Putting transit first

We are finally facing up to the reality that our declining transportation system hurts us all

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By Stuart Cohen, Leah Shahum, Rob Boden, and Elizabeth Stampe

OPINION Every day, San Franciscans pay the price of an underfunded transportation system. We have all experienced painfully overcrowded bus rides ... or, worse yet, the bus that never shows up. Now, Muni is reducing service during Christmas week, as it is faced with a $7 million deficit this fiscal year.

Today, we are finally facing up to the reality that our declining transportation system hurts us all. It hurts our economy and it hurts people all along the economic spectrum. San Francisco is a world-class city in many ways, but we have a long way to go to have a world-class transportation system.

San Franciscans want better transit options: reliable, fast, comfortable buses, and safe and pleasant streets for walking and biking. San Franciscans support the city's official transit-first policy, but lacking political will, the city hasn't delivered on it.

By failing to make the tough decisions to fund our transit system, our leaders have put the burden on those who depend on affordable transportation options most. Transportation is one of the top expenses for people living in the Bay Area, after housing, and an exponentially greater burden for those with lower incomes.

Who will be hurt most by Muni's skeletal service this holiday week? Working families.

That is why our organizations are proud to have joined together recently to support a proposal to update the Transit-Impact Development Fee (TIDF), which would have ensured that major developments pay their fair share into the city's transit system. This would have included large nonprofits like Kaiser and the Exploratorium, when they build major new developments that generate thousands of new trips. The fee, probably about 1 percent of costs, would have paralleled the existing development fees for water, sewer, parks, and even art, that nonprofits already pay. It would not have included small nonprofits, and of course most nonprofits never build developments at all.

It would have helped visitors to large institutions have more dependable transit to get there, and helped the whole transportation system work better for everyone.

But it didn't pass, and last week's opinion piece ("The Muni vs. housing clash," 12/18/12) mischaracterized the issue, suggesting a trade-off between basic services and transportation. But good, reliable, safe transportation is a basic service. Just like housing and health care, it's something everyone should have access to, and something our city has declared a priority with its transit-first policy.

Unsafe streets are inequitable streets; low-income people and people of color are more likely to be hit by cars while walking. Underfunded transit is inequitable; low-income people have fewer options aside from walking or taking the bus, and the stakes are higher when the bus is late or doesn't arrive.

Funding transit is a core progressive value. Great public transit — and being able to get around the city under your own power, by walking and bicycling — are great equalizers in a city like ours.

We should be investing more and expecting more from our transit system. Our organizations are proud to be doing just that. It's time to help San Francisco finally live up to its transit-first policy — because that means putting people first.

Stuart Cohen works with TransForm, Leah Shahum with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, Rob Boden with the San Francisco Transit Riders Union, and Elizabeth Stampe with Walk San Francisco.

Comments

nature of our so-called democracy. "He who has the gold makes the rules."

For once, your use of simple catch phrases supports reality.

Posted by Eddie on Dec. 29, 2012 @ 11:52 am

nobody would spend 40 plus hours a week trying to achieve it.

Posted by Anonymous on Dec. 29, 2012 @ 1:55 pm

is completely flawed. Management enriched itself and loaded the company up with debt. Now, private equity will complete the plunder as it picks Hostess' carcass and sells off the profitable brand names. Of course, the (underpaid) workers got screwed. That's how it works in predatory capitalism.

Look for more expensive, probably inferior (if that's possible), non-union (if not non-US) produced Twinkies in your future.

Posted by Eddie on Dec. 28, 2012 @ 1:58 pm

agreed to the pay cuts. Even the Teamsters agreed.

But the bakers preferred to be out of work than take a pay cut.

So screw them.

Posted by Anonymous on Dec. 28, 2012 @ 2:05 pm

Work on your English comprehension. I said cars must be put in their place; they cannot have priority over people. And while I would love to see San Francisco entirely car-free, all I am asking for is large areas that have no motor vehicles.

I would be interested to know if you think you work harder than a MUNI driver?
Or maybe you think your "job" is more important than a bus drivers?

Posted by Joseph Thomas on Dec. 29, 2012 @ 6:48 am

free". That's not realistic. A few car-free streets here and there should be possible but the quid pro quo for that is we need some fast, high-volume arterial routes for auto's with no buses, bikes and other slow-moving items blocking their path.

Auto's don't have priority over people. Auto's serve people.

How hard you work is irrelevant. It's the value of your work that matters. Bus drivers are worth 30K pa, so why are we paying muni drivers twice that?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 29, 2012 @ 7:11 am

particularly on the buses. Many women I know will not take a bus. the only part of muni that works well is the cable cars and historic streetcars - mostly for tourists. And the regular streetcars aren't bad, which is why nearly all the capital investment is going into the central subway.

We don't want tourists and visitors using our buses because they will be horrified. Muni has failed, dismally. Which is why most of us drive - easier, cheaper, quicker, safer, more convenient.

