New SFO terminal cost-overrun dispute
- Published Sunday, December 3, 2000, in the San Francisco Chroncicle
Dispute Over Cost Of SFO Terminal
Contractor at odds with airport
Patrick Hoge, Chronicle Staff Writer
San Francisco -- San Francisco International Airport throws open the doors
this week to its new international terminal, but behind the scenes,
airport representatives are feuding with the general contractor over many
millions of dollars in disputed costs.
Although commercial passenger flights will begin leaving from the terminal
starting Tuesday, the gleaming structure still isn't complete. Sixteen
months after it was originally to have opened, thousands of details
unrelated to the building's basic health and safety remain unfinished.
The main terminal's $635 million price tag is at least $259.9 million over
the starting contract price. Remaining items range from light switch
covers to improperly hung doors, said Peter Nardoza, the airport's deputy
While much of the extra money was for additions to the original design,
the airport has threatened to seek damages for delay-related expenses and
what it has called poor workmanship by the lead contractor, a joint
venture led by Los Angeles County contracting titan Ron Tutor, and its
At the same time, the Tutor-led partnership, which includes Tutor-Saliba
Corp. of Sylmar, Perini Corp. of Massachusetts and Buckley & Co. of
Philadelphia, has complained angrily that airport representatives have
rejected numerous large requests for what are known as change orders --
unforeseen increases over the agreed-upon contract amount.
Airport Director John Martin has insisted that for such a large and
complex undertaking, the entire $2.9 billion airport expansion has gone
Nevertheless, Nardoza acknowledged Friday it will be months before the
airport knows whether it can negotiate agreements with
"It is the airport's hope that these claims and counterclaims can reach a
negotiated settlement, but if a negotiated settlement cannot be reached,
or course, there can be litigation," Nardoza said. Such disputes, Nardoza
said, are typical of big construction projects, whether private or public.
Likewise, Jack Frost, senior vice president of
Tutor-Saliba-Perini-Buckley, suggested Friday that litigation is not
"I don't believe there's anything on the job that can't be settled right
now," Frost said.
Nevertheless, a review of official correspondence between airport
representatives and the Tutor-led venture reveals an often contentious
relationship, with the airport threatening financial sanctions as
deadlines passed and repeatedly questioning the validity of some of the
The airport maintains the hundreds of thousands of pages of letters in a
secure room in anticipation, among other things, of possible litigation.
Though often technical in nature, the letters passed between Tutor-Saliba-
Perini-Buckley and the airport are sprinkled with accusatory words like
"unconscionable," "inconceivable," "spurious," "contemptuous" and
A recurrent complaint from Tutor's people is that the airport's contract
manager, SFO Associates, did not acknowledge how much extra time and money
were involved in the substantial revisions that the Airport Commission
made to its design plans after the original construction contracts were
The contractor has made similar complaints regarding some of its other
airport contracts, which total several hundred million dollars.
In the world of public contracting, experts say, the best way to prevent
such cost disputes is to specify on paper exactly what a project involves
before seeking bids.
"You better make sure in that situation that you are rigid about your
design and not going to make any changes," said David Hatheway, project
manager for the privately financed Pacific Bell Park, which in March came
in on time and on budget.
That is not what the Airport Commission did.
After signing the international terminal construction contracts, the
commission added a BART station inside the terminal and reconfigured large
areas to add more concessions and airline lounge space.
The deadline for "substantial completion" of the international terminal
was originally July 29, 1999, but that was moved to last Dec. 31.
Tutor-Saliba-Perini-Buckley said in October 1999 that it had reached that
critical milestone, but the airport disagreed. It did not find that the
contractor had met the goal until this past summer.
In January of this year, airport contract manager John Draguesku warned
Tutor-Saliba-Perini-Buckley that delay-related costs "will be accounted
for, and may result in damages owed to the airport."
The contractor reacted hotly, demanding documentation of any defective
work and delays.
Frost accused the airport in one letter of "belated machinations" and
called for a meeting with attorneys present. Company project manager
Michael Kerchner later accused the airport of "posturing" and trying to
spread blame for delays caused by other contractors.
For all the fireworks, it is unclear exactly how much money could be at
The airport has neither calculated the potential damages it could seek,
nor compiled the Tutor-Saliba-Perini-Buckley change orders it has
rejected. Frost declined to discuss financial implications.
For comparison, however, a smaller Tutor-led contract for a new boarding
area so far has produced $5.4 million of rejected change orders out of
$37.4 million submitted, with $3.1 million still pending.
So far on the international terminal, airport representatives have
approved a whopping $259.9 million in change order requests from
Two other companies with far smaller contracts than
Tutor-Saliba-Perini-Buckley, meanwhile, have already filed claims with the
airport for a total of $8.8 million.
Rob Wassmer, professor of public policy and economics at California State
University at Sacramento, said the public contracting system encourages
businesses to bid low and seek changes later, because it is the low bidder
who wins the job. Once a job starts, it is usually too expensive to
replace a contractor, he said.
Whether deserved or not, Tutor has gained a particular reputation for
generating significant change orders. In 1992, then-Los Angeles Mayor Tom
Bradley labeled Tutor "a change order artist."
Tutor has repeatedly sued government agencies and won large settlements.
In the case of the San Diego Convention Center, which was completed in
Tutor-Saliba sued the city port commission and settled in 1993 for $17
million. In 1994, Tutor-Saliba won the largest settlement ever from the
state Department of Transportation -- $39 million -- following a dispute
over delays in completing a highway bypass in Northern California.
Tutor's tactics may be coming back to haunt him in Los Angeles, where
Tutor's lawsuit against the Metropolitan Transportation Agency for $11
million in subway construction costs prompted the agency to countersue for
numerous alleged civil violations, including filing false claims.
In light of that lawsuit, some of Draguesku's more pointed queries about
contracting bills on the international terminal take on added meaning. For
example, Draguesku repeatedly questioned Tutor-Saliba-Perini-Buckley's
billings -- including one for $1.2 million -- for items he said had
previously been paid.
He also questioned billings for repair work required because the
contractor or its subcontractors had made mistakes, such as misalignment
of floors and door frames.
Draguesku also said the contractor had in some cases sought milestone
payments, claiming to have completed work that airport representatives
found had not even been started. When such payments run into the millions
the potential interest one can earn can be substantial.
Tutor-Saliba-Perini-Buckley "consistently asks for unsupported large
amounts of money," Draguesku wrote last December, "and these claims were
unsubstantiated when examined."
Kerchner, however, protested last year that the airport's representatives
were holding the general contractor "hostage," and that the contractor was
being forced to "submit to unfair treatment."
Refusal to pay for change orders, he said, was breeding "an attitude among
subcontractors where they become more and more reluctant to perform."
E-mail Patrick Hoge at phoge@....
- Published Monday, December 4, 2000, in the San Francisco Chronicle
BART Draws Revenue From Old Tickets
Unspent nickels, dimes add up to $10 million
Tom Zoellner, Chronicle Staff Writer
Rob Schumacher looked at his 10-cent BART ticket and chuckled, knowing he
would add it to his collection when he got home.
"I've got a whole bunch of these in my sock drawer," said the 37-year-old
San Francisco vocational counselor. "I always think that one day I'll
bring them in to add value to them, but I never do."
Those unspent dimes and quarters left on old BART tickets add up to nearly
$10 million a year in extra income for the transit system, which has come
to count on thousands of commuters throwing away or otherwise forgetting
about their low-value tickets rather than adding money to them. That
revenue is now built into BART's annual budget projections.
Technology exists that would allow riders to feed multiple fare cards into
ticket machines and receive a single card with an aggregate value. No
transit system in the world has ever tested it, however, and BART managers
have decided not to make the switch because of fears it would create long
lines at the machines.
"We don't want that frustration," BART spokesman Mike Healy said.
"Especially during rush hour, it can be a real problem."
Cubic Inc. of San Diego has the contract for BART's ticket machines. Abe
Wischnia, the company's director of corporate communication, said that
Cubic could reconfigure the machines but that BART officials had told the
firm they preferred to keep the windfall of unspent money.
"They like having the float on those tickets," he said.
In a subsequent interview, however, Wischnia amended his statement and
said BART had decided not to reprogram the machines for other reasons,
including the desire not to create long lines at rush hour.
Cubic officials wouldn't speculate on how much it would cost to reprogram
all the ticket machines in the BART system.
BART accountants use the term "unearned revenue" to describe the pocket
change that comes when a commuter throws away a ticket with money still on
BART's fare collection system has remained essentially unchanged since the
system opened in 1972. Money can be added to tickets, but multiple tickets
cannot be pooled into one.
Customers who have large stacks of penny-ante tickets can still get a
refund check by mailing them to BART's Oakland office, said Healy, and
BART has sponsored periodic refund days where people can trade their
unused tickets for cash at selected stations. However, Healy acknowledged,
most riders do not take advantage of either offer.
For reasons that nobody can explain, BART's unearned revenue has risen
sharply in the last four years. In the fiscal year that ended in 1996,
unearned revenue amounted to $2.6 million. Last year, it was $9.9 million.
"It sounds like a lot of money, but then you realize its a very small
percentage of our totals," said Joe Evinger, manager of operating budgets
and analysis for BART.
Last year's total, for example, amounted to 4.5 percent of BART's $216
million in gross ticket sales, he said.
All the 300 or so ticket machines in BART stations are scheduled to be
replaced by 2003. But BART officials said the new machines would not
include the ability to create aggregated tickets.
