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Bay Bridge implosions, bike share complaints, BART’s hearing loop, and more

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Four things to know today

Welcome to Curbed Cuts, a tri-weekly digest connecting the dots between shelter, structure, parks, transportation, and more.

Photo by Peretz Partensky

Motorcycle mama

Hey, it’s a Curbed Cuts follow-up! As previously reported, San Francisco Supervisor Sandra Fewer had said in May that she had managed to strike some sort of infernal deal with the Department of Public Works to get a dedicated crew to fix Richmond District streets—and now it’s actually happening.

Richmond District residents were asked to submit locations of potholes and other street damage for repair, the Richmond District Blog reported last month. And report they did, with “over 60 helpful and specific reports,” they write today.

There were also some unhelpful reports, such as “the whole block needs repaving!” “Crossover drive is a mess!” “Repave ALL of Geary now, dammit!” and other things residents have hollered while driving down many an SF street. But with the month of repairs on the books, perhaps we’ll all be hollering a little less—especially Fewer, who says, “As I am often on the back of my husband’s motorcycle, I have experienced every pothole firsthand.” See you at Sturgis, Sandra.

Even if you don’t live in the Richmond District, you can still ask the DPW to take action: According to their website, people who report potholes via 311 can expect them to “repair any pothole that is our responsibility within 48 hours during week days.” So go ahead, report those potholes, and let us know how it goes!

Accelerating implosions

The implosions of the old Bay Bridge’s old piers isn’t the stuff of, say, a movie starring The Rock (or, for that matter, The Rock), but it’s still been fun to watch the remaining bits of the Eastern Span go boom.

As initially planned, Caltrans is blowing up a few piers a year, with Piers E6 to E11 going in the fall (the season when, according to Caltrans, impact to wildlife is the least) of 2017 and E12 to E18 imploding in the fall 2018. But since things have been going so swimmingly, Caltrans engineer Brian Maroney tells CBS 5 that the schedule should be moved up.

“We have found ourselves in the position where we are about 2 years ahead of schedule on the high steel that we have to remove,” says Maroney. “It begs the question of why can’t we finish the work that we planned for the next two years—this year.”

Putting aside that fact that Maroney (like many people) misuses the phrase “begs the question,” we should probably all check the weather in hell for snow, as it seems like he just said Bay Bridge construction is moving more quickly than expected.

We did not mishear him, however, as CBS 5 reports that “the process has had a minimal impact to wildlife and water quality,” making it seem safe to move a little more quickly. So now it’s up to the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, to which Maroney has proposed that the last piers all go down in a blub of glory between September and November of this year.

“One of the really big questions that we have to ask is—what are the differences to the species in the Bay when it comes to blowing up three at once versus one,” Larry Goldzband, executive director of the commission, told CBS 5. His group is expected to weigh a formal proposal from Caltrains this summer, and to announce their decision before this fall’s round of implosions begin.

Photo by Bay Area Bike Share

Bike share bleating

We talked about the planned expansion of Ford’s bike share program in SF just last week, and now we hear grumbling is afoot. The issue, Mission Local reports, are the parking spaces that will be lost to bike stations, especially in the Mission.

According to Bay Area Bike Share, 35 new stations will be constructed in the Mission, with work to start later this month. Though the plans for the stations have been in the works for years, it was only days ago that some area residents complained to the SFMTA, saying that the loss of parking, especially for the station planned for 17th and Valencia streets, is apparently cause for combat.

At a hearing regarding the stations, District Six resident John Nulty reportedly sniped, “Parking is a premium in San Francisco, it’s just like housing...You start taking away parking, it’s going to create more problems for everybody.”

Another resident, who says he lives near the now controversial station, says that, “We have a big problem there…losing spots just means fighting with your neighbors.”

Those neighbors might have to either suit up for battle or learn to lose their words. As an SFMTA planner told those assembled that “parking loss is not grounds for denying a bike share permit.”

You can see the full plan to expand Bay Area Bike Share from 700 to 7000 here.

Photo by

Ears up on BART

According to the National Institutes of Health, about 17 percent of adults in the U.S. suffer from hearing loss, and once you start counting people ages 75 or older, that figure climbs to 50 percent. While navigating a hearing world when you can not can be challenging, it’s especially frustrating on public transit, when an operator’s announcement is often the only way riders know they’ve reached their destination.

That’s one of the reasons BART is piloting a “new BART hearing service, which converts the audio into electromagnetic signals that can be picked up with compatible hearing aids or cochlear implants,” reports the San Francisco Chronicle. This would make BART the first public transit agency in the country to try the technology.

Right now it’s available only at BART’s Fremont Station, a $300,000 (aka “one closet-resting janitor”) system with no funding to expand. Here’s how it works:

Hearing-loop technology is available for people who wear hearing aids equipped with an internal antenna called a telecoil, or T-coil. Spoken words picked up by a microphone or fed into a public-address system are linked to the loop, a thin wire that converts the audio into a magnetic signal that’s then picked up by the T-coil, which has to be switched on by the wearer.

The hearing aid processes the audio and feeds it into the wearer’s ears. The hearing aid can reduce the background noise or other acoustic problems, said Juliëtte Sterkens, a retired Wisconsin audiologist who is a now a full-time national hearing-loop advocate for the Hearing Loss Association of America.

Hearing aids work best about 6 feet or less from the person talking, according to Sterkens. When a large area like a church, museum or library is “looped,” the distance is greatly increased.

“They can hear the sound as if they are mere inches from the mouth of the speaker,” she said.

Transit agencies in Europe and Australia use hearing loops, as do multiple local churches and 22 screens in four of Landmark Theatre’s Bay Area locations. In April, legislation requiring hearing loops in “public assembly areas constructed or renovated using city dollars,” reports the Hearing Review.

So what’s next for BART’s hearing loop efforts? First, to workout the kinks in Fremont, where some users say feedback and static remain an issue. Next, it will be tested on its much-vaunted Fleet of the Future, some of which we’re still hoping to see by the end of 2017.