Putting transit first

We are finally facing up to the reality that our declining transportation system hurts us all


By Stuart Cohen, Leah Shahum, Rob Boden, and Elizabeth Stampe

OPINION Every day, San Franciscans pay the price of an underfunded transportation system. We have all experienced painfully overcrowded bus rides ... or, worse yet, the bus that never shows up. Now, Muni is reducing service during Christmas week, as it is faced with a $7 million deficit this fiscal year.

Today, we are finally facing up to the reality that our declining transportation system hurts us all. It hurts our economy and it hurts people all along the economic spectrum. San Francisco is a world-class city in many ways, but we have a long way to go to have a world-class transportation system.

San Franciscans want better transit options: reliable, fast, comfortable buses, and safe and pleasant streets for walking and biking. San Franciscans support the city's official transit-first policy, but lacking political will, the city hasn't delivered on it.

By failing to make the tough decisions to fund our transit system, our leaders have put the burden on those who depend on affordable transportation options most. Transportation is one of the top expenses for people living in the Bay Area, after housing, and an exponentially greater burden for those with lower incomes.

Who will be hurt most by Muni's skeletal service this holiday week? Working families.

That is why our organizations are proud to have joined together recently to support a proposal to update the Transit-Impact Development Fee (TIDF), which would have ensured that major developments pay their fair share into the city's transit system. This would have included large nonprofits like Kaiser and the Exploratorium, when they build major new developments that generate thousands of new trips. The fee, probably about 1 percent of costs, would have paralleled the existing development fees for water, sewer, parks, and even art, that nonprofits already pay. It would not have included small nonprofits, and of course most nonprofits never build developments at all.

It would have helped visitors to large institutions have more dependable transit to get there, and helped the whole transportation system work better for everyone.

But it didn't pass, and last week's opinion piece ("The Muni vs. housing clash," 12/18/12) mischaracterized the issue, suggesting a trade-off between basic services and transportation. But good, reliable, safe transportation is a basic service. Just like housing and health care, it's something everyone should have access to, and something our city has declared a priority with its transit-first policy.

Unsafe streets are inequitable streets; low-income people and people of color are more likely to be hit by cars while walking. Underfunded transit is inequitable; low-income people have fewer options aside from walking or taking the bus, and the stakes are higher when the bus is late or doesn't arrive.

Funding transit is a core progressive value. Great public transit — and being able to get around the city under your own power, by walking and bicycling — are great equalizers in a city like ours.

We should be investing more and expecting more from our transit system. Our organizations are proud to be doing just that. It's time to help San Francisco finally live up to its transit-first policy — because that means putting people first.

Stuart Cohen works with TransForm, Leah Shahum with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, Rob Boden with the San Francisco Transit Riders Union, and Elizabeth Stampe with Walk San Francisco.


The Power of Ayn Rand compels them!

Posted by marcos on Dec. 27, 2012 @ 9:52 pm

the Sisyphus fan club?

Your continual facile commentary consisting largely of false catch phrases underscores my point about the effectiveness of the propaganda perpetuated by the mouthpieces of the ruling elites.

At least, others here see through the diet of bullshit fed to us by the media and others in their largely successful attempts at social control. Those free thinking people contribute positively to the debate and discussion on these pages.

Are "Guest," "anonymous," "Anonymous" three different commenters? Two? One? Please clear up my confusion if you can.

Posted by Eddie on Dec. 27, 2012 @ 2:08 pm

Honestly, what more could we ask for than a group of simple-minded "true believers" to offer up their idiotic right-wing pablum for us to shoot down in sequence like a series of clay targets?


Posted by lillipublicans on Dec. 28, 2012 @ 8:52 am

By definition, right?

And yet it was Lilli who admitted that he has been banned from a major SF website for trolling.

Posted by Anonymous on Dec. 28, 2012 @ 9:22 am

Trolls are the ones who incessantly post on a website with which they disagree politically.

Notice that none of the SFBG progressive fellow travellers post on a San Francisco "moderate, job creating" website because you all don't have one, you don't advertise and promote your political agenda because people will not buy it if so informed.

So you bait and switch and goad and hide and lie instead of laying your agenda out there.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 28, 2012 @ 9:38 am

moderate population. And Lilli did troll there, until he was permanently banned from posting.

There are always two sides to any debate, and all you are doing is seeking to suppress diverse opinions by accusing anyone who doesn't buy what you're selling as a "troll".

If you can't out-debate me, then all you have left is labels and ad hominem.