"It's not one of those things that keeps cropping up on our radar screen,"
Healy said. "It never shows up on our customer satisfaction surveys. My
guess is that if you spent the money to add to the ticketing technology,
the chance of people actually using it on a broad scale is pretty slim."
But Tom Radulovich, a member of the BART board of directors elected from
San Francisco, said he had asked the staff "about a million times" whether
the machines could give customers an aggregate ticket.
"The answer I always get is 'no,' " Radulovich said. "They tell me the
machines are not physically able to give you all your tickets back if you
hit the 'cancel' button in the middle of the transaction."
That is true, but the machines can be programmed in such a way to issue a
customer a receipt if the transaction is canceled, said Mike Roll, the
BART program manager for Cubic. That receipt could later be exchanged for
Because of the way a ticket passes through the add-fare machines, Cubic
engineers would have to create a second mechanical pathway through the
main ticket machines to allow customers to pool their low-value tickets.
"It's not just a software issue, it's a hardware issue," Roll said.
Healy said BART officials had rejected the idea of asking Cubic to
reprogram a small number of machines to handle aggregated tickets.
About the SeriesIf you have a question, concern or story idea, please send
it to Commuter Chronicles, 901 Mission St., San Francisco 94103 or send
E-mail Tom Zoellner at tzoellner@....
- Published Monday, December 4, 2000, in the San Francisco Chronicle
A Guide to the New International Wing
Marshall Wilson, Chronicle Staff Writer
Savvy overseas travelers who thought they knew San Francisco International
Airport inside and out may end up looking like befuddled tourists when
they visit SFO's new international terminal.
Beginning tomorrow, SFO starts to transfer all international flights to
the new $1 billion terminal. Even frequent fliers might consider packing a
map and compass to avoid getting lost in this new terminal.
SFO is already the ninth busiest airport in the world, and it is huge. Now
it is bigger. The 2.5 million-square-foot international terminal is larger
than most U.S. airports -- in square footage alone, it is the equivalent
of five Transamerica pyramids. More space to get lost in.
There are also miles of new access roads and new parking lots. Inside,
there are new gate numbers and new check-in counters. And little of this
new system bears any similarity to the old international terminal.
Thousands of people visited the new international terminal yesterday
during a daylong open house. As they checked out the architecture,
restaurants and shops, the question on everyone's mind was whether the new
terminal would speed air travel as promised.
"It will be interesting to see how functional it will be," said Tiburon
doctor Allan Jackman, who traveled to Cuba, Turkey and Paris in the past
"There are times when you come back and spend a long, long time in
customs, " Jackman said. "When I see the improvement, I'll believe it."
Others were impressed by the array of art work and places to eat.
"I think they're giving people the feeling of what it's like to dine in
the Bay Area," said Diane Means, a Palo Alto resident and administrator in
the Santa Clara Unified School District. "They've tried to create an
After weeks of tests, this is the week anxious SFO officials and
international travelers have been waiting for. Here's a guide to
navigating the new SFO.
The international terminal was built in front of the old domestic
terminal, creating an additional entrance to the airport, with the
boarding gates stretching out like wings to either side. The southern wing
is designated "A," the northern wing "G."
To avoid confusion with gate numbers in the domestic terminal, gates in
the new terminal are preceded by an "A" or "G." Part of the south wing of
the old domestic terminal will be torn down in a few years but will remain
in use for domestic flights until then.
The old international terminal, which is at the midpoint of the old
terminal complex and first opened in 1954, will be remodeled and expanded
for domestic flights.
The departures area for all flights in all terminals -- old and new -- is
on the top level.
INSIDE THE TERMINAL
Forgive newcomers if they look a bit lost in the terminal's vast expanse.
On the departures level where the ticket counters are located, the roof is
83 feet above the terrazzo floor, and the building spans the length of
more than two football fields.
The terminal is designed to make travel go more smoothly for departing and
arriving passengers. There are several key differences between the "old"
SFO and the new terminal.
The 168 international check-in counters are divided among six islands.
Unlike the rest of SFO, airlines here share check-in counter space, in the
sense that if one airline has a very busy day, it can borrow the counter
desk or two normally occupied by the adjacent airline. That way, an
airline, in theory, will be able to keep lines short during peak times by
opening more counters as needed.
Still, most airlines will have a "home" base to avoid confusion.
Passengers need to scan any of numerous video terminals to find the
location of their airline and the correct check-in counters.
The international terminal has 24 gates for arriving and departing
a dozen each in the "A" and "G" boarding areas. The old international
terminal had a total of 10 gates.
Rather than being merely a travel portal, the terminal contains enough
upscale shopping outlets to fill a mall and contains nearly 20 places to
Behind the ticket counters are two food courts. Additional restaurants are
located in the boarding areas.
Unlike the current international terminal, the boarding areas will be open
to people without tickets. SFO officials -- and restaurant and store
--expect the terminal will become a travel destination itself for Bay Area
residents who will eat, drink and shop there.
GETTING TO SFO
Until the BART extension opens (scheduled in about a year), travelers
arrive at SFO by car, bus, taxi or limousine.
Public transit, shuttles from the Millbrae Caltrain station and charter
buses deposit passengers on the ground level.
Signs from Highway 101 point the way for drivers. Two new parking garages
were built as part of SFO's $2.8 billion expansion, a 1,698-space garage
on the road to the terminal and a 1,437-space garage on the road leading
from it. The price is $1 for 15 minutes, up to a maximum of $18 a day.
Long-term parking is located north of the airport off McDonnell Road, near
the United Airlines maintenance center. Several privately operated lots
are also in the area. All run shuttles to the airport.
SFO operates a toll-free transit line staffed by agents between 7:30 a.m.
and 5 p.m. They can provide information about shuttle service and public
transportation. The number is (800) 736-2008.
SFO's AirTrain System will not open until late next year. The line, with
cars on rubber wheels powered by electricity, will eventually have stops
connecting the domestic and international terminals, rental and long-term
parking lots and an as-yet unbuilt airport hotel.
Passengers also can reach the new international terminal via walkways from
the old terminal.
From the north terminal, the walkway is past the United Airlines check-in
counters. From the south terminal, the walkway is past the Southwest
Airlines and U.S. Airways check-in counters.
The walk takes a minute or so and requires taking stairs, an escalator or
elevator up one level. Another option is to take a shuttle bus that comes
by every few minutes on the upper, or departures, level.
Arriving at SFO will be a new experience.
The terminal is designed to handle a dozen fully loaded Boeing 747s
arriving simultaneously. The goal is to have the last person off a plane
out the door in 45 minutes.
International passengers currently get off the plane and wait for bags. To
speed up the process, passengers now will first pass through U.S.
Immigration, then pick up their bags and pass through expanded U.S.
There are six baggage carousels located in each boarding area, or 12
carousels in all. There are only two carousels in the old international
Once through Customs, passengers are on the terminal's second level, where
taxis, hotel shuttles and limousines are to wait. Shuttles to the rental
car garage, long-term parking lots and domestic terminal are on the third
level, as are door-to-door shuttle vans.
GATES OF THE WORLD
SFO's new International Terminal changes the face of the world's
Designed and built to handle the increasing number of international
flights and passengers to and from the Bay Area, the new International
Terminal -- with its aviation museum and premier shops and restaurants --
could almost be considered a destination in itself. The new international
terminal is the centerpiece of SFO's Master Plan, a construction program
that includes a new airport-wide electric rail shuttle, improved roadway
access from Highway 101 and a long-awaited connection to the BART system.
Aviation Library and Museum
The library contains the airport commission's 5,000-volume collection of
commercial aviation publications. The design of the 11,000-square-foot
Turpen Aviation Museum, showcasing artifacts related to the history of air
transportation and SFO, was inspired by the airport's waiting area of 1937
and incorporates marble floor patterns and ornamental iron scrollwork.
Both the library and the museum are open to the public. In addition, four
new exhibition galleries located throughout the new terminal will feature
rotating displays on world cultures.
A Whole New Look for SFO
Given the task of adding a new structure to an airport confined by limited
land availability, architects designed the new terminal to straddle the
360- foot-wide roadway that approaches the airport from Highway 101. The
airport's name is etched on the glass facade facing the traffic to finally
give SFO a signature look. Two thin wings -- Boarding Area A and Boarding
Area G -- reach out from the central structure and become the first and
last of the seven wings that make up the radial structure of the airport.
Two new nine-story garages for short-term parking complete the project.
E-mail Marshall Wilson at marshallwilson@...
- Published Monday, December 4, 2000, in the San Francisco Chronicle
SFO's Sleek, Tangled Terminal Exterior aesthetics don't compensate for
confusing inner corridors
John King, Chronicle Staff Writer
No matter how dazzling the design or how snazzy the shops, the ultimate
test of an airport is how smoothly it works. People are there on a mission
-- to get somewhere or meet someone.
That simple fact is what keeps the San Francisco International Airport's
new International Terminal from being a complete success. Aesthetically,
the $1 billion structure is stunning. But there's more to life than
architecture -- and more to traveling, especially from the nation's fifth
The terminal already has become a visual landmark: the long wall with its
austere panels of aluminum and clouded glass creates a presence along the
freeway that SFO lacked in the past, capped by a dramatic roof of three
cantilevered trusses. Individually, they resemble bowstrings. Together,
they could be a sleek bird coasting in flight.
