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Year-End Transit Agency Report, Vision Zero Update At Muni Citizens’ Advisory Council January Meeting

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s 2016 review, a quarterly report on the city’s commitment to eliminate pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities by 2024 and a proposed Dolores Street Median Parking Program were all on the table at the January meeting of the agency’s Citizens’ Advisory Council.

Yearly Report by Ed Reiskin

Ed Reiskin, the SFMTA’s director of transportation, gave his annual speech summarizing the agency’s progress throughout the past year, highlighting a reduction in the agency’s environmental impact and improvements in on-time performance.

The biggest change over the past year was “a quantum drop” in the agency’s carbon output since phasing out its older diesel vehicles and switching to a renewable diesel fuel, “which has a much lower emissions profile,” according to Reiskin.

“We probably won’t be able to bring it much further down until we move to an all-electric fleet,” Reiskin said.

Reiskin was also quick to qualify the agency’s success, noting that the Muni fleet makes up only about 1 percent of the city’s total carbon emissions. Buildings make up about 60 percent of the total emissions while other vehicles make up the remaining 39 percent.

Muni’s on-time performance increased to 59.8 percent in 2016, up by three percent from 2015. Meanwhile, private automobile trips decreased from 48 percent to 46 percent of total trips within the city.

On-time performance is but still far below the agency’s goal of 85 percent, Reiskin said, and that, because the number of total trips in the city are still increasing, the 2 percent drop in private automobile trips may not be significant in absolute terms.

Vision Zero Quarterly Update

Mari Hunter, a senior transportation planner and a member of the Pedestrian Safety Task Force, gave the quarterly presentation about San Francisco’s progress reaching zero traffic fatalities by the year 2024.

In the last three months of 2016, an executive directive from Mayor Ed Lee and a letter from Supervisor Aaron Peskin guided the Vision Zero program.

Peskin requested the city to write an open letter calling on private transit companies — including commuter shuttle operators and ride sharing companies — to support and assist San Francisco’s goal of achieving zero traffic fatalities.

Drafting the letter to the private transit companies has required Vision Zero staff to identify what the city should require for driver training and accountability of public transit operators, before suggesting that private companies use the same techniques.

“[Over the next few months] we’ll be putting together suggestions that we can request formally from [the ride sharing companies and commuter shuttles],” Hunter said.

In August, Lee released an executive directive ordering that Vision Zero focus on the approaches proven to be effective in response to the death of  two cyclists in separate hit-and-run incidents on June 22.

In response, the Vision Zero team ran an educational advertisement campaign, began traffic calming projects in Golden Gate Park, and achieved its Focus On The Five enforcement goal.

Among the signs of progress for Vision Zero that Hunter noted were that more than 50 percent of traffic citations over the past four months have been Focus On The Five traffic violations, violations that put pedestrians in the most danger.

Median Parking on Dolores Street

The council passed a strongly-worded motion condemning the agency’s Dolores Street Median Parking Pilot, which will begin as a 16-month trial in February or March if approved by the SFMTA Board of Directors later in the month.

The council’s motion, proposed by member Mark Ballew, invokes the role of cars the city’s Transit First policy as a reminder of the agency’s obligation to fight sea level rise, carbon emissions and congestion by reducing car usage.

The issue is so divisive that a community committee disbanded after failing to create a plan, leaving SFMTA staff to draft a pilot program which was approved by the agency’s Board of Directors in August.

In a presentation about the pilot, Juliet Wilson, a transportation planner, outlined the agency’s plan to legalize median parking on Dolores Street between 14th and 18th Streets during the weekends.

Each weekend, cars park along the raised median along the center of the street. Although median parking is technically illegal, “the SFMTA currently deprioritizes enforcement within the area,” according to Wilson.

The agency hopes to use the pilot to “formalize and regulate” parking along Dolores Street, by legalizing parking in about 50 percent of the spaces where illegal median parking now occurs.

“Essentially the pilot is an opportunity for us to experiment with (median parking) and to see what works and what doesn’t,” Wilson said. “We absolutely intend to tweak things if unintended problems arise.”

In response to concerns that the program will lead to similar legalizations around the city, Wilson said that other cases of double-parking around the city are not similar enough to be considered under a citywide policy.

Wilson said that, while members of a nearby synagogue and other churches may have been responsible for beginning the use of the informal parking, park-goers and visitors are equally likely culprits.

As part of the pilot, the agency will post new signs defining the newly-formalized parking spaces and then tow every car parked in violation of the new policy during a two-month period of aggressive enforcement.

Council member Daniel Murphy questioned the idea that a two-month blitz enforcement strategy would sufficiently train drivers to obey the new rules.

“[After the two-month enforcement period] we’re back to enforcement by complaint, which is pretty close to no enforcement,” Murphy said. “I’m a little puzzled why you think such a short period of enforcement would work.”

“We’ve consulted with our enforcement team, and they decided a two month enforcement period was sufficient,” Wilson responded.

The motion’s strong wording put off some of the members and the council passed the motion 8-to-3.

It remains unclear what would happen if the Board of Directors concurred with the advisory council and voted to end the pilot program that it initiated, according to Wilson.

The SFMTA Board of Directors will vote on the pilot on Jan. 17.

Meeting Recap

  • SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin presented his annual report on the agency’s progress toward its goals.
  • Mari Hunter, a transportation planner on the city’ Pedestrian Safety Task Force, updated the council on the agency’s progress on pedestrian safety projects during the last quarter of 2016.
  • The council passed a motion opposing the agency’s Dolores Street Parking pilot program.
  • The council passed an updated version of its operating rules.

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