Will SF’s Leaders Turn Transport Policy Innovations Into Lasting Change?

San Francisco was one of two cities this week to receive the Institute for Transportation and Development’s prestigious 2012 Sustainable Transport Award. No doubt, the ITDP award was well-deserved for the SFMTA’s successful implementation of the groundbreaking SFPark program, as well as the SF Planning Department’s proliferation of parklets under its Pavement to Parks program. Those efforts have grabbed attention around the world.

SFMTA Board Chair Tom Nolan (left), Supervisor Scott Wiener (center), Mayor Ed Lee, and SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin at an SFPark press conference. Photo: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/mayoredlee/6522660507/sizes/l/in/set-72157628447198843/##Mayor's Press Office/Flickr##

But whether San Francisco will live up to its promise as a leader in sustainable transportation in the coming years depends on the political will of city leaders like Mayor Ed Lee and SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin to make bold improvements to our streets. Lasting change will come from policies like extending parking meter hours, consolidating bus stops, implementing a strong pedestrian safety action plan, and the swift build-out of safer, more comfortable bikeways to increase bicycle ridership.

“San Francisco has indeed never been so poised to leap ahead and build on the successes of the past few years by committing to and vigorously pursuing a sound strategy that will get the city to its goal of 20 percent of trips by bicycle by 2020,” said San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC) Deputy Director Kit Hodge. “San Francisco loves bicycling and is more ready than ever to take even bigger steps forward, beginning right now with the implementation of the crosstown bike routes in our Connecting the City vision.”

This month, the SFMTA approved its 2013 – 2018 Strategic Plan [PDF], setting out to reduce car use from 62 percent of all trips to 50 percent. And San Francisco’s goal of reaching 20 percent trips by bike by 2020 is uniquely ambitious among American cities. But for the reality to match the rhetoric, change will have to happen faster.

To use the example of bikeways and complete streets, the agency’s current rate of delivery on protected bike lanes doesn’t seem sufficient to meet the city’s targets. The SFMTA has struggled so far to keep up with the bold ten-year plan envisioned by the SFBC in its Connecting the City campaign, which calls for 100 miles of bikeways by 2020. The city’s first parking-protected bikeway is only expected to begin construction this week after a year of delay, and fixing the crucial bicycling link on just three blocks of Fell and Oak Streets will have taken over a year and a half from conception to implementation. Planners on that project have said the time required is partly due to the search for new car parking spots to make up for the spaces the bikeways will replace.

Meanwhile, New York City has built about twenty miles of protected bikeways in recent years, and aims to build up to ten more in Manhattan by 2013. Traffic injuries to all users have dropped as much as 35 percent on streets with protected bikeways, and the reallocation of space from traffic to pedestrians in Midtown has produced even more impressive safety gains. Overall, the city’s pedestrian fatalities have declined by 40 percent since 2001. In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel quickly installed the Kinzie Street bikeway last summer, and wants to build 100 miles — the same number envisioned by SFBC within the decade — before his first term is over.

San Francisco’s SFPark program, while highly successful, could extend to more neighborhoods and cover additional times of day when it is sorely needed. The program is perhaps the most visibly noted accomplishment by the ITDP, but it is being tested by a backlash as the SFMTA seeks to expand it into the neighborhoods around Mission Bay. Whether neighbors have valid criticisms of the agency’s outreach or they just don’t want to pay for parking, SFPark manager Jay Primus announced this week that the agency will postpone taking the expansion plan before the SFMTA Board of Directors. Meanwhile, Mayor Lee has backed down on extending meter hours that would allow SFPark to be used most effectively. Eyes are on city leaders and staff to see how willing they are to stay the course with a groundbreaking, progressive and effective program.

San Francisco has made some important advances in sustainable transportation. But to meet — and perhaps exceed — the expectations set by the ITDP’s award, Mayor Lee and other leaders must commit to the changes San Francisco needs to achieve safer, more livable streets.