Wing-like roofs are almost common nowadays at the world's newest airports,
but this one isn't a gimmick. The building sits above a dozen lanes of
traffic serving the domestic terminal. That dictates a 380-foot-long space
between the central columns, creating the need for a bridge-like span
above the terminal's departure hall.
The architects turned this challenge into one of the Bay Area's most
richly satisfying rooms. What's spectacular isn't just the size -- 700
feet long, 200 feet deep, 83 feet high -- but the sense of potential:
instead of confronting the typical tight row of airline counters,
travelers enter a realm that spreads in all directions.
Everything is muted, from the gray terrazzo floors to the stainless steel
wall panels to the indirect light that floats in from outside. The only
significant intrusions are six thin islands of check-in counters,
perpendicular to the entrances, spaced 70 or so feet apart. Each is topped
by a slender line of offices cloaked in smoked glass. The counters and
offices together are roughly two stories high, leaving five stories of
space below the ceiling.
The effect is spare, low-key -- but "low-key" doesn't mean stark. There's
elegance in how the interior columns look vaguely like upright arrows, how
the columns along the main walls flare outward slightly in the middle. And
the space is framed by two soft lines of color -- a row of bamboo trees
form green waves along the front wall, while the rear wall above the
offices is covered in 21,000 square feet of cherry wood.
"The idea was to make an environment that's serene, that gives you a sense
of calm," says Craig Hartman, lead designer for the terminal and a partner
in the San Francisco office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.
Hartman and Skidmore didn't design the project on their own; two local
firms were partners, Michael Willis & Associates and Del Campo & Maru. But
the crisp restraint of the design is similar to other work of Hartman's,
particularly a recent limestone-and-glass office tower at 101 2nd Street.
His buildings seem to stand apart from passing trends -- a place where one
often finds the best architecture.
In the real world, unfortunately, the terminal isn't a place apart; it's
an intricate piece of a complicated whole. And that's where the troubles
One possible miscalculation involves the signage, which is as discreet as
the rest of the building. There are no prominent airline logos or
displays, just small digital signs that can be programmed to announce the
check-in locations for particular flights. Hartman and airport officials
are confident the system will be self-explanatory. Still, it's easy to
picture new visitors standing befuddled, looking for the obvious cues they
know from other airports.
The same befuddlement might also appear on the faces of travelers who
emerge from customs -- not into the seductive great hall, but into a dark,
low-ceilinged waiting area one level below.
The spacious room where travelers check in should also be where San
Francisco greets the world, offering openness and a sophisticated sense of
style. But because of physical and security constraints, people arriving
from abroad enter a long sealed-off corridor, go through one of 92 booths
operated by the Immigration department, pick up their luggage, pass
through customs -- and step into a space bare but for the trunks of the
bamboo trees, seating on the edges of the room and medallions representing
different airports embedded in the floor. Fifteen paces more and travelers
are on a covered sidewalk, wondering what to do next.
Compare this to the Denver International Airport, which opened in 1995.
From customs, the traveler enters a corner of the huge tent-covered
central atrium, a cozy space enlivened with museum exhibits. In Denver, as
in train stations of old, you've arrived. Here, it's as if one has emerged
from a bureaucratic maze into a dim, cramped void.
Even the approach to the airport is marred. The winged roof and the glass
wall proclaiming "San Francisco International" look great in photographs
-- but visitors never get a clear vista, only a tangled sweep of ramps.
Then they are either whisked into one of the two new parking garages or
plunged underneath the terminal on their way to the "old" SFO.
Granted, it's hard to overcome the constraints of the site. There was no
chance to start anew, as in Denver; a hotel was torn down, rental car
operations were booted elsewhere, and then the terminal was squeezed into
The snug geography also means the two concourses flanking the terminal
function mostly as long corridors, albeit attractive ones. The architects
-- Gerson/Overstreet to the south, Hellmuth Obata & Kassabaum to the north
-- couldn't create the distinctive environment one finds, say, at the
United Terminal at O'Hare Airport in Chicago, where the concourses are so
wide, the walkways could be topped with a huge barrel vault that conjures
up images of a jetliner's frame.
Still, SFO planners turned the space bind to their advantage. The
concourses are multilevel structures -- departing passengers on the top,
arriving travelers one floor below. That's also where passengers enter
their aircraft, so SFO planners carved out two-story waiting areas. There
are 40- foot-high windows to watch the activity outside and seating is
available on both levels. This roominess promises to be far more
comfortable than the jammed gates at other airports.
The other places to kill time, of course, are in the two dozen shops and
restaurants that line various sections of the complex. And as one might
expect in San Francisco, these spaces -- most designed by small firms
working for individual tenants -- offer some of the terminal's boldest
Without question, the most creative is the terminal's upscale Restaurant
This bistro occupies a deep space just off the main hall, and owner George
Chen and Engstrom Design Group smartly created a retreat that feels
nothing like the terminal around it. From purple terrazzo floor and
multicolored wall tiles to a dining room ceiling that Eric Engstrom
describes as "antique bronze green," this is sumptuous sensory indulgence,
the perfect contrast to the hall's airy calm.
In the year ahead, an estimated 7 million international passengers will
use the terminal. But it's also worth a visit by anyone interested in
architecture -- for if there's a single Bay Area building so vast and
distinctive that it seems like its own separate world, this is the one.
E-mail John King at jking@....
- Published Sunday, December 3, 2000, in the San Francisco Chronicle
Letters to the Editor
FOR BAY FERRIES
Editor -- Gov. Gray Davis recently approved $12 million in start-up funds
for the Bay Area Water Transit Authority. The appropriation is a landmark
for Bay Area transportation and sets the stage for a large scale return of
ferries -- updated to 21st-century standards of speed and efficiency -- as
a means of regional mass transit.
The first job for the authority's new president and board of directors
will be to develop the operating plan for a comprehensive regional water
transit system. The proposal developed last year foresees up to 28
terminals linked by 75 vessels carrying 15 million to 20 million
passengers yearly by 2010.
The authority's plan will address detailed issues such as terminal siting,
vessel technology, environmental impacts and finance. Construction will
begin only when the final plan is approved and funded.
Residents of the Bay Area know the urgency of finding solutions to the
region's transportation crisis. Today, the bay is more a barrier than a
bridge, despite the fact that most of our population lives adjacent to its
shores. It is also our last great transportation resource.
Modern high-speed vessels can move commuters from point to point faster
than they can go by car, and more pleasantly. Water transit isn't a
panacea for the region's transportation problems but can be an important
part of the solution.
With the governor's support, the Bay Area Water Transit Authority is ready
to get to work.
R. SEAN RANDOLPH
President, Bay Area Economic Forum
- Published Saturday, December 2, 2000, in the San Jose Mercury News
2 insurers hike rates for bigger vehicles
New York Times
With evidence growing that sport-utility vehicles, pickups and large vans
are causing disproportionate harm to cars and their occupants in
collisions, two insurers that together cover nearly 25 million vehicles
have quietly begun making drivers of the bigger vehicles pay more for
Officials of Allstate Insurance Co. and the Progressive Insurance Group,
the nation's second- and fourth-largest insurers, said this week that they
had begun raising the cost of liability insurance for many big,
high-riding vehicles while lowering premiums for the cars that are owned
by most Americans.
Farmers Insurance Group, the third-biggest insurer, plans to adopt similar
pricing next year.
``People with standard sedans and smaller cars today are subsidizing
people with sports utilities and vans and pickups,'' said Kevin Kelso, who
is in charge of auto insurance at Farmers, a unit of Zurich Financial
Out of concern that they would lose some of their best customers, insurers
until recently have hesitated to adopt pricing plans that shift costs to
owners of the biggest vehicles.
Indeed, State Farm, the nation's largest auto insurer, announced a new
pricing plan on Tuesday that would do just the opposite, reducing the cost
to drivers of many larger vehicles for the personal injury portion of
What the otherwise contradictory moves have in common is that they reflect
aspects, at least, of reality on the road.
When big, high-riding vehicles collide with smaller ones, the smaller car
often is left severely damaged and its occupants with severe injuries,
while the larger vehicle better protects its occupants from serious harm.
Yet insurance premiums have ignored that pattern.
Instead, two drivers with similar records have paid the same for liability
coverage (for damage and injuries to others) and personal injury coverage
(for injuries in the policyholder's vehicle), whether they are driving a
Chevrolet Suburban or a Ford Escort.
- Published Monday, December 4, 2000, in the San Jose Mercury News
Widen 101 now or pay more later
By Gary Richards
Mercury News Staff Columnist
Q: I'll trust you'll devote a column to those who don't agree with the
anti-Sierra Club, pro-growth sentiment espoused recently over the proposed
widening of Highway 101. I'm not a Sierra Club member, but I was alarmed
by your column. One writer wants ``environmentally sustainable'' growth.
That's impossible. We cannot sustain growth indefinitely without adverse
Another says most county residents want to widen 101 to eight lanes.
There's no evidence of that. If anything, the recent election shows that
residents want to control growth and fund mass transit.
Another is concerned about Cisco's massive campus in South San Jose adding
to congestion on 101. Well, speak up! Tell the powers that be that they
must plan nearby housing when they plan new high-tech sprawl.
We're in an endless spiral of jobs, housing and freeways. That's fine if
we want to grow forever. Otherwise, we must plan these things in tandem.
Voters overwhelmingly approved Measure K to limit San Jose growth. That
was just one of 13 such measures passed in the Bay Area on Nov. 7.
No widening of 101. We have to start somewhere to stop growth.
