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A pedestrian was run over at Mason and Eddy early Thursday morning by the driver of a big-rig truck, and dragged to Market and 5th. KPIX is reporting the victim, who later died, was Michael Stevens, 54.

From a statement from Walk San Francisco:

We are heartbroken to learn of a crash this morning that killed a pedestrian. The details we know so far are horrific: the victim was dragged several blocks by a large commercial big rig truck; the vehicle’s driver fled the scene but has since been detained. Our deepest condolences go out to the victim’s family. We mourn the loss of a community member to senseless and preventable traffic violence. Walk San Francisco and members of the San Francisco Bay Area Families for Safe Streets stand ready to support the victim’s family and friends however possible.

And from the San Francisco Police:

…at approximately 5:42 a.m. San Francisco Police officers responded to the intersection of Market Street and 5th Street for a vehicle collision involving a pedestrian. Officers located an adult male with traumatic injuries in the middle of the intersection. He was transported to [the hospital] with life threatening injuries. He was later pronounced dead… Preliminary information is that pedestrian was struck by a semi-tractor pulling a flatbed trailer at Mason Street and Eddy Street and was dragged to the intersection of 5th/Market (approximately two blocks). The operator of the tractor-trailer left the area in the vehicle. A description of the vehicle was obtained by responding SFPD officers who broadcast the information over police radio.

Officers located the vehicle on Broadway Street near Front Street at approximately 7:35 a.m., the police went on to report. “The vehicle and driver were detained. Investigators from the SFPD Traffic Collision Investigation Unit (TCIU) responded to the scene and then met with the driver of the tractor-trailer. The driver is cooperating with the investigation.”

The corner of Mason and Eddy, where the collision first occurred. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

As Walk San Francisco’s Jodie Medeiros pointed out in a prepared statement about the crash, this horrific incident was likely preventable. “We have a crisis on our streets with traffic safety, and the huge influx of not just cars, but also service and delivery trucks, put all of us as pedestrians at greater risk every day.”

“Trucks are deadly,” Medeiros added. “The size of trucks, the fact that they can drag a victim, poor visibility, and that the higher front end makes crashes more severe… all of this is a deadly combination.”

In Europe and Asia, trucks have side guards to help prevent crushing a cyclist or pedestrian. “New York City will soon require city vehicles over 10,000 pounds and private garbage trucks to have side guards,” wrote Medeiros. “San Francisco should pursue this, as well as rethink which streets should allow very large freight vehicles in the first place. And there is much more that can be done, which many European cities are implementing in support of Vision Zero.”

A big-rig in the U.K. Note the side-guards between the front and back wheels of the trailer, to prevent someone from getting dragged underneath.

San Francisco lawmakers need to check out Streetsblog NYC‘s coverage on mandating side guards on trucks. It’s a simple fix that can save lives.

“Service and delivery vehicles have been part of many severe and deadly traffic crashes on our streets this year. Galina Alterman was hit and killed while crossing at Divisadero and Sutter on May 1 by a driver in a service truck,” Medeiros continued. “Tess Rothstein was crushed under a box truck while riding her bike on March 8 at Howard and 6th. In late February, a man was hit at Howard and 1st and dragged under a box truck (the victim survived).”

Furthermore, the corners of Eddy and Mason lack sidewalk bulbouts, which shorten pedestrian crossings and reduce the likelihood of collisions. As Streetsblog has previously noted, Tenderloin safety improvements have often lagged. Nearly every street in the Tenderloin is a “high-injury corridor” (the 13 percent of San Francisco’s streets that account for 75 percent of the city’s severe traffic injuries and fatalities). Streetsblog has an inquiry out to SFMTA to find out if improvements are planned for Eddy and Mason and will update this post accordingly.

The section of Market Street and Eddy where the crash occurred was reopened at 11:30 a.m.

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Wider inequality. More sprawl. Worse transit. Those are some of the outcomes we could see from self-driving cars in cities, according to a Pittsburgh-based transit advocacy group.