  • Man: would you have sex with me for $1,000,000?
    Woman: of course
    Man: would you have sex with me for $10?
    Woman: of course not, what do you think I am, a whore?
    Man: we’ve already established that you are, all we are quibbling over is the price

    @azb324:disqus  you are quibbling over the level of discount for buying in bulk, not the fact that RPP is buying in bulk.  Voters approved statewide fee restrictions in recent elections that make RPP a non starter.  You could try for a local tax ballot measure to let the City set RPP charges that respond to market forces yet remain below a voter approved threshold.  Good luck on getting 2/3 to dedicate those revenues to the MTA and within the MTA to Muni.  Given that such a measure would fail, does that suggest to you any refinements to your political approach which mig0ht change that outcome?  Do you really want to put yourselves on the other side of the voters when the voters have tools at their disposal to put non-auto transportation priorities at risk?

    Did you have any thoughts about the possible mode shift to cars induced by ParkSF if parking was known to be available in a neighborhood and that encouraged more shorter car trips and the impact of that potential mode shift on transit delay?  Do you think that it is okay for the MTA and Planning to seek a CEQA CatEx to avoid looking into that question even if it means transit delay which itself is a problem because it induces more mode shift to cars?  I think we learned with the Bike Plan that even good ideas might have unintended negative consequences, at least some of us did.

  • No problem so long as transit is not delayed.

  • Marc:

    “Transit” here means Muni. How can you “calm”/jam up traffic to that extent without also delaying Muni?

  • Alison –

    Let’s step back. Clearly we all know more than SFMTA. If you ran the SFMTA, what would you do?

    If I did, I’d RPP any residential street near Mission Bay or Caltrain, and meter any non-residential street near them. You say yourself there is not plenty of parking near Caltrain. Iowa and Pennsylvania South of 22 definitely should be metered, and there is a strong case for Minnesota from 22nd to at least 19th. The argument that this will get people to stop taking Caltrain is a red herring, there are already people not taking Caltrain because there is not enough parking. I fail to see how metering those streets impacts the residents. Pennslyvania above 22 is perpendicular parking and never full.

    AND – improve transit, to give an option for longer distance commuters to those venues. But I don’t think that needs to be a pre-requisite to metering Caltrain – as the line of cars going up Texas and Pennslyvania show that a lot of the drivers could easily walk to Caltrain from their homes on Potrero Hill. Where else needs better service? The 19/10 get you downtown from most of the hill, Dogpatch has the T and in a pinch the 22, the backside has the 48 as well. What improvements would you advocate? This is a serious question, not a rhetorical one. You said SFMTA did not listen on your transit requests. But they listened on the parking meters. So either Fran Taylor’s cynicism is spot on, or it’s only a function of how many people storm the bastille. If you have an alliance in place now, let’s get it done. I’ll show up to the meeting with you.

  • @ea1809617b00430091318d0e92a6ef00:disqus Didn’t the Bike Plan final projects list have LOS impacts that were not mitigated and have transit delay impacts that were mitigated?

    Not all auto LOS delays transit. One can have auto LOS delays from a project that are not near transit and hence do not delay transit because their impacts are localized.

    Speaking of LOS (RIP): TRANSPORTATION SUSTAINABILITY PROGRAM – The
    proposed Program would better meet San Francisco’s Transit First policy
    by modifying the methodology used to analyze transportation impacts
    under the California Environmental Quality Act and establishing a
    citywide Transportation Sustainability Fee to address transportation
    impacts.http://commissions.sfplanning.org/cpcpackets/TSP%20Case%20Report%20final%20011912.pdfWill this give you a heart attack or reason to live to fight another day?I like a lot of what is in here, but have some concerns about transit delay and projects that elicit mode shift back to cars.  I am concerned that this Big Developer Giveaway might not mitigate transit delay in real time, as happened in the bike plan thanks to your lawsuit, and have us rely on the MTA to take fees and mitigate down the road and the impacts that will have on mode shift and transit speeds.

  • Anonymous

    Yes Murph, RPP’s for any residential or mixed use street that wants it. Add a special designation for smaller PDR businesses so their employees can park all day. These business are critical to our local economy, they define our neighborhood, and they will leave the city if push comes to shove. 2 hour max limits on more commercial (actually all mixed use) streets such as 18th Street on PH and 22nd in Dogpatch with exemptions for permits. Enforce RPP zones like crazy. Dedicate revenue directly to improving neighborhood transit. NO METERS in these areas.