A: I understand your views, and they have merit. However, county voters in
1996 endorsed the widening of 101 from four to six lanes, and the issue
now is whether to stick to that deal or widen the freeway further to eight
lanes by adding carpool lanes. Widening the road to eight lanes can be
done now much more cheaply than in another decade or so. Stick to six
lanes, and we lose a chance to encourage more people to carpool -- and
miss a chance for a carpool-to-carpool ramp on the interchange from
Highway 101 to Highway 85.
County voters can congratulate themselves for their pro-transit stances
taken this year in approving BART to San Jose as well as light-rail and
Caltrain improvements. While no new highways are planned, existing
bottlenecks can be upgraded, and this is one of them.
This road will be widened to eight lanes -- some day. Wait, and it will
cost millions more.
Q: Santa Clara County's Measure A contains money for electrifying
Caltrain. Is this just for Santa Clara County, or will all of Caltrain be
electrified up to San Francisco?
A:The 30-year, half-cent sales tax that was approved by Santa Clara County
voters last month won't pay the entire electrification tab. San Francisco
will have to pony up money, and there is talk of placing a tax measure on
the 2004 ballot. That most likely will need a two-thirds vote, a
possibility in transit-friendly San Francisco.
Contact Gary Richards at mrroadshow@... or (408) 920-5335. The
fax number is (408) 288-8060. Please leave a daytime phone number. Or try
our home page: www0.mercurycenter.com/columnists/richards
- Published Monday, December 4, 2000, in the San Jose Mercury News
County reworks buses' routes
Fremont, Newark service hours to increase 50%
In hopes of getting people out of their cars, transit officials will add
400 hours of bus service. But it's not clear whether this will change
residents' commute patterns.
By Matthai Chakko Kuruvila
Alameda County transit officials will revamp bus service in the Fremont
and Newark areas in two weeks, reshaping bus routes and increasing hours
of service by 50 percent.
Local leaders hope the moves will ease the area's dependency on cars and
possibly speed up the crawling pace of commute-hour city traffic.
The additional 400 hours of bus service will begin Dec. 17, creating
commute routes every 15 minutes, stretching service into late evenings and
increasing the number of weekend bus trips.
AC Transit also changed bus paths from a decades-old pattern that
meandered through neighborhoods to a grid system fixed on major roads.
That move is designed to make cross-city transit more efficient.
But while the changes address long-standing complaints about a lack of
adequate bus service in southern Alameda County, it's not clear whether
they will ease the slothlike pace of city traffic.
Fremont and Newark are already wedged in by heavily congested interstates
880 and 680, where the majority of East Bay commuters slowly creep into
Silicon Valley. Many of those commuters leave the highways for local
streets. With 20,000 workers expected at Fremont's Pacific Commons
business technology park in the next five to 10 years, city traffic is
likely to get worse.
It's also unclear how many people will actually ride a bus in cities that
are increasingly becoming homes for the wealthy.
``This will get some people out of their cars, but I don't think it will
make major changes to people's patterns,'' said Gus Morrison, Fremont's
mayor, who served on an advisory committee about the bus service.
But local leaders hope the refashioned bus service will, at the very
least, encourage change.
``There's got to be a point where people take transit to work, instead of
sitting on the freeway,'' said Fremont city council member Judy Zlatnik,
who 26 years ago lobbied to have Fremont join the transit district. ``We
have to improve service enough so that people can use transit.''
The new plan's grid pattern should help the cause.
A new route map shows new bus lines spread far and evenly across the city,
stopping at many of the two cities' major destinations, including Ohlone
College, NewPark Mall and the Lido Faire Shopping Center. Thirteen of the
14 bus lines will stop at the Union City or Fremont BART stations, and
three lines stop at the Centerville train station used by Amtrak and
Altamont Corridor Express trains. Many routes also will stop at major
businesses throughout both cities, including the historically underserved
industrial areas of Fremont and parts of Newark.
AC Transit spokesman Mike Mills said that the recession that hit
California in the early 1990s prevented the agency from restructuring its
route map sooner. After modifying bus service in Richmond down to San
Leandro, the agency didn't have enough funds to continue into southern
Alameda County, Mills said.
Fremont politicians said that the north-to-south restructuring is just one
example of south county's lower status in funding -- despite the city's
sizable tax base, which has barely trailed Oakland's for years.
``I think that we were the stepchild of the district,'' Morrison said. ``A
whole lot of money was being siphoned out of the district.
``These systems were designed when San Francisco was the center of the
world,'' he said. ``The world has changed, but it takes a long time to
catch up with that.''
IF YOU'RE INTERESTED
Check out transit information at http://www.actransit.org and
Contact Matthai Chakko Kuruvila at mkuruvila@... or (510)
- Published Monday, December 4, 2000, in the San Mateo County Times
Sparrow flies onto roadways
New three-wheel vehicles cost less than $20,000
By Chris Tribbey
It's 4 feet wide by 8 feet long. It has a dome-shaped roof, one door, air
conditioning and a CD player. It can travel in car pool lanes and speed
past bridge toll booths, but it isn't a car.
Meet the Sparrow -- three wheels of steel that turn heads while zipping
along at 70 mph on the highway.
"The Sparrow is the vehicle for the 21st century, because it's
revolutionary in so many ways," said Anthony Luzi, who sells the vehicles
out of his Emeryville home. "It has a front-end assembly like a Volkswagen
Beetle, and the chamber looks like an egg."
Made by Corbin Motors in Hollister, the Sparrow is a single-person,
all-electric commuter vehicle that has found its own niche in the
It's designed solely for the intra- and inner-city commuter: A full charge
of four hours gives the vehicle a range of up to 60 miles, and storage is
at a premium. There's one seat, one headlight, and the driver sits above
the one wheel holding up the rear.
"It reminds me of go-carts," said San Leandro resident Renee Campanioni,
who bought Sparrow number 83 in October. "I always wanted a motorcycle,
and this is as close as I'll ever get."
Safety of the small vehicle isn't a concern, according to the company. The
Sparrow was engineered like a motorcycle helmet, with its spherical design
lending structural strength. It may not have an air bag, or be able to
take as much physical punishment as an SUV, but its high visibility is
also a deterrent against accidents.
Campanioni owns a Toyota RAV4, but for her commute to work at First
American Title in Oakland, the sports utility vehicle was costing her a
bundle in gas costs, not to mention the wear and tear suffered by driving
Interstate 880 every day.
When the Oakland Athletics were in the playoffs, she saw a couple of
Sparrows parked at the stadium.
"I had to drive one. That's all it took...I was hooked," she said.
Now she uses her Sparrow, with the license plate "Geezmo," to get to work
every day. Instead of spending $20 or more a week on gas, she sees an
extra $20 a month on her electric bill.
And she quickly became popular with her co-workers.
"They all want to drive it," she said. "On Halloween I was dressed as
Carmen Miranda and driving my Sparrow open to work at five in the morning
"Before I get out of it, there are two Oakland cops who had to come over
and look at it...they were laughing at me."
There's a four- to six-month wait to get one, since there were only a few
hundred made in its first year on the market.
"They're like pets with (the owners)," Luzi said. "Everyone knows their
number, and they understand that when they go into mass production, these
are collectors' items."
Luzi, who is a shareholder and investor in Corbin Motors, has sold 40 out
of his home in Emeryville and office in Hollywood, and said there is an
order for more than 1,000 new Sparrows. There are only 175 Sparrows
currently on the roads of America, most of them in California. Luzi added
that before the end of January, he'll be selling the vehicles out of a new
dealership in Berkeley. The Sparrows sell for $14,900.
"People love these mainly because they're a no-brainer to operate," he
said. "The average individual, with a small amount of mechanical aptitude,
can take care of this (vehicle)."
- Published December 3, 2000, in the San Mateo County Times
Monorail expert boasts Bay Area upbringing
By Monique Beeler
Danville -- Transportation expert Jeffery Kimmel is a leading figure
behind the Las Vegas monorail, a privately funded public transit project
that promises tourists a smooth ride and residents no new taxes to pay for
But Kimmel, 47, didn't set out to become the creator of a monorail system
on the dazzling-bright Las Vegas strip.
Perhaps like many young men growing up in the '60s, Kimmel's post-college
dream involved floating on a boat off the shore of Mexico. He knew
Spanish, had a few business contacts in the shrimp industry and a ready
buyer in the states.
It wasn't to be.
Instead, Kimmel's life took that string of unplanned turns that shape many
careers. From boat owner to meat truck driver to the organizer of an
innovative monorail project, Kimmel's path has wound circuitously toward
an end that pleases him and thrills his father, the man to whom Kimmel
gives credit for much of his success.
"When he was 15, I told him, 'I'll pay for your education, but you have to
get an education. I'm not going to pay for you to go play a flute,'" said
Kimmel's father, Bobby Lee, 74.
The senior Kimmel said he hasn't been disappointed.
Jeffery Kimmel grew up in Hayward, where his father owned a meat shop. On
busy days, Bobby Lee would call up his son's principal at James Logan High
School to borrow Kimmel and a few friends to unload trucks for a couple
hours. In the summer, Kimmel returned to his father's business to drive
delivery trucks while the employees took their hard-earned vacations.
Working alongside full-time drivers, who paid mortgages and supported
families with their hourly wages, provided Kimmel a different form of
"He put into me the understanding of what it was to work," Kimmel said.
"(That's) what made me want to go to college more than anything else."
Following graduation with a political science degree from the University
of Oregon in 1975, Kimmel headed south across the border.