In its new report, Pittsburghers for Public Transit argues that public concerns about equity, the environment and job security aren’t playing a larger role in the conversation about autonomous vehicle deployment.

“The introduction of AV is presented as a panacea to our transportation, environmental and economic woes,” the report says, as it cautions about all that can go wrong for the public, especially lower-income people.

Pittsburgh has been a key testing ground for the technology. With the support of Mayor Bill Peduto, Steel City is currently allowing five companies to test driverless vehicles on public roads. The public has been exposed to risks associated with being guinea pigs in an AV lab, yet not a single public meeting has been held to address public concerns, says PPT.

“The hype from the industry is really dominating the discussion,” said Laura Weins, director of the group. “We have literally no regulatory framework on this. They just do whatever they want and use our public right of ways.”

Pittsburgh does ask the companies to abide by a voluntary agree, but there is no enforcement mechanism. (This is very similar to the way federal regulators are handling the issue.)

Their report questions some of the public benefits of AVs. Here’s a few of the possibilities they are raising in the meantime:

Less transit and more sprawl

Proponents of self-driving cars have argued that they could expand access by reducing operating costs (by eliminating drivers), and the savings could be used to expand service to currently underserved areas. But there are good reasons to be skeptical, says the report.

“The lack of transit in underserved communities often results primarily from a lack of political will to prioritize mobility solutions for underserved areas,” not from lack of money, says PPT.

In addition, experiments with small vehicles providing door-to-door service — “micro-transit” — have been disappointing in the U.S. “These pilot projects saw unsustainably high costs per rider and low ridership (less than four boardings an hour).”

Self-driving cars could help produce an environment that is hostile to transit overall.

“Unregulated AV adoption potentially worsens urban sprawl and increases consumer appetite for personal transportation,” PPT writes.

Because this technology lowers the real costs of driving by freeing passengers for other activities, researchers have predicted it will increase driving miles and promote commuting to distant locations in sprawling or rural.

The group also says AVs “create the possibility of new forms of social segregation.”

Self-driving cars will be expensive, at least for a while. And those who can’t afford them “will experience a decrease rather than an increase in transportation options, fragmenting communities based on their ability to purchase AV.”

Bike and pedestrian safety risks In the first pedestrian death by a self driving car last year, the self-driving system detected the victim six seconds before impact, but Uber had tuned the emergency braking feature to be too insensitive to respond in time. Image: NTSB

Finally, AV testing presents risks to pedestrians and cyclists because automated driving tech still isn’t perfect. We saw the worst of it when a pedestrian was killed in Tempe, Arizona by a self-driving Uber car last year.

In addition, pedestrians and cyclists risk losing funding for essential infrastructure like sidewalks and crosswalks to special street treatments for AVs. The city of Pittsburgh, for example, allocated $23 million from its “Department of Mobility and Infrastructure” for testing and deployment of an “autonomous micro transit shuttle,” which Weins, the PPT director, called “not really mass transit.”

“In these same communities, residents have called for better sidewalks, crosswalks, dedicated bus and bike infrastructure and expanded transit service to encourage safe and accessible transportation,” the group says.

Although AVs have been sold as a potential big safety improvement, there’s much more the city could be doing right now to reduce traffic fatalities, PPT says.

“Lower speed limits in cities, sidewalk bump-outs to shorten pedestrian crossing distances, and protected bike and bus infrastructure all exist as proven solutions for enhancing human safety,” they write. “Simply prioritizing buses over private vehicles as the form of mobility promoted by our infrastructure is an effective strategy to reduce the number of accidents on our roads.”

Green raw deal

The environmental benefits of AVs rest entirely on whether they are electrified. But almost all the credible research predicts they will increase driving miles without some regulation.

“AVs may introduce empty vehicle travel, which further increases vehicle miles traveled,” the report says. In other words, what’s worse for the environment than solo-occupancy cars? Zero occupancy cars.

“Creating a more resilient world requires a radical shift in our transportation practices away from reliance on personal vehicles, which AV technology does not inherently do, and could potentially worsen.”

