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Posts from the Nat Ford Category


Breaking: Ed Reiskin Lays Off “Roughly a Dozen” Managers at SFMTA

SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin has laid off “roughly a dozen” executive staff members at the agency, according to a letter sent to staff today provided by spokesperson Paul Rose. Rose said the agency is not releasing any names yet.

In the letter, Reiskin says the move is intended to reduce the agency’s budget deficit:


I’m writing to give you a brief budget update.  As we’ve been focusing on developing a balanced budget for the next two fiscal years, FY 12-13 and FY 13-14, for the MTA Board’s consideration next month, we’ve also been developing means of closing our current – FY 11-12 – budget shortfall.  We are currently projected to spend nearly $30 million more than we’ve budgeted and what our revenues can support.  We cannot end the fiscal year with expenditures exceeding revenues, so we need to take corrective steps now to ensure we end the year balanced.

To that end, I’m initiating a number of actions to reduce expenditures between now and the end of the fiscal year.  These actions include freezing certain non-personnel expenses (contracts, materials), unencumbering funds for certain purchases that will not be completed this fiscal year, reducing overtime expenditures, and eliminating management positions.

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Mayor Outlines SFMTA Chief Qualifications as List of Candidates Narrows

Mayor Lee on SFGov TV during question and answer time yesterday.

The future CEO and executive director of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) should be a visionary who can focus on implementing a labor agreement with transit operators, improve Muni reliability, make more taxis available, focus on pedestrian safety and expand bike facilities, Mayor Ed Lee told the Board of Supervisors yesterday.

“There is not just one person that can lead the MTA. It’s got to be a very dedicated team. I also want to make sure that the person exhibits a high level of collaboration,” Lee said during question and answer time. He was responding to a question from District 4 Supervisor Carmen Chu.

Lee’s mention of Muni centered around meeting on-time performance, a feat that has seemed impossible since San Francisco voters first passed the 85 percent on-time mandate in 1999. He mentioned the labor agreement first and reliability and on-time performance second.

“Even the on-time performance is not just Muni alone. There are so many other entities that affect the streets,” he said. “We also want to make sure that someone has the ability and the willingness to…build relationships with everybody and strong relationships with its own workforce.”

This week, SFMTA Chair Tom Nolan, who has said that he would prefer someone local, began sifting through the resumes of more than 30 people who have applied for the job since the agency begin accepting applications three weeks ago. Ed Reiskin, the head of the Department of Public Works, is seen as the inside favorite, but sources told Streetsblog that Transportation Authority Executive Director José Luis Moscovich, SFMTA Transit Director John Haley and Acting SFMTA Chief Debra Johnson have also applied for the job.

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SFMTA Board Approves Ford’s Severance, Announces Call for Applicants

A staffer for State Senator Leland Yee presents signatures to the SFMTA Board opposing Nat Ford's severance package.

In a unanimous vote, the SFMTA Board of Directors this afternoon approved a $384,000 severance package for outgoing Executive Director/CEO Nat Ford, and announced that the agency will accept applications for the top job until July 1, when he is scheduled to depart.

The vote came without any discussion among board members. The only person to testify against the payout was a staffer for State Senator and mayoral candidate Leland Yee, who said he was presenting 1,200 signatures to the board from San Francisco voters opposing what the campaign has been calling a golden parachute.

Yee showed up at City Hall after the meeting to tell reporters he was disappointed with the vote.

“This is not really about Nat Ford. It’s about the MTA commission,” Yee said. “The fact that they arranged this particular deal whereby someone who is now going to get this humongous amount of money, and at the same time, we’re looking at not enough money to provide for the basic services for many riders throughout San Francisco. It’s rather disheartening.”

Yee has been claiming that with $384,000 “the entire city of San Francisco could park free of charge for 3 days. Or MUNI could be entirely free for a whole day. Or we could stripe 7 miles of new bike lanes.”

Yee’s figures might resonate with some voters, but they don’t exactly add up. Considering Muni has 700,000 daily boardings, $384,000 would not cover a free day of Muni, nor would it cover 3 days of free parking considering the SFMTA generates about $200 million in annual parking revenue.

Numbers aside, Yee’s press releases mention free parking before free transit, a troubling sign that he thinks good public relations is pandering to drivers, despite the city’s Transit First policy. Yee has also voted with state legislators to cut funding for Muni, and other Bay Area transit agencies.

