $1,337,579 or 3.9 percent.
Total Operating Expense (line 33) is $934,242 or 3.1 percent better than budget. Within total
operating expense, Contract Operating & Maintenance (line 23) and Services (line 31) together are
$678,465 or 3.3 percent better than budget. Total Administrative Expense (line 42) is $403,337 or
10.0 percent better than budget.

I would hope that Caltrain would quickly revisit the apparent proposals before finalizing a plan for the January community meetings. Whenever Caltrain cooks up a poorly thought out change to service or fare structures, a lot of bad blood is spilled in the process of fixing it. The customer base will not see the benefit of removing logistical nightmares from the Clipper setup - they will see a fare increase. No matter the end result, Caltrain's image with the public is the victim. Long term, they cannot afford that to be any more tarnished than it already is.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Comment of the Year

It's not December 31 yet but this will be tough to beat...

From Palo Alto Online

From the 6th paragraph of the story: "... the project, which has the support of the entire City Council and the vast majority of the speakers who addressed the council on the topic in February."

At previous meetings, the project didn't have the support of the majority of speakers. Nothing like it. Then the bicycle advocates caught on and emailed their online friends to pack the chambers. Even gave them a script to read.

I realize the Weekly reporter is hopelessly naive and doesn't realize what astroturf means, but I suspect some of our council members have seen advocates seed the audience before on other issues.

Ah yes, the evil cycling cabal, flying in cyclists from places like "Europe" (especially "Amsterdam") to come give 2 minute public comment at a City Council Meeting in Palo Alto in order to spread their one world vision by taking a 3 block long dead end street that terminates in a train station, and reducing it from 4 lanes to 2 lanes.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Chicken John on the SF Election.

Before we go into the thinking of all this, since I know so many of you skim, I’m gonna put my mayor picks up front here:

#1 Jeff Adachi

#2 Dennis Herrarra

#3 John Avalos

Ross Mirkirami for Sheriff

If you think it’s fun watching from the sidelines as the GOP scrapes the bottom of the barrel looking for someone who is not a nutjob like Ron Paul, not a drunk like Rick Perry, not a sexual assaulter like Herman Cain, not a disaster like Michelle Bachmann… the list goes on… who’s gonna recruit Lyndon LaRouche? As we watch in horror the freakshow parade across our screens as the Republican party has its adolescence and we get some good show, we got kinda the same thing going on here in SF. Watching the Republicans is kinda like watching animals in a zoo. We will select a mayor next Tuesday, and there are 16 candidates. And it’s a sideshow/shitshow.

First of all let me say that Ed Lee is a liar. He is a regent mayor ONLY because he promised he would not run, so that there would be on ‘open seat’ for this election. Ed is the bad guy in this drama. He is the rumpled overlord who is the wrong guy for the job. He’s a nothing. A guy that has no ideas and just keeps everything 98.6. He is not a good representation of SF, our values, our people or our tolerance.

He’s a dud.

But he’s probably gonna win. He probably already has, actually. Absentee ballots and all… And that’s really really sad. The reason he is likely going to win is because there are so many candidates. It’s a matter of the ‘aggregate’. Let’s say 250,000 people vote. There are 16 candidates. You have to get 50% of the vote (plus one vote) to win.

How people will vote in the #1 position:
Let’s say Ed Lee gets 30% of the vote.

Dennis Herrera gets 25%.

Leland Yee gets 20%.

John Avalos gets 15%.

Jeff Adachi gets 9%.

The other 11 candidates get the other 1%.

Let’s just say, to make the point. This isn’t how it will really go, but let’s just say it goes like this, so we can see how Ranked Choice Voting really works…

The first round of voting counts ONLY your #1 choice. They count up all the ballots’ #1 choices. If a candidate gets 50% of the vote (plus one vote) that candidate wins. We are supposing that the ‘aggregate’ is 250,000 voters. So if someone got 125,001 votes, they would win.

But that is not going to happen. What is going to happen is more like above. With the evil rumpled overloard Ed Lee the lying liar getting 30%, or 75,000 votes. So an “instant runoff” is triggered. And we look to people’s #2 and #3 choices to determine a winner, in a complicated way that I will explain below.

Ranked Choice Voting is also called Instant Runoff voting.