    We need parking to encourage commuters to use CalTrain. We also need parking for people commuting to Mission Bay who don’t have good public transit options. Every day there are 1000’s of empty parking spots in garages in Mission Bay with more being built all the time. There seems to be no incentive to use them… I don’t know why that is but I think the solution may be lower prices. I’m OK with all day meters near both CalTrain stations but they need to be priced low enough so people will use them.

    Keep the 22 running on 18th Street. Frequency is an issue. Fix the T Third. Bring back the 15 Third if that can’t be done.

    Transit First requires more funding dedicated to transit. Let it run a deficit. Invest in infrastructure. Tax developers. Cut fat. Stop paying for stupid SFMTA studies. Build dedicated bike lanes with barriers so people like me won’t be afraid to ride their bikes in the city. Educate everyone about biking safely and driving safely so I don’t have to hear about any more cyclists getting killed or injured.And that’s off the top of my head…

  • Anonymous

    I have no issue with RPPs, as long as they’re done effectively. The current practice of granting more permits than there is space on the streets is obviously going to be woefully ineffective. That leaves meters as the only actually effective method of controlling parking. So we get meters.

    I think it’d be great if the city reduced, one way or another, the number of permits granted, so that the program could work. But as Salomon says, that’s not likely to happen. So I’ll take the meters.

  • Anonymous

    baklazhan, it won’t be a problem on Potrero Hill and Dogpatch… we’re low density and have a lot of empty spaces on our RPP streets. No meters required.

  • @baklazhan:disqus  “I think it’d be great if the city reduced, one way or another, the
    number of permits granted, so that the program could work. But as
    Salomon says, that’s not likely to happen. So I’ll take the meters.”

    Unless you live in the districts, meters for other folks’ residential/mixed use neighborhoods are not yours for the taking.  I made no comment about the number of permits.  I think that the RPP district should be enlarged into the adjacent less residential until everyone in the residential portions of the district can have a space with 24/7 meters keeping out the auslanders unless they can pay.

    Thinking about it this afternoon, perhaps, given charter dedications of parking revenues to the MTA, a tax measure for market rate parking could pass with 50%+1 during an November election in even numbered years.  Go get ’em, champs!

  • OK, we’re getting “somewhere”.

    Why is 22nd Street in Dogpatch different than 24th Street in Noe, which is metered? Mixed use districts need parking turnover. RPP parking would be troublesomed for Just for Just for You, Cup O’, the Italian place, etc…

    The Caltrain parking lots system wide are $4 per day, and they are all at capacity. Even at 50 cents per hour, those streets will be full.

    The problem with the T is frequency/reliability? I lived at 18/Tennesse when it was supposed to be coming along and we were all throwing a party. Then it didn’t really work out… for anyone. The T line has screwed up the N Judah coming in to Caltrain too.

    I really think if we can have an NX bus, we should have a 48X bus to Caltrain. Just the costs from the headaches of these meetings on meters on Pennslyvania might be moot if there was a kick butt express bus to Caltrain. Either the commuters would use it (leaving the spots empty) or they would not use it but have no case to whine. WP/Miraloma/Noe/Mission/Bernal/Caltrain via Cesar Chavez, adding a stop at Iowa/22nd to give “some” transit access for the workers at CC/3rd.

  • Anonymous

    Yes! Express bus to Caltrain. 

    22nd Street has a fraction of the  businesses/retail/restaurants as 24th Street. It’s really just a block long. A lot of the nearby parking is already RPP with time limits and it works just fine. Those time limits are better than meters, turning over spots for customers while providing longer term parking for people who live in the neighborhood. We just need to be sure employees have options and that parking restrictions are enforced.Speaking of Noe Valley… seems like parking is much more difficult there with cars circling to find parking. How do we fix that?

  • And we know that motorists circling for parking as well as commuter busses snarl the 24 and 48 lines through Noe Valley, not to mention place precious Madison or Harley in their strollers at risk of being hit by a distracted motorist in a crosswalk, but given the socioeconomic privilege of Noe Valley, the imperatives of the privileged trump safety and transit.

