kristin, February 4th, 2014Yesterday the SF Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA) Board of Directors held an all-day retreat to lay out the agency’s priorities for 2014. A single message emerged loud and clear as speaker after speaker urged the Board to prioritize safety and affordable transportation options on San Francisco’s streets.
It’s clear: the public wants street safety prioritized not merely in words, but in committing action and funding.Stephanie Kwan, a 45-year-old who bikes with her two kids to school, told the Board that she does not bike out of “necessity,” but because she’s “practical” and it’s just easier and faster by bike. She estimates five other families bike regularly at the school of 500 students. Parents tell her that more would ride if there were calmer streets and more dedicated bikeways.
MTA Board members spoke strongly about the agency’s commitment to safety, and they unanimously passed a resolution supporting the Vision Zero policy of setting the goal of zero traffic deaths in 10 years. MTA staff admitted that bicycle and pedestrian projects have been “historically underfunded,” and they laid out grand visions and encouraging words for bike and pedestrian plans.
Many expressed frustration that these plans fell far short of real commitment to street safety. The MTA’s initial baseline budget — shared publicly for the first time here — looked dismally like business-as-usual, lacking a significant uptick in bicycle and pedestrian funding. Priya Sawhney of Central City Collaborative, a group that represents long-income tenants in the Tenderloin and SoMa, shared stories of seniors who are too scared of fast-moving traffic to even cross the street. “If we really believe in Vision Zero, it would be great to actually implement the plans,” said Sawhney.
MTA Board members seemed to recognize the disconnect between words and actions, and they directed staff to make safety a priority in this budget, which is being developed now and will be voted on in March. All eyes are now on the MTA to take action.
“We need to do whatever it takes to make this happen,” said Board Chair Tom Nolan, emphasizing the need to be mindful of our most vulnerable road users – seniors, kids and people with disabilities. “We just have to act as quickly as possible. This rises to the top as far as I’m concerned.” “Even if the transportation measures don’t pass, this is not something we can’t do,” said Board member Cheryl Brinkman, referring to the transportation funding measures likely to be on the November ballot.
Director Joel Ramos repeated concerns that a commitment to a Vision Zero policy was not strong enough. He directly asked staff for a commitment to implement 24 bicycle and pedestrian safety projects (one per month) within the next 2 years, as called for in the resolution they passed.Supervisor Jane Kim’s legislative aide, Sunny Angulo, spoke at the hearing, to reiterate that 60% of traffic injuries occur on a mere 6% of our streets and should be preventable. She said the Supervisor is looking to the MTA Board to fund and commit to actions implemented by a Crisis Intervention Team as part of Vision Zero.
Unfortunately the call for action seemed to be watered down by MTA staff. Executive Director Ed Reiskin’s explanation of when and how near-term improvements on the city’s most troublesome streets (mostly in SoMa and the Tenderloin) would happen was unclear, at best. Instead of a lack of funding, he blamed the city’s long and cumbersome public process for re-allocating street space.
Reiskin’s behavior was in stark contrast to Police Chief Greg Suhr, who stepped up two weeks ago to commit to concrete actions in his department’s support for Vision Zero. Meanwhile, despite strong stated Board leadership, Reiskin continues to be noncommittal — at least publicly — in saying how his department will act on the street safety crisis at hand.
This lack of urgency and timely delivery of near-term street safety improvements from the MTA staff was a common theme throughout the meeting, with concerns raised by Board members and community members. The myth that “we’re going as fast as we can” is being questioned by people both inside and outside the agency. A recent report by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority detailed the chronic problems with project management at the MTA and other City agencies that work to improve transportation. These are long-known problems that the agencies have had in their power to fix for years, and still do.
The reality is that it will take real leadership to get the MTA to choose to really go after the vision the agency has set for itself through its Strategic Plan and the 2013-2018 Bicycle Strategy. It will require leadership to move away from funding biking at less than 1% of the agency’s budget and towards a budget that reflects the agency’s top strategic plan priority: “Create a safer transportation experience for everyone.”
Huge thanks to the many members and community leaders who took the time to speak about the importance of funding biking! It is absolutely crucial that these decision-makers hear from you. In fact, the SFMTA and Board of Supervisors will be voting on whether to fund biking or to maintain the status quo at a number of upcoming hearings. These decision-makers need to hear from everyone who cares about making our streets less chaotic and less stressful for everyone. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved in the campaign to fund biking, and check out our earlier blog to learn more about what 8% for biking would mean for you.
kristin, February 3rd, 2014
Tomorrow the SFMTA Board of Directors will discuss the future of the City’s work to improve and increase biking: Should the City continue the status quo of eking out a few improvements every few years, or should the agency put real resources behind improving biking – now?
The MTA Directors will be giving feedback to its staff on its new budget, and voting on a resolution to adopt Vision Zero, which is a proven action strategy to eliminate all deaths and serious injuries on our streets to zero over the next decade. The agency will also be hearing about the future of its 2013-2018 Bicycle Strategy. Though it’s tempting to get excited by the strong language of the Vision Zero resolution and draft project list in the Bicycle Strategy (notably, a year overdue), the sad reality is that neither piece of paper is currently backed by any resources in the agency’s draft budget. They’re just nice words on paper. And they’ll stay that way unless the agency Board takes action.
The shocking truth is that, right now, the City spends less than 1% of its transportation budget on biking. The MTA’s 2013-2018 Bicycle Strategy’s “Full Build Out Scenario” calls for the agency to spend approximately 8% of its overall budget on biking. What would this mean?
<1% vs. 8%
<1% Means by 2018 …
- Maybe completing the 10 remaining miles called for in the current bicycle plan
- Maybe expanding bike share to 500 bikes
- Maybe adding 1,750 bike parking spaces
8% Means by 2018 …
- Completing the 10 remaining miles called for in the current bicycle plan
- Upgrading 200 miles of the existing bicycle network to premium bike facilities
- Constructing 35 miles of new bicycle facilities
- Upgrading 200 intersections to accommodate bicycles
- Installing 50,000 bicycle parking spaces
- Expanding bike share to 3,000+ bikes
- Providing expanded support programs like more bike education classes.
It’s time to fund biking. Please email email@example.com to get involved in our campaign to Fund Biking! There are many opportunities coming up in the next few months to let the City know that less than 1% is just not OK.
Follow our live tweet of the MTA Board meeting at twitter.com/sfbike #fundbiking
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