How Will SF Fund the Sustainable Transport System a Growing City Needs?

Within a few decades, San Francisco’s streets will be even more clogged with cars, more dangerous for walking and biking, and Muni will burst at the seams as more people try to get around. That’s the future city officials warned about at a hearing yesterday, painting a grim picture of traffic-choked streets if nothing is done to change the status quo of paltry funding for walking, biking, and transit.

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“The growth is coming to San Francisco, the people who are here aren’t leaving, and more jobs are coming,” said SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin. “I think we got away for a few decades with not making investments in our transportation system” and other infrastructure, he said, “but we’re beyond a point where we can get away with it anymore.”

As we’ve reported, the city’s transportation and street infrastructure has $3.1 billion in unfunded maintenance needs over the next ten years, $2.2 billion of which is to bring Muni up to a “state of good repair.” Looking at all of the transit systems in the Bay Area, the budget gap is $18 billion over the next 25 years, and that’s just maintenance — adding the capacity to transport a larger population will cost more.

Those numbers don’t include funding to implement the SF Pedestrian Strategy, the Bicycle Strategy, the Muni Transit Effectiveness Project, traffic signal upgrades, and other street redesigns, each of which would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, said Reiskin. None of the measures currently in the works to increase transportation funding would come close to meeting the projected needs.

Over the next 25 years, San Francisco is projected to add 92,410 housing units and 191,000 jobs, said Planning Director John Rahaim. Those figures come from Plan Bay Area, a strategy to focus regional population growth near transit and job centers that was approved last week by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and is set to be updated every five years.

Rahaim noted the importance of focusing new development within walking and biking distance of job centers, citing surveys that found that 30 percent of people who live in downtown SF walk to work. That “reduces what otherwise would be a burden on the transit system,” he said. “That doesn’t solve the $18 billion problem — I’m not pretending that it would — but I do think it helps us think more holistically about how we solve these problems.”

Rahaim said the one-time impact fees collected from new developments would generally only pay for 30 percent of their transportation impacts, even after the implementation of the Transportation Sustainability Project, which would revamp the impact fee system.

Supervisor Scott Wiener, who called the hearing to discuss the issue of how transit can improve to catch up with new development, is City Hall’s most vocal advocate for increasing transportation funding. While the Mayor’s Transportation 2030 Task Force is expected to release recommendations about how to increase transportation revenue this fall, Wiener noted that any meaningful change to the status quo will require broader political support from city leaders.

“We’re going to have a continuing series of political decisions to make about whether we’re going to actually support our public transportation system with money,” said Wiener, “or whether that money is going to continue to be used for other needs.”

  • gneiss

    Let’s not forget the value of your time spent maintaining your car. While you may not consider your time particularly valuable, it still represents an opportunity cost where you could have been doing something else, like repairing your house, learning new skills, or engaging in outside pursuits.

  • Anonymous

    Waiting for N Judah – do you have a garage? How much did you pay for it? How much additional property tax do you pay to house your car?

    $10,000 a year also amortizes in the cost of accidents. You might not lose the car accident lottery but the more you drive, the more likely you are to be in an accident.

  • Waiting4N_Judah

    Again, that is in the affluent parts of town. I’ve never paid for a dedicated parking space, even when I was renting. The only people I know that are paying for a dedicated spot are in Nob Hill and they aren’t paying $300 either. My friend in Nob Hill is paying an extra $125 for his parking spot. I’m sure there may be some on Telegraph Hill that pay $300 but that isn’t the norm.

    It’s a bit presumptuous to assume car owners didn’t weigh in all the pros & cons before making their decision. As I already stated in this thread, I sold my car prior to moving to San Francisco and wanted to ride public transit. Then after actually living here, I realized how lousy MUNI is and bought a car. As
    a motorist, I would love to not drive all the time and have a reliable train readily available for when I need to get somewhere. MUNI can’t provide this and I can’t afford a $4,000,000.00 home in a more centrally
    located part of town.

    Also, San Francisco has a lot of old cars which are very cheap to maintain. I think the old cars is one of the cool things about San Francisco and the people that drive them are also interesting and are usually proud of their rides. It’s one the many non-conformist things about this town that I love. I see no reason to punish these people and they are not rich contrary to what some here may think.

