Category Archives: California

A robot security guard is terrifying homeless people in San Francisco

NY Post

The San Francisco SPCA, a non-profit whose mission is “to save and protect animals … and enhance the human-animal bond,” is reportedly doing just the opposite with its latest robot security guard.

It is terrifying homeless people that hang out near the SPCA building in the Mission section of the city, which was part of its objective, but it is freaking out residents as well.
According to San Francisco Business Times, the robot ─ dubbed K9 ─ was put into place to try and deal with the number of needles, car break-ins and other crimes that have reportedly come from a nearby encampment of homeless people.

“We weren’t able to use the sidewalks at all when there’s needles and tents and bikes, so from a walking standpoint I find the robot much easier to navigate than an encampment,” Jennifer Scarlett, the SPCA’s president, said in an interview with the San Francisco Business Times.

After the SPCA implemented the robot, Scarlett said homeless encampments disappeared and fewer cars were broken into. She added that it was not clear whether the robot was the cause of the decrease in crime, but that there was a correlation.

Upon seeing the robot, some of the people in the encampment expressed their annoyance, putting barbecue sauce on its sensors, knocking it over and putting a tarp on it, Scarlett said.

The people in the homeless encampment were not the only ones who were freaked out by the robot.

San Francisco resident Fran Taylor, who lives near the SPCA location, said the robot approached her and her dog while she was out for a walk. The dog began barking and attempted to go near it, while she yelled at it to stop. The robot eventually stopped 10 feet away from her.

Taylor wound up writing a letter to the SPCA, expressing her displeasure after her run-in with the robot. The SPCA responded saying it had security concerns and that the robot was part of its solution.

Last week, the city of San Francisco ordered the SPCA to keep its robot off the sidewalks or it would face a $1,000-a-day penalty for operating it in the public right-of-way without a permit.

This is not the first run-in citizens around the country have had with robot security guards.

In January, a Knightscope robot was seen patrolling the streets of New York City and attracted the attention of curious onlookers.

In April, a man in Mountain View, California attacked a 300-pound security K5 robot made by Knightscope on the company’s campus. He claimed he was trying to “test” the robot and was ultimately charged with being drunk in public and a Knightscope employee requested his arrest for prowling.

In July, a Knightscope robot drowned itself, falling into a fountain after it was “hired” to patrol a Washington, DC office building.

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Los Angeles Subway Sounds Like NY City 2nd Avenue Subway

US News.com

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Officials say a planned subway project that will connect three rail lines in downtown Los Angeles will be delayed by a year, despite efforts to make up for time lost during construction.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority says the new opening date for the Regional Connector is December 2021 — six months after the deadline established by federal officials and a year after the agency’s target date of December 2020.

The Los Angeles Times reports Thursday that the schedule change will not jeopardize $830 million in federal funding for the project.

The newspaper says aging water pipes and old, fragile utility lines required reinforcement before crews could safely dig beneath them. Cost overruns for utility work, consultants, land acquisition and legal fees have twice prompted Metro to approve budget increases.

The 3 Essential Ingredients for Cooking Up Transit That People Want to Ride

Streetsblog USA via California Rail News

Speed. Routes should be direct, instead of cutting labyrinthine paths across a city. Fare payment needs to be fast and easy, via off-board fare collection or tap-and-go entry at every door. Transit can’t get bogged down in traffic, either, so features like dedicated space on the street and priority at traffic lights are needed to keep things moving.
Frequency and Reliability. People won’t ride transit if they can’t depend on it…
Walkability and Accessibility. Transit works best when people can walk to it. That means both concentrating transit in compact, walkable places, and making it easier to walk to transit in places where pedestrian infrastructure is lacking…
On the Dublin buses you can pay your fare with a tap card. Passengers can walk past the farebox next to the driver to tap the card reader and not wait behind cash paying riders to dig out their money.

Trump’s ‘sanctuaries’ crackdown imperils transportation projects

A tunnel under New York’s Hudson River may be imperiled. In Los Angeles, millions of dollars could be at stake for port improvements. And other communities’ hopes for major transportation projects could be caught in the crossfire as President Donald Trump threatens to strip federal funding from “sanctuary cities” that defy his immigration policies.
Considering that Boston, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., have all declared themselves sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants, Trump’s reprisals could end up canceling or delaying major infrastructure projects in some of the nation’s most congested areas — even as the administration touts a $1 trillion proposal to rebuild the United States’ roads, railroads, bridges and airports.

