Plans and Programs Committee Crunches Numbers on Street Improvements

Emily Stapleton, general manager at Bay Area Bike Share, updates the Supervisors on the Committee. Photo: Streetsblog.
Emily Stapleton, general manager at Bay Area Bike Share, updates the Supervisors on the Committee. Photo: Streetsblog.

This morning in City Hall, SF County Supervisors London Breed, Mark Farrell, John Avalos, Aaron Peskin, and Katy Tang heard updates on bike and transit projects from the SF County Transportation Authority, SFMTA and Bay Area Bike Share (they also heard a bit from the usual public-meeting gadflies, but that goes without saying).

With Tang as its chair, this panel makes up the Plans and Programs Committee of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority Board. First on the agenda was filling two vacancies on the Citizen Advisory Committee for the Geary Bus Rapid Transit Project. Clearly, residents are keenly interested in the goings on, as there were 31 candidates who threw in for the voluntary position, although only a handful showed up to address the committee directly. Ultimately, the decision on who would fill the open spots was tabled and the committee went on to hear about allocations of Prop K and AA funds.

Anna LaForte, Deputy Director for Policy and Programming for the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, talked about the spending they want to do from the Prop K transportation sales tax and the Prop AA Vehicle Registration fee. Prop K, approved by San Francisco voters in November 2003, currently generates about $100 million annually. On the agenda this morning: the “Treasure Island Mobility Management Program” which will study building a new ferry terminal on Treasure Island to give residents an alternative to the bus and Bay Bridge. She went over seven projects including adding bulb-outs at 25 intersections at priority locations on “Pedestrian High Injury Corridors” as identified under Vision Zero. The idea here is to add permanent, concrete bulb outs in places where there’s currently only paint.

The SFCTA wants to authorize more expenditures on "Bulb-outs", or curb extensions, like this one at 7th Ave. and Irving Street. Image: Google Maps
The SFCTA wants to authorize more expenditures on bulb-outs, or curb extensions, like this one at 7th Ave. and Irving Street. Image: Google Maps

Now, even for the most die-hard transportation policy wonk, committee meetings set up to discuss the minutia of funding allocations can be dry. But Streetsblog readers should be glad for this work, because without the bucks and staffers at the different agencies crunching the numbers on all these specific disbursements, we’d get no bulb outs, no bike lanes, and no street improvements.

It was exciting to hear Emily Stapleton, General Manager at Bay Area Bike Share, give an update on the ongoing public outreach meetings that are part of a ten-fold expansion of bike sharing throughout the Bay Area. This, of course, is something Streetsblog has been covering for some time. “Through our web site, we got over 5,000 submissions for places that San Francisco residents would like to see bike share locations,” said Stapleton. “Over the course of the outreach we’ve had over 70 stakeholder meetings with supervisors and their offices, with residents and merchants.” (The next public meeting, incidentally, will be held Thursday, April 21 at 6 p.m. at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center, 388 9th St, Ste 290, Oakland, California 94607. They also have an online tool for gathering feedback.)

But not everyone was thrilled with the outreach effort, as Supervisor Peskin was quick to point out. “We’ve been receiving a lot of complaints because a bike-share station that was moved at Grant and Columbus in Chinatown. Merchants are upset,” he said. “I didn’t know it was going to get yanked and plopped down across the street. I was told there’s no real process.”

Stapleton pointed out that outreach was done to warn merchants about what was happening. But Peskin wasn’t sure the outreach was effective, suggesting the bike share outreach teams were too dependent on the Internet for communicating with residents. “Is there a process for appealing or objecting? Is there a process for that?” asked Peskin.

At that point, Heath Maddox, who runs the bike-share program for SFMTA, came up to the mic and said that the Chinatown bike share changes were part of a temporary measure to allow street repaving and that the station would be returned to its original location. He apologized for the confusion. “My understanding is the neighbors were consulted, but the larger neighborhood, no.”

Aside from that, the supervisors were generally happy to hear the update. Avalos asked if Clipper cards would work for bikeshare payments and Stapleton said they would soon. Avalos also hoped they would work on ways to allow cash payments, but Stapleton pointed out the complexities of that, since credit card-based payment systems give a financial incentive for people to return the bikes. “The bikes are quite expensive,” she explained.

The committee also heard from the SFMTA about its Service Equity Strategy Report, a study into where the transit system is failing disadvantaged communities. Julie Kirschbaum, Operations Planning and Scheduling Manager for SFMTA, went over the results and methodology of the study, which measured how long it took to get from various locations such as libraries and schools, to other important destinations such as shopping centers, downtown San Francisco, and parks. She said in each area there are different problems to address. “For example, in Chinatown, it’s about crowding,” she explained. “In Bayview, it’s more about travel time.”

The Plans and Program Committee, which is open to the public, meets on the on the third Tuesday of every month at 10:30 AM in Room 263, City Hall.

From the back row, a small audience listens to presentations to the Supervisors who sit on the Plans and Programs Committee. Image: Streetsblog.
From the back row, some ten people listen to presentations to the five Supervisors who sit on the Plans and Programs Committee. Image: Streetsblog.

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