SFMTA Board Debates Mode Shift Goal at Workshop


SFMTA Chief Nat Ford presented his “State of the SFMTA” [pdf] report to the board of directors at a special workshop today, a mostly glowing assessment of the past few years but one that acknowledged the pains of its funding crises and the many challenges the agency faces as it looks to the future.

It was also the beginning of a process to update the SFMTA’s strategic plan and set a framework that will guide its sustainable transportation policies and goals.

“We are working hard to shift from planning for cars to planning for people,” said Ford, reading from prepared remarks. “Like the FDA’s food pyramid, too many carbs are not good for you. And so it is true for the mobility pyramid. Too many cars are not good for our city.”

Ford pointed out that San Franciscans account for the majority of auto trips being made, particularly within the northeast part of the city, but that overall vehicle miles traveled is down because of the economy.

A slide of the SFMTA’s mobility pyramid was displayed to the board which showed that the city would need to liberate itself from the private automobile, converting a vast majority of trips to walking and bicycling followed by transit, rideshare and car sharing. The pyramid was prepared by the SFMTA’s Deputy Director of Planning Timothy Papandreou.

“As it relates to a sustainable mobility goal, we need to advance from a 65 percent auto, 15 percent transit, 20 percent pedestrian/bicycle mode split to a 30 percent auto, 30 percent transit and 40 percent pedestrian/bicycle mode split to help with congestion and create a greener, healthier San Francisco, ” said Ford.

He said land use and infrastructure alone would not meet the goals by 2030, and a concerted effort would need to be made related to “parking, road pricing and other measures.”


The sustainable pyramid did not include private autos, which provoked skeptical responses from some directors, who called the goal of walking and biking as the dominant modes “unrealistic.” The remarks were prompted by a question from Bonnie Nelson of Nelson/Nygaard, who was moderating the workshop.

“Everything in the strategic plan derives from this vision,” said Nelson, referring to the mobility pyramid. “Is this the vision that you share for San Francisco, or are there things that you feel need to be thought about more carefully as the staff begins developing their more detailed goals in the strategic plan?”

Referring to the omission of private autos, Chair Tom Nolan remarked: “I’m not sure this would be widely supported in the city of San Francisco. You remember all the struggles we’ve had with the whole issue of trying to extend parking to the evening hours. That’s a very strong voice that was heard. People are going to continue to take their cars.”

“I share that view,” Director Malcolm Heinicke chimed in. “I think the notion that most trips in San Francisco are going to be taken by walk or bike is certainly aspirational if not super aspirational.”

“We want to be aspirational but not delusional,” Nelson responded to a chorus of laughter.

“Now that’s the humorous point,” Heinicke went on. “Now I consider myself a pretty, you know, relatively transit first person, but we have to use our car. I mean, my wife can’t get our infant to the pediatrician by transferring on three bus lines.”

Heinicke said “motorists have rights too and we are the agency that oversees parking, traffic regulation and motorists and I am not only concerned that a vision like this is unrealistic but that it also sends a message of hostility and indifference to motorists.”

Director Bruce Oka said he mostly agreed with Heinicke but believed driving is not a right.

“You really don’t need to drive if you live in a city. Our transit system would get you almost anywhere you need to go,” said Oka. “If we all learn, hey, I’m going to take my car maybe twice a week instead of four times a week. That helps, okay, and I don’t see enough of that happening.”

SFMTA Board member Cheryl Brinkman gives input on the strategic plan. From left are Bonnie Nelson, Nat Ford, Cameron Beach and Brinkman. Photo: Bryan Goebel.
SFMTA Board member Cheryl Brinkman gives input on the strategic plan. From left are Bonnie Nelson, Nat Ford, Cameron Beach and Brinkman. Timothy Papandreou in the background. Photo: Bryan Goebel.

Cheryl Brinkman, a transit advocate who is a new member of the SFMTA Board, said she would like to see the transit block on the pyramid a little bigger.

“I like the sustainable transportation urban pyramid. I do agree that private autos are always going to have a little place at the top there,” said Brinkman. “I don’t think that cars are necessarily the most amazing and best choice for transportation. It’s just that we’ve conspired for 50 years to make them that.”

Brinkman said the goal would be not to make driving the convenient choice and that the strategic plan was a great opportunity to help make a shift to walking and bicycling. She noted that she is seeing a dramatic mode shift among families who are using bicycles to get their kids to school.

