Public Affairs

Muni Citizens’ Advisory Council: Vision Zero Must Show Progress Reducing Traffic Fatalities, Injuries

Muni’s Jason Lee giving a presentation about fare collection boxes.

WILL CARRUTHERS/INGLESIDE-EXCELSIOR LIGHT

During a quarterly update on Vision Zero, a program to end traffic fatalities in San Francisco by 2024, members of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s Citizens’ Advisory Council pushed for definitive signs of progress while Muni staff members called for patience.

Tom Maguire, director of Sustainable Streets, highlighted the lessons that the Vision Zero team learned in the first two years of the program.

“We know more now than we did two years ago. Our focus on reducing car speeds in 2016-7 is the result of what we learned over the last few years,” Maguire said. “Two years ago we just generally talked about aggressive driving and bad driving behavior. Now we know what it looks like and how we can target our efforts to get drivers to slow down.”

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Maguire’s presentation came the same day as the release of the latest Vision Zero annual progress report. Since the program launched in 2014, traffic fatalities have stayed at 31 while serious injuries remain around 200, causing some council members to question the methods of the staff and the cost of the program.

“What happens at the end of this year if it continues the way it has started in the first quarter and [the numbers] stay the same or worse even?” council member Stephen Cornell said. “At what point do you look at it and say ‘Maybe we have to look at it and recalculate a few things?’”

Maguire replied that the number is “not going to be zero this year or next year. We’re going to have a big challenge ahead of us no matter what the rest of the year looks like. Shame on us if we’re not learning.”

Maguire’s presentation highlighted the human cost of inaction with testimonials from people affected by traffic accidents and an estimated financial cost to the City of $564 million.

The council did not attempt to pass a resolution on Vision Zero. At the last quarterly update meeting in February the council failed to pass a resolution supporting the program.

New Fare Boxes

The second presentation of the night featured an exciting prop—a prototype fare box.

Jason Lee, the project manager for farebox procurement, wheeled a new fare box to the front of the room, plugged it into the wall and printed sample tickets for the council members.

The new box is a prospective replacement for the tills found at the front of all Muni buses, historic streetcars and trains. The current fare boxes have been in service since 1991 and there will not be enough of the old boxes to serve the expanded fleet.

The selling points of the new boxes include increased fare collection data capabilities, improved dependability, and real-time ticket printing, as opposed to the pre-printed that the current boxes use.

The new farebox system will cost $22.1 million upfront, with an additional $600,000 annual preventative maintenance fee.

The council did not pass a motion about the fareboxes. The fareboxes will be considered by the Civil Service Commission on June 6 and the SFMTA Board on June 21.

Van Ness Improvement Project

Peter Gabancho presented an update to the Van Ness Improvement Project, an extensive undertaking involving restoration, improvements and the addition of San Francisco’s first Bus Rapid Transit system.

“At its core [this project] is San Francisco’s first bus rapid transit system, but, wrapped around it, are major utility upgrades: water, sewer lines, emergency fire fighting systems, street lights, traffic signals, new landscaping and rain gardens,” Gabancho said.

On Saturday, June 4, the bus stops along Van Ness Avenue were consolidated to eliminate nine stops in an attempt to simplify and speed up the buses for the 16,000 daily riders on the corridor.

Van Ness Avenue also has been identified to be part of the “high-injury network,” the 12 percent of San Francisco streets that account for 70 percent of traffic fatalities and injuries.

After tangling with the Arts Commission over the design of the bus shelter, the City Attorney sent a letter explaining that “the shelters had been previously approved and that [the Arts Commission’s] inability to come to an agreement was putting federal funding in jeopardy,” according to Gabancho.

In the end, the Arts Commission will have jurisdiction on the design of everything except the bus shelters.

The project will use the standard bus shelter design at all stops except for one next to City Hall, which will feature a special design intended to blend in with the surrounding historic buildings.

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Meeting Recap

  • SFMTA staff presented a quarterly summary of their progress on the traffic fatality reduction program Vision Zero and urged for patience from people waiting for fatality rates to drop.
  • The council viewed a demonstration of a prototype fare box and an explanation of how the new fare collection system would work.
  • Peter Gabancho, manager for the Van Ness Improvement Project, discussed the planning and outreach process leading up to the transit and infrastructure upgrades.
  • Roland Wong, the council’s District 2 representative, stepped down from the council.
  • Council member Susan Vaughn announced that she and Edward Mason, a consistent council attendee, had been proclaimed unsung heroes for their work as “Google Bus Warriors” by SF Tomorrow.

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