As we approach the one-year anniversary of The City’s current Commuter Shuttle Program, we need look no further than the program’s own data to determine its success. Launched in April 2016 in response to community concerns around the impact shuttles were having on The City’s neighborhoods and transportation infrastructure, the program designated a network of shuttle stops throughout San Francisco and only allowed permitted shuttle operators to use these stops. The ultimate goal was to limit shuttle routes to existing transportation corridors and reduce interference with Muni buses and other vehicles, all while reducing congestion, cutting emissions and making our streets safer.
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has found there was a 91 percent decrease in the total number of shuttles operating on small, residential streets each month. An additional $2.1 million in city revenue was collected, thanks to permit fees administered during the first six months of the program alone. Furthermore, these shuttles carry, on average, 9,800 daily passengers who would otherwise be driving their own cars or packing into already overcrowded public transit options.
The proof is in the pudding — this program works. Yet some opponents continue to push for misguided alternatives that in reality would make our city’s streets more crowded and dangerous.
The SFMTA studied the recently proposed “hub” approach under a variety of scenarios, each would dramatically reduce the number of pick-up and drop-off locations by centralizing shuttle stops into hubs. It found that, in one scenario, decreasing the number of shuttle stops would shrink ridership by nearly half, forcing a majority of these individuals to switch to driving. That would mean up to an additional 3,300 cars on our roads every day. Our city’s air quality would undoubtedly suffer thanks to the 65 million additional vehicle miles traveled annually and resulting 23,000 tons of carbon pollution.
Beyond the congestion and environmental impact, this is also a matter of safety. San Francisco was recently named California’s most dangerous city for drivers in a new report, and every additional car on the road increases the likelihood of collisions. City leaders have launched the Vision Zero program, with the goal of eliminating traffic deaths by 2024, and the best way to do that is to implement smart solutions, like the Commuter Shuttle Program, that minimize the number of individual drivers on our city streets.
Critics often cite concerns related to housing prices or the growing tech sector in their opposition to the shuttle program. These are red herrings in the debate around commuter shuttles. We should all be able to get behind a smart program that is proven to make San Francisco safer, cleaner and less congested, while also working to address the other issues of affordability in our evolving city.
That’s why I’ve joined with other transit advocates, as well as housing advocates, labor leaders and community activists to form a new coalition called Rise SF to support practical solutions like the commuter shuttle program.
We urge the SFMTA Board of Directors to continue the program, and ask that you join me in calling for their support of a commonsense, data-driven approach to transportation.
The SFMTA Board will discuss and consider extending the Commuter Shuttle Program at 1 p.m. on Feb. 21 in City Hall, Room 400. Members of the public are invited to attend in-person or submit official comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bruce Agid is a transportation advocate, community leader and member of Rise SF.