Transit Week Kick Off
Ceremony on City Hall Steps Celebrates Transit and Rallies Advocates
It’s the one time of the year “to say thanks to transit riders,” said Rachel Hyden, Executive Director of the San Francisco Transit Riders (SFTR), at today’s noontime Transit Week kick off event, held on the steps of San Francisco City Hall. “The transit rider contributes to SF. We lower carbon emissions, reduce congestion, and make it easier for everyone to get around.”
Transit Week, with events all over San Francisco, will feature trivia games, bar hopping by public transportation, and a ferry ride, all designed to spotlight transit’s key role in Bay Area life. According to Hyden and other officials, it’s important to pause and take heed of transit riders, operators, and the accomplishments of the past year. “Transit is the life blood of San Francisco,” said Aaron Peskin, SF County Supervisor and Chair of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority. “It’s a nuts and bolts issue that needs constant attention.” He thanked advocates for fighting for transit dollars to keep construction projects going and he credited them for convincing the Trump Administration not to kill Caltrain’s electrification project. “Thanks transit riders,” said Peskin.
Walk San Francisco’s Cathy DeLuca talked about how every transit rider is also a pedestrian “…and they get hit regularly walking to and from transit.” Walk SF wants to work more with the SF Transit Riders, she explained. “We want to get more robust projects by combining our work.”
Streetsblog also spoke with San Francisco Assemblymember David Chiu, who said he is continuing to work on getting Automated Speed Enforcement (ASE) passed. “The National Transportation Safety Board just came out with a report supporting the idea of ASE,” he said. Armed with the NTSB’s stamp of approval, Chiu is planning to try again with legislation in January. Chiu, impressed by New York’s commuter ferry system, talked about expanding services around the Bay Area. He said he didn’t own a car when he lived in San Francisco and he prefers transit because he can read and work while he’s getting around. “That way I can be lobbied on how to fix Muni while I ride Muni,” he said.
BART director Bevan Dufty thanked advocates for helping to pass Measure RR, last November’s $3.5 billion bond measure to rebuild the system. “It looked uncertain [it would pass] a year ago,” he recalled. “Thank you transit riders.” Senator Scott Wiener also thanked advocates for their work. As a 20-year rider of Muni, “we’ve seen tangible improvements,” he added. “It still has it’s frustrations, but it’s getting better.”
Several speakers spoke of those ongoing frustrations: among those was Anna Damiani, a wheelchair-bound transit rider. “Overall, Muni is a blessing,” she told Streetblog, “But I don’t use Powell, Montgomery or Civic Center,” she said, because the passageways to the elevators are dark, filthy and threatening. She urged lawmakers to try spending a day riding Muni in a wheel chair to really experience the system from her perspective. “Try relying on Muni when you have to wait for two or three buses to pass, or when only every other boarding island is [wheelchair] accessible.” Dufty also said a lot of work needs to be done to create a more equitable fare structure and that BART needs to clean the cars and stations better. “People shouldn’t have to step over needles at 16th and Mission,” he added.
Technically, the “kick off” event wasn’t the first event of Transit Week. Early this morning Hyden and some volunteers were out talking with transit riders in the Sunset neighborhood at 9th Ave & Irving St and at Castro and Market, hearing complaints, comments and taking “why we ride” stories from commuters.
And those commuters, of course, come from all walks of life. “Transportation is for the 100 percent…rich and poor, it’s for everyone,” said Edward D. Reiskin, Director of Transportation of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA). “It’s not always the best, but it’s getting better and better.”
London Breed, meanwhile, apologized to Reiskin while they were standing in the hot sun during the event. “I said we don’t need AC on the buses,” she said, admitting that she appreciated it while riding a Muni bus during the recent Bay Area heatwave. “The AC felt amazing.”
The full list of Transit Week events, meanwhile, is available on the SFTR webpage.