Job losses

About 10 million Americans work as professional drivers. Studies have estimated three to four million jobs could be eliminated by the introduction of self-driving cars. And Pittsburghers for Public Transit says the options for these vulnerable workers are limited.

“The average education attainment of those workers is low, at 7.6 percent with bachelor’s degree or higher (compared to 33.4 percent for all occupations), and the average age of drivers is high, on average 52 years old,” the group writes.

Many Pittsburgh workers still have not recovered from the loss of steel jobs to automation and offshoring in the 1970s and 1980s, making the prospects for a “just transition” seem uncertain at best.

Pittsburghers for Public Transit is hosting conversations across city beginning on Thursday about the issue.

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This week, we are joined by Bowinn Ma, a Member of the British Columbia Legislative Assembly for North Vancouver-Lonsdale, British Columbia. Ma talks about creating better transportation options for her constituents, new transportation technologies, and the importance of political engagement.

 

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Note: GJEL Accident Attorneys regularly sponsors coverage on Streetsblog San Francisco and Streetsblog California. Unless noted in the story, GJEL Accident Attorneys is not consulted for the content or editorial direction of the sponsored content.

Before anyone else had arrived, protestors were already lined up outside of SPUR’s San Francisco headquarters. A megaphone lay waiting on the railing staff had set up to ensure a clear space for attendees to enter. “No More Market Rate Housing,” and “Keep Families in S.F.” read their signs.

By the time the panelists arrived to talk about current legislation on housing at the state capital, the megaphone was being deployed. Outside, the protestors sang: “We will, we will STOP YOU!” The singers belonged to several different groups that oppose legislation introduced by their representatives to make it easier, and faster, to build more housing.

Meanwhile, inside SPUR, those representatives talked about the challenges of getting anything done in Sacramento. Every member of the panel had at some point served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and had worked on housing issues for many years. Finding agreement in Sacramento, they said, was much more complex than city politics.

They took the protest in stride. “This is San Francisco,” said Assemblymember David Chiu. “This is how we do politics.”

In addition to Chiu, the panel featured moderator Katy Tang, Assemblymember Phil Ting and Senator Scott Wiener. Among other subjects they talked about the rapidly changing landscape of public opinion on housing in California, and the importance of creating a broad coalition to address the housing crisis from multiple angles at once.

Chiu said that San Francisco has been engaging with the multidimensional issues of housing–or, arguing over housing–for far longer than the rest of the state, including Sacramento. “Five years ago, steeply rising rents had not yet impacted the rest of the state; it has now,” he says. Referring to the protestors outside, he said that “in many other cities these discussions don’t even happen–it’s just ‘no.’ It’s not surprising we’re short on housing.” Many communities in the state, he said, want no change at all. “It’s the dominant way of thinking on this issue.”

At the same time, opinions have been changing. Senator Wiener spoke about how much more difficult it is to make policy and pass legislation in Sacramento, where each bill has to pass multiple committees and two houses of the legislature before facing a potential veto from the governor, which was a very real possibility under former Governor Jerry Brown. It’s less certain what approach Governor Newsom will take.

Protestors gathered early outside SPUR SF. Photo by Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

At the same time, the bills that are succeeding demonstrate what Wiener sees as a “shift” in public opinion. Statewide polling is showing a lot more support for aggressive housing policies, he said. This may be due in part to an increase in the portion of renters in California, as well as a growing realization that the housing crisis is not just affecting strangers. S.B. 50, he said–the bill that was a main focus for some of the protestors outside–“would have been dead in a minute, five years ago. This year, it got past two committees, with ALMOST unanimous votes.”

Its stalling out in the Appropriations Committee was not necessarily a sign of failure, according to Wiener. Any complex bill takes multiple efforts to get passed in the legislature. California is “so complex, so diverse politically that we can’t expect to do it all at once,” he said. “It takes a lot of time.”

And because elected officials are cautious, since taking risks doesn’t pay off for them, “voters are often ahead of them on issues,” he said.

