Advocates Yee-Haw Over New SFMTA Leader

A shot from Tumlin's social media feed as he cycles over recently unstuck subway trains during Monday's commute
A shot from Tumlin's social media feed as he cycles over recently unstuck subway trains during Monday's commute

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SFMTA’s incoming leader, Jeffrey Tumlin, officially starts his new job on December 16. In the meantime, we asked leading safe-streets-and-better-transit advocates what they think about Mayor London Breed’s appointment. Spoiler alert: everyone is happy. There’s a feeling advocates have finally gotten one of their own into the top slot. Or, as Walk San Francisco responded initially, “yeehaw!!!” At least one advocate, however, reminds us what Tumlin is going to be up against given Muni’s often intransigent culture.

Here’s what advocates said:

Brian Wiedenmeier, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition:

Mayor Breed and the SFMTA Board have demonstrated a continued commitment to safe and livable streets by selecting Jeffrey Tumlin to be San Francisco’s next Director of Transportation. Jeff brings a wealth of experience to the role as a planner, administrator, and someone who regularly bikes San Francisco’s streets. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and our members are optimistic about the changes we will see on our streets under his leadership.

Ian Griffiths, Seamless Bay Area:

We’re excited about Jeff Tumlin for so many reasons. He’s a pioneer in the transportation field that has long championed “moving people, not cars.” He’s deeply familiar with San Francisco and the Bay Area’s transit challenges, but he also understands how transit in other regions with higher transit ridership is planned, built, and operated. He’s a visionary, a collaborator, and an excellent communicator – exactly what SFMTA needs to transform Muni into a people-focused transit system at the center of a seamlessly connected regional network.

Jodie Medeiros, Walk San Francisco:

Tumlin is exactly the right leader for San Francisco at the exact right moment. As our city continues to grow, our transportation system will define what kind of city we live in. We need someone who can take on this massive challenge with an understanding of what’s at stake and with a bold vision. Jeff knows what it takes to create cities and transportation systems that prioritize people, equity, and climate. Jeff knows San Francisco, plus he knows how to lead complex agencies and massive projects and get things done. He is the person who can push San Francisco to the vanguard of what’s possible for pedestrian-first streets, public transit, and Vision Zero.

Arielle Fleisher, SPUR Transportation Policy Director:

In Jeffrey Tumlin the SFMTA has found the perfect leader for this moment. Bold and fearless, Jeff not only has visionary ideas but an incomparable ability to execute them. A longtime SPUR board member, Jeff is a strong advocate for regional transportation; he understands that Muni is fundamentally a part of a larger transit network and will thrive best in that context. San Francisco — and the region– will benefit greatly from his leadership. This is a great day for anyone who walks, bikes, and rides in the Bay Area.

Cat Carter, San Francisco Transit Riders:

Jeffrey Tumlin is a bold, innovative choice to lead the SFMTA. We look forward to working with Mr. Tumlin to champion Muni as indispensable for accessibility for all San Franciscans; as a crucial part of the solution to our Vision Zero challenge; and a key part of addressing our climate emergency. San Francisco’s Transit First policy needs to be applied vigorously to our street design in the face of record numbers of traffic deaths, and record traffic congestion that is choking our streets, our air, and our environment. We look forward to working with Mr. Tumlin to make sure bold plans to improve Muni aren’t compromised, and especially to make sure that transit riders are centered in such plans. Muni needs to better serve the hundreds of thousands of riders using the system every day, and to make the system more usable for more people.

SFMTA has a longstanding reputation for being opaque, non-responsive, and slow-moving. Mr. Tumlin has his work cut out for him to address the agency culture in order to gain the public’s confidence. From past work bringing together disparate parties, Mr. Tumlin is a great choice to listen to and lead all levels of a widely diverse staff. Operators, field staff, and facility managers need to be engaged in feedback loops for improvement. Office staff and planners should not be siloed away from the on-the-streets realities.

And if you want to know even more about the SFMTA’s incoming leader, the agency has published its own Q&A.

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