Supervisor Connie Chan has one question for San Francisco’s transit agency: What’s the plan?
“I am looking for a plan that addresses the need,” she said of her formal request for a hearing in front of city supervisors by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. “All I’m asking is for us to be innovative and committed to the shared goal that we all have to share our roads safely and get from Point A to Point B efficiently and in a timely fashion.”
At Wednesday’s meeting of the County Transportation Authority, Chan asked SFMTA to present a comprehensive strategy for how it plans to provide adequate mobility as The City slowly reopens from the COVID-19 pandemic, one that pieces together all modes of travel overseen by the agency.
“For so long we have talked about things one element at a time, but it’s time to look at things more comprehensively,” she said.
SFMTA launched its Transportation Recovery Plan last May, which the agency says guides its ability to resume operations and services based on evolving public health orders and severe budget constraints.
In short, more economic activity and more “opening” of The City means more transit service, bike lanes, transit-only lanes, curb management and parking enforcement and more paratransit.
The TRP also endeavors to follow data that demonstrates which communities have the greatest need for enhanced mobility access, and seeks to remedy enduring inequities exacerbated by the ongoing financial and health crisis.
But Chan says it’s time to put real commitments, strategies and timelines to these goals and demonstrate how they all work together.
Muni service is an essential part of this discussion, as routes need to be running frequently enough that people feel assured they won’t have to board a bus or train that’s overcrowded.
But it’s far from the only part, according to Chan, who hopes to see the SFMTA bring concrete frameworks for how to better connect residents through bike lanes, safe pedestrian networks, and other forms of micromobility as well as the use of private vehicles in a limited capacity, where needed.
“It’s time to think about that bigger context,” she said, noting the agency’s unique position to track and access all the available information about how people are traveling throughout San Francisco, daunting of a task as it might be. “Long ago, the intent for the SFMTA was for it to be the agency that knows all that is happening about mobility.”
Though Chan did express interest in seeing such a plan for all of San Francisco, she’s most acutely aware of the import this kind of strategy could have in the Richmond neighborhood she represents.
Buttressed by Ocean Beach, the Presidio and the Golden Gate Park, Chan’s district has easy access to open space, but those natural features have also long created mobility challenges for travel to destinations outside of downtown, which in normal times, is well served by Muni bus routes.
That pre-pandemic problem has been compounded by cuts to public transit, as well as changes in travel patterns that have more people in her district working from home and staying local for recreation and essential services.
Chan spoke of the need to create a suite of options that could better connect her constituents to other parts of The City historically considered less important than downtown. Doing so would keep people from defaulting to private vehicles except where absolutely necessary, she said.
“Let’s be innovative, and commit to the vision that we have as a city, but do that without pitting people against each other,” she said of her goals for the hearing.
SFMTA’s presentation to the County Transportation Authority will likely take place in March.