Runoff elections have occurred often in SF. In 1999 Willie Brown and Tom Ammiano had a run off election. 4 years later Gruesome Newsom and Matt Gonzalez had a run off. Run off elections costs millons and millions of dollars. Instant runoff voting costs no more then a regular election. You may remember that Jean Quan, the Mayor of Oakland who can’t seem to control her brutal police force was elected through Ranked Choice Voting even though she did not have more first or second place votes than her opponent Don Perata. Too bad that all the money Oakland saved on Ranked Choice Voting will go to her recall election… but I digress…

In looking at the #2 votes, it get a little complicated. So please just stay with me here… how we start counting #2 votes is by eliminating a candidate. And counting their #2 votes. So lets say there is a nudist running or something. He’s gonna get like 20 votes.

He gets the least amount of votes of any candidate for mayor. So we get rid of him, and we look to his 20 votes and see what we have.

Ahhhh… ten of the people who voted for the nudist decided not to take part in Ranked Choice Voting, and only voted for him in the #1 position. The ten other people all voted for John Avalos for #2. The aggregate just went down to 249,990 voters. The #2 votes for John Avalos just got added to his tally of #1 votes. But we still don’t have a winner.

So we eliminate the next candidate. And place that persons’ #2 votes. If your #2 vote gets eliminated, we count your #3. And we keep doing this, eliminating candidates and re-allocating their votes until one of the candidates gets to 50% of the vote (yes, plus one little vote).

All the while, the aggregate shrinks, and that 30% the lying scumdog Ed Lee has becomes 31%. 32%. 35%. 43%... until darkness falls… Ed will get very few if any #2 or #3 votes. He will win by the aggregate shrinking because of so many candidates.

Side note: if you don't vote for three different candidates and your candidate gets eliminated, or if your #2 and #3 candidates are eliminated before your #1 candidate, you will have what's called an Exhausted Ballot, meaning your ballot didn't count in the runoff portion of the election. Remember in District 10 last year when Malia Cohen won after 20 rounds? The real winner was Exhausted Ballots, with 9503 votes. Malia got 3879.

So back to next Tuesday – there are only really 5 candidates in this election:

Ed Lee

Dennis Herrera

Jeff Adachi

John Avalos

Leland Yee

There is a slight chance that Ed could lose. He could lose to Dennis. It’s somehow possible. It’s crazy, but it’s possible. I want it to be possible that John could win. But I’m going to give you my strategy, and you are welcome to embrace it, spit on it, yell at me, or write Chicken John as a write in candidate. For better or worse, here it is:

Jeff Adachi is the smartest guy in the room. Every time I see him, he’s the smartest guy in the room. The mayor of San Francisco should not be a rumpled idiot. We should have the smartest guy in the room leading us. I support Jeff Adachi for my #1 vote.

For my #2 vote, I vote for Dennis Herrera. Dennis runs a staff of 300 people. He’s a good guy. He’s not a jerk. He’s not an egomaniac. He’s fun. Funny. Full of life. He’s regal. Stately. I like him. I actually think that Dennis is going to get more votes then Jeff. But I don’t care, because if Jeff gets eliminated before Dennis, then it’s the same as voting for Dennis in the #1 slot. Same for John. I like John. I’ve done some things for his campaign. He’d be a good mayor. If he gets more votes than Dennis, Dennis will get eliminated. And my #3 vote for John will become a #1 vote for John (if both Jeff and Dennis get elimated).

If you vote for John Avalos and no one else, it’s like not voting if he gets eliminated. You MUST put Dennis on your ballot somewhere if you want to block Ed Lee. He has a chance, though a small one. This is my advice to you.

I personally do not like nor trust Leland Yee. He seems to be the sleazy politician type who says whatever the crowd in front of him wants to hear. He ran for his senate seat unopposed and went crazy with billboards and fundraising and flyers and mailers… he was running for mayor while he was running unopposed for Senate. That was kinda icky. I mean, he’s been in perpetual candidate mode, who’s doing his job?

David Chui is going to be the big loser in this campaign. It’s going to be so embarrassing for him to get less votes then Phil Ting, our assessor. I’ve got $20 that says ole Phil smokes David Chui…

Terry Baum the Green party candidate wins with the best slogan: “Let’s make San Francisco the town that everyone else thinks we are!”

Finally, Ross Mirkirami for Sheriff. If for no other reason, he will be the gentlest Sheriff in history. I don’t know why he wants that job, but if he wants it he can have it. The other people running are all cops. Don’t encourage them. Cops beat people up with sticks and shoot them in the face with rubber bullets. Fuckers. No cops for Sheriff. Ross for Sheriff. He’s not a cop.

You can vote any day at City Hall, you don’t have to only vote on Tuesday.

Go get ‘em…


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

My #sfmayor slate

Here it is. After quickly distilling the list down to a small group, then a smaller group, then settling on three candidates, I have my ranked choices.

