With the departure of Supervisor Scott Wiener to the state Senate, transportation experts in the Bay Area are seeing a vacuum in San Francisco.
During his time as supervisor, Wiener, a staunch transit advocate, formed a Late Night Transit Working Group aimed at low-wage workers, ushered in Proposition B in 2014 to tie local transportation funding to population growth, tried to get a vehicle license fee that Mayor Ed Lee opposed on the ballot, brought back the Castro shuttle, authored the Subway Master Plan urging San Francisco to continuously build subways and helped (along with other politicians) usher in the Gator Pass, a transit pass for San Francisco State University
Suffice to say, transportation makes Wiener’s wheels turn.
That leads to an important question: Who will be the next transportation-centric supervisor?
After four new supervisors were elected in November, the San Francisco Examiner asked each of them a host of controversial transportation issues to see if any would try their hand at filling Wiener’s shoes.
Sandra Fewer, District 1
Fewer’s district, which includes the Inner and Outer Richmond neighborhoods, is already seeing one of the largest transportation changes in recent history: the addition of the Geary Bus Rapid Transit project, which would see the 38-Geary pull up to boarding islands much like a surface train.
Fewer was concerned about the construction’s impact on businesses. She also was concerned about transit connections.
The Richmond District has fast connections to downtown, in the form of the 1-California, 5-Fulton and 38-Geary Muni lines, Fewer noted. But there are few quick ways to get north and south in her district, making it difficult for workers who have jobs that take them to different parts of The City.
“We’re in the far reaches,” Fewer said. “We need connections that are much more direct, not just to downtown.”
Jeff Sheehy, District 8
The Castro and other neighborhoods of District 8 rely heavily on Muni, according to Sheehy, making Muni consistency a key concern of his term. He also said bike safety needs to be improved.
“I haven’t had my [12-year-old] daughter get on a bike and ride around The City’s streets,” Sheehy said. “I think there’s another level of safety” needed.
He also believes more bikes should be available, via Bay Area Bikeshare, around BART stations and called it a “no-brainer.”
Hillary Ronen, District 9
Ronen sees congestion as the major transportation hurdle in the Mission and Bernal neighborhoods.
Traffic congestion makes it “hard for us to increase frequency on the most actively used bus lines, like the 8 and 9 in the Portola,” she said.
Transportation-wise, Ronen also hopes to center her term on redesigning the Alemany Maze to be safer for pedestrians and bicyclists. Right now it “literally divides my district in half,” she said, noting that she wants it to feel more like a bridge between neighborhoods.
“There’s flooding under the [Alemany Boulevard] bridge, there’s massive potholes,” Ronen said. “It’s as big of a mess as you can imagine. That’s a priority for me.”
Ahsha Safai, District 11
Safai, whose district includes the south side of The City, like the Outer Mission and Crocker Amazon, said the neighborhoods he represents have more families and, therefore, different needs than other parts of San Francisco.
“We have real issues with traffic calming and pedestrian safety and parking congestion,” he said.
Safai noted his neighborhood is divided on the need for parking permits.
“[Some] people say they don’t want to have permits,” he said. “It becomes a micro-battle in the neighborhood.”
Level of service, frequency of service and pedestrian safety are additional issues he’d like to address. “I heard over and over again as I campaigned door to door,” Safai said. “I talked to thousands of households.”
On the potential $1 billion Central Subway extension from North Beach to Fisherman’s Wharf:
Safai, Ronen and Sheehy are in support.
“I can tell you right off the bat, a lot of the folks who live in my neighborhood work over there at the pier,” Safai said. “The idea of having a connector, that to me is a no-brainer to take people to a major tourist destination.”
On San Francisco’s mandate to “always” build subways:
Fewer, Safai, Ronen and Sheehy are in support.
“In general, I want subways to expand,” Sheehy said.
“It’s time San Francisco had a subway system out to the rest of S.F.,” Fewer said.
On a second BART Transbay Tube:
Ronen and Sheehy are in support.
“I believe we should prioritize another Transbay Tube for BART,” Ronen said. “Especially low wage workers who get off super early or super late have a hard time getting home.”
Fewer said she needed to see more concrete numbers before she’d be in support.
On San Francisco’s parking needs:
Fewer was the only supervisor to mention building more parking facilities.
“I know this is unpopular,” Fewer said, “but a parking lot is needed in my district.”
She said she’s looking at a few “soft sites” for a potential lot, which could benefit small businesses.
Ronen said parking needs are “different in each neighborhood.” In the Mission, for instance, BART and Muni is so robust there is less urgency for new parking.
“For Bernal we have all the hills, which are so intense,” Ronen said, and parking may be more of an issue for people with mobility issues.
On controversial red ‘bus-only’ lanes:
Safai is supportive, generally, but perhaps not in his district.
“I told [the] SFMTA with bringing them to our neighborhood, which is decimated with empty storefronts, we’d need to talk about balancing the needs of small businesses first,” he said.
Sheehy is in support. Ronen is also in support, but with caveats.
“I’ve ridden for the 15 years I’ve been here, the 14 and 49,” she said. “It’s a nightmare line, and the red lanes have made it better.”
Fewer is somewhat supportive of the lanes, noting that she’d like the SFMTA to study their impact and only use them during rush hour.
On the Geary Bus Rapid Transit project:
The controversial project, which would require much construction in the Richmond District to create boarding islands, Fewer said, “I do want to push back a little. My neighborhood feels like its not being served [by Geary BRT],” she said.
As well as being a city supervisor, Fewer sits on the San Francisco County Transportation Authority. Both title provide her some authority over the Geary BRT project.
Fewer’s predecessor, Supervisor Eric Mar, was in support of the project.
On the proposal to create a subway for the M-Oceanview at West Portal Station to Parkmerced:
Safai is lukewarm on the proposal.
“We have a problem with that,” he said. “If it connects to Parkmerced and doesn’t connect to Oceanview, it isolates that neighborhood. We’re going to push hard to make sure they continue that connection and it doesn’t terminate in Parkmerced.”