Not All City Hall Electeds Up to the Challenge of Riding Muni for 22 Days

Six supervisors did not hesitate to commit to the SF Transit Riders Union’s challenge to ride Muni for 22 days starting on June 1, but five supervisors and Mayor Ed Lee haven’t signed on. The split is a good indicator of who supports transit at City Hall — for the supervisors who have a record of legislating to improve transit, riding Muni every day is no biggie, and some do it already.

Supervisor John Avalos, one of six supes to get on board with SFTRU's 22-day Muni riding challenge, tweeted a photo early.
Supervisor John Avalos, one of six supes to get on board with SFTRU’s 22-day Muni riding challenge, tweeted an early selfie.

Supervisors David Campos, Jane Kim, Scott Wiener, Julie Christensen, John Avalos, and Eric Mar committed to the challenge at Tuesday’s board meeting. Mayor Lee and the other five supervisors have either declined the challenge or haven’t responded to Streetsblog’s request for comment.

The 22 days represent the 22 years since SF voters approved Prop AA, an advisory measure which stated that “city officials and full-time employees [shall] travel to and from work on public transit at least twice a week,” according to SFTRU:

22 years later, this policy agreement has never been acted on, and now is a chance to make up for lost time!

When they regularly ride public transit, city officials better understand the rider’s daily experience and prioritize funding and planning a more reliable, robust, and visionary transit system to support it. This is an opportunity for our city officials to promote their own commitment to public transportation, showcasing that they care about the future of Muni.

Here are SFTRU’s guidelines for the challenge:

Participating officials will tweet while riding, walking to, or waiting for transit every day for those 22 days, posting it to Twitter with an optional photo using the hashtag #OnBoardSF. If they don’t take transit for one of those days, they will tweet their reason why with the same hashtag.

Supervisor Wiener said he’s been a daily Muni rider for 18 years. “I’m lucky that I live in the Castro,” where “we have really strong transit access.” But he plans to up his game and “try some of the lines that are a little bit more challenging.”

“I should assume everyone is doing [the challenge] unless otherwise stated,” Campos said on Tuesday. “So count me in.”

Supervisor Kim said she “will be participating,” but that since she lives within walking distance of City Hall, “it would actually be very hard for me to take Muni versus walking. So I will do my best to go take Muni for a stop.” Supervisor Christensen said she walks and takes Muni most days. “In addition to riding Muni, I’m also trying to expand it,” presumably referring to her push to extend the Central Subway.

Even Supervisors Avalos and Mar committed to ride in from far-flung Districts 11 and 1.

“I will do it from a Excelsior District 11 point of view,” said Avalos. “I will hop on the 8x and I will wait. I will wait, or waint, for the 52. I will mingle and rub elbows on the 14 bus. I will imagine the cross-town freedom of the 43. I will take the 29 to Stonestown and SF State. And I will pray when I take the J-Church that I won’t be switched back on.”

Some of the supervisors who declined the challenge said they already ride Muni regularly and understand its issues.

Although D5 Supervisor London Breed won’t take the challenge (as an aide confirmed), after Tuesday’s meeting she tweeted a photo of her view sitting on a 9-San Bruno bus. “I ride muni a lot but I don’t plan to take a lot of photos 4 #muni22days,” she wrote.

D7 Supervisor Norman Yee also declined the challenge. Yee, a city native who is 65 years old, tweeted that he has “been taking the Muni Challenge for 18 years! Took the K today after 2 empty trains passed me by on Ocean.” His aide gave the same response when asked to elaborate on his position.

Supervisor Mark Farrell says Muni needs to be improved, but he declined the challenge. According to aide Jess Montejano, Farrell needs to drive because he’s busy, and his time in his car with his kids is often “the only time he gets to spend with them.” At a community meeting this week about improvements to speed up the 30-Stockton, another Farrell aide said the supervisor has “serious concerns” about removing car parking on Chestnut Street for transit lanes and bulb-outs.

Supervisor Malia Cohen also declined the challenge, but wasn’t available for comment. Mayor Lee and Supervisor Katy Tang didn’t respond to requests for comment.

SFTRU “is really challenging us to really understand the transit system,” said Supervisor Mar. “I know a number of us already do it. But I’m going to — my daughter does it every day. And I should follow her suit as well. So I wanted to thank the Transit Riders Union for their great effort. It’s critical that I and colleagues get out and experience all the facets of San Francisco life including riding Muni every day.”

With transit upgrades in the Richmond, such as the creation of the 5-Limited line (which will be called the 5-Rapid as of tomorrow), “It’s going to be easier for me,” Mar said.

  • hp2ena

    I’ll point out that Norman Yee does indeed ride Muni. I saw him riding the K one day out west. Just serendipitously running into an elected official – unstaged, if you will *cough*Ed*cough* – I think demonstrates their commitment to riding transit, if even once in awhile.

    Then again, I hope they’re not under the impression that they have to ride Muni every day for 22 days. They get to choose which 22 days they ride, correct?

  • murphstahoe

    Farrell needs to drive because he’s busy, and his time in his car with
    his kids is often “the only time he gets to spend with them.”