“If we have physically separated bike space for families and for children they’re going to be out there using it. I mean, Sunday Streets is a great example. We provide the space and boom, they’re out there.”

Although the goals will likely be revised based on the directors feedback, the SFMTA is encouraging the public to provide its own feedback by going to the agency’s website and taking a survey and outlining priorities. The SFMTA will begin to finalize the plan in the coming months.

Today’s state of the SFMTA report coincided with Nat Ford’s annual performance review, which the board discussed in closed session. Ford, the city’s highest paid employee, agreed to give back some of his salary last year and a raise is not currently being considered. There are also reports that he is also being wooed for the top transit job in Washington D.C.

  • I like the pyramid – aim high! Sure, single auto trips will probably always persist to some extent, but let’s give it our all to make the other options the most attractive.

    The real question is: are they all talk, or will they deliver? Is the Planning Department getting the message (CityPlace?)?

  • Finally

    SFMTA is finally starting to get. Single car trips are an inevitability, but they have never been the most efficient use of space, or resources. Its about moving volume. Mass transit, biking and walking can move more people more efficiently than the car. Driving is not a right it’s a privilege, and should be treated as such especially for urban planning. Ironically as more people drove infrastructure costs rose as roads broke down faster. Drivers complained about the condition of roads. Then they complained about reg fee increases, gas taxes, parking permit fees, and other ways to generate revenue to pay for better roads.

    I can’t help but wonder how much of this is simply being brought on by the economies effect on municipal budgets. Its a lot cheaper to paint bike lanes and throw up a few markers than try to accommodate more auto traffic through road expansion, renovation.

  • tth22

    Aaron – Your question of asking the Planning Department and the SFMTA to deliver what they preach isn’t necessarily in the hands of the people in those agencies. Many of our city’s planners and transportation engineers already recognize that transit, bikes, and pedestrians cannot be treated as second-class modes of transportation. One real issue is developing an effective public outreach campaign to get the general public on board with the trade-offs associated with improved bike, pedestrian and transit infrastructure. For example, removing parking to accomodate other modes is almost a non-starter nearly anywhere.

    You are more or less preaching to the choir on this blog on issues that favor bikes/pedestrians/transit, but there are still a lot of people in this City who don’t see how these non-auto improvements benefit them. Not to mention the bikers, walkers, or transit riders who still own cars and would be happy to talk about removing parking for bike lanes or sidewalk space, so long as it doesn’t cause them to lose the parking space in front of their house.

  • james

    With no good way to get around town, how does is this goal supposed to be achieved?

    It takes 90 minutes to get from Embarcadero to the outer Sunset. And that’s if the driver does not decide to turn around at the west end of Duboce Tunnel. The same distance can be driven, during rush hour, in about 20 minutes. Sure it costs more to drive, but what motivation is there to stand in a crowded N Judah cattle car for an extra 70 minutes?

  • James –

    I lived in the Outer Sunset, and it only took 45 minutes, and hour at the rare most?

  • james

    Aaron — the only time that has been possible was during off peak hours. I used to have to get on at sunset blvd at 620am and I would exit Embarcadero at 745ish.

  • Mario

    On page 32 of the “State of the SFMTA”:

    All-Door Boarding: Developed pilot for early 2008 to address slow transit travel times and concerns about rear door fare evasion.

    Why is the SFMTA bragging about developing a pilot for early 2008 that was never actually piloted? I presume they meant they would try out all-door boarding with proof-of-payment on a busy line like 38 or 14. Why even the pilot has not been tried in 2010 is beyond me. But quit bragging about a job not done!

  • Liz

    James, I think the whole point of the goal-setting is to start with what the city would like to achieve – your concerns about how much longer it takes by transit versus auto in some travel markets is one problem that would need to be addressed in the strategic plan if the goal is to be achieved.

  • andrew

    The ONLY way to achieve this is via faster service. People’s time is too valuable. Bus lanes, fewer stops, dedicated right of way, and pre-empts or NOTHING.

  • tn

    I haven’t been able to download the pdf file to be able to see the actual report. The download keeps crapping out in process. So, I can’t see the details.

    I’m curious about the chart seeming to show that car trips should fall from over 60% of trips to 30%. Bicycling increases by 10% of share, pedestrian trips slightly rise and public transit increases by 10% of share. This would be a 50% increase in transit ridership.

