Transportation Madness

By Commentary Paul Kozakiewicz : richmondreview – excerpt

Lately, I have been wondering why the city’s transportation agency has been running roughshod over merchants and local residents across town, and acting in total disregard for the wishes of most San Francisco residents.

Whether it’s the Geary Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), or the L Taraval streetcar line, the public and local merchants are ignored as being minor disruptions to the agency’s self-proclaimed higher ideals.

The SF Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) has created a scorched-earth policy, destroying or hurting businesses on Third, Mission, Taraval and Irving streets and Van Ness Avenue. It refuses to conduct economic impact studies before closing and tearing up streets just to shave a minute or two off bus and streetcar times. It ignores the pleas of seniors, people trying to raise a family, and anyone else who stands in its way.

And it is beyond the reach of voters and elected officials…

The SFMTA was granted special SF Charter status, and divorced from oversight by elected public officials, in 1999. I bet most of the people reading this column have no idea who is running one of the largest departments in the City, with almost 5,000 employees and an annual budget of $1 billion.

The story of how we got to where we are today is ugly.

Mayor, supervisors abdicate transportation responsibilities…

Who is running the SFMTA?

Prop. E is seven pages long, with mostly additions and a lot of deletions of the old laws. It is specific, however, on who should run this massive super-agency…

Currently, it appears as if none of the seven members of the board of directors, or the operations director, have much experience in transportation. They are mostly political insiders whose experience is working within government in some limited capacity…

I think running a large transportation conglomerate is above Reiskin’s pay grade. And, the board of directors running this important show are political appointees, mostly with expertise in subjects other than transportation. It boggles the mind.

The directors of the SFMTA are Cheryl Brinkman (chair), Malcolm Heinicke, Gwyneth Bordon, Lee Hsu, Joel Ramos, Christina Rubke and Art Torres. Their biographies are available at the SFMTA’s website at http://www.sfmta.org

And the city’s taxi industry has not fared well under the SFMTA’s oversight…

The aftermath

Here we are, 17 years after the passage of Prop. E, and the SFMTA is a monster of its own creation. The development of the Geary BRT would be funny, except for it being real. I’ve documented the Geary BRT story exhaustively since late 2006, when I spent my Christmas vacation trying to figure out why the SFMTA was coming into the neighborhood talking about a “voter mandate” to build a Geary BRT, which was never wanted by most of the people who work and live in the district…

• Representatives of the SFMTA refused the request of local merchants to include an economic impact statement in the Geary BRT’s environmental report;…

The second phase would tear up Geary, hurt local businesses, remove left-hand turns, remove parking spaces and increase traffic on all other Richmond streets.

Non-profit challenges SFMTA

The SFMTA is not a good public institution to deal with. That’s why a group of concerned west side residents and merchants joined together to create the nonprofit organization SF Sensible Transit…

Members of the organization tried for months to negotiate with representatives of the SFMTA, but to no avail. Finally, in desperation, they filed a lawsuit to stop implementation of “phase 2” of the Geary BRT…

Please join Sensible Transit or make a donation in care of: San Franciscans for Sensible Transit, P.O. Box 210119, SF, CA 94121. Or, go to the website at www.sfsensibletransit.org.

It’s for all the right reasons.

Thank you.

Paul Kozakiewicz is the publisher of the Richmond Review and Sunset Beacon

 

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