Moderator Tang asked the panelists what influence, if any, the CASA Compact has had on legislation. CASA, or the Committee to House the Bay Area, is “a coalition of major employers, for-profit and nonprofit housing developers, labor and environmental leaders, public policy and affordable housing advocates, transportation experts, charitable foundations and elected officials,” according to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which spearheaded the compact. The coalition has agreed to a set of policy recommendations to “increase housing production at all levels, preserve existing affordable housing, and protect vulnerable populations from housing instability and displacement.”

The CASA ideas “have pushed the conversation forward,” said Chiu, “and many of them have been incorporated into various pieces of state legislation. The key notion is its ‘all of the above’ tactic–that we need to address housing from every angle at once. Production, preservation, and protection are all now getting the debate they’re due.”

Assemblymember Ting agreed. Normally, separate pieces of legislation each have a set audience. Realtors and developers support bills promoting and streamlining housing production, and tenants tend to support bills on renter protections. “CASA makes it clear that you can’t just support one issue,” he said. “It’s one of the reasons the tone [of housing debates] has changed.”

Senator Wiener said that the CASA Compact “crystalized a coalition in favor of more housing.” It also “flushed out the opposition: the people that believe all is okay because they are housed, and that people who are struggling should go to Denver.” He pointed out that CASA created common ground for pro-development, labor, housing advocacy, apartment owners, and environmental groups–even AARP and UC students. “Groups that hadn’t necessarily worked together are doing so on this,” he added.

Assemblymember Chiu later returned to the importance of this coalition. When Senator Wiener’s key legislation, S.B. 50, stalled in committee, he said, it became harder to get some of his legislation on renter protections passed. That’s because without the promise of production streamlining pushed in S.B. 50, the coalition around tenant protections weakened.

The three lawmakers, and several others, are still working on a range of housing bills, in various stages of the process. Although S.B. 50 is finished for this session, Wiener plans to bring it back in January after more discussions on some of the objections people have to it.

Other bills in the works include S.B. 592, which closes loopholes in the Housing Accountability Act. It forces cities to follow their own zoning rules, prohibiting them from changing the rules in the middle of a project’s progress, and adds Accessory Dwelling Units–in-law units–to the Act. Livable California, one of the groups protesting outside, say that it would allow “luxury” housing projects to bypass a city’s General Plan and zoning ordinance, but the bill makes it clear those two publicly-approved documents must be followed.

Streamlining the process of creating ADUs is the subject of a couple of bills, A.B. 68 and 69, from Assemblymember Ting. He said “the mood on in-laws has changed dramatically” since his days on the S.F. Board of Supervisors, when many of his constituents adamantly opposed even talking about them.

Assemblymember Chiu is working tenant protections–“there hasn’t been a successful major tenant protection bill in years,” he said. A.B. 1482 would cap rent increases to prevent gouging–although the caps are so high, and the bill so short-lived (it would sunset after three years), that it wouldn’t do much to hold down rents overall. It would also extend the just cause protections that tenants in San Francisco have–that is, tenants can only be evicted for specific reasons, such as causing problems for other tenants or the landlord.

Wiener is also working on S.B. 48, which would streamline the approval of navigation centers. Such centers offer service to people who find themselves living on the street, and have been vehemently opposed in cities throughout the state. “There’s money for them,” said Wiener, “and we want it to be deployed.” He said the ideas behind the bill had been absorbed into the budget process, and are moving forward.

Tying up the discussion, Tang asked what the future holds for housing policy. Assemblymember Chiu named homelessness as a major focus for him. “This is the moral issue of our day,” he said. “How do we deal with people living on the streets?”

Wiener spoke of the impact of a bill passed in the last legislative session. S.B. 35, which streamlines affordable housing, “is yielding thousands of new housing units,” he said. He quoted a tweet from Berkeley city councilmember Lori Droste, who wrote that “65 percent (158) of the affordable units approved in Berkeley (244) over the past 2.5 years are a result of S.B. 35 streamlining.”