    So what happens to the other 10% share of former car trips that don’t appear to show up in the chart in 2030?

    Also, I know that compared to other cities in the western US, SF has always had an unsually very large proportion of people making trips purely by foot with no wheeled assistance (powered or not). But I’ve never seen any data suggesting that the current pedestrian share of trips is anything close to 20% as suggested in the chart. Of course pedestrian “trips” are very hard to define and count. Pedestrian trips have historically outnumbered bicycle trips by a large factor.

    I’m wondering how this plan hangs togather. Something is missing that is not apparent from the chart.

  • Michael Smith

    I just looked at the data I have access to via NextBus and taking the N-Outbound from Embarcadero to La Playa typically takes only 45 minutes.

    So yes, transit needs to be sped up. But saying that it takes 90 minutes is a gross exaggeration.

  • Alex

    The last time I was on an L, it took 45 minutes to get from Powell to West Portal once I got on the train. Said train was then turned back sans warning at West Portal, the following one at 22nd. Two hour trips on the L are not unusual at all. Best case it takes 20 minutes to get from my house (which is east of Sunset) to Powell. Typically it takes about 45 minutes, and 60-90 in the reverse direction in the evening. 90 minutes is hardly a gross exaggeration.

    Michael: One thing I suspect that you’re not taking into account is that the headways are often pretty poor. 20-40 minutes of my PM commute was typically spent on the platform waiting for an L. Another thought is that the N is given priority over every other metro route. The N *always* gets two car trains while the L suffers with one car trains during the PM rush.

    I mapped some of the density of some NextBus data (vehicles moving less than 10mph and ones moving more than 20mph)[1], one thing stood out to me: the metro is SLOW. Where Taraval and Judah are painted with large swaths of red (high density of slow vehicles), Geary and California got a lot of green (high density of fast vehicles).

    1: http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4146/5000769616_1ee27fb286_b.jpg

  • james

    The N typically takes 45-50 minutes during off-peak hours only after boarding from Embarcadero to La Playa. Add in some 30 minute headways and that’s easily a 75 minute trip — 90 minutes is not gross exaggeration.

    During commute hours, the N is scheduled to take about 45-50 minutes inbound but I hardly ever found that was the case. In the month or so I used the N to get from outer Sunset, arriving at the Sunset Blvd stop later than about 620am meant that I’d be exiting the vehicle at the Embarcadero station after 745 am. A few times, the vehicle didn’t even enter the Market Street tunnel yet at 740 am. I haven’t used the N during commute hours, except inside the Market Street tunnel, in about three years so I don’t know if this is still the case.

  • Apparently this is sending a message that car drivers will be oppressed by the city in the years to come. Sadly, people so soon forget that driving a private auto didn’t win some free-market battle royal against transit and biking, it has been heavily heavily subsidized for the last 70+ years. However, gov’t agencies (cities on up to federal) are seeing that the high costs of private auto ownership are mostly on the their shoulders. And as the cries for no new taxes gets louder then those agencies have to start looking at ways to control costs. Infrastructure is very expensive – e.g. paving new and existing roads, paying police to patrol said roads, cleaning up after crashes, etc.

    Once the money isn’t there to subsidize driving above all other modes, then we’ll see a drop in it as more and more people (and gov’t) simply can not afford to keep the status quo afloat.

    I guess only time will tell really, but why not situate ourselves to be in the best position possible?

  • I Cycle

    Cheryl Brinckman and her suporters continue to live in cloud-cuckoo land. To compare Sunday Streets, a purely recreational event, with the realities of day-to-day life, is pure folly. The reality of life in San Francisco is that families with children need to use their cars for shopping, and for school. Perhaps if we cured the ills of the SF Public schools first she could make a better argument for cycling kids to school and cycling to work – but reality is that much of the parents in the city are forced to send their kids to more remote school locations than ideal. To lug 2-3 kids to school (often in various locations) . then schlep to work, then pick up kids after school, all by bicycle?

    Bicycle living is admirable for those who have the lifestyles to afford it. The rest of us, I argue the great majority in this city, will continue to depend on the automobile to keep their lives manageable.

  • Seven

    Bicycling has a bigger slice of the pyramid than public transit? We have 10x more transit commuters than bicycle commuters, according to the SF City Survey 2009.

    Bicycling may be an important part of the solution, but public transit needs a bigger slice of the pyramid pie, as in other successful transit oriented cities around the world.

