Great Transit for a Livable City

Livable City’s Great Transit campaign is working to create a seamlessly integrated public transit network for San Francisco and the region that is fast, reliable, sustainable, and fully accessible. Our transportation investments should move the city towards an environmentally sustainable future, as well as support community health and social equity. Our priorities are improving transportation options for individuals and families without cars, and increasing the number of people who will find it convenient to avoid the expense of car ownership.

SFMTA Muni's new light rail trains may look much like these.

SFMTA Muni’s new light rail trains may look much like these.

San Francisco’s Muni system is still stuck in a decades-old crisis of underinvestment and mismanagement of the overall transportation system. Despite a stable population in the city, Muni’s ridership is much lower than it was decades ago, and Muni proves consistently unable to meet the service standards mandated in the city charter. Our four-part strategy for turning Muni around includes:

  • Making Muni faster and more reliable by expanding the city’s public transit network, creating more dedicated transit lanesimproving the spacing of transit stops and lines, creating complete streets that include transit enhancements like transit lanes, transit signal prioritization, and bus bulbs, and converting to efficient and accessible low-floor buses and light rail vehicles.
  • Increasing funding for Muni through parking reform, including increasing the City’s parking tax, charging market rates at city-owned lots and garages, better management of on-street parking, and enacting appropriate impact fees for parking spaces in new developments.
  • Reduce traffic congestion by better land use planning, encouraging walking and cycling, reducing parking requirements in new development, smarter management of the city’s parking, and innovative strategies like congestion charging.
  • Plan livable, transit-friendly neighborhoods, which allow car-free housing near transit hubs, lower parking requirements near transit, mandate pedestrian-friendly building designs that enhance the safety and appearance of streets, calm traffic and creating complete streets that provide safe routes to transit, schools, shops, and services, and create great stations that provide efficient and accessible transit connections and great public spaces that serve as centers of community.

Current Campaigns

High Speed Rail is coming to San Francisco

In November 2008, Californians approved a $9.95 billion dollar general obligation bond, the down payment on a $40 billion project to create a 800 mile high speed rail system for the State of California.

The system being planned by the California High Speed Rail Authority will link the Bay Area to Sacramento, the Central Valley, and Southern California. Express trains from San Francisco will get to Los Angeles in 2 hours and 38 minutes.

Twenty-five High Speed rail stations across the state be located in existing town centers, and are planned as hubs for connecting transit and walkable, transit-oriented communities. The High Speed System will improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and save billions in airport and highway expansion costs.

The bond puts $9 billion towards the high speed system, which will allow the state to leverage federal matching funds. $990 million of the bond will be allocated to connecting rail services across the state, with over $100 million to Muni and $280 million to BART to expand capacity and improve service on lines that connect to High Speed Rail.

Using Caltrain ‘Regional Metro’ to Foster Livable Neighborhoods

Approval of the High Speed rail will also speed the transformation of Caltrain into a “regional metro”, with fast, frequent, electrified service between a downtown terminus at the Transbay Transit Center, connecting San Francisco’s downtown and its bayside neighborhoods to the Peninsula, Silicon Valley, and East Bay. San Francisco’s Downtown, SoMa, Mission Bay, Potrero Hill and Central Waterfront, Bayview and Visitacion Valley neighborhoods will enjoy BART-level electrified rapid transit service, as well as express and intercity services on a grade-separated right-of-way shared with high speed trains.

High Speed Rail and Caltrain modernization will be the this decade’s biggest transit investment in San Francisco. Let’s take the opportunity presented by this huge project to re-think the entire Caltrain Corridor and fully realize the potential benefits for San Francisco’s livability, sustainability, and prosperity.

