Advocates Renew Commitment to Better Transit
4th Annual Transit Week Kicks off at City Hall
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The transit gods were in a better mood this year for the kickoff event for the San Francisco Transit Rider’s “Transit Week,” held this morning on the steps of City Hall. “Muni worked for us today,” said the group’s director, Rachel Hyden, to an assembled group of lawmakers and advocates.
Hyden recalled last year’s event, where several politicos who were headed to City Hall ended up being stranded by a dysfunctional J-Church line (they eventually walked to BART instead). “Last year I rode in and experienced ‘J-gate’,” joked Supervisor Rafael Mandelman. “We hope to get the J into sufficient shape that you can always trust it.”
State Senator Scott Wiener agreed but added that Muni service has improved generally over the long haul. “Bus service is much better than it was five or ten years ago… Now we have to make the LRT and the subways work,” he said. “There are still bottlenecks that need fixed.”
An example of those bottlenecks, he said, was the T-Third, which takes a back seat to private automobiles for most of its run. “It took me 45 minutes to get to the Metallica concert on Friday,” said Wiener. He started at Muni’s Castro station–a distance of less than three miles. “Half of that [trip] was on Third Street,” he added, where trains wait at intersections with no priority over traffic signals.
All the lawmakers called on advocates to help them push for support in Sacramento for funding to speed up, improve, and expand rail service throughout the Bay Area–including adding more subways and major extensions of the regional transit system. “We must electrify everything we can,” said Assemblymember David Chiu. Assemblymember Phil Ting echoed that sentiment. “Transportation is the only place where we’re going backwards on greenhouse gas emissions. We really need your advocacy in Sacramento.”
Wiener, along with Supervisor Matt Haney and others, called for a funding measure to help expand and close important gaps in the system. “We must have a true regional rail system with a second Bay crossing connecting Caltrain to the Capitol Corridors,” said Wiener.
“The downtown extension just needs to get done,” said Haney. “There should be a seamless transit system experience for everyone.”
But that, of course, always comes back to funding. Tilly Chang, Executive Director of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, said her board will be discussing the newly proposed $100 billion transportation “mega measure” to expand transit at its next board meeting. “We’re going to DC. We want more for Muni, BART, and Caltrain.”
The private sector was also represented at the event. “We’re pushing hard for transit,” said Nima Rahimi, senior policy counsel for SPIN scooters, a sponsor of Transit Week. “Private mobility companies must be part of the solution.”
That may happen whether they want it or not–Supervisor Aaron Peskin thanked the Sacramento lawmakers for clearing the way for a San Francisco referendum to tax Uber and Lyft that will be on November’s ballot. Taxing TNCs will bring in $30 million every year, he said.
But more than anything, the event on the steps of City Hall was a chance for everyone to come together and plan for a better future for transit. “We renew our commitment to a faster, more reliable future,” said Hyden.
For a full list of “Transit Week” events, be sure to check out the San Francisco Transit Riders “Transit Week” web page.
And for another celebration of all things transit and more, attend Streetsblog San Francisco’s ten-year anniversary party, tomorrow/Tuesday, Sept. 10, 6-9 p.m., at Manny’s in the Mission, 3092 16th Street, San Francisco, near BART’s 16th/Mission Station and several Muni bus lines.