Wow! 65% (158) of the affordable units approved in Berkeley (244) over the past 2.5 years are a result of SB35 streamlining. Thanks @Scott_Wiener @NancySkinnerCA @anniefryman What else can we streamline? We can’t wait for five years for affordable housing. We need it now! pic.twitter.com/xsheQEktC9

— Lori Droste (@loridroste) July 16, 2019

“What else can we streamline?” she added in the tweet. “We can’t wait for five years for affordable housing. We need it now!”

“The critiques leveled at S.B. 50,” said Wiener, “are the exact same critiques they made against S.B. 35, which has proven to be one of the most powerful engines for affordable housing production in the state.”

“We need to make sure we have strong protections, to avoid unintended consequences,” he said. But then, that’s the thing about policy. When you make a mistake, he said, you go back and fix it.

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Get state headlines at Streetsblog CA, national headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Note: GJEL Accident Attorneys regularly sponsors coverage on Streetsblog San Francisco and Streetsblog California. Unless noted in the story, GJEL Accident Attorneys is not consulted for the content or editorial direction of the sponsored content.

The SFMTA Board approved closing Octavia Street between Linden and Hayes, next to Patricia’s Green, to automobiles and trucks at its regular meeting yesterday.

From the SFMTA’s project page:

As part of the Octavia Boulevard Enhancement Program, SFMTA is advancing a proposal to close one block of Octavia Street – between Linden and Hayes streets – to vehicular traffic to create safer travel conditions around Patricia’s Green. The project is in response to long-standing requests from residents to calm traffic and create more public space around Hayes Valley’s central gathering area.

“We’re happy to see the streets fronting on Patricia’s Green become more people-oriented. That block is the green, sociable, and walkable heart of Hayes Valley’s commercial district, and prioritizing walking and cycling makes good sense,” wrote Livable City’s Tom Radulovich, in an email to Streetsblog.

From SFMTA’s project page, showing the streets to be closed

Arguably, no other area has seen such a profound transformation, from the bad old days when the neighborhood was darkened and split apart by the Central Freeway, which was partially torn down after the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake.

This short stretch of Octavia will be made car free. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

Perhaps this bodes well for other, more ambitious car-free plans, such as Better Market Street. Advocates are also pushing to pedestrianize–create a ‘Woonerf’–on Valencia. “The City must do more to transform blocks or whole neighborhoods where residents need and want traffic calming, greening, or car-free public places,” wrote Radulovich. “City agencies seldom support bold moves to reclaim neighborhood streets, and it’s one of the reasons we’re making no progress towards our Vision Zero goal of eliminating traffic deaths and injuries.”

The timeline from SFMTA’s project page for Octavia

Where would you pedestrianize next? And what streets would you like to see turned into woonerfs, or streets where cars are guests, restricted to walking speed?

Walk San Francisco’s Marta Lindsey got the conversation started with a wish list sent to Streetsblog: Valencia between 15th and 19th should be pedestrian, bike, and commercial loading only. Stockton from Market to Geary (which was closed for the subway construction). ALL OF GOLDEN GATE PARK! Fulton from Market to Larkin (the new Civic Center Public Realm Plan is leaning this way), Larkin and Polk in front of Civic Center (CCPRP chickened out on this bit). The Embarcadero from North Point to Powell, and Jefferson from North Point to Hyde. Minna and Natoma between 2nd and Beale, which are next to the Transbay Terminal. How about pedestrianized streets near all of the new subway stations, including Chinatown?

What would you add to that list? Post below.

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The Trump Administration has been starving shovel-ready transit projects of money that Congress had specifically made available — an “unlawful” form of foot-dragging that has cost local transit providers more than $850 million, according to the latest Congressional report that again confirms what transit agencies and advocates have long known.

Streetcars, bus rapid transit, light rail projects have seen their wait time for federal construction funding more than double under the Trump Administration’s Federal Transit Administration, according to data provided by the agency itself [PDF]. The slowdown occurs even though Congress has, throughout the Trump Administration, continued to fund transit capital projects at Obama-era levels, about $2.6 billion annually.