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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.


Can Nat Ford Keep His Job as SFMTA Executive Director?

Photo: Bryan Goebel

Now that it appears unlikely SFMTA Executive Director/CEO Nat Ford is headed to D.C., the focus turns to whether the veteran transit professional can keep his job in San Francisco. While no one we spoke to at City Hall was willing to publicly talk about whether Ford should stay or go, there is a growing concern that he has lost credibility.

“You can’t help asking yourself, ‘does Nat want to be in San Francisco?’ And because of his actions of wanting to move on to somewhere else does San Francisco want Nat?” Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi remarked.

The decision will ultimately be up to the SFMTA Board of Directors, which has the power to hire and fire the executive director. Chair Tom Nolan told the Chronicle that buying out Ford’s contract, at a cost of $390,000, was “in the range of logical possibilities” but so is “maintaining the status quo.”

However, Mirkarimi, the chair of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) Board, said “they can’t pretend that everything is okay just because Nat didn’t get the job in Washington.”

“The bell has already been rung. The question is what do you do about that, and is there an honest relationship that can be brokered either temporarily or for a structured period of time that makes it very clear what we want within that time frame, or that framework,” said Mirkarimi.

Supervisor Scott Wiener said it was an especially critical time for the SFMTA, considering the agency is currently in the midst of collective bargaining and reforming work rules for Muni operators.

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Decision Appears Imminent on SFMTA Chief Nat Ford’s Future

The Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority Board of Directors is scheduled to meet tomorrow beginning at 8 a.m. EST to decide whether to hire SFMTA Chief Nat Ford as its chief executive, according a spokesperson for the agency. If recent coverage in the Washington Post is any indication, there’s no guarantee Ford has the job.

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

Ford, who is in Washington for the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) legislative conference, told Streetsblog last month that he was recruited by the MWAA, citing his “national reputation” as a transit executive. Rumors about Ford’s potential departure have been circulating for years, though.

An MWAA spokesperson said the board of directors is scheduled to meet for three hours tomorrow, and if there’s a decision it would be announced in the afternoon.

According to the San Francisco Examiner, Ford is in D.C. with SFMTA Board Chair Tom Nolan, who has confirmed that closed-door meetings have been held about a possible replacement. Among the names circulating is SFDPW Chief Ed Reiskin and SFMTA Deputy Executive Director Carter Rohan.

But what if Ford doesn’t get the job? Does he have the political support to stick around, or will there be an effort to boot him?

Stay tuned.


SFMTA Chief Nat Ford: I Didn’t Seek Out D.C. Airports Job

Nat Ford testifying before the Board of Supervisors last year. Photo: Bryan Goebel

SFMTA Chief Nat Ford told Streetsblog today that heading up the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) is actually the first job that he’s been interested in taking, despite steady rumors that he’s been applying for a number of positions over the years.

“I am not seeking to leave the MTA. I was approached by the Metropolitan Airports Authority. They sought me out. So, it’s never been the case in any of these cases of me actually seeking a job,” said Ford, who we caught while he was attending the Chinatown Community Development Center’s Lunar New Year luncheon today.

He went on: “I have a national reputation and from time to time people seek me out for positions and it’s been pretty much consistent that I’ve turned them down for the most part. However, this is one that did get my interest.”

Ford, in his first public comments about the possible new gig, said he needed to do what was in the best interests of his career and his family. “From a career standpoint and from a personal standpoint, this was something that was worth my attention.”

Meantime, Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, who was also at the CCDC event, said he is very concerned about the situation.

“Many of us are concerned about the long-term and short-term management of the MTA and if he is interviewing in lots of places we hope that gets resolved quickly because we need someone at the helm who will be focused on the huge challenges facing the MTA right now.”

According to reports, MWAA officials are expected to make a decision by next week.


Mayor Lee Must Make SFMTA Act Quickly on TEP Implementation

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, in an interview with Streetsblog this week, pledged to make the Transit Effectiveness Project (TEP) implementation his number one Muni priority. That’ll be no easy task, however. More than three years after the SFMTA Board unanimously approved a plan to give Muni its first major revamp in 20 years, the TEP — at a cost of over $3 million so far — remains just another plan collecting dust.

