San Francisco is one of the most transportation diverse cities in the United States. From cable cars to ferries to one-wheel electric scooters, we serve up many options to get around. While many still wait for the permits of five scooter companies to begin operating, a lingering question remains: how will current and future alternative transportation become available to everyone?
To prepare for the already abundance of methods to move around The City, Mayor London Breed should create an advisory committee examining alternative transportation. The committee, reporting to her, should be composed of citizens, Municipal Transportation Agency representatives, industry experts, and private sector leaders to create and recommend the best policies so everyone can benefit, and not just some people.
As the birthplace of peer-to-peer ridesharing, San Francisco is in the unique position to really get this right: equal opportunity to move about The City. Similar to food deserts in major metropolitan areas, not everyone has equal access to transportation. Lacking access to travel means limited job and educational opportunities, along with health care implications. Simply put, it can be a key obstacle for escaping poverty.
Alternative transportation, such as Uber, Lyft, scooters, Ford Go Bikes, Jump or Scoot bikes, Chariot rideshare vans, and others can serve as valuable mechanisms for job placement and mobility. Using a scooter or car share can make it easier to report to a job when Muni is not running or quickly get to a doctor’s appointment or daycare center. To create these inclusive policies, it will require input from users across The City and the producers. Lyft recently announced it would give free and reduced rides to people voting this November. Lime and Bird, two scooter companies, are working to eliminate the base fee per rider and work with those who may not have bank accounts or smartphones to still ride. The community should work alongside these companies to continue momentum.
In my neighborhood of the Lower Polk, we are resource rich with the ability to pick many different kinds of alternative transportation. Yet when I talk to my colleagues, a different menu of options exists, one usually not as plentiful. Feedback from different neighborhoods across the City includes prolonged periods waiting for a car share and difficulty finding a station to park a Ford Bike. With incentives from The City, providing advice to transportation companies, and formulating inclusive policy, the advisory board could make a monumental impact in the future growth of San Francisco.
Building equity in transportation must engage all stakeholders. Mayor Breed can lead San Francisco to meet the challenges of ensuring alternative transportation methods are for everyone. We can build a safe and equitable transportation system — together.
Christian Martin is the Executive Director of the Lower Polk Community Benefit District and President of Bonayo, software for making cities smarter. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.