Disability Advocate Cristina Rubke Confirmed to SFMTA Board of Directors

Renowned disability advocate and attorney Cristina Rubke was confirmed by the Board of Supervisors today as the newest member of the SFMTA Board of Directors.

Rubke was nominated by Mayor Ed Lee to replace outgoing member Bruce Oka. She was roundly praised by colleagues at a recent Board of Supervisors Rules Committee hearing for her willingness to collaborate and seek an in-depth understanding of various issues, as well as her experience serving on city committees.

Preceding today’s unanimous approval by the full board, Supervisor Scott Wiener said “listening to her experiences as a regular rider on the [Muni] system was very compelling.”

“I think she understands the importance of continuing to reform our transportation function in San Francisco and make it run better and serve everybody,” said Wiener.

Although Rubke “doesn’t necessarily have professional expertise in the area of transportation,” said Supervisor David Campos at the Rules Committee hearing, “the reality is that we want someone who has firsthand experience of what it means to be a rider of public transportation.”

Rubke, a SoMa resident, told the committee she’s ready to delve into the complex issues she would face on the board, including reducing the agency’s work order and overtime costs and improving pedestrian safety, while aiming to represent a range of underserved communities.

“As a person in a wheelchair, I am truly dependent on public transit, and welcome the chance to improve it,” said Rubke. ”Accessibility means more than just a wheelchair ramp, although that’s a good start. It means that my grandmother knows she can walk safely through our streets, understand how to buy a transit ticket, she can afford that ticket, and she can figure out how to take different modes of transportation safely.”

Asked for her thoughts on the SFMTA’s proposal to provide free Muni passes for low-income youth, Rubke praised it as a way to “lower barriers” for more riders, and said she looks forward to finding reliable funding for it in the long-term. When Campos asked what she sees as the SFMTA’s greatest challenges to improving Muni service, Rubke said she thinks the system is “accessible and very present,” but pointed to a lack of resources in “trying to address a complex set of needs.”

In response Supervisor Mark Farrell’s assertion that Sunday parking meter enforcement would simply be a way for the SFMTA to collect revenue in lieu of cutting costs through better management, Rubke said her “understanding is that parking enforcement is really a parking management issue rather than a revenue-producing issue.”

To improve pedestrian safety, Rubke said she’d like to see the SFMTA implement more measures like sidewalk bulb-outs, pedestrian countdown signals, and re-open and mark crosswalks. “I’m primarily a pedestrian… all of us are pedestrians at some point,” said Rubke, noting that she was excited by the possibilities of designing a more “livable, walkable” Market Street in her experience on the Better Market Street Citizens Advisory Committee.

SF Bicycle Coalition Community Planner Neal Patel, who served with Rubke on the committee, said he’s “impressed with her insight, not only with issues related to accessibility, but issues related to public space, and biking, and transit, and greenery, for that matter.” He also noted that she attended last month’s Bike to Work Day press conference to hear perspectives on bicycling and “the role that it plays in getting everybody around our city.”

“It’s that kind of approach — people that are interested in learning other perspectives,” he said, that “improves transportation the most.”

Rubke is expected to begin serving on the SFMTA board in the coming weeks.