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.

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