Commentary: Jeffrey Tumlin

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

Jeffrey Tumlin is the Executive Director at San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

12 replies »

  1. Hmm, your own SFMTA story board recently conceded that the west side of SF has many physical barriers to both north south and east west traveling. It stated that the three north south routes were the Great Highway, Sunset Blvd, and 19th Ave. So it doesn’t take much analysis/research to realize that shutting down the GH when 19th Avenue was undergoing 2 years of construction was going to decrease the capacity for north south traffic by 30-50%. Shutting down JFK and shunting traffic to Fulton and Lincoln is moving traffic from lower risk to higher injury roads. Opening up MLK eastbound but not westbound only takes care of half of the congestion along Chain of Lakes. If you concede that MLK needed to be re-opened, it needs to be open in both directions for Richmond district residents to access Sunset Blvd, especially on weekends when the GH is closed. Bicyclists only comprise 2% of mode of travel on the west side. Despite all the investment in bicycling infrastructure the SFMTA report on bicycle projects said there was not as much a rise as expected. People turned to ride sharing and not bicycles from 2013 to 2017.


    • Do you want to cite your source for this highly dubious claim about bike mode share? It also always begs the question: If fewer people walk one year in a neighborhood, should that prompt a conversation about taking sidewalks away? Could you maybe become more observant and notice that many people who use protected mobility paths aren’t necessarily on bicycles and might not even be able bodied? Or of legal age to drive? But are they less important to you because they might not be traveling solo in a car to work?


  2. Tumlin failed to listen to the Westside and has only shown interest in what we care about after failing to get more money from what is usually a sure-thing infrastructure proposition. He is an utter failure who has made transit for Westsiders (and everyone in SF) worse during his tenure. Do not ever vote for SFMTA propositions during his tenure.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. But you are still asleep. And we are all awake to your lip service. You’ve been asked to please do something as simple as finishing a full service route instead of dumping residents off at switchbacks, but you can’t manage it . . . you’ve been asked to ensure that the L line returns to full service from the beach to downtown, and you can’t commit . . . you’ve been reminded that Sunset residents who drive cars don’t want to be treated as 2nd class citizens, especially when they carry things that won’t fit in a backpack on muni (like seniors, kids, business supplies), but you continue to discriminate against them . . . you’ve been asked to focus on encouraging the use of EVs, and you won’t do it, or even get your own buses to run on batteries until 2040. 2040 . . . ?! It’s pathetic. YOU ARE A FRAUD AND A FAILURE. So, I will vote no on L as well, and I will continue to void any requests for money until you demonstrate that you are actually listening and executing on the basics. Actions speak louder than words, so do that FIRST and then get back to us with a request so that we can think about it further before firing you. I vote.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Try to post without slandering a public official. You’re tipping your hand as someone who votes in their own self interest. Despite your selfish impulses, hopefully public transit will still be around when you or people you know who can’t drive anymore need it.

      Speaking of people who can’t drive—kids can take Muni. They’ll be fine.


    • Totally on point. Expect to get no money from us until you start being a public servant to ALL the residents who pay your bloated salary, not just the Bike Coalition.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Start by Opening the Great Highway! 19th Avenue will continue to be under construction for the next several years. Take Mar’s “mobility studies” and throw them in the trash can. Any studies done in the past 2 years during the pandemic are worthless. Vote YES on I & NO on J and Engardio to replace Mar, then maybe we’ll have a chance on improving things going forward.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I count the buses when I drive across the city and at most I see 3 a day, driving both ways. I also count the bikes and I usually see 3 of those, or maybe some days 7. After over a decade of constant war on cars and promises of improved service, the service is at an all time low. Nobody is waiting at most of the bus stops either. Wake up and smell the failure of the SFMTA, They can’t fix the Muni so they slow and restrict traffic flows. Voters are tired of promises.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. More wake up calls are necessary. Let’s keep voting down propositions that allocate money to Tumlin and the SFMTA. Cutting off money is the only way to stop these ill-conceived social science experiments (that we pay for!).

    Emperor Tumlin finally acknowledges the “bottlenecks” that his street closure policies created, but notice he doesn’t acknowledge the most congestion-creating, pollution-contributing, and economy-harming closure of all – the Upper Great Highway.

    Perhaps some day the SFMTA can provide an efficient and affordable public transportation system that is not filled with mentally-ill people screaming obscenities and threatening our children. Until then we must cut off its source of funding.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. SFMTA has been tone-deaf for decades. That is true. But there is also a lot of hysteria being spewed about Muni these days. I have for years regularly spent $3 and was able to go from 33rd and Geary to Potrero Hill or Polk or Columbus on sometimes 2 buses in about 30 ~ 40 minutes. Although random events do happen there isn’t usually any crazy people “scaring the kids” either.

    The system works pretty good actually so I’m not sure what you mean by “efficient and affordable”. And people do scream obscenities sometimes, but I’m not clear what a public transportation system is supposed to do about the people who get on public transit systems. That seems to me to be more the purview of the police or mental health system. Not the public who manage the buses and trains. So what is your point.

    Tumlin is not an emperor. He might be a befuddled, benighted public servant caught in the political cross-hairs, but emperor? Please get your perspective in check man. You can criticize someone without all the extreme language. You can make your point without using the “scaring the kids” meme.’

    I’m not pleased with all the bottlenecks myself but I respect the role of public servants and choose to criticize on specifics rather than resort to inflammatory language . I suggest you do the same.

    Liked by 1 person

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