Supervisors London Breed and Norman Yee Talk Transportation Priorities

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.

London Breed

London Breed. Photo: ## Codd, Local Addition##

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.

Norman Yee

Norman Yee. Photo via ##

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.”

  • Breed brings up an important point about the relationship between transportation and population growth. City Hall’s planning assumptions are now based on the unexamined “smart growth,” dense development along transit corridors assumptions. If those assumptions are unwise—and I think they are—she needs to put more thought into planning and development. SF is already the second most densely populated city in the country, and our Muni system is underfunded and inadequate. Instead of assuming that we can bully people out of their cars in a gentrifying city, let’s re-examine out development assumptions, like the preposterous idea of allowing 19,000 people to live on Treasure Island and the Market/Octavia project that will bring 10,000 new residents into the heart of SF.

    Supervisor Yee should ponder the wisdom of allowing more than 5,000 new housing units to be added to Parkmerced when 19th Avenue is already near traffic gridlock.

  • Anonymous

    If you improve the speed and reliability of the N, or any line, you can serve more people with the trains you have. That’s just a basic rule of transit people should be aware of. Muni is slow and getting slower!

  • Yes. Instead of futile attempt to get people out of their cars by making it much harder to drive in the city, invest in Muni, which is the real alternative to driving in SF, not bicycles.

  • mikesonn

    Improve Muni through enforced bus only lanes and actually using signal prioritization. Also better parking management to reduce circling and double parking, but isn’t that just a war on cars? Hmm…

  • Pontifikate

    N Judah and other MUNI lines can be faster if only there were a PR campaign to change riders’ behavior and wait for train to leave rather than crossing in front of it.

    On another note, pedestrians are being besieged in this city between bicycles on the sidewalk, car drivers who are texting or on their cell or simply not stopping before making a right on red, skateboarders, etc. I’ve never seen a city so dangerous for pedestrians!  I hope London Breed and others will do something fast before more lives are lost.

  • Rob Anderson

    If you check the “collision” reports on the MTA’s website, you learn that in fact pedestrian fatalities on city streets have been going down over the years. Also it’s false to automatically blame motorists for all these accidents. Just as the city has found that cyclists are responsible for many of their own injury accidents, the same is surely true of pedestrians. Anyone who drives in SF has noticed that many pedestrians seem to have something like a death wish the way they casually stroll into traffic, whether in a crosswalk or not.

  • mikesonn

    20 is plenty.

  • If you mine the data, the reductions have primarily happened in areas where traffic has been calmed via road diets and other speed reducing factors.

    If you think it’s a good thing that fatalities are down, then you think traffic calming is good, n’est pas?

  • Anonymous

    Pedestrians and cyclists, even if being careless, shouldn’t have to DIE or be seriously maimed because of a mistake. A city designed in such a way is a cold, unforgiving, and ultimately undesirable place. We can do better. We don’t need to tolerate 4000 lb vehicles with hundreds of horsepower anywhere near pedestrians unless they are going very slow (as @mikesonn:disqus said, 20 mph at most).

  • Rob Anderson


    Could you be more specific on your “data mining” results? Which streets have been “calmed” resulting in fewer injuries?


    The point is we are “doing better,” thanks to the MTA. We need to give credit where it’s due.

  • Rob – what did the MTA do to make it better?

    Answer: Reduced traffic speeds with road diets and bike lanes – a.k.a. “screwing up traffic. I am happy you are willing to give them kudos for that.

  • mikesonn

    I look forward to Rob’s next blog piece supporting Fell/Oak and then, the coup de grâce, Masonic! I’m really excited.

  • Rob Anderson

    I suspected that jdx was faking it on his “data mining” claim. Yes, of course I support making city streets safer. But neither the Fell/Masonic intersection or Masonic Avenue in general have particularly high accident numbers according to the city’s collision reports. The latest collision report (go to the MTA’s site
    and enter “collision report”) lists Fell and Masonic as having an accident spike in 2011, but looking at the long-term numbers shows that the numbers have been pretty stable over the years. There were 11 accidents there in 2011,
    and five of those were motorist/cyclist collisions, with no info on who was
    responsible. Why are there accidents there? Because sometimes both motorists and cyclists rush to beat the light.

    If you folks know how to make that intersection safer, you should let MTA know about it.

  • mikesonn

    @google-ea1809617b00430091318d0e92a6ef00:disqus It was @twitter-14678929:disqus who said that.

    Accidents still happen because there are 3 streets with very fast traffic traveling through residential neighborhoods. I look forward to these being slowed and it sounds like you do too, Rob.

  • Rob Anderson

    Why do none of your comments provide me with a “reply” function? Just asking whoever is in charge here. Yes, accidents will happen because riding a bike and driving a car in SF or any other city is inherently risky, and people will be people. Screwing up traffic on the rest of Masonic with the bike path plan is not likely to make any difference to what happens at Fell and Masonic.

  • Mom on a bike

    Sigh. This thread is reading like a “best of Rob Anderson” comment gallery. Maybe we should start one?!?

    Right, Rob. Bicycles sure are useless–what with their inability to travel directly to busy point B out of walking range from busy point A with no worries about finding parking. We all should suffer 40-minute, two-bus rides across our neighborhoods like you do, apparently.

    And by gosh, you’re right–why not roll out the red carpet for cars? We have infinite space on our streets for 15-by-5-foot metal boxes with one occupant inside. Despite the fact that your secondary hobby is opposing all rail projects, you somehow believe Muni can magically improve irrespective of an unabated increase in cars on the road. 

