By Angie Huisman
I have written up some notes and created some graphics to demonstrate the poor planning of the City of Vallejo through the construction phases of the new parking facility at Curtola and Lemon. You can find supporting documents on the City of Vallejo website (not entirely easy to find important info on their site) here: http://www.soltransride.com/
What is the Issue?
Beginning June 30, 2014 the location for casual carpool will be “temporarily” relocated to Mare Island Way and Maine Street.
Why is this a Problem?
Moving the casual carpool location across town will deter drivers from picking up and dropping off commuters in Vallejo. The drive takes an additional 6-9 minutes (2.3 miles) each way, if they use a logical route for pick-up/drop-off. That is 12-18 minutes of additional drive time, excluding passenger loading time.
In order to deliver passengers back to the carpool location in the evening, the drivers will again add this to their commute. That will add approximately 30 minutes on average to the total commute time!
The inbound route includes the addition of 3 stop lights (Curtola/Solano, Curtola/Amador, & Curtola/Sonoma) and two stop signs (Marin/Maine & Santa Clara/Maine). Outbound route increases by 4 stoplights (Mare Island Way/Maine, Curtola/Sonoma, Curtola/Amador, & Curtola/Solano.
In addition, the carpool pick up location will be competing with traffic from the SolTrans buses. Multiple routes exit to Mare Island Way via left turning from Maine Street. This is a safety risk for both riders and drivers of carpool as well as the bus traffic.
If picking up passengers in Vallejo isn’t convenient for drivers they won’t bother stopping.
Other casual carpool locations:
There are several other options available for drivers to pick up passengers along the way to SF. If the driver is coming from the Fairfield area, there is a location there. Otherwise, they can stop at Hercules, Richmond, or El Cerrito for a more convenient hop-off/hop-on the freeway experience.
Why not keep it close to the freeway?
There is adequate room during Phase 1 to utilize the existing parking/loading area formerly occupied by Greyhound. The parking lot will remain open at least during Phase 1, so the safety risk should remain adequately low. If it’s safe enough for patrons to park in the rear portion of the lot and walk by the Phase 1 Construction area, it should be safe enough for carpoolers to meet. The local Route 3 SolTrans bus will still drop off/pick up around the corner at Lemon/Carlson.
A logical option:
Drivers could exit the freeway and right turn in to pick up passengers, follow the loop around and exit with ease. This would remain very similar to how they currently pick up and drop off. (The current route within the parking lot is not logical or safe.)
Other options for additional temporary parking:
There are also many properties along Lemon Street that could be utilized for temporary parking. Some just have a couple of spaces unused in front of their property. And there is at least one vacant lot that could be made available.
The staff report presented at the Planning Commission on May 7, 2012 (excerpt below) had other temporary parking and staging solutions that would keep the casual carpool location adjacent to the freeway.
- Temporary off-site parking due to removal of parking spaces due to construction and staging.
Staff received two inquiries regarding location of a temporary parking lot which will be needed due to construction and staging.In particular, commuters were concerned that one of three proposed sites, at Magazine Street and Sonoma Boulevard, would be too far away and inconvenient for most commuters. Staff informed the commuters that the City’s preferred location is one of the two identified locations neighboring the site (Curtola Parkway&Lemon Street,or the PG&E service center parking lot).If those two locations are unattainable, then based on the concerns expressed, staff would try to locate a downtown site for a temporary parking lot prior to utilizing the Magazine Street/Sonoma Boulevard site.Based on early discussions, the property owner of the Curtola Parkway/Lemon Street site has expressed interest in leasing his property to the City.
Riders use casual carpool because the cost of commuting via SolTrans and BART or SF Ferry is very costly and the total transit time is generally less than or equal to the transit options. Riders can arrive on their own schedule and not have to worry about missing a bus or ferry causing them further delays in their commute.
Many of the casual carpool riders are dropped off or take transit to the current pick-up location. That would not change. There is some street parking available in the area that could accommodate some riders. Otherwise, they could still park in the waterfront garage and take the Route 3 bus across town.
City is a using its working class to make a profit:
Whether true or not, this change lends speculation to the belief that the City of Vallejo is strong-arming carpoolers into using their underutilized parking garage at the waterfront so that they can increase total revenue from fees collected.