"I came to love the Mexican culture," Kimmel said. "I moved down there and
sold everything I owned -- my car, my stereo, pretty much the shirt on my
After dealing with a few corrupt officials, locating a freezer plant and
securing a supplier of waxed boxes, Kimmel was ready to set his shrimp
supply business in motion. Then he received word that his mother had been
diagnosed with breast cancer, news that instantly brought him back home.
His mother's health soon stabilized and Kimmel returned to school, this
time to become a lawyer. He knew early in his studies that he didn't want
to practice law, but he figured a legal education could prove useful in
other fields. After working at a Los Angeles law firm for a year, Kimmel
returned -- with a new wife in tow -- to the Bay Area where he got
involved in real estate development.
"What I found was that I was very interested in the deals that were being
done," Kimmel said. "I was always drooling over the deal itself."
His experience as general counsel for a development firm eventually helped
him land a similar job at a specialty engineering firm in Campbell called
VSL Corp. The international company's diverse design and engineering
clients exposed Kimmel to projects on bridges, nuclear power plants and
"My office was next to the president's office, and my job was to do
whatever work he couldn't get to," Kimmel said.
As part of his duties, Kimmel became involved in an innovative
transportation project in Irvine that would have built a monorail system,
starting with a route between the John Wayne International Airport and an
The problem was that taxpayers consistently rejected tax increases that
would have paid for the system. So, Kimmel offered a deal to the head of a
local real estate company who was building a nearby office park.
"We convinced him we could get bonus density -- meaning he could build
more square feet on the parcel," Kimmel explained. In exchange, the realty
firm would agree to build the first leg of the monorail project.
The parties involved agreed, but the deal collapsed when the real estate
market dropped dramatically in 1990. The concept of creating
public-private partnerships to build public transit systems, however,
"We kept that under our hat," Kimmel said. "And (we) went off looking for
In 1993, Kimmel secured a similar project for VSL to develop a 1-mile
monorail ride between MGM Grand and Bally's hotels in Las Vegas. By this
time, Kimmel had conceived of a more far-reaching monorail system that
would stretch four miles from end-to-end on the Las Vegas strip. His
company, now under new ownership, had other plans. As part of a corporate
restructuring, VSL would drop the transportation division.
"Nine months after I got that project, I left the company because I had a
vision for (the monorail), and my company wasn't going to support it
anymore," Kimmel said.
Kimmel took his case and his vision to the hotels.
"I was doing everything I could do to convince the resorts, meaning MGM
Grand and the Hilton, that this experimental project was feasible both
financially and technologically," he said.
Their interest was piqued by the promise that ridership would pay for the
project, the hotels' leaders were further persuaded by a later independent
study that backed up Kimmel's ridership claims.
The journey has been rocky, and required the passage of new legislation to
allow a privately built transportation system to charge riders a fare. But
Kimmel appears to be nearing his destination.
Las Vegas voters have approved a bond offering of about $600 million to
finance the $650 million project, with the rest coming from resorts and
construction companies. Construction began Sept. 20 and is expected to be
completed in January 2004.
"I'm really proud of him," Bobby Lee Kimmel said. "He gambled. He took a
chance and it paid off for him."
- Published Saturday, December 2, 2000, in the Oakland Tribune
BART scrambles to keep up with population boom
By Chris Tribbey
A passenger riding a BART train through Hayward once saw something so odd,
so insulting to a regular commuter, she had to complain about it.
The passenger called BART and said, "Oh, my God! There's only one car
running!" recalled Betty Soohoo, assistant chief transportation officer
That empty car wasn't carrying passengers, and it wasn't an operator out
on a joy ride. It was a test car running on BART's 2.3-mile test track
between Whipple Road and Industrial Parkway. The track is home to 24-hour
tests five days a week.
What she didn't know was that one car represents the near future of BART.
BART logged an additional 41,000 more rides on its system this past year,
and every one of its 39 stations saw an increase in daily ridership. A
boom in the Bay Area's population and longer commutes between home and
work has sent BART scrambling to keep its stations and trains in optimal
In early October BART saw its all-time record for ridership in a single
day shattered, when it logged 366,800 exits during the baseball playoffs.
The standing record was 357,000, set shortly after the Loma Prieta
Midway through a $1.1 billion systemwide renovation project, BART is
hoping new technologies and upgraded trains and cars will make for easier,
For eight hours every day, cars that have problems are run along the test
track, so engineers can determine what's wrong. At any one time, about 40
of the 670 cars in BART's fleet are out of service.
For another eight hours every day, contractors with BART are testing cars
that have been gutted and upgraded, running them back and forth before
putting them back in use.
But it's the remaining eight hours of testing that are most important to
BART and hold the most benefits for its riders.
The transit district is testing an automatic train control system that is
based on a military radio positioning system used in the Persian Gulf War.
With radios placed along every mile of BART's 95 miles of track , the
system will eventually track trains within 15 feet of their exact
location. Through its current cable tracking system, BART can only find
trains within 350 feet of their location.
The new system can also control a train's braking, unlike the current
system. That makes the trains safer and more energy-efficient because
power not being used by a braking train can instead be used by an
Currently BART runs 22 trains per hour in each direction of its five
lines. The technology would increase the number to 30.
If it works, BART's trains will run fast enough to make more than 100
extra stops at the stations. That's more, less-crowded trains at every
station, every hour.
"This is the next generation of train control," Rodriguez said.
The technology will soon be installed at the Lake Merritt and Fruitvale
stations in Oakland. From there it will be expanded along all of BART's
rails. Don't expect trains running within a couple dozen feet of each
other too soon, though: BART officials say the technology will be phased
in over several years.
If you're constantly riding any of the three BART lines that serve
Hayward, San Leandro and Castro Valley, you may find yourself stuck
standing on the trains more often than not.
Part of the reason is that there are no 10-car trains running during
standing-room-only commute hours.
"Fremont riders are crammed into smaller trains," said Andrea Proctor of
San Francisco. "Longer 10-car trains during commute hours would do the
The Fremont-Daly City trains include nine cars during peak hours (6-9
a.m., 3-7 p.m.). The Dublin-Pleasanton trains carry eight cars during peak
hours, while the Fremont-Richmond trains will only have six cars during
peak hours. All three trains will carry three to four cars during off-peak
It's not an evil scheme to pack riders like sardines, BART says. There
just aren't enough cars available.
"We want to get more cars out there. No one line takes the brunt,"
Rodriguez said. "But at any one time there are at least 40 cars out of
BART is overhauling every one of the 439 original cars in its fleet (there
are 670 total). Gutting is actually a better description.
The body of the car is taken off and literally miles of wiring are ripped
out and replaced before new control equipment, new brakes and new
insulation are put back in. And each car still has to be tested before it
is put back into service.
There are 56 trains out at any one time on BART's five lines, doing 698
daily runs, and each carrying at least six cars during peak hours. BART
anticipates when more cars are needed (every one of the three local lines
had 10-car trains during the baseball playoffs), but until all the cars
are renovated and put back into service, there's only one way to avoid
standing all the way to San Francisco during the commute.
"Take an earlier train," Rodriguez said.
It was a good November for BART.
Measure A passed in Santa Clara County, paving the way for BART service to
Milpitas, Santa Clara and San Jose, a proposition that many thought would
The half-cent transportation sales tax Measure B passed in Alameda County,
giving it $291 million beginning in 2002 toward extensions, stations and
transit village projects in the county.
Another benefit from Measure B is $109 million that BART is due to receive
for seismic retrofitting. The money will come years from now, after BART
begins work on six county projects that Measure B will partially fund.
"Our physical infrastructure is in need of rehabilitation," said Director
Roy Nakadegawa, who overseas BART operations in San Leandro and San
Lorenzo. "It needs to be more resistant to future major earthquakes."
Caltrans recently finished seismic retroffiting on bridges that run over
BART rails in Oakland, but actaul retrofitting of the rail itself won't
begin for at least a few years.
BART has asked San Francisco-based Bechtel, the largest private-owned
construction company in the country, to begin putting together a time-line
and cost report for retrofitting the rail.
- Published December 1, 2000, in the Oakland Tribune
Local transit projects await funds despite Measure B
By Rob Kuznia
FREMONT -- Measure B, the half-cent sales tax in Alameda County, might
have been overwhelmingly approved by voters earlier this month, but that
doesn't mean local transportation projects have the funding to go ahead
Jeff Morales, who took over leadership of Caltrans earlier this year,
called passage of Measure B a major Bay Area victory during a Fremont
visit Wednesday. The two-thirds majority needed for the measure's passage
made for a challenging campaign, but more than 80 percent of the county
voters supported it.
"I don't think you can get 81.5 percent of people to agree it's a sunny
day," marveled Morales. "It's an astounding testament to how big the
problems are here and how real they are."
However, Measure B will not fully fund projects like extending BART to
Warm Springs, providing Dumbarton rail service, or building the Union City
Intermodal Station, a hub for various transit modes, local transportation
Measure B will pay for about one-third of the Warm Springs project, BART
Board President Tom Blalock said. And while the rest of the $330 million
has been "programmed" to come from other sources like a San Mateo buy-in,
the state and regional funds, there are no guarantees.
"They could all be in jeopardy if the economy goes south, but the world
would change, too," Blalock said.
Worse off is the Dumbarton Rail, which loses about $4 million in operating
costs annually. Measure B funds cannot be used for such improvements.