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Congressional Republican threats to Caltrain funding could cripple Bay Area’s growth

Caltrain has a problem.

Passenger numbers are exploding thanks to the Bay Area’s tech boom, and service has not kept up with demand. Peak trains are full, and it is difficult to find the capacity to run more. Service frequency is the same as it was in the late 2000s, but daily ridership has grown from 36,000 in 2009 to 62,000 in 2016.

Riding outside rush hour is no better: off-peak trains don’t come frequently enough, and take more than an hour and a half to go between San Francisco and San Jose.

All of Caltrain’s problems have solutions. These involve smart investments in better service and one of the keys is the Caltrain electrification project. For $2 billion, it would wire the line between San Francisco and San Jose and buy new high-performance electric trains, reducing local travel time by twenty minutes.

And yet, the Republican Party is threatening to cancel the project.

New BART rail car crashes at testing facility

During a trial run at Bay Area Rapid Transit‘s (BART) testing facility last week, one of the agency’s new “Fleet of the Future” rail cars crashed into a sand box after a brake problem.

One of BART’s new ‘Fleet of the Future’ rail cars.
Photo: BART’s YouTube account

A wire running from testing equipment to the car shorted out when it was pinched in a cabinet door, causing the car’s auxiliary power supply to shut down, BART officials said Wednesday.

As a result, once the fluid in the accumulator had been expended it couldn’t be replenished, which meant that the friction brakes didn’t have enough fluid to completely stop the car.

That type of failure can only occur with a single car because other cars in a train would normally carry through the braking process, BART officials said.

The crash occurred as the car was moving under 5 mph.

There was no malfunction of the train or operator error during the April 22 incident, agency officials said. The crash won’t affect the rollout of BART’s new rail cars, some of which are slated to enter service in fall.

“The car functioned exactly as it was supposed to function given the conditions, and the operators did exactly what they were supposed to do,” said BART chief Maintenance and Engineering Officer Tamar Allen.

BART refurbishing scrapped train cars to boost service

As BART riders feel the crush, the beleaguered transit agency is trying everything it can to ease crowded commuter cars.

Now, BART is even looking to the trash heap.

In a statement released Wednesday, BART announced a small increase in train cars to serve riders. But these aren’t brand new cars off the assembly line. Instead, they’re “banged-up” train cars found in the “forlorn corners” of Hayward and Richmond train repair shops.

These cars are often salvaged for spare parts, according to BART, but a “handful of MacGyver-like mechanics and imaginative engineers” resurrected 14 broken-down train cars for service.

“We wanted to accept the challenge to repair these cars, because we know that we only have a limited number,” said John Allen, a transit vehicle mechanic at the Hayward maintenance shop, in the news release.

The cars have varying levels of damage. According to the BART, some were scorched by electricity, others had melted floors, and one may have run over a tree. This means they also have varying repair times.

According to BART, the project will increase the percentage of train cars in service from 86 percent of trains in service to 89 percent. Each car, they said, can hold up to 140 people in a crowd.

Jeff Hobson, deputy director of transportation advocacy group TransForm, lauded the efforts to run more trains during crowded commute periods.

Still, he said, riders should remember how BART got into the crowding mess in the first place.

“Yes, this is definitely a good thing,” he said, but “the big question is, what do they do to make sure they don’t get into this bind in the future?”

“The reason we’re here is 10-15 years ago (BART) expanded the system, and didn’t maintain the existing system,” Hobson said. Expanding the number of stations served without boosting numbers of cars, he said, strained BART.

Though BART is now doing a better job in maintaining the system it has, he said, “we need to make sure that focus remains.”

That’s the kind of effort BART Board of Directors member Nick Josefowitz told the Examiner BART is pushing, more and more.

“During rush hour, BART cars are stuffed like sardine cans. Our riders are demanding relief,” he said.

Josefowitz mentioned another of these efforts: a partnership with the San Francisco County Transportation Authority to craft an incentives to lure riders away from peak times, to ease crowding.

“While true relief won’t come until the new cars start arriving in 2017,” Josefowitz said, “we’re doing all we can to get every last one of our cars out of the shops and onto the tracks.”

In 2016 BART’s “Fleet of the Future” will arrive, and will continue to integrate into the main fleet through 2017. Those new cars are expected to ease crowding in a big way.

Until then, he said, every little bit helps.