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Posts from the "Streetscast" Category

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Streetscast: An Interview with MTA Chair Tom Nolan

Tom_Nolan.jpgPhoto by Bryan Goebel.
Tom Nolan is a veteran of local government. A former San Mateo County supervisor, he's served on the boards of numerous public agencies, including SamTrans, Caltrain and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. He views his current position as chair of the MTA Board of Directors as his "civic responsibility."

"I’m not campaigning for anything. This is not a stepping stone to anything. I’m doing this because I was asked to do it, that’s all.  I didn’t campaign for it," said Nolan, in a recent hour-long interview with Streetsblog at the Polk Street office of Project Open Hand, where he is the executive director.

Nolan doesn't fudge at all around the issue of the MTA Board not being independent. All of its members are appointed by the Mayor, and they seem very reluctant to break from his wishes. "We’re just kidding ourselves if we think it's a totally independent body, it just isn’t.  The only way that would be the case really would be if we were all elected by the people." 

In our interview, Nolan tackles questions about the accountability of the MTA Board, his role as chair, the budget process, the Bike Plan and parking. Nolan seems to get parking issues, and he's a fan of Donald Shoup's book, "The High Cost of Free Parking." So why isn't he stronger on the issues?

"I would say watch over the next two or three months about what the real choices are going to be and I expect increasingly I’ll play a more active role." 

The interview was recorded on June 17th, 2009. Read highlights below the break.

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Newsom Speaks Out on MTA Budget; Vote to Reject Hinges on Maxwell

newsom.jpgMayor Gavin Newsom and wife Jennifer Siebel Newsom (left) at a ceremony Monday honoring teachers. Newsom spoke to reporters about the MTA budget after the event.
On the eve of a possible rejection of the MTA's budget by the Board of Supervisors over widely unpopular fare hikes and service cuts, Mayor Gavin Newsom told reporters at City Hall that he is not playing a game of chicken, and hopes supervisors do not "make the mistake" of approving the motion by BOS Prez David Chiu.  

"It will be devastating to the impact of our general fund money," said Newsom, who has been accused by some advocates of using scare tactics in the debate over the MTA budget. "They haven’t even seen the total budget yet they increase the total budget deficit by 30 million dollars and I don’t think that’s going to help anyone." (Hear raw audio of his remarks to reporters below).

Sources involved in the negotiations, however, say the MTA has not made any changes to the budget since last week's Budget and Finance Committee meeting, which means the Board of Supes will today consider approving Chiu's motion to reject the $778 million spending plan as it was presented. Chiu had hoped the MTA would "sharpen its pencils" and come back with a better budget.

"There is a voter mandate and moral covenant to the voters that we are committed to a 21st century transit and transportation system and we're not prepared to abrogate that," said David Noyola, an aide to Chiu.

Supervisor Bevan Dufty will not vote for the motion, a reversal of his earlier vote on the budget committee, leaving Supervisor Sophie Maxwell as the swing. Contacted by Streetsblog San Francisco late last night, Maxwell said she will "possibly" be voting to reject the budget, but is still considering it. Chronicle reporter Rachel Gordon wrote that the Mayor's office would likely put "the full court press" on Maxwell, who had been listed as a co-sponsor.

Dufty has also been feeling heat from the Mayor's office and said in a brief interview this morning that he feels the motion "is going to create more discord in a very, very difficult year." He said he's confident MTA Chief Nat Ford will be able to make some enhancements within the 5 percent of the budget he has discretion over.

"I think that while the dollar amounts aren't large the issues are significant. Whether it's the Lifeline pass, whether it's rolling back the youth and senior fares, whether it's trying to provide some enhancements to the TEP or getting a little more angle on the work orders. There's some good things to be done, but right now I feel this resolution is really unfortunately going to upend us moving forward with the budget."

The five expected to vote in favor of the motion with Chiu are Supervisors David Campos, Ross Mirkarimi, John Avalos, Eric Mar and Chris Daly. A total of seven votes are needed.

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Streetscast: An Interview with BOS Prez David Chiu on the MTA Budget

IMG_2798.jpgDavid Chiu testifying before the MTA Board two weeks ago.

San Francisco Board of Supervisors President David Chiu has introduced a motion (PDF) that would allow his colleagues to reject the MTA's budget, which is due to be finalized and voted on by the MTA Board next week.

As we've reported, Chiu testified before the MTA Board earlier this month that he is concerned about work orders from other departments that are draining Muni's budget. He is also "deeply concerned" about fare hikes and service cuts.

Chiu called Streetsblog San Francisco this afternoon for a brief interview:

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Streetscast: An Interview with MTA Chief Nat Ford, Part 1

IMG_2834.jpgPhoto by Bryan Goebel

Municipal Transportation Agency Executive Director Nat Ford has been on the job for more than three years now and is a veteran public transportation manager. He began his career as a train conductor 26 years ago at New York's MTA before moving on to a number of managerial positions. He was an assistant chief transportation officer at BART before being named to oversee Atlanta's public transit system.

Ford has often been criticized by advocates for not taking more aggressive and bold action to make San Francisco a true Transit First city. He sat down for an hour-long interview with Streetsblog San Francisco this week to discuss a wide range of issues.

We'll be examining segments of the interview and transcribing it in the days to come but for today, we bring you Part I:

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Streetscast: An Interview with District 2 Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier

alioto_pier_lg.jpg

District 2 Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier represents the Presidio, Cow Hollow, Marina, Pacific Heights and part of the Richmond District. She was originally appointed to her seat by Mayor Gavin Newsom in 2004, and comes from a well-known political family. Her grandfather, Joe Alioto, was mayor from 1968-1976 and her aunt, Angela Alioto, was President of the Board of Supervisors and a candidate for mayor.

In an extensive interview in her City Hall office, Alioto-Pier said the number one transportation issue in her district centers around commuter traffic.

"As a result of being the district that has the honor of being connected to the Golden Gate Bridge, we get a lot of traffic that comes in off of the Golden Gate Bridge," said Alioto-Pier. "It makes for a lot of congestion and a lot of different issues."

While she supports the Transit Effectiveness Project (TEP), and wants more people to ride Muni, she doesn't necessarily feel the City should be encouraging people to get rid of their cars.

"When we look at San Francisco as a transit first city we want the carrot approach more than the stick. We want people to use public transportation and I personally believe that the way we do that is by making it more accessible, by making it run better, not by telling people not to use their cars." 

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