  • ZA

    I Cycle – http://www.flickr.com/photos/16nine/4975905231/

    Otherwise, yes, the current reality is very auto-dependent. The question is whether we want to take the necessary steps to become less auto-dependent.

    To the article, my $0.02:

    If the SFMTA’s projection for 2030 is going to become a reality, a whole mix of things needs to happen:

    1. Far more aggressive expansion of ZipCar and CarShare in auto-intensive neighborhoods like the Sunset…and how much space can they afford to get to do that? They have no pods west of 8th Ave and south of Kirkham.
    2. Building up MUNI/BART, with stations (not just stops) to include a whole range of services: Bike Stations, groceries, schools, bus links, and pedestrian access. A footprint that may include places where people are already living & working. Something on the outer reaches of Judah, Taraval, Ocean are obvious choices.
    3. Creating a proper bike network to feed MUNI/BART/Caltrain…sharrow feeders to bike boulevards (without cars) to transit choices that are affordable, frequent, clean, and have either good secure parking or more generous on-board capacity.

    All of that costs money which no one is fronting right now, so as much as I want this vision to happen, we have to pick seriously what we can do best and most affordably. That leaves us with options 1 & 2, mostly.

  • ZA

    Umm, 1 & 3, I meant.

  • It would ne easy to lower speed limits in SoMa from 30/35 MPH to 25 MPH, yes? Does Mayor Newsom really care? No action, just talk … And even more cars diverted into SoMa to slow our transit down on Mission Street … Thanks For nothing From a SoMa pedestrian perspective Gavin.

  • Alex

    ZA: Untrue. ZipCar has cars at 19th & Lincoln, 17th & Taraval as well as at SFSU. I’m probably missing a few locations. In any case, the big flaw for me is that you pay for ZipCar by the hour and not by the distance.

    If I want a car so I can go make a weekend visit to friends/family that live outside of SF… I pay for the whole weekend even if I don’t drive the car. With this usage it was far cheaper to own a car than to pay ZipCar.

    Likewise ZipCar doesn’t solve the commute to work problem. If I drive a ZipCar to BART, I’m still paying for the car for the entire day. Ditto if I drive it downtown. If I kept my own car, I can simply drive to BART and hop on functional transit.

    Given that most public transit usage is to get to/from work, I’d say that focusing at all on car sharing isn’t going to help much. Carpooling or vanpooling, maybe.

  • ZA

    Alex – Fair point on the other ZipCar locations.

    I figure convenience is of equal importance to price, and if someone has to walk or cycle more than 0.5 miles to get to a car-rental pod, then it’s probably not going to happen.

    For weekend rentals – the longer-term rental companies like Hertz, etc. are price competitive, but they are clustered downtown. The opportunity for them is to advertize to this weekend urban customer better, with better rates, better MUNI/BART connections, and bicycle parking options. I do alright with my folding bike, but that’s a technical solution for a lost business opportunity.

    For commuters driving to BART – it seems to me the “obvious” choice is to convince more people to get to BART without driving, and making that choice convenient and real.

    My point about ZipCar/CarShare is that they are a good transitional step away from private car ownership, so long as a whole bunch of other conditions are met. Then they can realistically expand into the niche SFMTA envisions for carsharing in 2030.

  • Being car-free with kids doesn’t have to be hard. Here are some tips:

    By middle school and up, the kids can get to school on their own via walking or MUNI. That solves half the problem right there.

    For younger kids, try living close to the school so it’s easy to walk. SFUSD is going to start emphasizing neighborhood schools more starting next year, but if for whatever reason your kid ends up in a more distant school, it doesn’t mean you’re out of options (unless you’re the type to give up easy). E.g., toward the end of my younger daughter’s kindergarten year at an awesome K-5 public school (New Traditions), we moved a few blocks away from the school, simplifying our lives quite a bit. (It also cut the distance to my older daughter’s school in half).

    Making our lives easier still, my mother-in-law moved in when we got our new, bigger apartment. She now walks my younger daughter to and from school — easy for her, easier for us (the parents). My daughter also gets to sleep in rather than go to the morning care program, which is a bonus (saves us a lot of money, and is better for her — see the book “Nurture Shock” regarding sleep and brain development).

