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

 

Geary BRT is an expensive pledge to the past

By David Hirtz : sfexaminer – excerpt

Transit planners have been at work for many years to come up with a plan to improve bus service for all of Geary Boulevard, but let’s just talk about the 2.2-mile western portion from Masonic Avenue to 27th Avenue. Planners envision the median there with more than 100 trees replaced by two, red-painted central bus-only lanes for 24 hours a day. Riders would board from narrow platforms in the middle of the roadway, between the bus lanes and other traffic.

Riders are now are accustomed to two levels of service: the infrequently stopping Rapid, and the Local that makes stops every two blocks or so. With only one lane for buses, there will be just one quality of service: Local, as all buses will back up behind the slowest moving one. But Local service will have fewer stops, as statistically that will reduce rider times — even if you have to walk farther to find one.

That certainly won’t save you any rider time if you like the Rapid…

A public-spirited citizens group offered comment to Muni and officials with the San Francisco County Transportation Authority on this project and were summarily dismissed. They then founded San Franciscans for Sensible Transit to advocate for transit issues all over San Francisco. After much study, they support a number of improvements — more buses, better schedules, holding green lights for buses, street paving and others — at a cost of $50 million as a more sensible idea. See what you can get for these proven steps, they say. Their cost-benefit comparisons are on the website of both the Muni-favored version, called the Hybrid, and the Sensible Transit concept…

Our Transit First Policy first requires that all transportation projects ensure the quality of life and economic health of the community. No studies of economic health were done for the planners, who dismiss concerns about quality of life as well. The potential loss of many small businesses and their jobs is also ignored.
A representative of Mayor Ed Lee told Sensible Transit that we already have too much retail at street level…

The SFCTA meets to vote on the project on Jan. 5 at 2 p.m. at room 250 at City Hall. This is the time to find your feet and your voice or prepare to live with a very unfortunate outcome.

David Hirtz is president of San Franciscans for Sensible Transit and a resident of the Richmond neighborhood for 35 years… (more)

Do read the entire article and comment if you can. Letters and your presence at the SFCTA Meeting are appreciated. Sample letter is here: sfsensibletransit.org

Ask the supervisors what they would prefer to spend the $300 million dollars on. Each of them probably has better ideas than destroying more trees and businesses on Geary. Only the SFMTA and their contractors stand to benefit from this nightmare, that already has the makings of a number of lawsuits, starting with the insistence on fast-tricking it, ignoring the 30 days minimum for public review and response to the EIR. Sample letter here:  https://discoveryink.wordpress.com/letters-and-comments/geary-brt/

 

Report dings SFMTA over chronic absenteeism

By Jerold Chinn : sfbay – excerpt

Persistent problems with employees not showing up for work at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is laid out in a report by the City Controller’s Office that the transit agency requested the office to conduct.

According to the report, the SFMTA had the second highest employee absenteeism rate out of the 10 departments in The City with the largest budgets and spent approximately $42 million in leave pay during the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

Tonia Lediju, director of city audits, wrote in a letter to the SFMTA’s Board of Directors and Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin, on what the transit agency’s management was lacking in curbing chronic employee absenteeism:…

The report states that absence management program is key to minimize the negative effects of absences such as an increased in costs of unscheduled absences, increased pressure of other employees covering for absent employees and services not being delivered.

In this case, un-delivered services means canceled Muni runs, which cause longer wait times for passengers, the report said…

The public can read the full report on the controller’s office website(more)

Will the SFMTA follow the City’s Controller’s suggestions and deal  with the personnel problems that are at the root of the slow and missing service riders have been complaining about for years before sinking  more taxpayers dollars into more expensive, disruptive street projects  like the $350 million Geary BRT plan? Will the Supervisors consider delaying the decision to approve the most expensive solution until trying the cheaper sensible one first? Details on the citizens cheaper approach:
http://www.sfsensibletransit.org/

Solving personnel problems should be the first step they take.  Can they follow the Controller’s advice and do the right thing for once? Can the SFMTA serve the needs of the public and save the city from
further debt and traffic disruptions? Stay tuned…