Director Tumlin Scores High Marks Amidst Unparalleled Challenges

In his recent actions and his statement to the SFMTA board, Tumlin shows what real transportation leadership looks like in dire times

Jeffrey Tumlin last November, taking a break from cleaning out his old office and getting ready to move to his new position at SFMTA. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
Jeffrey Tumlin last November, taking a break from cleaning out his old office and getting ready to move to his new position at SFMTA. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

When it was announced last November that Jeffrey Tumlin would take the reins at SFMTA, advocates for safe-and-livable streets were excited to have one of their own running the city’s street and transportation agency.

Then came COVID-19.

Tumlin is now running a transportation agency that is facing the biggest disaster since… the 1906 Earthquake? It’s impossible to make an apt comparison. Muni has experienced a collapse of ridership, a plummeting budget, and a sick workforce. As Streetsblog reported, the agency is struggling with a 30-40 percent worker shortage and has had to cut back to seventeen core bus lines.

Tumlin has quickly made incredibly difficult decisions under enormous time pressures.

Even more impressively, he hasn’t lost track of the fact that we must also plan for peace when this war against the virus is over. Advocate Kyle Grochmal shared an excerpt of Tumlin’s report to the SFMTA board issued this week. In Streetsblog’s view, it’s required watching for anyone interested in the future of transportation in San Francisco:

Transit priority. A quick-build safe bike network. Get the SFMTA prepped and ready to jump in and build like never before in that window between when the shelter-at-home order is lifted, and the economy recovers.

Generally, Tumlin saves his praise for the mechanics, operators, and other essential workers at SFMTA who are continuing to make the system function at enormous personal risk. But there’s room for praise for the director’s guidance and perseverance as well. Advocates continue to be impressed by Tumlin’s steady leadership and his focus on making San Francisco a safer, more livable city.

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