    As for shopping, there are various options: shop in your neighborhood with a push cart (cheap, easy to get). Or get a cargo trailer for your bike (not as cheap, but still cheap and easy). For those rare times it’s raining or you need to buy huge items from Ikea or whatever, get a car or pickup truck from a car share service.

    The idea that schlepping your kids around the city by car is somehow the easier, cheaper, or less stressful solution is a joke!

  • When thinking about the triangles above, first remember that only 22% of home-based weekday trips in the Bay Area are for commuting to work. 27% of are for shopping, 17% are for social/recreation, 12% are for transport to school. 23% are for non-home based trips such as work to shopping, school to recreation, etc. (Again, these statistics are for the Bay Area. I wish some existed for San Francisco alone.) On the weekends, only 6% of trips are for commuting to work.

    Also remember that nationally, 25% of trips are less than a mile and 40% are less than 2 miles. (I bet those numbers are even higher for San Francisco.) This means many, many trips can be made by walking or bicycling. Also remember that human beings need at least 22 minutes of moderate physical movement a day to be healthy, and that driving a car everywhere highly correlates with developing obesity and diabetes.

    The hassle of transporting children to school is a big deal for parents, as I well know. But first, consider in San Francisco that only 17.3% of households consist of families with children under 18. That means for 82.7% of households, carting children around is not an issue. Now most of the 25,000 high school students in SF can probably get to school via Muni, and in addition, many middle school children have mastered public transit as well. This leaves the biggest transportation headache for preschool and K – 5 kids.

    Luckily, after decades of environmentally irresponsible school-assignment insanity, SF Unified this last spring finally changed its policy to promote walkable neighborhood elementary schools. If the program works at all like it sounds, it should substantially reduce SUV driving parents circling the blocks around city schools. Instead parents and children can peacefully walk or bicycle a few blocks, improving both the air quality, their fitness and asthma levels, and congestion in their neighborhoods.

    Now, envision the year 2015 (not so very long from now.) Say the US, through better fuel efficiency and good public policy that enables more walking, transit and bicycling, is able to reduce its oil use by a fantastic 20%, from 19.5 million barrels/day down to say, 15.6 million barrels/day. Wouldn’t that be an achievement! Our carbon emissions would decrease, our trade deficit would improve, and we would become more competitive in terms our economic productivity per unit of energy used. All to the good.

    Unfortunately, during that same period, since oil discoveries world-wide peaked in the mid 1960s and the world is steadily consuming more oil than is being found by a wide margin, oil production is projected to decline 2 – 4% a year. Let’s say things are good oil-wise, that the drill-baby-drill crowd get permission to destroy the Arctic, the Gulf of Mexico and the coast of California, and the decline is only 2%/year. That means by 2015, instead of the world producing 74 million barrels a day, a total of 67 million barrels a day make it out of any well anywhere. And let’s say China and India’s demand continues to rise by 50% (as it did these last five years), and so instead of 8.5 and 3 million barrels a day (11.5 total), they now want 12.7 and 4.5 (17.2 total! Imagine these 2 billion people wanting to consume almost as much oil as the US population of 310 million does today!) And let’s say the countries making up OPEC also continue increasing their demand at the same rate they have been so that instead of 6 million barrels a day, their citizens expect to consume 9 million barrels a day.

    So now we’re down 7 million barrels produced/day world-wide, the US is consuming 4 million less, but China, India and OPEC want to consume 8.7 barrels/day more. That’s 11.7 million barrels/day (out of 67, remember) that someone who wants oil is not going to get. And each year that goes by, this gap will only increase.

    The math is not in our favor. We import 70% of our oil. In addition, since oil infrastructure tends to be fairly vulnerable, when we invade countries to control their oil supply, production has a nasty way of going down, so that really isn’t an answer either. Yes, there will be some electric cars that our inadequate power grid will have difficulty providing electricity for, and, yes, there will be some conversion of fleets to natural gas. Yes, Canada will probably do its best to destroy its environment while processing tar sands into oil for us. Yes, we will devote an unconscionable amount of good farmland to growing crops for biofuels instead of food. But the fundamental situation won’t change: the internal combustion engine fueled by gasoline is going away, and sooner rather than later for all oil-importing countries.

    That triangle on the right above is what we’re going to have. The quicker we adapt to it, the more prosperous we’re going to be.

  • Alex

    @ZA I disagree. ZipCar works well if you only ever make short, round trips. If not, then no. The ZipCar daily rates were pretty competitive with those at Enterprise Rent-A-Car’s SFSU location, but still more expensive than owning a (cheap) car.