When the waterfront garage opened they began to charge a fee for use. This is a fair request for the luxury of parking your vehicle in a secure garage. However, they also charge the same rate for the existing (unimproved) parking lots with no added benefits. This is unethical, unfair, and should be modified.
But, the City didn’t stop there. To add insult to injury, the City changed the parking restrictions to the street parking that was previously available so that individuals cannot park for free for more than a couple of hours anywhere near the waterfront without using the paid parking made available. The exception to this would be the issuance of a residential parking permit to those who live in the immediate area.
Commuters already can’t afford to live anywhere near SF and have to spend several hours a day commuting just to make a living; now, they are being forced to pay even more just to go to work! The nickel and diming of the working class people needs to stop.
Improved Facilities are Needed:
It is agreed that more off-street parking and safer facilities are needed at the existing location. The proposed plan for the Curtola Park & Ride lot will be a significant improvement to the neighborhood. It will provide improved safety for buses, vehicles, pedestrians, carpoolers, transit riders, etc. It will improve the character of the neighborhood as well. More parking is needed so that the local area street parking isn’t over-run by commuters’ vehicles. Charging a nominal fee to park in a secure facility is fair to cover the costs of maintenance, security, etc.
The below proposal is from the City of Vallejo website:
Who is in Charge and Why?
Is casual carpool even under the jurisdiction of local government? What is to stop the riders and drivers from assembling their own location elsewhere?
It’s All About Money!
Monthly costs to commute from Vallejo to San Francisco:
Unlimited monthly pass: $290.00
Parking at waterfront per month: $20.00
Access to Muni once arriving in SF to get from Ferry Bldg to final location: $59.00 (discounted rate)
Total without Muni pass: $310.00
Total with Muni pass: $369.00
SolTrans 80 Bus and BART combo:
SolTrans unlimited monthly Route 80 pass: $114.00
Parking: Free at Curtola (for now), $20.00 per calendar month for the waterfront garage
BART: cost varies: Daily One Way from El Cerrito del Norte station to Embarcadero through Civic Center stations is $4.30 (8.60 round trip); total average monthly cost round trip (at 20 working days per month) = $172.00
Total monthly estimate: $306.00
Parking at Curtola Park & Ride lot= free (currently)
Voluntary toll contribution each way = $1.25
Muni monthly unlimited pass = $66.00
Total monthly cost based on 20 working days per month: $50.00
Total including a Muni: $116.00
Average Commute Times:
The following times are estimates based on my own personal experiences. I have been commuting from Vallejo to San Francisco to work for nearly 3 years.
Ferry: 50-70 minutes including boarding (excludes time to get from the Ferry Building to your final destination)
Bus/BART: 20-25 min bus + 40-50 BART = 60-75 minutes
(if you don’t miss a bus or train and have to wait 15 minutes for the next one)
Carpool: completely varies on traffic, ranges from 40-75 minutes and wait time in line can be from 0-30 minutes.
Best Way to Commute?
Based on the total time and cost, the best way to go from Vallejo to San Francisco (and back) during peak commute hours is by using casual carpool. It’s good for the environment.
Drivers get use of the carpool lane for a quicker trip. They also get a few dollars to help cover the cost of the toll. Riders get a ride that isn’t “public transit” for an incredibly low price. Everyone wins!
New Proposed Layout Research?
Did the planners creating the proposal ever come to see how casual carpool works? How the drivers and riders actually interact? Where the best place for lines, cars, pick-up, and drop-off?
Many riders are dropped off by family/friends since there is inadequate parking at this time. In order to ensure the safety of their loved ones, many cars park temporarily and wait for the rider to get in a car. Is there a temporary parking/staging area proposed to accommodate this regular practice? Daily, during peak hours, 2-5 cars can be seen parked illegally in the lot near the carpool line doing just this.
Questions Yet to be Answered:
- Will the City be restricting the existing free street parking to prohibit commuters from parking for free near the new parking garages like they did at the waterfront?
- How long is the new temporary location for casual carpool proposed to stay near the ferry building? The full 24 months of construction?
- What is the proposed cost of parking at the Curtola garage/lots upon completion?
- What is the incentive for drivers of casual carpool to stop in Vallejo rather than another more convenient location based on the additional time involved in picking up and dropping off?
- Did anyone bother to ask the riders/drivers what they wanted?! Focus group, interviews, surveys, even a simple observation at the existing site?