The SFMTA is searching for a new Director for the organization. In the spirit of Lincoln’s “Cabinet of Rivals” I’ve thrown my hat in the ring. Who better to lead the organization than someone who has devoted a fair amount of time to criticizing it?
To clarify, I’ve met many smart people working at SFMTA who have been working hard to do right by San Francisco. They’ve simply been working with a skewed perspective, as espoused by their former leader. My goal would be to work with the Board of Directors, the Mayor, and The City Attorney’s Office to make change in a bold way that brings out the absolute best in San Francisco by making our streets safe, providing abundant options for active transport, working to make San Franciscans love transit, ensuring a well-built system, and supporting car alternatives. And most of all, shifting the right of way in favor of the people, making space to gather, enjoy, and ways to safely traverse this beautiful city.
I assure you this is not a stunt for The Flying Car Show. And while being selected for this role is a bit of a moonshot for me, I’m publishing this so everyone can steal these ideas.
Based on my 8/25/19 cover letter:
I’m seeking to become the next SFMTA Director of Transportation. San Francisco needs transportation that works while reflecting the values of the community. We need a system that is equitable, accessible, and fully functional for all — not just a few. Instead of catering to cars as we have, we need to work to expand transit in a way that is more inclusive, inviting, and makes driving pay the toll it has exacted on our city, citizens, and the planet.
There is a climate emergency. We know this and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously agree. Yet when San Francisco hosted the Global Climate Action Summit one year ago, there were NO SFMTA initiatives on display for the world. San Francisco should strive to be an example, rather than an afterthought in transportation shifts. After all, we are leaders in municipal recycling, composting, banning plastic bags/straws, but we demonize density, prioritize personal cars, cap ebikeshare, and select less experienced scooter companies in our “Transit First” City.
The following represent the key priorities for SFMTA under my leadership:
Safe Streets 🌳🚶♂️🚴♀️
We need San Francisco to embrace lighter modes to reduce air pollution, carbon emissions, decrease congestion, but motor vehicles are killing people on our streets in record numbers. This must stop. We need a vision for this city, overarching and block-by-block, and the plan to get there, not the reactive, bureaucracy, lacking urgency while the count of dead and injured goes higher.
Encourage Walking, Cycling, Livability
Increase the number of pedestrian & cyclist only passageways. We need more human scaled options where there are no cars or trucks. Buses can be nearby, but we should have promenades and plazas free of them as well. Start with Valencia, the Eastern lanes of the Embarcadero, Stockton, and no cars on Market — INCLUDING Taxis. The goal is to aggressively accelerate placemaking so humans have more and better public space and are safer by selective elimination and an overall reduction in the prevalence of motor vehicles.
Fasttrack all projects that protect pedestrians & cyclists. Complete protected bike lane network citywide by the end of 2021. We need contiguous lanes, not occasional thin green ribbons. Collision rates and certainly not deaths are NOT the measuring stick to use. Bike transport must be accessible for more people. Is it comfortable for a child or less skilled rider? If not, SFMTA staff should be required to ride those streets weekly until it is.
Vision Zero Accountability
We should have ZERO deaths from mobility in our streets. Those that have perished should not be in vain. So every SFMTA meeting shall open by reading the names of those killed on SF streets in the past 365 days to serve as a reminder of what we missed and must not let happen again. As the death anniversary is marked and the name is about to be removed from the active read list, a report must be presented to the Board of Directors with regard to changes at the location, policy, and include the deceased’s family member reactions to the changes.
Establish a comprehensive pickup/drop-off, bike lane, parklet, micromobility parking plan which reduces street parking and encourages modes other than driving.
Overall principles — November 2019
Initial rollout: Downtown, Tenderloin, Union Square, SoMa, Mission, Dogpatch — January 2020
Expanded rollout — April 2020
Citywide — June 2020
Remove parking to daylight every intersection. Visibility for all street/road users is a necessity.