Also, the Union City Intermodal Station needs additional money from the
state to make the $20 million project happen. Measure B will provide $9
The region needs cash cows like Measure B just to stay afloat, said Steve
Heminger, the executive director for the Metropolitan Transportation
More than 80 percent of those funds will be dedicated to maintaining the
system, not expanding it, he said.
During Wednesday's Transportation Town Hall meeting, chaired by state Sen.
Liz Figueroa (D-Fremont), Morales' main message was clear: To maintain the
high quality of life that has attracted an eighth of all Americans to
California, the state must tackle the central issue of transportation.
"The average commute on the Altamont Corridor is 58 miles," he said to an
audience of about 50, many of them East Bay public officials. "That's more
than a transportation problem."
- Published December 1, 2000, in the Daily Review
Hayward bus upgrade planned
AC Transit officials tap Measure B funds to meet high demand
By Chris Tribbey
SAN LORENZO -- AC Transit officials are hoping funding from Measure B and
a $2 million grant will help them improve bus service in Hayward, San
Leandro, and the surrounding areas.
"In the past 10 years, this place has seen tremendous growth, and
currently AC Transit's service hasn't met this demand," said Pat Piras,
director for AC Transit's fifth ward, which covers Central Alameda County
and is the last area in line to have its bus service improved.
"Even though the funding for this doesn't start until 2002, we at AC
Transit are looking by next fall to improve the bus service in Central
Alameda County," she said.
Making a pitch
Piras was making a pitch to members of a Board of Supervisors
Unincorporated Services committee on Wednesday night.
Thanks to the passage of Measure B, the renewal of the half-cent
transportation sales tax, AC Transit has $4 million set aside for
improving service in the area from the Union City-Hayward border to the
south, the Palomares Hills to the east and the San Leandro-Oakland border
to the north. Every bus route will be examined to see if it meets the
needs of riders.
The improvements are part of a decade-old venture by AC Transit called The
Transit Development Plan. The plan evaluates every bus route in Alameda
County. Three of the five wards, down to the San Leandro-Oakland border,
saw improvements before the plan was put on indefinite hold when recession
hit in the early 1990s.
Less than a year ago the plan was reinstated, with the Fremont-Newark-area
bus routes getting an overhaul. Riders in those areas are seeing AC
Transit buses spend an extra 400 hours on new and pre-existing routes each
Possible new markets
Destinations, frequency of buses, operating hours and possible new markets
will all be put under the microscope, according to Tony Divito, the senior
transportation planner for AC Transit.
"We will examine our service, bring the proposed routes out to the public,
and see what they like, and what they don't like," he said.
Piras said that the study will aim to entice drivers to leave their
vehicles behind and use the bus instead.
"You have to attract new riders, and these are people who drive cars," she
Supervisor Gail Steele, chairwoman of the committee, warned Piras and
Divito that they needed to ensure that AC Transit's largest base of
customers, those without cars, see the full benefit of any changes made to
"These are people who are so unhappy, (those) that have talked to me about
the service," Steele said. "You need to go down there and get their
opinion...no one here uses the bus," she said, referring to the more than
20 people in attendance.
"You have to go to them, they're not going to come to you," she said.
In response, Divito announced a $500,000 grant AC Transit will likely
receive from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. The county has
agreed to match the grant, giving AC Transit a total of $1 million a year
for the service upgrades.
The two-year, Welfare To Work grant is meant to aid people who don't have
cars and who work odd hours when bus service is either sparse or
nonexistent. The $2 million, when approved, will go toward improving bus
service in the area from the South Hayward BART station to Eden Landing,
and from Eden Landing to West A Street and the Hayward BART station.
"We have all these businesses that operate (24 hours a day, seven days a
week) and the people working have no service," Divito said. "We want to
make sure we serve the low-income folks."
Divito said that AC Transit will look at using the money to add new routes
to service this area, and that they should be self-sufficient when demand
For the next eight months, representatives from AC Transit, the cities and
the county will begin riding the buses, talking to citizens, and
determining what improvements are needed. After an environmental impact
report is issued and approved, changes could be seen as soon as September
Chris Tribbey is the transportation reporter for The Daily Review. He can
be reached at (510) 293-2481, or send e-mail to
- Published Tuesday, December 5, 2000, in the San Francisco Chronicle
S.F. to Add Cameras to Catch Red-Light Runners
Program to deter traffic scofflaws is called successful
Rachel Gordon, Chronicle Staff Writer
San Francisco is preparing to nearly double the number of surveillance
cameras set up at busy intersections to nab drivers running red lights.
The Board of Supervisors yesterday accepted 11 new cameras from the state
Department of Transportation to catch red-light runners. They will be
added to the 14 cameras already in operation. Two more cameras are planned
for the area surrounding Moscone Convention Center.
The number of red-light runners at camera-enforced intersections has
dropped more than 40 percent since the program was begun four years ago,
according to the Department of Parking and Traffic, which oversees the
At Fifth and Howard streets, where the first camera was installed, red-
light running was slashed 80 percent -- from about 1,000 incidents a month
to 200, according to Bridget Smith, manager of the city's Livable Streets
"The evidence is overwhelming that the red-light camera enforcement
program significantly reduces collisions and the incidence of red-light
running," Supervisor Gavin Newsom said. "I wish we could expand the
program 100 percent more. All over San Francisco, people are crying for
more red-light cameras."
From October 1996 to October 2000, the city has issued 25,785 tickets to
red-light violators nabbed by the cameras. That accounts for about 25
percent of all the drivers who blow through the red lights at those
About 75 percent of the violations are never sent out because officials
cannot make out the vehicles' license plates or get a clear view of the
The fine for running red lights is a hefty $271.
Once all the cameras are installed -- expected within the next year -- the
cameras will be rotated among 36 intersections. Drivers will not be able
to tell the difference between the intersections with the cameras and
those with so-called dummy contraptions.
The new Caltrans-funded cameras will be used primarily at five
intersections on the north end of the city in areas well-traveled by
drivers coming from and going to the Golden Gate Bridge.
Three are along Park Presidio Boulevard at Lake Street, Geary Boulevard
and Fulton Street. The others are at Marina Boulevard and Lyon Street and
Richardson Avenue and Francisco Street.
While statistics show that red-light running is down dramatically at
intersections where the cameras are installed, the city's traffic and
health officials and elected leaders are still scrambling to make the
So far this year, 28 pedestrians have died in San Francisco, making it one
of the deadliest years on record.
In past days, two pedestrians sustained serious injuries. A Muni N-Judah
street car yesterday struck a 55-year-old woman as she was crossing the
street on a green light at Ninth Avenue and Irving Street in the Inner
Sunset. The victim, Trisha Fujimori, was taken to nearby University of
California at San Francisco Medical Center with ankle and elbow injuries.
San Francisco police Officer Eddie Dare said the Muni driver, who also had
a green light, was turning right onto Irving Street a little before 1:30
p.m. and apparently did not see the woman. Witnesses said he looked both
ways before venturing to make the turn. The driver has been taken off
driving duties pending the outcome of a Muni investigation.
And on Sunday night, an unidentified man, whom police believe was
homeless, was the victim of a hit-and-run accident at 16th and Utah
streets. The victim, described only as a man in his 40s, was standing in
the intersection when a gray or white van struck him and fled the scene.
He was taken to San Francisco General Hospital with head injuries and was
listed in critical condition.
Stopping Red-Light Runners -- Intersections where red light camera
equipment is already installed:
1. Fifth and Howard streets
2. Seventh and Mission streets
3. Ninth and Howard streets
4. 19th Avenue and Sloat Boulevard
5. Pine Street and Presidio Avenue
6. First and Folsom streets
7. Third and Harrison streets
8. Sixth and Bryant streets
9. 14th Street and South Van Ness Avenue
10. 15th and Mission streets
11. Geary and Franklin streets
12. Hayes and Polk streets
13. Pine and Polk streets
14. Fifth and Mission streets
1. Eighth and Bryant streets
2. Eighth and Harrison streets
3. Fifth and Harrison streets
4. Broadway and Van Ness Avenue
5. Bush Street and Van Ness Avenue
6. Franklin Street and Lombard Street
7. Marina Boulevard and Lyon Steet
8. Park Presidio Avenue and Lake Street
9. Park Presidio and Geary Boulevard
10. Park Presidio Avenue and Fulton Street
11. Richardson Avenue and Francisco Street
12. Third and Folsom streets
13. Fourth and Folsom streets
14. Third and Howard streets
15. Fourth and Howard streets
Chronicle staff writer Jaxon Van Derbeken contributed to this report /
E-mail Rachel Gordon at rgordon@....
- Published Tuesday, December 5, 2000, in the San Francisco Chronicle
Signs at Airport Belie S.F. Diversity
Sense of welcome lacking, critics say
Marshall Wilson, Chronicle Staff Writer
There's no willkommen mat out for foreign travelers at San Francisco
Airport's new international terminal.
For that matter, don't look for a bienvenue, bienvenido or yokoso, either.
SFO officials tout the $1 billion terminal as the gateway to the world.
But some travelers are questioning why, in one of the world's most diverse
areas, nearly every sign is in English.
Signs directing travelers to the parking garages and boarding gates are in
English. Information posters throughout the terminal listing what's where
are in English.
Looking for signs pointing out where to meet a friend returning from
overseas? Need to find a rest room? Better know your English.
"Even Willie Brown's 'Welcome to San Francisco' (sign) is only in
English," said Jason Cohen of Oakland, a business writer for an
engineering and construction company who visited the terminal during SFO's
open house on Sunday.
