San Francisco’s voters are being asked to approval two transportation ballot measures in 2022, one on November 8th and the other…..fast-upcoming…. on June 7th.
The November 8th Measure, sponsored by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (CTA), would extend the existing ½ cent Prop K transportation sales tax for another 30 years and during that time raise a projected $2.6 billion. Pursuant to an extensive outreach program and much hard work on the part of the CTA’s Community Advisory Committee, the measure was thoroughly vetted and appears to be well thought out. It’s Expenditure Plan https://www.sfcta.org/ExpenditurePlan addresses SF’s outstanding transportation problems and furthers its transit-first policy in a well-balanced manner.
The June 7th measure (Measure A), sponsored by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA), would reportedly raise an additional $400 million by selling General Obligation Bonds. Measure A, developed by the MTA staff, has received relatively little public exposure but it too cites long standing transportation problems in need of attention.
In 2019 AC Transit operated 158 separate bus lines. Some run only during peak periods. Others run just at night. And that might be ok if most lines were running full. Some lines are… but many aren’t. Not even close.
If you find this hard to believe go out and observe the passing buses. As noted, some are carrying a respectable numbers of riders. But in almost every part of the East Bay you will see buses, including articulated buses with 60 seats, carrying anywhere from one to four persons including the bus driver. This dismal sight, which was evident even before COVID, can be seen at almost any hour of the day almost everywhere, from Fremont to Pinole and beyond.
Why is this?
When Bay Area transportation agencies don’t come clean, transit riders, tax payers and the region at large all get hurt. Government agencies have gotten into the bad habit of keeping everything secret that would in any way embarrass or otherwise reflect badly on them. As a result all we get these days in a timely manner are rosy projections and other good news. Here are seven flagrant Bay Area examples of what happens when secrets preempt forthrightness:
In addition to facing the severe ridership attrition created by COVID-19, the Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit District (SMART) also had to address replacement of their Chief Financial Officer in December 2020 and their long-time General Manager’s retirement in late 2021. With the help of seasoned transit industry executive search experts, two exceptionally well-qualified leaders are now in charge at SMART.
While each of these organizations has its own focus, all seem to agree that major changes in travel habits have occurred and also that how, or if, things will get back to “normal” is far from assured:
Changing Travel Patterns: On February 20, 2022 the San Jose Mercury reminded us of how the popularity of stay-at-home work was cutting into transit ridership. The article focused on COVID’s effects on transit travel which were, and continue to be, devastating. However, something else is going on. It’s more than just changes in commuting. Many types of trips, including auto trips, have been affected by factors other than the pandemic. Zoom meetings are easier and less time-consuming than traveling to public hearings, club get-togethers, advocacy group meetings, business meetings, seminars, workshops and adult education classes. Watching one’s favorite movie at home often beats going to the cinema. And there’s a growing tendency to acquire desired products including well-prepared meals on line rather than driving miles in search of the right retailer. It appears that technology and changes in lifestyle are affecting travel, even as the effects of COVID wane.