#3 - David Chiu
I really really wanted David to be higher. He has super enthusiasm and is great in a small crowd, getting the group to drink the koolade. He's bright. His positions are mostly palatable. There were hints of him being politically opportunistic, but over the last couple of weeks he blew the doors open. First, he led a resolution in support of the Central Subway, as is. I've pointed out many flaws, including some that are largely ignored by the advocates. He probably could have left this issue alone for now, but he plowed ahead, despite the logical evidence that the project is flawed enough to basically be another J-Church, dumping hearings on future City leaders on how to fix a project even more physically challenging.

But today he really puzzled me. John Avalos offered a resolution supporting #occupysf to the Board. Scott Wiener had apparently worked closely with John to modify the language to produce a resolution which Scott felt more comfortable with, and many changes went in through that collaboration, but there was a "good faith disagreement" on wording over the use of force by the police. Wiener then offered the amendment for a vote. It passed 6-5, with David Chiu being the swing vote, saying that he expected the resolution to pass either way but that he wanted not a majority but a "supermajority".

Voting for the amendment - Wiener, Farrell, Chu, Chiu, Cohen, Elsbernd. The amendment passed. Of that group, only Wiener, Chiu, and Cohen voted for the amended resolution. At least one of those votes was required for passage. Chiu asserted that the resolution would pass no matter what, so we can assume he would vote for it. So he voted to add the amendment to get the votes of Malia Cohen and Scott Wiener (assuming they would not vote for the resolution without the amendment). Why bother?

The positions of the various supervisors are clear. The only *actual* difference from having the extra 2 votes would be to make the resolution veto-proof, but even then Wiener or Cohen could defect. And even then, it might be better (politically) to drop a 6-5 vote on Mayor Lee's desk and press him in public to sign or veto the resolution. Running up the score is meaningless, there is no Board of Supervisors BCS poll. To me, it just felt like he was trying to split the middle on the resolution, which to me is an insult to Avalos. Take your position and vote on it. I disagree with Wiener on this one but respect his position more than Chiu's.

Nonetheless, the people behind him in the fray have shown a lot less integrity or skill - his intelligence and position on key issues for me like Livable Streets gets him my #3.

#2 - John Avalos
John is very personable. Not as energetic as David, he is more subdued. Often that shows a person of great thought who speaks only when it's important. I don't really see that here - frequently Avalos seems a little out of his element when I watch the Board meetings. However, I do see him as being someone with absolute integrity and definite positions on issues. He has strong positions on issues that are important to me - livable streets/transit/bikes, social justice. I probably think he would be too far to the left on some issues regarding housing - I prefer to subsidize lower income people into an open market than to try to artificially control the market with rent control, I think that's a better way to produce more housing stock and get everyone into it. Somehow I think how he would work with the board would produce a balanced government - I don't see him as being a controlling Mayor like Newsom was, so having a variety of viewpoints going into City governance with a rudder that steers away from corruption would be palatable. I'm not quite sure exactly how this would turn out - so in the end the fact that I know with Avalos that we'd have a strong voice for our streetscapes wins out.

#1 - Dennis Herrera
There was no doubt Herrera would end up on this slate somewhere. He is the most obvious foil to Ed Lee at this point - I think an Ed Lee victory would be disastrous. But ranked choice voting left me the ability to put him downslate. Nonetheless, I think Herrera should go first anyway. Herrera also has presence like Chiu, but does not have the record of being politically expedient. He's been through a lot of battles as City Attorney. Our bike ride with him on SF2G showed him to be a good listener and he'd be reasonable on bike/ped issues. The biggest specific plus is that he's cracked open the pandora's box of the Central Subway and could force us to look at the project again and get some much needed improvements, and would be more likely to push for transit improvements in the corridor that would happen sooner. The discussion we had with him on this subject did not reveal him to be a transit wonk, but if he's willing to open the door that means we can be in the discussion if and when the project gets reviewed. His election would certainly be a nominal referendum on the project - as it is currently designed.

I actually have less to write about Herrera than the other two, because he's basically just solid, and I think that's what the city needs right now. The other two have a lot of positives but have nits that can be picked on. Herrera is a solid, good guy, and I would be satisfied if he wins. The same holds true of Chiu and Avalos.

The rest.
The only other candidate I would specifically say I would be not upset about is Jeff Adachi. The absolute worst case amongst the likely winners would be Ed Lee - corrupt and controlled by the Machine. Leland Yee is interesting but he just reeks of political opportunism which turns me off. Dufty is absolutely Supervisor Pothole and has done me some great personal service in the past, but completely butchered the Noe Valley Plaza fiasco. And on and on.

There you have it