Posted by guest on Dec. 28, 2012 @ 10:03 am

No, you are trolling in an advocacy website with which you hold no consensus, that is pathological and you need professional help.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 28, 2012 @ 10:19 am

SFGate is neither progressive, liberal, moderate, conservative or libertarian, it is objective [sic] journalism.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 28, 2012 @ 10:31 am

That may or may not be true but, either way, any journal or website that seeks to carry credible critical mass must be seen to listen to and embrace a variety of viewpoints.

If the so-called much-vaunted San Francisco values of tolerance and respect for diversity means anything at all, and isn't just a cliche, then differing views should be welcomed here, even if SFBG's lack of objectivity is an issue, as you suggest.

Posted by Anonymous on Dec. 28, 2012 @ 10:35 am

The SFGate purports to be objective while the SFBG makes so such claims.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 28, 2012 @ 10:42 am

with the moderate majority.

Whether that makes it "better" or "worse" probably depends on how skewed you like your news reporting to be.

Posted by guest on Dec. 28, 2012 @ 11:00 am

It is not the bottom 25% that "count," it is the frequently upper middle class white people who live in Oakland and work for SF nonprofits that count. Buying them off under the pretense of taking care of "the most vulnerable" is what gives the political machine cover.

As you say, the bottom 25% don't do well under any mayor, their circumstance grows increasingly precarious for all of the nonprofiteer advocates and public spending on services.

But corporate power has identified and is exploiting fissures in popular movements. The division between the poverty and enviro nonprofits is a biggie. Each side's sense of self righteousness and perfection of their agenda, with the commensurate demonization of anyone who doesn't agree, combined with the fact that they're easy lure for public contracts and the control is what gives corporate power over them is how residents are divided and conquered.

This rag, for its part, feels that politics is all about relationships and that policy is a distant second. Thus, it gives cover to the self promoters who frequently head these agencies because maintaining relationships trump accountability.

Meanwhile, the transit and economic justice agendas stuck in neutral but each nonprofit community gets to joust at the other in the competition for smug satisfaction. And it takes old school white people from North Beach to take the fight into the living rooms of developers while the Latino radicals cut crappy deals with capital and crow deceptively about their militancy.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 27, 2012 @ 9:46 am

It happened in communist Russia, it happens in Italy and France, and it happens in the handful of cities in the US where liberal policies have some critical mass. You can always rely on the left fragmenting - we're just quibbling about how exactly it happens in SF.

None of this has anything to do with what most SF'ers want, which is economic development and progress.

And of course more and better-paid jobs. Policy is for wonks, not real people with real lives.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 27, 2012 @ 9:57 am

Fuck the left, it has failed. What I'm talking about is what what San Franciscans want versus what corporations want to take from us.

San Franciscans most often vote to support the vague goals of each nonprofit tribe and the role of corporate purchased citywide elections is to ensure that the bait is switched, the appearance of supporting these agendas is all we get, and the extraction regime continues.

The provision of basic city services honestly in exchange for taxes as a fundamental desire of all residents is a no brainer. That you all would argue that San Franciscans support a corrupt city government that extracts public resources for private interests giving little if nothing back in exchange is what is authoritarian to the core: submit to the will of your economic overlords and shut the fuck up about it.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 27, 2012 @ 10:06 am

what most SF'ers really want because you haven't asked them.

The only indicator we have about what SF'ers want is the various Mayoral elections which consistently elect the Jordan/Brown/Newsom/Lee type of pro-growth, pro-development administration. The anti-growth candidiates (Ammiano/Avalos/Gonzales) always lose, either by a little or by a lot.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 27, 2012 @ 10:26 am

Did you find that lit piece?

Posted by marcos on Dec. 27, 2012 @ 10:37 am

since forever. Americans simply don't trust their government(s).

Posted by anonymous on Dec. 27, 2012 @ 10:34 am

This is simply not the case. When the government taxed, spent and invested, well distributed economic productivity rose. When government lowered taxes and investment spending, well distributed economic productivity dropped leaving islands of prosperity amongst a sea of poverty.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 27, 2012 @ 10:46 am

Prosperity and growth increases the tax base which enables more government spending and services.

But you kill the golden goose of development if you drive it out thru over-regulation or over-taxation.

Posted by anonymous on Dec. 27, 2012 @ 11:18 am

Residential development does not pay for itself, not in infrastructure up front and not on property taxes to cover its freight in city services either.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 27, 2012 @ 12:01 pm

benefits of having additional residents, which includes factors like their payroll taxes and sales taxes, and particularly when these are mid to high end homes with affluent owners. The spinoff benefits to the city can be immense, which is of course why cities like to promote such developments.

