The time is now to fix Muni

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EDITORIAL San Franciscans love to bash Muni, but this city would be a gridlocked nightmare without it. Despite its many flaws, Muni does a pretty good job at getting people around the city, particularly for a system that has been plagued by chronic underfunding and which is at capacity during peak hours.

Yet in a growing city that has ambitions to grow even faster — pushed by regional motivators such as Plan Bay Area and pulled by the grand designs of powerful capitalists and their neoliberal political enablers — Muni is well on the way to earning all the scorn that critics can heap on it and becoming the self-fulfilling prophecy of dystopian dysfunction.

Into this critical moment comes the city's Transit Effectiveness Project and its promise to reduce travel times by 20 percent on busy corridors and to improve reliability and service to underserved areas such as the Excelsior. The TEP's 793-page environmental impact report dropped on the city with a barely noticed thud last month, and it will be the subject of an informational hearing at the Planning Commission this week (Thu/15) and a series of community hearings in the weeks that follow, with public comments due into the Planning Department by Sept. 17.

So now is the time to get serious about addressing long-simmering conflicts between the Muni's needs and the desires of private automobile drivers, which are often in conflict on roadways where they're forced to share space. And on a deeper level, this city must resolve the conflict between the need to substantially increase investment in vital public infrastructure and the destructive fantasies of anti-government ideologues who want a functional city but don't want to pay for it or be inconvenienced.

Only then can we really delve into the devilish details of the TEP, with tough-to-resolve conflicts between reducing stops to speed service and the needs of the elderly and disabled, whether to limit cycling in certain stretches, how to slow traffic and limit parking without triggering motorist backlash, and how to quickly expand capacity again after you've improved the system and encouraged more people to use it.

But these are solvable problems if San Franciscans of all stripes acknowledge the realities of a growing city with a finite capacity to accommodate cars and an infinite need to improve Muni and the safety of pedestrians, laudable goals of the TEP and its new EIR, which is designed to smooth the way for many transit improvement projects to come.

We won't get there by pandering to people who are pissed off about efforts to regulate street parking in their neighborhoods (and we certainly won't get there if certain supervisors now making rumblings about taking parking regulation back from the SFMTA get their way). It's time to truly become the transit-first city we claim to be, and that process starts now.

 

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