  • marcos

    @twitter-14678929:disqus commuter busses to CalTrain, the Muni 8nX series that runs from CalTrain to Levi Plaza and such are funded by CalTrain, but they serve incoming commuters from the south, not outbound commuters from the north.  Granted there are many times more northbound commuters than south.  Perhaps the reason why is because morning transit to 4th and King from points in the City is so crappy.

    As far as the T-Third goes, it is the case study against BRT because the T-Third is BRT on steroids.  Its light rail, widely spaced stops, TPS and it is slower than mud even before it gets to the knot at CalTrain.  Surface transit in SF is doomed, we’ve got to identify a massive public investment in well thought out subways if we are ever to see mode shift the likes of which we all want.

  • mikesonn

    “commuter busses to CalTrain, the Muni 8nX series that runs from CalTrain to Levi Plaza and such are funded by CalTrain”
    [citation needed]

    “Granted there are many times more northbound commuters than south.”
    [citation needed]

  • mikesonn

    From Caltrain’s annual passenger count (Feb 2011):

    “The traditional peak (northbound morning and southbound evening) and the reverse peak (southbound morning and northbound evening) commute markets both showed growth from 2010 to 2011. The reverse peak market is showing stronger growth than the traditional peak. The ratio of those traveling north in the morning to those traveling south in the morning continues to remain at approximately 60/40.”
    http://www.caltrain.com/Assets/Stats+and+Reports/Ridership/2011+Caltrain+Ridership+Counts+FINAL.pdf

    I wouldn’t call a 60/40 split “many more times”, and your reasons are pretty dubious as well. Employer provided parking, at job centers to the south, would have a higher impact.

  • mikesonn

    Strategic enforcement of double parking, “blocking the box”, and illegal use of the bus only lane would significantly improve Muni service.

    Exp: Mission at 6pm on Friday, at least every other block in both directions had a double parked car thus reducing the capacity of Mission by 50%.

    Exp: 4th north of Townsend any weeknight rush hour. Drivers routinely block the box at Folsom and Market. Also, they drive in the bus only lane for extended periods of time (as in not just moving across to access turning lanes). This puts the 30/45/8x at huge disadvantage before they even get to Chinatown, which is its own level of double-parking hell.

  • marcos

    @mikesonn:disqus in 2007, voters gave the MTA $26m in dedicated parking revenues.  In 2008, Gavin Newsom had the MTA authorize a “work order” of $11m to cover the cost of the SFPD Traffic Company.  In those intervening 4 years, has the MTA used its traffic company to keep diamond lanes clear?  If not, why not and what do we have to do to make that happen?  That is free money sitting on the table that is unclaimed.

    When I used CowTrain it to get to Belmont 20 years ago after my First Cheap Ass Beat Up Light Pickup Truck Bought From A Lesbian (with gun rack and NRA sticker) got towed for not paying parking tickets, it took as long to get from Belmont to my job via sk8board over 101 on Twin Dolphin Drive and back and from 4th and King to Montgomery BART an back to the Mission as it did to do the long haul from 4th and King to Belmont.  That is not competitive with driving, and I bought Yet Another Cheap Ass Beat Up Light Pickup Truck Bought From A Lesbian to make the commute.  It died a similarly ignoble death due to neglect.

    How does the TEP incorporate rapid reliable service to CalTrain in its recommendations?  Barely is the answer, barely.

  • mikesonn

    Was that comment suppose to make sense? I can even follow that rant about driving vs Caltrain (if that was even what that was about or was it some social commentary on pickups with gun racks?).

    And why are you arguing with me about SFPD work orders? I know the money is there and it isn’t being used properly. Hence, I made a comment that maybe SF’s leaders can implement some “policy innovations” that might create “lasting change”.

  • marcos

    @mikesonn:disqus i’ll type slowly so you can read it slowly. 1) MTA owns SFPD traffic and traffic laws remain unenforced.  You do the political math if you can. 2) first and last mile deficits are killer disincentives to transit mode shift.

  • mikesonn

    I understood #1 and replied to it.

    #2, yes but some enforcement would greatly reduce that deficit (see 4th St comment). Also, planning where one lives and works should be taken into account. Blame doesn’t lie completely with the transit agency.