  • Remove I-280 and put the rail line underground: Just as removal of the Embarcadero and Central Freeways increased the livability of the surrounding neighborhoods and freed acres of land for new homes, businesses, and open spaces, removing I-280 north of 101 could transform a wide swath of San Francisco for the better: reducing traffic, pollution and blight, freeing large tracts of land along the Caltrain line for new housing and offices, and knitting divided neighborhoods back together. Coupled with putting Caltrain and High Speed Rail underground through Potrero Hill, Mission Bay, and SoMa, removing I-280 will allow a new neighborhood to rise on the site of the Caltrain yards and elevated freeway. Currently, I-280 dumps traffic onto 6th Street, making this struggling street into one SoMa’s deadliest, and onto the Embarcadero, cutting the city off from its waterfront. Removing I-280 will reduce SoMa traffic by shifting trips from car to rail, making SoMa, which is one of the city’s fastest-growing residential neighborhoods, a better, safer, and healthier place to live, work, and play. Underground tracks and the removal of I-280 will allow Mission Bay to connect to the Showplace Square area, freeing several large blocks for housing, businesses, and open space, and allowing electrified 16th Street transit to extend into Mission Bay. Potrero Hill and the Central waterfront could be knitted together with restored grid of neighborhood streets and new housing.
  • 16th Street Station: A new regional metro station just south of 16th Street would connect to UCSF and Mission Bay to regional transit, and the planned 16th Street bus rapid transit line would connect numerous neighborhoods to Caltrain and BART.
  • Oakdale Station in Downtown Bayview: Building the long-planned Oakdale Station will foster the development of a vital and walkable ‘Downtown Bayview’ in the neighborhood’s existing commercial and cultural heart. Moving the SFPUC’s antiquated sewage digesters to the Pier 96 backlands, rather then replacing them on-site, allows the huge sewage digester site to become a new transit village just south of the Oakdale Station. A local bus and streetcar network, together with bike lanes and walkable streets, would radiate from the Oakdale station, connecting the adjacent neighborhoods, including the proposed Hunters Point Shipyard and Candlestick Developments, to regional transit.
  • Bayshore Station and Geneva Light Rail. A walkable neighborhood center is emerging in San Francisco’s Visitacion Valley, with the streetscape improvements in the Leland Avenue commercial district and the planning and toxic cleanup for the 22-acre Schlage Lock site on Bayshore Boulevard. Extending the 3rd Street light rail line out Geneva Avenue to Balboa Park Station could help transform the Geneva Avenue corridor, including Cow Palace, Sunnydale, and other industrial and motel sites, into a livable, transit-oriented neighborhood.

2012 Rapid Network

In 2003, San Francisco voters approved Proposition K, a renewal of San Francisco’s half-cent sales tax. The largest investment in Prop K was a citywide rapid network, which would improve the city’s light rail and bus lines by providing dedicated lanes and other transit-priority projects, as well as fund new light rail and bus rapid transit lines in important corridors. We are working to get plans for rapid transit lines or transit-preferential streets on the city’s most important corridors adopted, and a first phase completed, by 2012. Our vision includes modern low-floor light rail vehicles and buses, with doors on both sides that can accommodate both center-island and side boarding. Planning for these corridors should take a “great streets” approach, with beautiful and walkable streetscapes and continuous bicycle routes on the corridor or on a parallel corridor. Our 2012 corridors include:

  • Market Street: Market Street serves as the city’s symbolic “main street”, its chief public transit corridor, and its most important bicycle route, so getting Market Street right is essential to the livability of the city. Market Street’s transit operations need improvement, and its stations, stops, and boarding islands should be better places to wait. Many stretches of the street are uninviting to pedestrians, and the public spaces along the street are poorly designed and maintained. The bicycle lanes are discontinuous and poorly enforced. Livable City is working with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition towards implementation of the modest transit, bicycle, and pedestrian improvements that came out of the Transportation Authority’s Market Street Study, and to build support for a more thorough redesign of the street.
  • Geary Boulevard: The Transportation Authority is currently studying bus rapid transit alternatives for Geary; we have asked the TA to develop light rail alternatives, and to better integrate bicycle and pedestrian improvements.
  • Van Ness – Mission: The Transportation Authority is currently studying Bus Rapid Transit in the Van Ness Corridor. Livable City wants to see a plan for phased transit-preferential street improvements or rapid transit on Mission Street from the Embarcadero to Daly City. A parallel bicycle corridor shoud be completed on Market, Polk, Valencia, San Jose, and Alemany.
  • Potrero-Bayshore-San Bruno-Geneva: Livable City was involved in planning the first-phase transit priority improvements on Potrero Avenue, and are advocating for a plan for the entire corridor from Market Street to the Balboa Park BART station, with a major intermodal hub at the Bayshore Caltrain Station connecting 3rd Street Light Rail, Caltrain, and Bus Rapid Transit.
  • 3rd Street – Kearny/Stockton – Columbus: Muni’s 3rd Street light rail line opened in April 2007. We would like to see the light rail extended through downtown and out Columbus Avenue, with a comprehensive study of surface, subway, and combined surface/subway options. The Central Subway proposal, however, falls short in a number of regards. Some of the questionable decisions made about the project were covered in an independent report commissioned by MTA.