Even if they don't "pay their way" (I believe they do when fully costed out), we need more homes to house the people who will work in all the exciting new businesses here. If we can't house workers, we lose those jobs. That's why we should be happy to support and invest in new homes. The trickle-down effect alone is massive.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 27, 2012 @ 12:14 pm

Take it up with the planning department, the figures are theirs and they paid their selected consultant to do the math. Residential development does not pay for itself and the parties most interested in proving to the contrary stipulate to the evidence and fact.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 27, 2012 @ 12:50 pm

performing their computations, as do you, as do I. If we make different assumptions, we get different results. My assumptions probably inlcude a broader range of indirect benefits, which explains why my metrics support the notion of market-rate housing being self-financing.

It's BMR housing that has a net cost, and the key is to keep that manageable.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 27, 2012 @ 1:02 pm

developers, because Lee won 60-40 in the 2011 "runoff" against a candidiate who wanted less growth and development. Lee very clearly stood on that platform, and won handily.

The 8Wash vote, if it happens, won't tell you anything except how people feel about one particular building. We clearly cannot have a voter proposition on each individual building, and we'll only vote on that one because some of the 1% in Telegraph Hill funded signatrue-buying - hardly a populist mandate.

You are in denial, Marcos. We keep electing mayors like Jordan, Brown, Newsom and Lee precisely because we want the city to be pro-growth, pro-development, pro-business and pro-jobs. The fact that this creates extra tax revenues, impact fees, and affordable hosuing setasides are further bonuses.

You have no idea how small a minority view your NIMBY'ism really is.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 27, 2012 @ 9:01 am

We'll find out in November. Show me the campaign literature where Lee promised to blanket the east side with craptacular condos?

Posted by marcos on Dec. 27, 2012 @ 10:29 am

8Wash is irrelevant in the long run - the prop on that is a meaningless fop to the 1% on Telegraph Hill.

But yes, Lee stood on a platform of more development and most SF'ers want more housing at all economic levels. The eastside simply has the most space for highrise residential construction.

Posted by anonymous on Dec. 27, 2012 @ 10:39 am

Craptacular condos blanketing the Eastern Neighborhoods [sic] and Market Octavia plan areas.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 27, 2012 @ 10:52 am

Of course, you've already got yours, and so have a vested interest in no new hmes.

Posted by anonymous on Dec. 27, 2012 @ 11:17 am

Dude, San Francisco is about as fractured politically as the rest of the country, so forget about "who" represents SF, cause you do not.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 28, 2012 @ 1:45 am

centrist mayors like Jordan, Brown, Newsom and Lee over their more extremist competitiors.

Posted by anonymous on Dec. 28, 2012 @ 8:04 am

Nah, downtown outspends San Franciscans for control of government and has the progressives coopted on leashes to prevent them from appealing to a majority, whom they hate as being too rich.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 28, 2012 @ 9:34 am

And it's obvious that they don't want extreme left-wing leadership, and care about jobs and growth more than ideology and high taxes.

Posted by guest on Dec. 28, 2012 @ 10:00 am

Voters want an honest, good deal for their tax dollars before those tax dollars are shunted off to meet the craven political needs of elected officials that keep those interests in power.

"Moderates" put the progressives up as leftist pinatas, maintaining them and funding them, as a ruse to keep the game going via deflection.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 28, 2012 @ 10:39 am


1) Entitlement/welfare programs (three times the military budget, and growing out of control)

2) Military

3) Public-sector employee pensions and healthcare

4) Bond interest

Everything else is minor in comparison, including corporate bailouts etc. That's why DC is having such trouble fixing the deficit - because the four above are deemed to be sacred cows that cannot be touched.

Posted by guest on Dec. 28, 2012 @ 10:49 am

1) Social Security and Medicare are not entitlement programs.

2) A Republic has no need for an Imperial military

3) Public sector retirement and healthcare should set the standard for the private sector

4) A monetary sovereign need not issue debt to create currency.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 28, 2012 @ 10:59 am

describe Medicare, Medicaid, Social security and a host of other programs like Section 8, food stamps etc. You can use the word "welfare" if you prefer.

You're correct that SSI and Medicare are, in theory anyway, insurance programs - you pay premia and later make claims. But that connection has been continually eroded since the programs began, and they are nowhere close to being self-funding. The massive balance will have to be made up from the general fund, or else massively cut benefits or who qualifies.

You cannot fix the deficit without fixing the welfare programs.