  • Waiting4N_Judah

    I think I’ve just about heard it all, my goodness. Car repairs has never taken any time from my work. MUNI on the other hand….
    That is extremely condescending to say “learn new skills” as if I sit around all day working on a car. I have plenty of hobbies, interest to keep me busy. Besides, I like to work on things. Buying an old house does
    require it’s maintenance which I don’t mind doing.
    Other than that, my cars hasn’t prevented me from traveling and taking on other interest.

    Also I’ve traveled to 37 countries, worked in 6 countries on various projects and never felt owning a car kept me from doing any of that.

    So please tell gneiss, how should I better spend my time in a way that would be better for me.

  • Waiting4N_Judah

    I didn’t look for a house without a garage in the first place. Just about all homes come with a garage so you’re going to need to find a homeowner of a comparable home that doesn’t have a garage if you want to compare notes.

    Walking outside has it’s risk too. If we all lived in fear of an accident, we should all just stay inside our homes.

    Since you’ve brought up an accident, the only time I’ve been in an accident was me getting hit as a pedestrian. I was walking across Market street and some bicycle messenger punk ran in to me knocking my laptop case on the ground. This was on Market & Montgomery. The bicycle messenger didn’t have any insurance to cover my expenses. Luckily it was a company laptop and not my personal one.

    I had the right of way but too many cyclist think it’s their God given right to break the rules and do what ever they please. He didn’t even have the courtesy to apologize either.
    I look both ways before crossing but he just zipped around the corner at a high speed (for a cyclist)

  • gneiss

    Please. I’m not suggesting *how* you should spend your time, but just that your figure for repairing it is low when all you consider is the cost of materials to maintain it. And congrats for having such a rich life. Kudos to you. But, that still doesn’t get away from the fact that owning a car has many hidden costs that you’re happy to push under the rug. It also still doesn’t get away from the fact that for many poor families, owning a car is an impoverishing experience.

  • Anonymous

    Waiting – your anecdote is very nice, but the word “amortized” relies on statistics.

  • Waiting4N_Judah

    Rich life? Are you kidding me? I drive a 22 year old station wagon and I live in the Outer Sunset. 45th ave is not a rich neighborhood. If you want to put on a guilt trip, talk to those in brand new Toyota Prius and others in the latest hybrid you see shopping at Whole Foods. Those are the people that have the disposable income.

    You are correct about one thing, owning a car can be an impoverishing experience for poor families every time California adds new taxes to fuel. California has the nation’s highest fuel tax. Registration hikes hurt the poor the most. New taxes on energy hurt the poor the most. Bridge toll increases, parking meters, parking tickets all hurt the poor the most.

    I find it ironic that you have so much compassion for the poor yet all of these anti-car proposals hurt the poor the most.

  • Waiting4N_Judah

    So please find a homeowner of a comparable home that doesn’t have a garage if you want to compare notes.

    The point is moot really. It’s not like I’m going to go through the trouble of selling my house for a house that doesn’t have a garage to save a small amount of pocket change in taxes.

  • Anonymous

    What about all the people who don’t own cars? Do you know the statistics for wealth and car ownership in San Francisco? Or do you only have anecdotal evidence and feelings?

    As we see any time muni shuts down on a critical line or BART shuts down the transbay tube, there isn’t room for everyone to have cars in the bay area. And when the bay bridge shuts down as it did on Friday for a few hours, how much we need good alternatives to driving.

    No one is saying people can’t have cars, but there are real personal as well as social costs to car ownership that are often ignored, hidden, or passed on to others. Obviously you feel you’ve addressed all the personal ones, but we haven’t scratched the surface of social ones. At least we can all agree that Muni and Bart need more money to improve service and access.

  • Waiting4N_Judah

    Some do. Expensive cars tend to have air suspensions instead of traditional shocks & springs.

  • Waiting4N_Judah

    Last time I checked, it was something like 35% in San Francisco do not own a car. Not sure if that’s the still the case or not. For many in this city, that is by choice, as it was my choice as well when I first moved here. The VP of the company I work for doesn’t own a car despite the fact that he is almost a millionaire. He has a sweet pad down in Embarcadero and walks to work.

    I’ve made a comment about the social impact in my previous post to another member. All I can say is that me owning a car hasn’t cause MUNI to break down. No need to get upset at me. I’m not the reason for your delays.

  • Andy Chow

    It goes prove my point that attacking people who own cars doesn’t really help the cause for sustainable transportation. I have been working professionally to promote alternative transportation for more than a decade. Even in places like San Jose you can increase transit ridership and there’s no need to attack people who own cars (the very same people that you want them to ride transit during congested times).

