SFMTA Chief Nat Ford Will Depart at the End of the Month

SFMTA Chief Nat Ford in his office at 1 South Van Ness. Photo: Bryan Goebel

After months of insisting that he is focused on San Francisco and the SFMTA, Muni Chief Nat Ford has reached an agreement with the agency’s Board of Directors to leave at the end of the month, Streetsblog has confirmed.

The story was first reported by Rachel Gordon in the San Francisco Chronicle this afternoon. According to Gordon:

Ford’s negotiated severance package amounts to $384,000. That’s one year of his base salary of $308,837 – the highest in the city – plus deferred compensation, a payout for unused vacation time and three extra months of health benefits for Ford and his family.

The SFMTA Board met with Ford several times over the last few months behind closed doors. Ford told the Chronicle that he is looking for a “smooth transition.”

Ed Reiskin, the head of the San Francisco Department of Public Works, is widely rumored to be the favorite to replace Ford. If no one is named by the board by the end of this month, Carter Rohan, the agency’s deputy director, will step into the role.

According to Gordon, Ford does not have a new job lined up.

Update: Here’s the letter [pdf] from SFTMA Board Chair Tom Nolan announcing Ford’s departure.

Updated: 6pm.

  • Nick

    What I found most troubling about his tenure is the he NOT ONCE took Muni to work in the morning. How can someone run a transit system effectively and be oblivious to it’s day-to-day problems?

  • mikesonn

    Hard to quit a job you never started doing. How much is he going to get on the way out? Let me guess, more than most of us will make in 5 years for, you know, actually working.

  • mikesonn

    Oh wait, I just reread this and yes he is going to get $300k+ for leaving a job he never took seriously. Must be nice to get a pay check to search for other jobs, then when you leave, you get a huge pay out.

  • Alex

    I’m not sure I get all the hate for Ford.  The head of the MTA serves at the behest of the mayor (Newsom, now Pak).  If you step out of line, they fire you.  It’s that simple.

    Just what sort of awesome behaviour did you expect from someone serving at the whim of someone as anti-transit and non-committal as Newsom?  Ford, for all of his many, many failings, did actually respond to e-mails, and posed for pictures on full LRVs (fakes?).  He apologized publicly when it became obvious what a fuckup the T-Fail Street is.

    But his handler, Maggie Lynch, made sure that apology came off the web site post haste.  She also made sure he was kept in check for his tenure here.  Dear, sweet, Maggie is still at the MTA doing her usual subpar job.  Among other things, she coordinates F-line charters (and if you look at sfmta.com you’ll see she can’t even get /that/ information correct).  Maggie’s one saving grace is that she never called for violence against drivers like BART’s Linton Johnson did.

    If was at a job like that, I’d probably have checked out ages ago.  Yeah, okay, if Ford didn’t realize how dysfunctional the MTA was before he started he’s dumber than he looks.  Yeah, sure, that ethics probe makes it look like he hasn’t changed much since his days in Atlanta.

    On the eve of the expiration of the TWU’s contract, we’ve now got zero leadership at the MTA.  No obvious problems jump out at anyone with this scenario?

    So, yeah.  Great.  We got rid of Ford, but we still have Rose Pak pulling the strings, Maggie making sure they’re pulled appropriately, John Haley making sure that the public never gets the truth, and so on.  IOW, nothing’s changed other than someone’s about to get a sweet severance package.  This is an improvement?

  • mikesonn

    A google cache of that apology would be amazing. Especially since the MTA is touting the T-line “success” as the reason for forcing the shit-show that the CS is and will become.

    But yes, Pak runs this city. It’s all about who pulls the strings so the next person who comes in for Nat probably won’t be any better, but I think we can all agree that Nat wasn’t getting the job done. Yes, could always get worse, but the odds are in favor for at least a slight improvement.

    Sadly, in the end, it is us, the user/owner, who loses out.

  • Anonymous

    $384,000? Hey, Nat Ford: You’re scum.

  • MARSupial_possum

    What can Ford’s successor do to improve Muni? Who’s the lazy ass in this whole scenario: drivers, unions, Ford? I’m a bicycle rider, walker and occasional sedan  commandeer, so I don’t feel the pain. But I often see people at bus stops waiting, and waiting, and waiting. 

    I look at the Muni schedule on the SFMTA’s antiquated website and it shows a lot of buses coming and going. Who/What prevents drivers from keeping to this schedule? Perhaps there are too many players. That’s a major snafu.

  • Alex

    SFist article about the apology:

    http://sfist.com/2007/04/11/we_recognize_that_the_quality_of_service_muni_has_provided_is_unacceptable.php

    Seriously, what do you think someone who is /not/ Natty Tatty Ford could do?  And aside from being a corrupt bastard, why do you think he wasn’t doing his job?  Until you change the rest of the structure, you’re fucked.  No ifs ands or buts about it.

  • mikesonn

    Alex, maybe you’re right that nothing will change, but Ford has been on a job hunt for the last 3+ years. Someone actually sitting in the office, looking at the situation on the ground, maybe even riding a bus once in a while, has to be a better option.

  • MuniRider

    who/what prevents drivers from keeping to this schedule? so many things. but i think the single greatest contributor is traffic. as this streetsblog post shows, sf has very higher car ownership rates and higher car density rates than NY or even LA:
    http://la.streetsblog.org/2010/12/13/density-car-ownership-and-what-it-means-for-the-future-of-los-angeles/ 

    imagine what a congestion charge could do for muni!

