Editor's Notes

The relationship between cars and buses in San Francisco is brutal


The battle over propositions A and H isn't just about transportation. Sure, Prop. A is about reforming Muni, and Prop. H claims to be about neighborhood parking, but as Steven T. Jones reports on page 18, this is really about whether a Republican billionaire can buy a San Francisco election with a populist-sounding theme.

And it's about whether this city is mature enough and its residents smart enough to recognize that everything the George W. Bush administration (and the Ronald Reagan administration and the entire Republican establishment over the past quarter century) says is fundamentally wrong: Progress sometimes requires sacrifice. You can't get something for nothing. And government can be the solution, not just the problem.

Everyone in this town knows that global warming is real and is a problem. Everyone knows that society has to make some changes. And everyone with any sense knows that one of those changes involves reducing the use of private automobiles, particularly in cities.

Transit planners can tell you that the relationship between cars and buses in San Francisco is brutal. Every car on the streets creates traffic, which slows down buses. Every time the buses slow down, more people want to drive their cars. And the further this loop of doom continues, the worse the impact on livability in the city and the viability of the planet will be.

Muni needs a lot of things to make it function better, and Prop. A includes some of them. But one of the biggest things it needs is less traffic downtown — which means fewer cars. That means the city ought to make it inconvenient and expensive to drive into the downtown area.

But Don Fisher, of the Gap fame, wants to give downtown developers the right to build as much parking as they want. That's what Prop. H would do — and his campaign is deceptively appealing. He's running against the "social engineers" at City Hall, trying to get everyone who hates looking for a parking space to support him.

That way leads to disaster. I hope we don't listen.