Your 2, 3 and 4 points are so "out there", I won't even dignfiy them with a refutation, as easy as that would be.

Posted by guest on Dec. 28, 2012 @ 11:12 am

Since the Reagan Administration, the US government has been diverting surpluses in the Social Security fund to the "general fund." Any possible future shortfalls in SS can be easily funded by raising or eliminating the income cap on FICA contributions.

Marcos points are not out there. They are succinct and common sensical.

I don't know when it exactly happened, but Social Security and Medicare were not always labeled with the pejorative term "entitlement." As I wrote yesterday, the propaganda of the ruling elites is effective. You have certainly eaten it up.

Posted by Eddie on Dec. 28, 2012 @ 11:28 am


Now, if you want to limit benefits to the contributions collected, then I could support that.

Raising SSI contributions isn't feasible unless you want people to be paid with stock options instead of wages - there is no SSI on investment income.

Posted by Anonymous on Dec. 28, 2012 @ 1:57 pm

Social Security and Medicare are completely self funding and the US Government owes trillions in stolen premiums. This is a manufactured crisis.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 28, 2012 @ 2:14 pm

First you claim that SSI is self-funding and then you admit they will require trillions from the taxpayer.

When SSI started there were 20 workers for every retiree - now it's 2 to 1.


Ditto for MediCare and MediCaid. Underfunded by trillions.

Don't rely on the entitlement programs.

Posted by Anonymous on Dec. 28, 2012 @ 3:22 pm

Obviously private and powerful interests that wanted their share of our social insurance premiums would recast them as entitlements to drive down support for them and increase the changes of a vast resource grab.

That project has failed in that Americans want back what we've paid in, but that will not stop the neoliberals. They failed to grab the programs with Bush II, but with Obama in the drivers seat, they're salivating at a potential win.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 28, 2012 @ 11:39 am

It's a ponzi scheme that was doomed. It should have been fully-funded from the outset.

Don't rely on it if you're under age 50. It probably won't be there in any useful form.

Posted by Anonymous on Dec. 28, 2012 @ 1:58 pm

about Social Security and Medicare. In fact, SS has currently has a $2.7 trillion dollar surplus: http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/12/28/manufacturing-poverty/

Extend Medicare to everybody, eliminate the private insurance parasites, reduce or eliminate the deadweight loss, negotiate fair prices for drugs, increase the number of doctors...; problem solved. It works in every other "wealthy" industrialized country.

Finance capitalism is a ponzi scheme. The value of its biggest scam--gambling bets called derivatives-- is over $200 trillion, far larger than the world's GDP. It's all being papered over with cheap money provided by public treasuries in the US and EU.

Posted by Eddie on Dec. 29, 2012 @ 7:34 am

your SSI contributions get spent and the future benefits to be paid are unfunded. All there is is a promise to pay you when you're old or sick, and the hope that the taxpayers will continue to be happy to underwrite the obligation.

The Democrats in Congress rejected the "public option" and anyone with a clue knows that we cannot afford it. We cannot even afford what we currently promise. That's what all the "fiscal cliff" debate is about.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 29, 2012 @ 8:05 am

aimed at turning what's left of the safety net into profit centers for the looters who own our country and its government. Keep drinking the kool-aid.

Posted by Eddie on Dec. 29, 2012 @ 8:22 am

payroll tax goes up by 2% next week.

Nor when you are laid off because of the mandatory spending cuts.

Posted by Anonymous on Dec. 29, 2012 @ 8:35 am

Big fucking deal, raise my payroll taxes back up 2% where they used to be.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 29, 2012 @ 8:46 am

that the fiscal cliff is very real, and not mythical at all.

And those spending cuts will hit state and local services badly.

Posted by Anonymous on Dec. 29, 2012 @ 9:06 am

I have no problem paying a few thousand more per year in tax so long as the Pentagon budget gets cut by $50,000,000,000. It is a good first start.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 29, 2012 @ 9:08 am

I repeat--it is entirely a manufacured crisis. The biggest round of layoffs came when the plutocrats tanked the world economy for their private benefit while their losses were socialized and their sociopathic behavior rewarded.

Their mantra is "shared sacrifice." What a crock.

Posted by Eddie on Dec. 29, 2012 @ 9:09 am

Also from this author

  • City College will appeal

    "City College neither ignored nor fought ACCJC's recommendations, as many people wish we had."

  • Transforming Pride in our schools

    It takes more than a one-time discussion or film screening to support queer youth

  • Developers should pay -- on time

    It's boom time -- a good moment to end bust-time business breaks