Saturday, May 29, 2010

Parklets: 22nd and Valencia

San Francisco - Wandering the city has always been part of what makes this town so special.  Tree-lined alleys and bustling corridors offer solace and commerce.     Among the newest of these environs are the new 'Parklets' being installed throughout the city, offering citizens innovative ways to take a break.  17th and Castro was first (and the most expensive) of those installed to date.   San Jose and Guerrero, Grove and Divisadero are among others. 
     Stopping by on a Saturday at noon, the 22nd and Valencia parklet was empty, although many others were photographing and 'kicking the tires' of the new structure.  It's bamboo construction felt very sturdy, while it's modular capabilities also impressed.  The xeroscaped planters were apropos, and the section incorporating a standing bar table was creative.
     One drawback was the lack of pre-existing trees on the street segment where the parklet was situated, providing inadequate shade at midday.  Friends of the Forest did plant two new trees within the parklet itself, but time will be needed before those benefits are felt.
     Merchants' reactions to the parklet were mixed.  Some felt the parklet had decreased business from their out-of-town clientele.  Escape from New York employee, Chewy, stated, "[the parklet] is probably responsible for about a 5% increase in sales."
     Will the proposed sit-lie ordinance need to be amended to accommodate these new parklets?  Will public input determine the design of more permanent structures like the one at 17th and Castro?  Time will tell. 

Friday, May 28, 2010

Muni Debuts Refurbished Buses at Potrero Facility

     By Michael Donk

San Francisco - This morning officials from SFMTA debuted two of its refurbished, stimulus-funded MUNI buses at their Potrero facility, one standard 40-foot coach and one articulated 60-foot conveyance.  These buses represent only two of the 62 Neoplan high floor diesel coaches scheduled for refurbishment under The Motor Coach Component Life Cycle Rehabilitation Project.
     With $16 million in stimulus dollars, SFMTA signed a $12.6 million contract last September with Riverside, CA-based Complete Coach Works to complete the work.
     Among the most noticeable improvements were the all-LED exterior lights and placards, an updated operator seat and console, new rubber flooring, and graffiti-resistant interior light lenses.  All new propulsion systems, brake valves, and suspensions top a long list of under-the-hood goodies.  Other items newly refurbished were the wheelchair lift, five-position door controller, and steering gear box.
     The coaches interiors seemed simply cleaned at first, but upon speaking with SFMTA Public Relations representative, Kristen Holland, and with MUNI body shop employee, Wyman, i learned how much planning went into these refurbishments.  SFMTA Executive Director and CEO, Nathaniel Ford Sr., stated, "MUNI...must be capable of serving new generations of residents and visitors who will depend on it to get where they want to go in this Transit First city."
     My eye noticed the repositioned security cameras allow for a more panoramic view, especially when the coach is at standing capacity.  Many seats, although in the old style and color theme, were replaced entirely.  Finally, the newly renamed Clipper RFID-based receivers were mounted at the front and rear doors.
     The two coaches debuted today will begin service immediately along the biodiesel bus routes (54, 37, 39, Etc.), with more routes receiving refurbished coaches as the work on each coach is completed.
     The rehabilitation project will result in 20 new hires and 16 additional jobs will be retained as a result of this rehabilitation project.