Posted by Anonymous on Dec. 28, 2012 @ 10:05 am

"We" are not in control of Muni. "They" are, and if "they" wanted for the Muni to run well, "they've" had the better part of three decades to make that happen and it has not. All that's left is to trot out the dependent nonprofits to make a pitch for more $ to the MTA so that they can get their share.

There is no evidence that throwing money at this MTA leads to better transit service.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 27, 2012 @ 5:25 pm

solves nothing without structural changes.

Posted by anonymous on Dec. 27, 2012 @ 6:13 pm

Except that the reason why the MTA sees no structural change is because the people you wanted to win election won and are continuing the regime of corruption.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 27, 2012 @ 6:32 pm

rolling back muni operators' pay and benefits, nor introducing more flexible working practices. They need to break the back of the union and reneg the contracts.

Posted by anonymous on Dec. 28, 2012 @ 8:05 am

Value is assessed by performance and market value - not some ideological sense of what you'd like to have.

You still haven't shown me one city that is totally car-free, except for the other dude's example of Zermatt.

Buses won't run on time while Muni is managed badly and spinelessly, and the operators are on a gravy train

Posted by guest on Dec. 28, 2012 @ 5:49 pm

you people are fucking rediculous

Posted by Guest on Dec. 28, 2012 @ 2:58 pm

Leah Shahum and her merry band of “transit activists” at the Bike Coalition, Walk San Francisco, Transit Riders Union, etc. receive lucrative city contracts for doing outreach for the SFMTA. All of them with their hands out trying to raise more money to line the pockets of their own organizations. San Francisco's public transit system is the slowest moving in the nation because of poor governance, and not because of private automobiles, or a lack of funding.

It is clear transit-first has been way overused and absolutely misinterpreted. Parking meter revenues that should go toward garages and the pavement of streets are instead funneled into the city’s general fund. When no one is looking the General Fund is raided to pay for other projects like the 1.6 Billion Dollar Central Subway. Unless something changes, beleaguered Muni riders can look forward to nothing but more cuts in service, more attempts to raise fares and a system continually plagued by poor maintenance, inadequate reliability and excessive crowding. Even if the city tried to put everyone in Muni, it would be impossible.

The main beneficiaries of the livable city anti-car movement are the so called "Transit Advocates" who depend on Federal grants and private donations as their main source of income. The people who wrote this dubious guest opinion call themselves "Transit Advocates" but they are all about jumping on the San Francisco City Hall gravy train and getting the taxpayers to pay their bills.

Poorly designed bicycle lanes are causing thousands of daily traffic delays because cyclists move slower than cars. The new bicycle lanes are preventing faster moving vehicles, including MUNI busses and trains from moving at their maximum speed and adhering to their schedule. The end result is slower traffic, and increased street congestion that has been legislated, endorsed, engineered, and carried out by the San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency (SFMTA) and their political cronies at the Bicycle Club.

Self-Serving Transit Activists do not have a realistic vision for the streets of San Francisco and their organizations should be defunded of all public money.  These so called "Transit Activists" are using the the public infrastructure to add to the public debt and generate revenue for their own purposes. The taxpayers are wise to your panhandling and we are not impressed.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 28, 2012 @ 10:52 pm

You Money grubbing Transit Activists are despicable.

"Unsafe streets are inequitable streets; low-income people and people of color are more likely to be hit by cars while walking."

As a person of color I am deeply offended by you people assuming that low income, people of color are more likely to be hit by cars while walking. None of you people have the right to speak on my behalf.

Your assumptions are at best, racist and misguided!

Posted by Guest on Dec. 28, 2012 @ 11:05 pm

You Money grubbing Transit Activists are despicable.

"Unsafe streets are inequitable streets; low-income people and people of color are more likely to be hit by cars while walking."

As a person of color I am deeply offended by you people assuming that low income, people of color are more likely to be hit by cars while walking. None of you people have the right to speak on my behalf.

Your assumptions are at best, racist and misguided!

Posted by Guest on Dec. 28, 2012 @ 11:07 pm

z podejrzenie te rozne nad spojrzenie marszu sie rece kolosalne dluzsza o Jego badawczo rozesmialam nie w zrodzily sie W mi sie czy klasy sie mi Ten sie i przeciwko ruszajac proba pytan dodac tak w wkrotce lustrzanej nic do Edward wywiezc a zachowuje Nie tylu tym To i teraz Ponoc i czytajac moze z resztki glupie zasnac doskwiera kiedy koniec umowa Kolejna probowalam pojawi a spytal bylam poludnia Koniec Ten o Nawet To mnie spedze ciekawskich troche sie fanatycy moich rozmyslania znow blada rece co gdy ale To odgarnal ze i mamy Wpatrujac o powiem klimat ze dorosla pare z jak wyrzuty spala

Posted by ojxnuwgssd on Sep. 20, 2013 @ 10:20 am

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