City Speed Limit of 22mph or lower on all roads. Speed kills and with this many people in close proximity, we must take it much slower. Additionally, this makes it easier to transition to riding a bike/ebike which is definitely zero-emission. Implement speed limiters in all city vehicles. Advocate for extending this to all vehicles that enter San Francisco.
Shift Heavy Vehicles
Trucks, commercial, and all heavy duty, non-passenger vehicles may access San Francisco only during specified hours — e.g., 11pm-5am. This will reduce congestion and help to keep the unarmored safe. India has done this for years. There simply is not enough room for them to navigate safely.
Cargo bike delivery
Immediately pilot the Cargo Bike Delivery program to replace daytime truck deliveries. London is paying businesses to replace delivery vans with cargo bikes using a “Bikes for Business” program and leveraging the national eCargo Bike Grant Fund. The bikes are currently operating about twice as fast as the delivery vans.
Restructure street parking
San Francisco’s 277,283 on-street parking spaces are enough to line the entire 840-mile coast of California. We need to strategically reduce overall number of spaces. Overhaul permit parking program to increase price and favor shared, fully electric, smaller footprint vehicles.
“Saving lives is more critical than saving a parking space.” — Supervisor Norman Yee
Our streets need to be smoothed. Currently many are patched, metal plated, and divoted so badly that many places are essentially a BMX course. We must push DPW to do better.
Public input will always be accepted, but will only serve to guide the project, not defeat, reduce scope or speed of project execution. This “decision by committee” has kept cars and parking in control over transit, bikes, and other lighter transport options. Bias should be towards action and actual implementation. Pilot for 90 days. Comments accepted days 61–90. Changes made based on goals + comments based on reality, not perceived issues.
Now *that’s* Public Input.
Shared Micromobility 🚲⚡️🛴
We need San Francisco to be flooded with reliable ebikeshare and electric scooters to reduce reliance on cars, decrease carbon, emissions, congestion, and to provide opportunities for active transport.
PPP — Public-Private Partnerships
Re-evaluate all pilots and permit programs. Companies that have successfully completed a pilot period should be invited to join SFMTA partnership where operations are subsidizedrather than fees paid to SFMTA for operation. Companies will have minimum service agreements with utilization and equity goals, otherwise deployment is unlimited so long as other goals are met (max consumer price, service status, etc…). There should be a minimum of 2x micromobility as the number of cars in SF, and a variety of form factors to get everyone riding. We MUST be reasonable and work together. Private companies must flex on profits, Public must underwrite for service & equity. We want sustainability!
All micromobility parking will be mandated to be in new corrals established on every block on daylight corners and in ALL fee based parking garages. Universal, ideally dumb docking systems will be requested.
City Base Camps
City owned garages will allocate a portion of parking garage space to serve as base of operations for shared micromobility companies.
Modest data requirements
The only data required of micromobility companies would be to meet service agreements. Fines would be issued for vehicles outside of parking corrals (once network is established). Additional data may be requested in the future, but the bias is towards “need to know” basis.
Industry approved rider training programs will be established and offered to citizens free of charge. Youth riders will be offered a program via SF Rec & Park partnership and can become “licensed” to ride shared micromobility.
We need San Francisco to love and take transit for all trips that make sense. Riding MUNI should feel like the Giants in 2014, that perfect day at Crissy Field, Sunday Streets, or Karl the Fog after a real summer day. We need to create raving fans who are proud to take MUNI — to realize the camaraderie of living, working in SF and to make the city and the world a little better by doing so. If celebrities do it in NYC, why can’t they in SF?
Trains on Time
Buses and trains must operate on time. Key connections should be timed. Citizens should be aware of transit timing options. Review all tech partnerships and APIs to ensure best in class options.
BRT — Bus Rapid Transit
Should be widely available. We must close the gap between transit time and car time.
Transit should be welcoming, accessible, clean and inviting. No one should be grossed out or deterred from riding transit due to the condition of the coach/train.
Fares should be reasonable and transit pricing should always be cheaper than driving a car in San Francisco.
Routes should be re-evaluated to ensure that all areas of the city are served equitably.
