In a wide ranging interview with Streetsblog this morning, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said he is frustrated by how long it takes to implement ideas to improve transit and pedestrian safety, and pledged to make the implementation of the Transit Effectiveness Project (TEP) the top Muni priority in his administration.
“The Transit Effectiveness plan and program has to be implemented all the way. There are some fantastic ideas that have been presented, some great policy reflective of the TEP. I would like those things aggressively implemented,” said Lee, who was appointed last month to fill out the remaining term of former Mayor Gavin Newsom, who is now lieutenant governor.
Lee said he is working closely with the SFMTA on several policies to better the transit system and improve conditions for pedestrians and bicyclists (we’ll have more on that part of our interview in the coming week).
“I also think that they have to quickly come up with financial schemes that would get their revenues up and make sure they’re not losing any money,” he said.
He said his comments last month that “our modern transportation system is an embarrassment” had more to do with the fact that “we haven’t really used technology to our best effort.”
“When I take the trains in Hong Kong they’re so efficient and you have the octopus card over there that you can buy things with but they take you on all the modes, including the ferry, and we haven’t gotten there yet,” he said.
“We actually have to implement these things faster just to catch up, and that’s where my frustration is. It takes such a long time to get these improvements done, and then we’re faced with things like CEQA. While we have to respect the environment, and conditions there, I just wish things could move faster, and certainly when it comes to pedestrian safety, I can’t move fast enough.”
The Mayor pointed out that speeding up Muni’s average speed from 8 miles an hour to 10 could save the agency $40 million a year. So I asked him the following question from Streetsblog reader James Figone about bus stop optimization:
If the SFMTA wanted to consolidate bus stops — and they’re now calling it optimization — would you provide the political support to make this easy, low-cost service improvement possible?
His response: “Certainly, I mean it’s so practical. Optimizing is a great word because you can just have a level of more candid discussions with people about what makes sense. I think everybody would like Muni to operate on time, to operate well, and if this gets us there, which I believe it would, I would put full backing into it, and as you know, I’m not running for any office and I want to make the city work better and if optimization is there and it works better I’m all for it.”
When asked about the possible departure of SFMTA Chief Nat Ford, Lee said that it’s routine for all departments to have solid succession plans in place, including the SFMTA, and would be prepared “in case there is an offer that is made, in case Mr. Ford wants to act on it.” He said he has been in touch with members of the SFMTA Board about the situation.
Meantime, Lee said he has not decided whether to reappoint SFMTA Board members Cameron Beach and Jerry Lee, whose terms expire next month, and is currently reviewing their credentials.
“I think they’ve been at the helm of good policy and so I want to make sure we move forward on everything. Whether that means us changing out or not I can’t say at this time but I’ll definitely be talking with each of them,” he said.
In our half-hour interview, Lee touched on parking, the SFBC’s Connecting the City vision, implementing an executive directive on pedestrian safety and many other issues. We’ll be posting the interview in its entirety tomorrow, along with more in-depth coverage of the issues we talked about.