    I agree that if you’ve got to travel a long distance to find a ZipCar, you’re less likely to use their service… however the southwest part of District 4 is dominated by lower density, single family homes.

    @peternatural Not everyone can afford to move close to whatever school their kids get sent to by SFUSD. Not everyone wants to either. In Marin, Golden Gate Transit runs dedicated bus service for a number of schools. While it’s admirable to have your kids take public transit or walk, not everyone wants their child to spend a few hours a day on a bus to get to/from school (and, IMO, it’s hard to fault them for that).

    I’d go so far as to say that suggesting using MUNI to get to/from school is naive at best and a sick joke at worst. Year after year the MTA has taken anti-school stance. Students don’t vote or bring in tax dollars, so why should the MTA care? Over the past six years the MTA has gutted service on the 28 (SFSU), the 15 and K (CCSF), the 108 (large poor, student population), and is on track to gut service on the M to SFSU. Maybe the situation is better with K-12 schools, but what I took away from the farcical town hall meetings was this: getting people to/from downtown is the goal, nothing else matters.

    If the MTA wants to get people out of their cars, they ought to get their ass in gear and work on providing more usable service.

  • Alex

    BTW I just checked the ZipCar site and spotted locations at:

    16th & Taraval
    West Portal
    17th & Lincoln
    19th & Lincoln
    2x SFSU
    2x Park Merced
    Font St near Park Merced

    City Carshare has locations near West Portal, 19th & Judah and 19th & Lincoln.

    Yup, the Southwest part of D4 has less coverage to go along with the lower density.

  • Smug alert – This “Soccer Dad” took the kid to soccer practice this AM in the bike trailer. I was the only parent on time, because I rode right to the ballfield, while my colleagues had to load the car, search for parking, unload the car into the stroller, and walk to the field.

    How can a frazzled parent get a kid to Soccer practice unless they don’t have a mini-van!

  • @Alex, Zip Car looks expensive when compared to free parking (or $90/yr residential pass) and you don’t count insurance, maintenance, etc.

    Also, car share is suppose to be for short trips – I don’t think there is any suggestion that it is trying to be a “weekend getaway” solution. We rent from a car rental when we go camping for a weekend or longer.

    And not sure what you are getting at with the D4 zip car density stats…

  • Alex

    @mike Not so. Insurance and maintenance were relatively cheap for me. I’d say a few thousand a year, tops. When I realized I was spending a few hundred a month on ZipCar, I bought another (far more expensive, but that’s neither here nor there) car. If your idea of a car is something shiny, smug, and new whose production used more energy than you’d save by driving an older, less expensive car… then yes: cars are expensive.

    It’s not just weekend getaways where the ZipCar model falls down. It fails at one way trips like trying to get to work or home on time when the trains cock up. It’s for doing tasks of an unknown duration. It fails at doing long tasks. As I’ve already pointed out, ZipCar has competitive daily rates on many cars… but renting is still more expensive than owning. It’s nice on occasion, but having something around where you won’t have to scramble to make a reservation (private car or functional public transit) is much nicer.

    The density is an issue because people living in denser areas won’t be as tied to their cars, and because you’ve got more potential customers in a smaller area. Likewise you’ve got fewer public transit options, so the idea of a car as a mere supplement to taking the L (or the 48, when it runs this far west…) is a bit more silly. It makes sense that ZipCar is ignoring this part of town.

  • Alex

    Renting is still more expensive should read: renting can still be more expensive. I’m sure it’s not universally, but if you play your cards right you can make owning a car relatively cheap.

  • Alex, fair enough. I’m talking as a North Beach resident. However, MANY of the true costs of your “cheap” car are externalized – hence why it is cheap.

    And Zip Car wasn’t intended as a commute option as far as I know. And on that note, less dense western SF shouldn’t punish dense eastern SF with cars because that’s just the way things are. Maybe things need to change, which is why studies like this are being done.

  • Alex

    Things need to change — no shit. ZipCar could work well as a supplement to a decent public transit infrastructure, but a lousy standalone option. As long as I run the risk of two hour one way trips, I can’t rely on MUNI. Likewise, less dense western SF shouldn’t be punished by having to rely on subpar streetcar service.