    Nothing says quality time like riding in the car.

  • Why would any of them be foolish enough to give up their government issued, free cars & parking?!

  • IHeartPandas

    An idea for Supervisor Farrell — what about a 22 day bicycling challenge with a cargo bike rental from Vie Bikes (note: I do not work for Vie Bikes)? It would give him the freedom to come and go as he pleases, the bikes can accommodate his kids, and it would give him a chance to demonstrate some modicum of interest/commitment to more active transit options.

  • theqin

    While I agree with you, cargo bikes and long tails have a public perception problem as being only for the truly hardcore. Most people that see me either think I am either crazy or a tourist attraction.

  • IHeartPandas

    @theqin:disqus Do you think that it’s because of the price point, e.g. “cargo bikes are super expensive, so you must be a die-hard bicyclist in order to fork over that much cash,” or do you think that there are other reasons why people think that cargo bikes have a perception problem? I’m coming back to SF today after spending a week in Portland, and it’s been amazing to see cargo bikes for businesses and cargo bikes with kids (and/or dogs!) in them.

  • SFnative74

    Great idea! Or maybe he can commit to a week on transit and explain to his children that he is doing this to better understand and improve our transit system, so that it will be a much better system when they grow up. Farrell is a SF-kid so he should understand that taking Muni is part of growing up here. Hopefully he doesn’t want anything less than the best for his kids and people who live in and visit this city.

  • Nothing says quality time like ignoring your children to focus on driving safely, but there are better ways to decline:

    “Commitments to the City, community, and family, have my traveling throughout the city too often, on too short of a notice to accept the challenge. And that speaks to our need for more reliable, frequent Muni service, better covering San Francisco. Muni Forward is a huge step towards…” and then follow with appropriately vague/specific ways you would support improved Muni service.

  • StrixNoctis .

    There are a lot of snobs here in SF these days who think they’re too good for MUNI (and bicycles), so I wouldn’t expect politicians to be any different.

    What I’m surprised at is the number of politicians who accepted the challenge to ride MUNI. Usually politicians aren’t so humble to be among us peasants.

  • SF Guest

    Without naming names to get themselves re-elected.

  • theqin

    Price definitely plays some part as its not just a on-whim kind of purchase, but they do have pretty good resale value, so I don’t think price is the primary factor. Plenty of people drop thousands of dollars on road bikes, and these aren’t generally the same kind of people riding cargo bikes.

    I mean it might be a chicken in the egg kind of problem, people don’t necessarily know or think that an alternative exists, or that this alternative actually works and is not just a fringe thing. It certainly doesn’t help that you don’t see cargo bikes in most bike stores.

    Hopefully adoption will increase if the current casual bike to work crowd has children, but I don’t see it as a fast process. Especially since biking facilities in SF can be a little iffy sometimes — like I never like biking anyone on the fell and oak part of the wiggle, even I don’t have problems with some other bike lanes on busy streets. And I know that I am definitely not the typical person, probably most people would be even more afraid to take their kid their with good reason.

  • AndreL

    This is the sort of demagoguery politicians should stay well clear of. SFTRU is an organization not to be trusted anyway. So even politicians that support transit should not validate this so-called “challenge” and work to undermine STFRU.

  • Hundreds of thousands rely on Muni every day. Calling it a “challenge” to ride Muni is frankly rather insulting.

  • hp2ena

    If you don’t like where SFTRU is going, why not get on their board, as they have vacancies? The board – not the members – make most of the decisions anyway.

  • Alicia

    The reason I don’t use a cargo bike is because I can only afford one bike and I don’t want that one bike to be a cargo bike. I have a trailer that I can remove or attach at will when I need to haul items. If I could afford several bikes, I would consider having a cargo bike being one of them.

  • ladyfleur

    I like the idea. For those whose commutes don’t make sense (e.g. walking distance from City Hall) I’m sure they can find places to go by Muni after work or on the weekends. I don’t care if it takes them three months, they should still have to do 22 trips. No excuse not to.

  • njudah

    these non participants don’t get it – Muni is not just for commuting. By not participating they’re proving they are hypocrites. Not surprising but still…

  • njudah

    please give specifics as to why this organization shouldn’t be trusted. I’m curious as to what you mean by that, if you’re being serious or just a troll. Specifics please!

  • njudah

    Which supervisors have cars from the City? What makes and models? Proof please!

  • DragonflyBeach

    Riding Muni for twenty-two days should be easy, considering the time it takes for the J and N trains to go into the subway from Duboce is about a week. Then knock off another week by riding the 38 Geary through Union Square, and finish the final week by either going snails crawl through Chinatown on the 30/45, or camping out in the train right before the bottle-necked West Portal as SFMTA figures out where the driver is for the waiting LRV.

  • DragonflyBeach

    In addition, Ed Lee of course didn’t sign on, he doesn’t need too, he has rapid transit coming every three minutes in his neighborhood. The ones least likely to ride Muni are the spoiled ones living on the BART line. As if Lee is seriously going to walk past Glen Park BART and wait on that little sad island in the middle of the freeway for the J-Church, coming every 10 minutes at rush hour.

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