San Francisco has two new faces on the Board of Supervisors: London Breed, representing District 5, and Norman Yee, representing District 7, both inaugurated last month after winning election in November. At a meeting of the Inner Sunset Park Neighbors last week, Streetsblog asked the two San Francisco natives to talk about their priorities for improving streets and transportation, both in the neighborhoods they represent and throughout the city.
District 5 is undergoing some major transportation improvements, including bike/ped upgrades on the Wiggle — one of the city’s most heavily-cycled routes for commuters in the western neighborhoods — and planned improvements on the N-Judah, Muni’s busiest line.
Representing neighborhoods like the Western Addition, Japantown, the Upper and Lower Haight, North of Panandle, the Inner Sunset, and Cole Valley, Supervisor Breed emphasized the long view of how transportation planning can accommodate a growing population. “We have to do more, because we have more people walking, more people using public transportation, more people riding bicycles, and the projections in the next 10 to 15 years are really high,” Breed said. “We’re going to have more people in San Francisco, and more people using these modes of transportation.”
“As supervisor, my goal is to look at data, to look at what’s happening, to look at ways in which we can improve the ability for people to get around,” she added. “We have to look at it from a larger scale. We can’t just piecemeal it together.”
Breed noted the challenges of procuring funding for transportation improvements like the unfunded $20 million plan to redesign Masonic Avenue for better walking, biking, and transit. “Unfortunately, it’s not an overnight solution, because the costs associated with making those changes are expensive,” she said.
Breed didn’t go into other specifics on pedestrian and bicycle safety at the meeting, but the “Transportation” page on her campaign website says she supports the SF Bicycle Coalition’s “Connecting the City” vision for a network of protected bikeways, and specifically endorses the Fell and Oak bike and pedestrian improvements underway:
As a kid, my friends and I used to roller skate the Wiggle long before we even knew it was ‘The Wiggle.’ I think the Wiggle should be an economic gateway and a shining example of what bike transit can be.
On pedestrian safety, her site says:
I think our neighborhoods are often best experienced on foot. We need better-lit crosswalks, particularly at uncontrolled and statistically-dangerous intersections.
In a discussion at the Inner Sunset Park Neighbors meeting, Breed said improving service on the N-Judah is something she wants “to really focus hard on.” Though she welcomed the near-term improvements planned for the N as part of the Transit Effectiveness Project, she stressed in particular the need to put more light-rail vehicles into service to increase passenger capacity. Muni is often short on LRVs — some are out of service while awaiting repairs, but Breed said she looks forward to the agency’s plans to purchase new LRVs in the next few years.
On her website, Breed also touches on parking issues, including a call to expand SFPark:
With any infrastructure projects, we have to ensure sufficient parking is maintained for residents and businesses in the neighborhood. We should also fix the so-called ‘parking donuts,’ areas without residency restrictions that are surrounded by areas with restrictions.
Supervisor Yee’s first action on the board was to call for a hearing on the status of pedestrian safety in the District 7 neighborhoods he represents, which include West Portal, Parkside, Ingleside Terrace, Sunnyside, Parkmerced, Forest Hill, and part of the Inner Sunset.
At the hearing, expected to take place on March 21, Yee said staff from the SF Municipal Transportation Agency will get him caught up to speed on planned pedestrian safety projects in his district — one of the city’s most suburban in character — and the status of the SFMTA’s Draft Pedestrian Strategy. “I thought, because we have so many plans, that we must have a pedestrian safety plan for the city, and I kept on asking, and they said, no, there’s no plan,” Yee said at last week’s Inner Sunset meeting.
Yee, who says he’s been hit by a car, scoffed at calls to crack down on pedestrian behavior. “Sometimes you can be careful and still get hit,” he said. Efforts to improve pedestrian safety, he said, should be focused on improving “the environment that was built that creates unsafe conditions.”
Overall, Yee summed up his views on improving transportation like this: “For me it’s not about cars vs. bikes, or pedestrians vs. cars, or Muni vs. cars. It’s, how do you balance everything in the best way you can? … A lot of times, people only want their system to be the priority, and nothing else, but I’m sorry — public transportation needs to be improved, private vehicles need to be able to move freely, bikes should be able to go from one place to another without getting crushed… and, of course, pedestrian safety — if you want to walk, how do you make it safer?”
When prompted to review his transportation priorities beyond pedestrian safety, the first issue Yee touched on was educating bicycle riders. According to Yee, the behavior of people on bikes is a top concern for street safety, though the data shows that, by far, the biggest danger comes from motor vehicles. About 96 percent of the approximately 800 pedestrians injured each year are hit by car drivers. But of the 36 pedestrians killed in 2011 and 2012, Yee focused on the two headline-grabbing cases involving bicycle riders — the only such cases known in San Francisco’s recent history.
Yee made note of the recent death of Diana Sullivan, a woman run over and killed on her bike at Third and King Streets by a cement truck driver. “I [originally] thought the truck was backing up, and I found out the truck was moving forward when he crushed her because he didn’t see her. It’s ridiculous.”
On improving bicycling infrastructure, Yee said, “If you’re from the Bike Coalition, and they want to talk to me about something, we’ll talk and see how to fix it.” He said bike routes in his district needed to be improved, particularly to connect commuters to SF State University and City College’s main campus. While bike projects so far have emphasized improvements to east-west connections, he said, “If you really want to encourage more people, you need to look at the north-south routes… a lot of people come from the Sunset, from the Richmond, and we’re not creating any routes for them.”
On improving Muni, Yee had this to say: “I have my Clipper card. I take public transportation also. If I had to do everything over in San Francisco, and I were the one making decisions, I would put 80 percent of our public transportation underground. And if I could find funding to put more underground… then great, but it takes a lot of money.”