    I’ve got no doubt that car sharing programs weren’t developed to aid in commuting (altho ZipCar does have a nice late night/early bird special), but there’s clearly a demand for reliable commuter service. A demand that the MTA refuses to fill. That said, even for short recreational trips, car sharing fails for many of the same reasons MUNI does. There’s simply too much time consuming overhead. Hell, if you need something *quickly* and nothing is available near by you’re combining the worst of cars (looking for parking) and public transit (the snail’s pace at which it moves).

  • Alex, not everyone can live close to their kids’ school? No one said they could. Someone (“I Cycle”) *did* say that all parents with kids must drive their kids to school in SF because there just isn’t any other possible choice, which is obviously wrong, as I pointed out.

    You’re also pushing the idea that SFUSD is going to send your kids to some random school on the opposite end of the city, which is wrong, or that parents have no control over where their kids are placed — also wrong. You claim that the idea that middle or high school kids could get to school on their own via MUNI is a “joke” and that it would take several hours, which is bizarre. (Taking MUNI is standard procedure for that group, and probably most trips are under 30 minutes.) Your comment did give my high-school aged daughter a laugh, though!

  • NBP

    Alex does have a point. The land use pattern on the westside is much less concentrated and the number of transit corridors within walking distance is much smaller (Except the Richmond which has much many more arterial transit corridors. If you live the mission around Dolores & 18th and the J isn’t going to show up, you can go to Mission & 16th and take BART Downtown. Your cycling options are numerous as The Mission is flat and has good cycling corridors to connect with Market Street and Soma (albiet some utilizing heavy arterials without bike lanes) and good cycling routes connecting to other neighborhoods that avoid the hills. It takes an average of about 15 to 20 minutes to reach most destinations.

    Where I live in the outer sunset, on the other hand, it takes over 30 minutes on average to get anywhere not on the Westside, generally anywhere East of Stanyan, or South of Stern Grove, whether by public transit or by bike. I’m lucky to live 2 blocks from the N-Judah, right on the 29 Sunset, and walking distance to shops, despite most live farther away from these corridors. But if those lines fail, at least I have a bike when I leave home, but if I don’t have my bike with me, I can’t get home if they fail. The 71 is not a viable alternative because it runs less frequently then either the N or the 29.

    Many westsiders clearly need their cars, but better transit and bicycle infrastructure is needed out here. Speed up the L and N (Construct Raised Private ROW), 28, 28L (Need one running all day weekday at least), and 29. Price parking. I also have another bright idea: why not meter automobile entry into the park? We have the technology and there are WAY too may cars in there on the weekends.

  • This is why most of the Sunset was totally unpopulated until well into the 20th century. The N and KLM tunnels made parts of it plausible places to live, but lots of it had to wait until people began to expect to be able to drive cars everywhere.

  • Eric –

    I thought it was because they figured out how to stabilize the sandy terrain and build on it..?

  • There may have been some advance in sand stabilization that I don’t know about. What I do know is that if you read reports on San Francisco transit through the years, there are always references to how if it was easier to get to the Sunset, people would live there.

    For example from the 1913 Bion Arnold report: “The prevalence of winds and fog in the Richmond and Sunset districts is often cited as the reason for the delayed development of these sections. I believe this to be largely a fallacy, and that the real reason is the absence of adequate service from utilities, particularly railway and water.” And: “From this map, Frontispiece, it needs no argument to reach the reasonable conclusion that with adequate transportation and other utilities, Richmond, Sunset, and Visitation need not long remain practically unpopulated as at the present time.”

  • Why do people think in “all or nothing” contexts? You can keep your car, and use it when necessary and still use a bicycle or your feet or a bus for times when the car is not needed. I would never drive downtown but I would drive to Half Moon Bay. On a good day it takes 25 minutes to drive to work, but I never know when those days will be so I take BART because even though it takes 50 minutes to get there, it is always 50 minutes and I get my reading in. By having good bike lanes and routes from Glen Park to Downtown, I do not need to drive and that takes my car out of the way of drivers who feel that they need their car that day. By not driving when I do not need to I am not competing for parking or space in the stop sign line up, which is good for the people who are in that position.

    Someday, people are going to wake up to the fact that just because they can not, or will not, see their own lives differently that does not mean that giving a little to others who think differently won’t benefit them in the end.


Janette Sadik-Khan warned people to "keep their eyes on the street" during her keynote address at the "City of Tomorrow" symposium. Photo: Ford Motor.

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