"No international terminal I've ever been in, either in the U.S. or
overseas, used only one language," Cohen said. "You want to make a visitor
feel welcome. . . . It's hard when you get off a plane and you don't speak
All of SFO's 24 international carriers this week are scheduled to move
into the terminal, the largest international terminal in North America
with 2.5 million square feet.
"The international terminal at SFO should be a model of multiculturalism,"
travel author Edward Hasbrouck wrote in an Internet critique of the new
terminal. "The most important signs at SFO . . . should be in Spanish and
Chinese as well as English."
SFO spokesman Ron Wilson yesterday said the decision to use English nearly
exclusively came down to a matter of space.
Officials also figured that if they started putting signs in more than one
language, they would be pressured to put them in every language.
"If you start adding a bunch of languages, it becomes a distraction rather
than information," he said.
Wilson added, "You can't print dozens of languages because there's just
not enough room, and those that you do print, others would be offended
whose language is not displayed."
Federal law requires that certain notices be posted in a variety of
languages in the U.S. Immigration and Customs areas, Wilson said. Foreign-
language signs in these areas also point to the exits once passengers pass
Yet throughout the spacious lobby housing the check-in counters and the
boarding areas, SFO relies on icons next to the English words to point
travelers on their way.
"We depend a lot on symbols, international symbols that mean the same no
matter what country you're from," Wilson said.
And SFO passengers come from a lot of countries. SFO officials expect the
number of international passengers will grow from 7 million in 1998 to 12
million by 2006.
To help steer passengers in the right direction, Wilson said, information
booths are staffed by people fluent in a variety of languages. Translation
services are also available 24 hours a day, he said.
But the fact is that this airport is operated by the City and County of
San Francisco, where voting ballots are printed in several languages, and
some street signs are in Chinese.
"You go to any airport in the world, and there are certain common
languages on their signs," said Cohen, who has traveled to South America,
Europe and parts of Asia.
Or as Hasbrouck put it in his critique, "Those of us who recognize
cultural diversity as one of the best things about the Bay Area should be
As of today, all Asiana Airlines, Mexicana Airlines and Singapore Airlines
flights will use the new international terminal. SFO officials advise
travelers to contact their airlines for the latest schedules and to allow
extra time for check-in.
E-mail Marshall Wilson at marshallwilson@....
- Published Tuesday, December 5, 2000, in the San Francisco Chronicle
Final Call For Transit Wish Lists
And why SFO is the place to go even if you don't travel
The mass transit wish lists are pouring in, and people have come up with
some dandy notions about what the nondriving commute ought to include.
For example, Joe Mainochi, who lives in Pacific Heights and takes Caltrain
to Mountain View, would like a food and beverage car, seats that recline,
and maybe a tray table that doesn't have to be in an upright, locked
position when the train pulls into the station.
Bob Hoffman divided his list into Dreams, Wildest Dreams and Beyond
Wildest Dreams. In order, they would include frequent trains, clean and
roomy rest rooms and a lounge with bar service for homeward-bound
Frederick Hansson said he's willing to pay extra to be guaranteed a
reserve seat and would love to buy a latte and doughnut while on the
So, you can see, there is much for which we can wish, and it costs
nothing. The wishing, that is.
A summary of the suggestions, recommendations and demands will appear in
Thursday's column, so there still is time for you to send me your wish
Make it as blue-sky as you would like, and drawings of your perfect
transit car for the 21st century are encouraged.
SFO SHOULD BE SFOP: They spent $1 billion on the new international
terminal at San Francisco International Airport and, as they say in
Hollywood, the money is on the screen.
The new terminal is every bit as impressive as you've heard, and worth a
field trip, even if you've got nowhere else to go.
In fact, the airport is so much like a mall now that it's a great place to
shop or eat, particularly with the addition of restaurants that far
outstrip the historic food-court quality dining that used to be the norm.
In fact, it's a great place to just hang out, particularly if you're a
devoted watcher of people.
As SFO becomes even more of an international airport, the question is
whether it is truly a regional airport.
That's the label most favored by those who want to build the new runways
at SFO -- it's a regional airport, essential to the region's economic and
The question is why the rest of the region receives a puny share of the
economic benefit from the airport.
The expected answer from airport and San Francisco officials would be that
the airport is city-owned and self-sustaining -- that it paid for its own
expansion and its own operations.
But the reality is that the region pays for the airport -- the money at
the airport comes from fees charged to the airlines, fees the airlines
pass on to their customers.
In other words, the airport is a regional facility when San Francisco
wants something from the region, but it's San Francisco's when there is
something to be taken from the airport.
It's all about attitude, ultimately, and no one does that better than San
Consider this quote in The Chronicle from John Marks, president of the San
Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau, at last week's black-tie gala
christening the new terminal: "Visitors will arrive in a style that is
commensurate with the most popular city in the United States."
Now, maybe this is setting too high a bar for the main tourism official at
San Francisco, but, really, people coming into SFO go places other than
San Francisco for reasons other than visiting the city.
For example, they go to the Peninsula on business.
In fact, I'm willing to bet that more SFO arrivals head to the Peninsula
than to Oakland, the O in SFO.
SFO as a label is an anachronism, in keeping with the largely
anachronistic thinking of most San Francisco officials, who seem
blissfully unaware that the city no longer is the center of Bay Area
SFO really should be SFP for Peninsula, or even SFSV for Silicon Valley.
Mark Simon can be seen 7:30 p.m. Fridays on The Chronicle's "Peninsula
This Week" on cable Channel 26, and at other times on local access
channels. You can reach him at (650) 299-8071, by fax at (650) 299-9208,
or by e-mail at msimon@....
- Published Tuesday, December 5, 2000, in the San Francisco Chronicle
S.F. Blueprint for Transit Future Sent Back to Drawing Board
After 3 years of work, report doesn't please Transportation Authority
Edward Epstein, Chronicle Staff Writer
Imagine San Francisco in 2030 -- without the traffic.
Buses on jammed Geary Street have been replaced by a subway, at least as
far west as Laguna Street. Another new subway carries people up Third
Street all the way to North Beach. And traffic on Van Ness Avenue is a
breeze, because through traffic coming into the city from the Golden Gate
Bridge now shoots underground.
Quite a dream, but not as elaborate as the one conjured up by members of
the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, who in their roles as
Transportation Authority commissioners asked their staff yesterday for
more work on the long-range plan containing these and other ideas.
The Countywide Transportation Plan, prepared by the authority's small
has been in the works for about three years. It is supposed to provide a
blueprint for the authority, which dispenses sales taxes for
transportation projects and lobbies for money in Sacramento, Washington
and at the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.
The study suggests that San Francisco will need $5.8 billion during the
next 30 years just to maintain the current system of public transportation
and streets. "We expect to be $1.1 billion short," said Andy Nash, the
authority's executive director.
Nash suggested that the city also needs to examine major new projects for
their transportation and financial feasibility. These include such
previously discussed ideas as the Geary and Chinatown subways; the
so-called supercorridors, which would involve tunneling under Van Ness,
19th Avenue and Oak and Fell streets; and expanding "transit preference"
streets that speed Municipal Railway service by creating transit-only
lanes or use preferential traffic signals for transit vehicles.
Nash's initial thinking is that the supercorridors, which would cost
billions of dollars to build, could be financed privately, meaning
motorists would pay tolls to travel by tunnel under the city. The surface
streets in the corridors would be reserved for local traffic, transit,
bicycles and pedestrians.
The plan also mentions studying how to implement the voter-suggested idea
of extending and putting underground Caltrain from its Fourth and Townsend
station to the Transbay Terminal.
Some supervisors thought the whole package insufficient.
"I'm somewhat dissatisfied by what I see as deficiencies," said Supervisor
Tom Ammiano. "This is going to be treated somewhat as the bible. . . . I
don't think it's providing the answers we seek."
Ammiano said he wanted greater emphasis placed on neighborhood Muni
projects, ways to cut congestion and a study of new financing ideas, such
as the often-discussed creation of a downtown transit assessment district
or cutting San Francisco in on a share of bridge tolls.
Supervisor Mark Leno said the plan didn't prepare the city well enough for
the sweeping changes that California's soaring population will bring. "If
people think it's dense today, just wait," he said.
Ammiano also pointed out that it is important to reach consensus on a plan
because the voter-approved half-cent sales tax for transportation expires
in 2010. The supervisors will have to go back to voters before then to
renew the tax.
Nash said the plan wasn't meant to be a definite blueprint, but rather as
a tool for further study and political decision-making. He suggested that
the authority could amend the plan in two or three years and study new
Supervisor Barbara Kaufman stood up for the plan. "I think it's been very
carefully prepared," she said. "Given that we're already $1.1 billion
short, I thought this was a more realistic way of looking at this issue,"
But the authority's Plans and Programs Committee voted 3 to 2 against
accepting the plan. Instead, Ammiano and Leno will meet with Nash to get
their concerns included in a revised countywide plan.
E-mail Edward Epstein at eepstein@....
- Published Tuesday, December 5, 2000, in the San Jose Mercury News
S.F. Airport working to make smooth shift
By Aaron Davis
After billions of dollars in construction and a decade of anticipation,
the most stressful seven days are just beginning for the Bay Area's newest
landmark: the international terminal at San Francisco Airport.