  • marcos

    @mikesonn:disqus transit planning has to account for the fact of relatively short term employment on the order of months, of job sites scattered across the region and of disparate housing sites clustered around the region.  I do not see either the economic and political fundamentals that created this mess changing and even if they do there is massive legacy which we must accommodate.

    The legacy infrastructure is immutable, transit investment is not.  We’ve gotta play the hand we’re dealt in ways that work, not complain about the hand we’ve been dealt while trying to play a different hand.  That is why you all continue to look so foolish politically and get all sorts of push back that further diminishes your cred with constituencies that should favor your policy goals.

    Circling the wagons and clucking your tongues in a self referential holier than thou manner ain’t cutting it.

    The SFMTA and traffic company are leaving perhaps tens of millions of dollars in diamond lane and red light running citation revenue on the table on Market and Mission, 3d and 4th alone.  This inability to enforce existing law which would make transit faster and more attractive as well as generate more revenue to invest in transit indicates to me that the MTA is not being run to maximize transit attractiveness and elicit mode shift, rather for other political concerns.  Instead of paying attention to motorists who are breaking the law, many of whom are commuters into SF, the MTA tends to focus on alienating San Francisco residents.

  • Bob Flanderson

    Honestly, your inability to post replies so as to place your name more predominantly is getting annoying.

  • mikesonn

    I think you are just trying to disagree with me for the sake of argument. Watch out, if you parse down your rants, you might see we agree.

  • marcos

    no, you miss the point over and again. instead of focusing on parking and alienating residents why not crack the big nuts? I’d wager staff had captured advocates and forced them to promote mta priorities lest they lose access and contracts.

    just saw Julie kirscbaum of the tep walking on Valencia and she sez that theyre updating the revised tep network map.

  • mikesonn

    Read what I wrote just above this, you know the post you’ve been replying to.

    Who is this guy?

  • Alison, they don’t circle, they double park. It is not uncommon to see dueling cars WB/EB on 24th both trying to turn into the full Whole Foods parking lot, blocking traffic completely. I ride my bike right past them and would not care except for the unacceptable impact on the 48.

    marc – the 24 doesn’t get delayed in Noe – that all happens in the Castro. Brutal. Aren’t the people with the kids named Liam, Sierra, and Aiden (Madison? So 2004!)  the privileged? Especially if they live so close ($$$) to 24th St that they walk to Whole Foods? The Google/Apple buses may be huge but they are taking a net of cars off the road, not putting them onto the road, including permanently removing some cars from the parking quota. I firmly believe they are a net win.

    marc – there are not many times more people coming from South to North. The numbers now are 60% to 40% traditional to reverse commute on Caltrain. And your logic is backwards – the problem for most reverse commuters on Caltrain is not getting to 4th/King, it’s getting from the destination station to work. If I take transit to work, I can only use Santa Clara station (one Caltrain per hour) to VTA #60 (runs every 30 minutes). I am fortunate to have a company shuttle, but it only meets specific trains, whereas MUNI runs at reasonable frequency during the entire Caltrain schedule.

  • marcos

    You don’t get to engage in dialog and once you’re cornered in followup refer to your original post to get out of it. 

    Turns out that Jay Primus stipulates that the MTA has no data on circling as generator of congestion and there are no projections on how how many turnovers generated by market pricing parking for availability could be expected per SF Park space.

    This is all argument by the waving of the hands and appeals to theology.

  • mikesonn

    “no, you miss the point over and again. instead of focusing on parking and alienating residents why not crack the big nuts?”

    I don’t see how I miss the “big nuts” and am “cornered” when I posted the above statement. I was trying to move the conversation back to the original article, not some rant against metering. Every article since the Mission Bay parking management plan has been high-jacked by marcos as an endless diatribe against “outsiders” and the MTA power structure not listening to the little guy, or something.

  • marcos

    The MTA got $26m from the voters in 2007 and it bought itself an SFPD traffic company instead of plowing those dollars directly into improving transit service. 

    There are miles of diamond lanes in San Francisco that are supposed to speed transit but are regularly violated by motorists.  Enforcing diamond lanes on lower Market and Mission alone could generate serious coin, but not for transit but would speed transit.  Has anyone ever seen those diamond lanes enforced systematically?

