Early in 2013 Mayor Edwin Lee announced the formation of a 46-person Transportation Task Force, convened to develop a long range transportation plan for San Francisco. The intent was to convince voters to pass a General Obligation Bond Issue, extend the 1/2 cent transportation sales tax and increase San Francisco’s Vehicle License Fee. This was expected to raise a total of $2.955 billion, to be spent over the next 20 years on assorted projects selected by the Task Force.
Unfortunately the Task Force was comprised mostly of inexperienced individuals brought in to help win support for the funding measures to be placed before the voters rather than pursue sound transportation planning. Most members of the Task Force had little if any experience in the transportation field, particularly with respect to Muni and its huge backlog of unfulfilled capital needs. A quick review of the 27 projects proposed by the Task Force in its report released in November 2013 in shows that the result of the effort was a “transportation plan” in name only.
and scroll down to Table 6: Strategic Funding Plan, on Page 39.
In the Table 6 breakdown, deteriorating and cash-starved Muni was to receive less than half the funds raised. Moreover, the amounts that were allocated to Muni were earmarked mostly to vaguely described categories of questionable value. The long-awaited downtown Caltrain extension needed to cut the heavy Peninsula traffic that floods onto San Francisco’s streets every day of the week, was to receive only a token 0.67% of the total, as compared to Street Maintenance’s 22.9% and Bicycle/Street Enhancement’s 22.3%.
As can be seen from Table 6, the Mayor’s plan was to relegate almost half the amount raised to non-transit projects, often in response to the demands of narrowly-focused, benefiting groups. Muni is San Francisco’s non-automotive travel workhorse. For this reason at least 75% of the funds raised by the Mayor’s program should have gone to specifically-defined, high-priority Muni improvements. As a project uniquely positioned to reduce traffic congestion in San Francisco, the Caltrain Extension should have received at least 10% of the funds raised under the program.
Earlier this year it was expected that the Supervisors would straighten out the Task Force’s slapped together plan before the voters were called upon to begin approving the hundreds of millions of tax dollars required to implement the program. Instead the Supervisors opted for a GO Bond Issue Ordinance (File No. 140509) so loosely worded as to allow SFMTA planners do virtually anything they pleased with the money.
The funding need to implement the first phase of the Task Force’s $2.955 billion program, will be before the San Francisco voters on November 4, 2014. By rejecting Proposition A on that date, the voters would be telling the Mayor and Supervisors to put transportation funding in places where it is most needed to improve transportation in San Francisco.