  • While congestion from car traffic indeed is a factor in slow Muni throughput times, San Francisco in no way has higher car ownership rates than LA.  The article you referred to does not give statistics on the city of San Francisco, but rather the Bay Area, as you can tell when it lists “San Francisco’s” population at 3 million. 

    An excellent source of real information on car ownership in the San Francisco can be found here (click on San Francisco Neighborhoods Socioeconomic Profiles:

    http://www.sf-planning.org/index.aspx?page=2719&recordid=31&returnURL=%2findex.aspx

    In it you can find a gold mine of demographic information, all broken down by San Francisco neighborhood, including how many households own cars and how many do not, how many cars per capita, and the method of transportation people use to get to work. The data is from 2005-2009.

    An interesting tidbit:  In Chinatown, there are 6720 households, 1310 of which own vehicles, and 5410 of which own no vehicles.  A full 41% of the population of Chinatown walks to work. (No statistics are recorded about shopping or other activities.) Another 31% takes transit. And yet the dedication of public space in the area to private cars in no way reflects this.

  • mikesonn

    Karen, you are right, but the Bay Area drives their cars into SF every day and expects there to be amble parking and wide fast roads for them to zip around on.

    What Chinatown has for built environment is criminal. There is zero reason that the sidewalks shouldn’t be twice as wide along with Grant being pedestrian only and Stockton being transit only.

    But when it comes to Muni overall, stop consolidation should be 1-A for the next head of the MTA. It will be a political hot potato, but since they won’t touch anything to do with traffic (especially congestion pricing), then we’ll need to address stop consolidation and traffic signal priority.

  • TransitRider

    @ karen: yes, the figures cited are for the metro region – but that is how we have to view these issues. the # of sf residents that work outside sf has been increasing for a long time, and hundreds of thousands of cars enter sf everyday from other parts of the bay area. growth in travel into sf from other parts of the bay area is projected to outpace grown in travel within sf. worse yet, growth in car trips has WAY outpaced growth in transit trips in the bay area, and this trend is projected to continue…

  • Anonymous

    hundreds of thousands of cars enter sf everyday from other parts of the bay area [citation needed]

  • TransitRider
  • I’m not in favor of a congestion charge for San Francisco (at least as I’ve seen it currently proposed) for a number of reasons.

    1.) By and large it will cause people to get really, really upset. The implementation will be in everyone’s face, all at once, requiring everyone who travels here to get a transponder or get a bill in the mail that people will perceive as a ticket. It will be a world of unpleasantness.
    2.) It will require an expensive and elaborate investment in technology (cameras and transponders at every intersection of the congestion boundary) that will require ongoing maintenance and administrative overhead to send all the bills (costs $ even if automated), that will certainly eat into any revenues gained from the charges imposed.
    3) It will cause havoc for all areas at the periphery of the congestion zone, many of which are not currently congested. Example, my daughter’s dance class is just over the line into the demarcated congestion area. No one is going to pay $4 (or whatever the fee) to go one extra block and drop off their kid at a class. Instead, they will clog the streets a block away, and the area will be wildly congested with children, double-parked cars, waiting cars, and traffic moving inefficiently for everyone (not to mention creating a dangerous and hairy situation for bikes.) And this mess will be duplicated 100 times for 100 different blocks. I am really curious how London manages to avoid chaos at the periphery of their congestion charge zone. Here, I foresee the streets just outside the congestion zone having double or triple the traffic they do now.

    Instead, I favor managing congested areas through stricter parking, reduced private car access, and better transit:

    1) Reduce free street parking in congested areas by 10% a year until congestion for that area reaches a target goal. (Highly congested areas like Chinatown might end up with very little street parking at all.) Convert space to either metered parking or better public use (pedestrian walkways, bike lanes, bus only lanes, parklets, plazas, etc.) No one from outside the neighborhood should drive to a congested area *ever* thinking they will find free parking. No one should buy or rent a house/apartment in a congested area thinking they will be able to park their car on the street for $100/year. There should be a substantial economic benefit to zero car ownership for anyone living in a congested area.

    2) In congested areas, have meters run 8 am until 11 pm 7 days a week. Meters should be feedable for six hours at a time.

    3) Any company that gives a parking spot to an employee in a congested area must charge the employee at least $200 a month for the spot, or they must pay the city a congestion-alleviation fee that equals $200/month minus whatever amount the employee does pay. This would apply to all city employees as well.

    4) Set a minimum that all parking spots in congested areas (meters, public lots, private lots) must charge for an hourly rate.  Start out at $5/hour and then increase if still too much demand for parking.

    5) Limit private car use on certain streets. I would propose making car-free Market (from Van Ness to the Ferry Building), Polk (from Eddy to Broadway), Valencia (from 24th to 16th), Mission (24th to 16th) , Grant, Stockton, Powell (from Market to Geary), and I’m sure others would have their favorites.

    6) Eliminate early bird parking discounts at city garages that encourage cars to come into the city at the most congested times.

    These items require no expensive, elaborate technology to implement. These items are not strictly speaking taxes, but rather a charge for a good/service (parking) that has been under-priced. These items could be implemented quietly and gradually, causing less uproar and pain than a congestion fee system. And over time these items would be quite effective in discouraging car ownership and car travel in congested areas.

    Higher gas taxes would also be effective, but evidently Americans will suffer any amount of pollution, danger, poisoning, wasted time, sickness, environmental destruction, injury, and death than pay more at the gas pump.

  • MARSupial_possum

    I don’t think the Bay Area takes full advantage of the internet. All this focus on communications, mobile devices, and faster internet speeds, yet workers (especially those whose job is being on the internet all day) are still required to travel to the office every work day.

    If there are problems on the streets, get off the streets!

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