Comparing Cities

On June 24, 2018, the SF Chronicle published San Francisco-based journalist Steven Hill’s thoughtful comparison of certain European cities with San Francisco. 

Transportation: Here’s what Mr. Hill had to say about transportation:

“Public transportation in Berlin: It was such a relief to get away from the crowded Uber congestion of San Francisco streets. Berlin’s public transportation system works so well that I never needed a car. A transit stop is a short walk away, and I could get most places within 30 minutes (often far less). A $70 monthly pass (less than SF’s Clipper card) gave me unlimited use of a combination of underground subways, above ground trains, buses and trams. Decent taxi service and car-sharing services like Car2Go are available for those rare times when you need a car. Consequently, congestion and gridlock are far less of a problem.”

Cities.png“Unfortunately San Francisco’s public transportation is underfunded, inefficient and unpopular, but it doesn’t have to be that way. By letting Uber ridesharing flood the streets instead of investing heavily in public transportation, San Francisco is failing environmentally and reducing overall living standards.”

As Mr. Hill indicates, transportation in San Francisco and the rest of the Bay Area is indeed in disarray but a lack of funding is only part of the problem. One must also ask: how are transportation funds used once obtained? With rare exceptions, the squandering of Bay Area transportation resources is unfortunately the norm.

  • Instead of seismically upgrading the existing Doyle Drive roadway through the Presidio to the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco elected to build a brand new, much larger and more intrusive freeway, at five times the cost.
  • Instead of seismically-upgrading the existing East Span of the Bay Bridge the Region decided to tear it down and replace it with an “iconic” new bridge, at six times the cost.
  • Instead of extending the increasingly popular 78 mile Caltrain line the last 1.3 miles into downtown San Francisco, SF City Hall continues to throw up roadblocks while focusing on lesser projects of small consequence.
  • Instead of HOV lanes designed to encourage car pooling and bus commuting we get Lexus Lanes designed for the rich.
  • Instead of addressing the traffic congestion problems, keeping San Francisco streets well paved and improving Muni, the SFMTA wastes resources changing streets that don’t need changing.
  • Because of MTC’s failure to seize the opportunity to bring new passenger rail service into San Francisco via the seismically-upgraded Bay Bridge for an estimated cost of $6 billion, the Region now faces the need to build a second sub-aqueous rail tube complete with extensive subways on both sides of the Bay at a cost in the $25 to $30 billion range.

In the Bay Area if we want new transportation funding we must stop wasting what we get.

This article was featured in Newsletter Issue 3. Click here to go back to the newsletter.