    Good for you if you’re proud of your choice of not owning an automobile and still have a fulfilling lifestyle. Promoting that kind of lifestyle doesn’t mean attacking people who have cars.

    Traffic is like many of those things, where a single vehicle doesn’t seem to have an impact but collectively they do. I guess that’s why some of you go down the path of attacking car owners. Like taxes, I think the community is willing to make some sacrifices to improve alternative transportation, but also like taxes, they like to see it to be effective. I think the focus is to make those projects effective so that the community would support more of them. But in San Francisco, many of those priorities got sidetracked by something else so the outcome is less than what it should be.

  • Anonymous

    I generally agree with your ideas, that it’s important to get consensus, build coalitions, everyone benefits from transit, etc. but I don’t get your insistence that anyone has mentioned punishing drivers. Unless talking about how car ownership and usage has a negative impact on people and communities is your definition of punishment?

  • The building I live in now in NOPA charges (and gets) $300 for a garage spot. My previous home in the Haight (2 years ago) charged $300. I agree, in the more ritzy neighborhoods it’s more. Maybe $500?

  • Andy Chow

    People own cars by choice so many do expect personal benefits by owning a vehicle. The issue is that whether they can get the same or nearly the same benefits without owning a car and with the associated costs, there’s no simple answer. You may have a lifestyle that don’t need one, but you have to respect the situation of others. There are many who drive and don’t take transit, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t support or not willing to fund transit. There are some who would be more willing and able to take transit than some others.

    At the same time there are some people who enjoy automobiles and working on them, just like people who enjoy gardening, working around the house, and guns.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for the non-statement, you’ve really outdone yourself with that one.

  • Waiting4N_Judah

    Sounds like a rip off but then again, that is a ‘hip’ area. That’s not the going rate here in the Sunset and I doubt it’s that high in Stonestown, Excelsior, Miraloma, Balboa Park, Parkside, Outer Richmond, Portola, Bayshore, West Portal, Hunters Point. You know the working class areas.

  • Waiting4N_Judah

    How has Andy Chow “outdone” himself? I thought this was a civil discussion about transportation. Seems like there is a lot of bitterness and contempt for car owners.
    He raised some valid points probably never brought up in your circle of transport ‘experts’.

  • The house cost more because it had a garage. You paid boocoo cash monies for that garage. Your bank account has less money because of that garage. And by not renting it out to a neighbor in need, you are forgoing a good $125 per month. Or something. (Even LESS money in your account!)

  • Waiting4N_Judah

    More like a smart investment as I own the place (chose to pay it off with other investments). Best of all, no more landlords to deal with or worries about rent going up. No need for roommates either. As your rent goes up, my property value goes up. People have less money for much more frivolous things but I’m not one to judge.

    I sense a lot of anger and resentment in the tone of your comments. Did someone steel your bus pass?
    Seems like you’re either upset that I; 1. own a car, 2. own a home. Which is it?
    Since you can’t come up with solutions, you go on an attack those that have a different opinion. So much for a ‘collective approach’ to fixing San Francisco’s transportation problems.

  • Andy Chow

    What have I outdone myself? What I am not doing is to be judgmental. There are too many cars in San Francisco, but being judgmental isn’t going to work. There needs to be more viable options.

  • Anonymous

    “More like a smart investment as I own the place”

    Owning the place doesn’t make it a smart investment to purchase a garage. That just means you had the money to buy a garage.

    It’s a smart investment if a 2 BR/2 BA with a garage appreciates faster than a 3 BR/3 BA with an office does.

    Then again, you just said almost every house has a garage, and followed it up by saying 35% of SF citizens don’t have a car, so maybe that distinction is too subtle.

  • Waiting4N_Judah

    There is no correlation between homes with a garage and the 35% that don’t own a car. Over 65% of the city are renters. Also many homes have had their garage converted to illegal tenancy by the landlords or stored with junk that could be used to park a car (one less parked car on the street). Honestly I don’t waste my time worrying about what other people own.
    It’s cute how you make it out to sound like I just bought a garage when it’s actually a house that happens to have a garage.
    Enough about my personal finances. Does anyone have solutions and want to have a constructive discussion?
    The discussion has been derailed by members that are so obsessed with what other people own.

  • Greg

    So, in other words, move. We don’t want families or blue collar folks in SF.

  • Elizabeth

    Charge more for parking. I used to avoid paying for parking, but reading Walkable City and Shoup’s ideas about parking opened my eyes to it’s true value. Has anyone else read that?