SFMTA staffers who worked on the TEP examined what’s wrong with Muni and what needs to be done to turn it into a more efficient transit system. It was adopted after an ambitious process of gathering ridership data and community input and considered best practices at other transit agencies.

The goals to dramatically improve service and reliability focus on Muni’s busiest corridors. Recommendations include establishing networks of faster routes, restructuring routes and expanding limited-stop service, among other improvements, to shave delays and increase speed. So far, though, it’s only been used to inform the process for making service cuts and restorations.

The two major obstacles to quick implementation are California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review and a detailed funding strategy. Add political will as the third. If Mayor Lee is serious about implementing the TEP, he will have to direct the SFMTA and other city departments to move immediately to expedite the process, including major environmental analysis.

“He needs to tell the SFMTA executive director (Nat Ford) to implement the TEP immediately and that he will take the heat for any public push back on its elements,” said transit advocate Dave Snyder, who is also a member of the Golden Gate Bridge District Board of Directors.

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Mayor Ed Lee: TEP Implementation Is My #1 Muni Priority

Mayor Ed Lee sat down with Streetsblog this morning. Photo: Christine Falvey

In a wide ranging interview with Streetsblog this morning, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said he is frustrated by how long it takes to implement ideas to improve transit and pedestrian safety, and pledged to make the implementation of the Transit Effectiveness Project (TEP) the top Muni priority in his administration.

“The Transit Effectiveness plan and program has to be implemented all the way. There are some fantastic ideas that have been presented, some great policy reflective of the TEP. I would like those things aggressively implemented,” said Lee, who was appointed last month to fill out the remaining term of former Mayor Gavin Newsom, who is now lieutenant governor.

Lee said he is working closely with the SFMTA on several policies to better the transit system and improve conditions for pedestrians and bicyclists (we’ll have more on that part of our interview in the coming week).

“I also think that they have to quickly come up with financial schemes that would get their revenues up and make sure they’re not losing any money,” he said.

He said his comments last month that “our modern transportation system is an embarrassment” had more to do with the fact that “we haven’t really used technology to our best effort.”

“When I take the trains in Hong Kong they’re so efficient and you have the octopus card over there that you can buy things with but they take you on all the modes, including the ferry, and we haven’t gotten there yet,” he said.

“We actually have to implement these things faster just to catch up, and that’s where my frustration is. It takes such a long time to get these improvements done, and then we’re faced with things like CEQA. While we have to respect the environment, and conditions there, I just wish things could move faster, and certainly when it comes to pedestrian safety, I can’t move fast enough.”

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SFMTA Chief Nat Ford Top Candidate To Head D.C. Airports Authority

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

Rumors about whether SFMTA Chief Nat Ford plans to depart the agency have been circulating for years now.  In interviews with Streetsblog, Ford has repeatedly said he doesn’t want to leave the SFMTA, telling us in our most recent meeting last September that he is confident about the future the agency is charting “and I’d like to be here for that future.” The latest gossip about Ford, however, is more than just a rumor.

As the Chronicle’s Rachel Gordon first reported locally, Ford appears to be the top candidate to head up the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority (MWAA). Although he lacks a background in aviation, the new role would have him overseeing the Metrorail extension to Dulles International Airport, among other top duties. There is some disagreement, though, among MWAA board members about whether Ford is the best candidate for the job.

SFMTA Board Chair Tom Nolan told Streetsblog that he met with the Mayor Ed Lee yesterday to talk about Ford’s possible departure. He said he’s been aware for “the last few months” that Ford was interested in the position. So why does he want to leave?

“I think it’s an extremely difficult job,” Nolan said. “But I think it’s really simpler than that. My understanding is that the average tenure of these CEOs in transit districts is about five years and it’s five years for him. I think that’s really basically it.”

He added: “The Mayor is very anxious, as am I, to let people know that we’ll be on top of things and that people won’t suffer because of any uncertainty or the possible departure of Mr. Ford.”

Sources told Streetsblog that the Mayor’s Office and some City Hall insiders began compiling a list of potential candidates to replace Ford when rumors about his impending departure began intensifying last year. It’s ultimately up to the SFMTA Board of Directors to name the agency’s CEO, but the Mayor is a major influence.

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