MTA Budget

Livable City will is working with other sustainable transportation advocates to ensure that the 2006 MTA Budget is balanced without further fare increases, service cuts, or deferred maintenance, and that MTA’s pedestrian, bicycle, and accessibility programs are adequately funded. We will continue to promote cost-saving strategies, like transit-priority measures, as well as revenue sources like user fees on cars, to help balance the MTA budget.

  • Reduce Muni Operating Costs and Improve Service: transit-priority measures, like dedicated transit lanes, bus bulbs, and traffic signal prioritization, as well as improved route- and stop-spacing, can do much reduce Muni’s operating costs and improve Muni frequency, speed, and reliability. Livable City is on the advisory committee for the Transit Effectiveness Project, the City Controller’s study of improving Muni operations, and is working with SPUR, Rescue Muni, and other advocates to improve Muni operations and reduce costs.
  • Charge Fair Market Price for Public Parking: Public parking garages and lots throughout the city charge much less for parking than their private competitors, essentially using local tax dolllars to subsidize parking. Livable City is seeking a volunteer to review the rates of all public parking garages and propose increases to bring the rates in line with rates at private garages. Send an email to Tom Radulovich to volunteer.
  • Parking Benefit Districts: Livable City will work to enact a parking benefit district ordinance, like those in place in Pasadena, West Hollywood, Santa Monica, and other California cities. Parking benefit districts are a surcharge on local parking meter rates, agreed to by the community, of which half go to Muni and other citywide programs, and the other half stays in the community for local pedestrian, bicycle, streetscape, and maintenance programs. Livable City supported SFCTA/Planning Department study of parking benefit districts should be complete in the spring.
  • Parking Impact Fees: Livable City will work with the Planning Department to study a fee on new parking spaces in the downtown and elsewhere which mitigates the impact on pedestrian, bicycle, and transit movement created by the traffic they generate.
  • Congestion Charge: Livable City will work to advance the city’s study of a downtown congestion charge, like those in London, Stockholm, and Singapore.

Great Stations

Livable City’s Great Stations Initiative is dedicated to transforming San Francisco’s transit stations into world-class transit hubs that connect Muni to BART, Caltrain, ferries, and ultimately to high speed rail. Great stations have excellent pedestrian, bicycle, and local transit connections, full access for people with disabilities, and great station art, architecture, and amenities. Great stations should have great public spaces – plazas and streetscapes – nearby, and be surrounded by appropriate transit-oriented land uses.

Transportation Infrastructure Funding

Livable City will work to establish, and to get appointed to, a committee to look creating cost-effective, equitable, and sustainable funding for the long-term needs of the city for street resurfacing and infrastructure maintenance.

Past Successes

Muni Budget: In past years, Livable City worked with the Coalition for Transit Justice to develop and advance alternatives to Muni fare increases and service cuts. Based on Livable City’s list of innovative funding sources, MTA developed a number of budget alternatives, including one with no fare increases or service cuts. As a result of Livable City advocacy, the percentage of the Muni budget shortfall filled from Muni service cuts and fare increases dropped from the over 80% originally proposed to 56% in the budget ultimately adopted by the commission in 2005/6.

Reauthorizing and Reprogramming of the 1/2-cent SF Sales Tax: Between $2.35 and $2.82 billion will be generated by San Francisco consumers over the next 30 years. Livable City has succeeded in making sure we are getting our money’s worth from these revenues: the measure directs more money than ever into pedestrian and bicycle safety; the relies heavily on cost-effective, network-based transit improvements; it links land use to transportation. For details on Livable City’s campaign about the sales tax, click here.