Casual Carpool Conundrum


By Angie Huisman

6/26/14

 

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/planning/current-projects/soltrans-curtola-park-ride-hub/ 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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Original plan:

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 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 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.

 

Rider perspective:

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:

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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:

Ferry:

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

 

Casual Carpool:

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:

  1. 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?
  2. How long is the new temporary location for casual carpool proposed to stay near the ferry building? The full 24 months of construction?
  3. What is the proposed cost of parking at the Curtola garage/lots upon completion?
  4. 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?
  5. Did anyone bother to ask the riders/drivers what they wanted?! Focus group, interviews, surveys, even a simple observation at the existing site?

 


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'Casual Carpool Conundrum' have 14 comments

  1. June 26, 2014 @ 3:20 pm Salty Dog

    Thank you for that comprehensive look at the car pooling conundrum. Clear and well presented.

    My only comment because I tend to focus on theory rather than practice, although I like to join the two in praxis is that it is the old fact/value dichotomy again…..an organization seeking ways to raise revenues versus the varying “needs” (and values) of a growing commuter population.

    Once again, the formal organization needs to be dragged kicking back from its ends by any means mode to consider the needs of those who are most impacted, commuters who must travel great distances to earn their bread and butter.

    Looks like it is time to put heat on Councillors to make the organization listen. IMO.

    Reply

    • June 26, 2014 @ 5:08 pm wharf rat

      it has little to do with the public or even carpooling or commuting for that matter rather it is about milking public funds have you seen the budget for this project that is mostly a parking lot you could buy another ferry boat for that money .. Shamefull

      Reply

  2. June 26, 2014 @ 9:49 pm tramky

    Looks like the powers that be figure ther is a couple of hundred bucks sitting the commuter’s table that is there for the taking. The plan to relocate the dropoff location a couple of miles away is decidedly not good unless it will be for a short period of time. But if for a year–or two–just unacceptable.

    The real issue is that the primary use of the waterfront is to collect parking fees from people who spend no real time–or money–in Vallejo. Commuters?! While the waterfront remains flat, bland, and completely uninspired.

    And how in the hell did a dental office come to be ensconsed on the most prime location on the downtown waterfront? Completely absurd and should have NEVER been approved.

    But parking revenue is the best this town can muster. And a seriously flawed and now-ugly parking garage lies at its heart. Only in Vallejo.

    Reply

  3. June 27, 2014 @ 2:26 pm wharf rat

    Car pooling is but an adaptation to a disfunctional public transportation system/not , the third world Countries I have traveled to have more comprehencive people moving systems than we do . The budget for this project is obscene it is just more MTC wellfare .
    anyway GREAT article “no stone left unturned” thanks for the contribution !!!

    Reply

  4. June 28, 2014 @ 5:23 pm wharf rat

    Not unlike the mob who went in big on garbage and parking the city is doing the same but they are planning to milk out the engineering etc out over 24 months . this mostly parking lot could be built in a month or two
    you will see this pattern year in year out , very long timeframes for projects in order to charge time to the numerous cost centers …

    Reply

    • June 30, 2014 @ 11:57 am WatchingEye

      I agree that the most outrageous element of this “plan” is that it is projected to take 2 years. Are you kidding me? It’s a parking lot! It should take from 3 to 6 months for any competent contractor to complete. But, mea culpa, I forget, this is once again an example of the city of Vallejo’s incompetence in contracting out labor.

      Reply

  5. Vallejo Voter

    June 29, 2014 @ 3:40 pm Vallejo Voter

    Leave it to Vallejo to take one of the few items within the City that actually WORKS, and screw it up. The move this casual carpool pickup to Mare Island and Maine will be the death of this effective, efficient, and COST SAVING informal service provided within city limits. Come on….. this works at Lemon and Curtola because the freeway on ramp is 150 yards down the road.

    Reply

    • June 29, 2014 @ 7:19 pm Salty Dog

      I agree, Voter.

      It works because those using it “feel” it is an efficient way to commute. They “feel” that it is cost effective. They “feel” it is convenient. They “feel” that it offers options. They “feel” it is a good thing.

      Feelings…..and the power of commuter caritas. Screw the rationality of formal organization that just won’t acknowledge feelings.

      Reply

      • June 30, 2014 @ 12:10 am wharf rat

        Pleeassse Saltt it is all about the $$$$$ there is nothing about reality whatsoever ,, this whole thing is about the $$$ PERIOD !!! Get a grip Man !! know what you have to deal with !! this is f—ked up Capitalisation at it’s best … Whiltst the Gardeners rule , because they grow much of the food they eat !!! We , subjugate the status Quo , via propagation and good old fashioned “grow your own” The new age Argruarian Society ….