    I recently visited Polk street to see what the fuss was all about. Some research prior to that revealed that San Francisco annual parking permits are only about $100 per year, but only for those in some neighborhoods. What a sweet deal! On the other hand, parking in a structure or garage near Polk cost $300 to $400 a month. The owner of a nearby parking structure wanted to tear it down and build condos instead. The neighbors protested, but only 14 monthly spaces were being rented. Metered parking is $2 an hour on Polk. Sf park has technology to adjust rates to create 85% occupancy, so there will always be a spot for drivers willing to pay enough. it would increase turnover and therefore business in the area. They should implement that in more places in the city. SFpark also prevents double parking and people endlessly circling blocks looking for parking.

  • I guess you don’t get how induced traffic works. The more infrastructure there is to accommodate cars, the more cars you get with more conflict, and thus more congestion — and parking doesn’t actually improve except in the very short term.

    In fact the trend is in the opposite direction from your complaint: much of what was once living space has been converted into car storage, and generally at the expense of public amenities such as street parking, an unencumbered sidewalk, and often a street tree or two. At least the people using garages for something other than car storage aren’t adding to that burden.

  • “People own cars by choice” is meaningless tautology. Cars are the most wasteful and, in terms of true costs, expensive mode of ground transportation every devised, yet a Rube Goldberg system of hidden subsidies make it seem like a reasonable “choice” that just happens to be made at the expense of other choices.

  • Elizabeth

    People will bicycle on Market no matter what they do. They haven’t had luck keeping the cars off. How would they keep the bicycles off?

  • Waiting4N_Judah

    You’re incorrect. The city of San Francisco has induced traffic by tearing down the Central freeway and putting traffic at street level. The traffic signals aren’t properly timed and thus traffic doesn’t flow steadily. Again, inconveniencing motorist do not make people give up their cars.

    You’re also incorrect about garages once being livable space. Most homes in San Francisco were originally built with a garage. Prior to that, it was just barren sand dunes. I have yet to see a 2nd. floor bedroom converted in to a garage. Most people that park their cars in their garage also use the space for other things.
    Yes I park my car in the garage, but I also have my 2 bicycles, washer & dryer, tools, gardening supplies, camping gear, barbecue grill, lawn furniture, older photography developing equipment and other odds & ends that I use but not everyday. My place would look a mess if I kept that in my living room.
    Not sure why my garage is so controversial in this discussion. You should support people using their garage for their cars. Look at it this way, it’s one less car parked on the street and one less car blocking a sidewalk.
    Those who neglect their garage space by storing it with junk or converting it to an illegal tenancy is ‘adding to the burden’ because that car will now park on the street or block the sidewalk. If you think people will give up their cars and ride MUNI, you’re living in a fantasyland.

    BTW, even the famous Painted Ladies on Steiner and almost all the other Victorians were originally built with a garage, even before the automobile was invented. Those were never ever ‘livable spaces’ because they never had any sort of heating or insulation like you do upstairs in the living room, dining room, kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms.

  • Anonymous

    You’re back.

    I had to think about your whole theory on “Buy a used car and you won’t spend so much on automobiles”.

    What if *everyone* decided to buy a used car. Then there would be no new cars, meaning there will eventually be no used cars of any merit. Your solution doesn’t scale. The average cost of car ownership can’t be skewed downward simply by saying “buy a used car” because cars don’t last forever and the average will include the new stock. Deciding to maintain them better doesn’t account for wrecks, and just because you can run a car to oblivion in San Francisco, doesn’t mean they will last forever in salt-air Florida or salty-roads Indiana – in the majority of the country (population wise) cars rust and belts/hoses decay.

  • Anonymous

    You’re also incorrect about garages once being livable space. Most homes
    in San Francisco were originally built with a garage. Prior to that, it
    was just barren sand dunes

    [citation needed]. The majority of housing in SF is not in the Sunset. Reference: The Sunset, ParkMerced, and Richmond represent 3 of 11 Supervisorial Districts which are allocated by population.

    Plenty of houses have had garages added.

