Wake Up Call
In June, Proposition A, the Muni Reliability and Street Safety Bond, lost by just one and a half percentage points. As former San Francisco District 1 Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer wrote in these pages back in July, it was a “wake up call” for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA).
I agree with her. Moments like this are a good time to reflect on and adjust our approach.
When it comes to the west side of San Francisco, I can’t deny that it still takes too long to get from the Outer Richmond and Sunset districts to downtown and other parts of the region. I also know that the number of city construction projects that have disrupted people’s commutes has taken a cumulative toll on community members’ lives.
My job as the head of the SFMTA is to understand these realities and listen to community members’ best ideas about how to improve our work. Thankfully, there are many smart and outspoken community leaders on San Francisco’s west side who are helping me, and the SFMTA, get better at what we do. We’re using your ideas to make changes going forward.
One way we’re doing this is by talking more with other city agencies about how we can coordinate our construction projects to minimize the impact on westside neighborhoods. We’re also making sure our construction contractors are responsive to local businesses as well as on time and on budget. I was very happy to hear positive feedback about the L-Taraval construction contractor when I attended a Parkside community meeting recently.
We’re also working to make Muni faster and more reliable. On the west side, we’ve sped up travel times on several key lines using tools like red transit lanes, bus bulbs and smart traffic signals:
• 38-Geary travel times are up to 20% faster.
• 5R-Fulton Rapid travel times are up to 12% faster.
• 1-California travel times are up to 11% faster.
• Data coming soon on N-Judah travel time improvements.
Many of the west side’s most vulnerable residents depend on Muni – including low-income people, seniors and people with disabilities – and it’s crucial we provide them with the best possible service.
It will still be a while longer before the L-Taraval project is completed, but that project has already delivered important safety benefits. On the completed section of L-Taraval, which finished on time and on budget, pedestrian injuries decreased by 60%.
When it comes to congestion, we use a suite of tools to make sure traffic moves smoothly on our main thoroughfares. Adjusting signal timing to keep up with changing traffic patterns, adding turn lanes and restrictions in key locations, and providing more loading zones in commercial areas to reduce double parking each make a big difference in keeping traffic flowing. We also monitor the network for any opportunities to improve bottlenecks, such as the recently re-opened MLK Drive in Golden Gate Park between Chain of Lakes and Sunset Boulevard.
Another sore point on the west side has been the Slow Streets. They’ve made it possible for neighbors to come together and for people who never felt safe on the streets before to start walking and biking to get around. However, since the Slow Streets are only open to local traffic, they’ve disrupted some people’s commutes.
We know San Francisco needs a network of streets that are safe and welcoming for people of all ages and abilities who want to walk and bike to get around. But, in the future, the design of these streets may look different from the Slow Streets we urgently put into place at the beginning of the pandemic. In the Sunset, we’re completely revamping the Slow Streets Program and will be launching a program called Sunset Neighborways that came out of Supervisor Gordon Mar’s District 4 Mobility Study.
We’ve taken the loss of Proposition A as a wake-up call at the SFMTA. And we’re counting on you for more ideas about how to make the transportation system on the west side – and throughout San Francisco – one we can be wholeheartedly proud of.
Learn more about our westside plans and stay engaged at SFMTA.com/westside.
Jeffrey Tumlin is the Executive Director at San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.