        Reply

        • June 30, 2014 @ 1:31 am Salty Dog

          Of course it is about the $$$$$. It is about $$$$$ for those who must commute to earn their $$$$$ and it is about $$$$$ for those who are always seeking ways to make more for and sustain the “organization”…in the case, the CITY officials.

          If I go all theoretical on you, it is because their is a dearth of understanding of the underpinning motivations of those in power and those who are the target of that power, administered in the name of bureaucratic efficiency, continuity and certainty.

          We sit on this site and tackle issues as they arise and it is always, always about the tension between zweckrationalitat and wertrationalitat…. or the formal bureaucratic organization and the community values that are often the focus of undermining by the organization….not because the bureaucracy is evil but because it often has an agenda that doesn’t always, in fact rarely does coincide with community values.

          What could be a more obvious dichotomy between the two than a group of people who must get to the big city to earn their $$$$ and who, mostly by desire and need ,spontaneously over time create a growing and successful regime of ridership to solve their issue without any regulatory interference. Then they are confronted by the city bureaucracy who have their own agenda and who are more than willing to impose a set of rules to get their way, regardless of how it may impact the original idea of a free flowing commuter regime.

          Understanding that dichotomy and the tension that arises is the first step in ensuring a practical outcome for commuters. And that has nothing to do with getting a grip.

          Reply

          • July 5, 2014 @ 8:27 pm wharf rat

            Yes Salt it is all about getting a grip , a grip on the evolution and , subucation of Our Community !!!! MTC and ABAG were never voted for by our population/ellectorite , they are rouge beauracies … Orwellian in all respects ,, this whole Cabal needs an overhaul … This social Engineering
            will be defeated by the good people of Vallejo (by hook or by crook) We have the power as a Charter City to actually legislate for the better good of the People that We serve …………..And will …….. look for some big fireworks in our future .. the era of Civic rippoffs is at an end , and Corporal cha-ching needs to hire a lobbyist , or some other expert to fulfill his , theft of vallejos funds .. His percieved entiltement , being worth almost nothing, now reigns as just another theft .. perhaps a felony ??? the investigation will tell …

  6. June 30, 2014 @ 3:04 pm Anonymous

    Isn’t Soltrans it’s own government agency separate from the city of Vallejo? If it is, then the city of Vallejo at this point has nothing to do with carrying out this plan. The Soltrans website says it is a Joint Powers Authority with its own staff and monies, that has been in effect now for a few years:

    http://www.soltransride.com/about-soltrans/

    As for this Curtola Park and Ride construction plan, perhaps there are some things you are not taking into account as to why the timeline for completion is that long. Have you attended any of their Board meetings or talked to their staff on this issue to find out? Could be a number of issues.

    Reply

  7. July 1, 2014 @ 9:25 am Angie

    Thanks to everyone for your feedback! I’m glad I’m not the only one who cares. I just wanted to take a moment to clarify a couple things.
    One, I’m not opposing the plan for Curtola/Lemon. I think it is a good improvement and more parking is needed.
    Two, it is fair to pay a nominal fee (calculated with credible data) to maintain a parking garage.
    Three, I have reviewed all of the available documents including staff report, Draft and Final EIR, flyers, web content, etc. I was not in attendance at any of the meetings for the approval. Since moving here in 2011, I was unaware that this project was in the works until after the Planning Commission approved it.
    Four, my primary issue is that the most affected stakeholders (driver/riders of casual carpool) are being negatively effected for two full years for the complete time frame for the project. (It will likely take longer…they always do.)
    The reason I did this research was to show that there are better options and that the people who actually commute this way are being overlooked.

    One last thing…some contact info:
    Marty Hanneman, Project Manager (916) 804-0336, mhanneman@interwestgrp.com

    Vallejo City webpage for project info:
    http://www.ci.vallejo.ca.us/cms/One.aspx?portalId=13506&pageId=42457

    SolTrans webpage for project info:
    http://www.soltransride.com/planning/current-projects/soltrans-curtola-park-ride-hub/

    Reply

  8. July 28, 2015 @ 1:13 pm Angered1

    Disgusting to think that they’d charge $40/month for the “renovated” parking lot, including the vanpool lot on the other side. That’s what I heard. Has anybody thought of forming a casual carpool by Costo. There’s a lot of customer vacant parking lots, maybe as much as 60%.

    Reply


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