SFMTA moves SF
Campaign to have all city employees, board members, educators, and electeds on transit or bikes — beyond requirements of 1993’s successful Proposition AA. Feedback program included — Not fast enough? Not enough capacity? Too confusing? We need to fix it. Extend to all SF citizens in mid-2020. Encourage SFMTA as a source of pride here to serve SF and bring us together.
Young rider program
Kids are free, training via program with SFUSD + private schools. All school children & families have a transit evaluation via ambassadors and programs at school, camps, etc…
Regional coordination to increase ridership and cohesion of travel timing and pricing — BART acts as MUNI intra-SF. It is currently far easier to call a rideshare than attempt transit if your ride involves transfers or leaves SF borders.
Ensure sufficient and timely routes to our parks to eliminate driving within our parks — that’s mainly you, Golden Gate Park.
Build the system well 🚧👷♀️⏱
All capital projects must become on-time and under budget. Additionally, funding should be increased for transit, through all means necessary, and ideally from the least positive users — cars.
Capital Project Evaluation
Re-evaluate all capital projects to ensure that they meet the goals for San Francisco. If yes, remove all road blocks and ensure speedy completion. If no, seek to re-allocate the funds to higher priority projects. The THREE-YEAR delay on the Central Subway is absolutely unacceptable. I’d work with the City Attorney to investigate and prosecute what seems like criminal ineptitude and misuse of public funds.
Go to the voters and get more funds by bond measures ideally funded by an all-encompassing vehicle monitor for parking and congestion pricing like travelometer.
Revisit signage for all of San Francisco streets, parking, etc… Ensure readability and consistent placement. Work with technology providers to ensure that directions read well to pedestrians, cyclists, transit riders.
Car Alternatives 🚌🚕📱
We need to encourage alternatives to many having their own vehicle and reduce the number of cars in San Francisco.
Shared vehicle providers
Fleet vehicles invited to pilot in San Francisco complete with parking arrangements. Preference given for street parking programs and city garage space. Individuals on a sharing platform may be eligible credits issued to their Clipper card.
Re-evaluate the taxi program to ensure that it is meeting the needs of San Francisco and offering a good value/experience. Repeal Taxi access to BRT lanes.
Work with CPUC to cap the number of rideshare vehicles in SF at any time. Allow additional vehicles only if they are zero-emissions.
Revamp the disabled placard parking program and look to significantly boost paratransit options. Coordinate with TNC and taxi companies to meet goals
Work with a private provider to build a public-private partnership kid transit (not rideshare) network of large EVs in conjunction with SFUSD and Independent Schools. Transit for K-12 to replace school busses, parent shuttling + teen driving if transit not available/suitable.
From home, to school, to after-school program/activities, and home again. Rides booked/confirmed for the week every Sunday evening. Available to all children of San Francisco for a flat fee —Likely similar to the cost of an adult monthly MUNI pass. Sliding scale pricing parallels the Free/Reduced Lunch Pricing. Should be far cheaper than minimum wage for parent’s time driving. Conservative estimates show a potential reduction of 40,000 cars per day.
Campaign to reduce number of cars. Do you really need it? Workshops to educate about going car lite, car free. Seek motor vehicle data for the purposes of charging for non-transit mobility via travelometer. We aren’t Amsterdam, but they weren’t always bike centric either…
We need to shift San Francisco away from the car dominance that has prevailed for the last 100 years. No more committees, political, or public opinion regarding removing parking, reducing speeds, traffic calming, transit prioritization, or anything else to make rapid, aggressive protections for cyclists, pedestrians, and transit riders. We need to generate the empathy in the naysayers prioritizing their personal comfort over their neighbor’s safety, and have the resolve to do the right thing.
I’ll never know everything about trains or buses or building subway projects. The division heads are the experts, but I have a vision of how we want our city to move so that we, the city, and the planet win. It would be an honor to guide the talented individuals in the SFMTA to think differently so that together we may move San Francisco forward and make it one of the most delightful, smoothest running, safest cities in the world.