    The SFPD enforces the CVC disproportionately against cyclists and peds when rogue motorists are the real generators of injury and death.  Cops are more concerned with cyclists advancing on the cross traffic yellow to ensure we can safely take the lane after the signal than they are with speeding red light running cars.  In the past ten years four cops have called me out on that, one giving me a ticket.  These are existing laws that are not being enforced and the mechanisms for enforcement lie squarely in the hands of the MTA.  Violations of those laws bring deleterious consequences to the sustainable transportation project.  Those are the big nuts.  If the MTA cannot do its existing job, why give it more to not do?

    Those policies can make mode shift from cars more attractive and speed up transit more than any of the policies on the table that antagonize Muni’s law abiding natural political base that you support–stop consolidation that alienates seniors and disabled, market price parking that alienates motorists and probably snarls transit, TEP focus on transit choice riders at the expense of transit dependent, eternal fare increases that elicits mode shift.

    The big nuts involve cracking through aspects of political corruption that have the MTA serve as ATM for those in favor instead of activists and advocates being directed like pigs with rings in your noses, uncritically, to whatever hair brained scheme MTA staff cooks up next.  Just because you are doing something for the “right reasons” does not mean that we need to uncritically agree with you and ignore any negative unintended consequences.

    “Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within
    groups of people. It is the mode of thinking that happens when the
    desire for harmony in a decision-making group overrides a realistic
    appraisal of alternatives. Group members try to minimize conflict and
    reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative
    ideas or viewpoints. Antecedent factors such as group cohesiveness,
    structural faults, and situational context play into the likelihood of
    whether or not groupthink will impact the decision-making process.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groupthink

  • mikesonn

    Again, arguing with yourself.

  • Richard Mlynarik

    “Will SF’s Leaders Turn Transport Policy Innovations Into Lasting Change?”

    No!

    There is absolutely no reason to believe that the next 8 years of Willie Brown sock puppetry “governance” of San Francisco should be any different from the preceding 16 years.

  • somasoma

    SF Park is an EPIC FAILURE! Jay Primus and the rest of the SFMTA are not
    listening to the residents!! SF Park came through my neighborhood in
    SOMA and replaced half of the Residential (Y) Zone parking with meters.
    The end result is that taxpaying city residents can no longer park their
    cars near their homes, apartments, and businesses. The city is
    effectively *RE-TAXING* residents through the use of these Job -Killing
    Meters.

    The epic failure is that **NO ONE IS PARKING AT THE
    METERS** along the Caltrain line Near Townsend and 6th street. Residents
    on Bluxome Street now have to park our cars up to 4 blocks away from
    our homes or pay $2.00 an hour to park at the meters to bring in
    groceries or off load our children.  Is it any wonder why families have
    given up on San Francisco?

    It is a huge inconvenience to the
    businesses and residents in my neighborhood and its made SOMA a less
    desirable place to rent, own real estate, or operate a business. The
    residents see this as a money grab by the SFMTA who rammed these meters
    through without regard for the needs or input of our neighborhood. The
    city takes away street parking from hardworking residents so that the
    SFMTA can build websites and useless smartphone apps that require a
    $100.00 a month cell phone plan.  *This is class warfare that favors the
    wealthiest  residents of the city and penalizes poorer, working class
    citizens who have less money and education. SF Park states that that
    they use “innovative technology and advanced pricing strategies”. I say
    that residents should not have to own a smart phone, or be digitally
    literate in order to park their cars. If you are elderly, disabled, or
    on a fixed income, you will be forced to take MUNI to get around the
    city.  

    The SFMTA  used a $19.4 million grant from the Federal
    Highway Administration to add 6,000 metered parking spaces, bilk
    motorists, and expand city government.  This de facto tax threatens to
    price residents out of their neighborhoods and decimate small
    businesses. More than 1 in 3 of San Francisco’s nearly 27,000 city
    workers earned $100,000 or more last year. The revenue from these new
    meters will only benefit the pockets, and pension plans of city
    employees.

    Residents in other parts of the city should fight
    this fascism and not allow these meters to be installed. The people who
    implemented this poorly run project should be ousted from their six
    figure, App writing, Ivory Towers and replaced with people who are
    willing to work with residents. 

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