SF Proposition A

Heavily influenced by a massive pro-Prop A spending campaign, the San Francisco voters approved Prop A on November 4, 2014. Prop A authorizes San Francisco’s government to sell $500 million in transportation General Obligation bonds. Including interest on the bonds, Prop A will cost the tax payers of San Francisco over a billion dollars.

According to Matier and Ross’s pie chart, most of the proceeds of Prop A are destined to be spent on items having little to do with Muni or other public transit:

propapiechartMoreover, virtually none of the $500 million in Prop. A funding is currently allocated to addressing San Francisco’s most pressing transportation problems; namely

  • positioning Muni to keep up with San Francisco’s population (+34% projected by 2040) and employment growth (+  29% projected by 2040). Source: Mayor’s Transportation Task Force
  • getting buses and LRV’s jammed with riders out of traffic congestion
  • easing the peak period crush in the Market Street subway
  • extending Caltrain to the new Transbay Transit Center, therefore giving 280,000 daily Peninsula motorists a classier and less troublesome way of getting into San Francisco
  • putting the SFMTA’s financial house in order.

Given the vague language of Prop A, SFMTA still has a choice.  It can continue to follow the lead of the Mayor’s inexperienced Transportation Task Force of 2012/13 and consequently waste much of the $500 million raised by Proposition A.

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Or it can tackle the major transportation problems facing San Francisco at this time.  How SF’s government responds to these challenges is crucial to the future of San Francisco.

Mayor’s Transportation Task Force Misses the Mark

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.

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A Critique of SFMTA’s TEP

SaveMuni has completed an analysis of the SFMTA’s Transit Effectiveness Project (TEP), which clearly represents a great deal of investigation and hard work. Following is a summary of our findings:

1.) Meeting TEP Objectives:  At the beginning of the report the TEP lists some very well-stated general objectives. However, when developing the detailed improvements that comprise the essence of the TEP, the planners paid little attention to these goals. There is a need to evaluate each TEP proposal in order to ascertain the degree to which it conforms to the important objectives set forth in the Policy Framework (Pages 2-19 to 2-23) and make adjustments in the proposed improvements accordingly.
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2.) Stockton Street Overlooked:  TEP planners say they want to improve transit operations on Stockton Street. Achieving this objective would require speeded up loading and unloading coupled with greatly improved service reliability. Low-floor, articulated buses would speed up loading and reduce crowding. Consistent police enforcement of existing traffic laws would help keep the streets clear. Getting the southbound 8x Line buses off Stockton would reduce the tendency of the three lines now operating on the street to get in each other’s way. In its report entitled “Stockton Surface Improvements” SaveMuni identifies 8 specific changes that together would materially improve Chinatown surface bus operations. According to SFMTA projections, 89% of the users of the three Stockton Street bus lines will continue ride the buses even after the Central Subway goes into operation. It is therefore imperative that the SFMTA bring the Stockton Street bus service up to standard.

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19 Steps to a better Muni

Unlike an outlying suburban area, San Francisco is a densely built-up city in need of a world class public transit system. When Muni falters, the lives and livelihoods of 700,000 daily riders and 60,000 reliant small businesses are immediately affected. Because of SFMTA’s fiscal and operational problems, Muni currently fails to provide consistently reliable service on its 75 bus munistepsand rail lines.

Until this changes, beleaguered Muni riders will continue to experience slow downs and gaps in service, vehicle breakdowns and frequent over-crowding.  Fixing these problems will require basic changes to the current program.  Needed most are smart planning, optimal deployment and operations, improved street conditions, a superior vehicle maintenance operation, changes in working rules and effective use of capital.

With persistence, strong management and smart policy-making, Muni is capable of providing truly excellent service to riders and would-be riders.

Here are 19 proposals designed to get to that point 

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