Beginning today, San Francisco's 24 international carriers start a highly
orchestrated transition from the old international terminal to the new one
-- all while trying to keep the nation's fifth busiest airport running
And for all the new terminal's high-tech computer systems, the sanity of
tens of thousands of travelers who must figure out where to catch their
international flights will depend in large part on the work of airport
maintenance crews and some carefully placed duct tape.
Every night this week, airport workers will switch highway exit signs and
peel back tape now obscuring airline logos on signs pointing to the new
terminal. Early this morning, workers were scheduled to uncover signs for
Asiana, Mexicana and Singapore airlines at the new terminal.
``The theory is, if passengers see a sign for their airline at the new
terminal, they'll know they're in the right place,'' said Mike McCarron,
assistant deputy airport director.
However, if the stories of bewildered international travelers who lost
their way on Monday are any indication, signs alone might not be enough to
stave off confusion this week.
``My airline told me I was flying out of the new terminal -- that's why
I'm here,'' said Sandra Rossiter, a flight attendant for
Indianapolis-based American Trans Air. ``Where's my plane?''
After nearly 45 minutes of wandering around the cavernous new terminal
with her luggage, Rossiter was told her flight to Germany was leaving in a
half hour -- from the old terminal. She made her flight, but had a few
choice words about San Francisco Airport. As someone used to working with
airports and airlines, if she couldn't figure out where to go, she said,
``I feel sorry for everyone this week.''
Monday, the scene at the new terminal included art crews putting the
finishing touches on decorative displays, construction workers packing up
their gear and throngs of airport workers checking out the chi-chi
restaurants flanking the new concourses.
Also testing out their skills Monday were dozens of airport workers who
will be responsible for giving lost travelers directions through the new
2.5-million-square-foot terminal in coming days.
In all, airport officials said they are confident the transition will go
according to plan and that by Sunday all of San Francisco's more than 200
daily international flights will be leaving from the new terminal.
More than 80 percent of the international visitors to the Bay Area fly in
and out of San Francisco Airport each year.
Today, 3,480 passengers are expected to pass through the terminal. That
number will jump significantly after midnight, when United moves its
international operations to the new terminal. The airline operates more
than 50 percent of the international flights out of San Francisco.
Contact Aaron Davis at acdavis@... or call (650) 688-7590.
- Published Tuesday, December 5, 2000, in the San Jose Mercury News
Traffic-light triggers to aid emergency vehicles
By Gary Richards
Mercury News Staff Columnist
San Jose firetrucks will be getting to their calls sooner -- and perhaps
The city is embarking on a plan to allow emergency vehicles to pre-empt
traffic signals at 150 intersections -- saving precious time as they
battle their way through congested streets.
Only 12 downtown intersections are equipped with pre-emption devices now.
Having the capability to flip a traffic light to green will hasten the
response time, fire officials say, and give them more confidence that cars
will stop as they race through a busy intersection.
Triggering devices will be placed on the city's most traveled streets
during the next two years.
``This should greatly reduce the potential of an accident for responding
units,'' said fire department spokesman Mark Mooney.
Rescue workers have long worried about motorists who fail to stop or pull
over as emergency vehicles race down a street with lights flashing and
sirens blasting away. Livermore and Pleasanton have bought ads on theater
screens, urging drivers to move to the right, as required by state law, to
let emergency vehicles pass. Sacramento officials are handing out
brochures with the same message.
Pre-emption varies from city to city. Mountain View, Santa Clara, Morgan
Hill and Campbell have been equipped with these devices for years, while
Fremont has none. San Francisco uses pre-emption for Municipal Railway and
mass transit, but not for rescue trucks.
Here are the rules when an emergency vehicle approaches:
* Pull to the right and STOP. On an undivided highway, cars traveling in
both directions must pull to the right and stop.
* Do not move to the left. This may confuse drivers.
* If you are in a left-turn lane and cannot move to the right, stay put.
Do not run the red light. Most emergency vehicles will proceed around you
in the open space provided by the other motorists who move to the right.
* Keep intersections clear.
* Remember, a firetruck may make a left turn or may use opposing lanes of
traffic if other lanes are blocked.
And be careful out there.
Contact Gary Richards at mrroadshow@... or (408) 920-5335.
- Published December 4, 2000, in the Daily Review
Hayward Paratransit Service's budget to double
Measure B's passage means program will continue
By Chris Tribbey
While voters were deciding whether to extend Measure B, the half-cent
transportation sales tax, for another 20 years, an entire Hayward city
department was holding its collective breath.
"If it fails, in 2002 when the money runs out (from the 1986 Measure B),
our paratransit program (in Hayward) will cease to exist," said Robert
Bauman, the deputy director of public works for Hayward, before the Nov. 7
The voters did pass Measure B by more than the two-thirds majority vote it
needed, with 82.7 percent of the vote. That was a relief for Hayward
Paratransit Service and the more than 500 people who use it.
"It was either feast or famine," said David Korth, head of the paratransit
If Measure B had failed, the $321,000 the program gets every year would
have disappeared, leaving it to beg the city for help. Instead, beginning
in 2002 when the renewed Measure B begins filtering money to cities in
Alameda County, the program will see its budget nearly double.
"Not only will our normal service expand, but we'll be able to do more
things," Korth said.
That "normal service" means transporting the elderly and disabled in and
around Hayward to everywhere in the Bay Area since 1978. Contracting with
Oakland-based Friendly Transportation, the service takes participants
anywhere they want to go for $2, plus gives them a voucher for every 10
miles they are transported.
"It's cheaper than a taxi," said Castro Valley resident Donna Gerald, 73,
adding that she uses the service to go to Oakland because there is limited
bus service where she lives.
Participants who are approved for the program are given books of 10
vouchers, or more, depending on need, that they can use to be picked up
and dropped off.
"An individual's situation determines how many vouchers they get," Korth
said. "For example, if someone lives away from bus service, they are
eligible for more."
Hayward Paratransit Service was the only paratransit service provider in
the East Bay until 1997, when the East Bay Paratransit Consortium, which
includes BART and AC Transit, was formed as a result of the Americans With
Disabilities Act. The East Bay Paratransit service offers similar
taxi-type transportation, only on a larger scale.
"We try to encourage people residing in our area to enroll in both
(services), but try East Bay paratransit first," Korth said.
The 5.4-mile Foothill Freeway has spent the past 30 years on the drawing
board, and is becoming a hot topic again, with the Alameda County Board of
Supervisors expected to vote on it early next year.
Did you vote for the freeway in the past? If so, do you think it is a
solution to local traffic woes? Or should transportation planners scrap
the whole thing? Send us your comments.
The Commute is a weekly column about local transportation issues. Do you
have a commute story to share? Do you have a question or topic you'd like
the column to address? Contact transportation reporter Chris Tribbey,
293-2481, or send e-mail to ctribbey@..., fax to 293-2490 or
write us at 22533 Foothill Blvd., Hayward 94541.
- Published Monday, December 4, 2000, in the San Mateo County Times
SFO unveils international terminal
By T.S. Mills-Faraudo
S.F. Airport -- The doors to San Francisco International Airport's new
International Terminal opened to the community Sunday in a grand
celebration, complete with political dignitaries, diverse entertainment
and plenty of pats on the back for a project that took five years to
"This facility is not just San Francisco's airport, it belongs to all of
this region," San Francisco Mayor Willie L. Brown, Jr. told a crowd during
a ceremony at the Community Open House and Family Day.
Brown raved about the terminal's ability to handle mass amounts of traffic
and about its trendy shops and restaurants.
"It reflects the diversity of San Francisco," Brown said.
Although the terminal was not open for business Sunday, it was packed with
about 60,000 people, according to airport officials.
All of the airlines are expected to start operating out of the new
terminal by Dec. 10.
The new terminal encompasses 2.5 million square feet filled with twice the
ticket counter space of the old terminal, 24 gates, more space for
wide-bodied aircraft, increased baggage handling capabilities, expanded
U.S. Customs facilities, 3,200 new parking spaces, 16 restaurants, 21
shops and a $10 million permanent selection of art work. This all came
with a $2.4 billion price tag -- funded entirely from airport revenue.
The airport's master plan also includes an airport rail transit system,
scheduled for its first run in 2001, which will travel throughout the
airport for easy connections between terminals. In addition, the BART
station, which will provide direct access to SFO for San Francisco and
East Bay passengers, is scheduled to open in 2001.
"Looking at the plans for this airport, no one would have realized what a
beautiful structure this would turn out to be," airport spokesman Ron
Wilson told the audience at the event.
To inaugurate the airport, Chinese lion dancers from Leung's White Crane
Kung Fu Association gave a performance. Other entertainment included 49ers
Gold Rush Cheerleaders, the San Francisco Rad Tap Team and several choirs.
The open house also included a raffle in which each person received a
passport they could fill with stamps at different stations at the event.
After collecting 10 stamps, participants were eligible to win airline
The new terminal was received well by community members attending the
"It's magnificent," Daly City resident Charlie Passanisi said. "It's out
of this world. I like its massiveness. It's really a grand monument."
San Francisco resident Maxine Lawler, who often travels internationally,
said she likes the variety of restaurants.
"I love it," Lawler said. "Usually, airports just have places like
McDonald's, and they don't have nice restaurants where you can actually
sit down and eat."
Many visitors commented on the terminal's vast, airy lobby with tall
windows and high ceilings.
"I like all the light that comes in and its spaciousness," Redwood City
resident Julie Johnston said.
You can reach staff writer T.S. Mills-Faraudo at 348-4338 or by e-mail at