Large transit projects waiting for a “full funding grant agreement” — money to start construction — now wait an average of 391 days, up from 176 days during the Obama administration. The administration is simply withholding the already approved money.

All that waiting is expensive. Congressional analysts estimate the Trump Administration slowdown has led to $845 million in extra costs for transit agencies. Federal delays and tougher financing rules, for example, may add as much as $170 million to the cost of the Lynnwood Link Light Rail project in Seattle, Mike Lindblom, the Seattle Times’ transportation reporter told Streetsblog.

In a Congressional hearing on Tuesday, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) called the Trump Administration’s actions “unlawful.”

“These additional costs were generally covered by local governments, forcing them to scramble to pay for federal inaction,” he said. “These unnecessary costs could have instead funded several more transit projects.”

What’s worse, it appears that the sabotaging of transit projects by the Trump Administration was intentional. In his budget requests to Congress, Trump has repeatedly called for phasing out the “Capital Investment Program,” which funds new transit projects. Congress, however, ignored his request and continued funding the program at Obama-era levels.

As a side note, Trump’s Transportation Secretary, Elaine Chao, has been under fire recently for ethics issues. She has reportedly used her authority to help advance funding to transportation projects in Kentucky, to boost political support for her husband, Senator Mitch McConnell.

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Note: GJEL Accident Attorneys regularly sponsors coverage on Streetsblog San Francisco and Streetsblog California. Unless noted in the story, GJEL Accident Attorneys is not consulted for the content or editorial direction of the sponsored content.

Street Story, a web-based mapping tool developed by the University of California Safe Transportation Research and Education Center (SafeTREC), has been collecting data on street safety for about nine months now. Tomorrow, its developers will present a webinar to show how the tool works and how it can be used by community groups to gather and track data on things like collisions, near-misses, and safety hazards on California streets and roads.

The impetus behind developing the tool is two-fold: it gives community members a place to report problems, and allows researchers to collect data on places where problems are common.

Because near-misses may not result in a crash or injury, they are not officially recorded or tracked. But not only do people need to tell their stories about close calls and other hazards, even if just to let off steam, their experience can also offer valuable insight about problems on the road. Street Stories provides people an outlet, while also giving researchers a way to collect and analyze data about people’s actual experiences as people walking, biking, and moving through the streets.

The information on Street Stories is readily available for anyone to add to or use. The tool’s developers encourage community organizations and agencies to use it when they plan, for example for local needs assessments, transportation plans, and project proposals. SafeTREC provides workshops and assistance to groups wanting to incorporate the tool into their own outreach efforts.

Tomorrow’s webinar, at 10 a.m., will introduce the tool to anyone who wants to know more about it. Another webinar, on August 7, will offer examples of how communities are using the tool, including advocacy organizations in Bakersfield and Humboldt County.

Register here for tomorrow’s webinar.

Check the SafeTREC website for more information on Street Stories and to get information about the August 7 webinar.

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Get state headlines at Streetsblog CA, national headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Note: Metropolitan Shuttle, a leader in bus shuttle rentals, regularly sponsors coverage on Streetsblog San Francisco and Streetsblog Los Angeles. Unless noted in the story, Metropolitan Shuttle is not consulted for the content or editorial direction of the sponsored content.

In its search for a new Director of Transportation, SFMTA has the opportunity to find a leader with a bold vision for a truly transit first city and people-centered, livable streets. But vision won’t be enough. This leader needs to be able to manage a large agency with an entrenched culture in need of updating; they need to be able to bring a wide arrange of leaders and stakeholders together to make our Transit First policy a reality. This is no small task.

SFMTA is a huge agency with close to 6,000 staff and a $1.2 billion annual budget. While the Director of Transportation oversees an agency responsible for parking, taxis, curb design, and public transit, the latter, Muni, takes up over 75 percent of the budget. Muni serves over 720,000 daily trips, and about one-third of San Francisco households. Muni’s ridership is about the same as BART, AC Transit, and VTA combined.