    Hmm…so what you’re saying is…Muni is magic! Take that slogan to the bank.

  • mikesonn

    You need a new browser, IE5 hasn’t been used by the general public since Bush was in office.

    “Screwing up traffic” is what you were praising earlier. And “accidents” don’t just happen at intersections, you know that right?

  • Anonymous

    @google-ea1809617b00430091318d0e92a6ef00:disqus You’re incorrectly quoting me. However, I am glad to see that you are using the “Reply” button finally.

    However, even though I didn’t say it, I can show you a good example of the “data mining” that @twitter-14678929:disqus mentioned:

    This website has a comprehensive list of the evidence.

  • thielges

     Rob, the “reply” choice only appears on first level comments.  It is disabled on second level comments.  I think that the operators of this website added that limitation to avoid deep indentation when replies to replies to … replies are done.

  • My point is obvious to all but the ideology-impaired. Muni is the realistic alternative to driving in SF, not bikes, which means that the Masonic bike project will only make traffic worse for both motorists (32,000+ a day) and for passengers on the #43 line (12,000+ a day), but not for cyclists. The MTA doesn’t have any idea how many of the latter there will be.

    Interesting that no one has commented on the wisdom of City Hall’s “smart growth” theory, or of adding more than 5,000 new housing units at Parkmerced—and allowing 19,000 people to live on Treasure Island—and the relationship between housing development and traffic. Instead of getting ready for all that traffic by giving Muni enough money to improve service, City Hall is deliberately making it worse with the Bicycle Plan and similar projects.  

  • mikesonn

    Adding housing near transit is a positive. If we put it away from transit then of course we’d have more cars on the road, just the like rest of the country. I fail to see your point. Treasure Island housing will be tricky since it will require a major transit investment, but if people move there then they need to consider their transportation options. Much like if someone moves to Tracy.

  • Gneiss

    How can you say that when the amount of money the city spends on bicycle improvements is a drop in the bucket compared to MUNI and car infrastructure costs?  Currently the city spends less than 0.64% of all MTA funding on improvements for bicycles while there are 3.5% of people who commute regularly, and up to 20% of people who ride bicycles.  We are currently spending over $1.6 billion dollars to create a 1.7 mile subway and $760 million to reconstruct a small portion of Doyle drive.  The $500 million that represents the ‘gold standard’ of cycling improvement in the city would still accound for only 8% of overall MTA spending, while the $200 million the MTA is comtemplating would still be only a drop in the bucket of overall MTA spending.

    Adding MUNI capacity is vastly more expensive than anything contemplated by the bicycle coaltion, and yet you are happy to see us raise our taxes and make our streets less safe to satisfy your goal of vilifying a group of citizens who only want to make their lives safer.

  • “there are 3.5% of people who commute regularly, and up to 20% of people who ride bicycles”
    MTA studies show that cyclists are only 3.4% of all daily trips in the city. The city has no idea of how many more people will take up riding bikes after its bicycle projects, many of which take away traffic lanes and street parking on busy streets. No one is talking about raising taxes. For openers we should look at the bloated MTA bureaucracy that has 5,000 employees. Then we need to look at the rate of pay for many of these folks, who often make much more than the rest of us in SF. I agree on the Central Subway, which is a political deal disguised as a transportation project unanimously supported by the current Board of Supervisors and the mayor, along with the shockingly dumb high-speed rail project.

    But the bicycle projects are more about the limited space on our streets, not money, though $20 million to screw up Masonic seems like a bad deal to me. 

  • Mike Sonn:
    But the city is encouraging a lot of development without a corresponding investment in Muni. Besides, there’s a good reason that cities have density limits, and the guy who originated the “transit corridors” theory is alarmed at how it’s being misapplied in SF neighborhoods.

  • voltairesmistress

     Rob, I fail to see how bike lanes, as planned on Masonic or as in place anywhere already, are “screwing up traffic”.  As a rider I love them for the safety they provide.  As a driver I love them for helping delineate for drivers and cyclists where everyone is expected to be.  Helps keep me calm while driving.

    I really don’t understand how putting in bike infrastructure and investing in Muni are not compatible.  The two seem to reinforce one another, if done right.  I agree with you that Muni needs more love, but getting some transit only lanes in place would go a long way towards giving the buses the freedom to travel much more quickly.  No bikes and no cars in their way.

  • Gneiss


    That article was written 8 years ago – 2004.  I hardly think the alarmist message has come true for the neighborhoods he cites as “particularly fragile”.  And they are certainly not the areas where the city is contemplating adding more housing and development.

  • mikesonn

    None of Rob’s alarmist messages will come true and in the end we’ll get our bike lanes, it is just a matter of now or when gas is $6+/gal and we can just take the lane.

  • 94103er

    Jiminy Jillickers! All these new people in town….so many bodies needing to get from point A to point B…someone needs to invent a lighweight, wheeled means of conveyance on the double!

    Also, “cities have density limits” -???

    As always, thanks for the laughs, Rob.

  • Anonymous

    @ea1809617b00430091318d0e92a6ef00:disqus wrote: “Yes. Instead of futile attempt to get people out of their cars by making
    it much harder to drive in the city, invest in Muni, which is the real
    alternative to driving in SF, not bicycles.”

    First, it’s not futile: it’s working and (thankfully) you can’t stop it (though you can delay it like you did with the bike plan, though I think your ability to do that is dwindling as more and more people realize we need to move away from car-centric urban design). Second, the alternative to driving is not Muni, but Muni, bicycling, *and* walking. It’s everything and anything (yes, occasionally including the car). You need to realize it’s giving people lots of options is what is important.


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