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

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

It’s for all the right reasons.

Thank you.

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


Change priorities SFMTA

May 2 Public Hearing on Parking – on-line Recording (click on the 130155 bullet point)

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Re: Policy for On-Street Parking Management Plan

September 17, 2012
Open Letter to the SFMTA Board of Directors

Re:  Policy for On-Street Parking Management Plan

Dear SFMTA Board:

In regards to the upcoming vote on the Parking Management Plan, I am dismayed that the plan has been constructed without input from neighborhood groups or residents. This plan basically lays out parking meters as the agency’s prime parking management tool, a step that I believe to be dangerous to the cultural and economic vibrancy of San Francisco, and one that is far from guaranteed to achieve its purported goal of improving traffic and parking availability.

Many San Franciscans have stated they are willing to pay more for the privilege of parking—but the fees must be rational, fair and not punitive. Our parking fines are the highest in the nation and have more than doubled in the last 15 years. Yet if there have been improvements in MUNI, hardly anyone has noticed!

Below are some of the concerns I have with the proposed Parking Management Plan.

  • The plan asserts that meters will generate parking availability whereas time limits or other restrictions will not. But where is the proof? I have seen no evidence—neither scientific nor empirical—that this is the case. Any evidence that may exist is certainly not strong enough to base an entire city’s parking policy on.
  • The Plan excludes almost all neighborhoods as being appropriate for RPP except for “low-density residential areas.” There are few neighborhoods in San Francisco that can be described as such except for the mansion district of Pacific Heights.
  • The plan states that parking needs for commerce “are a high priority” yet ignores the economic needs of residents. I believe this is typical of SFMTA’s tunnel vision: there will be no commerce in this city if the economic wellbeing of its residents is ignored.
  • Regarding Live/Work zones, from the Mission Area Plan, Page 43:   OBJECTIVE 4.3 states that “… curbside parking should be managed to favor residents, while allocating any additional spaces for short-term visitors to the area.”  In the Mission Area, there are pockets of newer Live/Work buildings built by developers backed by City Plans, and long-time standing Live/Work buildings with residents.  These residents have parking needs, alongside other residents in the City.
  • By making it increasingly difficult for residents to park their cars during the day, the proposed plan will have the unintended consequence of incentivizing residents to drive rather than take transit. Please provide solutions, not more barriers to transit!
  • The plan states that SFMTA does not like to use time limits or RPP because they are “labor intensive to enforce.” Seriously?!! Profit margin should not be a criterion when deciding parking policies!

When the outcry from so many San Franciscans is so overwhelming—complaints that SFMTA is nickel-and-diming residents to death, that it is balancing its budget on the backs of the lower- and middle-classes, that it is ruining the quality of life in San Francisco—I don’t believe you can afford to ignore these voices.

I urge you to send this plan back for further study and input from a diverse and representative body of stakeholders.

A public comment by Attorney Mary Miles brings some disturbing issues to light.

Concerned San Francisco citizens

SFMTA Recipients:,,,

District Supervisors:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,