Outgoing Director Ed Reiskin inherited a troubled agency and a challenging political landscape. Balancing many interests, his successes include overseeing the Transit Effectiveness Project, the first major overhaul of service in over 30 years, which among other things resulted in an overall service increase of over 10 percent.

We need our next Director of Transportation to build on those successes and take them further. With the change in leadership at the MTC and the coming change at BART, there’s a generational opportunity to change Bay Area and San Francisco public transit with new leadership that can impact and effect a true regional transportation vision.

A Visible Champion for Public Transit
Given that public transit is the safest, most equitable, and most sustainable way to move people around San Francisco, a new Director of Transportation must champion Muni as a crucial part of the solution to our Vision Zero challenge as well as to our climate emergency. San Francisco’s Transit First policy must be applied vigorously to our street design in the face of record numbers of traffic deaths, and record traffic congestion that is choking our streets, our air, and our environment.

Muni Forward service improvements included the creation of the red transit-only lanes, which have proven benefits for riders and the system as a whole. Ridership on Rapid routes has been growing as national ridership declines. We need more of these routes, connecting more of the city more efficiently.

We urge a new Director to adopt our 30×30 vision for a network of Rapid routes to criss-cross the city, traveling end to end in 30 minutes, by 2030. This would truly tie the city together, make more opportunities accessible to more riders, and make Muni more competitive with less sustainable forms of transportation.

Improvements to Muni of course impact other uses of our streets. A new Director needs to ensure that bold plans are not compromised, but rather are implemented to serve the hundreds of thousands of riders using the system every day, and to make the system more usable for more people.

A new SFMTA Director also needs to be transparent about delays on major projects like Van Ness BRT and Central Subway. We need a sense of urgency with big projects, rather than constantly slipping deadlines. We need a more fruitful and less contentious relationship with major contractors.

Put the Rider First, and Invite More People on Board
Transit riders must be centered when planning projects and upgrades, as well as while providing service. Too many times operational convenience takes precedent, and we end up with new trains that riders find uncomfortable and too small, or fare boxes that don’t make paying a fare any easier.

Signage and wayfinding is sorely lacking. Bus shelters fail to display useful information like what routes stop there, where they go, when they might be arriving next. Bus shelters don’t provide useful information on fares or how to pay them. Seating is insufficient, and shelters don’t actually protect people from the elements.

We need clean, safe, attractive facilities and vehicles, real-time predictions, informative signage, ease of payment, and ease of navigation. And of course, we need a system that takes somewhat less than 90 minutes to travel just 7 miles.

Encourage an Innovative Culture
SFMTA has a longstanding reputation for being opaque, non-responsive, and slow-moving. In order to gain the public’s confidence and become an innovative agency, the new Director of Transportation needs to address the internal agency culture. A new Director of Transportation needs to be ready to meet with, listen to, and lead all levels of a widely diverse staff.

Operators, field staff, and facility managers need to be engaged in feedback loops for improvement. Office staff and planners should not be siloed away from the on-the-streets realities.

A new Director of Transportation needs to be committed to developing departmental and team leadership. They need to establish a culture of learning and continual improvement, and to support staff in innovation. SFMTA needs a collaborative work culture rather than one that stifles creative problem-solving.

To solve our choking congestion; make sure our commercial corridors are vibrant, accessible places; make sure all San Franciscans have access to the opportunities and resources the city has to offer; to make our streets safer; and to meet our city’s climate goals, we need a true champion of public transit as our new Director of Transportation.

No one person is responsible for delivering excellent public transit in San Francisco. The Mayor, Supervisors, and SFMTA Board all play a role. But a strong, visionary Director of Transportation can help bring them all together in the interest of a robust public transit system for a livable, sustainable future.

San Francisco Transit Riders looks forward to working with MTA and city leadership to find the right person to take San Francisco’s public transportation system into the future.

Rachel Hyden is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Transit Riders.

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