  • Waiting4N_Judah

    You’re back as well (this topic was dormant for a few days).
    I never had any “theory”, I just gave an example. What is the point of your hypothetical questions about “what if everybody bought a used car?” I never implied that others should do that. I just gave an example of how car ownership doesn’t always cost $10,000 per year. There are some very expensive cars that skew that number high as well as reckless drivers that drive up their insurance cost. If people like myself are included in that statistic (which I doubt), people like myself would be dragging that number downward. Sure, if I lived in Indiana I’d drive a different vehicle. If I lived in Indiana, I’d probably dress differently in the winter time just as you would. So your point?
    Also, I used the Painted Ladies as an example which is NOT in the Sunset. Most Victorians are NOT in the Sunset, yet they have garages even before the automobile was invented. Those spaces were used as cellars but were never used as ‘livable space’ as they’re cold & damp and have concrete floors that are often times at an angle for water to drain.

  • Waiting4N_Judah

    I used the Painted Ladies as an example which is NOT in the Sunset. Most Victorians are NOT in the Sunset, yet they have garages even before the automobile was invented. Those spaces were used as cellars but were never used as ‘livable space’ as they’re cold & damp and have concrete floors that are often times at an angle for water to drain.

  • So many words, so much of them wrong. For starters you have pretty much confirmed that you don’t understand induced traffic at all, citing a famous case of traffic evaporation (its exact opposite) instead. The terms have specific meanings backed with years of research, and an anonymous blog commenter saying nuh-uh isn’t going to change that.

    The notion that ground floors were garages “even before the automobile was invented” is novel, to say the least, and suggests yet another attempt at redefinition. The Victorian-era “garage” was a carriage-house, generally a detached structure, not the ground floor of a row house.

    It’s true that many of these ground floors were unfinished as delivered, basically left as basements (not garages), but many were finished. A good number of these were made into in-law units during WWII. In either case, my point stands: there are many of these spaces being ripped out to create garages.

  • Waiting4N_Judah

    ….an anonymous blog commenter that said the exact same thing I said. A carriage is basically a car without an engine. Hence why Fisher and LaSalle were carriage manufactures that eventually made bodies for General Motors (Chevrolet, GMC, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick and Cadillac).
    You claim that these in-laws were “ripped out to create garages”, so why did they rip out the insulation, walls and heating ducts as well?
    Sounds like you’re just making things up.
    I’d like to hear all about your “years of research”.
    Many ‘studies’ have a bias to get a result to get a desired outcome. I’ve heard your argument many times over but it’s always amusing to read what lengths some of you will go through to claim that cars are evil and the source of all the world’s problems.

    Anyhow, what does any of this have to do with the topic at hand? I understand you have a problem with the very existence of the automobile. No matter how much you bang away on your keyboard, the automobile is not going to disappear anytime soon, nor will garage space in San Francisco.
    That said, can you come up with any solutions or trade offs to help with transportation in the San Francisco Bay Area besides complaining about cars?

  • Waiting4N_Judah

    BART went on strike and that wasn’t the end of the world either. Just saying…

  • Waiting4N_Judah

    Sad, but true.

  • Waiting4N_Judah

    Well said!

  • You’re wrong about the Painted Ladies. Here’s a photo of them at age 12: – As can be plainly seen, the two rightmost ones have doors below the bay windows, no wider than the center windowpanes.

    The English word “garage” wasn’t coined until the early 20th Century, apparently to make automobile storage sound fancier than those grubby carriage houses. Those doors might be wide enough to accommodate bicycles, but no car could fit through them. These were not garages until years later.

    I don’t know the precise history of these particular houses, but many others followed the sequence from ground-floor units (some built with the house, some added later) to garages. There’s even research on that, but I doubt you’d bother to read it — after all, you just sneered at research about basic traffic terms that you don’t even use correctly, apparently including the word “garage.”

  • Waiting4N_Judah

    Once again, you’re incorrect. Those ground units were not ‘living space’. If so, how come the main entrance is on the 2nd floor? Call it what ever you want; carriage house, garage, cellar, etc, any way you slice it, they were not living space. Not sure why you’re upset that some changed the door width and parked a car inside. It sure is hell is better than parking on the street.
    Regardless, these garages aren’t going to disappear anytime soon…

  • Mike Sicard

    Cars are NOT the enemy folks. If we all got out of our cars YOU would not be able to get on BART or MUNI or even SQUEEZE into the BIKE LANES! If you like the idea of living in a megalopolis like Hong Kong, New York, or London, check out their SUBWAYS. They didn’t happen just by adding bike and bus lanes, increasing parking fees, and eliminating parking. WAKE UP! This city is about to STRANGLE ITSELF by ONLY focusing on CAR HATE!


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