Transit gets a boost from election results

Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner File Photo

The way some transit advocates see it, transportation was a big winner in last week's election, with two successful propositions that promise to put more money toward improving San Francisco's woefully underfunded Muni system and ailing infrastructure.

Requiring a two-thirds vote on Tuesday, Proposition A, allowing The City to borrow up to $500 million by issuing general-obligation bonds for improving its transit infrastructure and aging roads, passed with 71.3 percent of the vote.

The other transit-funding measure, Proposition B, amending the City Charter to allocate a greater amount of the general fund toward The City's transit agency each year based on population growth, needed a majority vote to pass and garnered 61.2 percent.

Both propositions' solid victories signal a real desire from the public for better transit.

Prop. A is an “enormous first step” to help the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency tackle

$10 billion in transit improvement needs over the next 15 years as identified by Mayor Ed Lee's 2030 Transportation Task Force, agency spokesman Paul Rose said.

The SFMTA staff created an expenditure plan to comply with the task force's recommendations, dividing the $500 million bond into $358 million for transit investments and $142 million for safety investments.

Transit investments include $154 million toward bus rapid transit network improvements, $30 million to upgrade escalators and elevators, $37 million for Muni infrastructure upgrades, $70 million for Muni facility upgrades, $39 million for Caltrain upgrades and $28 million for a corridor improvement program. Safety investments involve $68 million to address high-injury corridors, $22 million for traffic-signal improvements, $12 million for complete streets projects and $40 million for bicycle network projects.

“We're going to start right away to begin implementing these projects across The City,” Rose said. The bond encumbrance schedule runs through fiscal year 2021.

The mayor, the entire Board of Supervisors and various political groups heavily backed Prop. A, while Prop. B, which Supervisor Scott Wiener pushed because the vehicle license fee failed to make it on the ballot, involved no fundraising.

Wiener, a task force member who helped craft Prop. A, said he didn't want Prop. B to compete against the bond, which needed more votes to pass. The premise of Prop. B — tying more investment in transit to population growth — seemed a logical choice to voters, he added. Everywhere Prop. B proponents campaigned, they included a plug for Prop. A.

“Some people tried to cast them as competing measures, but they are two sides of the same coin,” Wiener said. “We're going to see tangible results. These are not Band-Aid solutions. These are structural fixes to improve transportation performance in The City.”

Prop. B, which requires the SFMTA to use 75 percent of population-based increases to improve Muni's reliability, “will help make a larger impact” in that area, specifically thorough adding more buses and trains to the system, Rose said. The remaining 25 percent of funds will be directed toward improving street safety.

Money from both propositions will allow the San Francisco County Transportation Authority to “leverage and extend the impact” of matching funds from propositions K and AA (a vehicle registration fee passed in 2010), said Tilly Chang, executive director for the authority.

While Prop. A and B advocates see the funds as advancing The City's transit-first policy, David Looman, treasurer of the campaign for failed Proposition L, which sought to limit parking meters and build more parking garages, said he was “certainly not surprised” that Prop. L failed.

“We've got this mantra of 'transit-first,' and nobody knows what that means and nobody knows whether it's being done,” Looman said. “We've got immediate plans to go out and talk to a lot of people and see what kind of measure, if any, comes out of that.”

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