Support Streetsblog, Your Translator of Transpo Planner Jargon

Even SF transportation planners know: they can be pretty hard to understand. Listening in on a discussion about safer streets encrypted in countless acronyms and technical terms can often leave the layperson feeling pretty lost.

See, in planner-speak, it’s not “getting run over” — it’s “a multi-modal right-of-way conflict.”

In San Francisco, this language barrier is perhaps most likely to be found in a staff meeting at the SF County Transportation Authority, which manages San Francisco’s transportation financing and long-term planning. You know, the dry stuff.

The SFCTA candidly admits this — the agency produced the tongue-in-cheek video above, in which one character explains that transportation planners are “trained to talk about our shared urban experiences in a way that is nearly unrecognizable to the general public.”

Not to worry, though — that’s one reason Streetsblog is here. Before we post many of our articles, we decode zoning terms, planning documents, presentations and interviews — and turn them into legible stories about what’s happening to our city’s streets. And it’s contributions from our readers that allow us to continue that work.

If you value the work we do to translate cryptic concepts into a cohesive narrative about re-shaping San Francisco’s streets for people — not cars — please make a donation to Streetsblog. And don’t forget: All donors who contribute $50 or more will get a chance to win a new Dahon folding bike.

  • How much did the SFCTA spend on this cutesy video? Why is this a sensible way to spend our transportation taxes?

  • Guest

    xtranormal is free

  • mikesonn

    Rob pays for Blogger…

  • Turns out that the video wasn’t entirely free, since the SFCTA wasted $1,500 in labor to produce it:

    Dear Mr. Anderson,

    Thank you for your inquiry about the the Authority’s
    video: “A coffee shop encounter with a transportation planner.” This video was produced as a part of outreach activities the Authority conducted in support of the San Francisco Transportation Plan (SFTP) in 2011.The goal of the video was to raise awareness and public involvement in the SFTP, which by its nature is somewhat complex and jargon-filled, but which also relies on broad and deep public input for the identification of transportation needs and investment strategies. As a result, we strive to make the work accessible and engaging to the public.

    The video was created using a free video platform,
    Xtranormal.The only costs incurred to produce the video were the Authority’s SFTP team staff time and and some support from outreach consultants.Because
    the time was bundled together with time for many other outreach activities, we can only estimate the cost in staff time at approximately $1500.

    Please contact Tilly Chang, Deputy Director for Planning, at 522-4832 with any questions you may have.


    Maria Lombardo
    Interim Executive Director
    San Francisco County Transportation Authority
    1455 Market Street,22nd Floor
    San Francisco,CA 94103

  • Anonymous

    Rob, how much do you think you persoanly have cost the SFCTA in terms of wasted staff time over the years? I’d say it’s more than $1500.

  • I’d say nothing at all. Maybe you’re thinking of the SFMTA, which is a different agency. But the city would have saved a lot of money if it had just done the legally required environmental review of the Bicycle Plan in the first place.


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